Great Lakes Kubb members in a blasting competition. All photos courtesy of Phil Dickinson.
The biggest thing I worry about when practicing alone is getting bored. If I’m going to stay refreshed and challenged, I need to change up my practices as often as possible. Even when the Great Lakes Kubb club members show up and play we find different ways to make it interesting. Sometimes it means switching partners constantly, having ladder matches (and having a top place hammer), playing a game variation (Viking Chess, Reduced Batons, and Blaster’s Glory), setting up practice drills, playing Kubb Olympics, or having competitions using a particular skill (lag toss, blasting piles, eight meter, or drilling).
It helps when we can plan practice time around a campfire, pizza party, music, or sharing a favorite drink. It’s great when we have newbies to teach. Sometimes (believe it or not!) we even try a new yard game now and then, like cornhole, Knock It Off!, Bunnock, 7 Birds, and Molkky.
When I practice by myself, I have a goal in mind for what I want to accomplish with each activity. Sometimes I set a mark for myself such as a percentage I want to hit. This keeps it competitive for me and I tend to work harder. If there is a tournament in the near future, I tailor my practices to meet the need of my role at the event. For example, if my primary role is to throw eight meter and inkast, I will focus most of my practices on these two skills. If the tournament is a 1 v 1, I’m practicing everything equally.
So, with all that said, here are my top five favorite practices, in descending order, that I feel will make me a well-rounded kubber.
5: Inkasting Stakes
I drill five kubbs as close to a stake on the pitch as possible. Then I pick them up and move forward to another stake and drill them again. I’ll use all six marking stakes on the pitch. I designate which stakes I am going to work different drills: regular cuts, goofy cuts, flat drill, and low angle rolls. I focus on two different spin velocities depending on what drill I am using. I tend to spin the first few with greater torque and decrease the velocity as I am trying to strategically place the kubbs in the pile.
4: 21 Skulls
This is a game I can play indoors or outdoors. I set up seven rows of kubbs three deep and six inches apart in every direction. I throw six batons from four meters away. I restrict my baseline to about three meters. I count whatever is left standing. I do this for 10 turns (like frames in bowling). I set a goal of trying to get under 40 points or some other number. My focus is to get a perfect 360 degree rotation of the baton every time and have the head of the baton hit the intended kubb squarely. I want the same speed every time—not too fast and not too slow. This game will also force me to work on hitting the kubb high, low, or on one edge or the other to try and get the action I need to topple multiple kubbs. This is a great competitive game to play with any number of players.
The player that opens a game of kubb with two base kubbs down first will always have about a 75 percent chance of winning the game. How do you neutralize this statistic? In the round of four throws, it’s critical to get the two field kubbs down with one throw. This drill helps me work on this skill. The king is first removed from the playing field. I drill five piles of two kubbs each along the centerline trying to space them apart as equally as possible. Then I raise them defensively. If a kubb is not playable after two inkast attempts, they are both disqualified and removed from the pitch. A baton is also forfeited. Two points are automatically added to my score. After the kubbs in play are raised, I try to get them all down with six batons. A baton can only attack one pile at a time. If a kubb from a different pile falls accidentally it gets raised back up again in its original position. After I throw all six batons, I count the number of kubbs left standing and that’s my score for the turn. As a bonus, if I have a baton left in my hand, I subtract one point from my score. I add up my points after 10 turns (frames). I set a goal of getting less than 30 points for the game. This practice drill has a lot to offer. It helps me focus on drilling kubbs and how to position (especially the second throw), how to best defend, forces me to take shots from different angles and distances, and makes me decide when it’s best to take risks. This is a great game to play alone or with an opponent (or in teams of two or three—just share the batons equally). When playing in teams, there is an advantage to having lefties and righties on the team.
21 Skulls or Doubles Scoresheet Example
2: Around the Pitch
This is truly my litmus test for eight meter proficiency. I do this one almost every time I practice. I throw batons until I get every base kubb down and then the king last. Short of any lucky baseline doubles, an “11” is a perfect game. My goal is to get less than 20. I don’t stop practicing for the day until I do so. Getting them all down in 17 throws is a 65 percent success rate. Not bad if I can do this consistently!
1: Phantom 10 in Play
This is my favorite practice drill. I do it constantly. It’s intense and challenging. The objective of this practice drill is to play a game against myself, but the game is never over until I am inkasting all 10 kubbs. One hour of any “phantom” game is like three hours of tournament play because the pace is faster and you are handling all the batons.
How do you like to practice? Let us know in the comments.