Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kubb - the game most of us have never heard of

Not too long ago, I was invited to a local church gathering, a Halloween party. I went there with my wife and kids and we had a great time. While it was an enjoyable evening, I will not soon forget my first chance to play Kubb.

It's an interesting game and I must admit that the next game to come to mind when I saw other people playing Kubb was Curling. You know, that game where grownups push around smooth orbs with handles on ice to knock other smooth orbs around? Yeah, that game.

I had no idea what I was doing there, in that room with tape in a line at each end of the room and five short stumpy sticks at regular intervals along the baseline and one much taller stick in the center. They gave me and my wife little sticks to throw at the stumpy sticks at the other end of the room. My wife and I played while my kids and a growing peanut gallery looked on. I just took direction from the people who set up the game and did my best. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but we managed to win our first game on the first try. Beginner's luck, I guess.

You can find the rules and history of the game here, on the Wikipedia site. Here is a picture of a game in play:

I found a great video of the game here:

in the video, the host explains the game very well, but he's got it wrong on the history of the game as it was never really played by the Vikings. The Wikipedia article explains that the earliest historical reference to the game dates to the early 20th century. In any case, this is the top rated video to learn how to play the game.

Surprisingly, there is a national organization in the US and they hold championship events every year since about 1995. Here is a video of the 2013 championship game:

As you can see, the game is still gaining traction in the US, so it's early days. But I found the game fascinating in several respects. The fact that it's even played at all in a time where electronics dominate everywhere is a surprise all by itself. 

I enjoyed the game because it's not electronic, because its so visceral. You know, it's not a video game. There are *other people* around and you get to see them and talk to them. You might even socialize with them while you play. I know, heavy concept.

The game can be played indoors or outdoors, on sand, grass, snow and ice. The Swedes have been identified as the inventors of the game, and that sounds about right. Hey, if it's really cold outside, what else are you going to do to pass the time? Read a book?

So if you should happen upon a game of Kubb in the park after a good snow, stick around and check it out. You might even get a chance to play and make a new friend.
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