Sheriff of Nottingham: Review

WHITNEY'S REVIEW

My Rating:

Likes

  • You can bribe and interfere with other players' games, even when it's not your turn.
  • Sneakiness, bluffing, bribing and competing abounds.
  • While everyone is trying to win, there are multiple ways to do so, and you never really know who wins until the game is over.

Dislikes

  • It maxes out at five players--though I think we found a way around that.
  • There aren't many turns.
  • Sneaking in contraband is stressful!
  • Players still get their legal goods, even when they're caught.

Intro/First Impressions

We were introduced to Sheriff at a friend of a friend's house, playing with total strangers. I find this always makes bluffing, bargaining and bribing a different challenge. The idea of all these elements excited me, though, and I was eager to get started. Also, being a Disney child, the nostalgia of Sheriff of Nottingham was a definite pull, and while it has nothing to do with Disney (or Robin Hood) this game didn't disappoint.

​Not this Sheriff?

Thoughts

Sheriff is relatively simple in concept, but challenging in execution. You need a good poker face to fool the Sheriff, or, failing that, a mountain of gold to get the Sheriff to look the other way (if you're a smuggler, that is). It didn't take us long to figure the rules out, a huge win in my books. And, even though we played with strangers, we had a lot of fun ganging up on other players, paying off the Sheriff and generally being sneaky thieves.

Your objective is to be the richest in Nottingham, earning points through your gold and having the most of the goods (bread, cheese, apples and chickens--cluck cluck!). If you have the most or second-most of one of the goods, you get a bonus. Every player is Sheriff twice before the game ends. As Sheriff, it's your job to keep the other players on the up-and-up by checking their bags for legal and illegal goods.

Cards you add to your Nottingham goods--contraband in red, legal goods in green.
So, what do I need to do?

During each round, you get rid of cards in your hand you don't want and replace them with blind draws or cards from one of two discard piles. You can put up to five cards in your pouch which you then give to the Sheriff. You have to declare your goods, but only you know what's in there. You can put anything you want in it: contraband, cheese, bread, apples or chickens and any combination thereof, but you can only say you have one kind of good. You can't lie about the number of goods you're bringing into Nottingham, but you can lie about what you have. As for contraband, you're not allowed to bring it in to Nottingham (nor can you declare it--it's illegal, after all!). But, because it's so valuable (and expensive if you're caught with it), you smuggle it in anyway (or, in Wes' case, you try and fail).

This game sounds easy...​

Yes and no. Remember when I said poker face?

Wrong poker face, friend.​

Here's why it's important. The Sheriff can check anyone and everyone's bag. You need to remember what you declared and how much, and you need to pass muster, especially if you have tells or play with the same group a lot. If you're lying, the goods you lied about are seized and you pay their cost to the Sheriff.  (This is really my only major complaint. I think if you're lying, all your goods should be seized. What's the saying about cheaters never prosper...?)

However! You can bribe the Sheriff with money, goods in your bag and/or promises of future actions (which you don't have to keep) to bring your goods in unchecked. And, for fun, you can also bribe the Sheriff to check other players' bags--you can even counter or stack bribes.

Not this Sheriff, either?!

In an additional twist, players who successfully smuggle contraband have to show the other players what they smuggled, but then those cards are placed face-down. If you don't have a photographic memory, you're going to forget at some point what everyone has, making the race for points a stressful, strategy-driven toss-up. 

Conclusion

Sheriff is infinitely re-playable. The game is always different, there's no real strategy that works every time, and every player impacts the game differently  due to personality and style. I don't like that it's only a five-player game, but really, you could team up if need be, or the sixth player could use the Sheriff's pouch for that round as the Sheriff can't declare. 

​I love these player cards. They're heavy-duty, easy to reference and have a spot for everything.

This game is a lot of fun. There's strategy and bluffing involved in trying to get the most goods and come out unscathed, but some of it is luck, some of it is favouritism and some of it is warfare with other players. If you like banter, you'll like this game. If you like strategy, you'll like this game. If you like interaction, you'll like this game. If you like being bossy, you'll like this game. If you like...well, you get the picture. 

Add Sheriff to your collection! I don't think you'll regret it.

About the author

Whitney

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