You are a Kahuna Priest who can wield the ancient Kahuna magic. In order to see who the most powerful Priest is, two Priests have selected a small group of islands to try and control by building bridges. The Priest with the most Islands controlled out of three rounds is declared the most powerful.
Kahuna is something of a novelty game in this genre, but is it worth a purchase? Read on to find out…
Kahuna is a very simple and easy game to play. I was able to pick it up within a few minutes and the deeper strategies are formed once you’re used to the island layout. Rounds are over very quickly and the match usually lasts no more than 10 minutes at a time. This gives the game some addictive qualities that had me hooked for a while, as it felt no time had passed at all. All that was missing was a fresh coconut in my hand to drink from. 😉
The story is a simple one. You are a Kahuna Priest and in order to ascertain who is the most powerful you compete with other Priests for control of a string of islands. Bridges act as the way to score an island by having the most connecting bridges to that island. If an island has 4 links, you will need to control at least three bridges to control that island. Controlling an island will place a Kahuna stone for that player on the island. See, I told you it was simple!
Bridges are built by playing cards from the hand. Each card has an island name on it and will connect from or to that island as long as there is a path to do so. If all links are taken, you are unable to play that card to build a bridge but it will have other uses instead. Also, if you are taking control of an island, this will remove any of the opponent’s bridges on it. This can sometimes cause a ripple effect and remove their control of other islands too.
At the start of the game, the deck is shuffled and each player is dealt three cards. Three more are turned face-up for both players to see and pick from with the remainder of the deck being face-down. During your turn you can play as many cards as you want from your hand. You may only add one card to your hand from either the three face-up cards, or from the face-down deck. Once you add a card to your hand, the turn ends — so be sure to play cards first if you want to before adding one. Oh, and you can’t ever hold more than five cards at any one time. This stops you from hoarding all the cards and being able to take several islands in a single turn.
A match is divided into three rounds with the player who controlled the most islands at the end of a round scoring the points from that round. Scoring is a bit of a mixed bag. The winner in round one gets a single point and the winner in round two gets two points. The third round is different because the points awarded to the winner are the difference in the number of controlled islands by both players. So if I control 6 and the opponent 3 I will get 3 points. In one game I won rounds one and two, yet the opponent beat me by 4 islands in the final round thanks to some good chains and subsequently they won the match with those 4 points.
MODES AND FEATURES
Kahuna is a game that only supports two players, either human or A.I. In the single-player mode, you play against the A.I. and unlock each different opponent by beating the last. Each new opponent poses more of a challenge with improved decision making and tactical thinking, increasing the overall difficulty. It’s fun enough, but I prefer playing against real people.
The other mode, the two-player option, is online only. It follows the exact same rules as the single-player game. Out-thinking a human player is actually a lot easier than some of the A.I. opponents, I think! This is the mode that really shows off the game’s strengths as it pits two real minds against one another. It’s a lot of fun and is definitely a very “thinky” experience.
Lastly, there are a number of achievements to unlock through the GameCenter. You can get to these via the main menu as well as the usual options for music and effects. It feels good earning an achievement during the course of gameplay. It’s like the game is giving you a little pat on the back and telling you that you are doing everything right!
Strategically, I would probably put playing Kahuna on the same level as playing chess. Both games require you to think several moves ahead and work out ways of forcing the opponent into making less than optimal plays.
From my experience playing I would suggest that controlling a group of islands is the best route for winning the early rounds. Obtaining and then discarding the cards that connect to your controlled islands will see them remain yours for a long time. Try not to stretch yourself too thinly by trying to control the entire board, as this is almost impossible.
If you cannot get an early lead, then perhaps go for a late game play by sacrificing the wins in rounds one and two to the opponent and instead opt for a large win in round three. You can, with the right cards, break many of the bridges controlled by the opposing player and with that, break their control on multiple islands at once. The larger the difference between your level of control and theirs, the more points you’ll score.
The big question facing Kahuna is: Is it worth buying? In my opinion, I think it is. It offers a quick strategic battle between either the built-in A.I. or an online opponent. These sort of quick games tend to have a long lifespan on digital devices because they don’t overwhelm you with too much stimulus in one hit.
Replay value is somewhat limited because the game has no additional modes or features, but it doesn’t need it. What it does, it does very well, and the replay factor will come from playing this with another experienced person over and over, getting better at it each time. Kahuna should really appeal to fans of board games with area control mechanics like Settlers of Catan. It’s not as deep as Catan, but will offer the player plenty of brain engagement. Now where’s that coconut…?
For more screenshots, click here.
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