I think if there was a board game that got the award for player versatility, it would likely be Camel (C)up.
Camel Cup is a board game where you bet on camel racing and that’s pretty much it! Five camels race each other on a racetrack board and the game ends when the first camel crosses the finish line. The race is divided up into “legs” where each leg is the time allotted for each camel to move (each colored camel has their own colored die that is rolled once per leg). You can bet on the overall winner and loser of the race and the winner of each leg. The game awards you with money if you bid correctly and takes away your money if you bid incorrectly. Also, you can also add “desert” and “oasis” tiles on the board that can advance or retreat camels if they land on them.
I sincerely like this game which is bizarre considering there is a high chance, low skill ratio involved here. Many, traditional, board games, like Monopoly, rely on chance to progress the game which downplays its skill aspect. In such games, where is the fun in winning or losing when you can easily lose thanks to a bad dice roll? That is why many modern board games try to strike a healthy balance between chance and skill to make for an enjoyable experience. Camel Cup though is a crucial exception to this rule as chance is part of its theme! After all, you are betting on camels to win in a race.
But chance is the name of the game here and players have to take into account a high-risk/high reward payoff versus a low-risk/low reward scenario. Camel Cup harkens back to traditional gambling games and hones in at that crucial point of risk taking. In poker, do you dare call your opponent’s possibly bluffing hand? Or in blackjack, will you signal the dealer for a “hit” and hope you hit 21? These kinds of risks are what make those games, and Camel Cup, fun to play. This is epitomized when everyone waits apprehensively for the last die roll and when that number comes up, cheers or groans erupt the room as the winners cash in big and the losers pay up.
Camel Cup also benefits from its great game design. For instance, each player takes on the role of a betting character and their cartoon designs are a delight (I always choose the manic-looking blonde). Then you have the board itself which imposes well as a desert scenario. Players can also grow fondly of the camel tokens as they back their favorites and try to shut down camels that threaten their favorite’s winning chances. Most importantly though, the constructed pyramid at the center of the board is perhaps one of the most creative, if sometimes frustrating, hardware designs I have seen in a long time. The pyramid holds the five dice and is able to roll each dice one at a time. Although effective at rolling a random die, the pyramid itself can be awkward as sometimes a die won’t roll out while other times the structure-holding rubber band breaks on the third use. Nonetheless, it is an impressive piece as it adds a strong, three-dimensional structure to Camel Cup as other board games are usually very flat in design.
But most importantly, I think, one of the best reasons to own Camel Cup is its appeal to any group of people. I have exposed this game to many players and most of the time I have received positive feedback on it. Hard core or casual, family or adult, if you find people who are willing to learn the rules (which although dense, it is easy to pick up), you will have a fun and exciting game on your hands as players gamble their way to victory. The short length makes it a fun “breather” game that allows multiple playthroughs in one sitting. Also, the game goes up to eight players which is AMAZING as so few games of this caliper rarely go pass five (and the game doesn’t suffer from the added players either). So! In the end…
Buy it? Buy this game if you want a light, fun, and nail-biting game. This is also a fun casual game that plays well into larger-than-normal board game crowds.
Leave it? Skip this game if you want something a bit more skill heavy. Camel Cup is about chance and wooing Lady Luck.
My recommendation? Buy it! You won’t regret it!
But seriously, I have no idea if it’s Camel Up or Camel Cup.