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History and Information

Kubb is a Swedish game whose history is not entirely clear. The game is a unique effort that is like a cross between Aunt Sally and Volleyball.

To describe the game as briefly as usefully possible, it is played upon a court of two sides, as in Tennis but without a net. Skittle pins are set up on either side. Each turn, the players on one side attempt to topple the pins on the other with 6 baton sticks. Those that are knocked over and picked up by their opponents and thrown into the other court where they are righted ready for the next turn. After much toing and froing, one side eventually manages to knock over all 5 of the skittle pins on the opposing side during their turn at which point they can attempt to win by topping the Queen skittle in the middle of the court.

The game is thus a fascinating combination of skill and tactics but, be warned, it can go on for some time if the sides are evenly matched...

One can speculate as to the origins of any game and indeed many people do. Kubb is apparently Swedish for "wood block" and proponents of the game claim its history goes back to the Viking era, around 1000AD. No evidence has been seen by this author to support such a theory and it seems more likely that, in common with a number of other games such as Sjoelbak, the game is more likely to be an late 19th or early 20th century invention.

Kubb has local variations across Scandinavia and into Russia but beyond that, it is actually one of a family of such games wherein skittles are toppled by opposing teams. There is a similar game called Kyykkä played across Northern Europe and Russia (where it is called Gorodki) being particularly popular in Finland. The objective is to knock skittles out of a playing area by throwing bats at them. The author has never seen the game but he assumes that these are not bats of the winged variety.

One interesting version of Kubb comes from Russia and is played using horse anklebones. The game is called Bunnock and is apparently a game that came from the Russian army, the requisite equipment being readily available for bored foot soldiers on duty in Siberia. The Bunnock World Championships are played annually in Saskatchewan, Canada, the game having travelled with Russian immigrants to that region.

Related modern descendants of these game are still being invented in the region including Mölkky and Riddarspelet (Tournament of Knights). Meanwhile Kubb is rapidly becoming an international concern with serious play occurring in many countries including Britain, Italy, France, Germany and the USA.


The Gotland Kubb World Championship in English and Swedish.

Tournament of Knights from the game's inventor, Micael Hellberg

Buy Kubb and Tournament of Knights at Masters Traditional Games.






Email to jm at tradgames.org.uk

Copyright © 1997 - now by James Masters.