Kubb, or Viking’s Chess, is a Nordic lawn game. The game was invented in 1911 by Alton Kuse, though some claim that the game originated in ancient Scandinavia over 1,000 years ago. Some believe adamantly that the Vikings played with the bones of their enemies — though, if anything, kubb was likely played with blocks of wood, similar to how we play it.
Although the origins of the game are hazy, the game is still fun to play. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about playing kubb.
How to Play Kubb
Kubb is a simple yard game perfect for playing on the lawn or driveway. At a glance, the game consists of wooden blocks of different sizes, one of the reasons why the game is sometimes called Viking’s chess. A kubb set includes:
- 10 kubbs: A kubb is a square block that is about 5 to 7 cm wide and 10 to 15 cm tall.
- 6 batons: A wooden baton is a long throwing stick that is about 25 to 30 cm long and 2.5 to 4.5 cm wide.
- 6 marking pins: The marking pins are wooden sticks used to designate the four corners and centerline of the playing field.
- 1 king: The king piece is the largest game piece on the field and is often decorated with a wooden crown. It is 25 to 30 cm tall and 7 to 9 cm wide.
You can purchase a kubb set or create your own from spare blocks of wood. Once you have your kubb set, you’re ready to play. In the sections below, we’ve separated the game into four easy-to-follow sections.
Setting Up the Game
It’s best to play kubb on the grass, where you can easily stake in your marking pins. However, you can also play kubb on a hard surface and skip the marking pins.
Place the four corner stakes, so they create a rough 15 feet by 24 feet court. Place the two leftover marking pins on the edges of the center to create the center line and divide the court in half. The king will sit directly on the centerline.
Line up five kubbs on either side of the rectangle (on the short edges). The players will stand behind their line of kubbs and can’t walk past them unless uprighting or throwing a kubb.
If you’re playing with young kids, you can shorten the length of the court to make it easier to throw the kubbs. You can play with up to six people per team.
To start the game, each team takes a baton and throws it underhand at the king. The baton closest to the king begins that game.
The starting team (Team A) throws each of their six batons at the opposing team (Team B) kubbs and tries to knock down as many as possible. Once they throw their six batons, Team B picks up the fallen kubbs and throws them to Team A’s side. Team A uprights each of the kubbs where they land. These kubbs will act as the defense and are called “field kubbs.” After retrieving their batons, Team A’s turn is over.
Taking Out the Defenses
Before Team B can hit any of Team A’s kubbs, they must knock over all of the field kubbs (which are their own defeated kubbs). Hopefully, Team B will have thrown the kubbs so they are clumped in a single group, making it easier to knock down all of the field kubbs with a single baton.
If Team B cannot knock over any of the field kubbs before they run out of batons, the kubb closest to the centerline becomes the baseline kubb for Team A, meaning that Team A can throw from the field kubb. Team A must step back if Team B removes the field kubbs on the next turn.
Once the field kubbs are knocked down, Team B can throw the remaining batons at Team A’s kubbs. If they knock over a kubb, Team A throws the fallen kubb to Team B’s side, and the thrown kubb becomes a field kubb.
Team A must then take out the field kubbs before taking Team B’s kubbs. The play repeats until one side knocks over all of the kubbs.
Defeating the King
When a team knocks over the last kubb piece on the opponent’s side, they get to take a shot at the king kubb. They can use their remaining batons to knock it down. If the team successfully defeats the king, they win the game. If they can’t knock down the king kubb with their remaining batons, the second team may get a chance.
However, if a team knocks down the king before they defeat the other team’s kubbs, that team loses the game.
The kubb champion is determined by playing best out of three.
Who Can Play Kubb
Kubbs is a universal game, and it is played across the world. Kids, adults, and the elderly can all join together to play kubb as a group. There are few people who can’t play kubb.
Here’s who can play kubb:
- Those who enjoy competition;
- Those who can throw a baton at least 20 feet;
- Those who enjoy working as a team.
There is no age cap on kubb. Both kids and adults can play. However, there are some things that may mean a person can’t play kubb.
Here’s who shouldn’t play kubb:
- Those who are too young to understand the rules or game play;
- Those who don’t like competition.
For the most part, everyone above the age of three can play the game. Those interested in playing this fun outdoor game can begin a kubb tournament in their area and gather with other players who enjoy the kubb game.
Of course, you can modify any official rule to fit your group unless you’re playing in the Kubb World Championship.
Games Similar to Kubb
If you love playing kubb, here are some other games that kubb fans might enjoy.
1. Bocce Ball
Bocce ball is a game that kubb fans will love. To play, you will need a bocce ball set. One player tosses the pallina into the field. Both teams try to toss their balls closest to the pallina. The team with the closest ball at the end of the round wins the round.
With the game of horseshoes, players try to throw a horseshoe around a stake. Each time a horseshoe lands on the stake, it’s called a “ringer” and is worth three points. If no one has landed a ringer by the end of a round, the horseshoe closest to the stake wins one point. The first player to reach 21 points wins the game.
Most individuals know how to bowl, or are at least familiar with the concept. Bowling matches are typically played at a bowling alley. The sport can be played individually or with teams. Each player tries to roll a bowling ball towards a line of pins. The more pins they knock down, the more points they earn. The player or team with the most points by the end of the 10 rounds wins the game.
Nine Square is one of the most popular games for high school-aged kids. You play Nine Square on a three by three raised court. The rules of the game are similar to Four Square (a typical schoolyard game). The queen or king square starts with the ball, setting it up and over their head like a volleyball and into another player's square. That player must hit the ball out of their square and into a new player's square. If someone fails to hit the ball, they're out, and everyone rotates to fill that space.