Spiel Des Jahres is a German board game competition for best board game of the year. This competition was created in 1978 and promotes quality family-style games into the german market. Many state that the reason so many games are coming out of germany is because of this competition.
But why strive for the Spiel Des Jahres prize? Because a nomination alone increases the typical sale of a game from 300-500 copies to around 10,000.
Winning the prize? 300,000-500,000 copies sold.
Camel up won Spiel Des Jahres prize in 2014, designed by Steffen Bogen, illustrated by Dennis Lohausen and published by Pegasus Spiele.
This strategic board game requires up to 8 players to place bets on which camels they think are going to win the race. With 5 coloured camels in total and 5 coloured dices to match, a pyramid which I believe does a fantastic job of randomising the dice, displays the colour and number that the matched camel can move when you open the lid of the pyramid.
Sounds simple, however each player gets given a card which they can place down during each round.
Drought card- A camel landing on this card will have to go back a space and the player who put that card down gets a coin.
Oasis card- A camel landing on this card will go forward an extra space and the player who put that card down also gets a coin
These cards in turn manipulate the way that the race ends up and in the end the winner.
The most annoying rule of this game but also one of the best, is the fact that if the second camel lands on the tile the first camel lands on, the second camel must climb onto the first camels back and is sitting in first place. If the first camel now moves again, it must take the second camel with it. Eventually the camels could all end up being stacked on top of one another.
As a game, I throughly enjoyed the idea that the betting can be manipulated entirely and the odds and results can change very suddenly. For instance a camel coming last could eventually come first.
Camel Up is centred around the theme of betting/gambling, which is one of the most universal themes that any culture or age can understand. The earliest evidence of gambling was in 2300BC and involved ancient Chinese tiles that could of formed part of a lottery game.
Betting involving dice, similarly used in Camel Up, was discovered in 500BC, said to be created by a mythological hero during the siege of Troy. Some of the first writings in Greek history during 500bc mentioned the dice. A pair of dice were recovered from a Egyptian tomb in 3000bc however, although the greek scripts were the first to introduce the dice and gambling. Although Greeks and romans loved betting it was illegal in the ancient city of rome. This didn’t stop them however, they began to play with chips instead, as a way of confusing the guards if they were caught.
As we can see just by these two examples betting has been around for centuries which may be a reason this game works so well. It takes the concept of chance and strategy in order to bet accordingly. This is probably a reason why a german game also did so well overseas by incorporating this universal theme.
The betting system works in rounds:
- 1 round means that each camel has to move.
- During each round the oasis or drought card can be put down to manipulate the results, picked up after the round is over and then played again in the next round.
- There are separate betting cards (according to the camel colour) that the players can pick up on there turn that are ranked by the number of coins you can win or lose if that colour camel wins or loses in that round. The amount of coins you can win is also determined on which player estimates first that, that camel is going to win and so on.
- There are also the big bets which you put down with your character cards. These stay there until the end of the game. You can bet for the camel you think will win and the camel you think with lose.
The player with the most money at the end of the game wins.
My thoughts on the game:
I thought the way in which the game has been crafted has been really thought out. What captured me the most was the stacking of the camels and the pyramid which really randomised the dice in a way that treats the game fairly, although there is still an option for you to manipulate the game.
In the first round I thought it was just a game of luck. Mostly because I wasn’t winning. But then I began to learn the strategy behind it, watching a player (Huey) who had already played it before. I began to realise that by putting the oasis card down, and by paying attention to where each camel could be stacked, it changed to a game of odds as well as strategy rather than luck.
Get to round 3 and I was very stressed after placing my main bet for the green camel to win.
It was a constant feeling of excitement because you were winning to disappointment after you were carrying all the camels on your back, to winning again.
Eventually the green won!! However I didn’t end up with the most coins. Amy (another girl in my group) won. I think because she kept using her oasis or drought card and I didn’t use mine the whole game.
This was an extremely intuitive game. Would I play is again? Absolutely!
Two new editions have also been added which I will be checking out over the weekend: