Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Sunday 24 December 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Sheriff of Nottingham: Merry Men

Game: Sheriff of Nottingham: Merry Men

Publisher: Arcane Wonders

Designer: Sergio Halaban

Year: 2017

Word has got out that the Sheriff around these parts is frankly quite ineffective. Contraband goods are making their way into Nottingham left, right and center. As a result a black market has developed with people prepared to pay handsomely for large stashes of contraband.  Contraband goods are a bit of a new craze around town and some of the rich have started to make special orders, realising perhaps that pepper is rather a good seasoning for chicken. The Sheriff has been so ineffective, that the merchants have also realised there is money to be made by trying to smuggle some merry men into town too!

Be careful though, the Sheriff isn't taking this lying down. He's instigating new laws and hiring deputies to try and stop the influx of contraband into Nottingham. Find out if he can be successful in the new expansion Merry Men for Sheriff of Nottingham.

Sheriff of Nottingham: Merry Men actually consists of 5 mini expansions, which can be added as desired to vary the way the game plays, you could simply use the 6th player expansion and keep the game otherwise vanilla, or you could through everything in and see what happens.

The 6 player expansion is a little confusingly named, while it does add a 6th player, it is designed to be used for 5 or 6 player games. In addition to the new player, you add the deputy cards, essentially this means there are two sheriffs in town! The deputies can decide if they want to agree to share the bribe, or both agree to check the bag, sharing the cost for mistakes/profits for loss. Alternatively they can argue, in which case one of the deputies opens the bag, taking all of the risk/profit for themselves.

The black market adds rewards for collecting groups of the same contraband. You simply trade in 3 of a kind for the top card of the relevant type in the black market, which is worth quite a bit more money than the combined value of the contraband. These don't need to be collected in the same turn. Special orders are similar, but they must be achieved in one turn. There will be 4 special orders at any one time and as soon as 1 player manages to smuggle in the required combination, they can gain a few bonus points. The titular Merry Men also make an appearance as a new kind of contraband, they have their own deck from which each player will always have 1 card. Once smuggled in they are worth money, like any other card, but they also have powers that go off instantly. For example, Robin Hood steals from the sheriff and splits the money out among the merchants.

The final mini expansion is the laws, each round there will be 2 laws in place, and each time the sheriff changes, a new law comes out, replacing the oldest law. These affect the basic structure of the game, causing legal goods to become contraband or allowing the sheriff to steal discovered contraband for himself instead of taking the fee owed.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
I should preface this by saying that we have not had a chance to play with the 6th player expansion, and therefore the deputies. From reading the rules I'm looking forward to doing so as it seems to fix, or at least slightly lessen, the pain of being the sheriff in the first round in a 5 player game, where the sheriff only passes once round the table. As for the other mini expansions, they all function really well. None are overly complicated or add time to the game, but they all add some variety to keep the game fresh.

My personal favourite are the laws, not only do these make the game more dynamic, but they allow you to be delightfully corrupt. Are you in the lead for chickens? Make them contraband for 2 turns to try and prevent people bringing them in, thus securing your end-game chicken reward! The black market, merry men and special orders all function to entice the players to lie and bluff. Since this is what the game is about, this is a nice change. Before the expansion, being an honest merchant could be a little too easy, now you'll be enviously looking at your crooked neighbors who are getting all these bonus points whenever they manage to get past the sheriff. However this might work to your advantage as it becomes a lot easier to believe that you might be lying when you are not, you can get some large fees from a greedy deputy!

A selection of the laws
Essentially, Merry Men makes takes a base game that's all about bluffing and lying through your teeth, and adds even more temptation to do those activities. If you put all of the mini expansions in you may find that being crooked becomes a bit too rewarding, but in turn being a vigilant deputy will be highly profitable too, which in turn should raise the size of bribes. Nothing is so complicated that you wouldn't use it for fear of confusing a new player. Sheriff of Nottingham: Merry Men is an expansions that I would always play with - it makes the game bigger and better.

Fi’s Final Thoughts 
We really enjoy Sheriff of Nottingham and I've had success taking it to many groups. I personally struggle with being the Sheriff as I just can't read people, but I tend to make up for it with my ability to be an unpredictable merchant. I've often taken advantage of the ability to be truthful and still make the Sheriff open your bag to get some more money out of the Sheriff. being truthful is definitely something it's harder to do with this expansion. The big rewards on the table are in the black market and special orders, both of which require contraband. The merry men might as well be classed as contraband too and sometimes even the laws make it more likely that you'll want to play contraband as they require you to immediately sell some of the legal goods you take into Nottingham.

A selection of the Merry Men
As a merchant I particularly enjoy working towards the special orders as you can really calculate how valuable the bag is to you when you're deciding how much to bribe the Sheriff, sometimes a lot more than you would've in the base game. I think my least favourite element so far (we have not played a 6-plaer game with deputies) are the laws as they have been quite hard to keep track of in our raucous games. I like what they do, in particular how they give the Sheriff more information about what people will be more likely to put into their bag each turn, but it's often been very hard to keep track of them as the laws change each round.

There will be some players who don't enjoy this expansion as the 'always tell the truth' strategy has been weakened, but overall, I think Merry Men strengthens the theme of the game. The expansion is also unlikely to change things for any people that didn't like Sheriff of Nottingham to begin with. However, for fans of the base game, you get a lot of variety with all of the mini expansions in one box and I'll be adding it straight into our game and perhaps playing with different combinations for different games we play.

The Good
  • The expansion really brings out the spirit of deceit in the game.
  • The different laws and bonuses give the Sheriff a little more information with which to believe the merchants or make accusations.
  • There is noting too complex into the expansion that we wouldn't recommend to throw into a first game with other gamers.

The Bad
  • There's a lot in this expansion and it's difficult to know how much to throw into a game to make it manageable.
  • The game will be difficult to win for players who don't like lying.

The Verdict
8/10 Merry Men is a great expansion to Merry Men which further encourages deceit in the game, meaning that bribery and big risks can result in great reward.

Sheriff of Nottingham: Merry Men was a review copy provided to the Board Game Exposure reviewer collective.

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