Disclosure: A Northstar Games employee also writes for Board Game Quest. He had no influence on the opinions expressed in this review.
Have you ever wanted to be a gardener in a royal palace? Sounds like a pretty nice job, doesn’t it? Well, there are some pretty strict guidelines to be followed in this particular palace where Queen Chirv resides. And if not? Heads off!
Of course, for reasons (more mechanical than thematic) you can’t just say what the quirks are. You must secretly tip off your fellow gardeners to complete the garden before the queen loses patience with you.
In Paint the Roses, you and your fellow gardeners will work together to complete the queen’s garden. The garden consists of a hexagonal tile that has a hedge and a flower. The hedge has the shape of a card suit – clubs, spades, hearts or clubs. And there are four different colored roses that can be in the middle of the hedge – yellow, purple, pink and red. The game starts with a handful of tiles that are already in the garden. The gardener’s status is placed on the score track, and the mini-farm starts 6 spaces behind.
Each player will also receive a whim card that shows the specific pair of tiles the queen wants to see. There are also three difficulty quirks. Easy difficulty shows color-to-color, such as a red tile next to a yellow one. The environment can be from color to color or form to form. And hard fads can be any of them, but can also be color-shape.
Once you’re set up, the flow will be the same throughout the game. The player will place a tile from the greenhouse (which has 4 different tiles available) anywhere in the garden next to an existing tile. All players then place dice on that tile if it meets the conditions of the quirk card they have. So, in the red to yellow example, if a player places a red tile so that it is next to two previously placed yellow tiles, I will place two of my dice on the newly placed tile.
Players are free to discuss what the results of these dice mean for other players, but obviously cannot talk about their own quirk card. Each turn players must try to guess one player’s quirk. If they are correct, the gardener statue moves along the path based on the results based on the number on the quirk card. Players can continue to make additional guesses if they wish, but only one attempt is required.
If the players didn’t guess anything wrong, the mini queen will only move 1 space, but if they guessed wrong, the queen will move twice its main move. Also, as the gardener advances, the queen gains speed.
When the garden is filled, the players win. If the queen ever reaches the gardeners, their decapitated bodies will likely be dragged into the bushes. All we were told was that they didn’t win.
Paint the Roses is probably my favorite of all the guessing games I’ve ever played. This is meant as high praise, although I don’t always like deduction games. The problem in general is that I get a lot of joy out of board games when I’m doing something smart. Too often in deduction games, decisions seem to be made by themselves. You can also solve a math problem.
But Paint the Roses is not quite that simple. It’s not necessarily difficult, although it’s certainly a complaint of many people. As complicated as the above rules may seem, the game really boils down to (1) placing tiles and (2) placing dice on top of them if that suits your fancy. Obviously, if you can place the tiles in such a way that only your whim is a possible answer, that’s great. But the garden fills up quickly and you only have four greenhouse tiles to choose from. It’s rarely that easy.
As a result, you have to dig a little deeper to succeed in Paint the Roses. Perhaps the way the tiles are placed and the resulting cubes lead to two or three possible quirks. Can you remove any based on other tiles in the greenhouse that your fellow gardener hasn’t used? Of course, if you have a more complex quirk, you’ll often need multiple clues to get the answer, so players need to be aware and often place tiles in a way that narrows down the quirks of their fellow gardeners as well. And if you know the answers to the quirks of multiple players at once, you’re faced with another difficult decision: should you sandbag the known answer or just move on?
And of course, as the game goes on, you’ll have fewer options on where to place. So along with everything else, you’ll also want to try to unlock as many combos as you can while playing.
I would say the game is really best for 3-4 players. It’s hard on 2 because some of the decision space is lost by placing tiles more often. With 5 players, you get the opposite scenario where it seems like too many turns are passing without being able to control the information yourself.
And of course, once you’ve mastered it all, the deluxe edition has a few mini-expansions that can be added to add even more things to remember throughout the game. They’ve been great so far and have made some nice changes to the base game.
If you’re a fan of deduction games, regularly play with 3-4 players, and don’t mind having to really struggle with the first few games, I highly recommend Color the roses. Obviously, the added benefit of depth is that you really benefit from additional games over time. And I highly recommend picking up the deluxe edition, as the expansion modules add new wrinkles that add even more to the game.
It also doesn’t hurt that the deluxe edition also has some nice mini-paintings and acrylic tiles to give the whole thing a better look.
Final score: 4.5 stars – A beautifully crafted deduction game that has a bit more depth than what you see on the surface.
• A deduction puzzle, but doesn’t look like a math problem.
• Lots of depth beyond just placing tiles and adding cubes.
• The Deluxe edition adds some nice upgrades and the mini-expansions add some durability once you get the hang of it.
• You are likely to lose more than you win, especially at first.
• The number of top players is somewhat limited.