For the past few years, Kubb has been a staple at almost every outdoor daytime event I’ve attended. This includes BBQs, parties, camping trips and lunch breaks at work. It is an incredibly simple game that is very easy to learn.
What is the objective of Kubb?
Teams take turns throwing batons at the defending team’s targets which are called Kubbs. It is a race to clear the opponents Kubbs before you are able to knock over the King in the centre, which is like the 8 ball in pool.
What do you need to play Kubb?
This includes 1 King, 6 batons, 10 Kubbs and often some field markers. There are a few companies that sell them here in Australia for about $60-80. It’s also quite easy to make your own if you’re good with woodworking. My set is by Planet Finska and was probably purchased at either the National Geographic Store or Games World.
Outdoor space 5 metres by 8 metre
Outdoors on grass is best. Dirt is OK but it should not be played on concrete or decking as it will damage the Kubb set or the dent the decking. If you can’t play in your yard, go to the local park, but just be wary of dogs, as some may try and steal the pieces of the game.
What is the optimal number of players for Kubb?
Kubb requires even teams with a maximum of 6 people per team, which gives each person 1 batton each. The best number per team is really 2-3 players. This allows all members of each team to have the same number of batons each.
How to set up Kubb
- Mark out your play area in a 5-metre by 8-metre rectangle. If you are playing with the Planet Finska set, place one of the four pegs in each corner to map out the boundaries.
- Place the king in the middle of the rectangle.
- Place 5 Kubbs across the 5-metre side, 1-metre apart.
- Each team stands behind the line of Kubbs on their end.
How to throw a Kubb
A legal throw must be thrown underarm and the batton must spin vertically. Think of the blades of a windmill compared to the blades of a helicopter. This is a game of accuracy, so it must be vertical. It is instinctive to new players to want to try and throw it sideways to increase the surface area of the stick that is hitting the Kubb, but this is not allowed. Some leniency should be given if it is a particularly windy day.
If you are throwing it from a short distance, it might not be possible for the batton to rotate vertically. This is called spearing and is still legal so long as it does not rotate sideways.
How to play Kubb
Which Team Goes First?
One player from each team will throw a batton to see who can get closest to the king without knocking it over. This team gets to attack first and gets to choose which side of the field they throw from. I will call this Team A and the second team will be Team B.
The original rules of Kubb gives the first attacking team only 4 batons to throw. This is so that it is impossible to knock down all 5 Kubbs in your first turn.
First Attack Phase (Team A’s first turn)
A member of Team A must stand behind their baseline (behind the 5 Kubbs on your side of the field) and perform an 8 metre vertically spinning throw to knock down Kubbs at the other end of the field. The batons can be thrown by any combination of players on this team.
If Team A knocked over any Kubbs, the defending Team B must throw the fall Kubbs past the king into Team A’s half of the field. Team A will need to stand up these up carefully, turning them up from either side as if they were attached to a hinge. It must not be totally removed from the ground.
These are now called “Field Kubbs”. Team B must accurately throw within the bounds of the game. They get 1 rethrow and if they fail to throw in bounds a second time, someone from Team A can choose where they will put it on the field. They may put it up to 1 batton length away from the King and will typically place it behind the King so it is difficult to hit.
Team B will need to knock over any field Kubbs before they can attack the original baseline of Team A. It is important that Team B can knock over the Field Kubbs on this turn, or else Team A will get to move from their baseline to throw from the Field Kubb closest to them. Strategically, it is good to cluster any Field Kubbs close together, this allows the chance for a single batton to knock over multiple at once.
Second Attack Phase (Team B’s first turn)
Team B will throw all 6 batons, first at any Field Kubbs if any are in play. If Team B successfully knocks over all Field Kubbs on Team A’s side of the field, they can now start attacking the original Kubbs on Team A’s baseline with their remaining batons. If Team B knocks over any of Team A’s Kubbs, the process of throwing Field Kubbs repeats
If Team B accidentally knocks over any of Team A’s original Kubbs whilst they are meant to be attacking the Field Kubbs, this does not count and it is a wasted throw.
Third Attack Phase (Team A’s second turn)
If Team B has failed to knock over all Field Kubbs, Team A can now start their turn throwing from the Field Kubb nearest to them.
The process repeats until one team has cleared the entire baseline of their competitor.
Winning the game
Once your team has cleared the baseline of the other team, you return to your original baseline and can start throwing at the King in the centre. If you do not knock the king over, your opponent continues their next turn as normal. Gameplay continues until the King has been knocked over.