May 21 , 2020
If you enjoy croquet or bocce and hit your limit on rounds of cornhole, it’s time to try something new. Check out kubb, i.e., “Viking chess.” Besides being easy for kids or adults to masters, yard sets are affordable ($30 to $50) or easy to replicate with inexpensive materials and a few tools.
First off, it’s pronounced “koob,” which rhymes with “tube.” The game originated in Sweden and has been catching on in the United States. Some will tell you it’s an ancient game played by Vikings with skulls and bones of those they vanquished. Most likely, that’s just part of the colorful lore.
Kubb overlaps with many familiar games. Underhanded tosses hint at horseshoes or bocce. Like bowling, you need to knock down blocks of wood. Like chess, the winner topples the king, but beware: Toppling the king too early triggers an instant loss!
Setting Up Kubb
The game can be played with two people, or up to six, or more. The field size can start small for young children — 20 feet by 10 feet for them, twice that for adults — or adapted with field markers to the space you have.
The king, the fanciest piece in the game, begins in the middle of the field. Five kubbs, usually made from six-inch slices of a pine 4×4, are set along each team’s baseline. Players from opposing teams try to knock over the kubbs with batons made from 1-1/5 in. to 2-in. dowels.
How to Play Kubb
Games can last 15 minutes to an hour depending on the players and size of the field. Find the official kubb game rules here or watch a three-minute video that describes how to play kubb.
Make a wooden kubb set using directions from The Home Depot or this variation with copper batons and a carrying case.
You can buy high-quality kubb sets online or from The Local Store in Eau Claire, Wis., which has dubbed itself the “Kubb Capital of North America.” It has hosted the U.S. Kubb Championships since 2007.