Fun & Games
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The Best Lawn Game You Never Played: Fun with Kubb

This unique lawn game is inexpensive, simple to make and will give you countless hours of cabin fun

By Andy Bennett
Published: March 24, 2011
With just some simple shop tools and a few hours to spare over the course of one cabin weekend, you can create your very own Kubb set. The best part is getting creative with your king.
Photo by Tanya Bäck
The cabin horseshoe pit is almost as ubiquitous as the cabin fire pit. It seems like you can’t throw a stone in cabin country without it skipping across a dusty patch of earth framed by two metal posts. But as fun as a game of horseshoes (or badminton or croquet for that matter) can be, you can only play for so long before you crave something new. Put it this way: You wouldn’t just eat steak for the rest of your life, would you? Okay, nevermind, bad example.
Point is: Lawn games don’t begin and end at those tried-and-true old standbys. And if you’re looking to spice up the action on your cabin turf, have I got an idea for you.

This simple and addictive lawn game is a gift from the Vikings. No, not the Vikings NFL team (the only gift they give is perpetual heartbreak), the ACTUAL Vikings. Think long beards and battleaxes. Also known as “Viking Chess,” Kubb can be played on everything from grass to sand to even ice.
A complete Kubb set can be made over the course of a single Saturday for around $50, using tools most cabin owners and do-it-yourself tinkerers have on hand. And by the time you’re done, you’ll have a new game to throw into rotation on your lawn – one that is deceptively challenging and incredibly addictive.

The Tools

From the tool shed you’ll need a miter saw, a table saw (or circular saw fitted with a fence), and a paintbrush for staining (optional).
From the hardware store, you’ll need one 8-foot-long 4x4 for the game pieces, 6 feet of 1¼-inch dowels for the batons and 4 feet of ¾-inch dowels for the stakes. And you’ll want to pick out your favorite color of stain as well. Although, you could let them remain au naturel. The people playing will be having too much fun to care how pretty the pieces are.

The Steps

1. Cut the King. Cut a 12-inch piece from one end of the 4x4 with the miter saw. The remaining length will be used for the Kubb pieces. But first, spend a little more time on the king.

2. Decorate the King. It’s up to you how detailed you want to go here. Cut some notches in the top with the table saw to give it a rudimentary crown, make a pair of angled 45-degree cuts one-quarter of the way from the top to set it apart from the rest of the pieces or paint it a bold color. You could even let family and friends draw designs on it with markers, or you can leave it as a big square block. It’s really up to you.

3. Cut the Pieces. The remaining Kubb pieces need to be smaller, so they’re easier to knock over and are visually different from the king. This is easy to accomplish with your table saw (or circular saw fitted with a fence). Simply rip ¾ of an inch off two adjacent sides of the 4x4 to change the dimensions down to 2¾-inches square. Note that if you use a circular saw instead of a table saw, you’ll need to flip the 4x4 over and make the same cuts on the backside as well, as a circular saw blade is not big enough to cut through the entire thickness of the 4x4. Once you’ve got your 2¾-inch 6-foot piece, mark out 10, 6-inch cut lines on the piece and cut them, using your miter saw.

Photo by Tanya Bäck
4. Cut the Dowels. The dowels will act as your tossing batons, which you’ll use to try to topple the Kubb pieces and eventually the king. Mark out six, 12-inch cutlines on your 6-foot 1¼-inch dowel and cut using your miter saw.  

5. Cut the Stakes. The last pieces needed for a complete Kubb set are the corner stakes that will help you mark off the playing field. Make four 12-inch cutlines on your 4-foot ¾-inch dowel and cut using your miter saw.

6. Stain or decorate as you see fit. You can make them as ornate or as simple as you’d like, but one good idea is to wrap 16 feet of nylon cord or rope around one corner stake, and 26 feet of nylon cord or rope around another. This will help you to quickly and accurately measure out the length and width of your playing field.

The Game
Separate the players into two teams. It could be you and your significant other, or an entire family reunion, but put one half on one side of the field and one half on the other.
Stake off a 16-foot-wide by 26-foot-long playing field and place the king square in the center of the playing field.
Divide the Kubb pieces, and place 5 on each baseline at opposite ends of the playing field, evenly spaced.
With the set-up completed, you’re now ready to play. The goal of the game is to take turns tossing batons from behind your baseline at your opponent’s Kubb pieces. Each team gets six tosses, and once their batons are used up, their turn is over.
If your team has knocked over any baseline Kubbs during your turn, the opposing team now has to toss those felled baseline Kubbs into your team’s side of the playing field, and set them up again where they land. They then must knock their own felled Kubb pieces over first before they can go after any of your baseline Kubbs.
This is where strategy comes into play, as your opponent will want to get their felled Kubbs as close to the center line as possible, which will make them easier to topple, so they can then turn their attention to your baseline Kubbs. However any felled Kubbs they can’t knock down in their turn becomes your new baseline to throw from, which makes their baseline Kubbs easier targets.
Note that if your opponent is unable to toss a field Kubb over the centerline and into your side of the playing field on two consecutive tries, you can then place that field Kubb anywhere you want, as long as it’s a baton length from the centerline. We highly recommend a spot right behind the king. Because if anyone on either team knocks over the king before all the Kubbs have been toppled, the game is over, and the team that knocked over the king loses.
But if play progresses with the king still standing, the first team to clear the field of Kubbs gets one shot per turn to topple the king. Once someone does, that team is the winner.
Kubb is simple to play, easy to set up and so incredibly addictive that you might leave your horseshoe pit, badminton net – or even your PWC –  a little neglected.

Andy Bennett tosses a wicked Kubb. He also has been known to spike a birdie, soar through a wicket and peg a ringer or two. If there were lawn game Olympics, he’d definitely try out for the team.

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