Sheriff of Nottingham is a bluffing card game for 3 to 5 players. The players take on the roles of medieval merchants trying to get their goods past the sheriff into the city. The goal of the game is to earn the most coins and become the wealthiest.
Each turn the players put the cards they are bringing into the city in a burlap sack and declare it to the sheriff that rotates every turn. The merchants must declare how many goods they have put in the sack and that they are legal and of one type, but the only thing that must be truthful is the number of goods – the rest can be contraband or many types of goods. It is then up to the sheriff to decide who to accept or inspect.
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Pro Great party game
“Sheriff of Nottingham” is a great game for providing some action and laughs at a smaller get-together, which is to be expected from an easy game that revolves around light roleplay, random banter, and lying and bribing your way to victory.
While not necessarily a roleplaying game, sometimes players can’t help but change their voice when taking on the role of the sheriff and threatening the merchants. The same principle works the other way around – merchants tend to come up with witty excuses when trying to bribe the sheriff or pass their stock as legitimate. All of this can lead to some hilarious and memorable moments.
Pro Simple to understand
"Sheriff of Nottingham" makes for a great gateway game because of how easy the rules are. Even children can understand the main gist quite easily. The game revolves around managing your hand, collecting sets, and lying straight to the sheriff's face.
Every turn the players discard and redraw cards from discard piles and the deck and maintain 6 cards in-hand. The players then choose 1-5 cards, place them in a burlap sack, and declare them to the player taking the role of the sheriff by saying how many cards of one type are in the sack, but the only thing that must be truthful is the number of goods - the actual contents can be contraband or different types of goods. For example, a player says that their sack contains 3 chickens, whereas it actually contains 2 chickens and a crossbow.
It is up to the sheriff to decide who is inspected and who is let in. If the sheriff catches a merchant trying to bring in contraband or different goods than he declared, then that merchant must pay the sheriff the penalty price written on the cards. If the sheriff inspects the bag of a truthful merchant, then the sheriff must compensate the penalty to the player and let the goods go to the merchant stand.
The game is won by the player who has accumulated the most wealth after every player has been the sheriff two times (three times if playing with three players).
Pro Quality components
The components are all well-made and should hold up to regular wear and tear and even an accidental drop now and then. The game consists of gold coins, merchant stand boards, and a Sheriff marker made from thick cardboard, cards made of durable cardstock, merchant bags made of dense fabric, and a useful foamcore card insert for holding the cards during the gameplay.
Pro Useful mobile app
Arcane Wonders have made a free mobile companion app for “Sheriff of Nottingham” that helps with keeping the time of inspections if you’re playing with a time limit, keeping score of your finances and who is in the lead, and providing an atmosphere with ambient sounds and voice-acted audio comments.
If you just want to make the game funnier, you can pay 3$ for the “Merchant Fun Pack” to get a clickable soundboard and unlock over 70 more audio comments to spam throughout the game, featuring such highlights as “COUGH Contraband COUGH COUGH” or “Crossbows are illegal, right?”.
Con Very group dependent
The game will not fit every group due to the social nature of it. It's a whole different game when played with children, adults, or more introverted people. The personalities of people greatly influence the banter, the roleplay, the bribery, and the negotiation parts, which are core aspects of "Sheriff of Nottingham".
Moreover, if players choose not to engage in the more cutthroat side of the gameplay (bribery, lying, etc.), the game gets boring very fast. "Sheriff of Nottingham" is all about bluffing, and if you take that part of the game out entirely then it just becomes a card game where people race for the most points.
Con Not greatly replayable
The game manages to keep the players excited for the first few plays, but it easily loses its charm after you play it more than ten times or so. It starts to feel samey even when played a few times in a row.
The variations of the game don't really impact the replayability either - they only add a little bit of difficulty, for example, you can add a time limit, make players have 7 cards in-hand, remove some cards from the deck, or play with "royal goods", which are basically cards that are counted as contraband but add to your legal good count at the end of the game.