Board Game Review: Sheriff of Nottingham

This week’s featured review is all about Sheriff of Nottingham, a great board game released in 2014.

Described by the makers as “a social game of bluffing, bribery and negotiation” – I can attest to the fact this game requires you to lie, often. The results are often hysterical, especially when playing with the table rule of mandatory British cockney accents.

The game play is pretty straight forward. Each player is trying to transport their goods through Sherwood forest to market. Each round, a different player in the group acts as the Sheriff, whose job it is to inspect the goods being transported. You receive goods by drawing them from either the stack o’ goods or from the discard pile. Then, each round, you place goods in a small felt pouch and toss it in the center, declaring what you’re transporting across the border.

The deception comes in the fact players can only transport one type of good at a time. If the Sheriff decides to open and inspect your pouch, and you lied about its contents, you pay penalty fees. If you were honest, the Sheriff pays you a penalty fee. For example, if you decide to transport three cheese cards across the border, you would say “Three cheese.” If the Sheriff inspects your goods and finds the three cheese, he pays you a penalty per cheese. However, if you say “Three cheese” and really put two cheese and an apple card, you would pay the Sheriff a fee for the apples.

The game also has contraband cards, which are ALWAYS illegal to declare/transport. They have higher fines if caught, but they are worth the most gold.

You can bribe the Sheriff with gold, goods you’ve already transported to market, in-game favors or what may be in the pouch. If you make a promise that can be immediately resolved (ex: giving the Sheriff three gold and two wheels of cheese you sold at market) you must follow through. If you promise something in the future (ex: they get a specific type of good that may/may not be in the pouch or you won’t inspect them when you’re Sheriff) you are not required to honor the deal.

After every player has acted as Sheriff twice, the game is over. There are bonus gold rewards for transporting the most chickens, bread, apples and cheese across the board. Count up your total wealth between your gold and any goods successfully sold at market, including contraband – richest player wins.

The wheeling and dealing is dynamic fun, and the game play is fast. The moment that the Sheriff is holding a mystery bundle, evaluating whether or not to inspect the goods is fraught with tension. I love this game and if you’ve got a particularly good humored play group, it’s screamingly funny.

Maybe not the best game for some gamers who take a very long time to make the most analytical decisions possible… but for someone who loves to have a raucous time with friends? PERFECT.

– E.B.

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