2-5 players, Competitive, Clue Deriving Fable Hunters
Designer: Tom Butler
Artwork: Nicholas Avallone, Jeff Brown (II), Ania Kryczkowska
Publisher: Green Feet Games
Release Year: 2020
Overview of Gameplay
Paradise Lost is a game where you and up to five players will be traversing the realms of the Water Witch trying to figure out which villain has been summoned to defeat you and with which weapon. I’m just gonna get this out of the way right now to make it easier to understand, this game is a fancy Clue. For those of you who have never played Clue, the basic premise is to shuffle up these two decks of cards, one deck for the villains and one deck for the weapons. Then randomly draw one card from each deck without looking and place these two cards in a tiny little envelope for later. You spend the rest of the game visiting places and taking guesses at which weapon or villain it might be and the other players are meant to show you a card or information they have to slowly whittle down your list of suspects.
Now, this game has all that but a few added things as well to make it slightly more interesting. First of all, players will be moving along this set route all around the outside edge of the game board. Player turn order is always whoever is in last place on the route gets to move again. Depending on where you stop along this route, depends on what action you take. There are nine different locations so you have a bit of choice depending on what you are wanting to accomplish. Eventually players will reach these Oracle statues where they all have to stop so they can commune with the Oracle. At the Oracle players will take turns (depending on arrival to the Oracle) placing these “Clue” tiles down around the inner hex space on the game board. These are meant to be placed in such a way to point at the specific zone on the game board that you know where the villain is hiding. You see at the beginning of the game each player is dealt a specific location tile to show where the villain is hiding. So, you are attempting to reveal this location, which, at the end of the game nets you a nice bonus to helping figure out the correct villain and weapon.
After all players have passed during the villain clue phase then the Oracle reveals one of her cards which was placed under each section of the large hexagonal game board during setup. This will give all players another clue to mark off on their sheets. After this each player can ask a single question of the Oracle to try and narrow down their suspect list even more. Each player can ask about any combo of two villains or weapons or a mix of the two BUT each player has to pay a specific toll based on a die roll that was done at the beginning of the game. It boils down to paying either a single coin, mana, seeker cube or scroll card, you might also get lucky and not have to pay anything although you collect a lot of these resources from the spaces you land on along the route to the Oracle so it’s not really a big deal. The player to your left then reveals a card they have of one of the ones you guessed (if they can) or alternatively they might have immunity from questions at that point and can choose not to answer OR heck they could be possessing the cloak of invisibility or Excalibur card which also allows them to not answer.
After each player asks their question, the Water Witches rage tracker will increase by one and then players will start their journey through the next land on the board hitting up those same locations and collecting resources. If this tracker ever gets to 10 then players are instantly whisked away to the Witches Palace to confront her, cutting short any more possible clues and guesses making it that much more difficult to win the game.
Once players have finally reached the Witches Palaces either through a full run around of the board or the rage trackers hitting 10, they will confront the Water Witch! There is one more opportunity to gain some resources before you enter the palace and then the confrontation commences. First you have to check and see if the villain’s hideout was ever located and this is based on the realm with the most arrows pointed to it on that center hex track in the board during the clue phase. If it happens to be yours then you gain an advantage in this fight in the form of either making the first claim, asking an additional question at the witch’s gate or drawing an unrevealed oracle card. At this point each player (in turn order) will declare who they think the villain is and with which weapon they are using. Now of course more than likely no one will have ALL the clues needed to be 100% on who it is but there are a few ways to narrow it down further. Along the trail to get here there were some wizards towers where you could acquire scrolls. If you happened to collect all of either the fire or ice scrolls you basically get a freebie of either the villain or weapon, so you only have to guess one of them, not both. OR, if somehow you got all pieces of both the fire and ice scrolls you basically win because you don’t have to guess either.
After each player makes their claim out loud, they peek inside that envelope to see if they were correct. If correct you reveal the cards and win the game, woot! If not, you instantly lose and must return the cards to the envelope and must remain silent the rest of the game while the others take a stab at it. Whoever makes the first correct guess wins! However, if no one guessing correctly then all players lose and the Water Witch reigns supreme.
Components/ Game Board
I’m about 50/50 on the components and game board. First off, the game board is MASSIVE! For me this wasn’t a huge issue as I have a rather large gaming table so it fit easily on there but at the same time players sitting on each side have to really reach to move their minis on the other side of the board which was not great. There is some empty space as well and it looks as though the board could be shrunk a tad to make this a bit easier. Also, the game board is cut is such an odd way. It’s a huge hexagonal board so perhaps this is the standard cut for this shape of board but it is almost a puzzle to fold back up and has multiple bends this way and that. On top of that the board came slightly tore right out of the box along one of it’s cuts so I don’t expect this one to hold up over time due to repeated set ups, you have to be super gentle with it. It’s also double-sided but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. I flipped it and flipped it trying to figure out the differences like one of those “can you spot the differences” pictures and never could spot any.
The rest of the components are ok with my favorite being the large custom die that is used for the oracle payment. It’s got a really nice heft to it and custom images imprinted on each side to make it unique. The plastic mana tokens are also pretty nice although the amber coloring feels off for mana. I instantly gravitate towards blue for mana personally but not a deal breaker by any means. The nondescript “seeker cubes” are pretty bland just being these gray plastic cubes and the miniatures are not as detailed as I like but they get the job done nonetheless.
Not a fan of the insert unfortunately. The spaces for the miniatures is perhaps the worst attempt at storage that I’ve seen in board gaming aside from the typical Fantasy Flight absentee storage solution. From the research I have done this is the same storage insert they used in the kickstarter version of the game which came with more miniatures ( I am reviewing the retail version) and perhaps in the KS version the minis held in better but in the retail version they just do not stay in place. There is a foam pad that sits atop them but with the gap in the box it does nothing to hold them down. So, if you store your games on their sides, expect your minis to basically just fall to one side of the box.
The rest of the insert doesn’t fair much better to be honest. The spot for the smaller cards isn’t deep enough to hold ALL the small cards so you will probably want to bag those up and the space I thought was for the normal sized cards is both too small and too big to hold them properly as well. That sounds weird but it has a depression at the bottom where I guess you could store some components but nothing sits atop them snugly enough to hold them in place without spilling everywhere. Finally, there is a large open area where you toss, well, basically everything. It’s just not a good insert at all and unfortunately, I will probably toss mine out and just bag everything as everything will need to be bagged anyway.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The theme is mighty interesting with how you are playing as a random assortment of fable characters such as Aladdin or Red Riding Hood and trying to figure out the alternate villain that is hunting you and with which weapon to slay. I also love how the Oracle communing is, not really how it works per say but just the thought of it. You are communing with the Oracle and it is using the other players as vessels to reveal clues to the villain, I found that aspect very interesting.
The board artwork is gorgeous and they really did a great job of detailing the differences between each different land in the realm. I also enjoy the fact that each location has an image of the type of building you are visiting to make it easier to discern what action you are taking. Which brings me to a huge down side, the coloring scheme used for the location orbs is mind straining. At first glance I had zero trouble making out the difference in colors of each location on the board but while reading the instruction manual it was clear that the colors did not match up. One color looks brown on the board but more orange in the manual whereas another color on the board was more yellow but in the book it was slightly orange. Then the reds and pinks were SUPER close as well. Took me quite a few minutes to figure out which color went with which location until I finally discovered the actual drawings for the locations themselves.
Another problem I noticed was that there was A LOT of things on the board that were just assumed. For example, the player order spots/starting location on the board. I had no idea where to start and could see that the trail ended at two places so I assumed one was the starting space. Later I realized these doorways that were on the board were the actual starting spaces for the minis but again, they weren’t numbered so no idea which order to place them in for that all important player order. Most of the card spaces on the board did actually have the words written for what card decks went there which is great but the witches card spaces were less than helpful in that regard. The player order spaces on the Oracles are also much too small but these I think are more a guideline than anything.
The rulebook is ok. For the most part it explained everything decently well, although I’ll tell ya, it REALLY needs a better “setup” section. One that actually shows the game board and where stuff goes, this would have helped tremendously with the aforementioned issues I had finding places for things. Also, there just weren’t enough picture examples throughout which make it more difficult to learn. Some parts were just flat out incorrect such as when trying to figure out what the villains hideout gives you, it states to check page 12 but in actuality it states it on page 11. And although I do appreciate the thematic excerpts tossed in with the rules explanations, those also made it a bit more confusing than it should have been. I ended up just trying to ignore those bits completely so I could more easily understand the game rules.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
There is a bit of player interaction here since players can snatch up locations that others might have been eyeballing. Also during the Oracle phase you can really manipulate how you want to give info a bit depending on a few factors. As far as fun goes I had the most fun at the Oracles themselves, I really enjoyed the little clue game you play placing the triangle pieces down to try and point at the villains hideout. BUT, most of the rest of the game kinda fell flat for me unfortunately. I really found myself mostly bored with the movement through the different locations to collect resources. I mean most of the nine locations were simple “gain coin, gain mana” in exchange for more mana or more coin. The marketplace location takes that a step further and really makes all that complicated by increasing the amount of coin/mana/cubes/scrolls you can buy and sell….for more coins or mana. The wizard’s towers allow you to trade mana to gain a scroll, and the scrolls are pretty fun to try and collect so that’s a plus. There is a wildland space that just allows you to copy one of the other spaces…../sigh. I mean almost all of the locations are extremely uninspired and boring.
Now the two locations that are not just simple “gain or lose coin/mana” are the Black Swan and Truth seeker spots. The truth seeker is my favorite spot as you can draw a card from that particular deck and you can choose whether you want to resolve it or not and they are usually good bonus cards. On the other hand, the Black Swan location is a total mind freak of a space. Almost ALL the cards in that deck are bad, now there are a few good ones but odds are, you will draw a negative effect for yourself. So, it begs the question……why would you EVER stop there? When you have all these other options to choose from and you are never required to stop anywhere specifically.
Optimal Player Count/Replay Value
The replay value is decently high considering every time you play, you will be trying to figure out a different combo of villain/weapon. There are also different characters to play as, all with a different ability that can aid them in the game. That said, the general gameplay itself never really changes, you move along the same path consulting the same oracles with no variety there.
I would say the more players you have playing, the better this one is. You have more opportunity to manipulate the outcome of landing on specific places and more table talk trying to figure out the ultimate villain and weapon combo, even though you are all working against one another.
Positive Final Thoughts
I love the artwork and theme. They really did a great job incorporating the different fable characters into this world and the board itself looks just gorgeous. There are some interesting mechanics at play here with the fun little tug of war to point at the villain’s hideout being my favorite.
Negative Final Thoughts
Most of the gameplay however is just not very fun. The location paths to each oracle are just flat out boring with each location mostly boiling down to either gain or lose coins/mana. And considering you really don’t need to use resources THAT much in the game this seems like super over kill. The color schemes used between the board and instruction manual are not aligned at all for the locations and this makes it difficult to discern which is which. The insert is basically useless as it is to hold anything in place.
The Bottom Line
I think if you are a huge fan of the game Clue then this is something you will probably enjoy. It’s basically Clue with added steps and I think those players will really get a kick outta this. It’s not overly complicated and the location actions are SUPER simplistic to boot. However, if you are looking for something a bit deeper then you should look elsewhere.