Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid
2 to 4 players
Image courtesy of Boardgamegeek.com and supplied by the publisher
I’m going to get this fact out of the way right now. I did not grow up watching Power Rangers. I grew up mainly in a Disney household, and the only channels I could watch were PBS and the Disney Channel. Anything that showed violence such as Looney Tunes, Transformers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the Power Rangers, was not allowed. And when this craze first started, I was at the proper age to appreciate Power Rangers. Fast forward to 2019, when nostalgia fuels the machine of industry. We watch movies and TV shows like It, Stranger Things, The Big Bang Theory, and Community. We hail the technological achievements of The Marvel Cinematic Universe in both visual effects and storytelling, and all of these entertainment outlets play on our need for nostalgia. With Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid, the nostalgia machine is played even further. All you need to do is look at the Kickstarter page for the first release of this to see that the support this game garnered. Over thirty-five hundred people raised seven hundred thousand dollars to bring this project to life. While I may not have grown up in a Power Rangers household, the power of the mechanics is what makes this game tick. But I’m not here to give you a lecture about how the early 2010s created the culture of geekdom and nostalgia that we live in now. I’m here to talk about the game, and is it good?
Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid is a game for two to five players, taking about one to two hours, depending on the enemies you face, and is published by Renegade Games. Designed by Jonathan Ying, this game allows you to take on the mantle of a ranger, and head into battle. When the board is first set up, you place the central headquarters in the middle and surround it with locations. If you have all the expansions, there are many different options for what locations you could use. You’ll also place three energy tokens in the middle for later in the game. Once you’ve done that, you’ll choose a ranger. Now, there are many different rangers and what they can do. If you think that there are only five rangers, (red, yellow, blue, pink, and black) well, then you don’t understand Kickstarter. With the add ons, you can also add in the green and white ranger. And there’s even an AI in the form of Alpha who can help the rangers throughout the game. There is a corresponding deck that matches your ranger, and then you’re ready to play.
At the beginning of each round, you’ll reveal five cards that have enemies and spawn points on them. In some rounds, the enemies will be accompanied by a monster, and eventually a boss in the later round. If the number of enemies ever matches the number on the bottom of the location, the location becomes panicked, and the excess moves clockwise. If there is ever a moment when all locations are panicked, then the game ends, and the rangers lose. The game also ends if a ranger dies by completely depleting their deck. We’ll talk about that later. Once the enemies have spawned out, then the rangers will take their turn.
On a turn, each ranger has two actions available to use. The actions that are possible are to move, fight, and recover. Each ranger makes a choice of two. When a ranger moves, they move to any location on the board they want. If a ranger chooses to fight, all rangers at that location draw up to five cards, and the battle grid is created. When a ranger chooses to recover, they look at the bottom of the cards in their discard pile and choose up to six shields worth of cards. But as with any game that would focus on the Power Rangers, the main mechanic of this game is combat.
When a fight is activated, the battle grid of enemies is created. You will head to the deck for the enemies that are present and reveal up to four of them. If there are more than four enemies at the location, the player who activated the combat chooses which enemies they will fight. The battle grid is the lineup of enemies that were chosen. If any of them have the keyword “fast,” they move to the front of the line and take the first turn. Then, much like in turn-based RPGs, the enemies and rangers take actions. If the rangers go first, one of the players will play a card, either an attack or maneuver and play it. It will either give them, or the party, an effect, or a chance to roll some dice against the enemies. If they roll dice, they choose which enemy to hit, roll, count up their hits and deal damage to that enemy. If the enemy is defeated, the card is turned over in the lineup, and then the enemies take an attack action. When a ranger is attacked by an enemy, they discard a card from their deck. If the shields at the bottom of the card are less than the attack, they continue drawing until they have enough shields to cover the damage. If the shields are precisely the same, you don’t discard any further. If your shields are more than the attack value, then you place that card at the bottom of your deck instead of discard. Remember, a ranger can die when they’ve depleted their deck.
There is one caveat to all of this. If it comes time for the enemy to attack, and the card is facedown since it was defeated, then the enemies lose a turn, and the rangers go again. The more damage the rangers can do early on, the fewer opportunities the enemies get to hurt them. If the rangers can defeat the boss, they win the game. If at any time, a ranger has depleted their deck, and there are energy crystals in the middle of the board, they can spend one to get their whole deck back. There are some other details of how the game works, and I won’t go into all of them, but I do want to talk about Gigazord. When an enemy is defeated, they don’t go back into the supply.
Instead, they head onto a power track. When six enemies are defeated, the top card of the zord deck is drawn. Whichever player it matches, gets their power card. Then, the power level of Gigazord goes up one. When the power gets up to six, Gigazord comes out, and when it does, each enemy card in that location during a fight gets damage. This can be a definite advantage if you’ve made it far enough in the game.
Now, what do I think of Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid? I’m not a Rangers fan, and yet there was something about this game that drew me back over and over again. When I was ranking my best of the year, Power Rangers came in at number nine. And I’m not a Rangers fan. What was it that won me over? It was the turn-based combat and the way the cards worked. There is a great deal of pressure in this game, not only from the monsters on the board but from the cards you might have in your hand. This game does rely on some luck, as your hand of cards can be useless to you throughout a fight, and you find yourself just standing there. That’s not what the Power Rangers want. They want you to work together to fight with teamwork. I’ve never seen more than five episodes of the show, but that’s the basics of what I saw. As a cooperative game, this one does stand out since each player has a voice in what they do.
A common concern with cooperative games is that one player can take over, or as the industry calls them, the Alpha gamer. Now, this can happen in Power Rangers, but it might not always work out. The cards you play allow you to roll dice with 0-2 hits on them, and when you play that card, it might not work in your favor, though it would seem that the card should have worked. And that’s where it slows the Alpha player. They often seek to control the board, and with those dice, that can’t always happen. I’m speaking from experience there. But if you’re playing with the right people, and understand how your ranger works with their unique ability, the need for one player to Alpha is somewhat diminished.
One thing I love about this game, along with every great cooperative game, is that it comes down to the wire. Have you ever played a game of Pandemic or Legendary that never felt any tension? In Power Rangers, I always felt pressure on me, almost like we weren’t going to get past the main spawn of the game. I should mention that you can only take off the panic tokens from the location if you’ve defeated each figure in that location. That can make things rather difficult for the rangers to complete since they can only fight four enemies at once. And then there’s the card system that forces you to discard when you’ve been hit. You wonder if you should recover, or spend one of the energy tokens in the center of the board to bring your deck back up. All of those decisions that need to be made are what make this game stand out to me.
Even though this game was funded on Kickstarter, there is a lot of content that is being put out continually by Renegade Game Studios. Did you not care for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but liked the Zeo or Turbo age better? Those are readily available to you. I know that the developers of the game intend to continue their support, which is always great to hear. If you have determination, you can fit everything into the base box in a somewhat orderly fashion.
If I had to make a negative, it was the one stated above. When combat is started, there is the possibility that your hand of cards can backfire on you. And when you’re in combat, there’s no way to make that recover action to gain a good card out of your discard.
Now let’s get down to some figures here. No, not the miniatures, which are rather large for being called miniatures. Is this game worth it? If you’re a Power Rangers fan, then absolutely. Some of you may know Jenn, the Board Game Librarian, and she grew up watching the Power Rangers. She adored this game, not only for the theme but for the way the mechanics captured the theme. But what about the price if you’re not a rangers fan? I thought it was worth it, and I continuously purchase each new expansion. But that’s coming from someone who’s in love with the mechanics. If you like the idea of turn-based combat in a board game setting, then this might be for you. The game is $90 for the base box, but you get a lot for what you pay. It’s no different than spending the same amount for a more extensive campaign game or a hefty Euro Game.
And how do the expansions fit into the game? It’s the best type of expansion I could’ve ever asked for. It just adds more stuff. It gives you new fighters, new monsters, and new villains.
There are even new rangers that can be added to your game. In the larger expansion box, there are more locations, and the rules that come with it are only one page long. Mainly, it tells you how to incorporate this expansion into the main box with more stuff.
It got extra points from me for that one.
In the end, I gave Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid an 8.75. There are many cooperative games out there with a strong theme, but this one really captured the show.
I think that with time, and the continuance of expansions coming from Renegade, we’ll see this one get stronger. And who knows? Perhaps they’ll put another wave of nostalgia onto this system with a different theme.
BGG Ranking: 8.75/10
Image: Loe, Danni, Board Game Geek, www.boardgamegeek.com, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/4263326/power-rangers-heroes-grid, accessed on July 14th, 2020.