Board GamesCo-opReviews

Paint the Roses Review

Paint the Roses
Cooperative, Logic/Deduction Puzzle
NorthStar Game Studio
Ben Goldman
Jacqui Davis, Naomi Stanton-Gullak

Paint the Roses is a rarity - a fully-cooperative deduction game.  Beautifully presented and clever in its design, would-be gardeners should remember that this stroll through the garden is no walk in the park.

Paint the Roses, from designer Ben Goldman and published by NorthStar Game Studio, is a fully cooperative logic puzzle where players work together to try and guess the Queen of Hearts’ ever-shifting whims about the arrangement of the royal gardens – and hopefully do so before they collectively lose their heads!

All images in this review are of the Deluxe edition, featuring acrylic tiles and in-box organizer

In Paint the Roses, you and your fellow royal gardeners will be adding shrub tiles to the shared garden board.  Each of these tiles represents one of four suits and is one of four colors, and your goal is to completely fill the garden with shrubs before the Queen tires of you and decides to do a little pruning of her own.  However, Her Majesty does not only represent an ever-approaching threat (in the form of the game’s timer), but she also has inscrutable whims that must be figured out if players have any hope of keeping her satisfied long enough to finish the garden before suffering a head-ectomy.

It’s a highly technical medical term, yes.

Each turn, the active player will take an available shrub from the greenhouse and add it to the garden.  There are no special placement rules – you can add your tile wherever you think it will fit best.  However, each player also has a Whim card, which shows pairs of shrubs that the Queen wants planted next to each other.  These pairs can be either color to color, shape to shape, or color to shape.

And this is where Paint the Roses gets complicated.  Because these Whim cards must be kept secret from other players.  However, correctly guessing what Whim card a player is holding allows the group to collectively score points, which is absolutely critical to surviving long enough to fill the garden and win the game.

So how does a crew of desperate but tongue-tied gardeners handle this?  Well, every time a hedge tile gets placed, all players will check their Whim cards to see if this newly-placed tile matches the conditions on their Whim cards exactly.  Each player then marks the newly-placed tile with a clue cube for each of the Whims that this tile placement matches.  For example, if your whim calls for a yellow and a pink to be adjacent and a player places a yellow next to an already-placed yellow, you would put a clue token on that new tile.  Of course, it’s possible that the newly placed tile will match the conditions of more than one Whim card, so players add clue tokens for each Whim card that the new tile satisfies.

The goal here is to help the group deduce what Whims you are holding, as each turn the table must collectively guess at least one whim card that someone is holding.  Discussion is open, but players cannot ever discuss their own Whim cards.  If the group guesses a Whim correctly, they advance on the score track according to that Whim’s difficulty, staying a few precious steps ahead of the ever-advancing Queen, and can either continue to guess or give up.  An incorrect guess isn’t penalized, but does end the guessing phase and makes it that much harder for the players to out-run the queen.

The further ahead the players get, the faster the queen moves, so even really excellent guessing won’t fully protect you – but it *is* your only hope!

The reason we enjoy Paint the Roses so much is the deduction puzzle of it all.  It’s relatively simple to guess the most straightforward combinations, but it will become increasingly challenging as players grab more difficult Whim cards in a bid to earn enough points to stay ahead of the murderous monarch.  With each hedge placed, you are hopefully providing more information to the group about the Whims you’re holding, but the time crunch of the Queen’s pursuit makes it impossible to always wait to have 100% certainty before making a guess.  This tension can be really rewarding when it goes right…or absolutely punishing when it goes so very wrong.

The organization in the Deluxe version is great

On the whole, we really enjoyed Paint the Roses.  The presentation is colorful and bright, and our Deluxe version was particularly lovely on the table.  But underneath the gloss is a clever puzzle of a game that we found very rewarding to engage.  And for those looking to add more variety to their deduction/gardening ventures, the Escape the Castle expansion adds 6 modular gameplay variants, each of which changes up the rules, adds helpers (and gives the Queen new powers!), and affects how players score and win the game.

Paint the Roses is a clever, beautiful game.  Fully cooperative deduction games are a relative rarity, and we had a lot of fun exploring this one.  If a beautifully-presented logic puzzle sounds like your kind of good time, then we definitely suggest you check out Paint the Roses!

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