‘Ello ‘ello ‘ello! Whatcha buyin’, whatcha buyin’? We got th’ finest stuff in all o’ London! We got shirts, we got sausages, we got… Decorative vases! Why not! We got th’ finest CDs in all of– Oh, ‘ello Officer! Of ‘course I got the right paperwork, lemme go grab me Cousin Mickey real quick! What? O’Course I’m not packin’ up to get outta town as fast as possible, whatcha thinkin’ copper?!… I apologize profusely for my attempt at an Cockney accent. Lets never talk about that again. This is Camden.
My co-blogger just informed me I have to write a letter of apology to Shut Up & Sit Down for that. It seems fair. But yes, Camden! This game, developed by James Ernet and illustrated by the ever-charming John Kovalic, is based on the world famous Camden Market, known for being a labyrinth of cool stuff to buy in the London borough of Camden!
Now, Camden is a tile-laying game, a genre that was birthed from the loins of Dominos: Players take turns to lay down pieces of cardboard in order to create the best chain or combo of whatever they’re building. A simple to understand system, no? Generally they’re built on a grid of some sort, or at least some idea of organization. This keeps them from getting crazy, from keeping one person from laying down a tile at the other end of the table and screaming “Suck It” at their opponent.
Camden forgoes that.
And it’s safe to assume that the “Suck it” strategy is completely viable.
In Camden, James Ernet has decided to replicate the busy, hustling, bustling, build-it-quick-and-dirty mentality that seems to be common in the actual Camden by making it clear: As long as you can draw a line from the outside of your shop to the end of the play area (table, for example) that shop is legal.
You buy a shop based on how many openings it has, as that determines the revenue it can make per round. Each player is competing to make the biggest, most lucrative shop, and have the most workers and the best… Well, actually, it doesn’t matter how good your products are, apparently.
So, that’s it, right? Build your shops, sell your crappy knock-off T-Shirts each round, and watch the money roll in? No! Absolutely not! Each Player has a Letter assigned to them, ranging from A – D. When you draw a tile that has your Letter on it, then stuff happens! Bad things! Good things! Things of all sorts! The biggest shop might burn down, destroying all the shops it’s attached to, or the Coppers might come by and demand that a shop be shut down. It adds a level of randomness to this game that keeps players on their toes.
Another great thing about this game is that it is fast. Here at Skip-A-Turn we managed to learn it in about 10 minutes or so, and our average game is about 20-30 minutes tops. It’s a fun, fast game, and those are hard to come by!
Sadly, so is this game.
Released originally in 2002 as Agora, Camden was a crowd-funded re-release that was successful in 2012. I was a backer, and I got my copy… Around late last year. There were plenty of hiccups and set-backs in getting this game a proper release, all well-documented in the Updates section of their Kickstarter, but this game is finally available! Kinda. Almost.
The game is available, for free, at DriveThruCards. All you have to do is print it, cut it, and you too can be playing this wonderful game. But it’s just missing so much!
The physical copy comes with beautiful colored glass beads, a lovely velvet bag, lovely full-color instructions , and the Camden “cards” (I always called them tiles but I’m not one to argue) are on this nice thick cardboard, and it just feels so sturdy and charming!
Camden is a game that we have to recommend to every one with no hesitation… Except for the lack of the ability to purchase it for the time being. That puts a kink in things, doesn’t it?
SAT got our copy through Kickstarter, and we’ve seen a few on eBay going for reasonable prices, but… Yeah. It might be somewhat incomplete compared to the published one, but the simple beauty of Camden seems to shine through. Plus it’s a free boardgame that isn’t poop, how could we not tell you to get it?
Buy Camden through GameSmith (eventually) or DriveThruCard
Price: Free for Print and Play – $30.00 for Physical Copy
Skip-A-Turn Variation: Pitch Your Product: Whoever makes up the best/worst thing to sell gets an extra dollar at the start of the game.