How To Play Kubb

So, you want to know how to play kubb?

It is actually quite easy to play. I like to think of it as a mix of bocce ball and horseshoes. There aren’t too many rules, so it’s very easy to pick up and know how to play after going through it once.

For the official rules, we defer to the USA Kubb Official Rules, but have also placed a brief version of the Kubb rules below on this page for your convenience.

For those of you who want the quick and dirty version of how to play Kubb (Viking Chess), check out this video:

Below we’ve gathered a concise version of the Official Kubb Rules. These rules will get you through most games and situations. Especially if you’re a beginner, we suggest watching the video above to get a basic visual breakdown of how to play.

Kubb Setup:  For tournaments, the below dimensions are used:
Pitch: 5m wide x 8m long.
One King: 8x8x25cm to 9x9x30cm
Ten kubbs: 7x7x15cm.
Six batons: diameter 4.4cm, length 30cm.
Four corner stakes and two mid-pitch stakes
For recreational play and to accommodate differing skill levels, pitch dimensions can vary.

The corner stakes are placed so that a rectangle is formed, measuring 5m x 8m. The center stakes are placed in the middle of the sidelines. The king is placed upright in the center of the pitch, and five kubbs are placed on each baseline. The pitch is ready for play

kubb field setup
Click to enlarge Kubb field setup image.


Gameplay:  The teams or individual players determine amongst themselves which team throws first and which side each team will be on. Starting in 2015, the U.S. Championship began using a method called the 2, 4, 6 open. Team A throws two batons (two different players have to throw). Team B then throws four batons (at least three different players have to throw). Team A then throws six batons, and six batons are then used through the remainder of the game. You start by throwing their batons from behind your baseline, attempting to knock down the kubbs on the opposite baseline. Batons may rotate vertically when thrown.

After all the batons are thrown, the opposing team gathers any kubbs that were knocked down. That team throws them back across to the other half of the pitch (to the opponent’s side of the field). Kubbs thrown back into play are called field kubbs, and are placed upright by the first team where they came to rest. If a kubb comes to rest outside of the field of play, the team is allowed to throw that kubb again, after all kubbs have been thrown. If that kubb comes to rest outside the field of play a second time, it becomes a punishment kubb, and the other team is allowed to place it wherever they would like within one baton length of the king or marking stakes. The second team then throws their batons, first attempting to knock down any field kubbs, then the kubbs on the baseline, and then the king.

If they are unable to knock down all of their kubbs and the king, then the first team picks up all knocked down kubbs, throws them into play as field kubbs, and then tries to knock them over with the batons. Play continues until the game ends. If at any time a team does not knock down all the field kubbs in their opponents half of the pitch, the other team is allowed to move up to the kubb closest to the center line and throw their batons from that new line. Kubbs and baton throws at the king are always thrown from the baseline.

The game is won by the team who knocks down all the kubbs in their opponents half of the field and on the baseline, and then knocks over the king. However, if a team knocks down the king prior to knocking down all the kubbs, then that team immediately loses the game – so be careful with the king! In tournament play, matches are often best-of-three games.

The U.S. Kubb Championship and most other U.S. Kubb tournaments play with the official U.S. National Kubb Championship Rules. The U.S. Championship rules were developed from the World Championship rules. It is the most in-depth kubb rules document in the world. However, some phases and situations in kubb can be complicated and potentially indefinable by any ruleset. If a specific situation is not covered in these rules, the decision shall be made in accordance with fairness, and being influenced by the spirit of the game. Often a logical extension of the closest existing rule or the principles embodied in the rules will provide guidance for determining the resolution.

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