Chain Reactions of Influence: A Review of Kahuna

Kahuna

This two-player strategy game packs quite a punch as you build bridges and compete for control of the islands of the South Seas.

Gameplay

In this two-player game, the goal is to take control of as many islands as possible. In order to control an island you must control the majority of bridges which lead to it. At the start of the game, one player takes all the black influence and bridge tokens while the other player takes the white ones. Each player is dealt three cards, another three cards are then placed face-up next to the board, and the game begins.

On your turn you may play as many of your cards as you choose. Each card names one of the twelve islands on the board as well as showing how many bridges that island has. When you play an island card, you place one of your colored bridges on any open bridge slot attached to that island. You then examine both islands that bridge is touching. If you now have the majority of the available bridge slots of either island, you place one of your colored influence tokens on that island. When you place an influence token on an island, your opponent must remove all of her bridges which connect to that island. If that means she no longer controls the majority of bridges connected to another island, her influence token would be removed.

You can also remove an opponent’s bridge by playing two island cards, which each show one of the two islands that bridge connects to. They can both show the same island, or both islands. This can also force a player to lose control of an island.

Additionally, you may choose not to play a card at all on your turn, though if your hand contains five cards, you must discard, placing one face-down under the discard pile. At the end of your turn, you may choose to either draw one of the face-up cards or draw one card from the deck. You may also choose not to draw, as long as your opponent drew a card on his turn.

After you go through the deck once, the player who controls the most islands earns one point. After you go through it a second time, the player who controls the most islands earns two points. After the third time, the player with the most islands earns points equal to the difference between his number of islands and his opponent’s. The player with the highest total score then wins.

Kahuna Components

Review

Kahuna is one of those strategy games in which you weigh every choice and consider all your options. Since each bridge you place affects two islands, you have to take into account multiple fronts at once. The scoring system also brings a unique challenge, and keeps things tense up until the final moves.

The chain reactions that occur in the game when someone takes control of an island and the opponent’s bridges are removed really keep the game board in constant flux and keeps things from growing stale. That being said, it can feel really competitive and take-that to have your bridges wiped off the board, and that’s not going to be for everyone.

Kahuna is one of several great two-player games from Thames & Kosmos, and they’re always sold at a really nice price. In Kahuna’s case, this does mean that the influence tokens and bridge pieces are just simple wooden pieces, rather than fancier, custom-molded pieces.

However, it doesn’t take long at all to learn the rules and the choices and actions you take on your turn are straightforward. If you like games that are heavy on strategy, but still really easy to learn and teach, Kahuna is a well-designed game with great, weighty decisions that keep both players in the running until the very end.

Pros: The scoring system is unique, great for strategy-lovers

Cons: Too competitive and take-that for some players, components could be a little nicer

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.