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Paint the Roses Review

Board Game Review by::
Andrew Smith

Reviewed by:
On Mar 29, 2023
Last modified:Apr 10, 2023


We review Paint the Roses, a cooperative deduction game published by Northstar Games. In Paint the Roses, players are working together to figure out each other's whims before the queen catches the gardener.

Paint the RosesHave you ever wanted to be a gardener for a royal palace? Sounds like a pretty cush job, right? Well this particular palace, inhabited by the Queen of Hearts, has some pretty strict guidelines to follow. And if you don’t? Off with your heads!

Of course, for reasons (more mechanical than thematic) you can’t just say what those whims are. You have to secretly clue in your fellow gardeners to be able to complete the garden before the Queen loses her patience with you.

Gameplay Overview:

In Paint the Roses, you and your fellow gardeners will work together to complete the Queen’s garden. The garden is made out of hexagonal tiles that have a hedge and a flower. The hedge is shaped as a card suit—clubs, spades, hearts, or diamonds. And there are four different colored roses that can be in the middle the hedge—yellow, purple, pink, and red. The game starts with a handful of tiles already in the garden. A gardener status is placed on the score track and the Queen’s mini starts 6 spaces behind.

Each player will also get a whim card that shows a particular pairing of tiles the Queen would like to see. There are also three difficulties of whims. Easy difficulty shows “color-to-color,” a red tile next to a yellow tile, for example. Medium can be color-to-color or shape-to-shape. And hard whims can be either of those but may also be color-to-shape.

Paint the Roses Greenhouse
Players attempt to fill the garden before the Queen catches up to them.

Once you are setup, turns play out the same throughout the game. A player will place a tile from the greenhouse (which has 4 different tiles available) anywhere in the garden adjacent to an existing tile. All players will then put cubes on that tile if it meets the conditions of the whim card they have. So in the red-to-yellow example, if a player places a red tile so it’s adjacent to two previously placed yellow tiles, I’ll put two of my cubes on the newly placed tile.

Players are free to discuss what the results of these cubes mean for other players but obviously can’t talk about their own whim card. Every turn, players must attempt to guess one player’s whim. If they are correct, the gardener statue moves along the score track based on the number on the whim card. Players can continue to make additional guesses if they want to, but are only required to make one attempt.

If the players didn’t guess anything wrong, the Queen mini will move only 1 space, but if they guessed incorrectly the queen moves twice her base movement.  Plus, as the gardener advances the queen will pick up speed.

Once the garden is full, the players win. If the Queen ever reaches the gardeners, their beheaded bodies are probably dragged into the bushes. All we’re told is that they didn’t win.

Paint the Roses Gameplay
When a new tile is placed you’ll add cubes for how many adjacent tiles match your whim card.

Game Experience:

Paint the Roses is very likely my favorite of all deduction games I’ve ever played. Which is intended as high praise, though I don’t always love deduction games. Generally, the problem is that much of the joy I get in board gaming is when I do something that feels clever. Deduction games just too often feel like the decisions make themselves. You might as well be doing a math problem.

Paint the Roses Whims
Three variety of whim difficulties increase the number of options.

But Paint the Roses isn’t quite so straightforward. It’s not necessarily hard, although that is certainly a complaint a lot of people have. As complex as the rules above look, the game really comes down to (1) place a tile and (2) put cubes on it if it matches your whim. Obviously, if you can place a tile in a way that only your whim is the possible answer, that’s great. But the garden fills up fast and you only have four tiles in the greenhouse to choose from. It’s rarely that easy.

As a result, doing well in Paint the Roses requires digging in a little bit deeper. Maybe the way a tile is placed and the resulting cubes lead to two or three possible whims. Can you eliminate any based on other tiles in the greenhouse your fellow gardener didn’t use? Of course, if you have a harder whim you’ll often need a few clues to get the answer, so players need to be aware and often place tiles in a way that will also narrow down their co-gardeners whims. And if you know the answers to multiple players’ whims at one time, you’re faced with another tricky decision: should you sandbag a known answer versus just getting farther ahead?

Paint the Roses Expansions
The mini expansions in the deluxe edition add a lot of variety and keep the game fresh.

And of course, as the game goes on you have fewer options on where to place. So along with everything else, you’ll also want to try to keep open as many combinations as you can as you play.

I would say that the game really plays best at 3-4 players. It struggles at 2 as some of the decisions space is lost in placing tiles more often. With 5 players you get the opposite scenario where it feels like too many turns go by without getting to control the info yourself.

And of course, if you master all this, the deluxe edition has some mini-expansions that can be added to add even more to keep in mind throughout the game. These have so far universally been great and add a nice change to the base game.

Final Thoughts:

If you are a fan of deduction games, routinely play with 3-4 players, and don’t mind having to really struggle with the first couple plays, I highly recommend Paint the Roses. Obviously, the added benefit of the depth is that you really benefit from additional plays as time goes on. And I highly recommend going for the deluxe edition as the expansion modules provide new wrinkles that give the game even more legs.

It also doesn’t hurt that the deluxe edition also has some nice minis and acrylic tiles that give everything a nicer presentation.

Final Score: 4.5 Stars – Beautifully produced deduction game that has some more depth than what you see on the surface.

4.5 StarsHits:
• Deduction puzzle but doesn’t feel like a math problem.
• Lots of depth outside of just placing a tile and adding cubes.
• Deluxe edition adds nice upgrades and mini expansions add some longevity once you get the hang of it.

• Likely to lose more than you win, especially at first.
• Best player count is somewhat restrictive.

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Disclosure: An employee for Northstar Games also writes for Board Game Quest. He had no influence over the opinions expressed in this review.

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