DISCLAIMER (or the DONT PANIC section): We generally don't know what we are talking about....generally. However, we love kubb, and breaking kubb down into composite parts helps everyone understand the game better. This is not a way to try to find the loophole of kubb, or to break it. We just want to get other people thinking about the game in a way they might not have before. We are not kubb. Kubb is immortal. We are just a couple of obsessive individuals with spreadsheets and too much time on our hands…

Aaaaand go!

I recently was witness to one of the deepest conversations about kubb (ever) in an email I was cc'd on. It had numbers in it, there were disagreements, and then some more numbers. I hate math, so I ignored most of it, but I wanted to share some excerpts from it, as Chris Hodges continues to find the answer to winning kubb through numbers, the chaos theory, and fringe sciences.

First, the answer to everything (42) starts with the baselines:

When Chris & I started training for Rockford last Spring he was hitting in the high 20%’s and he set his personal goal at 42% (or just over 2.5 hits out of every 6). Seem random? Apparently it wasn't! Chris says that 42% is MAGIC for Kubb; it's the answer – it means that for every set of 6 throws you will hit:


Zero kubbs less than 1/20th of the time (3.81%)

At least two kubbs 4/5ths of the time (79.65%)

At least three kubbs half of the time (49.71%)

At least four kubbs 1/5th of the time (20.80%)

And you’ll clear out the baseline more than 1/20th of the time (5.10%)


Nice, round numbers, and I think it’s competitive (at least for now!) So, this has been my goal as well. I’ve only just recently started hitting it regularly in practice, although I cannot translate those numbers yet in a tournament setting.
A 42% hit rate for 8 meter shots is necessary for a team to play competitively from the video Chris has poured over on Youtube. It is the answer to placing in your round robin, and having a good chance in the quarterfinals. If you can hit 3 kubbs on your initial assault, there is a good chance half the other teams' batons will be used in the field. That means that you will have 1.25 of your baselines toppled (assuming the other team is also at 42%. An opponent with a good short game can potentially hit a double or triple with well-placed drills, but most of the time you are looking at 4 in play after the first round, and 3 of them coming from your opponents baseline.

Second, the most important throw in kubb is NOT the drill:

I expect KubbNation Magazine will have us banned from stories and sponsorship opportunities for this but Chris believes that the most important throw in kubb is the initial baton throw to see who throws first, and he has the stats to prove it:

After Chris reviewed all the local footage of DMKC Ranked and Tournament play, here's the magic number: 75%

Chris' research shows that throwing first in a game gives you a 75% chance of winning, assuming both teams are similar in skill level.

Isn't that really, REALLY high?!? Is Chris?

Data used to get that number includes all footage that Des Moines Kubb has in Ranked Matches, tournaments, and full matches available online.

Consider that there are 6 possible outcomes for a match between teams A & B (listing game winners):


1) A, A

2) A, B, A

3) A, B, B

4) B, A, A

5) B, A, B

6) B, B


Let’s say that team A won the toss and has elected to open, and let’s further assume that the 1st tosser wins 75% of the time. That translates the above outcomes to the following probabilities:


1) 0.75 * 0.25                 18.8%

2) 0.75 * 0.75 * 0.75       42.2%

3) 0.75 * 0.75 * 0.25       14.1%

4) 0.25 * 0.25 * 0.75       04.7%

5) 0.25 * 0.25 * 0.25       01.6%

6) 0.25 * 0.75                 18.8%


Team A wins outcomes 1, 2, & 4 for a total of 65.6%, Team B wins 3, 5, & 6 for 34.4%, so Team A is NOT QUITE winning the match twice as often as Team B, which is just about in line with our clubs experience.

So why? Why 75%? And where's my towel?

Chris believes the explanation is threefold:

1. The winner of the opening toss is determined by skill, so it’s not surprising that the team more likely to win the match is also more likely to win the opening toss

2. Unless the non-opening team wins the game with their 6th baton in any given round, the opening team has thrown more batons. If we are of similar skill and I get more throws I’m going to get more hits and win more games

3. Not only does the opening team get more throws overall, but (assuming both teams do their jobs in the field) a higher percentage of those throws are at baselines, and throws at baselines win games. (Or rather, good field play gets you baseline opportunities, capitalizing on baseline opportunities get you kings shots, and king shots win games!)

It is important to consider extenuating environmental circumstances, such as the weather during the 2011 US Nationals. Teams were selecting side first due to heavy winds. They wanted the wind at their back. However, when two team of equal strength meet on a field with no apparent advantages to side, the records show you will have a better chance to win your games, and as a result, your matches

So long, and thanks for all the kubb. And remember:

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
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