Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday, 22 August 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Paradise Lost

 Game: Paradise Lost

Publisher: Green Feet Games

Designer: Tom Butler

Year: 2020



Paradise Lost brings together characters from mythology, fairytales and fables, into one fantastical world where Hercules and the Billy Goat Gruff might be in search of Medusa or the Jabberwocky. All heroes have a miniature, whilst the artwork for the villains and heroes could perhaps be described as haunting. The odd world of Paradise Lost is truly captured, but does mashing together fictional characters translate into a successful mas-up of mechanics in this hybrid of Tokaido and Cluedo?
 
As heroes you will be travelling the world of the Water Witch in a quest to deduce who has been selected as the Villain in this story and what weapon is best used to defeat them. On your journey you will encounter oracles, learn secrets from the truthseekers, build knowledge by growing your scrolls, and exchange goods at the market to enable you to buy or perhaps bribe information out of those you encounter.

 

Gameplay

The aim of Paradise Lost is to solve a who-dunnit style mystery. At the end of the game players will take it in turns to guess the two secret cards that were put into the envelope at the start of the game. This guess will be in the form of a weapon and a villain, get it right and you win the game, get it wrong and you lose.

The majority of the game works in a very different way, there are Oracles placed along the game board, each with  path leading towards them that players will traverse. On your turn you will move your character as far along the path as you'd like, stopping at one of the circular points of interest. These locations will give you bonuses, ranging from the three currencies of the game, to card draws for instant bonuses (or curses) and the opportunity to obtain scrolls. A single scroll piece will do nothing on it's own, there are two scrolls which can be pieced together from 5 visits to the appropriate locations. Should you have all five pieces of one of the scrolls then you don't need to guess the associated aspect at the end of the game (weapon/villain).

At the end of each path there is an oracle. When a player arrives here they will receive a reward and then wait for the rest of the players to catch up. Once all players arrive then two things will happen, firstly there will be a chance to manipulate the central tiles which dictate the villains hideout, each player has a hideout given to them at the start of the game, you'll be adding tiles to the center of the board to try and make the most arrows point towards your location to give you first guess at the end of the game. After everyone is done manipulating the location tiles the set aside card under the oracle will be revealed and then players will have a chance to make a guess. This works exactly like Cluedo - you guess a villain and a weapon, if the player to your left has one they privately show you one (and only one even if they have two) of the cards privately. If not the guess passes onto the next player until either everyone has been asked or a card has been shown.

 

The game will continue like this until all oracles have a been visited, at which point you'll be able to take your final guess. A correct answer wins the game, an incorrect one makes you lose, but lets the remaining players guess. Should everyone guess incorrectly then everyone loses!

 
Amy's Final Thoughts

 
It's clear where Paradise Lost takes its inspiration from and that's no bad thing. There is nothing wrong with a "Who, What, Where?" deduction as a central premise of a game, and after seeing what Rising Five did for Mastermind, I was rather excited to see what Paradise Lost could do with such a traditional gameplay mechanic. 
 
The answer is s**t all over it.

Where to start with this game? Well the board art and graphics are reasonably well designed with competent art that puts you in a mood for a grand adventure, even if every time you unfold it it feels like it's about to break. Most of the game features clear iconography (even if the player aide has noticeably different colours) and the component quality is fair with quality gems and hefty, if painfully dull, grey cubes. The minis for the player characters are of middling to low quality, but at least are a decent representation of your characters, and the included die is so ludicrously chunky that it could be used in self defense. And that's about the end of the positive things I can force myself to say about this game.
 

The character and weapon cards have completely uninspiring art, but the 'piece de resistance' are the scrolls. They should have been five cards that came together to create a glorious celebratory image, instead they are disappointment in cardboard form with less artistic integrity than a game of Telestrations. Which is a real shame, because they are the things you really want to go for. Getting a complete scroll gives you a free pass on one of the weapon/villain guesses, which means you can really drill down into working out what the other category is. Which you'll need to do because their simply isn't enough time to work out both answers in a normal game without a hideous amount of luck from blind drawing cards. I think it says something that your prime objective in this deduction game is to gather all the cards that let you skip deduction.

I fully accept that many of the flaws we encountered are partly a legacy of playing this two player, there is essentially no attempt to make the two player mode different bar a third player pawn that gets moved around to block spaces. This element is competent, but other things simply break with two. For every oracle, a number is rolled, the player who arrives in that position can't be asked questions when it comes to time to make a guess. Which means in a two player game someone can be essentially immune to questions for half the game, doubly so if they have excalibur, which lets them ignore yet another question! How are you meant to deduce without any information to go on? Add this to the four cards which lackadaisically sit underneath the oracles to be shown only as you progress and you realise that you aren't getting much time to work out the central puzzle of the game Many of the player powers are particularly powerful with less players to interact with, and some of the cards that are drawn from the two bonus decks for visiting the related locations only work at higher player counts. Or at least we assume they do. The game sorely needs a clarification on how some of the cards work, because they simply aren't explained well.

In summary Paradise Lost is a horribly dull experience, but the key feeling here is disappointment. A classic game updated with modern board game mechanics is a formula which has been proven to work when done right. Paradise Lost could easily have been a fantastic addition to a gaming library, but with a rulebook that's hard to digest, art that puts you off and little to no payout during gameplay, Paradise Lost ended up feeling like a chore to play. It's clear to me that the game will work better with more players, but I'm still convinced that almost any game on your shelf will bring you more joy.

 
Fi’s Final Thoughts

I love deduction games and I’m always excited to see new ones. From something as simple as Break the Code, which we recently reviewed, to Rising 5 and Cryptid, which both expand the experience into a broader board game, I really like to pit my logical abilities against other players. Paradise Lost, despite being billed as a deduction game, did not hit any of the right notes with me. At two players, it was simply a game where information was provided to you throughout the game and you could ask a sparing number of questions to try and find out a little bit more. The winner of the game always felt likely to be the person who got gifted more information, or who got a particularly nice starting hand. Your only chance to try and gain more insight than the obvious information presented to you on a plate was to try and read into the questions that your opponent asked you. That’s when deduction starts to become social deduction in my mind and I really do hate social deduction. I cannot be bothered to second guess if you’re bluffing or double bluffing, it is just a complete turn off for me.

Another downside of the two-player game for me was the third dummy player. Since we play two-player often, we’re used to dummy players and in some cases really enjoy the elements they add to the game, but not here. The use of the dummy player on the point-to-point movement track did work, but felt extremely mean at times. There were moments where I just felt trapped with a list of very bad choices and even Amy, as my opponent, could see that I was just stuck between a rock and a hard place. Winning the game is so reliant on collecting one whole scroll that those spots inevitably become a focus, and having a dummy player to block those can be very punishing. You’re still likely to manage to finish a scroll, but it’s your sole purpose in the whole game, every game.

All in all, this is one of the worst games I’ve played in quite some time. Please don’t mix luck into deduction games. Please don’t try and be clever with your game design in a way that prevents me from feeling clever while playing it. I wouldn’t recommend the experience of Paradise Lost to anyone!


You Might Like...
  • Like many games with this movement mechanism, it leads to some tricky decisions and big jumps around the track when you really want something.
  • If you enjoy trying to bluff to turn a deduction game into more of a social deduction game then, Paradise Lost has layers of that built in.
You Might Not Like...
  • Your early deal at the start of the game can really affect your chances.
  • The black and white decks have a huge variety of good and bad luck and can cause a huge swing in for unlucky players.
  • The artwork ranges from non-existent, to dull, to creepy.

The Verdict
3/10 Paradise Lost mixes Cluedo and Tokaido, to such an extent that we've coined it 'Clue-kaido'. Unfortunately it also mixes deduction and luck and, quite honestly, what's the point? Deduction is a skill and mixing in so much luck makes the game a pretty pointless exercise in who gets gifted the best information. Add to that that the artwork is depressing in places and, frankly, missing on the fire and ice cards, there is not a lot of joy to be had from unfolding the crazy board and allowing Paradise Lost onto your table.


Paradise Lost was a review copy kindly provided to us by Green Feet Games.

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