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The Math Behind Bribing People in Sheriff of Nottingham

Sheriff of Nottingham is a fun game of bluffing and bribery that turns even the best of us into conniving, black market merchants. The crux of the game is trying to get your goods to market, but you also want to be able to slip in some contraband without the nosy Sheriff checking out your goods and taxing you.

The game is unique because there isn’t one designated Sheriff per game, the role rotates among the players each round. With each new turn, regular players have to decide whether they want to try to sneak contraband into the market and the Sheriff must decide if they want to risk inspecting a player’s goods, because in each case the player in the wrong will have to pay a fine. The game becomes a really delicate balance of telling the truth enough times to gain the trust of your fellow players, lying just enough to get ahead, and occasionally attempting to bribe the Sheriff to let your contraband through. Honestly, a game like that could give a person some serious trust issues, but it also presents a bigger question: is it worth it to bribe the Sheriff? Is it worth the risk to sneak in goods? What about promising the Sheriff goods, but then going back on the deal? Luckily, we have math to give us our answer.

Richard Malena’s YouTube channel is all about game theory and he mathematically breaks down which options work best for players when they sneak contraband through, when they’re caught with contraband, when they play it safe and never lie, and when they try to bribe the Sheriff. While you can never fully predict how a human will react with 100% certainty, Malena lays out some pretty great strategies. Check out his video to beef up your Sheriff of Nottingham strategy!

Do you like to bribe the Sheriff in Sheriff of Nottingham, or do you prefer to try to sneak contraband through? Give us your best tips in the comments!

Image Credit: Richard Malena

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