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[Review] Kahuna

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  • Tom Vasel
    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.
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 29, 2003
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      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
      up?

      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
      first game.

      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.

      Tom Vasel
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