Game of the Month: Kubb

by Dagonell the Juggler

Kubb is a Scandinavian game whose origins are lost in antiquity. It's entirely possible that the Vikings may have played it. The name comes from "Kubbspel", a swedish word that means "throwing wood". The annual World Championship competition takes place in Gotland, Sweden. Over 150 6-member teams, ranging in age from 8 to 85 participate.

The basic idea behind the game is to take turns knocking down your opponents "kubbs" with throwing batons. When you have knocked down all your opponent's men, you need to knock down the king to win the game.

Making a homemade kubb set is easy. You need one king (4" x 4" x 12"), ten kubbs (3" x 3" x 6") and six batons (1 inch dowel, 12"). The playing field is any level stretch of ground, 10 yards by 5 yards. Each team places their five kubbs at random points on their own baseline. The king is placed in the exact center of the field.

Friendly games are usually one vs. one or two vs. two. To determine who goes first, either flip a coin or alternate throwing batons towards the king. Whoever gets closest to the king without knocking it over goes first. Knocking over the king automatically gives the starting position to the other team.

The starting team throws the six batons, from behind their own baseline, one at a time, at the opposing teams kubbs. On a two-player team, team members alternate throws. All batons throws must be underhanded with a vertical spin only, no horizontal spin.

Kubbs which are knocked down, become 'field kubbs'. The opposing team must pick up all the kubbs which have been knocked over and toss them underhanded onto their opponents half of the field. Wherever the kubb lands, it is set upright. They then collect the six batons and attempt to knock down the first team's kubbs, starting with the field kubbs. A baseline kubb which is knocked down before all the field kubbs are knocked down is merely set up again.

After the second team has thrown, the first team collects the batons, and tosses any knocked down kubbs onto the second team's half of the field. After the field kubbs have been set upright, the first team begins tossing their batons, however, they are no longer restricted to the original baseline. They may advance as far forward as the forward-most field kubb on their side of the king. Again, all field kubbs must be knocked down before they can try for any baseline kubbs. If all opposing kubbs have been knocked down, they can try to topple the king.

If they succeed in knocking over the king, they win the game. If the king is knocked down before the opponent's field is cleared of kubbs, the throwing team immediately loses. In less friendly games, there is a rule that you have one baton left over when the king is toppled, which means you can't knock down the king on your last throw.