Review – Paint the Roses Deluxe Edition

A trip down the rabbit hex...



Designer Ben Goldman

Artist Jacqui Davis, Naomi Stanton-Gullak

Publisher North Star Game Studio

Category Cooperative Tile-Laying

Length 45-75min

Release Date 2022

Player Count 2-5

Paint the Roses is Northstar Game Studio’s cooperative, tile-laying, social-deduction game that… wait. Cooperative? Tile-laying? Social deduction? How does all that work? Surprisingly well, actually, as we’ll find out. 


In Paint the Roses, players will take on the roles of the gardeners who paint the roses in the garden according to the ever-changing whim of the queen. Each player has a card with a tile pattern in their hand that other players try to guess as the tiles get laid out. The patterns are based on the tiles’ suites and colors. 

On a player’s turn, she will choose 1 of the 4 available tiles and place it on the garden next to other tiles. Then, all players will place their colored cubes on the tile just played, according to how that tile matches the pattern on their card. After that, all players discuss whose card they should guess (you can’t share any information about your own card), and the players take at least 1 guess, though they could choose to take more. 

For example, Emma places a red club flower tile next to a purple heart and a purple spade. Tessa places 2 cubes on Emma’s tile because Tessa’s pattern card is red-to-purple. Michael places 1 cube on Emma’s tile because Michael’s pattern card is club-to-spade. The players do some thinking and decide to guess Tessa’s card pattern as red-to-purple. Tessa’s card says to move the painters 2 spaces on the track when guessed, so the players move the painter miniature 2 spaces further away from the Queen! Tessa also draws a new pattern card. 

If the players are ever wrong on a guess, the Queen of Hearts moves along the track, getting closer to the players. The Queen also moves at the end of every turn regardless of if players guessed a card correctly. As the players get further around the track, they pass the rabbit, which makes the Queen faster. Eventually, the queen could move as many as 5 spaces. 

This game sounds fairly simple, and it is, but there’s a lot of strategy here. Do you put down a tile to help everyone else guess your tile? Are you confused about someone else’s pattern card and want to clear things up? Add in the restriction of only being able to choose from a slate of 4 tiles and the nuance of 3 different card piles that players can draw from (easy, medium, and hard), and you’ve got a lot of fun, exciting decisions to make as a team. It may feel comfortable to plug away at a bunch of medium pattern cards, but as the Queen gets faster, some people will need to draw some hard pattern cards so the players can avoid the Queen’s ax. The provided notepads are helpful as well for deducing the more difficult pattern cards. 

The components are very good. The miniatures are sturdy and bring great table presence, the artwork is perfect for the zany world of Alice in Wonderland, the tiles fit into the game boards’ grooves perfectly, and the journal of plays and scores pleases the chronicler inside. The Deluxe Edition includes the following component improvements: “acrylic tiles, a custom GameTrayz insert and the Escape the Castle expansion.” The acrylic tiles and GameTrayz insert are both excellent. 

The Escape the Castle expansion offers additional nuances to the game. The nuances often come through challenging rule add-ons that simulate different characters trying to not just survive painting the garden, but to escape the Queen and her castle altogether! The different rules for the different characters are thematically on-point (you need to place tables for the Mad Hatter, you have a timer for the White Rabbit). I can see the appeal here, but the base game is so exciting and accessible already, I find these expansions largely unnecessary. 

So, what could make Paint the Roses better? I’m not sure. The adjustable difficulty (you can remove 4 of the 8 starting tiles if you’d like a tougher game) works great. Most players will find the normal game challenging enough, especially wat 2 players. It’s tough to score high (or even survive the garden-painting) with 2 players. Add that to the fact that it’s less engaging with 2 players, and Paint the Roses is good-not-great at 2 players. Moreover, unless players are super frugal, they will likely run out of the deductive pattern notepads provided. Not a big deal, as they can be easily replicated, but as of now, they’re not available to print off, which is a miss. 

Paint the Roses is an engaging cooperative experience. It’s a puzzlingly fun time trying to deduce what pattern cards are in which players’ hands. However, part of what makes this game such an interesting cooperative experience is that the cooperative dynamics change every turn. Unless you’re playing with only 2, you’re always working with at least 1 other player to try and guess another player’s pattern card. Then, when that player’s pattern card gets guessed, you work with that player to guess the other player’s pattern card. It’s fast-paced and entertaining. My wife and I enjoy it with 2 players because it’s different, but 3+ is where this game shines. Ben Goldman knocked it out of the park. Highly recommended. 

Northstar Game Studio kindly provided a review copy. 

The Bottom Line

Cooperation, tile-laying, and deduction come together for an engaging, fun time. One of my new favorite co-op games.



Author: Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner.