Game Review: Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid (Power Morphicon Demo)

Long before Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid was announced or the news of Renegade Game Studios acquiring the rights to make Power Rangers games had even come out, my wife and I were planning a family vacation to Anaheim, CA to attend Power Morphicon. Power Morphicon is a fan run Power Rangers convention where past actors of the show will greet fans, vendors will sell toys, and panels are held for those that need that behind the scenes info. It is the grand daddy of all Power Rangers events, and it’s only held once every two years. So, imagine my excitement when I found out that the new game from Renegade would be playable for the first time at Power Morphicon. Among meeting all the incredible actors and actresses and browsing through all of the toys and purchasing the exclusive collectibles, I sat down to play Heroes of the Grid. Twice.

Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid
Designer: Jonathan Ying
Publisher: Renegade Games Studio

I’m going to go over the gameplay, theme, the Kickstarter in general, any points of interest for parents, highlights of my brief talk with game designer, Jonathan Ying, and then wrap it all up with my final thoughts. I’m going to try and be thorough, so I might get a little too wordy. Feel free to jump to whatever section you’re interested in.

 

Gameplay:

This is a 2-6 (honestly, a 1-6) fully cooperative area control game with some incredible miniatures. Each player takes on the role of a Power Ranger with a 10 card deck. The deck represents your Health. If you take damage, you discard cards from the top of your deck. So, making the most of the cards in your hand is the only way you’re going to survive.

There are 4 locations in the game. Each round some Minions will appear at these locations. For the demo game we had Putties and Super Putties, but there will be others to choose from. Each location has a Panic Limit. If there are enemies in a location equal to or greater than the Panic Limit, that area becomes panicked. If all 4 areas are panicked, the Rangers lose the game.

At the start of each round, each Ranger has 2 action tokens. Possible actions include teleporting to a new location, starting a battle, or reshuffling your discard pile back in to your deck while at the Command Center. Once all Rangers have used up all actions, the round is over.

If a Ranger starts a battle, the entire location is in battle together. Cards corresponding to the enemies at the location are flipped over face up. So as battle begins, you see what the possible enemy actions will be. The Rangers get the first turn in a battle, and the goal is to defeat all enemy cards. All Rangers in the battle will collectively play a single card. It may be an attack, it may be an action, and it may even allow other players to immediately play cards to chain attacks together. Once the Rangers have played their single card and resolved it, you look at the left most enemy card, and resolve its effect. If that card has already been defeated there is no effect. Then it is the Rangers’ turn again, alternating between Ranger and enemy cards until all enemy cards are resolved. If 3 Rangers are battling 3 enemies, the same Ranger could play a card each turn, defeating all enemies by their self, with the other Rangers watching. You must decide what the best course of action for the team is.

For instance, in one of the games I played, I was the Yellow Ranger and my son was the Blue Ranger. We were the only two Rangers at our location battling 2 Super Putties. My son had 2 copies of the same attack that would let him place the card back on top of his deck after use instead of discarding it. Since your decks act as your health, it made the most sense for me to let him use both of those cards to defeat both Super Putties and place those cards on top of his deck. He could draw them again next battle, and neither of us would be closer to defeat.

Renegade’s demo area at Power Morphicon

There are also Energy Tokens that limit how many cards a Ranger can play during a battle. There are some personal Energy Tokens and some community Energy Tokens that anyone can use. This makes it easy to communicate and coordinate which Ranger may be leading the charge and which ones may be waiting to clean up if the dice rolls go south.

Which brings me to one of my biggest concerns going in to demoing the game. How will rolling dice affect combat? I like the variability of rolling dice, but I hate for a perfect strategy to come completely undone because of bad luck. I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing to worry about. There’s enough reroll mechanics or abilities that you can often mitigate the seriously unfair epic fails. The six-sided dice have 3 faces with a single burst, 2 blank faces, and 1 face with a double burst. Many of the attack cards say to roll a certain number of dice, and you will do damage equal to the total number of bursts. There’s also action cards that can be played that can add damage to the next attack. Let’s say I need to defeat a Putty with 2 health. One Ranger can play an action that adds 1 damage to the next attack. So when I make my attack that only rolls 2 dice, it’s VERY slim that I would not get the needed damage to defeat the Putty.

After a few rounds of battling Minions, the Monster is revealed. For our demo, the Monster was Madame Woe. A Monster is a much stronger enemy which needs 4 of its cards to be defeated before the Monster is beaten. Since only 3 Monster cards are flipped over per combat, this ensures that the Monster will always stick around for more than 1 battle. The Monster’s cards can be a real pain to deal with, dealing damage to all Rangers or forcing players to discard random cards.

After 7 enemies have been defeated, your team moves up on the Level Up track. When you level up, a Zord card is revealed. The Zords alter gameplay by placing permanent effects or making new actions available to Rangers. This is a unique way to show the Rangers using heir Zords to turn the tides of battle without overhauling gameplay once they hit the board.

Unfortunately, that’s where my demo ended. We defeated Madame Woe (very effeciantly, I might add) in one demo, and merely encountered her in the other demo. For more information on how battling a Master plays out or what it’s like when the Megazord is unveiled, check out some of the gameplay videos with the Hyperforce Rangers HERE and HERE. If we get our hands on a full playthrough at some point, trust me, we will give you guys all the details.

That said, I absolutely loved the gameplay from what I experienced. It was difficult enough to require some strategy and coordination but it still felt casual since there was a freedom to deciding which Ranger was actually going to play a card in the battle. There’s no set formula to win the game, and I love that. It felt like my decisions had some real weight on the outcome, while still being balanced and fun. From a gameplay perspective, what more do you want? There was a real reliance on other players as well. Making sure you buffed your teammate’s attack or having them grant you a reroll to defeat that Putty you totally whiffed on.

 

Theme:

This game is made by fans of Power Rangers and it shows. Every detail is dripping with flavor. So much draws from the comic books from BOOM Studios. We have the Shattered Grid expansion spinning directly out of the comic book event. The alternate Rita sculpt (which is Kickstarter exclusive) is based on her appearance in one of the comics. There are so many Monsters that not only bring back memories of watching the original TV series, but are impressive on their own as stand-alone gaming miniatures. Let me dig in to some of the thematic elements that really made me smile.

Taken during my demo. I’m trying to hold off Madame Woe in the park by myself, waiting for the other Rangers to arrive.

The biggest one is probably Jason, the Red Ranger. So many of his card effects have to do with making the other Rangers stronger. He is the leader of the original Mighty Morphin team, and it shows in his representation here. Even his special ability lets another Ranger reroll all dice that were used in an attack. He can give any other Ranger a complete do-over, bringing out the absolute best in his team. Jason was always my favorite Ranger growing up, and it’s fun to see him as I remember him.

I can’t speak to all of the Monsters, but Madame Woe was pretty accurate as well. In the show, she trapped the Rangers in a pocket dimension to do battle with them. Her ability to force you to discard cards from your hand can feel like being trapped. During my game as the Red Ranger, I had a card to attack with the Power Sword. It’s a very strong attack. Of course that’s the card that would get discarded. Madame Woe had successfully tripped me up, and it was up to my teammates to take her down.

Looking at some of the teasers revealed online, Scorpina is another character that looks to be well represented. Many of her attacks have the Fast keyword, meaning she gets to resolve her card before the Rangers in battle. Her Boomerang Blade is especially powerful, dealing additional damage at the end of the battle if that card was not taken care of by the Rangers.

The biggest addition on most players’ minds is Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger. We will have him as both a heroic character and an enemy with a Monster deck. Some of his attacks in the Monster deck look especially brutal, being able to roll dice for damage just like the other Rangers. That seems like such a subtle mechanic, but it’s one way that the Green Ranger, even though he’s evil, still feels like you’re battling another Ranger.

Just seeing the sheer number of Rangers and Monsters and Masters that are going to be in the final version of this game is incredible. I can’t wait to go over each villain’s deck, looking for abilities that are callbacks to the TV series or comic books. And I’m sure there’s still so much that Renegade has yet to unveil that will make fans lose their mind even more.

This game FEELS like you’re playing as a team of Power Rangers. And that is morphinominal. (Come on, I had to say it at some point in this article.)

Now, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I do have some complaints or concerns as a Power Rangers fan. I don’t love the way the Zords are utilized. It never really feels like the Rangers are “using” their Zords. As anyone knows, the Rangers piloting their Zords is such a big (pun intended) part of the show, with the giant battles often taking up big chunks of screen time. The fact that the Monster minis are scaled to fit with the Rangers is great, but once that oversized Megazord mini hits the table, all sense of scale is thrown out the window.

Image from Heroes of the Grid Kickstarter campaign.

What makes this able to be overlooked is that I don’t have a better answer. In the days of my youth while playing with Power Ranger toys, the Rangers, Monsters, and Zords were all essentially the same size. So the Monsters could interact with either the Rangers or Zords, depending on what part of the battle you were in, using your imagination. If we want the “one size fits all” idea, then we either get oversized sculpts for Rangers and Monsters, which sounds awesome, but is not cost effective. It would also likely cut down on the amount of Monsters we see in the game. So I’m not a fan of that idea. The other solution would be to have the Megazord mini smaller, the same size as the Rangers. This could work, but the feeling of wonder would be lost, seeing the Megazord fighting in the park at the same scale the Rangers were. Remember, the game’s mechanics don’t change when entering the end game battle. So the Rangers still need to move from location to location to defeat whichever Master you’re facing.

I guess my biggest complaint is that this game captures the feeling of battling as a team of Rangers PERFECTLY. But it does not capture the feeling of the giant monster battles while piloting the Megazord. And I don’t know how the game could effectively do both. So instead of trying to do too much and watering down multiple game modes, they opt to do one REALLY well, and try to stay as thematically true to the other as possible while sticking to gameplay elements. So, I see the thought process and I understand and agree with it. I just wish it could somehow capture the magic of the giant monster battles a little more.

 

Kickstarter:

HERE is the link to the Kickstarter campaign. (Check it out for yourself when you’re done reading this article.) Like it, love it, or hate it, Kickstarter is the new norm for board games. Heroes of the Grid is Renegade’s first large scale Kickstarter campaign for a board game. They launched one earlier this year for the role playing game, Overlight, but that was nowhere near the level of this one. There were some complaints when Heroes of the Grid launched, having no gameplay videos for the first couple days, and many people scoffed at the price point. However, a lot of these perceived wrongs have been righted. We have multiple gameplay videos and more stretch goals keep getting revealed, increasing the content included in the pledge tiers. They even added a whole new pledge tier based on feedback. Let’s take a quick look at the tiers.

$75 – The base game with no stretch goals other than some component upgrades.
$90 – The base game with stretch goals.
$150 – The base game, stretch goals, plus both the Green Ranger and White Ranger expansions.
$240 – The base game, stretch goals, Green Ranger, White Ranger, and Shattered Grid expansions, plus all add-ons (extra minions, dice, Megazord and Cyclopsis oversized minis)

As of this writing, the $240 pledge level has 3 times more than all other tiers combined. I personally think the $90 and $240 pledge levels get you the most bang for your buck. Keep in mind that these will only increase in value as stretch goals are revealed and unlocked.

You have until September 6th before the campaign ends. The game will be available for retail, but there are a lot of exclusive expansions and characters to the Kickstarter. Also keep in mind the game is currently scheduled to ship July of 2019. So it won’t be available for retail until after that.

Kickstarters with an engaging comments section are always more fun to follow. It also gives backers a good feeling when they see the creators so active in the campaign itself. This is a very active campaign, whether you’re in the comments section on Kickstarter itself, or over on the game’s Facebook page. Renegade is keeping people up to date and actually listening to fans. This is evident in the newly added $90 pledge level and the addition of the Retro Ranger Cards stretch goal.

 

Parents:

I always have a few questions as a parent when I look at a new game.

Are there small pieces that can be choking hazards or can get lost? Not really. There’s some small tokens and dice, but nothing extra small to be aware of. Even though this game uses miniatures, they are much larger than standard gaming miniatures. If a child happens to knock one on the floor, I don’t think you’ll be in danger of losing it. They are pretty easy to spot. As long as you keep the Energy Tokens and dice away from the edge of the table, I don’t see why this couldn’t be played with little ones running around.

Is the game quick to set up and put away? I don’t know. How’s that for an answer? The game was already set up to demo when we arrived and I have no idea what kind of insert will be in the box to keep everything organized. I’m assuming this will take a bit longer than your standard set up time. Players will have to choose their Rangers, then you’ll select which Monsters to play with. Depending on expansions or stretch goals, you’ll also need to decide on which Master and Minions as well. Then get the corresponding cards for all of those choices. If you know what you’re doing and have just a few players who will make those choices quickly, I’m sure it could be set up in 10 minutes. But if you need to get everything out and let new players look over all the choices, it could take a while.

My son playing as Billy, the Blue Ranger.

Can my kids play this? YES! This game is fully cooperative with the enemies running on auto pilot. My six-year-old son played with me during one of the demos. We played with our hands open laid out on the table so we could make choices together (and help him read some of the more complicated cards). I absolutely let him make some choices on his own, such as what location he went to when it came time to fight some Putties. As long as there is one player to be an “alpha-gamer” and kind of steer the direction of the team, this can absolutely be played with kids. My three oldest children are ages 7, 6, and 4. I would have no qualms about sitting down to play this game with them each selecting their own Ranger to play as. We just might need to adjust the game’s length to fit with attention spans.

 

Discussion with Jonathan Ying:

I was able to have a brief chat with the game’s designer, Jonathan Ying. He is a Power Ranger fan, and has plans for the game past its initial release. We discussed potential future Rangers and how hard it would be to please all of the fans. For instance, he knows people would want Jason Lee Scott as the Gold Zeo Ranger in the game. It’s just a question of how successful the game will be. Will Renegade be able to justify making future teams of Rangers? Then, if they are able to make other Rangers, do you make full teams of Rangers or just pick and choose the fan favorites? I know a lot of fans want as many Rangers from the early seasons as possible. I’m different. Since I’ll mostly be playing this game with my kids, I want the Rangers that THEY get excited about, like Tyler from Dino Charge, Vida from Mystic Force, and RJ from Jungle Fury. (So, wink wink Renegade. Keep these ones in mind.)

Jonathan did mention an idea to have a fan vote for Rangers to be put in the game. I would strongly support this. I would love to see a pack of 8-10 of the highest voted Rangers all playable in Heroes of the Grid. My only concern is that we would get overloaded with older Rangers and multiple Ranger forms of characters we already have. (I’m looking at you Tommy Oliver) But if that’s what the fans want, and that’s what will make the game successful, so be it.

We also talked about those gorgeous sculpts for the miniatures. He said there are 3 different sculptors on the team, each with their own distinct style. If you look closely, you’ll be able to see some differences. The Rangers, for instance, are all very dynamic with angular muscles and very strong poses. Rita, on the other hand, is more slender and elegant and seems very light as if she could float away. So many choices in this game have been intentional, down to choosing which sculptor would handle which character. It’s just another instance of the care and attention to detail that has been taken in to consideration.

The last bit of information I got from Jonathan has nothing to do with Heroes of the Grid, but is a teaser all the same. He did confirm that Renegade does have plans for future use of the Power Rangers property. However, as you can imagine, everything is hinging on the success of Heroes of the Grid. What else could Renegade have in mind? Since Heroes of the Grid is a heavier, more complex game with lots of components, maybe the next game would be more simple, designed for quick play. The possibilities are endless.

 

Final Thoughts:

I came in to reviewing this game with a very critical mindset. It was going to have to impress me on both theme and gameplay for me to be satisfied. Renegade has delivered on both fronts. I’m excited for this as a game to play at my play group’s game nights to really dig in to the mechanics and interactions, and also excited to play it with my kids in a more casual setting just embracing the theme of Power Rangers fighting bad guys. The amount of content that Renegade is putting in to this is mind blowing. It truly feels great that one of my favorite fandoms is also loved by people who are capable of turning it in to an amazing gaming experience. I really can’t imagine how I could be more pleased with the game.

The use of Zords feels a little off, but the focus of this game is the feeling of fighting as a team of Power Rangers with other players, and that is executed very well. I love the stretch goals. I love the idea of having other Rangers added to the game down the line. There’s so many different directions that future expansions could go, featuring content from the last 25 years of the TV series or the currently ongoing comic book series from BOOM Studios.

If I was able to make a wish list of things added to the game before release, I’d have the Thunder Zord cards with different abilities than the classic Zords. I’d also have alternate character cards for Red, Black, Yellow, and Pink Rangers so players could have different abilities as Rocky, Adam, Aisha, and Kat. I mention these because it seems like minimal components (a few oversized cards and a Thunder Megazord token) would add both variability to gameplay and a good amount of fan service.

I feel like I’ve been waiting for this game long before it was even announced. July 2019 is already circled on my calendar.

 

You can contact me at Randy@GamingWithSidekicks.com for more information about our website’s content, any questions you might have about the rest of our trip to Power Morphicon, or if you have a good little-known punk band to recommend listening to.

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