What is Kubb?
Kubb is a very popular outdoor game that can be played on a lawn, beach, parking lot, or anywhere you can create a rectangular court also called also known as a pitch. The great thing about Kubb is that it can involve both brute force and precise touch, along with many tactical decisions and strageties. The basic object of the game is to throw wooden batons or ‘kastpinnar’ at the opposing team’s wooden blocks called Kubbs, and knock them over. The kubbs are placed at both ends of the playing field with a larger wooden block called the king placed in the middle of the court. The exact rules of Kubb can vary from region to region, but the ultimate goal is to knock over all of the opponent’s kubbs. When you have accomplished this you must knock over the king to win. In between there are many tactical decisions to be made that can make it harder on the other team to ultimately win. Kubb could be described as an exciting cross of bowling and horseshoes. It has grown from ancient origins into a modern game with international interest and large tournaments held all over the world. The modern version of kubb started in the 1980’s when the first sets were commercially made and has since exploded in popularity all over the world. The world championship is held on the island of Gotland, Sweden while the USA championship is held in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The game is very popular in the Midwest of the USA. Many schools are now even playing kubb in their physical education classes. It is a great game to play for the whole family and in groups of friends. The game is said to have Scandinavian origins and is also nicknamed ‘Viking Chess’. In this article we will take a look at how to set up your own game of Kubb, the rules, strategies, and some great Kubb sets to get you started playing this exciting game.
How to play Kubb
The first thing you need to do is set up your playing field by marking out a rectangle with field marking pins, stakes, or even rocks at the corners and two markers at the imaginary line running through the center of the court. The most common court size used is a 26 x 16 foot rectangle. This is the size of court typically used in official tournaments. If you are a beginner or playing with children it is suggested to start smaller and work your way up in size as you get better. The opposing ends of the court are called the baselines with an imaginary line running through the middle. There are 3 different types of wooden pieces used in game play including 10 kubbs measuring 15 cm tall and 7 cm square on the end, a king measuring 30 cm tall and 9 cm square on the end, and 6 batons that are 30 cm long and 4.4 cm in diameter. Most commercially made kubb sets will include all of these pieces along with 6 field marking pins, a carrying bag, and rules. Each team will need to take 5 kubbs. The same king is used for both teams. Set your 5 kubbs up on the baseline placed at regular intervals from one end of the baseline to the other. The blocks in this starting position are called baseline kubbs. The king is placed directly on the imaginary line in the middle of the court. The game is typically played with 2 teams consisting of 1 or 2 players, but can be played with teams up to 6. The wooden batons or ‘kastpinnar’ must always be thrown underhanded and in a vertical rotation. You cannot spin the batons horizontally like a helicopter. To determine which teams throws first a single baton is tossed as close as possible to the king in the center of the court without hitting it. The team whose baton lands the closest throws first. Going first can give you a great advantage.
Game play and rules
Now that the court is all set up we are ready to start playing. There are two phases to each turn. Team one stands behind the baseline and throws it batons at the kubbs placed on the opposite baseline. Any kubbs knocked down are then tossed by team two back onto the opponents half of the court. Team one stands the kubbs up where they land and these are now referred to as ‘field kubbs’. If a kubb is tossed out of bounds you get one more attempt. If it is thrown out of bounds again the opposing team can place the kubb anywhere on their side of the field as long as it is one baton length from the king or corners. The main objective is to toss the field kubbs so they are easy to knock down on the next turns.
Play now changes sides and team two tosses their batons. Before team two is allowed to toss their batons at the opponent’s baseline kubbs they must first knock down all the field kubbs from the previous turn. If a baseline kubb is knocked down before all the field kubbs it does not count and is put back in place. After team two is done throwing their batons, team one picks up all kubbs that are knocked over (baseline and field kubbs) and tosses them in the same manner onto the opposite half of the field. If team two left any field kubbs still standing during their turn, team one gets to toss their batons from an imaginary line running parallel from the kubb closest to the center line. You can see it is very important to not leave any field kubbs standing close to the center line or the other team will have an easy time throwing so close to the field kubbs they are trying to knock down on the next turn. Play continues in this manner until one team has knocked down all the field and baseline kubbs. They now attempt to knock down the king for the win with any remaining batons. All throws at the king must be from behind the baseline of the court. If the king is knocked down at any time before all kubbs are knocked down the other team wins. Another version of the rules allows for one ‘resurrection king.’ In this version the king is stood back up but the team loses the rest of its turn. Winners are typically determined by playing the best out of 3.
As you can see it is possible for these games to go one for a long time. If you are a beginner or playing with children there are some variants in the rules that will help shorten the game and make it a bit easier. You can choose to remove any kubb from the field of play that has been knocked over twice. Another idea is allowing field kubbs that hit each when tossed to be placed on top of each other like a tower. This makes it much easier to knock down all the field kubbs in fewer throws. The more you play you will develop your own strategies and ideas to improve your chances at winning.
You must often think in strategic defensive terms when throwing the kubbs onto the opposite field. If you attempt to throw the kubbs close to the center line but fail to knock them all over when tossing your batons, the other team has a very easy time knocking over all the kubbs because of temporary throwing line so close to center line. Another idea is throwing the kubbs deeper into the opponent’s territory. These will be harder for you to knock over, but do not offer the opposing team great field position when it is their turn to throw the batons. Grouping the kubbs close together allows for a greater chance of knocking multiple kubbs down with one throw, or even missing your intended target and knocking down another kubb.
There are many techniques for throwing the batons. Some people use a 180 degree spring while other players use a full 360 degree rotation. Perfecting a certain throwing style allows you to become very accurate. Another technique is throwing the baton with enough force that knocks over multiple kubbs by bouncing off the first and into another.
Kubbs must be thrown underhanded like the batons, but you are allowed to spin them in any direction you please. Adding a directional spin to the kubbs is also known as drilling. This is extremely useful for placing the cubs in very precise areas.
When the opposing team throws a kubb out of bounds two times it is called a penalty kubb and you will be able to place it wherever you want. Setting it down as close as possible to the king is a great ideas because the other team will be worried about potentially knocking the king over and losing.
The serious players have some very unique strategies for improving their play. Many players like to play barefoot or with shoes that have no soles because they say feeling the ground is very important. Some people even practice juggling the batons to perfect the spin when tossing the baton in game play. This technique improves rotation and proper release of the baton.
Now that we have all the basics covered let’s take a look at some great kubb sets available to purchase so you can get started playing. We will cover all levels of play from beginner to advanced tournament play. These well made kubb sets will take your outdoor recreation events like birthday parties, BBQ’s, camping, and more to new levels of fun!
Yard Games Kubb Game Premium Set
This is a high quality and beautifully crafted set that includes everything you will need to start playing Kubb with your family and friends and last for years to come. Kubb is fun for all ages and great for getting the kids away from the tv or computer and playing outside. It involves both physical activity and critical thinking. This set from Yard Games includes 10 kubbs, 6 batons, 1 king with crown, and 4 stakes made with eco friendly and shock absorbent durable hardwood. The high quality hardwood is crucial for keeping the set in good shape after repeated tosses and exposure to the elements. This set also comes with a nice zip up bag to carry all the pieces and rules brochure along on your next camping trip or day at the park.
Striker Games Kubb Game Set
This is a great set for the beginner or casual player. It includes all the standard size kubb game pieces needed for game play and 4 field marking pins, all made with pine wood. The king is a striking piece with bright red crown. Also includes a mesh carrying bag and rule book for taking the game wherever you want to go. The pine wood may be a little more susceptible to chipping and denting than hardwood sets, but this is still a high quality and economical set to get started playing Kubb. If you plan on playing seriously and competitively for a long time this may not be the set for you. This is perfect for a family who likes to casually play though.
Kubb Tournament Set
This is the definitive Kubb set for the most serious of players and for tournaments. The regulation sized pieces are made from extremely high quality white birch hardwood and hand crafted. The white brich gives the set a beautiful natural look and the most durability. The blocks are very heavy. Each set is also unique in appearance. It is very resistant to chipping and denting. In addition to all the game pieces needed for match play it includes 6 field marking pins instead of 4 like the other sets. This gives a big advantage because you can mark the center line. The batons also have a nice beveled edge. Like the other sets this comes with a high quality sports style carrying bag and rule book.
Want to learn some other fun yard games? Check out our how to play cornhole post.