I’m a big fan of lawn games. A picnic isn’t a picnic without a lively round of throwing washers or Frisbee, as far as I’m concerned. What I love about lawn games is how easy they are organize, and how players are able to find that happy medium between competition and rabid intensity.
I’ve never seen a person angrily hurl a Frisbee into the woods after a bad toss, and I’ve gotten to know many acquaintances better after humbly congratulating them as they cover my hard earned five-point washer toss. In my younger days, my friends and I would spend entire weekends at Crystal Beach with people that we had met within hours of setting up an impromptu sand volleyball net.
If you serve it, they will most definitely come.
The game was imported from Sweden, and as you might suspect, is played with square wooden pieces and practical, common-sense rules.
Lawn games don’t just have to be restricted to old classics, though. We live in Houston, after all.
In this city, things are often a bit more . . . eclectic. This is a city where you can get Vietnamese, Greek and Salvadoran food within a block of each other and maybe see an Art Car or three along the way, and I sense that Houstonians might want to approach the traditional lawn game concept with the same adventurous spirit.
This is the city that introduced Major League Baseball to domed stadiums and Astroturf, after all.
With Memorial Day weekend here, I want to sing the praises of a lawn game that was recently introduced to me. Kubb (pronounced “koob”) is a game that satisfies every requirement of what good lawn competition is all about.
The game can be played at the drop of a hat, with as few as two people or as many as 12. It presents an opportunity for players to toss objects at other objects — a strangely common element in these sorts of games — and you can play it virtually anywhere.
The game was imported from Sweden, and as you might suspect, is played with square wooden pieces and practical, common-sense rules. The object of the game is simply to use six wooden batons (officially called “kastpinnars”) to knock down each of your opponent’s line of square blocks (called “kubbs”) before knocking down the bigger middle block, or “king.”
Easy enough, right? Not so fast, pardner.
If one of your kubbs is knocked over, you then must shamefully throw it past the king in the middle (throwing overhand or side-arm is a no-no). Once this happens, your opponent proceeds to set it up for you to knock over again before you start aiming for their kubbs. The key strategy here is to try and keep the thrown piece as close to your side as you can, while keeping it away from the king.
After each kubb is knocked over on one side, a player can then start aiming for the king. Knock over the king after all of your opponent’s kubbs are down, and you win. Knock the king over before the last kubb falls, and you have just lost the game.
What I like most about this game is how clean and simple the pitch (normally five meters by eight meters) looks when a game is underway. There is something immediately appealing about wooden blocks scattered across a field of green grass, accompanied by the dull thud of the kastpinnars as they knock over a few kubbs. There’s also the added bonus that you and your kubbmates might be the first ones on the block playing this strange, wonderful lawn game.
You are sure to arouse the curiosity of bystanders, which may very well lead to some wonderful opportunities for Kubb evangelization.
Because the game uses such rudimentary pieces, you don’t even need to scour the Internet to order your own set (though sets can be found online if you're looking.) All you really need is a 72-inch 4x4, a 72-inch wooden pole, a table saw and a tape measure. Cut the 4x4 into 10 six-inch kubbs and one 12-inch king, cut the wooden pole into six 12-inch batons, pack the game up in your favorite reusable bag, head to Menil Park, and you’re set!
I’ll see y’all on the Kubb pitch, Houston.