Strap on your spandex of 5 unique colors and get your morphers ready because this week we’re going to be taking a look at Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid. A purely co-op game based around playing the titular power rangers as they combat threats against their city of Angel Grove.
The core game is aimed at fans of the original Power Rangers from 1993. Players choose one of the 5 OG Power Rangers and work together to defeat Rita Repulsa and her monsters. You’ll fight through waves of Putties, trying to keep the City of Angel Grove from panicking as threats continue to pile up. Eventually putties will give way to actual monsters, and once you’ve dealt with that Rita herself will come down to take you on personally. The enemy is not the only one who gets to escalate in threat; as you dispatch foes you will be able to summon the powerful Zords and even the mighty Megazord to assist you! The Rangers win when they can defeat Rita, but if Rita knocks them all out of action or Angel Grove breaks into mass panic they lose. The game essentially boils down to trying to pushing back the threat long enough for Rita to arrive and then defeating her.
This game carries a hefty price tag but when you open up the box it’s very clear why. The game is packed with figures. 5 Rangers, 4 monsters (plus Rita herself), 24 Putties and a ton of cards and tokens. The miniatures are of acceptable quality, but they’re mono-colored plastic. The Rangers are all colored to their appropriate color while everyone else is in a boring gray. It does the job but some of the monsters are kinda sad looking, given they have thin parts that will get easily bent in transport, even though they’re tightly packed in a transport tray. They do the job and if you choose to paint them up they do have a decent level of detail to really bring them together. If you don’t, they’re recognizable enough at a distance to serve their function.
The game is largely card driven, with the figures’ location on the board being a point of reference rather than requiring tactical movement. Each monster and Ranger has several unique cards representing their various attacks. Finally there are a ton of tokens to represent damage, energy (action points) and who has priority in the combat phase.
As stated above, the game is purely co-op, nobody plays the monsters here. The base game allows you to play with the core 5 rangers with each player controlling one ranger. The game includes rules for going as low as two players, the rules for 3 or 4 players give each player more resources than they usually would. A 2 player game gives players far more, each player controls 2 rangers and hold even more resources. Before the game, the deck is shuffled in a specific way into 4 piles where 2 piles get one monster apiece and the final pile gets Rita. Finally the decks are stacked on top of each other to create the final monster deck.
After choosing a ranger, players get their own unique deck of cards based on their ranger of choice, each possessing their own unique power making each one somewhat unique to play as. Rangers can draw up to 5 cards from their deck of 10 cards. By the default game mode each player gets 2 actions per turn, which can be used to Move, Initiate Attack or Recharge lost cards.
The cards are dual sided, the “lead” player (which goes clockwise) draws 5 cards, and the card drawn tells you whether you put down regular putties or super putties, and the back of the next card will tell you which of 4 locations they’re placed on. Repeat until you’ve placed all 5. At that point, it’s up to the rangers to split up and work out the best way to keep the flow of enemies down. If there are too many enemies in one zone of the board it becomes panicked, and any extra enemies will move to the next zone in a clockwise direction instead, so if a zone is ignored it will just cause the residual enemies to spill over and potentially cause more panic.
When rangers are in the same zone as enemies, one player may spend a token to initiate combat and the rest get to jump in. Combat is very straightforward; after initiating combat, the lead player (whoever initiated the combat) draws 1 attack card for each of the putties involved in the fight. Then each player involved in the combat gets to play an action card, usually some kind of attack or support card. The players, by default, go first, allowing them to attack the cards drawn so if they’re defeated first, they won’t get to act in the subsequent enemy attack phase. Any leftover enemy attacks can then strike the players, which is represented by players discarding cards. Finally, if there are any left standing, players can get one more attack phase in before wrapping up.
This gameplay loop pretty much goes through the game as more putties arrive. The putties are easily defeated, as befitting the series; you will clear through dozens without breaking a sweat. As you defeat them, you get to put them on your tracker to summon the zords, which adds another once a turn action to benefit the team. You’re going to need them because while the putties are easy the boss monsters are something else.
The first time you fight a boss monster somebody will likely get trashed because they hit like a truck. They get 4 attacks, many do a lot of damage and some even have the Fast keyword which lets them move before the players. This is likely the first time someone will get knocked out, which happens when they are forced to discard their entire deck. Thankfully, there is room for error as players start with tokens in the center of the board that allow them to bring a ranger back from defeat (3 “lives” by default, with more available on games with fewer players.). If you can overcome the sheer number amount of damage thrown at you and your team, then you win!
What the Game Does Right
Encourages Teamwork – By default individual characters aren’t very strong. They don’t have a ton of actions (2 per turn by default) or energy so in order to maximize efficiency, players need to initiate combat when as many are around as possible, but not concentrate themselves in one spot so as to not let the other areas become overwhelmed with enemies. It’s a balancing act and no player ever feels like they’re not contributing to the fight.
Fast play – The game can be beaten in about an hour if players know what’s going on. While the initial number of cards and tokens can be overwhelming, the actual game is straightforward once it’s been explained and a few rounds are done to feel out the gameplay. Within a game or two players will be figuring out combos to assist each other in no time which can feel very rewarding when a fight goes off without a hitch.
Nostalgia – Hey I gotta give it props here, if you’re a fan of the early seasons of the show it goes a long way toward reminding you of those times with the card art taken from the comics and the recognizable bosses. Being able to attach the emotional weight to the show does give it a sort of weight the game might otherwise have lacked and given its emphasis on teamwork with no oppositional gameplay built in, it definitely feels like it’s trying to replicate the old school Power Ranger experience.
What the Game does Wrong
Lifedecking – This might be a personal gripe but I hate lifedecking. Lifedecking is when a game measures your life by the cards in your deck, rather than tokens or some other means of tracking “hit points” or some similar concept. On the surface it doesn’t seem like a bad idea, it takes your abilities and life and combines them in an attempt to streamline the process. The big problem with lifedecking is it punishes players by not allowing them to play their abilities, and makes using their abilities hurt them, which isn’t really fun because it denies the player choice. It doesn’t ruin the game by any means, and this game does give the Recovery action to allow you to bring some cards back from the discard pile. But by default, with only 2 actions per player, there’s rarely a great time to utilize this.
Uneven Difficulty Spikes – The putties are such low effort foes that the early game can be rather boring. It doesn’t take a ton of effort to dispatch an entire squad and walk away unscathed if you have the right cards. Once the monsters show up somebody will likely get flattened their first time, and even if you know what you’re getting into they can still be hard. Rita herself is in another class, as even in ideal circumstances she will take at least 2 rounds of combat to defeat. All of her attacks are Fast as well, meaning the players will take massive damage before they even attack, making a player being KO’d an almost certainty. I welcome the difficulty of the bosses, as that is when the game requires all hands on deck with everyone willing to coordinate, but I wish the lead-up was more exciting.
The attacks are essentially random which means you will often find yourself getting bludgeoned to death before you can do anything or stomping through without fear. Since the players choose how to allocate damage there’s never any real concern about a focused attack (unless the players want to, figuring they can spare an extra life). The enemy just overwhelms through sheer damage rather than smart play and the randomness of it can sometimes feel unfair.
Repetitive – Functionally every game works out the same. Although the game makes attempts at randomization, and you will have to adapt your tactics to match the cards you have on hand (See the issue with lifedecking above) you know how every game is going to play out because there just aren’t many permutations of it to go around. Once you know what to expect out of the game you will be prepared for it, most of the time.
If you enjoy the base game the game has a ton of expansion packs. Many are inspired by the comic books and other seasons of the show. You can mix and match the contents of the expansions in any way you want. The expansions have options ranging from new zones for the board, to new foot soldiers, new rangers, new boss monsters and even replacements for the Big Bad Rita. Sadly, Zedd is limited to a Kickstarter campaign and is difficult to get your hands on now, and he’s not the only one – a bunch of this was Kickstarted and is no longer available, locking those options pretty firmly in the past.
With any of the expansions that give you another ranger, you can play with up to 6 rangers in one game. So you can either add an additional player or more options for games with fewer players than 6. For the most part, the expansions are what they show on the box and none is any “better” than the other. If you remember liking Zeo, or Turbo for some reason? There’s an expansion for that. If you want fan favorite Tommy Oliver available in your roster, get the Tommy Oliver Pack!
There are two noteworthy expansions that add more content than the rest including more heroes, foot soldiers and villains. Shattered Grid focuses on Tommy Oliver’s evil alternate reality counterpart, Lord Drakkon and the HyperForce rangers who oppose him. Rise of the Psycho Rangers includes the popular Power Rangers in Space and their doppelgangers the Psycho Rangers. It also twists the gameplay up by adding a “Mastermind Mode” which finally allows one player to be the bad guys!
None of these expansions are strictly necessary and nothing fundamentally changes the game or adds any radical new mechanics other than Mastermind mode however. They’re more for people who enjoy the core gameplay and want more diversity in the foes that they’ll face or the rangers they can play as.
Overall I really did enjoy the game. While I might hate lifedecking, which is such a core mechanic it’s hard to ignore, the game is really fun if you can get a group of friends together. It requires coordination and the satisfaction of beating the big bad with well timed attacks and support actions. The game does lack some depth in that after a few rounds you’ll feel like you’ve seen everything the game has to offer and while the expansions can add some new enemies and rangers to the mix, it’s not something I see myself going back to play a ton. If you got enough friends with nostalgia for the early years of the Power Rangers though, this will probably be worth looking into.
This game was reviewed by playing the Core game with no expansions, using the 3 player variant as described in the Core Rulebook. This was a free review copy provided by Renegade Games.