A Hands-On Look at Kahuna

kahuna board gameThe wife and I are always on the lookout for good two player games.  Too many games, it seems, are great with 3+ players, but suffer when only two players are involved.  Enter Kahuna, a game designed for only two players.  We were excited to take this strategy game of island conquest, by KOSMOS, for a spin.

Being designed exclusively for two players is what drew us in to Kahuna.  The island theme, for me, wasn’t a strong selling point, but it wasn’t a major turn off either.  I think I mainly just didn’t have anything island themed to compare it to; I didn’t have a reference point.  But, being the game lovers that we are, we wanted to at least give it a shot.

The rules are easy to understand and straightforward enough to not cause any rules-lawyer type conflicts.  I appreciate this.  The faster I can get through a rule book equals the faster the game actually gets to the table.  Set up is also extremely fast, which I also appreciate for the same reason above.  Immediately after the game began, my wife dominated the board.  Typically, we both have a round or two to get the feel of a game.  What is it we’re supposed to be doing exactly?  What actions take me closer to the goal of victory?

Even though Kahuna has an island theme, it is an abstract strategy game.  Depending on the strategy of the game in question, some people are just better than others at a particular strategy/instruction set/win condition.  It is certainly possible to get better at abstract strategy games, but since the outcome is solely based on skill, if two players are not decently matched, the game can feel lopsided and not fun for one (or both) players.  However, when two players are a close match, such games can be very fun and engaging, with a lot of back and forth.

Fortunately, even though my wife immediately started dominating the board, it didn’t take long for me to wisen up and begin thwarting her plans.  At the end of the game, she won, but it was a close game.  We both enjoyed playing Kahuna and will certainly play again.

kahuna game

Playing the Game

Players start the game with three cards and you’ll always draw a card at the end of your turn from the available pool of 3 face up cards.  These cards indicate where you can place bridges.  When you have placed the majority of available bridges on any given island, you control that island and thus place a Kahuna token on it.  At the end of the game the player with the highest score wins, and points come from controlling the most islands.  For the most part, playing Kahuna is fairly straightforward.  You place a bridge then I place a bridge, repeat.  However, as soon as I gain control of an island, I’ll place my Kahuna token on it.  When I lose control, due to no longer having the majority of bridges on the island, my Kahuna token AND all my bridges are removed from the board.  This means little moves can have a big impact on gameplay.

Components & Storage

The components and storage solution for Kahuna are both adequate.  The playing pieces are wood and everything fits into little baggies, which are provided.  I’m glad more and more game publishers include baggies.  More importantly, I’m glad that they are beginning to include the correct number of baggies.  In the past, a game like Kahuna would have come with a single large baggie.  Everything would have been thrown into that one bag.  This makes setting up the game a chore since each player’s pieces had to be sorted beforehand.  Thankfully, Kahuna comes with separate bags for each player.  This makes set up and break down time fast and efficient.  The insert tray is custom molded plastic and has a separate space for the cards and another one for the wooden bits.  The game board fits nicely on top and, big bonus points here, there is a little cut out finger space so removing the board from the box is super easy.  For some games, removing the game board is a chore.

kahuna island game


If both players are closely matched in skill then Kahuna is indeed fun and offers a decent amount of replayability.  The number of available moves and the back and forth nature of the game lend itself well to repeat plays.  Ultimately though, I believe that it will come down to the evenness of the players and I feel most abstract strategy games are this way.  Two players that are not evenly matched will not have as good of a time as two players that have about the same level of skill.

Final Verdict

Kahuna offers a new and unique twist on the classic two player strategy game, one worth checking out if you are looking for a solid two player experience.  Because it is designed specifically for two players, it is engaging the entire time, for both players.  Taking over islands offers a sense of accomplishment, and likewise, losing control of a prized island sure stings.  The back and forth vie for dominance is fun and the quick playtime means Kahuna doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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