FTW Staff Picks - Sheriff of Nottingham
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Sheriff of Nottingham
Designer: Sérgio Halaban, André Zatz
Player Size: 3 to 5 Players
Game Length: 60 minutes
For fans of: Cockroach Poker, Ca$h & Gunz, Skull
We've already covered one of my favourite bluffing games in our Staff Pick series in Cockroach Poker. But one thing that Sheriff of Nottingham adds to the genre is a greater overall game. The game still relies heavily on being able to deceive your opponents, but now on top of that you, can create deals that will hopefully work out to your favour. What makes bluffing games so great is that almost everyone has their own unique method to deception. But on the other side of that spectrum, everyone also has their own method of weeding out liars. In Sheriff of Nottingham, it's important to know who you are trying to fool and what the best approach to doing so will be.
Sheriff of Nottingham is what I like to refer to as "Customs: The Game". Players are merchants attempting to bring goods into the city of Nottingham, so that they may fill their market stalls. There are 4 legal goods they may bring, along with a handful of Contraband that may never cross the border - unless the Sheriff never sees it, of course. Each round players will take turns acting as the Sheriff. The rest of the players will load up their bags with goods and make a declaration as they hand their bag to the Sheriff. "Today, I would like to bring over 4 luscious apples across your border, good Sheriff!" The rules behind declaring are that you must announce the exact amount of cards in the bag, and you may only declare one type of good. After all bags are handed in, the Sheriff enters the Inspection phase. He or she may choose to threaten to open various players' bags. But during this phase, players may also make bribes to keep a bag shut or even to open other players' bags. Any bribe accepted must be honoured. After each player has acted as Sheriff twice, the game is over. The player with the most coins at the end is declared the winner of the game!
There are a few games where roleplaying almost feels necessary and Sheriff of Nottingham is absolutely one of those games. Batting your eyes at the current Sheriff as you attempt to get on their good graces is always encouraged. Or perhaps you decide to provoke the Sheriff, knowing that the contents of your bag are entirely honest. This dynamic along with a really interesting bribe system provides a really great interaction among players during each round. Because you have to cross the border so many times in a game, you have to be able to adjust to the current climate of the game every round. Oh, and one of my favourite parts of the game has to be the bags. They've got a really strong pop whenever they get opened. Sometimes you'll be mid-sentence attempting to weasel your way out of the situation when all of a sudden *POP*, you realize you're about to pay some heavy fines.
Sheriff of Nottingham is both a game of strategy and one of social manipulation. You have to be good at reasoning, but also need to have the ability to know the types of bribes that can make or break you. The game allows you the ability to win out of luck, but it also lets you create your own luck. With an average playtime of 60 minutes, it's a far longer game than most in its genre. But at the same time, the investment of playtime usually results in a more meaningful victory. And even if you don't win, the journey is usually full of a lot of laughs anyway - so it's always time well spent.