Tag Archives: play

kubb, lawn game of vikings.

I recently learned how to play Kubb, a delightful lawn game which may or may not have been invented by Vikings.

Kubb is an outdoor skittle bowling game played by two teams. Players take turns in throwing their six wooden batons at five wooden blocks called “kubbs” attempting to knock them down.  The goal is to knock down all five of the opposing team’s kubbs, then knock down the “king” block before the opposing team does.

Kubb has an engaging back-and-forth in the game play and strategic field positioning that reminds me of medieval warfare.

Set ’em Up and Knock ’em Down

The two teams begin the game with their kubbs lined up in opposing battle lines, with the king standing in the center of the field.

The first team begins play by throwing  their batons at the opposing line of kubbs. Any line kubbs knocked down are tossed back to the throwing team’s side and stood up in the field where they lay.

The second team then throws their batons, but must knock down these field kubbs before knocking down opposing line kubbs.

And once the opposing side’s kubbs are all downed, the king is an easy target.

Your throwing line is always marked at the field kubb on your side nearest the center. All your throws are made from this line.

If a team manages to knock down all field kubbs and all line kubbs on the opposing side, they may attempt to knock down the king–if they have a baton left!

A Backyard Battlefield

The initial throws bring to mind volleys of arrows between opposing lines on a battlefield. The knocked-down kubbs thrown back across to the opponent’s side are like riders, perhaps, sallying to skirmish on the field. The action changes focus sharply to the swirling skirmishes in mid-field, before resuming the fight in the battle lines. The ebb and flow of the throwing line mimics the gain and loss of ground in a battle.

And once the opposing side’s kubbs are all downed, the king is an easy target.

Viking Chess?

I love to play kubb. I love socializing over a casual game with friends in a park and answering questions from strangers about this strange-looking game of blocks and sticks. I love the sheer physicality of throwing the batons and trying to knock stuff down. It taps directly into my own childhood, bringing back memories of play, of make-believe battles and pretend wars in my back yard.

I suppose, really, kubb has about as much of a warfare theme as chess, but playing kubb gives me a thrill that tabletop games like chess simply can’t.

For More Information… 

If you’d like to learn more about kubb, check out this video.

You can download official rules and more at the U.S. National Kubb Championship page.

Check your Friendly Local Game Store for Kubb sets. I got the beautiful set pictured above at I’m Board Games and Family Fun in Madison, WI.


“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!”

– Benjamin Franklin

AttrAction: the power of play

I had friends over Friday night for dinner, drinks and games. It was a new beginning, a kind of relationship do-over after some past wounded feelings, so it was important to me that the evening went smoothly.

I’d planned an easy, quick meal that could accommodate everyone’s preferences. With drinks flowing, we ate and chatted, and the atmosphere grew steadily warmer. With full bellies and loosened inhibitions, we set about picking a game.

I waffled, as usual, about what to play. As the primary game guy, it usually falls on me to choose a game suitable for the occasion and the various experience of the players. I’d just gotten a copy of LORDS OF WATERDEEP, but I haven’t played it enough to be comfortable teaching it. It’s probably too complex for this mixed group, anyway. The award-winning HANABI had been requested earlier, but we chose another R&R Games product to start.

Really, it's futile.

ATTRACTION is a simple game of sliding or tossing strong shooter magnets into a field of similar magnets balanced on end to create, by magnetic attraction, groups of magnets. These groups, which clack and stack together in surprisingly vigorous fashion, may be collected by the shooter with the goal of possessing the most magnets at the end of the game. That’s all there is to it: lob a strong magnet onto a table scattered with other strong magnets and marvel at the weird, science-y effects. Also, collect magnets.

There isn’t much game to be found in ATTRACTION, but I don’t think the game is really the point. This is a game about playing with a big stack of shiny magnets and as a play experience, it was delightful. The few rules are simple and it comes with some suggested “advanced” variants, but we quickly found ourselves making up rules on the fly. I suggested a variant I learned at ACD Games Day last year where, instead of returning magnets to the center of the table when knocked off, it was legal to capture and keep them, but only if you caught them “on the fly” with your own collected magnet stack. This led to all sorts of competitive attempts at magnet-catching and improvised play styles.

Games of ATTRACTION are short, lasting only about 10 minutes, and we played five or six in a row before anyone was ready to play something else.  All but one of us had played HANABI previously, but it had been a while, so I briefed everyone on the rules and we started playing. By this time, however, we’d all had a few drinks and only made it about four or five rounds into the game before returning to the less-demanding playfulness of the magnets for the remainder of the evening.

It was an evening of laughter and celebration. Whether by the power of play, good food, strong drinks or the miracle of magnetism, old wounds were forgotten and everyone went home happy. I’m already looking forward to our next play session.

Fuckin' Magnets