The step-by-step rules to how to play Sheriff of Nottingham. When thinking about how to play Sheriff of Nottingham, you may be thinking kids game or Robin Hood theme something. You would be incorrect. This is a game about bluffing, bribing and putting it all on the line using your keen skills of deduction.

Sheriff of Nottingham is for 2 – 5 players (more with expansion) and is great for any group. It could be kids, adult gamers and any mix in between. It is also a good generational bridge for families to play together. This game is basically about chickens and apples, but it is amazing. This is your guide to how to play Sheriff of Nottingham.

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Prince John’s lust for gold has finally gone too far! He has made it impossible for a merchant to make a living, being taxed as much as we are. Now he’s got the greedy Sheriff of Nottingham checking everyone who comes through the front gate with “contraband” – meaning all the good stuff he is trying to keep for himself! Good thing you know the Sheriff better than Prince John does. That shifty, no-good, greedy fellow might be intimidating when he stands in front of the city gate, but let’s be honest, he is not above taking a well-placed bribe to look the other way.

You have come to Nottingham with your Goods on market day, and the only thing standing between you and your hard-earned profits is the Sheriff. All You need to do is bluff or bribe your way past him… or maybe, tell the truth!

When learning how to play Sheriff of Nottingham, you are a merchant trying to deliver your Goods to market. Players take turns assuming the role of Sheriff, who must decide which merchants’ bags to inspect and which to let by. As a merchant, your goal is to convince the Sheriff to let you in – by any means necessary! At the end of the game, the merchant with the most health wins.


Time Needed: approximately 60 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play Sheriff of Nottingham the popular bribery, smuggling and smooth-talking board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Each Player Gets A Merchant Stand and Bag
The first step in how to play Sheriff of Nottingham is to assign colors. There are five different color “merchant boards”. Each player playing needs to take one. This is the space you tuck your cards into to keep track of the types you have. Take a felt bag that matches the color of your board.

2. SETUP |Name “Banker” and Give Out 50 Starting Coin
One player has to volunteer to be the banker, giving people new coins and change when necessary. The first task for the banker is to give each player 50 coins to start.

3. SETUP | *Option* Choose Royal Goods
There are specific good cards that are known as “Royal Goods” that are clearly labeled. In beginner, more basic games, you want to play without them. After you are comfortable or want a change, you can add them in. It is up to you.

4. SETUP | Shuffle Good Cards and give out 6
Shuffle all the good cards you are using, both legal and illegal. Deal 6 cards to each player to start with.

5. SETUP | Place Draw Pile and 2x Discard Piles
After dealing out the initial cards to everyone, the remaining cards go in the center to be drawn from and used throughout the game. There are TWO discard pile (left side and right side) for the game and you need to get those started now. Take the top ten cards of the draw deck and put five in each discard pile to get them started. The two piles is to give you more options when selecting new cards which comes up later.

6. SETUP | Decide Initial Sheriff
Whoever has the most real-life money on their person gets to be Sheriff first. Or you can decide randomly. This only matters a little. The game ends when everyone is Sheriff twice and using it first and not last gives you some advantages. This is the last step in how to play Sheriff of Nottingham before getting into gameplay.

7. GAMEPLAY | Phase 1 | Market
Players only, Sheriff doesn’t participate. During this phase, you get to discard 0 – 5 cards and draw new ones. Set aside the cards you choose to get rid of and one by one draw that many from either the top of the draw deck or the very top of either discard pile.

8. GAMEPLAY | Phase 2 | Load Merchant Bag
Players only, Sheriff doesn’t participate. In this phase, players decide what resources they are going to put in their bag. It can be 1 – 5 cards but it does have to be something. You are ultimately going to have to choose one legal resource to say you are bringing in in the “declaration” phase, so here is where you decided if you are going to tell the truth or try and lie to sneak in more cards. Place those cards in your felt bag and snap it to finalize your choice.

9. GAMEPLAY | Phase 3 | Declaration
Players only, Sheriff doesn’t participate. Starting from the left of the Sheriff and moving clockwise, players say what they say they are bringing in. You say a legal good (Apples, Cheese, Bread or Chicken) and a number. The number of cards in your bag has to be the same number you say. You can lie or tell the truth, but yes the numbers always have to match.

10. GAMEPLAY | Phase 4 | Inspection
Sheriff’s Big time to Shine. Things are now in the Sheriff’s control. It is up to him or her who’s bag to look at. They are trying to find who is lying. If the Sheriff looks in a bag and is wrong, they pay a penalty, but if they are right they are going to get a bonus. The Sheriff can look at no bags, all bags, and any number in between. There are also bribes, the Sheriff could say before looking “If anyone wants to pay me 10 coins I will let them pass”. It is very fluid as long as there is no collusion.

11. GAMEPLAY | Phase 4 | Inspection Result | No Look
If a Sheriff lets you pass, add everything to your merchant stand game board whether you lied or not. Any green legal goods are stacked in the space labeled for them (1 of 4). Contraband cards are placed face down under the top section of the board. People will know you smuggled in contraband but they will not know what.

12. GAMEPLAY | Phase 4 | Inspection Result | Look and Correct
If the Sheriff looks at your sack and you did in fact lie about what you were bringing in, you will have to pay a penalty. Any goods that you did tell the truth about go to your market stall but all lied about cards are confiscated. They are discarded and you have to pay the Sheriff the penalty cost (middle of card by red symbol).

13. GAMEPLAY | Phase 4 | Inspection Result | Look but Wrong
If the Sheriff looks at your sack and they are wrong, you did tell the truth, they have to pay you a penalty. They pay the penalty cost (middle of card by red symbol) for every card in the sack. All the cards from the sack will go through into the merchant stand.

14. GAMEPLAY | Phase 5 | End of Round
Everyone draws cards until they have six in their hand. Pass the Sheriff marker one player to the left. They are the new Sheriff and will only participate in Phase 4 in the next round. Repeat all the phases over and over until the game ends. See, learning how to play Sheriff of Nottingham is easy.

15. GAME END | Each Player in Sheriff Twice
During the Phase 5 End of Round phase, if every player has been Sheriff twice, the game ends in that moment.

16. SCORING | Total Of All Goods
Every good that has passed into the market stand (whether legal or contraband) has a gold value in the center of it. That is what it was worth. Add up the total of all cards you have there.

17. SCORING | King and Queen Bonus
In addition to face value, there are also bonuses for who has the most of each of the legal trade goods. On your market stall card (and on every player’s card) there are a two numbers that indicate the bonus for that resource. Whoever has the most of each get the “king” bonus (the higher number) and whoever has the second most of each will get that “queen” bonus (the lesser, second amount). This is the set collection aspect of the game and an inportant part of how to play Sheriff of Nottingham.

18. WINNING | High Score Wins
Add up your score and bonuses. High total wins.



There is a “Merry Men” expansion that has a few different mini-games, but it also has the all important six-player game board.

There are many optional rules you can implement like the royal goods, adding an inspection time limit, remove additional cards from deck for more mystery,


  • 216 Goods Cards
    • 144 legal goods (green)
      • 48 apples
      • 36 cheese
      • 36 bread
      • 24 chicken
    • 60 contraband (red)
      • 22 pepper
      • 21 mead
      • 12 silk
      • 5 crossbows
    • 12 royal goods (red with gold banner)
  • 110 Gold Coins
    • 39 1-gold coins
    • 42 5-gold coins
    • 17 20-gold coins
    • 12 50-gold coins
  • 1 Sheriff Marker
  • 5 Merchant Stand Boards
  • 5 Merchant Bags
  • Rulebook


We hope you can now say you know how to play Sheriff of Nottingham. It is a very fun and communication heavy game that can fit a big group and can span a large range of age groups. The game has the right mix of strategy mixed with communication deduction life skills. It is a very interesting mix of elements creating and fun and unique game. They also took a small part of the Robin Hood lore and ran with it to make it more of a thing that people still know. Certainly a game worth checking out.