Updated: Jun 14, 2021
Growing up I daydreamed of being Robin Hood, of robbing from the rich, giving to the poor. Rescuing Maid Marian with nothing more than my bow, my wits and my intrepid band of merry men. Well, Sheriff of Nottingham isn’t about any of that, you are a simple merchant who wants to move their goods through Nottingham but the corrupt Sheriff wants his cut. You must bluff your way through the gates with as many goods as you can muster and hope you don’t get caught with any contraband.
A Quick Overview
In Sheriff of Nottingham players are essentially trying to collect sets and the most of each set to score the most points. This is however made more difficult by the addition of the sheriff. In Sheriff of Nottingham there are two types of goods, legal goods like apples and bread and illegal goods like alcohol and crossbows.
Bringing legal goods into Nottingham is fine and it will help you score those oh-so-important majority bonuses at the end of the game, but the goods themselves are rather worthless. Illegal goods on the other hand are a lucrative business, sneaking some of those past the sheriff can really bolster your end game score.
Players take turns being the sheriff. Each round the players place up to 5 cards in their bag and declare the contents to the sheriff. They must declare the correct number of cards, but they can choose to lie about exactly what those cards are. Their declaration must be a single type of good, apples, bread, cheese or chickens. The sheriff can choose to let them pass or he can open the bag. Players can negotiate or bribe the sheriff to let them pass but once he opens the bag that’s it. If the bag contains the declared cards the sheriff pays a fine to the player he accused, otherwise the player must pay a fine and have his contraband goods (those not declared) confiscated.
Play continues like this until all players have played the sheriff twice, at that point everyone scores points for all their legal and illegal goods and the players with the most and second most of each legal good type score 15/10 points each. Finally players add in the points from their coins and the player with the most points is declare the winner.
Why choose it?
Since we started Games Night I’ve been on the lookout for great games that play with five or six and Sheriff of Nottingham was always one that came up during my research.
Did they like it?
Yes. Even Mrs Bob who sometimes bails on Games Night and lets the boys play said she had a good time, I think it helped that she won!
Our play of Sheriff was not only their first play but it was mine too and I have to say we all had a really good time. Sheriff is a game that offers the opportunity to roleplay, but it does not require it. However I think everyone really got into it especially when it came their turn to play Sheriff.
The production for the game is really quite lavish, it could have easily been a smaller package but the whole thing has a quality feel to it. I was confused by the extra coins in the set, because once the game starts no extra cash enters the game, however I guess it can be used for bonus points etc at the end of the game.
The rules are pretty simple and after a single round everyone should have a reasonably good idea about how the rest of the game is going to play out. The one downside of Sheriff is that the game is really long with 5 players. Our game, which admittedly was a learning game, was edging up towards 2 hours, if not a little longer. I know that some people put a timer on the rounds, but I’m not sure I like that as it might curtail some of the fun of being the sheriff as you try to rush to beat the timer.
Sheriff feels long largely because each round is very similar, while other games of a similar length might offer a deep play experience, Sheriff, at its heart, is a set collection game and while the bluffing makes it a really interesting one, it doesn’t really justify the time it takes. All that said, I have loved all my plays of it, with some incredible moments that will stick with me. It’s hard to think of other simple card games that really could give me the same feelings that a really good game of Sheriff of Nottingham does.
Sheriff of Nottingham is a catch 22 of a game. It’s so much more alive with more players, but it also takes so much longer. The simple rules and goals of the game and the social aspect of the bluffing and table talk give the impression of a light, party style game, but the length of play make it more of a full evening's entertainment.
The game is beautifully produced, with quality components and great art and it has provided some wonderfully memorable moments for me. Highly recommended.