Saturday, October 13, 2018

Sheriff of Nottingham: A Breezy Cornucopia of Lying and Bluffing

Posted By on Sat, Oct 13, 2018 at 11:59 PM

click to enlarge redfernsnottingham.jpeg
The triumphal cackles are ear-splitting.

I didn’t think that my young opponent was sophisticated enough to run a reverse-psychology ploy on me, but he was. I looked into the bag he was carrying to market and it was clean as a whistle, the contents exactly as advertised. Which means I’m a pretty bumbling Sheriff right now and the Redfern boys (pictured above) are loudly savoring my ineptitude.

You’ll get your chance to be browbeaten, lied to, bluffed and embarrassed in Sheriff of Nottingham, too. Here’s the premise: Each player takes turn being the Sheriff while everybody else plays merchants who are bringing goods to market. Players can load up on innocuous items like loaves of bread and apples…and also black market items that are riskier, but score more than legal items.

There’s a beautiful sequence each turn where marketeers load cards up into a little pouch and announce that they’re ready. The paunchy Sheriff stops them on their way in, at which point they have to declare the exact contents of their bag.

Now, if you’re the Sheriff in this case, you have three options:

• Let them pass unchallenged.

• Demand to see the contents of their bag; if they have what they say they had, the Sheriff is penalized. If they fudged, they pay the price.

• You can do neither, instead leaning on them for bribes and favors. (“I’m pretty sure you’ve got some sanctioned goodies in that bag; how’s about you just slide me one and spare us all the unpleasantness of a search?”)

At the end of the game, everybody totals up the categories of goods they got safely to market and you have a winner. Sheriff of Nottingham runs on a light ruleset and puts the complexity and focus where it ought to be: Huffing and puffing your way through a thicket of bluffs, lies and outright bullying.

While market goods are the ostensible currency, the real juice is in the emotional rush of trying to put one over on your friends—or being crestfallen as a slick-tongued vendor puts one over on you. There is some strategy around how you manage your hand and what kind of goods you’re targeting for scores, but your poker face and nerves are your primary assets here.

Sheriff of Nottingham seats from three to five players and has a few advanced optional rules if you want an extra challenge, but we have yet to explore that far. The base rule set on its own has proven a kick in the pants and a perfect addition to our growing set of fast-moving social bluffing games.

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