Power Rangers: The Deck-Building Game was an utter curiosity to me. How exactly do you take fundamental elements of this type of game and make it work with a live-action superhero show made for children with decades of ongoing stories as well as running jokes and themes. While my preview with the game earlier this year did make me more hopeful, my extended time with the game and its quirks has made me appreciate the product as a whole. Both as a fun and accessible deck-building game in its own right, and as an extension of Power Rangers fanservice.
Power Rangers: The Deck-Building Game is a competitive deck builder. Two to four players play as either Heroes or Villains and start the game with a deck of ten cards and a health total of 30. In addition, each player picks a giant character card, either one of the six original Power Rangers or one of their iconic villains like Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd, or Goldar. Players take turns playing cards to generate resources like Shards and Energy in order to buy cards from a supply called The Grid. The player who can use their resources, character abilities, and cards to reduce the enemy to 0 health wins the game.
At first blush, Power Rangers: The Deck-Building Game shares a lot of its fundamental core with other deck-building games. Everything from the resource generation to the slow process of building your engine could have very easily made the whole thing feel passive. But as my preview can attest, the game can get very aggressive.
The keys to this faster pace are the character abilities and how The Grid works. Each character card has 4 slots, each one color-coded to match a card type found on The Grid. Some of these cards have Attack abilities which are activated by paying the energy cost and exhausting the card once it is equipped to your character. It is like attacking with a creature in Magic: The Gathering. These are counter-balanced by Block cards which can be played from the hand.
This kind of aggressive play only escalates once the characters transform. Equip all four slots and your character changes, either morphing or becoming empowered, which grants additional abilities, usually lowering the energy cost of cards equipped. On top of this is the Zord Bay and Monster Lair, which can give players ongoing effects like healing over time or persistent forms of damage once they invest in Zord or Master cards.
But even in the short term, death by a thousand cuts can occur. In addition to neutral cards being available for purchase in The Grid like equipment, maneuvers, and location cards, there are Adversary cards. For Heroes, these are purple cards and are usually foot soldiers or a monster. For the Villains these cards are yellow and depict either a Ranger or one of their allies. At the end of every single turn, you take damage equal to how many Adversary cards are in The Grid. In addition, you can't buy Adversary cards. However, each Adversary card has an additional Battle cost. Pay the number of Shards and the Adversary card will be discarded.
If there is a complaint I do have with these rules and mechanics it is that these larger swings can lead to games going too fast and certain character abilities feeling shortchanged. One particular game that comes to mind: a one-on-one with Finster vs. Kimberly. Finster's special ability activates whenever you play any card with “Putty” in the name... but only one Putty card showed up in The Grid. Meanwhile Kimberly fully transformed can deal bonus damage equal to how many starter deck cards were played during the player's turn. And my opponent managed to get some low cost cards in The Grid so she was able to morph within about four turns. Needless to say, the game didn't last long.
While there are plenty of long-term goals you can aim for like assembling a Megazord or completely filling out the Monster Lair if you enjoy the Dominion-esque rush of building and expanding your resources, good luck and some basic character synergy can be just as effective.
By that same token, it is clear lead designer Matt Hyra did his research with Power Rangers: The Deck-Building Game. There are plenty of fun-inside jokes and deep cuts to the original show represented in certain cards like Billy's flying car or The Sword of Darkness seen in the famous Green With Evil storyline. Then again, when your past credits include other deck-building games based around larger than life characters, you tend to get a sixth sense on how to best represent them.
The Bottom Line
While there are some weird character card imbalances, Power Rangers: The Deck-Building Game manages to be a fun celebration of the franchise and a shorter, punchier take on a competitive deck builder. The artwork and game piece quality continues Renegade Game Studios high standards across the board. The rules are easy for those not familiar with Power Rangers or deck builders to pick up and play. If you have the means, check it out.
Get This Game If You...
- Enjoy Power Rangers or Deck Builders
- Like Quicker and Faster Games
Don't Get This Game If You...
- Prefer something a bit slower
- Like something more cooperative
Power Rangers: The Deck-Building Game was purchased by the author.