Spice up the Sheriff of Nottingham with pinched pepper and brie bribes
A cluck, a whiff and a bluff
Everyone has baggage
The core of the gameplay is the negotiation between players. When the merchant bags are handed over to the current turn's sheriff, each merchant makes claim to what's inside. They can't lie about the amount of cards, and can only claim one legal good. "Three cheeses" and "four chickens" are phrases that will be said many times in this game.
Once the merchants have each made their claim, it's up to the sheriff to decide whether to inspect the contents of the bags. This can be influenced in any way the merchants can think of – paying the sheriff off to ignore their bag, offering a chicken to open someone else's bag, or maybe a big payout just to open every single bag available in the hope that other merchants will lose all their contraband.
If the sheriff doesn't open a player's bag, then everything inside regardless of what it was, gets into the market and adds to the player's score. If they *click* and pop open the bag, one of two things can happen. If the merchant is found to have told the truth, the sheriff pays the penalty value listed on each card to the merchant. If they fibbed, though, the merchant pays a penalty to the sheriff and loses anything that wasn't part of their original claim.
The beauty of this game will hopefully shine through in this completely made up scenario:
Merchant Rhyanna: I only have two apples! Merchant Jai: There are four chickens in my bag.
Merchant Jasmyn: I love cheese, and there are FIVE cheeses in my bag. Take a whiff!
Sherrif Sarah: You're all full of it, so who will pay me NOT to open their bag?
Merchant Jai: I'll pay you two gold to open the other two bags and not mine
Merchant Jasmyn: I'll pay you three gold to open Jai's bag and I don't care about the rest
Merchant Jai: Four gold! Forget looking at my bag, but I've heard that Jasmyn loves crossbows, so you should really check her bag
Merchant Rhyanna: I'll add another two gold to Jai's offer as long as you open Jasmyn's bag and not ours
Sheriff Sarah: Deal! Give me the gold, here's your bags back Jai and Rhyanna, and let's see what's in Jasmyn's bag ... oh great, it was four chickens! *pays eight gold to Jasmyn – two per chicken*
Making the right call and catching someone out, along with the embarrassment of getting tricked or making a bad call is very satisfying and enjoyable. In some ways it's like a game of poker, there's a bit of maths and statistics you can apply as to what makes a good deal but there's the pure bluff element, which means you can win regardless of the cards you draw. It's more satisfying to win via a bluff than it is to win by just having good cards.
All Sheriff of Nottingham images courtesy of Arcane Wonders, LCC
Sheriff Of Nottingham lets 3-5 players live the common childhood dream of both being merchants as well as shady sheriffs. You really need 4-5 players to enjoy this game to it's fullest, though, because it shines the most when merchants are negotiating with the sheriff.
Two merchants and one sheriff makes decisions very black and white – "open their bag, not mine!" can get a little dry. Three or four merchants, on the other hand, brings more possibilities on the combination deals that can be made, where players can gang up on the leading trader.
If you like negotiation games, or want a game you don't have to focus too hard on while having a drink or two then this is a perfect fit. I'll be playing this again in the future, particularly because I love the power of being the sheriff along with the bribes to consider. That said, this probably means I shouldn't become a politician. ®