Towards the end of 2021, Renegade Game Studios released Power Rangers Zeo Deck Building Game: Stronger Than Before. I was so pumped for it. i loved the original PRDBG and Zeo is my favorite season Power Rangers, so I was more than ready to tackle it. Luckily, Renegade was kind enough to provide me with a review copy to take for a spin and I wanted to share my thoughts.
In his heart, Zeo: stronger than before play exactly like PRDBG. All the mechanics are the same and it’s a standalone expansion, so you can play it alone or combined. They have recommendations on how to combine the two games and I also appreciate how there is blurb in the rulebook that directs veterans to new and exclusive content at Zeo: stronger than before. Fortunately, Matt Hyra and TC Small III didn’t take the easy way out and just reskin PRDBG to be Zeo. Every card (well, almost) is different in some way. The Lair has a different effect (it heals instead of attacking) when masters are acquired, the Zord Bay works differently (and in my opinion much better), and even some of the Starter and Blaster cards are different. The only identical ones are the Starter cards which provide shards and energy as well as Stun cards. Already a great victory. There are even the new Zeo Sub Crystal cards which have powerful unique effects.
Unfortunately, while things didn’t appear to have been copied from PRDBG, I was unimpressed with what I felt was a lack of diversity in hero and villain abilities. Kat and Archerina are basically the same character just for heroes and villains respectively and Rocky and Adam are very similar, most of the time they just change if they care more about gear or maneuvers. It disgusted me. It also feels like the bad guys were made to be much weaker. In PRDBG, it’s not hard to feel that the bad guys have the upper hand, but in Zeo: stronger than before, it looks like they’ve been terribly nerfed. Now, I’ll admit that it may have to do with my playstyle and isn’t necessarily part of the game’s design, but as I read the villains, I became less impressed with each one. Part of the design seems to be aimed at speeding up the game, but personally I didn’t think the trade-off was worth it.
There’s one map in particular that I think is poorly designed. Draining Power is a low cost maneuver that allows you to perform and attack for free and if it hits you steal up to 4 energy from your opponent. If this is acquired and tied at the start of the game, you can quite easily stop your opponent and prevent them from doing anything for the rest of the game. If it’s acquired in the late game, it’s not a big deal, but I think it might need some tweaking.
Another great thing about Zeo: stronger than before although it is art. Outside of the Billy Cranston card, I love the art. It’s very fun to watch and amazing. The only reason I don’t like the Billy Cranston card is that for some reason it shows him transformed into the Mighty Morphin Blue Ranger when by that point in the franchise Billy had lost his powers. It’s a small detail, but it bothers me.
Zeo: stronger than before has good and even great areas, but unfortunately there are parts that make me sad. In games I’ve played, whoever played as the villain was far from winning at all times and had no fun during the experience. I can only imagine they smelled the bad guys in PRDBG were too much and ended up overcorrecting in this iteration. I’m also still sad that the box insert doesn’t have a neat place for the Zord Bay or Lair. One thing I haven’t done yet, but really want to do, is combine this one with the original game. I think that would probably be the best experience.