What is Kubb, Anyway?
Located between the putting green and the Southwest Porch, Kubb resembles bowling, but without a ball. Or, do the foot-high wooden blocks make the game look more like oversized chess? Was the tossing technique lifted from horseshoes, or is it something entirely different?
Welcome to Kubb (rhymes with “tube”), an ancient Scandinavian game that also goes by the name of “Viking Chess.” It is said that Viking villages played Kubb between raiding missions not only to keep occupied, but also to practice strategy and hand-eye coordination that would help in future missions. Whether or not that story is true, Kubb certainly does require skill and strategy.
The game takes place between two teams on a rectangular pitch divided down the short side into two halves. Each team of one to six players sets up five wooden kubb blocks along the baseline, and a slightly larger king kubb is set up in the middle of the pitch. Each side also starts with six wooden dowels, which are thrown to try to hit the other team’s kubb blocks on the other side of the pitch (hence the comparisons to bowling). Teams take turns throwing all six dowels toward the opposing team’s kubb blocks. Once a team knocks down a kubb block on the other side of the pitch, that block is tossed to the throwing team’s half of the pitch and set up as a field kubb. Now, the opposing team must knock down this field kubb before it may try to knock down the baseline kubbs (hence the strategy comparisons to chess). The game continues until one side has knocked down all baseline and field kubbs. Then, the team must knock over the king kubb in the middle of the pitch to secure victory. The king kubb is like the 8 ball in pool—topple it before it is time, and that team automatically loses.
In the United States, Kubb is especially popular in the Midwest, where several national tournaments occur. The game can be as easygoing or competitive as the players would like, and can be played anywhere—on a lawn, on the beach, or on a turf pitch in the park. Whether you’re feeling like a Viking or like a weekend warrior, check out Bryant Park Kubb!