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[Review] Kanaloa

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  • Tom Vasel
    I have a lot of fun with Kahuna, one of my favorites of the Kosmos two-player game line. So when I saw in the Essen 2003 reports that there was a four player
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 29, 2003
      I have a lot of fun with Kahuna, one of my favorites of the
      Kosmos two-player game line. So when I saw in the Essen 2003
      reports that there was a four player version available, it jumped to
      the top of my want list. There was some confusion about the name of
      Kanaloa (Tilset, 2003 – Gunter Cornett), as there is another game by
      this same name, designed by the same author! The other game even
      looks similar, but is a completely different game, by a different
      company. This initial confusion did not stop me from locating the
      correct version, although I did find it a bit strange.

      Name confusion aside, however – Kanaloa was a fun
      experience. If a player likes Kahuna, they will love Kanaloa, a
      refined version that allows two more players to join the fun.
      Players who do not like Kahuna, however, should pass Kanaloa, as the
      changes aren't enough to make the game better for them. And if one
      hasn't tried Kahuna, but likes a fun filled experience, with a lot
      of player interaction – then this is indeed a fine place to start.

      (I'm assuming that readers of this review already know how to play
      Kahuna. If not, read my review on Kahuna to see how that game

      Kanaloa (also known as Arabana Opodopo) has 16 islands on a
      much larger board, with three, five or seven connections protruding
      from each island. A deck of 48 cards is shuffled, with three cards
      for each island in it. Each player is given bridges and stones,
      just like Kahuna, with one stone put on a scoring track on the side
      of the board. The game is played exactly like Kahuna with the
      following changes:
      - There are only two rounds, instead of three.
      - Four cards are face up instead of three.
      - If a pair of cards are played to remove an opponent's
      bridge, a player may place their bridge their also.
      - It's possible for a player to get the most bridges on an
      island, but not a majority. They do not place a control marker, but
      they can remove one bridge of an opponent's from the island.
      - After the first round, each player scores each island they
      control. They receive one point for every connecting spot where
      they do NOT have a bridge. Thus, if they control every bridge on an
      island, they will get NO points. The player with the least amount
      of points decides who goes first in the next round.
      - After the second round, each player scores each island they
      control. Scoring is the same as the first round, except that
      players get one extra point per island. Thus, if they control every
      bridge on an island, they would get ONE point at least.
      After the second round, the player with the most points is the

      Additional rules are provided for "The Power of the gods"
      variant. Sixteen "god" stones are randomly distributed to each
      island at the beginning of the game. Whenever a player takes
      control of an island, they remove the stone and can use it later on
      in the game.
      - Kane stones provide additional victory points (given
      immediately) – from one to three, depending on the size of the
      - Kanaloa stones act as jokers, and can be played to put a
      bridge in any location on the board (or used as part of a pair.)
      - Ku stones allow a player to steal a card from another
      player's hand (after examining all the cards.)
      - Pele stones allow a player to steal a card randomly from
      another player, and giving them another card of the first player's
      - Lono stones allow a player to take an extra card on their
      turn – which can be played immediately.

      Some comments on the game…

      1.) Components: The components in Kanaloa are extremely top-
      notch. The four colors used for the wooden pieces (bridges and
      control markers) are very distinct, and look really sharp against
      the colorful map that is the board. The cards are not as good as
      Kahuna, as they only show a partial map, rather than the whole
      board. There are markers (squid, fish, turtle, shell) that show
      which quadrant of the board the island is located to be helpful.
      The stone markers are cardboard tokens that are different colors, to
      help tell them apart. And there are four large cardboard cutouts
      that show in pictures what each stone marker does, for reference.
      Everything fits into a nice plastic insert in a large, colorful,
      sturdy box. The board is about three times the size of Kahuna, and
      a completed game really looks sharp!

      2.) Rules: The rules are extremely easy to pick up if one has
      played Kahuna before, as there are only minor changes. They're very
      long and detailed, and have many colored illustrations. I
      downloaded the English translations off the internet, and was easily
      able to figure them out. The game is as easy to teach as is Kahuna –
      and that's a good thing.

      3.) More players: This is a fantastic game. I know that the
      first time I played Kahuna, I wondered aloud why the game was only
      for two players, as I thought it would make an excellent multiplayer
      game. Now that I've had the opportunity to see that wish come true,
      I have to acknowledge that I was right – it is better multiplayer
      than it is two-player. The only negative factor to playing with
      four players is that it's very easy to pick on one player.

      4.) Rule differences: There are a few minor rule differences,
      but the one I enjoy the most and have even now used as a variant in
      Kahuna, is the fact that when you play a pair of island cards, you
      replace the bridge you remove with one of your own, rather than just
      removing it. Pairs were very rare in Kahuna, they are much more
      common in Kanaloa. This rule really enhanced my gaming experience.

      5.) Power of the gods: This adds some randomness to the game,
      but makes it fairly fun. A Kahuna "purist" probably wouldn't like
      it, and indeed I don't use them in every game, but they do add
      variety and make every island on the board worth taking.

      6.) Fun Factor: Tons!

      Since the game doesn't take that long (about 30-45 minutes), it is
      an excellent one to pull out whenever you have four players, and
      only an hour in which to play a game. Kanaloa is one of my favorite
      four player games, as it's very easy to teach; yet the strategies
      take a while to pick up. The game looks good on the table, plays
      easily, and gives everyone involved a fun time. I still don't know
      how the theme fits in all this, but as long as I'm having fun – who

      Tom Vasel
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