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A Reappearing Act

Everyone who has ever seen a magician perform has more than likely seen a disappearing act. In a blink of an eye, a coin, a bird, a beautiful assistant vanishes before your eyes. This is a magical staple that has thrilled audiences for decades. But, as we gamers know, sometimes disappearances fail to garner applause when it’s a quality game that has vanished from the shelves of stores throughout the land. Fortunately, at least in a few cases, some of those quality games are making a reappearance. In this case, Thanes & Kosmos are bringing back several games, long out of print, under their original Kosmos brand. In this issue, we provide a double dose of goodness as we revisit two two player games worthy of such a return. Since these games have remained true to their original incarnations (still small boxed but this time around, the box is about an inch thicker), we are reprinting the original reviews that appeared (with additional commentary as needed) when these two games first made their appearance: Lost Cities and Kahuna.

LOST CITIES

(Kosmos, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes; $19.95)

Reviewed by Kban

lostcitiesnew1The German game company Kosmos has been hugely successful since the 1995 release of its 3 million copy selling [Ed. note: and much more now!] flagship The Settlers of Catan (Fall 1996 GA REPORT) and the expansions it spawned. Gathering lesser attention has been the release of a string of 2 player card games packaged in distinctive 6 inch square boxes. Titles for this series include Caesar & Cleopatra (Summer 1998 GA REPORT), Kahuna (Winter 1999 GA REPORT) and The Settlers of Catan Card Game (featured last issue) [Ed. note: “last issue” is the Spring 1999 GA REPORT]. The latest addition to the line is Reiner Knizia’s Lost Cities.

Lost Cities consists of 60 oversized cards and a rectangular game board. The cards are distributed equally in 5 colors with illustrations that represent different expeditions ranging from the Brazilian rainforest to the desert sands. Each of the 5 expeditions has 12 cards: 3 investment cards {Ed. note: investment cards are now called “wager” cards in the new edition] with a pair of hands shaking and expeditions cards numbered consecutively from 2 to 10.

lostcitiesnew2Players are dealt 8 cards from the shuffled deck to form their hands. Each turn, a player may play a card to an expedition pile or discard a card. A player’s hand is then replenished to 8 cards by drawing the top card from the deck or drawing the top card from any of the five discard piles on the board.

Starting or adding a card to an expedition involves a player placing either an investment [wager] card or an expedition card to the corresponding expedition on his side of the board. An investment [wager] card can only be played at the start of an expedition and naturally represents the investment of more time and effort in that expedition.

The numbered cards played most be of higher rank than those previously played. For example, if an expedition starts with a “2” and later adds a “5”, the “3” and “4” cards cannot be used by that player (but can be used by his opponent). Play continues with the colorful tableau building on both sides of the board until the last card has been played from the draw pile. Now it’s time to score.

Players add up their points for each expedition and then subtract 20 (the starting cost for any expedition). The remaining total is then multiplied by 2 if there was one investment [wager] card, tripled if there were 2 investment [wager] cards and quadrupled if all 3 were played. The resulting points can be positive or negative. A match is usually 3 complete rounds with scores added at the conclusion. As is all games of this series, the game components are of the highest quality.

As with most card games, the obvious strategies apply, playing your hand to your scoring advantage while trying to deprive your opponent of cards that will prove to his benefit. Despite the fact that you’re at the whim of the “luck of the draw”, there is a subtle element of control. Basic tips include being cautious when starting an expedition unless you have means of achieving a positive score and keeping track of the number of cards remaining in the draw pile.

Since 3 rounds seldom take more than a half hour, Lost Cities is likely to be taken off the shelf often. Make no mistake – this is far from a chess match. There are few defensive plays to be made here. Despite its lightweight status, Lost Cities is a surprisingly satisfying diversion for those occasions when you can’t round up the entire game crew.


 

KAHUNA

(Kosmos, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes; $24.95)

Reviewed by: Alan M. Newman

kahuna1Kahuna, designed by Gűnter Cornett, is a remake of Arabani-Ikibiti, released last year [Ed. note: “last year” meaning 1998] by the designer in a crude, homemade, version. That the game is now being published by Germany’s Kosmos, publisher of The Settlers of Catan (Fall 1996 GA Report) is testament to the originality and charm of Arabani-Ikibiti. Simply put, this was an idea whose time had come, assisted by Kosmos’ presentation of the game in a small but very attractive package.

The idea is as simple as it gets. 12 named islands are on the gameboard map and two cards name the islands, 24 cards in all. You begin with five cards and may play from 0 to 5 cards on your turn, placing a bridge between the island named on your card and an adjacent island (signified by a dotted line on the map). You may also play two cards and remove a bridge between the two named islands or, if the two cards are the same, remove any bridge from that island. (Control is given to the player who has bridges on more than half of an island’s connecting lines. When control is gotten, ALL of the opponent’s bridges on that island are removed and returned to that player!) This rule provides the teeth for confrontation as chain reactions are possible. Since bridges always connect two islands, removing the bridge on one may affect control of the other and so on!

kahuna2Players may replenish one card at the end of their turns, either taking one of three face up cards available or the top face down card from the deck. When no cards remain available to pick up, the round is over, cards are reshuffled and a new round begins.

After the first round, the player controlling the most islands scores one point. After the second round, the player with control over the most islands scores two points. After the third and final round, the player with control over the most islands scores the difference between the two players in islands. Total score wins.

The attention to detail here shows concern for dedicated gamers. For example, each card has a gameboard map with the relevant island highlighted. But what if you’re holding the card upside down? All cards have a fish on one end a turtle on the other. All you have to do so is align your cards the same way as the fish and turtle appearing on the gameboard. In this fashion, finding the island listed on the card becomes a snap. The remaining pieces in the package are also nicely designed, making the game a pleasant visual experience as well as an exciting gaming experience. Replay value seems to be extraordinary since no always reliable winning strategy is apparent at first or second glance. An excellent buy.


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