Kubb, or “Viking Chess”, is a popular Swedish yard game for people of all ages! The rules may seem extensive but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, Kubb is a great addition to any outdoor family gathering!

view from the grass looking up at man throwing wooden baton, wooden Kubb king piece in the foreground
photo credit: Johan Larsson

What is Kubb?

Kubb is a competitive Swedish yard game with the objective of knocking over wooden blocks by throwing wooden batons at them.

Though Kubb is also referred to as “Viking Chess”, Kubb can best be described as a combination of competitive bowling and horseshoes.

Variations of Kubb hav been around for thousands of years and rumor has it that Vikings used to play Kubb with the remains of their enemies skulls and bones!

More likely however, is that the game has always been played with wooden blocks and has a more innocent, leisured history.

grass field with Kubb pieces displaying game play. Wooden baton midair about to strike wooden king piece
photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nederlands_Kampioenschap_Kubb,_Kubb_team_5.jpg

How do you play Kubb?

Kubb is a competitive game played by two teams standing at opposite ends of a small playing field or “pitch”. The blocks, or “kubbs” are placed at each end of the pitch, five on each side. The king is placed in the middle of the pitch.

The main objective of the game is to knock over the opposing teams kubbs before they knock over yours. Once your team has knocked over the opposing teams kubbs and then the king, your team is victorious.

When your team knocks over the opposing teams kubbs, those pieces become defensive pieces placed on your teams half of the pitch.

To start, one player from each team throws a baton towards the king. The team whos baton lands closest to the King without touching it, gets to start the game.

Note: Players must throw the baton underhand, with no spinning or sidearm action.

Once the starting team has been determined, Team 1 throws the baton at the opposing teams kubbs aiming to knock them over. When Team 1 knocks a kubb over, Team 2 throws the kubb onto Team 1’s side. These kubbs are now “field kubbs” and are essentially defensive pieces.

The “field kubb” must be stood up and placed where it landed.

If a kubb is thrown out-of-bounds, one re-throw is allowed.

If the kubb is thrown out-of-bounds a second time, the opposing team may place the “field kubb” anywhere they would like, as long as it is at least one baton length away from the king.

Now for Team 2’s turn, they must knock down any and all field kubbs before aiming for Team 1’s baseline kubbs. If Team 2 does not knock down all field kubbs, Team 1 has the advantage of throwing from the closest field kubb still standing.

Note: If at any time the king is struck before all baseline kubbs have been knocked over, that is an automatic loss and the game is over.

Gameplay continues back and forth between Team 1 and Team 2 until all baseline kubbs, and then the king have been knocked over. The first team to knock down all baseline kubbs and then the king is the winner!

Confused?? Check out this video for better visual of live gameplay:

How do you set up the Kubb pitch?

The Kubb pitch should be set up to suite your specific yard or playing area requirements. Typically the pitch is a 5 meter by 8 meter rectangle.

There are a total of ten kubbs, with five placed on each teams baseline.

The King placed in the middle of the pitch and six wooden throwing batons.

Stakes and rope can be used to make an official boundary for the pitch, or in more relaxed gameplay, teams can vote if the throw is out of bound or not.

overhead view of wooden Kubb pieces; 10 wooden kubb blocks, 6 wooden batons, one kubb king piece and 4 stakes
photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kubb_set.jpg

How many people can play Kubb at a time?

Kubb is a team game with one to six players on each team.

Kubb is a great family yard game because many people can play at once! That said, to keep game play engaging we don’t recommend playing with more than a total of twelve people. Two to three people per team is ideal.

Given the simplicity of gameplay and many players, Kubb is a great backyard game for the next family barbecue!

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