I need to open this missive on Camel Up Supercup with a disclaimer: Camel Up is probably the best game that I have come to dislike playing.
It’s not the usual “it’s not a game for real gamers” nonsense you’d read on lesser blogs. It’s not the components, which are clean, lovely and quite, quite charming. It’s not even the game itself, which I think is clever and generally quite fun. It’s the fact that every time it hits the table, I’ve had to force the energy into the game myself for the first half of play. The last 3 rounds of Camel Up (Supercup included) are brilliant fun, with all the players invested in every dice roll, but each game begins slowly with blank faces and little to no betting IN A BETTING GAME!
In comparison to The Hare And The Tortoise (another simple animal racing game) where you actually care about one of the racers from the start, in Camel Up, you don’t feel invested in a camel until much later on when you’ve got some coins behind it. This makes for a very slow start but a decent end-game.
This is usually the point of the game that people start to care
So I was intrigued with the new Camel Up Supercup expansion. Could a new box of toys extend fun into the first half of the game? Will the balance between “meh” and “yeah” tip into the positive? Well, we’ve got a few tools to play with here.
Camel Up Supercup adds 4 separate modules (with an optional extra rule for the first one which we shall call Module 1.5) giving somewhere around 16 different setups. For you, dear reader, I’ve played them all BUT lets not take up your entire screen-time allowance with in-depth reviews of each. Maybe we’ll release those as Patreon exclusives or something, with blackjack and hookers. For now, I’ll assume you are familiar with Camel Up and if not, go watch this
It also adds an extra 2 value leg betting chip per camel. Which
Module 1 – Extended board. Extra D2* each leg for the losing camel
The heart of Camel Up Supercup – the extended board dramatically improves upon the base game. Camel Up suffers from an excruciatingly slow start but a genuinely enjoyable mid to end game. Module 1 stretches the good bit and adds hope to the trailing camel. And because of this, I genuinely can’t see a reason not to use this every game.
*For non-wargamers / non-roleplayers / people who no longer own band t-shirts, dice are often referred to by the number of different outcomes available. In this case, 2 numbers = D2. Standard Camel Up dice are D3
2 sided dice, useful anytime you can’t find a coin
Module 1.5 – Spend a pyramid tile to put a non-winning camel’s D2 back in the pyramid
I expected this module to break Camel Up. I anticipated this supplementary rule would make Camel Up become more of a racing game and less random. I was wrong. I’ve tried picking a Camel in the first leg and using this expansion to speed it around the board for a thrilling win, but it never worked. What 1.5 does is reduce the number of legs overall as the camels motor along at a fair clip, massively improving the pacing. It also adds a great meta-game when cackling players put a camel’s die back in the pot just after you blatantly bet on it for overall loser. Don’t hesitate, add this at every opportunity.
Module 2 – Photographer tile gives you points for guessing where a stack of camels will land
I guarantee you, the first action any child at the table takes is to become the photographer. It’s understandable as the movie camera standee in Camel Up Supercup is pretty sweet and it’s a simple action to play. Never a massive point scorer in the games I’ve played but it does add to the overall cardboard spectacle which has always been one of Camel Up’s strengths.
This is genuinely the most points anyone has ever scored from the camera
Module 3 – Bet on the specific position a camel will finish in the leg
“Taken the 5pt leg betting card for Bluey who decided he just wants to sit on his hairy behind instead of winning? Worry ye not as now you can take the 4th place positional betting tile and cover up that foolish flutter.” Module 3 is clever but doesn’t add anything positive into the game. Sure, having more actions to choose from extend each leg by a round or two which counterbalances the usual “first player does nothing interesting” issue in Camel Up, but really all that happens is:
- No-one takes a positional betting tile until nearly all the camels have moved, meaning skill-less victory points
- Gathering in the leg betting tiles in order and paying out the winnings becomes more complicated when players have chits covering half their card
They make for a higher scoring game but slow things down more than they enhance.
“Whose got the orange 2? Orange 2 anyone? Someone must have the orange 2!”
Module 4 – Get the winnings from another players leg betting tile but share one of yours with them
Swap Partner Betting Cards with another player and at the end of the leg you get a payout from one of their bets and they get one of yours. This module massively increases the number of coins players score, improving the overall “feel-good” factor of the game. Then again, you don’t tend to see it until later in the leg when it’s clear who has made better decisions so Camel Up + Module 4 only = initially still “meh”. Mix it in with the others and it’s fine.
Nigel Thornberry has outwitted Kentucky Smith (not TM), by forcing him into an unbalanced partnership… ooh, I smell a sitcom.
You probably already own Camel Up if you’re contemplating this purchase so you know what you’re getting. The artwork is bright, quirky yet pleasing to even the most curmudgeonly reviewer. The dice are wooden cuboids of pleasing diameter. Cardstock is solid and the cards themselves, sharp enough to be Don Draper’s next suit. Cleverly, the expanded board can be folded and laid out in a number of ways depending on which modules you’re using so the designers get plus 1 point for ingenuity.
But you will literally never see this artwork during a game. Base + Module 3 = why bother?
You get some extra cash along with cards to make this up to a 10 player game, but I really can’t bring myself to even consider how slow that would feel.
“Budget Carmen Sandiego” and “What if Indy had a ginger girlfriend in this one?” have entered the arena
Yes, slow. Apart from Camel Up needing a solid shot of player adrenaline during the first couple of legs (and the first round of each leg after that), this game suffers from analysis paralysis more than many heavier games. In the early rounds there are so many potential outcomes that you can’t predict anything until a few dice are out. Then, once the first few camels move Camel Up can grind to a halt as everyone works through the “what if the next dice is…” scenarios.
The player I’ve seen enjoy this the most openly declared “it’s all random, I’m just betting on whatever I fancy”. He loves the game. Doesn’t win, but thoroughly enjoys his failures.
And I think that’s what has ended up bugging me about Camel Up. It starts off boring because no-one has a dog (camel) in the race. Then it becomes really analytical before finally becoming an amazing, nail-biting experience at leg and game end. I’m just not conditioned for this emotional roller-coaster. I swing between bored, engaged, thrilled and then bored again.
I guess that makes this game suitable for everyone as no matter what kind of gamer you are, you’ll enjoy a bit of the game.
Finally, if you really, really want to enjoy Camel Up with or without Supercup, I highly recommend becoming the banker and trying to haggle when the leg betting tiles are being exchanged for coins. Ideally whilst channeling Omid Djalili from the Mummy. Or anything else he’s done. Omid is great.
“Yew have blue fe-hive bhetting t-hile? I give you tree? We good friends”
Scores on the Doors
Ah dammit, it’s an 9/10. You already own Camel Up which you know by now is my “It’s Complicated” game and this box only enhances it and is great value for the extra mileage you’ll get. If you don’t yet own Camel Up then Games Quest is doing a bundle here so don’t get the base game without this expansion.