So this week we're staying in the back yard to enjoy a game much of the history suggests is a game with its roots in Viking civilization.
Now it may not be the case for all, but I would include myself in a group with more than just a passing interest in Vikings. I am not one to study the ancient Scandinavians in detail, but movies with a Viking theme tweak my interest easily, as do historical documentaries, or anything I happen to come across.
The thought of dragon-headed longboats crossing the ocean in this long ago years and actually setting foot on the now Canadian East Coast is frankly amazing.
But back to the game of Kubb, which apparently means 'block of wood' in Swedish, a very appropriate name in this case.
Kubb is in-fact a game where the goal for players is to knock over a series of wooden pieces, using wooden sticks. Yes this game is all wood so aesthetically is very nice, as well as hearkening back to its origins when any game would have been designed with what was handy.
The playing area is set up as a square about five-metres wide, and eight-metres long, although a shorter field might benefit beginners in my opinion.
Five kubbs, sometimes referred to as soldiers in the various rule sets and histories out there, are set up at each end of the play area, roughly evenly spaces across the five-metres. The kubbs are approx. 15-centimetres tall.
In the centre of the field the 'king' piece is placed. It is taller, and often has a crown cut into the top in many of the commercial sets out there.
There are six round sticks in the game which players throw. You can play in teams up to six, each throwing one stick, although frankly that would seem to get incredibly boring as it would be a long time between throws. Ideally two, or three-player teams seem best-suited to kubb.
Standing behind your end you throw the sticks underhand trying to knock down the kubbs at the other end. You have to knock all the kubbs in the opponent's half down before you can throw at the king, which is how you win.
The game gains complexity when you must take knocked down kubbs and toss them into the opponent zone, where they are stood up, and so you suddenly face more pieces to knock over before getting to the king.
You have to be strategically wise in tossing the kubb pieces so that they are bunched so you can knock down multiple pieces with a single stick. Since you can't throw sticks in an "airplane propeller'" fashion, it's not as easy as you might expect to hit the kubbs in the first place, to facing more than five is a challenge.
My first taste of this game was one-on-one against my son. As two novice throwers it dragged on, thus the suggestion to shorten the field a bit to start.
It was a lot of bending over too, picking up scattered sticks and kubbs, so teams are a definite plus to keep the fun outweighing the work.
The game sets up quickly, you can step the distance roughly and in most sets pegs are provided to push into the ground to note the corners of the field.
The wooden components should last forever. Most back yard games are very much heritage ones, where moderate care will keep the game for generations (horseshoes really are forever), and kubb pieces should last too.
Kubb, again like most backyard games can also be taken as simply family fun, or at a much higher level with organized tournaments and national championships in some countries, although I don’t think the sport/game is quite that organized in Canada yet.
The simplicity, Viking heritage, and wood components are all nice aspects which draw people to the game.
For a nice set available in Canada check out http://www.outdoorgames-n-sports.ca/Kubb_Original_with_Carrying_Bag_p/gkubbbko.htm
If anyone is interested in this game, or other boardgames feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 11, 2012 - Yorkton, SK. Canada