Kubb, a short history and how to play!

Kubb / Ancient Viking Chess Might be the Outdoor Sport of the Season


Quarantine season has caused a major downer as far as outdoor activities go. Many citizens are forced to stay indoors and depend on their mobile and digital devices. There is, however, a way to break the sedentary cycle by trying an awesome game from the comforts of your backyard lawn. Enter Kubb, otherwise known as ancient Viking chess - a simple yet highly competitive outdoor game to be enjoyed with your loved ones.


The Origins of Kubb


The exact origins of the game are shrouded in mystery though some vague sources state that it was invented by the Vikings about a thousand years ago. It is believed that Vikings played the game with the skulls and femurs of their fallen opponents. Yikes. Thank goodness for civilization. Modern-day Kubb games stick strictly to wooden pieces. 


What Players Need

 Every Kubb game requires:

10 Kubbs (wooden pieces)

1 King (larger wooden piece)

6 wooden batons

(optional) 4 wooden pegs to mark out a rectangular pitch.


Playing the Game


The first step involves marking out the playing area/ pitch. Kubb is best played on a smooth grassy field or gravel - although there have been some reported matches on ice (sounds fun but not for beginners). There are three playing dimensions that are most common in the world of Kubb: 10 X 8m (33 X 26 feet), 10 X 5m (33 X 16 feet), and 8 X 5m (26 X 16 feet, which also happens to be the dimension for championship play). However, it is recommended for young children to try out with smaller pitches, such as 5 X 2m.

 Kubb is played between two teams, and it is possible for one team to have more players than the other. This just means that players are given more wooden batons.


Setting Up


Each team has five Kubbs, which are aligned neatly in a row on opposing edges of the court. These lines are known as the baseline, and it is from here that players toss their batons at the start of the game. The king is placed at the center of the court, on a line parallel to the baselines. We call this the middle line.

 The game usually begins with both teams meeting in the middle and showing some good old-fashioned sportsmanship by shaking hands. Next up, a representative from each team assumes the position from behind their respective baselines and tosses a baton toward the king. The team who's baton falls closest to the king (without hitting it) gets to decide which team goes first.

In the game of Kubb, players are only allowed to toss their batons underarm and in a vertical position. So, no tilted batons, or bowling, side-arming, and helicopter throws.


Starting a Match

Kubb matches usually begin with a 2-4-6 start to provide a fair playing field for both teams. This means that the first team uses two batons for the initial round, the opposing team follows up with four batons, and subsequent rounds are played with the full 6 batons.

 Aim of the Game

 The goal is to strike down all of the opponent's baseline Kubbs and the king. But there is more to the dynamics. A downed Kubb is tossed into the opponent's playing field, where they "resurrect as traitors" known as field Kubbs. Fallen Kubbs are returned to an upright position by having two corners held and tilted up as if they were on a hinge.

 Players must strike down all standing field Kubbs before they're allowed to target the remaining baseline Kubbs. If they don't, opponents can pop the baseline Kubbs right back up. To make matters worse, opponents have the advantage to reposition their throwing line from behind the field Kubb closest to the King.

 Thus it is necessary for field Kubbs to be eliminated at all costs. The game ends when all of the opponent's Kubbs are down, along with the king. A team loses immediately if a member strikes the king while the opponent has standing Kubbs. (In this regard, the king is equivalent to the 8 black ball in billiard).


Now that you have a grasp of Kubb, it's time to steer away from the screen and game on!