I have never played a Kosmos two player game that left me
with a negative impression, and have only played a few that left me
with even a neutral feeling. Most have been great games, ones that
I can play with my wife, my "manly-man" friends, and pretty much
anyone I come across all with immense success. Kahuna (Kosmos
and/or Rio Grande, 1998 Gunter Kornett) had an interesting name
and was part of this austere line of games. How could I not pick it
And, not surprisingly, I enjoyed the game quite a bit. I
did not think it was as impressive as much as others in the series
(Lost Cities, Hera and Zeus, and Odin's Ravens), but found it fun
nevertheless. And even more surprisingly, as I look over my
statistics for all the Kosmos games, I discover that I have played
Kahuna more than any of the other games in this series. I think the
reason for that is that I have more fun playing Kahuna, and that a
win in this game is extremely satisfying. Kahuna is just plain fun!
A small board is placed on the table between the two
players. On the board are twelve islands, connected together by
dotted lines with each island having three to six of these lines
protruding from it. A deck of twenty-four cards (two for each
island) is shuffled, and three are dealt to each player. The
remainder are placed in a face-down deck on the table, with the top
three placed face up next to the pile. Each player takes a pile of
25 wooden "bridges" , and 10 Kahuna wooden "stones". One player
goes first, with play then alternating between the players.
On a turn, a player may play none, any, or all of the cards
in their hand. For every single card a player plays for an island,
they place one of their bridges on any of the open dotted lines
protruding from that island. If, because of this placement, a
player has bridges on a majority of the extensions from any of the
islands, they take control of that island, by placing one of their
control markers on it. All opponent's bridges, if any that connect
to that island are removed immediately. If this causes loss of
control on other islands, the opponent must remove their control
markers on those islands. A player may also play a pair of cards to
remove an opponent's bridge from an island. This pair must be any
combination of the two islands that the bridge connects.
After playing cards (or not), a player may draw one card
into their hand, to a maximum of five cards. They may take any of
the face-up cards (which are immediately replaced), or the top card
from the draw pile. If a player does not draw a card, their
opponent must draw one on their turn. When the last card is drawn
from the table, the round ends and scoring occurs. If both players
control the same number of islands, no points are scored.
Otherwise, the player with more islands scores one point in the
first round, two points in the second round, and the difference in
islands controlled in the third round. The next round then
begins, with all bridges and controlling markers remaining on the
board. Players keep the cards they currently have in their hand,
and the remainder of the cards are shuffled and set up as they were
at the beginning of the game.
After the third round, the player with the most points is
the winner! It is possible for a player to win in an earlier round
if their opponent loses all their bridges although this is rare.
Some comments on the game
1.) Components: The box art (which I see all the time
everywhere in Korea board game cafes) is that of islands in the
shape of a hand. It's probably one of my favorite bits of art in a
game. The box is the same size of all Kosmos two-player games;
which means it's small, compact, sturdy, and holds the pieces well.
I really like the board and cards, and how they match up. On one
side of the board are fish, and on the other turtles. This way,
when a player draws a card (which has a small map of the board on
it), the player knows how to orient the cards so that he is looking
at the card correctly. The cards are of good quality, showing the
island that the card names highlighted in red on a map that is a
copy of the game board. The card also has a number of lines on it
that are equal to the number of bridges to that island, making it
easy to see how many bridges are needed for a majority. The wooden
pieces are of high quality, and the black and white pieces make for
a stark contrast on the very colorful board.
2.) Rules: The rules are very simple, with one whole page
dedicated to color illustrations on how to claim a majority of
islands, etc. I find that the game is very easy to teach and play,
although the strategies, which seem obvious at first, take about a
game (and a crushing) defeat to learn.
3.) Strategy and Luck: Some complain about the luck in this
game, especially when it comes to drawing cards. There is luck in
this game, but I think that skillful play will almost always prevail
over luck. For every card, there are multiple places to put a
bridge, and learning just when to put the bridge on the table is a
crucial part to the strategy.
4.) Theme and Fun Factor: The theme is tacked on, unless you
can imagine magical bridges connecting Pacific islands. The fun is
very high in this game, however. Setting up a chain reaction, that
causes the opponent to lose the majority of multiple islands, is
very fun and extremely rewarding. (Even when it happens to you).
5.) Time: The games run fairly quickly, especially once both
players know what they are doing. It's definitely one of those
games where players will ask to play it again immediately after the
Kahuna is a very fun two-player game, one that includes
skillful card playing and clever bridge placement. The only
reason I would not recommend Kahuna is if you already own Kanaloa,
which is essentially the same game, but allows up to four players.
However, Kahuna is easy to store, bring out and play, and it's very
user friendly. I play hundreds of different games each year, so
it's hard to play the same game too many times. I'm glad Kahuna is
one of the exceptions to that rule.