Nothing’s more fun than a visit to a tropical island, am I right? Well, how about taking over said island by controlling its bridges and spreading your influence to the neighboring land masses, all in preparation for conflict with an equally powerful and determined foe? If that sounds like your most recent vacation, you’ll be right at home with Kahuna, from Thames & Kosmos. For two players, it comes with a game board with a map, tokens in two different colors, and cards depicting the various islands. During their turn, players draw from either the face-up cards or the deck, and by playing from their hand, claim the unoccupied bridges between the islands.
Players can put down multiple cards during their turn, potentially claiming a whole series of bridges. Whenever a player has the majority of an island’s bridges, it gets a Kahuna token, indicating whose it is. Since the goal is to control the most islands by round’s end, it is only a matter of time before players start competing with each other, which can lead to tension and heartbreak: A player might control two of the five bridges connecting to, say, Bari. But if their opponent claims the other three, they’re the ones who get to place their Kahuna token on Bari, and the first player’s bridges are all put back into play.
Even an island claimed with a Kahuna token can be wrested free, if a player eliminates enough bridges that no one has the majority. This is accomplished by either playing two of the same island card, or a pair of cards corresponding to the islands connected by a bridge. Once a player no longer has a majority of the bridges, their Kahuna token is removed, meaning their opponent can swoop in and claim it. This removal of bridges and tokens, this trade-off of control from one player to the other, may sound rudimentary; however, in the context of the game, it can lead to dramatic chain reactions. By removing just one of your opponent’s bridges, they potentially lose their grip over as many as two islands. Similarly, by claiming just one island, a player can make their opponent lose control over several islands all at once.
Kahuna is intended for kids ages 10 and up, but younger players who are adept at strategy games—and who can take care of all the game’s tiny tokens—will probably find it enjoyable and challenging. Kids who aren’t quite so adept at thinking several moves ahead might be at a disadvantage, but hey, no one ever said building an archipelago-spanning empire was easy.