It’s easy to see why Sheriff of Nottingham won the Origins Award in 2015. Players take on the role of merchants that are transporting goods through the city gates that are controlled by the shrewd or gullible sheriff. Will you take the role of an honest merchant, or will you try to smuggle costly contraband through the city gates?
Each player gets an opportunity to play the role of the sheriff twice during a game (three times in a 3-player game). Each of the merchants present a bag of goods that contain cheese, chickens, bread, apples or illegal materials. Merchants will declare what items they are transporting through the city gates to the sheriff. Are they telling the truth or bluffing?
If the sheriff thinks the merchant is lying, he or she can check the goods that are contained in that players color coded satchel. If the sheriff catches the merchant in a lie, they’ll have to pay a fee for the unclaimed goods. On the other hand, the sheriff has to pay the merchant if they were being truthful about the contents of the inspected goods.
When we first played this game, we had some concern about introducing a game to our kids that encouraged bribing and bluffing to line their pockets with money. What we found was that many times, honesty and being focused on transporting the right goods won most often. After the kids played a couple rounds, we feel like 10+ is a good age of entry for this game.
It’s completely legal to bribe the sheriff to look the other way as you try to move contraband such as expensive foods, mead and crossbows into the city. Even with this game mechanic, this didn’t equal a win for the player. Players that were consistent and focused on collecting specific goods for their market earned lots of money.
A Little Acting Never Hurt Anyone
One thing that Sheriff of Nottingham does well is that it sets a scene for the players. The card art is fun and everything from the satchels to the cardboard coins work really well together. After our first round of play, the people at the table started to act out their part and tell hilarious back stories on why they were submitting 3 loaves of bread to the sheriff.
The 5 different player cards included with the game do a great job of giving everyone a fun character to act out. We found ourselves giving our fictitious characters names and weird accents. Bringing a satchel of apples to the sheriff usually came with a story about the health of our orchards or how we planned to bake pies for orphans.
The More the Merrier
The games strength rests in the ability to enter into this made up world and have fun trading goods. Personally, I was having so much fun that at times I didn’t care if my goods made it past the sheriff because we were laughing so much.
This game is definitely one for a small group. The rule book has some guidance on playing with 3 players but the game is the strongest with 4 or 5 players. You have more options and more personality enters into the decision making each turn. In all these scenarios, we were able to complete a game in under an hour every time.
I could see this being a great entry level game for a person who may be new to tabletop gaming. The concept is easy enough for most people to grasp and by the second turn people will understand how things work.
The Challenge of the Unknown
As fun as the game is, Sheriff of Nottingham may only be as fun as the people at the table. If you have people who aren’t going to engage in telling funny stories and bluffing along with everyone else, this game could be dry. You want to fill the table with people who will engage and act silly.
This is one game that is more challenging when playing with people you don’t know. It can be easy to tell if your friend of 10 years is lying. Playing with people that you don’t know very well can really amp up the difficulty.
Sheriff of Nottingham is a really engaging game that offers fun beyond the cards on the table. We are definitely excited about this latest edition to our game library! If you’re willing to engage with the players around you and take on the role of a humble merchant, the city of Nottingham is definitely the place for you.