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Subject: Board Meetings Review: Sheriff of Nottingham rss

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Leamington Spa
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This is a game of cunning, of trickery, and mainly; of deceit, all dressed up in a wonderfully cartoony Robin Hood pastiche. Players will take on the role of a merchant from the middle ages in the grand city of Nottingham. In a bid to make a profit; players will attempt to smuggle illegal, contraband goods (like crossbows and mead) into the city along with their apples and bread. Each turn, one player will assume the mantle of the Sheriff of Nottingham, and for that turn, they will police the other players, either trusting them at their word, inspecting their goods, or taking a bribe. The player who has amassed the greatest supply of gold and goods is deemed the winner.

Sheriff of Nottingham is, at its core a very simple game; it is set collection through and through. Each card within a set earns you gold, the more of each set you have, the more you will score at the end of the game. Apples, Cheese, Bread and Chicken are all common place “legal” goods, and you will score for these cards, but what you really want is a secret stash of Pepper, Mead, Silk or even a very rare Crossbow or two. That is where the really money is made.

Each turn, one player is the Sheriff of Nottingham, and takes the Sheriff avatar – which could be switched out for a faux-fur cloak, silly hat or whatever you like if you really want to play around – all the other players select the card from their hand and place the goods they wish to take to market in their little felt envelope. Handing the envelope to the Sheriff player, they then declare “exactly” what it contains. The rules for your declaration are very simple:
1. The goods must be legal
2. They must all be the same kind of goods.
3. Must declare the correct number of goods.

And, you will break rules 1 and 2 over and over again (rule 3 is the only mechanical rule, and breaking this is literal cheating). If you slip passed the Sheriff’s beady little eyes undetected you’ll add whatever was in your envelope to your market stall, but, if the Sheriff wants to inspect your goods, you have but one chance to grease their palm and bribe them otherwise, all you undeclared and illegal goods will be confiscated, and you’ll have to cough up the penalty for them too.

This game relies heavily on the player interaction around the table, and with the right crowd (and maybe even the companion sound effect app) you can have a lot of fun. A lot of fun. However, get the crowd or the mood wrong and this game will fall very flat, especially if you suffer a very early, very heavy cash loss (like me; every time I play), you can really struggle to make the difference back up again. For some, this can be a really interesting challenge, and one that is both socially and strategically based, for others this can be a crippling blow that causes them to withdraw from the game.

This social aspect is also important to getting this game to reappear at the gaming table, as the large deck of cards is so big and balanced, there will be little game-to-game differences provided by the game itself. What it creates is an experience, much in the same way that a game of poker does with only 52 cards this does so with more character and more flavour than hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.

I love the art in this game, it captures the theme and feel of the game brilliantly. I would love to see plastic coins to go along with the felt bags – which give a very satisfying and definitive snap upon opening and closing, and the Sheriff standee would have looked brilliant as a plastic statuette – but these advancements would have pushed the cost of the game up beyond what most would be happy to pay for it.

Being a British market stall merchant, during the middle ages has rarely been considered a fun occupation, but with simple rules and mechanics, brilliant cartoon artwork, and high player versus player gameplay this is a very fun game if you have the right number of the right players. If you enjoy thinking, strategy games this isn’t for you, but this little box will provide a very good laugh if you allow it too, and with a run time of less than an hour it is great warm–up or break game in an otherwise serious game night.

The Good:
The artwork in this game is stunning, the box art really stands out on a game shelf.
This is a very accessible, very easy to learn and play game.
The level of player interaction is great and you are really playing other people in this game.

The Bad:
The theme is very replaceable, this could just as easily be a modern day customs office.
Three players or more are needed to play, but this game feels a little flat with only three and is best with five, which considering the next points, isn’t always easy to get around the table.
You will have to look a friend, family member, or loved one in the eye and flat-out lie to them – which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
I would have liked to have seen plastic (or even metal) coins to further enhance the tactility of this game – you could easily add these yourself though.
Some people may not like playing as the Sheriff, and some may like only playing as the Sheriff.
Vendetta playing – a player can be “picked-on” a bit, and this can sometimes go very badly for that player.

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King Pear
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I agree with most of your points, especially the social aspect. I wouldn't want to play this with kids or - god forbid - family.

I would slightly disagree that suffering a large cash loss early is a big minus - you start with enough cash that I found you can absorb shocks throughout the game. Plus the games are short enough that you aren't stuck around for too long waiting for it to end.

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