The Greatest Board Game in the World?

I still remember playing Camel Up for the very first time. I had never in my life experienced such emotional highs and lows. Ever. I didn’t know what True Joy or Sorrow was until that moment. Everything in the world ceased to exist during that first game, except those camels and the whirlwind of FEELING blowing up out of the cardboard.

That first game was immediately followed by a second, then a third, then a fourth.

When I returned home, I scoured the web for a reasonably-priced copy of Camel Up, only to discover the first edition had been discontinued. After hours and possibly days of searching, I finally found a relatively inexpensive second edition copy, entirely in German, which would have to do. I’ve been proselytizing about the game ever since.

Camel Up is the greatest board game I’ve ever played in my life. It is fantastically simple in its premise– you’re gambling on simulated camel races– but its brilliant design introduces calculated doses of chaos to bring any player into Unparalleled Joy territory. It’s so good, that I couldn’t let it just sit there and be good. I’ve been feeling the urge to cut it up and analyze it recently. Hopefully, this analysis will turn out to be more of a vivisection rather than a dissection and Camel Up will retain its incomparable magic. If not, well– at least we have a math paper??

The Premise

Camel Up is a board game in which you bet on camel races. You can watch this video to see how the first edition game is played.

For this investigation, I’ll start by breaking the game rules down into several layers of complexity. Starting from the simplest rule combinations, I’ll analyze how to predict leg winners, and overall winners/losers before adding a rule and iterating. Let’s get started!

Breaking Down the Mathematics of Camel Up

  1. Just camels, and dice
  2. Gambling
  3. The oasis tiles
  4. Leg Winners