How do you play Sheriff of Nottingham? Read the below.
The Sheriff: “What’s in the bag?”
The Cheese Dealer: “Are you talking to me?”
The Sheriff: “Of course. What’s in the bag?”
The Cheese Dealer: “Just some cheese. I run a cheese shop.”
The Sheriff: “What kind of cheese is it?”
The Cheese Dealer: “Gouda, a bit of Gruyere, some Stilton. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
The Sheriff: “The bag is moving. Cheese doesn’t move.”
The Cheese Dealer: “It’s not moving, it’s all in your head.”
The Sheriff: “Are you calling me a liar.”
The Cheese Dealer: “Not at all.”
“The Sheriff: Your bag is making noises.”
The Cheese Dealer: “It’s just some natural gas. Some of the cheese is very young.”
The Sheriff: “I’m going to open this. You don’t want me to open this.”
The Cheese Dealer: “I don’t have time for this. I’d happily pay you a fee to be on my way.”
The Sheriff: “Do you have a chicken?”
The Cheese Dealer: “Don’t you want some money?”
The Sheriff: “I’d much prefer a chicken.”
The Cheese Dealer: “Fine by me!”
The cheese dealer reaches into his bag and pulls out a chicken and gives it to the Sheriff.
The Sheriff: “Great, on your way.”
That’s how you play Sheriff of Nottingham. You interact like this constantly. You see, each turn, you’re going to fill a bag with some cards that indicate some goods: maybe cheese, a chicken, some bread, a bushel of apples. Sometimes, amongst those cards, by accident, there will be some silk, spicy pepper, or even a crossbow. You have no idea how those illegal goods got in there, but you’d like to keep them and are willing to pay good money for the privilege of doing so. You pass the bag to the Sheriff and announce exactly how many cards are in the bag and name one type of good that is in the bag. So, if you put in 3 apples, a crossbow and some bread, you could announce that your bag contains 5 apples. The bag is sealed, and the Sheriff has to decide whether to open the bag or pass the bag back. The catch is, that if you’re caught lying to the Sheriff, you owe the Sheriff a fine, but if you weren’t lying, the Sheriff owes you a fine. How much better would customs be if it ran this way?
New players play the game by loading their bags with 2 – 3 items. They quickly learn that the big turns are the ones where you just put your whole hand in the bag and play a game of chicken with the Sheriff. There’s the odd chance that you really DO have 6 bread in that bag, and if that’s the case, the Sheriff is going to owe you a LOT of money.
This being the wild west of customs management, you can offer the Sheriff a bribe with no penalty. The bribe is sometimes a way of getting your goods through, but is often a way of getting the Sheriff to think that something is fishy. You may have given them a bag full of bread, but you want the Sheriff to open that bag, and your bribe is just low enough to make the Sheriff think that it may be worth it to open the bag.
The game is full of these interactions. Everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting to see whether the bag was full of contraband or you were legitimately telling the truth. Patterns in play start to emerge that can be used to throw off future Sheriffs. Your game could be a timid affair where the winner told the truth every single round, or it could be a liars paradise where the fines are astronomical and the contraband outweighs the legal goods.
There are bonuses at the end of the game for having the most or second most of a particular type of good. Counting those bonuses at the end of the game is tiresome. It would have been nice if a pad of paper had been included with a grid that would have assisted this process. HOWEVER, the makers of the game may have made a better decision when they released the Sheriff of Nottingham app! Board Games are finally coming around to the fact that online resources exist and can greatly assist in the bookkeeping that so often keeps new players away from more complicated games. You enter the names of the players, ask them to tell you how much of each good they have in their possession, and the game works out all the counting at the end. There’s a drumroll and the winner is announced. It’s a great way of keeping the end of the game quick, and getting you playing another game fast.
This is a game that is going to stay in my collection for a long time. I’ve had fun each and every time I’ve played it. It’s deep enough to play multiple times without getting bored. When you get comfortable with the basic rules, you can add in rules about different kinds of deals that can be made with the Sheriff- you can offer the Sheriff goods in the bag, goods at your stand, or you can offer the Sheriff money to open someone else’s bag instead of yours. The sky is the limit on the kinds of deals you can arrange with the Sheriff.
The other nice thing about the game is that you’re not required to lie ever. You can always tell the truth in this game. You may not get very far, but you’re not forced to play in a way that feels foreign. I encourage you to add this game to your collection. It’s fantastic. It is now the game I look forward to playing the most with casual gamers. This is something that will stick with you for a long time and is relatively inexpensive for the fun you’re going to get out of it.
Interested in buying Sheriff of Nottingham? You can purchase it now from 401 Games!!