Sheriff of Nottingham Board Game

Fool Your Friends on April 1st with the Sheriff of Nottingham!

So, it’s April Fools’ Day and you want to fool your friends, but in a fun way that doesn’t leave lasting damage. Trust us when we say, some pranks go way too far, even if they are meant to be in good fun! So, instead of taking a chance on a prank gone wrong, grab yourself a copy of Sheriff of Nottingham. It’s one of the best games to play with family members, one of the best party games and the best game for anyone that loves to spin a believable tale.

Ready to learn all about the Sheriff of Nottingham? Let’s dive in!

Sheriff of Nottingham Board Game

What is the Objective of Sherriff of Nottingham?

Sherriff of Nottingham sees each player bluff their way to (hopeful) victory but lying – or not – about the items they wish to sell. Each player is a merchant with goods and sometimes even contraband. These goods can fetch a great price, but only if they pass by the watchful eye of the Sherriff!

The Sheriff of Nottingham stands between each merchant and their profit. The Sherriff must determine if they will be calling the merchant’s bluff, or if the merchant is being honest. It’s quite a challenge, especially if the merchant can deliver their statement of goods with a straight face!

Each player is a merchant but also gets to take a turn or two as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Will you take your friends at their word? Or call their bluff?

Make it past the Sheriff and you can stock your stall with pricey goods.

As for the pesky Sheriff, if the merchant was telling the truth, the Sheriff pays a fine!

We’ll be Talking about the Second Edition

Sheriff of Nottingham originated with Arcane Games. However, the game is on it’s second edition and is now published through CMON.

The second edition, which is discussed in this article, includes the previous expansions (6th Merchant, Black Market, Sherriff’s Deputies), along with revised rules (they are the same as edition 1, but easier to read and follow) and new artwork.

What’s in the Box?

Sheriff of Nottingham contains a lot of pieces and some are small and therefore chocking hazards. However, unlike some games the pieces are quick to assemble and organize.

Game Contents of Sheriff of Nottingham Board Game

In the box you will find:

  • 110 gold coins
  • 6 merchant stands
  • 216 cards of various goods
  • A Sherriff standee
  • 2 deputy standees
  • 6 deputy cards
  • 6 merchant bags
  • 6 black market cards
  • 1 booty tile
  • 1 rulebook

How to Play Sheriff of Nottingham

To play this fun bluff game, start by doling out a merchant stand and a merchant bag (they must be the same color) to each player. Next, assign one player as the banker. The banker gives each player 50 coins.

The goods cards are shuffled face down and six are given to each player. Then, the deck goes face down as the draw pile.

Choosing the first player is fun! It will be the player at the table that has the highest amount of actual cash on their person. That player becomes the Sherriff for the first round.

From there, the game continues in rounds.

Actions in each round

Each round contains five actions. They are:

  1. Market
  2. Load merchant bag
  3. Declaration
  4. Inspection
  5. The end of the round

Market round

During this phase, players with the role of merchant can discard any unwanted cards and draw new ones with hopes of obtaining a better set of goods to sell at the market.

To start the round, the Sheriff selects a player, and clockwise from them, each merchant takes a turn. On your turn you can choose to set aside up to 5 cards faceup from your hand, then draw cards from the draw pile until you have a total of 6 cards in your hand again. Once all merchants have taken their turns, the Sheriff collects all the cards that were set aside to create a face up discard pile next to the goods deck.

The Sherriff does not participate with all the other players. Instead, the Sherriff is closely observing each other player to learn hints about who may lie about their goods.

Loading the bag

Each merchant will chooses the goods they plan to take to market and place them in their own bag. It is important that the merchants load their bags simultaneously with up to five cards. Merchants must be covert in this step as to not tip off the Sherriff or the other merchants about what is in the bag.

Once happy with the selection, the merchant closes the bag and places it on the table.

When the bag is sealed, no changes can be made and the bag cannot be opened until the appropriate time as the game continues.

Cards of Sheriff of Nottingham


During this phase, the merchants are required to tell the Sheriff what type of goods they are delivering to the market. However, deceiving the Sheriff regarding the actual contents of their bag is always an option. In fact, at some point during the game, lying will be necessary – telling a lie is highly encouraged and a big part of the course of play. Remember, bluff to have fun!

Starting from the player seated on the left side of the Sheriff and proceeding clockwise, each merchant player must maintain eye contact with the Sheriff, declare the type of goods they are taking to market and submit their bag to the Sheriff.

Remember, however, that it is not time to open the bags. They remain shut during this round.

You must let the Sheriff know the exact number of goods in your bag, and you are only allowed to announce one type of legal good, which doesn’t necessarily have to be in your bag! Stick to your story. You are not allowed to declare contraband or mixed legal goods.

That being said, feel free to lie in your declaration. You’ll make more money at the market… if you can sneak your goods past the Sherriff!

The inspection

It is up to the Sheriff to decide which bags they want to inspect. They have the authority to inspect any number of bags, ranging from none to all of them, and in any order of preference.

If the Sheriff decides to inspect a bag and discovers that the owner lied about its contents, a fine will be imposed. However, be careful! An honest merchant has the right to impose a penalty on the Sheriff in the event that they were telling the truth about the contents of their bag.

Threats and bribes during the inspection round

In this round, during a player’s turn, the Sherriff may decide to issues a threat and the player may offer a bribe.

Bag of Money - Sheriff of Nottingham

In your role as Sheriff, you have the option to threaten any merchant with an inspection. As a merchant, you can offer bribes to the Sheriff to avoid being inspected or to convince them to inspect another player’s bag.

Some examples of bribes are: gold, legal or contraband goods, contents from your bag and future in-game favors. Remember, at one point each player is a Sherriff. Promising to look the other way during this round can be a powerful bribe.

The Sheriff reserves the right to ignore the bribe and inspect your bag or to let you pass without a bribe. If the Sheriff accepts a bribe, the bag will be returned unopened. On the other hand, if they choose to inspect the bag, they will open it up and reveal its contents.

It is important to note that you cannot offer any cards in your hand or more gold than you have as a part of the bribe. Also, only the Sheriff can only handle the bags until they choose to inspect them or return them to their respective owners. Once the Sheriff returns or opens a bag, all negotiations relating to that bag come to an end.

The Sheriff’s decision is final, and there is no going back.

If you receive a bribe as the Sheriff, any goods included in the bribe are added to your merchant stand irrespective of whether they came from another player’s stand or their bag. Any gold paid is added to your supply.

Remember this during the inspection round

Your merchant stand always displays legal goods placed in their respective spaces facing up. Any player can inspect these legal goods at any time. In contrast, contraband items are kept hidden. Although it is necessary to reveal the number of contraband cards you have smuggled into Nottingham, their type should not be disclosed. These contraband goods should be kept face down as you play and placed on top of your merchant stand.

Ending the round

The game comes to an end if each player has served as Sheriff three times in a three-player game or twice in a four or five-player game. If this condition is not met, the current Sheriff will pass the Sheriff standee to the player on their left, who will serve as the Sheriff in the next round. Before the next round begins, all players must draw cards from the deck to have six cards in their hands, except for the Sheriff who should already have six cards from the previous round.

More to explore

That is basically how to play and how to trick the Sherriff. There are some nuances and additional gameplay outlined in the rulebook, which is easy to understand and follow.

Who Should Play Sherriff of Nottingham?

This is perfect for anyone that loves to play bluff games. You will need more than two players – it’s best played in a large group. This is a good party game, but we recommend play with friends. Why? Because you know your friends – or you think you do!

It is funny to see how well some of them can bluff by the time the game ends. Besides you want to be the next player to trick the Sherriff and make some laughs that will be remembered for years to come.

Happy family

By the time you get to the last card you’ll see why you will want to play this game every April Fool’s day – and beyond.

Where to Buy Sherriff of Nottingham

CMON games has an online shop. However, this game is very popular so it’s easy to find at board games stores and big box st0res like Walmart.

Online shopping

Our Final Thought

Sherriff of Nottingham is an excellent game for anyone that likes to bluff. It’s quick and easy to learn, the artwork is fun and the rulebook is easy to follow. For the price (which varies among retailors) it is worth every penny. It’s a game that you will come back to time and time again as everyone has fun trying to sneak goods to market, trick the Sherriff and win the game.

This April Fools day, play tricks that don’t leave feelings hurt and motives misunderstood. Skip the pranks and play Sherriff of Nottingham instead.