The Game Kubb

Kubb is a Swedish throwing game

Kubb (Swedish pronunciation: [kɵbː]) is a Swedish game with characteristics similar to games like bowling, Mölkky and pétanque. The word kubb stems from the term vedkubbar, which means wooden block in the Gotland dialect of Swedish. Kubb is played between two teams. The objective of the game is to knock over all the kubbs, and then the king, with throwing sticks — before the opposing team does.

Everyone can enjoy kubb. It takes only a few minutes to grasp and can be played on different surfaces, such as grass, sand, snow or even ice. The number of players can vary, although 8 to 16 players is generally recommended. The duration of a game can range from 30 seconds to more than an hour. Playing a game of kubb requires both skill and precision, but also a strategical mindset!

The game kubb has a long history. Kubb as we know it today was invented on a Swedish island named Gotland. It gained widespread popularity in the late 1980s, when commercial sets were first manufactured.

A Brief History

Predecessor of the game kubb in Ancient Egypt Source: Same Old Games, [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Gotland — Sweden's largest island — is generally considered the home and origin of the game kubb. Legend has it that the game dates back to the Vikings and has survived since then on Gotland, but there's really no evidence to support this. Kubb is sometimes marketed as Viking Chess nonetheless. There is however evidence that skittle games similar to kubb were played in Ancient Egypt (see image) and Greece, which leads us to conclude they migrated north, rather than the other way around.

Because of the description of a skittles war gameopen_in_new similar to kubb in the second edition of the Swedish Encyclopedia Nordisk familjebok, 1911 is often considered the year of birth for kubb. The first written mention of the word kubb however is dated to 1931 in a book by a Gotland native ethnologist, visiting the island Fårö. Since Fårö is part of the province Gotland, one could say that kubb was invented on Gotland after all.

In Gotland in the late 1980s, kubb's popularity suddenly surged as it started to emerge in parks and gardens. There came a demand, and so the first kubb sets for commercial sales were made. In 1995, the first Kubb World Championship was organised in Rone, Gotland. By 1998, kubb had become so popular that it became interesting for the Swedish company Brioopen_in_new to produce cheap factory made sets — targeted at the international market. Nowadays, most kubb sets are made of rubberwood, which does not easily chip or splinter.

A Global Success

After booming in the Nordic countries in the late 1990s, kubb has now become a global success. Kubb associations exist not only in Sweden, but also in countries like England, Germany, Netherlands, France, as well as in the US and Canada. Kubb tournaments are played all over the world. Belgium alone hosts more than 50 tournaments each year. And the Kubb World Championship? It's still organised on the island of Gotland — a 3 day event that attracts more than 3000 participants every year.

The slogan of the Kubb World Championship — Kubb unites people and creates peace on Earth — perfectly conveys the philosophy of the game kubb. A game to be enjoyed by family and friends and a game to serve as a spirited competition, but never mean spirited. A good outdoor game brings people together in the fresh air and spurs conversation and camaraderie. Kubb fits the bill. If you haven’t played, give it a try!

Where to Buy?

Picture of a kubb set

If you intend to buy a kubb set, then Kubb World recommends you to buy the game set that is on offer on Amazon.

This kubb set has the official dimensions used in tournaments and championships all over the world. Also, most importantly, it's made of shock-absorbent rubberwood, which does not easily chip or splinter. We recommend you to order your kubb set directly on Amazon, because you will find – in most cases – the best price for a kubb set on their website (taking into account that delivery is free of charge in most regions).

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Game Rules

Visualisation of a kubb set as you might find it in the midst of a game

Kubb is played between two teams. Team A uses batons to try to — from behind their baseline — knock over the base kubbs on team B's side of the pitch. Kubbs that are knocked over by team A are then thrown back, by team B, onto team A's half of the pitch. Team B then throws the batons at team A's kubbs, first knocking over any standing field kubbs. The kubb closest to the middle line of the field represents the throwing line for the attacking team.

The first team to knock over all the kubbs, and subsequently the king, wins the game. A team that accidentally knocks over the king during the game, immediately loses the game.

Kubb Tournaments

Kubb king on an unused pitch during final rounds of the 2013 USA Kubb National Championship. Source: Jamie Thingelstad, [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Kubb World Championship and the Kubb It Up, the European Championships and the U.S. Kubb Open. Year in year out, a great many kubb tournaments are played all over the world. For professional players in associations, or laid-back players with no further aspirations. There are tournaments organized to suit everyone’s taste, so don’t be afraid to sign up for a tournament near you.

International Championships

Since 1995, the official Kubb World Championshipopen_in_new has been held annually in Rone on the Swedish island of Gotland. The Kubb World Championship is open to all kubb teams who register, there are no age restrictions. In the first year of the Kubb World Championships, 28 teams showed up — most of them from Gotland. Today, the three day event attracts 3-4000 visitors, who are served by up to a hundred local voluntary officials. Teams not only from Sweden, but also from countries such as Great Britain, Austria, Germany, France and Australia are taking part.

The official Kubb European Championshipopen_in_new (Kubb EM) has been taking place in Berlin every year since 2011 at the end of July. The Kubb EM is an open championship for all European teams of three or more people. Meanwhile, the associations from Germany, Belgium and Switzerland founded the European Kubb Championshipopen_in_new under the direction of the European Kubb Association (EKA).

National Championships

Kubb is most popular in Europe. European tournaments are held in Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain and many more. Most countries have their own national championship tournament. Some of the more notable local tournaments are the Kubb It Up in Switzerland, Dresdner Frühjahrsmeisterschaft in Germany and the KubbHW in the Netherlands.

Kubb is gaining in popularity on other continents as well. Tournaments in the U.S. have exploded since 2007, especially in the Midwest. Also on the Asian and Australian continents, kubb is no longer a rarity.

Kubb unites people and creates peace on Earth.
Slogan of the Kubb World Championship