A Review of Paint The Roses

Paint The Roses is a light cooperative deduction game for 2-4 players. This was on Kickstarter back in November 2021. They promised delivery in April 2022, and you know what? They almost made it! I think I got my copy a few weeks ago in early May 2022. Given how many Kickstarters miss their delivery dates by months and years, I am going to count this as a win! Good job Northstar games!

Paint The Roses is a tile-laying game set in the world of Alice in Wonderland. We are seeing a lot of these lately: there was Wonderland’s War, and the cooperative Dice Placement game Automated Alice which we liked (see review here), and some others on Kickstarter.



This is the deluxe version of the game with plastic tiles.


The little plastic tiles are super nice. See below.


Each tile has a color (rose color) and shape (heart, diamond, club, spade).  This two pieces are what players will be matching/guessing.


The little plastic container contains both the tiles and some minis (!) and clue tokens.


The red queen chases us around the board trying to chop our heads off.  The bunny represents points in the game where the queen accelerates.  We (as a group) are the little painter.


The queen “chases us” around the board (see above).  Whenever we pass the the bunny, the queen speeds up and adds a rose (which increases her speed by one!).

If the queen ever catches us, we lose.  


We win if we fill the garden with roses without dying.  See above for a full garden!


During a turn, we get to choose one tile: the 4 choices are placed in the offering.

The board is truly nice, with indents to place the tiles (see above).


Below the tray and boards are a bunch of cards and pads.


Most of the cards above are expansions.


The other main cards are the “queen’s whim” cards. See above.


The cards are all nice and linen-coated (see some of the reflection above on the whim cards).


SInce this is a deduction game, the game also gives you some pads to take notes with. See above with more whim cards.


Overall, the component quality is very high, and this looks good on the table.



Well, there’s sort of two rulebooks.  There’s the base rulebook (above) and the expansions rulebook (below).


We’ll come back to the expansions later.

The base rulebooks is fine: it does what we expect, components, set-up, how to play pretty nicely.






Overall, I had no trouble learning the game form the rulebook.  


The rulebook evens ends with a player’s aid.  Yay!  The game doesn’t have a summary sheet per se, so this back of the rulebook was nice.

Basic Gameplay


The premise is that players are gardeners and must paint the roses in the garden to match the mad queen’s whims! Each player has a secret “whim” card which represents one thing the queen wants in her garden! But players (as fellow gardeners) can only obliquely communicate, lest they anger the queen!


See above for a whim: the queen has told me she wants to put a red rose next to a red rose!

This is a limited communication game: each player can only communicate by putting out their tiles and then putting clues down. The choice of tile and number of clues are the ONLY pieces of information that a player can communicate on their turn!


After putting down my red rose tile (see above) and putting my purple clues out, the other players guess what the whim was. The number of clues tell you how many things you matched on the tiles around you. (I made an error: there should only be 1 clue above, as there was only one red rose adjacent to the tile I put out). After that, the players try and guess what the whim was! In this case, if the players guess red rose/red rose, we get 3 victory points!

Solo Play


There is no solo play in this game (in spite of Saunders’ Law). To be fair, since this is a hidden information game (with the whims hidden), it’s hard to make a solo game. We did try the Changing Perspective’s Idea (see here for more discussion) and it kinda worked. I played solo as a two-player game, keeping two whims. The two player mode has a few changes (see below).


Using “only the information on the board”, I alternated between players, trying to guess what the current player’s whim was. This means I have to “pretend” I don’t know what the whim is and ONLY USE THE INFORMATION ON THE BOARD. The problem is, this becomes very mechanical and you have to calculate the odds quite a bit: “In this configuration, there is a 1 in 3 chance I can guess the whim: each of the three possibilities is likely!” So, I’d pull out a dice and roll: a 1-2 is option 1, 3-4 is option 2, and 5-6 is option 3. If the odds were ever better than 50% for possibility, I would just guess the more likely outcome. 50% or under, I’d calculate the odds and roll a 6-sided die. (Note: no die is included with the game).


Unless you really like computing the odds yourself and rolling, you probably wouldn’t like this way of playing. I could see this as being a good way to teach “how to compute odds” (for younger kids), or at least practice “computing odds”, but I suspect most most people wouldn’t really enjoy this way of playing.

Anyways, this game doesn’t come with a solo mode. This was just me trying something to learn the game so I could teach my friends.

Cooperative Play


The game works much better as a cooperative game! At 3 and 4 players, the game really does seem to work well! I struggled a little with the 2-Player game (because it has weird rules to try to scale it back), but it worked ok. I think this game is probably best at 3 or 4 players.

Most games start with just trying to guess from the basic clues given, then more and more negative information tends to sway the players.


Negative and Positive Information


It’s very easy to play this as a light game: “Oh these are my clues, here’s what I guess!” … and make it a light simple game. You can also make it as complicated as you want by noticing both negative information and positive information! By positive information, I mean “what information is gleaned from a tile choice/tile placement”: the direct information that follows from that choice. By negative information, I mean the “indirect information that is gleaned from tiles not chosen and tiles not placed”. If a player does not play a tile, that can be as much information as the tile the player chose!


Or, where does a player play a tile? If they had played a tile in one place it’s telling, but they played ELSEWHERE, it would have been more telling, so they must have the other one! This game can be a deeper deduction game if you want … or not. If the group you are with really wants to “go down the rabbit hole” (ugh, did I really just make that joke) of noticing which tiles/spaces weren’t played, this game can become much deeper.

The game lasts about 20-35 minutes: 20 minutes if you play light, 35 minutes if you play deep.



So, this game comes with 9 (10 if include the Caterpiller expansion from the Kickstarter) expansions! I’ll be honest, I think this is a little ridiculous. Paint The Roses is a very simple deduction game that sings because of its simplicity. These expansions are all over the over place from different designers (some big names too) and they change up this game in different ways, but just a little.


I tried a couple, they were ok. They added a little more randomness, but they added some fun new cards. I mean, we liked the expansions ok.

In the end, If Paint The Roses were my favorite game, I can see enjoying the expansions as a way to add life to the game. Or, this could be a good game for a couple: they can go through the whole game over a few months, with each expansion bringing new life! Theses expansions provide a conduit to play new content in a familiar environment.

In the end, I think most people will probably ignore the expansions and just play the base game. But maybe I’m wrong.


A Winning solo game

Paint The Roses is a nice cooperative deduction game with beautiful components that I can recommend.  It’s not great, but it’s very enjoyable.  It’s easy to bring this out if you just want a simple 20 minute game.  It’s also easy to bring this out as a  more complex game (35 minutes) for  game groups that wants to follow up on both positive and negative information.

If you find you love the game, you’ll find there are many many expansions that come with the game, but I don’t see most people playing them: they will probably only be for people who resonate deeply with the game.

Top 10 Cooperative Dice Placement Games


One of the cooperative mechanics that seemed to stand out this last year was the “Cooperative Dice Placement” mechanic. Quite a number of cooperative games in our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021 use Cooperative Dice Placement as a main mechanic! Note that this is a little different from our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games: those are “generic” games with dice as the main component. The games on this list (cooperative dice placement games) use dice as “workers” to perform actions, acquire resources, or fulfill missions. Players work together and place dice to get stuff done! (Note that some games from our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games “kind of” fit this description: we chose to not consider real-time games and ones that aren’t quite dice placement).

Interestingly, Board Game Geek doesn’t have a “Dice Placement” Category for games: the closest category is “Worker Placement With Dice Workers”, but that’s a more limited view of Dice Placement.

10. Assault on Doomrock


Assault on Doomrock is a cooperative adventure game about fighting and leveling up adventurers.  The dice placement is used for combat (a main part of the game).  This is an adventure game with lots of exploration and leveling up, but it’s not purely a cooperative dice placement game.  The cooperative dice placement is used as the combat mechanism: dice are placed to activate abilities. See below.


I have only played the edition above (I believe that is the second edition): it was a bit long and a bit random, but I still enjoyed it.


At the time of this writing, the Ultimate Edition is on Gamefound and I am currently backing this new edition! I am hopeful it will fix some of the problems and move this further up the list!

9. Star Trek: 5-Year Mission


This is a really light game.  The component quality wasn’t great, but the game was simple and fun.  Dice are placed to fulfill missions:


This felt like a game we could play with gamers and non-gamers.   We enjoyed it enough and would pull it out for non-gamers.  But the component quality and simplicity keep it down near the bottom of this list.

8. One Deck Dungeon


One Deck Dungeon is a cooperative game for 1-2 players.  Dice placement is used to defeat the monsters in the dungeon. See below.


This is fairly light and simple game which has had a lot of expansions and additions.  It’s pretty fun!

7. Deep Space D6: Armada


Deep Space D6: Armada is a cooperative dice placement game set in an “almost Star Trek, but legally distinct from Star Trek” universe.  The game has great components and looks fantastic on the table.


Dice are rolled and placed to activate abilities and regions on your ship.


It’s a bit of a table hog! The game has some minor problems, but with a few house rules, this game really shines!  See our review of Deep Space D6: Armada here to see if this is right for you.

6. Dice Throne Adventures


Dice Throne Adventures is an expansion for the original one vs. one Dice Throne game.  The expansion adds in the ability for  a party of adventurers work together to explore and fight monsters on the way to the big bad boss.


Players use dice to activate special abilities for attacks and defenses: strictly speaking, you don’t “place the dice” on a specified space, but you can only use each die once and you still need to “place the dice” to notate it has been used.  So, we’re going to call this Dice Placement: Come at me.


Take a look at our review here to see if Dice Throne Adventures is right for you. 

5. Endangered


Endangered has a very tumultuous history in my game group.  Some people love Endangered, and some people hate it!  The people who love it point to the amazing production, gameplay, components, rulebook, and game presence! See below.


The people who don’t like it get too involved in the game and say “there’s something depressing about failing as the creatures die!  And the game can be too random!”.


Take a look at our initial review of Endangered to see if this is something you might like.  The production is amazing and the game looks good, but the randomness might scare you away.  This was originally higher on our list, but got pushed down by the next entry.

4. Automated Alice


Automated Alice is a curious game, on so many levels!  Me and my group struggled to learn the rules (the rule book isn’t great), but once we did, the game seemed much more fun than expected.  This game was actually a lot lower on this list originally, but the quick game play and simple play style (once you know the rules) elevated this light-weight dice placement game:  my group has taken a bit of a shine to it.


Players place dice to try to fulfill missions on cards: once a mission is done, a card has a special ability which can be used later.


Take a look at our review of Automated Alice here to see if this is something you would enjoy.

3. Intrepid


Intrepid was a Kickstarter game that I found really fascinating: it’s uses Dice Placement mechanics to run a space station.  The game was surprising cheap, considering how great the components are:


The solo game needs some work to fix, but the game really shined as a cooperative experience. It also took up an entire table!  It’s huge on the board!


I liked this a lot more than my friends, which is why it’s only #3, but take a look at our review of Intrepid to see if it’s something you would like.  It also made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021!

2. Roll Camera!


Roll Camera! was a bit of a surprise that it was so good!  The game has a great rulebook, a great sense of humor!  It also worked really well as a solo game.  Take a look at our review of Roll Camera! to see it’s something you would like.


All of my groups embraced this game: it was surprising how universal it was.  The idea of making a movie seemed to engage everyone, and the dice placement mechanics were interesting.


The game looks great, plays great, has a great rulebook, and just seemed to engage all my playgroups.  It also made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021!

1. Roll Player Adventures


In our original review of Roll Player Adventures, I couldn’t recommend this for a solo game, as there weren’t enough dice mitigation mechanics.  But after playing the cooperative group game, there was no question what dice placement game would be #1! My group and I have been enjoying this game thoroughly: so much so that it made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021!   The story is engaging, the components are fabulous, and the art is gorgeous. 


I might call this a storybook game with a dice placement mechanic, so this could also make our next Top 10 Cooperative Storybook Games list.  


A Review of X-Men: Marvel United Days of Future Past

The expansion (not stand-alone) Days of Future Past

X-Men: Marvel United Days of Future Past is an expansion that requires Marvel United or X-Men: Marvel United to play. See below: one of the games in the bottom row is required to play Days of Future Past (you probably want the X-Men version). It probably also makes sense to have characters from the X-Men: Marvel United expansion (top left) for more thematic characters.

Bottom row is required to play top row

This was an expansion to the gob-smackingly large set of Marvel United expansion games that appeared at my door step about 3 weeks ago. See our previous blog entry on this here. Two weeks ago we reviewed The Fantastic Four Expansion and really liked that. Let’s take a look at this one.


In some ways, this is a very light expansion. It only comes with one new hero, Logan, and one new Master Plan villain, Nimrod.

Logan’s Hero deck
Nimrod’s villan deck and Thread Deck

In other ways, it’s also a very heavy expansion: it comes with the giant sentinels and rules for them.

IMG_1116 (1)

The game feels pretty minimal:


The rulebook for this a 4 page leaflet describing all the new rules.


There’s also a very scenario specific matte:


The insert is pretty great and holds the amazing minis.


There’s some extra challenge cards and a few extra tokens.

Token identify the sentinels: each one os distinct and numbered

Overall, this looks nice and consistent with the original Marvel United.


Interestingly, this feels both underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time: only 1 new hero and 1 new villain, but the sentinels are so large and daunting!

The Minis and Maxis


When are miniatures mini and when are they maxi? The miniatures in this game are pretty phenomenal. Those Sentinels are pretty daunting on the table, especially in front of Logan!


The Hero Logan s just a “future” version of Wolverine who’s not “old”, but “battle-hardened”. (He takes one less damage when he takes damage).


Nimrod is the “more sophisticated” Sentinel/Bad Guy that you have to take out to win.


The Sentinels themselves are just amazing minis? maxis?

If you look closely, you’ll see that each one is numbered: they are distinct and can have distinct abilities in challenge mode.

Each Sentinel has different abilities in Challenge mode

One of the things we discovered is that Sentinels were made to pick up the heroes!! Take a look at the rule for Sentinel III (see above) and the picture below! That’s so cool!


These Sentinel minis/maxis are just great.

Days of Future Past

During the early 1980s, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin were producing some amazing content for the X-Men. A few issues earlier, we had seen arguably the best X-Men story ever: The Dark Phoenix Saga. A few issues later, they introduced us to Days of Future Past in issue #141. See above. Although a lot of people associate this title with the 2014 film of the same name, issue #141 was where this was introduced.

Days of Future Past Part

In this two part story, Claremont/Byrne/Austin brought us to the past, as Kitty Pryde inhabits her future self’s body (Kate Pryde) to see the devastation the Sentinels have wrought in the future. The Sentinels are a huge part of this story as they (spoiler) destroy the future X-Men. See above for the two issues.


Interestingly, Nimrod (the more sophisticated Sentinel) doesn’t make his appearance until 1985 in issue #191 at the very end.


So, even though The Days of Future Past doesn’t strictly include Nimrod, it still makes thematic sense. Logan is the future battle-hardened self, the Sentinels are the imposing Bad Guys that you must defeat before Nimrod comes out, but Nimrod is the final Sentinel you must defeat to win.

Solo Play


For solo play, I decided to play as a two player game playing two Heroes. (as I’ve discussed many times: the solo mode for Marvel United is not as simple as it could be, so it’s better to just play two Heroes). From a story sense, it seemed to make sense to play Logan (from this expansion set) and Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde (from the Marvel X-Men expansion).

scenario specific mat

If you look at the set-up from the player mat, you’ll see you can play 2 Heroes and the game scales down to that: this just means we’ll have one less Sentinel (we won’t have all 3 out).

Here’s Logan and Kitty’s cards:


All set-up, my solo game looked like this:


Although not 100% thematic to Days of Future Past, Kitty also has Lockheed with her (as there was no “Kate Pryde” hero to play). Lockheed allows extra actions away from Kitty, as an independently controlled figure that can’t be harmed (I think).


The solo game plays, in many ways, like the main game: you have to defeat all the Sentinels before Nimrod can come out.


Up until Nimrod comes out, there are no Master Plans coming out, just the Heroes with the Sentinels having their own special rules. Once Nimrod comes out, then the standard Master Plan starts.


In the finale, Logan and Kitty took down Nimrod on the same place they took out the Sentinels! You can still see the Sentinels corpses on the location!


You’ll notice the story board looks a little weird until Nimrod actually comes out.


Overall, the solo game was very satisfying and seemed well-balanced (which will talk about in a second).

Strategy vs Tactics


The base game of Marvel United tends to be more tactical, as you have to make decisions based on random events as they come up during play. Some villains offer more strategy as you have to think in advance, but Days of Future Past adds some very interesting strategic decisions.


First of all, the Sentinels actions are based on the last two Hero cards! See above! There is no randomness when activating the Sentinels! They just use the same actions you did (in order on the cards). In other words, when you act, you give the Sentinels their turn as well! There’s no randomness there! They do what you do (well, see the summary card above).

For example, if these were the two cards up so far to the storyboard, then the Sentinel attached to Kitty would move twice: one for Logan’s move symbol, one more for Kitty’s move symbol. Then (because the last card has a special ability), Nimrod’s Villainous plot goes up one!


What tends to happen is that the Sentinels start following you around! When you move two, they can move two and follow you! It’s like a game of chess trying to figure out what you should do so as to minimize what the Sentinels can do! The main difference is that you can execute the symbols in any order, but the Sentinels are constrained to using the symbols in the order they appear.


Somehow, this seems so thematic! The Sentinels are just robots that tend to copy what you do … but as a mutant, you can try to out-think them! This mechanic is so interesting, thematic, and surprisingly difficult! Sometimes, it feels like all a Sentinel does is undo your turn! So, every choice you make is strategic: what you do sets-up not only your comrade but your opponent.

A Winning game!

Another strategic element is when to bring out Nimrod: if you bring him out too early, his Villainous Plot chart advances more quickly and that can cause you to lose unexpectedly! But, if you bring Nimrod out too late, the heroes won’t have enough turns to defeat him! So, you have to balance when you kill the last Sentinel vs bring out Nimrod!


And don’t forget the Threats! Sometimes, your long-term decisions will change based on which Threats you can take out!


Overall, Days of Future Past adds more elements of strategy than I have seen in Marvel United so far: the fact that your choices are used by the Sentinels against you is such an interesting, thematic, and strategic element!

Cooperative Play

The cooperative game worked really well .. but it did seem harder than the solo (as 2 heroes) play. Having said that, the amount of communication in cooperative play was very important: since my heroes symbols dictated what the Sentinels would do, we have had to chat a lot more about our actions. At least for my group, this did not seem to grind anything to a halt: there wasn’t an Analysis Paralysis. What we saw in our games is that we chatted and strategized about what to play.


One of the things that really made the game shine was how we seemed to really used our special powers to make stuff happen. Logan would often end in a Location with a Sentinel just so he could take the damage (since he just ignores the first damage) for another player. Cooperation! Perhaps our best choice was using Dr. Strange (with his time gem)! We were able to keep Nimrod’s Master Plan under control because Dr. Strange could see the next Master Plan card, and this would help us figure out what to do! Again, more strategy!


In the end, we won, but it was close. See the picture above, where you can see the points where we take out a Sentinel. Overall, this was a challenging but fun battle.

Nature of this Expansion


This is not a “add more content” expansion: the Days of Future Past expansion fundamentally changes the way the game is played. We no longer have a control panel or missions: we completely skip that aspect of the game and the Sentinels start the game in play and you can immediately damage them. The randomness of the Master Plan is deferred until later, as you deal with set mechanics of the Sentinels: they do what you do! Gone is the “okay, let’s deal with threats and slowly wait until we can beat up the bad guy“. Nope! You immediately make important choices: do I get rid of Sentinels ASAP? Do I deal with threats so the Sentinels aren’t as bad? And when do I kill the last Sentinel to force Nimrod out?


This expansion changes the nature of Marvel United: it can’t really be applied outside of this set (but see below). When you play with this set, you are playing a different game. Days of Future Past makes Marvel United into a more strategic game, a longer game, a more complex game, and a more challenging game. I probably wouldn’t recommend this expansion until you were pretty comfortable with the base game. To re-emphasize, these changes are limited to only this one scenario: fighting Nimrod and the Sentinels.

Sentinels Challenge

Sentinels challenge cards

You can, if you really want to, add Sentinels to any game of Marvel United.

Each Sentinel has different abilities in Challenge mode

The rules seem to imply that you take any base game and can add all three Sentinels, using the rules (above or on the cards above) to activate them. There seems to be a lot of questions around this, and it seems like it would make the game too hard? I frequently barely win my Marvel United games, so adding three Sentinels seems a bit much. I don’t know: you can add these to any game according to the rules, but it just seems like a prescription for too much challenge and complexity. So, I haven’t done it yet, and frankly I have no desire to.



X-Men: Marvel United Days of Future Past is currently my favorite way to play Marvel United. This expansion takes a fairly tactical game and makes it more strategic, challenging, longer, and more complex … all in a good way! The original Marvel United game is arguably too light for a lot of gamers, but I think the addition of Days of Future Past would interest a lot of hard-code gamers. The fact that that Sentinels actions are not random, but based on what the players do is both thematic and interesting! I would argue this mechanism is probably the best addition to the game.

I strongly recommend Days of Future Past.