What’s not to love about a game that revolves around lying, bribing, pleading, and coercing your friends into letting you get away with treason? Let me start by saying that I love a game that involves bluffing. There’s something that just feels so right about being a dirty rotten scoundrel from the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in all of England. Games that focus on bluffing like this aren’t just about trying to beat the system. It’s about trying to outwit your friends – the ones that know just how clever you can be and that sometimes know your tactics better than even you do.
In Sheriff of Nottingham, you and up to four others play as merchants trying to get through the city gates of the great Nottingham! Each round you’ll declare goods (in the form of cards stuffed into snap-fastened pouches) and intermittently try to sneak in valuable contraband to help out the infamous Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Each round, one player takes on the role of the honorable Sheriff of Nottingham, opening merchants’ pouches if he suspects smuggling – but paying a high price if he guesses wrong. If he catches the merchant smuggling, however, that merchant pays the high price instead. This can all be gotten around by trying to bribe the sheriff to not check a player’s bag. If the sheriff accepts the generous contribution towards his re-election campaign, he cannot also check the bag and must hand it back to the player.
The game is designed by Sergio Halaban and Andre Zatz of Arcane Wonders and is meant to be played by 3 to 5 players of ages 14 and up. It takes about an hour or so to play (depending on whether or not you set time limits on turns) and retails for $34.99 from most retailers.
Sheriff of Nottingham is definitely one of the year’s best bluffing games so far and is highly recommended if you’ve always wanted to support your local law enforcement, feel like outwitting your friends, or wondered what being a merchant in the Middle Ages must have felt like. Should you play it safe with legal goods like chicken and bread or are you willing to risk everything in support of Robin Hood’s cause and sneak in the most illicit contraband known to England such as silk and gouda cheese? What if you’re the sheriff? How straight an arrow will you be or will you play the corrupt official working for Prince John?
(Note: No men in tights, heart-cutting spoons, trigger happy birdbrains, or hipster archers are included in this game’s components. Sorry folks.)