Camel Up: Supercup Review
Time: ~20- 40 minutes
Times Played: 6
Camel Up is home to some of the most enthusiastic “Yesssss!” yells and “Noooooo!” groans in our collection. But after going around the track almost twenty times, I wanted more. I suppose a normal person would have just stopped playing it every weekend and introduced one of the other 100+ games in the collection to the crowd but that was the easy way out. In true gambling fashion, I decided to double-down on the Camel’s and purchase the expansion. Enter Camel Up: Supercup, the expansion to the 2014 hit Camel Up.
I will start out by saying that the box itself is a total waste. There was far too much wasted space for the amount of components that the game added. This might be sacrilege to some, but I just combined the base game and the expansion into one box and stored the expansion in the basement where it will sit for months to years before I throw it away to make room for other boxes. Shelf space is at a premium. The expansion box is almost the size of the base game. But that happens. What people really want to know about are the contents of the box and how they are utilized…I assume. I could talk about the graveyard of boxes in my basement more if you would like.
Supercup comes with four modules that will bring different experiences to your races. You can pick and choose a combination that you like, use them all at the same time or only use one at a time if that’s more your speed. This game also includes cards and oasis/mirage tiles for two additional players, bringing the full player count to a whopping ten players as well as additional coins for payouts, as well as the necessary components for each new module.
Adding the two additional players seems like such a small addition but it’s actually one of my favorite pieces of the expansion. This game can now host ten players. There are not many board games that can hold ten players attention. This one can. Is there downtime between turns? Of course there is. But what game wouldn’t with ten people? This is a welcome addition for the rare occurrences you have ten people that want to play a game that isn’t strictly card or party based.
Module one includes a longer race track, an extra betting tile and new supporting dice with an additional movement tile. This makes the game longer (obviously) but it also makes the game much more variable. Each betting tile stack adds a “2” coin betting token for that camel finishing in first, bringing each pile to four possible bets, up from the base game of three bets. The last place camel of each leg has its support dice entered into the dice pyramid with the rest of the dice and the additional movement tile is added to the stack to ensure that it is rolled.
This is as close as a must include with the base game as any with the new modules. It makes the game one, maybe two legs longer which can really add to the fun and intrigue of the race. The extra betting tiles really help the game at higher player counts and when coupled with the positional betting module (explained in a bit), the bets offer a brand new risk/reward dynamic. The support dice only have one’s and two’s on their faces so a camel should not (typically) jump out to an insurmountable lead. Adding the die automatically for the last place camel keeps the randomness alive and keeps the race much tighter than before. In our usual games, it always appeared that one camel would drop out of the race by the second or third leg. Sometimes they’d make a comeback but it was less than one fourth of the time. With the automatic support dice, it’s a free-for-all and that is no longer the case.
The support dice sit on a little 3D pedestal as well. Completely unnecessary but keeps with the theme of the game, so it’s neat.
The support dice also come with a variant that you can include them in the dice pyramid for any camel. This comes with a price however. Basically, if you had rolled the dice and moved the camels earlier in the leg, you can return that movement tile to the pile (thus negating your automatic one coin payout) and add one of the remaining dice to the pyramid.
A couple of thoughts regarding this variant. Adding this variant almost negates the longer track as each camel will have the opportunity to move further. Not a good or a bad thing, just a fact. It could shorten the race a full leg if the dice roll a particular way. It does make you feel like you have more options now, being able to return a die to the pyramid and all. But I am on the fence if you actually do have more options, as adding the dice and rolling them will make the game shorter since the camels are moving further each leg.
Module two adds the photographer, which is a camera that you place on the outside of a race tile (without any camels) with the hopes of capturing a photo of the largest camel stack when they land on that tile. It’s like an oasis/mirage tile but it only gets one use for the player who places it. You receive money for each camel in the stack. But you only have one shot at your photo so if only one camel stops there, you only get one coin and the camera returns to the pit for anyone to use. One key piece of knowledge regarding the camera is that it returns to the pit at the end of each leg. So if you placed the camera and didn’t get the photo, you won’t have a chance on the next leg unless you take the camera for the next turn.
Full disclosure, the first time we played with the camera, we played with it wrong. We had it that you could place it anywhere, even where a camel already was placed (but it only paid out if more camels landed on the square). So much camel cash was paid out it was ridiculous. After correcting that mistake, the camera wasn’t really used as often as we thought it would have been. It isn’t as impactful as the oasis/mirage tile and only being one use, the risk outweighs the reward. The 3D camera is a cool prop and is mostly used just because it’s neat to look at. The camera is a take it or leave it module for me. I have no problem including it in games as it isn’t any additional set-up and is simple to grasp. Definitely better for bigger games as it allows more actions for players that might have missed the opening fury.
Module three brings positional betting to the track, which makes betting more flexible. Basically, let’s say that you chose the orange camel to finish first but it has become apparent that is not going to happen. In fact, at the current race, you’re almost certain the orange camel is going to finish fourth. But, as players of the base game will know, there is no betting tile for a fourth place finish. That would actually cost the gambler money for the poor performance. Enter positional betting. As an action, the player can choose the positional bet that would supersede the original bet. You can choose for the original tile to be for place two through five, with the correct finish netting you three gold. Be aware however, that there is only one of each space. So if someone else takes that positional bet, you won’t be able to do anything to change your luck. If your camel ends up not finishing in your newly betted position, you still lose one coin. Your new bet supersedes the old one.
I like this module, especially with bigger player count games. It gives everyone a chance to level the field as you may have wanted to bet on a camel, but five people had turns ahead of you. In a lower player count game, maybe three or less, I feel like this would mitigate the risk of betting on a camel in the first place and would invariably frustrate me, but alas, we have not played the expansion with that low of a count. At four players, it worked well. Also, depending on the amount of modules you add to the base game, each player will have several actions they could choose and this might not even be one of them.
Module four is the final expansion included and it introduces Betting Partnerships into the game. First and foremost, this module is only to be used in games of six or more players. Each player starts with a betting partnership token in front of them, with the ‘available’ side face up. For an action, a player can force another player to enter a betting partnership with them for that leg and that leg only. Players would swap tokens and flip them over so the ‘unavailable’ side is face up. Partnerships can only exist with one player at a time and the partnership concludes at the end of the leg. Even though it’s ‘forced’, the partnership simply means that once the scoring phase begins, you can choose a tile from your partner and score it. You are not taking it from your partner; you both benefit. If your partner only has negative bets, you can abstain from choosing anything. Your partner can also pick one of your bets to be paid out for.
So with six or more player games, betting tiles get picked quickly and players are left with only a few to no viable options. Adding this module does help with that conundrum. The main thing to take into account is that you want to pick a partnership that benefits you as opposed to someone picking you first.
This module is the one we have the least experience with but it seemed pretty straight forward in the few times it made the table. That being said, I don’t know if this is one I would use every time we have a large group play. I feel like it adds just enough of a spark that it can be saved for if/when the game feels tedious again. I also think that I would only utilize it at eight players and up. Maybe seven. Definitely not six.
One benefit that I had going into introducing the expansions is that everyone had played Camel Up at least ten times. They could teach the game on their own if needed. Adding a module or four was not an issue as the table picked everything up quickly. Our first game, with the rules mistake, was basically a trial game and by game two we didn’t even need the rule book for any hints.
So….is Supercup an expansion worth grabbing? Yes…but only if you play Camel Up a lot. This expansion was created to extend the longevity of Camel Up and guess what? It did just that. I would highly recommend grabbing the expansion just for the variety it offers. I was candid with being burnt out by the base game but the expansion has renewed my interest in the climbing camels. This however is not an essential expansion. The base game is not broken without it and the expansion does not add any feature that makes any module a must add.
The beauty of the original Camel Up is that it was light and quick and just a tad quirky. Adding some of the modules might take this game in a different direction. It doesn’t necessarily make Camel Up a heavier game by any means, but it does add more for the players to keep track of and depending on the players, that might not be a good thing.