The really great thing about coming into the board gaming hobby later than a lot of folks is that I continually will find games that are new to me, but not necessarily new to everyone else and that's the case with this little gem. I had the privilege of being a co-host on the What We Played portion of the Gaming Rules! podcast, you can listen HERE. I'll go ahead and wait. But no, really the reason that I bring this up is that it was on the podcast that Paul introduced me to Kahuna. We then proceeded to play a game online, but it was before the first scoring round that I had ordered a copy from Amazon. It arrived on Friday and Kerensa and I played it three times on Saturday evening in a Best of 3 match up that left our brains a bit strained.
Kahuna is a Hawaiian word that means priest, sorcerer, magician, wizard, minister, expert in any profession and in the game Kahuna two players are competing sorcerers who are competing for dominance over an archipelago of twelve islands. There's the theme, but in reality, Kahuna is really just a flat out fantastic abstract game.
In the game, each player starts with a hand of three cards along with 10 Kahuna Tokens and 25 bridges of the player's color of choice. The board is laid out in the middle of the table and there are three cards that are placed face up beside the board and the remaining cards will be left face down in a draw pile. On a players turn there are a couple things they can do, they can:
- Play an Island Card- When you play a card you place a bridge of your color on a free connecting line on the map that starts from the island indicated on the card and goes to any neighboring island. You can do this as many times as you want until you run out of cards, you can never have more than 5 in your hand.
- Control an Island-If you have placed your own bridge on more than half of an island's connecting lines you now control it and can place one of your Kahuna Tokens on the island marking your control. When you do take control of an island you remove any of your opponent's bridges that they have connected that island, returning them to your opponents supply.
- Removing Kahuna Bridges-You can also remove your opponent's bridges by playing cards. To do this you must play two cards that each show one of the two islands connected by the opponents's bridge, the two cards could be the same island or both islands connected.
- Draw a card-At the end of your turn you always draw one card, either from the face up cards or face down cards, remember, you can only have 5 cards in your hand. You can abstain from drawing, unless your opponent has done so their previous turn. If your hand already contains five cards, you cannot draw another card unless your opponent has abstained on their turn immediately prior, in that instance you must discard one card to draw another. Once you draw, your turn is over and play rotates.
There are three scoring rounds in Kahuna, each of them triggered when the draw pile and face up cards are all drawn, in the first two scoring rounds scoring takes place immediately after that happens, in the final round each player gets one more turn. Scoring is easy, in the first round if you have more islands controlled than your opponent, give yourself 1 point. In the second scoring round, if you have more islands controlled than your opponent, give yourself 2 points. In both instances if there is a tie, no one gets any points. For the third and final scoring round, the player who controls the most islands receives points equal to the difference in islands controlled. Highest points wins and calls themselves the Big Kahuna.
Kahuna really turned out to be a pleasant surprise, I knew after playing the first game online that I would enjoy the game, but that online play really didn't showcase just how fun and how maddening(in a good way) this one could really be. The constant back and forth between the players as they vie for control is really what drives the game and it really drives it well. You are constantly engaged with the game, which is a necessity in a good two player game.
If you look at the photo of the board you'll see the red turtle on one side and the yellow dolphin on the other, this is to help you orient your cards to face the right direction, it's really a nice touch that really aides the players in figuring out just where they islands are on the board, you simply rotate your cards to match the symbols. I really love when designers/publishers/developers think of the small things like this.
I'm really happy to have Kahuna join our growing ranks of two player games on our shelves, and I look forward to many more battles for supremacy over this Pacific Archipelago.
Oh, and it also pairs well with Boulevard Chocolate Ale with Raspberry.