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GAMEPLAY In the two-player game of Kahuna, players are magicians fighting for control of a group of islands. On a turn, players play 0 to 5 island cards from their hand and, optionally, draw 1 card from the face-up display of three cards or from the deck. When a player plays a card, they place a bridge with one connection on the island matching the card played. A player may remove an opponent’s bridge from an island if they play two cards matching the bridges’ connections (e.g., Huna & Huna or Huna & Elai). Once a player has the majority of bridges leading from an island, they claim it with one of their power stones, and any opponent bridges are automatically destroyed. The player with the most power stones at the end of a round wins 1 or 2 VP if it’s the first or second round respectively. In the third round, the VP scored is the difference of the player with more power stones and the player with fewer power stones. The game ends after the third round. THOUGHTS Kahuna is a two-player abstract that manages to incorporate several mechanics into an incredibly tight and tense package that plays in about 30 minutes. It has area control, hand management, push-your-luck, and bluffing as well as a puzzley spatial element. Every decision and every card played feels like life or death but, despite that, it is possible to claw your way back from a deficit due to the ability to destroy your opponent’s bridges by wresting control of the island. Since 99% of my plays come from Yucata.de, I like to play the “asynchronous variant”: if you take a card from the face-up display, the card is kept face up in front of you but counts toward your hand limit of five. This makes the game less about the proficiency of your memory and more about your tactical play. Out of the two-player Kosmos games, Kahuna is arguably the best. That being said, I may have burned myself out on this one; it’s a game I enjoy once or twice a year but don’t feel compelled to bring it out more. PROS -The production is simple but well done. I dig the board and card art. -A two-player area control game that is actually good. Not a small feat! The third-round scoring, likewise, is a clever way to make this work. -The tactical play feels excruciating. Know when and how to use cards and where to draw your card from (if you draw any) is a skill that takes a bit to master. -The fact that players can hold onto cards from round to round adds a neat wrinkle. -I know that the Yucata.de variant was created to deal with asynchronous play but I think it is a solid addition to the cat-and-mouse tension of Kahuna. CONS -The game takes a bit to ramp up: most players draw cards until they reach five and are forced to play some cards. Still, that is a quick four turns and then the game is off to the races. -It would have been nice if the bridges were something slightly nicer than matchsticks but it’s a small quibble.
1 play. The theme is not very exciting but it is a skillful game. I am not sure that I like two player games and games that involve cards so I will choose to play a number of games before I play this.
Kahuna appears to be game about controlling islands, but its more about destroying your opponents bridges. Timing when to take control of an island is crucial. Intuition would have you believe that controlling an island as soon as possible is preferred. But in reality you want to bait your opponent to lay down a few bridges, and then snatch control, thereby destroying their bridges in the process. A two birds for one stone type deal. Its this element that turns me off. It takes time and cards to setup such moves, leading players to draw, draw, draw, draw, place, place, place, repeat. This leaves the game too often in a stagnant state, and then swing dramatically in another direction. There is certainly room for competition, but not my cup of tea.