Best known for their strategy games based on Arthurian and Nordic mythology, like Camelot: The Court and War of the 9 Realms, Wotan Games have traditionally been a very recognisable presence at UK Games Expo thanks in large part to their repurposed double-decker bus, which was always parked at their stand to provide a unique venue for demonstrating the publisher's games. Sadly, the bus is no more. Like King Arthur's Camelot, it has passed into legend, but its memory lingers on in Brexit: The Real Deal. Students of current affairs and recent history will remember the infamous Brexit bus with claims printed on the side purporting to be the cost to Britain of European Union membership. The figures quoted have been shown to have been bogus but the 'side of a bus' claims struck a chord and pundits reckon they probably clinched the narrow victory of the 'Leave' campaign. Given Wotan's long association with its bus, it was perhaps inevitable that the 'side of a bus' claims should form the basis of this light satirical card game.
In Brexit: The Real Deal, the 3-5 players are competing to be the first to secure post-Brexit trade deals with six countries. There's a deck of 36 cards representing various countries around the world. These show the country and its region and/or any trading blocs of which it is a member. Each round, these cards are laid out so that there is one less than the number of players. Players each have a hidden agenda card that identifies a specific region, bloc or other criteria: if the countries with which you secure deals meet your 'hidden agenda' criteria, you can win with just five trade deals rather than six. You're likely to find, however, that it's rare for anyone to meet the specific set collection requirements of their hidden agenda - so a random six trade deals is almost always the win condition.
Players notionally represent one of the countries or regions that make up the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Cornwall). They have a hand of 'negotiation' cards for their region. These include some humorous flavour but actually mean that all players start with functionally identical basic hands: cards with values 1-3 and a card that blocks deals. There's also a general deck of negotiation cards that players draw from. These include cards with bid values as well as those that have special effects.
On your turn, you play face down any card or cards from your hand to any of the country cards in the display. You're bidding against others for each country. When everyone has placed out cards, you win the country card (ie: secure a trade deal with that country) if you are the highest bidder. If there's a tie, nobody wins that trade deal. If a player has played a 'block deal' card at that location, nobody wins that trade deal. Win or lose, all the negotiation cards played are discarded and players all draw just one negotiation card to their hand.
This is a bid and bluff game, and there's a deduction element too in working out what other players' hidden agendas might be. You might be tempted to play cards to multiple locations but you need to bear in mind the fact that you only ever draw back up one card, so you'll be at a disadvantage in later rounds if you run down your hand. Above all, however, Brexit: The Real Deal is a 'take that' game. Many of the negotiation cards allow players to screw with others, stealing or swapping the trade deal cards they've already won...
There are fiddly elements: you need to keep track of who played what card. You can do that by orienting cards as you play them, but in our Board's Eye View plays, we preferred to borrow counters or tokens from other games to mark the cards we played. There were also a couple of special effect card rules that we found counterintuitive. There's a little red bus to pass around as the first player marker, tho' you'll find it's often best to be the last player because sometimes you'll be left with a country card that no-one else has bid for and which is therefore available for the taking. But Brexit: The Real Deal isn't a game to nit-pick over: Wotan and designer Russell Neal obviously don't intend that this game should be taken too seriously. The claim in the rules that £350 million was spend developing the game is no more true than those Brexit bus pledges.
With five players, Brexit: The Real Deal takes around 15-20 minutes to play. It makes an ideal dinner-party game gift for those still nursing wounds over Britain's Brexit referendum, still angry over the false claims or those still complaining about the perfidy of 'Remoaners'.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)