"Next! 'urry up, 'e doesn't 'ave all day ya know!
Hearing the thug's cry, the merchant sheepishly approaches the Sheriff with his bag of goods. All he wants to do today is get them to market, earn a few coppers, and maybe buy a loaf of bread. But the Sheriff has other ideas. A corpulent slug of a man, he oozes privilege and opulence that the poor, humble merchant can only dream of. Surely he'll be expecting another bribe for entry today..
"You there! Up front! What's in the bag? he bellowed, slamming his meaty fist on the large wooden table, spilling the stacks of coins and papers before him. "Surely someone of your ilk means to smuggle illicit goods in. Don't lie to me, or it'll cost you! Tell me! What's in the bag!?"
The less than subtle hint for coin isn't lost on the merchant. But having only a few coppers left and being an honest man there's none to spare for this extortion. Quickly checking the contents of his bag he meekly replies. "I only have 3 apples Good Sir. The harvest wasn't so plentiful this day. Meager pickings I'm sure, but I'm hoping to sell them at market today."
His face a mask of suspicion, the Sheriff eyes the merchant in disbelief. Both in his claim of 3 apples as well as his blatant lack of expected "payment". After scrutinizing the man for what must have felt an eternity, he reluctantly lets the frightened merchant pass. Perhaps the next one will have the common courtesy to be a bit more charitable... Or at least have the decency to look a tad bit guiltier.
"You there! What do you have to declare?! Hurry now, I'm the Sheriff of Nottingham and I don't have all day!!"
"The Sheriff you say?" The curious man lowers his hood to reveal a unique but somehow familiar feathered cap upon his head. "Robin Hood, at your service" he says with a flourish and a smile. In the blink of an eye his bow is drawn and an arrow notched.
"You're just the man I'm looking for..."
- Players: 3-5
- Duration: 45-60 mins
- Difficulty: Easy
- Type: Card Game
In Sheriff of Nottingham, players take on the roles of merchants looking to bring their goods to market. They also take turns assuming the role of the Sheriff, who must determine which bags to inspect, and which to let pass. But while the Sheriff works to root out the guilty, the merchants work to convince him to let them pass by all means necessary. At game's end, the wealthiest merchant wins!
To start, each player takes one of the five colored merchant stands and its matching pouch. They each also get 50 gold. All Goods cards are shuffled, and each player receives 6 of them to start. Place the remaining Goods cards into a face down draw pile. Turn over 5 cards from the draw pile to form a face up discard pile. Turn over another 5 cards to create a second discard pile. Finally, the person with the most cash in their pocket takes the Sheriff marker and you're ready to go!
Starting with the player to the left of the Sheriff, the round begins. Each round is divided into distinct phases. The first is the Market phase. The player may set aside up to 5 unwanted cards and draw new ones. They can be drawn from the either of the face up discard piles or the draw pile. If taken from the discard piles, the top card must always be taken first. While this may get the cards needed, since face-up, the Sheriff can also see what is being drawn from them. Cards can also be drawn from the face down draw pile to bring the player back up to 6 cards. The previously set aside cards are placed in the discard pile and play passes left.
After all merchants have completed the Market phase, the Load Merchant Bag phase begins. In their hand of cards, the merchants will have an assortment of Goods. They may be of the legal variety such as the green bordered Apples, Bread, Cheese, or Chicken but they may also be red bordered Contraband such as Pepper, Crossbows, Silk, or Mead. Each merchant simultaneously places between 1 and 5 of their cards into their bag and snaps it shut. Will it be the safe choice of Legal Goods or the riskier but profitable Contraband? Once the bag is closed they are committed. There's no turning back now!
Next up is the Declaration phase. Each merchant tells the Sheriff what they have in their bag. They can declare anything they wish, but it must follow the following three conditions. One, only Legal Goods can be declared. Two, only one type of Good can be declared. And three, the exact number of cards in the bag must be declared. Are they telling the truth or lying? Honest merchant or smuggler? How's the Sheriff to know?
Once declared, the bag is handed over and it's now up to the Sheriff to decide who passes during the fourth phase, Inspection! During this phase, the Sheriff can choose either to inspect a bag or let it's owner pass. But it's never really that easy. He can also choose to threaten the merchants, looking for bribes to leave their bags unopened. Better yet, other merchants may even offer bribes of their own to have him open another players bag. Bribes can be in the form of Gold, Legal Goods or Contraband from a merchants stand. They may even offer payment of goods within their bag or even promises of future favor!
Once all the wheeling and dealing is done the Sheriff chooses which merchants to let pass and which bags to inspect. If bribes are offered and excepted, the Sheriff must remain true to his word once he has payment in hand. The merchants he allows to pass must show all their Legal Goods and place them face up by their stand. Any Contraband that happen to make it through is kept secret and placed face down near their stand as well. Hmmm.. How did that get in there?
As for the bags the Sheriff chooses to inspect? They open with a satisfying snap and the contents are revealed. If they match exactly what was declared, the Sheriff has to pay a penalty cost to the merchant for the unnecessary inspection. However, if the merchant was lying, and the contents don't match exactly what was declared, it is they who pay a penalty to the Sheriff for both Contraband and undeclared Legal Goods. They do get to keep the Legal Goods they did declare but all others are confiscated by the Sheriff and placed into the discard piles!
Once the Sheriff has addressed all merchants we reach the fifth and final End of Round phase. All merchants draw back up to 6 cards and the Sheriff marker is passed on to player to the left. A new Market phase marks the start of a new round and play continues until all players have been the Sheriff twice. At that point the game ends. Current hands are discarded and all Contraband is revealed. Everyone totals the value of all items at their stands, both Contraband and Legal Goods. They then add to that total the value of their Gold. Sometimes, in a game like this, it can pay to be honest and the merchant with the most of each Legal Good also receives a King bonus, and the second most receives a Queen bonus. Those bonuses are noted on the stands and added to the previous totals. In the end, the player with the most combined points wins!
Can you tell which of your friends is the honest merchant and which is the shady smuggler? If so, can you also manage to "earn" some coin and make that knowledge worth your while? And when the time comes, will you be able to get your bag past the new Sheriff's watchful eyes and become the undisputed Apple King? Or will they be able to tell that you have more than apples in there? Will they inspect you? Or let you pass? Can you take the scrutiny? If so, you've got this one in the bag. And if not?
I'm afraid that's going to cost you...
Our Bourbon BBQ Chicken Apple Meatballs are a tasty mix of legal goods. A combination of chicken, apple, and cheese slathered in a sweet Bourbon BBQ sauce, these meatballs are best served with a side of warm, sliced bread. Sure, the bourbon may be considered contraband but it's well worth the cost of sneaking it in. And speaking of sneaking things in, our beer is one Shady Character. Brewed by Forbidden Root, its mix of herbs, licorice, chestnuts and black walnut makes for a sweet smelling and distinctive American Porter. Finally, our unassuming Silk Smuggler is anything but. A chilled blend of Tequila, Creme de Cacao and cream atop silky red grenadine this one is sure to have you smuggling more than one. But don't worry, if you get caught by the Sheriff you can always drink the evidence!
I'll start this one off by saying Sheriff of Nottingham isn't my usual type of game. I tend to lean towards strategy based games and wasn't sure how I would enjoy one focused heavily on bluffing and negotiation. For that reason, I was a bit hesitant to pick this up at first when I already had so many other games on my wish list. Thankfully, the holidays rolled around and I mentioned Sheriff of Nottingham from my mother-in-law. After receiving it under the tree Christmas morning I'm really glad I did. Let's take a look at Sheriff of Nottingham.
Component-wise, right out the box you can see this is a well produced game. The artwork is fantastic and really fits the game well. Present throughout, the illustrated characters would feel right at home in many an animated film. In regards to the rules manual, it's very well written, easy to understand and includes many illustrated examples of play throughout. The player cards, Sheriff marker, and game currency are all printed on very heavy card stock and will stand up to years of play. The goods cards are very durable and after quite a few plays there's still no visible wear. As for the merchant bags, they're constructed of colorful fabric that snap closed and have a really good feel to them. The snaps themselves are plastic and while fairly sturdy my one concern would be their durability over time. Other than making the snaps metal I'm not sure there's a way to improve upon them. The game also includes a fairly nice box insert. There are individual compartments for each denomination of currency as well as a separate removable tray for the draw and discard piles.
In regards to game play, it's pretty straight forward. Tell the truth? Bluff and sneak in contraband? Bribe the Sheriff? It's up to you. I like that each player gets the opportunity as merchant and Sheriff and must navigate the bluffing and negotiations during each one carefully. Even with the shifting roles throughout the game it remains intuitive and flows really well from turn to turn. As the merchant you can tell the truth, bluff, or bribe your way in. Or you can tell the truth "poorly" to get the Sheriff to inspect your legal goods to gain some coin for the trouble. I really like that aspect of the game. Am I lying? Is it worth it to you to find out? There's something to be said about the feeling of pulling one over on him. Or intentionally getting caught in a lie just to increase suspicion to set up your next legal trip through to market. Playing as Sheriff also has it's own strategy. Come out with an iron hand or an open one? Do you inspect everyone or fish for bribes and let them all through? Too lenient and the streets are filled with contraband, too strict and you'll find yourself running low on cash. There's a lot of thought here for such a simple concept. If I did have one criticism to make it would be the player count. While 3-5 works really well we most often find this played at parties and fins ourselves forming teams to fit everyone in. Adding a 6th player would have been nice. Or course, with that the overall play time would slightly increase but as it stands the game already seems to fly by! Perhaps an upped player count included in a future expansion?
Overall, I'm really impressed with how much fun we have playing Sheriff of Nottingham. From all our plays, people had so much fun they always request to play it again. We've played this with some good friends and were really surprised when the fooled us with an exceptional bluff and have played it with strangers at a party who we were able to read like a book! You never know how good (or bad) someone is at bluffing until you see them in action. It's a really great ice-breaker and we found that people who don't usually play games were drawn to the table by this one. It's great for gamers and non-gamers alike. For something I wasn't really feeling at first glance I'm really glad I reconsidered. Sheriff of Nottingham is a load of fun and now a staple at all of our parties. I'm very happy to have it in my collection.
Dave buys some games for really weird reasons sometimes. When he brought home Sheriff of Nottingham, he said he wanted it because of the “satisfying snap of the pouch”. I wasn’t too excited this time, not just because of that silly reason, but because it was a bluffing game. I have never been a fan of bluffing games, however, I have made an exception for this one. Arcane Wonders has done a great job with this game. A well-made game has the ability to bring people out of their shell and have a great time. This game does that and more. However, I am more than a little concerned that some of my friends are such effective liars. I found myself competing to become the apple queen like some Midwestern corn princess on the fourth of July. Dave may have picked a winner this time but that isn't going to stop me from checking his bag for illegal goods!