Glitchy Predator
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Sheriff of Nottingham

As usual in my reviews, I won’t be significantly rehashing the rules here, as those are readily available if people are interested. Instead I will be focusing on my opinion of the game itself, and the various gameplay mechanisms of the game.

Experience with the game: I’ve enjoyed Sheriff of Nottingham since right around it’s launch. I’m not huge on social games, but I always like to have a few unique ones around for when non-gamers are around and want to play something, or especially to use when family is around. Sheriff of Nottingham fit that bill perfectly.

Rules clarity: The rules are extremely simple to understand and you can learn the game and teach it in about five minutes and start playing. The rulebook is well laid out. No complaints.

Components and Art: I really enjoy the artwork for the game. It’s simple and yet pleasing to the eye. Thick chunky cardboard pieces are great especially in regards to the coins. The cards are decent quality and seem to be holding up well even during a high number of plays. The box has pretty good inserts as well (although not much is required for the game). One of the better components is the individual player card holders that you slide your cards into each round. These really are great with nice snaps, but they also are one of the components that make me nervous that they might eventually tear. They haven’t yet, so maybe it is an unmerited concern. The sheriff standee is a nice touch. You can replace it with a mini available from arcane wonders which is even nicer, but is completely unnecessary. The game also does have an app available to do scoring, and while this app is good, it sadly is no longer up to date and so with more than the base game and early promos it is rather worthless, which is a shame considering how helpful the app is for assisting with the somewhat annoying task of scoring at the end of the game.

Gameplay: The game is very simple. One person is the sheriff and every turn other players pass goods through the checkpoint. You have legal goods and contraband you can pass through the checkpoint. Everyone has two turns as the sheriff. After those two turns you add up the values of your goods and contraband, as well as bonuses given out for those with the most of each legal good. Getting goods through the checkpoint can get very interesting with bribes being thrown around, and even demands for bribes. Sometimes people will bribe will no contraband in their bag just to tempt the sheriff to take a look and pay the penalty. It’s a great game of playing small little mind games with the other players and choosing the exact moment to strike.

One of the big plusses I heard about Sheriff prior to playing was that you could theoretically win it by playing the game completely straight. I have found in our many plays that with the base game alone not only CAN you win by playing it straight but that playing it straight not only is viable option, but an extremely competitive option. Playing it straight every single hand and refusing to ever give bribes. It was effective enough in the groups that we played with that at one family setting it actually ended up breaking the game and it was no longer fun to play any more due to the lack of bribery and contraband being slipped through. Everyone playing the game straight simply ruins the game, and yet in every game someone has invariably tried it out and rose to the top prompting others to do the same.

This brings me to the thoughts behind the title of my review. The game as a base game alone has the potential to be broken. While theoretically it is fun to have people playing it straight, the more people do it the less fun the game become. So what can be done to fix it? House rules? Variants? No, the solution lies in the…. Promos. Well now promos and expansion. All of the promos (except the sheriff mini) are contraband. And some dang good contraband at that. Contraband that is actually worth smuggling.

You see the problem with the base game and the reason that playing it straight was a safer bet is that the contraband… just really isn’t worth the risk, especially once bribes start getting paid and bonuses are paid out for legal goods. Suddenly with the base game you start wondering why you even bothered to smuggle anything through. This only worsens the more games of Sheriff you play.

It seems that the designers of the game came to the same realization as the promos tend to not only be more worthwhile contraband, but also contraband that makes other contraband more viable, or contraband that makes it easier to win legal goods bonuses. Finally there is a reason to smuggle goods, and, more importantly, a reason to have negotiations and bribery during the rounds. Because really, that is where the fun of the game lies, in the negotiating. The expansion also includes a module that makes smuggling contraband much stronger, so those who cannot get promos for a reasonable price still have a way to “fix” the base game if they so desire.

Scalability: Works well at 4-5 players (6 with the expansion). It states it will play 3, but I haven’t found it to be as much fun at 3.

Final Thoughts: Sheriff of Nottingham is a great party game, that really unfortunately does need a “patch” to make the game continue to be fun after many plays, in the vein of increasing the strength of contraband. With a few extra cards or a module from the expansion the game really springs into life with hilarious interactions between players, and good memories to be had. Certainly a game I would recommend, with the side note that you might as well find some of the promos or the expansion at the same time because otherwise it simply isn’t as fun.

Score: 7/10, 8.5/10 with promos

If you enjoyed my review, see my other reviews here.
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ThojttKriime
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Very nice review. Interesting that it can be played this way. Good to know. Don't think I'll bring this up before playing or try to break it this way. Nonetheless I will be trying to get expansions/promos soon. Thanks
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Mike
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ogoctopus wrote:
Very nice review. Interesting that it can be played this way. Good to know. Don't think I'll bring this up before playing or try to break it this way. Nonetheless I will be trying to get expansions/promos soon. Thanks

Getting the Merry Men expansion shouldn't be a problem (it's everywhere), the promos might be though I got mine through the arcane wonders store (even the plastic mini sheriff) only promos they currently have in stock are the pig one. Promos are nice to have though I don't see them as required.
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ThojttKriime
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Good to know. Merry men will be a likely purchase after a few games.
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Glitchy Predator
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ogoctopus wrote:
Good to know. Merry men will be a likely purchase after a few games.


Try it out without the promos or expansion first. It's still a good game without the extra stuff, it just didn't have the staying power in the 3 groups I have tried it in because every time someone tries the "play it straight always with zero bribes" strategy and that seems to quickly break the meta game.

Maybe your group doesn't have anyone who likes to break games though!

In terms of getting the promos, they are easy to get as they come out, and pretty affordable. I ordered the pig pack from the Arcane Wonders site and as a nice gesture they included multiple other promos as well. Not bad service on their part. Some of the promos seem to be going the expensive route, but thankfully the expansion also has incentives for increasing contraband.
 
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