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How to Play Kubb: Rules, Set Up and Game Options

Here’s our complete guide on How to Play Kubb, with rules, set up, an overview of gameplay, and game variations.

Kubb is a lawn game belonging to the skittles family.

You may also hear the same game called “Viking Chess” due to the rather pervasive legend that bored Vikings whiled away the winter playing the game with the bones of their defeated enemies.

Although it is an intriguing thought modern players are engaging in a millennium-old pastime, the fact is the earliest record of a similar game was in 1911 under the name “Kägelkrig” meaning “Skittles War.”

It wasn’t until the 1980s when game companies started marketing commercial version of the game in Sweden that current rules and equipment became standardized. 

The raging debate of whether Kubb is ancient or quite modern doesn’t take away from the popularity and fun of playing the game.

It is quite popular in the Great Lakes region, but it is easy to find local casual or even competitive leagues throughout the United States.

With a mixture of skill and strategy, along with the ability to play while holding a beer, Kubb is a favorite of backyard BBQs, yet it is challenging enough for competitive play.

Check out how to play Kubb and get to know this exciting game. 

Kubb Rules

Yard Games Kubb Game Premium Set
Premium Kubb Set, available at Amazon (affiliate link)

The Objective:

The goal of Kubb is to be the first side to eliminate all the opponent’s kubbs before successfully knocking down the king to win the game.

If the king is knocked down at any time during the game, the opponents immediately win. 

The Equipment: 

The minimum equipment necessary to play Kubb is:

  • Six batons
  • Ten kubbs
  • One king

Optional equipment can include:

  • A tape measure to accurately measure out the field.
  • Six stakes. Four to mark the corners of the field and two stakes to mark the location of the centerline. 
  • Enough string or twine to loop around the stakes to create the boundaries of the field. 

Kubbs, kings, and batons come in various sizes and weights depending on the set you purchase.

Sets sold in the US tend to be larger than ones meant for European play. 

If you learn how to play Kubb and want to participate in a league, find out which type of set it uses for tournaments, and buy the same set to allow you to practice at home. 

Otherwise, if you just want to play with your friends or family, purchase one which is within your budget.

You can find sets ranging in price from 30 to 40 dollars up to several hundred dollars depending on the materials and workmanship. 

Are you more of a DIYer? Why not create your own Kubb set?

Number of Players:

Kubb is very flexible with the number of players per side. It is a very social game, and plays best when there are about two to three per side. One-on-one play is also popular for casual play.

You can modify the rules to allow for playing with an odd number of people. 

The Set-Up:

LAWN TIME Kubb Game Set - Rubberwood Viking Chess Outdoor Game - Kubb Viking Lawn Game with Carry Bag
Rubberwood Kubb Set, available at Amazon (affiliate link)

With few permanent Kubb fields available, you’ll probably need to set one up on your own. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes. 

Start by choosing a suitable place to play. Most Kubb fields are laid out on grass, but dirt, sand, and even snow playing surfaces are acceptable and can add a unique challenge to the game.

The basic requirements are that the area is as level as possible and large enough to allow people to throw batons without potentially damaging property with a bad toss. 

The dimensions of a regulation Kubb field are 5 meters (16 feet) wide by 8 meters (26 feet) long.

Next, after measuring out the field, put the corner and centerline stakes in place. If you are using a piece of string to make the boundary line, tie a loop at the end of the string and attach it a corner stake.

Then wind the string around outside of the other stakes and tie it off on the first stake.

Finally, stand five kubbs on their ends on the outside of the shortest boundary lines at either side of the field.

Make sure that the kubbs are spread out evenly and that they are at least one baton length from corner stakes.

These five kubbs create the baseline for each team. After placing the king in the middle of the centerline, the game is ready to start.

The Gameplay:

Kubb starts with one player from each side lagging to determine who will go first.

To do this, a player stands behind his baseline and tosses a baton underhand in an attempt to come as close as possible to the king without knocking it over.

The team whose player lands the baton closest to the king decides which side will throw first. 

After determining the first team to play, play can commence.

Every turn consists of three stages:

The Baton Toss Stage

The team going first distributes the six batons among their teammates in such a way that each member of the team has at least one.

The active player then stands behind his baseline and throws the baton at the opponents’ baseline kubbs trying to knock as many as possible over.

A legal throw in Kubb requires a player to: 

  • Throw underhand and ensure the baton rotates end-over-end and never side-to-side.
  • Have both feet behind his baseline and not further left or right than the sidelines. 
  • Throw only once before giving another player on his team a chance to throw. 

Players can throw in any order they choose, but a single player cannot throw twice in a row. 

Teams do not need to maintain the same order throughout the entire game, but every player needs to throw at least one baton per round. 

After the first turn, all the field kubbs on your opponent’s side of the field must be knocked down before you are allowed to take out the baseline kubbs, and eventually the king.

If a baseline kubb is knocked over before all the field kubbs are down, it is a foul. The baseline kubb is reset, and the throwing team’s turn is over. 

If your opponents fail to knock down all the field kubbs from the previous round, the field kubb closest to the king marks the new baseline, and everyone on your team can throw from any inbounds position behind it. 

The Kubb Tossing Stage

Once all six batons are thrown, players from the other team pick up any kubbs which were knocked over and toss them onto the opponent’s side of the field.

If the kubb doesn’t land within the other team’s side of the field, the kubb may be thrown again.

Failing to land the kubb a second time allows the other team to place the kubb anywhere they want on their side of the field as long as it is at least one baton length from the king or stakes.

The Kubb Setting Stage

The team whose side of the field the thrown kubbs land on has the responsibility to stand them up inbounds.

They do this by lifting the kubb up while keep any edge of the kubb permanently on the ground and using it like a hinge.

These kubbs are now called field kubbs. 

After standing up the field kubbs, the batons pass to the other side and play continues in the same way until the king is knocked over. 

Winning the Game

According to kubb rules, there are two ways to win the game.

The quickest way is if your opponent makes a huge mistake and knocks over the king at any time.

Barring that, to win, a team needs to knock over all the field kubbs, the baseline kubbs, and the king in that order, and in one turn. 

The Variations:

The kubb rules above are the most common way to play the game in the US. But there are many regional and league variants.

These are some of the most popular:

2 4 6 Opening. 

This rule comes from US National Kubb Championship rules, and the purpose behind it is to eliminate much of the advantage of playing first.

In this variation, the first team to throw is allowed only two batons and the opposing team can throw only four batons during the first round.

Both sides in further rounds may use all six of the batons. 

4 6 Opening. 

This rule is similar to the 2 4 6 Opening.

Under this rule, the team which throws first is limited to four batons while the opponents are allowed to throw the full six batons in the first round.

In all subsequent rounds, both teams can use all six batons. 

The Sure Shot. 

In this variation, a player who is aiming for the king must stand with her back towards the king and throw between her legs. 

Differing field dimensions. 

Although 16 by 26 feet is the standard size of a Kubb field, other popular sizes include 16 by 33 feet and 26 by 33 feet.

Many fields for younger players measure ten by 20 feet.  

Double Knockdown Elimination.

It can take a long time to finish a Kubb game, especially for beginning players.

As a way to signifigantly shorten the game, some players like to play with the rule that once a kubb is knocked down once by both teams, the kubb is removed from the field. 

One Shot. 

According to this rule, a team may only attempt to knock down the king once per turn.

If the thrower misses the king, the turn ends immediately. 

Tower of Kubbs. 

When you are using this rule, if a player tosses a kubb, and is able to hit a standing field kubb, both kubbs are set one on top of the other to form a tower.

Each additional kubb which knocks down a field kubb tower is added to it. 

If Kubb sounds like an exciting game, you can get easily get involved in the game by joining one of the many local Kubb clubs throughout the US and try it out? 

If you are unable to find one close to you, why not start your own?

All you need is a few friends and a set of Kubbs. 

Featured Image Credit: Flickr

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