Tabletop Tuesday — Paint the Roses (or, “Wait, this is a logic puzzle!”)

A while back, I posted about games I thought were better online (specifically, games we played via BoardGameArena, which is our go-to), and last night, our board-gaming friends met up virtually again and we tried out a new game, Paint the Roses. And let me tell you, even after one game, I know this is an experience I will only enjoy online.

But I really, really enjoyed it online.

Let me explain…

Remember those Logic Puzzles with the Grids?

The cover of Paint the Roses.

Thematically, you’ve probably already guessed that Paint the Roses is based on Alice in Wonderland. The players are the luckless gardeners, who are desperately trying to get the gardens ready for the Queen of Hearts before she loses her temper and… well, heads will roll. How this plays out is pretty simple, on the surface. You draw a card (one of the players may choose an “easy” card, the rest all have to choose “medium” or “hard”) and that card has a pattern on it.

The patterns can be one of three combinations: any two colours of roses (red, yellow, purple, or pink), any two shapes based on a deck of cards (hearts, spades, diamonds, or clubs), or a mix of those two, if you’ve chosen the “hard” card (so, red-and-heart, or space-and-yellow, for example). Each hexagon tile, which a player places every turn, has a bush shaped as one of the suits and one of the four colours of roses on it. So, on your turn, if it’s your go at dropping a tile, you pick up a hexagon tile (hexagons are the bestagons), look at the pattern you’re trying to make, and see if there’s a way to drop it onto the board that will give everyone else a hint of what it is you’ve been asked to do by the queen (as represented on that card). So, if I had a card that showed two hearts side-by-side, and there was a way to place a hexagon that put two heart-shaped bushes side-by-side, that might be the best move for me.


What do you mean, “might”?

Here’s where the game gets pretty interesting. After the tile is placed, everyone puts little clue cubes down on said tile denoting how many matches that tile creates with the pattern shown on their hidden card. By which I mean, if I dropped a red rose with a heart bush beside a yellow rose with a heart bush in my example above, but it’s also beside a yellow rose with a diamond bush, I’d put down a single cube to denote there’s one combination of adjacent tiles matching what’s on my card—Heart-Heart. But then everyone else places clue cubes as well, and if another player had a card with Red-Yellow, they’d put down two cubes, because that red tile is beside two yellow tiles, and if those were the only tiles in play touching the red heart tile I just placed, we know for sure what their combination is, because only red-and-yellow is set up twice.

Got a headache yet?

The game comes with grids, like those logic-puzzle games where you have to match the dog with their owner and the colour of their collar. So, while in the example above it might have been best for me to play the tile where I did because it provided the clue about my card potentially being heart-heart (but, since I only dropped one cube, it couldn’t be red-yellow, or I’d have placed two), you’re also trying to guess someone’s card every turn, and if you get it wrong, the Queen comes for you just that little bit faster, so sometimes, you’re going to be looking at what you’ve learned about other people’s cards and deciding ruling out or confirming a guess on their pattern makes more sense, and you’ll still coincidentally learn more about everyone else’s cards, thanks to the clue cubes being placed every time a tile is added to the garden.

I’m sure all that is as clear as mud, but the short version is, it’s way more fun than you think, you’re not allowed to talk about your pattern, but it’s co-operative in that you can discuss what you’ve learned about everyone else’s, so each tile that drops we went person by person to figure out what we’d learned via those clue cubes, and then decided which card to guess based on our best shot—and even chatted about what tile might be best to place where to rule out patterns on other peoples cards, and so on. And all while putting little Xs and checkmarks in our grids for each person’s card.

You said this was better online… how can you know that?

One word: cubes. I know, 100%, in my heart-of-hearts, that I would absolutely fuck up placing the clue cubes on the garden while playing, easily miscounting how many matches the tile has to my card. At that point, the game is unplayable. Ditto remembering to pick up all my cubes when my pattern has been guessed (because the cubes stay as reminders of what you learned). On the online version, the computer does that for you. It makes no mistakes. I make mistakes. A lot.

More, the computer also keeps track of the order the tiles were placed for you, numbering them, because that becomes important, too: a tile placed later in the game will be beside a tile placed earlier, and you might need to remember that when the first tile was placed, it wasn’t there, so any clue cubes on that earlier tile won’t take the newer tile into account, whereas the new tile will note all the occurrences of the hidden card patterns.

Are you sure this is fun?

I’m probably not telling it well enough, and this is probably a case where watching it played is better. But I really, really had a good time, and even though we lost (in part because we mis-clicked at the start and there was no undo button), and honestly, I think this one is a “you need to try it” style of game you just can’t really talk someone through. That said, if you’re at all a fan of logic puzzles and enjoy co-operative games? Give Paint the Roses a shot.

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