Kubb On: Tour (Bryan Jones, Christopher Jones, Kyle Weakland) encountered many new (to them) rules while they were on their European trip. Kubb On would like to preface this article reminding you that this is just their personal opinions. Some rules were liked and some were not; the team is not saying anyone is right or wrong, just offering their thoughts and feelings on the rules.

Small Sets

In Germany and Switzerland they usually use a smaller set than we use here in the U.S., Belgium, and Sweden. We got a chance to use these smaller sets at the Pfälzer Kubb Open in Schindhard, Germany. The small sets measure at 7.5 centimeters for the kings, kubbs are 6 centimeters and the batons are 4 centimeters as opposed to the bigger sets measuring 9 centimeters for kings, 7 centimeter kubbs and 4.4 centimeter batons.

Bryan: Leading up to the trip I was not looking forward to having to adjust to smaller sets. Because I was so used to the larger sets (never playing on a small set previously) I feared my accuracy would be off. However, after a bit of practice and adjusting to the odd feeling of slightly skinnier batons (not a fan) I felt fairly confident playing on the smaller sets. As for 8 meters I think the smaller kubbs didn’t change the game much and actually encouraged more accurate throws to hit the kubbs dead on. When it came to inkasting (something I am not great at in general) I found the smaller kubbs slightly easier to group than our larger sets, although I missed the extra weight you get with a larger kubb. Overall I didn’t mind using smaller kubb sets as much as I had anticipated, but I still prefer larger sets; especially since those are more widely used in most tournaments.

Christopher: I didn’t get to play in the Pfälzer Kubb Open (huge regrets!) but I did experience playing on these sets last year on a different visit to Germany. In general, I prefer the larger sets. This might just be my familiarity with them, but I found drilling to be easier and more consistent. An advantage to the smaller sets, though, is the amount of action you get. It’s very easy to string together big multiples when the kubbs and baton seem to scatter all over the place. Since the World Kubb Championship, all of the U.S., Belgium and increasingly the Swiss tournament use the bigger sets, I’m going to give the edge to them.

Kyle: I actually didn’t mind the small sets too much, before getting my hands on them I was worried that the weights would be different and with all the pieces being smaller that accuracy would be a problem but I didn’t notice a huge difference. I had trouble with inkasting at first but I was able to adjust the second day. Throwing 8 meters was surprisingly similar to the big sets, I think the batons had good weight which helped with accuracy. Blasting is where I noticed the biggest difference. It doesn’t take much force to make the kubbs explode in all directions, so a pile that looked like it might take three or four batons with a big set could be cleared in two or three on the smaller set.

Boundary Lines- Strings

In both Germany and Switzerland we played with strings as the boundary lines instead of just pins or painted lines. They play 100 percent in with strings, which means if a kubb was righted and it touched the string, it was considered out of bounds.

Bryan: Strings for lines was probably the most surprising thing that I ended up loving. I had heard about using strings before and always thought they would be more trouble than they were worth. Boy was I wrong! I like how strings provide a crisp, virtually undisputable line throughout the day. I found that there were far fewer uncertainties when determining whether or not kubbs were in bounds. My only problem with string is that it needs to be clear that when a kubb is raised and the side/edge of the kubb is touching the edge of the string but it’s footprint is not ON the string it is in bounds. I came across this once in Schindhard when one of my inkasted kubbs was raised and determined out of bounds by the opposing team. Only later did I find out that it was in fact an in-bounds kubb, which could have changed the game outcome. Other than that one technicality, I fully support the use of strings and hope to start seeing them used in tournaments here in the United States.

Christopher: I was extremely skeptical about strings going into this trip. I figured they’d get in the way of kubbs and batons, and most importantly my feet. These fears were unfounded, as the strings didn’t interfere with the game or my mobility, and made for such easy in and out calls. I don’t recall seeing any debates. If it touches the string, it’s out. So simple. Best of all, a taut string doesn’t have the imperfections a painted line has, so there’s no debating the “spirit of the line.” I’m fully on board with trying to bring this technique States-side.

Kyle: I loved using the strings for boundary lines! I was skeptical about them coming into our experience with them, but I found very few negatives to strings. I only saw one disagreement about whether a kubb was inbounds in our two tournaments and it was solved quickly. It was very easy to tell if kubbs were in or not after an inkast which sped up the game play a little bit. I did trip one time which can be a hazard. They also can come loose after someone trips but it was easily fixed by looping it around the nearest pin. I saw one baton get caught on the string on an 8 meter throw but it would have missed anyway and did not affect the game and I didn’t see any kubbs affected by the strings, but I have heard that it can happen.

Accelerated Play

At each of the European tournaments we went to, accelerated play was used to keep the tournament moving and on schedule. After a predetermined amount of time an announcement would be made or a special song played to let everyone know that accelerated play should start.

Bryan: I first experienced accelerated play last year at Kubb in the Kettle. I was not a huge fan of it back then as I felt it sometimes changed the outcome of a game if the leading team lost the king lag, allowing the trailing team to take a kubb away first. Of course, I always appreciated that opportunity when on the trailing team. Having only a small experience of accelerated play, I went into our European tour with an open mind ready to give this rule another try. Turns out, I ended up actually liking this rule quite a bit. It’s great to keep things moving along and I like that every game is guaranteed a winning king shot. I believe much of my previous disdain for this rule was due in part to it being new to everyone at Kubb in the Kettle so it was a bit confusing. In Europe, it is much more widely known and therefore seems to run more smoothly. While I still think accelerated play can sometimes give a slight advantage to whoever wins the king lag, I do appreciate the solid outcome of a win or loss rather than a tie or did not finish.

Christopher: I read Evan Fitzgerald’s article about accelerated play last year and was intrigued. It seemed interesting and I liked the idea that a game would still end in a king shot. It’s difficult to really feel strongly for something until you’ve witnessed it though. In much the same way kubb is a difficult game to describe without actually playing, I feel accelerated play is difficult to fully describe without actually trying it. Once we used it, it clicked. I liked it. It feels much better to win (or lose) with accelerated play than any throw-off or tie-breaker I’ve ever experienced. It also wrapped up games pretty quickly—more quickly than I expected. I’d like to see more tournaments in the U.S. give this a try. There’s a little learning curve, but I feel it’s definitely worth it.

Kyle: It worked really well, with games usually finishing within five to 10 minutes after the start of accelerated play. I think you need to give people at least 30 minutes for a single game before starting accelerated play which means I don’t think it would work with the traditional DMK 25 minute game time. But it works really well with a more open time schedule, count me in as a fan under the right circumstances.

Rethrow Kubbs Once

At the Pfälzer Kubb Open in Germany, they allowed only one opportunity to rethrow kubbs. If a kubb that had an inbounds footprint after the initial throwing phase was knocked out during the rethrow phase, it was considered out of bounds with no rethrows.

Bryan: If there was one rule I could do without, this might be it. I personally was a victim of this rule at least once during my inkasting. It just seems very unfair to punish a team for a kubb that has only been thrown once. This rule only negatively affected the game and caused more penalty kubbs than normal. I strongly discourage the use of this rule.

Kyle: I saw this happen a few times over the course of the tournament and I think it negatively affected the game. I can see how it would solve problems when you can’t remember which kubbs were thrown once or twice, but in my experience that’s almost never a problem. I think it’s a good solution to a non-problem.

Each person can only throw one baton in a row

In Belgium, they restricted players to only throwing one baton in a row. So after each throw, you had to switch to a different player and you couldn’t have one player with the last two batons without forfeiting a baton.

Bryan: While I understand the idea behind this rule is to try to even things out and promote more well-rounded players, I am not a fan. In my opinion this just takes away a team’s opportunity to strategize how to play out their turn. Some may say that it encourages a different type of strategy, and while that may be true, I think it really just limits a team’s strategy into a somewhat pre-determined structure. It forces players to take shots that they might not normally take or be prepared for, while their batons could be used more strategically elsewhere in their team’s turn. The rule certainly altered our potential as a team in Belgium, and I find it unnecessary to limit a player to one baton in a row in any tournament other than a 6v6.

Christopher: We were woefully unprepared for this one. The entire team strategy relied heavily on my blasting, followed by as many back row shots for Kyle and Bryan as possible. Having to pull in Kyle—and all too often then Bryan—on shorts really hurt us. In general, I don’t like limiting the number of throws in a row. If you’re playing a 3v3, let them do two in a row. A 2v2, take all three. I think each of these types of tournaments are very different and I prepare for them differently. This limitation creates a whole different strategy, while perhaps interesting, feels artificial to me.

Kyle: This rule we missed when researching before the tournament so our team plan was thrown out the morning of the tournament. I don’t have a strong opinion on this, on one hand it encourages everyone to be well rounded players but on the other hand it penalizes the lower skilled teams. I don’t think we’re quite ready for this in the U.S. yet as a lot of players are still very specialized. It also added a lot more strategy which I usually like, but I think we spent a lot of time strategizing our batons which slowed down play.

Baselines knocked down before the field is cleared stay down for the turn

At the Pfälzer Kubb Open in Germany if a baseline kubb was knocked down before the field was cleared, the baseline would stay down until the end of the turn and then it was put back up.

Bryan: I thought this one was sort of interesting. I saw it change the outcome of a game at least once, when a team had the batons to finish but couldn’t because they had knocked a baseline down during a blast at their field kubbs, then the opposing team came back and won on the next turn. Personally, I don’t like this rule and think it unnecessarily punishes a player for something they aren’t fully in control of. We all know batons can bounce and move in some crazy ways, so why should we penalize a team for that? Just put the kubb back up and let the game continue as normal, in my opinion.

Kyle: This was an interesting rule that I had never heard about before. I saw quite a few times during the day where people were accidentally picking up a baseline kubb early. I think once or twice I saw a team with batons leftover for the last baseline but they had to give up the batons because they hit the baseline too early. It’s an interesting rule but I feel like it penalizes players for throwing harder which I don’t think is fair.

The Sure Shot

In Switzerland, for the king shot it is required that when you knock over the king you must throw the baton between your legs, upside down, facing away from the king.

Bryan: I get that this is supposed to make for a harder 4 meter shot at the biggest piece in the game, but I don’t like it. I am often the king slayer on the teams I play on, and to me there is already enough pressure for a normal throw at the king. Adding in a completely different type of throwing motion just seems gimmicky and unnecessary. Is it a fun way to end a game in your backyard with friends? Sure. Should it be used in a tournament setting? I don’t think so.

Christopher: Or as I like to call it, the “very unsure shot.” None of Kubb On: Tour was particularly good at, or looking forward to these shots. The Swiss claim it makes the king shot more special, which I think they only claim because they’re all so great at it. For anyone not familiar with the shot, it adds a lot of pressure to an already high-pressure shot. I’m not a big fan. I fully admit it may be because I’m not good at it. I also contend its upside-down-but-technically-overhand style makes it unlike all other phases of the game, and therefore not a good addition to kubb. I’ll probably throw this in a few backyard games from time to time, but I hope it doesn’t become popular at more tournaments.

Kyle: We didn’t have too many opportunities to do this in Switzerland and we probably hit the king 40 percent of our chances. I think we lost one game because of it but to be honest we didn’t play well that day. My opinion on this rule hasn’t changed since before we used it at the Kubbmaister, I see this as a great house rule for a backyard barbecue but not for a competitive tournament. I also don’t like that the throwing motion is actually an overhand throw when the rest of the tournament is obviously underhand.