Recently, a large Facebook thread started on the Des Moines Kubb page regarding a rule change at the 2014 US National Kubb Championship. The thread centered around a debate on whether the change was good for the spirit of the game of kubb, and questions around who the rule impacts; does it hurt/help a specific kubb team demographic.

The rule change in summary is that normally a team throws six batons each in a best of 3 match, whereas now at US Nationals, in the 3rd game of the match, only four batons are thrown.

The Planetkubb crew has taught me over time that the internet is an archive, intended to store information and easily access and interact with content. Facebook threads are no place for useful data; the dialogue would soon end up in the abyss of "forgotten information" with no metadata, no taxonomy, and no way to easily recall or retrieve the data. I wanted to keep this dialogue, as I think it is good to recall, and the Des Moines Kubb blog is going to have to do for now.

I also wanted the opportunity to constructively comment (as a tournament director) on many of the replies from our members and interested parties. I also reached out to the other Fall Kubb Klassic tournament director for his thoughts as well, as it was his countless hours of analysis, programming (Klassic Format) and discussion/blogs that has inspired other tournament directors to make changes over the years.

I would encourage you to use the comment threads at the bottom of this post for constructive feedback. Let's keep the dialogue going in a more permanent location.

June 29 at 8:51pm

Steve Feathers I for one don't like tinkering with the rules[JF-1]  and the bogus four baton rule introduced this year at several tournaments and being adopted for Nationals. The blog that supposedly sparked this trend was written after the discussions about how to lessen the power of the king toss had been taking place for over a year. The data is, in my opinion, incomplete and the conclusions flawed. And of course there's always the "who are we trying to harm or help with the rule change"[JF-2] it sure doesn't help the above average team and I'm not sure it even helps the top of the heap team but I think that's the intent. There has been no visible dissent to this rule change it just happens by dictate of the tournament directors. I for one don't like the change and believe it is harming Kubb more than helping. Again, that's just my less than humble opinion. Let's have a debate not a dictate.

[JF-1] All sports have to tinker with rules; sports are not perfect, and changes are made to sports every year. The intent of all rule changes stem from three things; enjoyment of the game, safety of the game, and fairness of the game. We can debate later how this rule works to strive towards one or more of those.

When did the first published US Kubb rulebook hit the “shelves”? Early 2011 I believe. Yes, only 3 years old. We (the royal “kubbnation” we) tinkered with the rules to be able to run a tournament in the states. 2 person teams/3 person teams…we had to do this to get enough teams to make it enjoyable. If we didn’t tinker, we would be a 6 person teams, a perfect game would be legal, and a complete helicopter could be thrown as long as it didn’t spin 90 degrees on the horizontal axis (yes, that is legal in Gotland!). US Kubb players and volunteers have made vast improvements to the game for the US in my opinion by tinkering (no offense VM). 10 degrees to 45 degrees was the big change last year, conforming to VM; that change affected EVERY throw, and affected some players more than others. And now we are tinkering with the 3rd game that affects the team, not specific players. I cannot tell you how many total games went to a 3rd at the US National Kubb Championship but the Round Robin had 21 games that went to a 3rd game, and 66 matches were played for 32% Source: planetkubb.com photos of round robins. At the Klassic in 2013 we had 28% of the games go to a 3rd Source: planetkubb.com Klassic 2013 results.

The other point that is worth making is that this rule only affects games that would be won before turn 5. If your 3rd match goes 6 or 7+ rounds, the 2 batons you sacrifice get lost in the mix, so to speak. The 4 baton open reduces any teams’ (competitive or new) chances for a turn 3 or 5 win. Turn 2 and 4 give slightly more recovery to Team B if Team A does damage with those first 4 batons. It can convert these rounds into “go ahead” rounds, where before Turn 2 and 4 were devoted solely to recovering from an assault. I don’t have the numbers, but Turn 3 and 5 wins are rare, and now will happen less. I expect to see more Turn 4 wins now.

[JF-2] On the surface, the rule change appears to help teams that are better and can outperform the other team. While the change may lead to less Cinderella stories in kubb, it will lead to a more even playing field for both teams, and will provide more opportunities for Cinderella stories. If you can take your team to a 3rd game, you now have a fighting chance, even if you lose the king shot. A less competitive team that doesn’t win the toss will only have to withstand a 4 baton volley from a powerhouse team, and if the powerhouse does not capitalize, Cinderella has 6 batons, and is salivating at the opportunity to be amazing and take the match. The Cinderella stories are still there. Secondly, no more “coasting” to a win in the 3rd. Before the change, you could simply tow the line on performance and you would most likely take the game if you won the king toss. A powerhouse team has to “prove it” and make their batons mean as much as if it were another powerhouse team they were playing.

Just to clarify, the rules help the team that is performing better in the match. There is an assumption that the better performing team is the more skilled team. From experience, I can tell you that is not the case all the time. Sometimes the better performing team is the mid-level team and they still don’t win because they lose a king toss. More opportunities for Cinderella stories become available.

So, how does the change correlate to safety, fairness, or enjoyment? As a spectator, I love the rule. No more whispering in the stands of the finals “The team that opens first will win the match.” As a spectator, I would love the opportunity to watch a 3rd game in the finals with this rule. Mono e’ mono kubb; the team that throws first in game 3 isn’t tossing more ammunition than targets. A possible recovery from an amazing 4/4 baton hit is possible, but still rare. As a spectator, I’m watching that game for sure.

As a player, it makes a fairer distribution of batons that both teams have to toss in the game, even if the game is short. I have seen a team ONCE recover from a 5 for 6 opening volley. There are probably more instances that I have not seen, but the point is, it doesn’t happen often.


Grant Scott YES! Hugs and kisses your way you sweet bastard you.

June 29 at 8:55pm · Like · 3

Katie Scott Well said Mr Feathers, I concur.

June 29 at 9:22pm · Like · 3

Nate Olson I have said time and time again that the rules are the rules (Dobbie has a copy for anyone interested)! On more than one occasion I have had a rule go against me in one tourney and the next tourney the rule is changed[JF-3]! I don't know how this one will play out...but don't dig it at all! Why even have a king toss anymore if it is of no benefit?[4] Let's just draw straws or flip a coin... That is my two cents! Thanks Steve! I'm with you 100%!

June 29 at 9:27pm · Like · 4

[JF-3] These are what I call the Nate Olson rules. It’s good that if a rule goes against you and you don’t feel it fair/right, it is revisited, and a change is made to address. That’s a good thing, right? If you felt slighted, and it goes against you, then someone changes it….that is a good tinker in my opinion.

[4] The intent of the 4 baton opening is that there is still an advantage of going first, just not AS MUCH now with the 4 baton opener. The king toss is still a skill shot, and provides you an advantage of side or throwing order. There is a significant advantage starting with 6, and there is still an advantage to starting with 4. I was personally against the 3 baton opener, because that provided (statistically) less of a benefit of throwing order than side would. I don’t want to flip a coin, but I can get on board letting a mid-range team have a chance to lose the king toss and still win, as what I think can happen with the 4 baton opening.

Mary Tapken The tournament directors should be able to provide different experiences at their events. If you don't want that type of experience then don't attend.[JF-5] With that being said I have reviewed the information and math behind the push for the change. I don't feel that there is enough of a difference in advantage percentage for that large of a change to benefit kubb. But I can appreciate the motivation to enhance kubb and don't feel there is anything sinister behind this evaluation.

June 29 at 9:39pm · Like · 3

[JF-5] As a tournament director, I am interested in catering to all levels of play and if I have the choice will always lean to the recreational/new team needs. This demographic is the core of tournaments…they fill the majority of the seats. The Klassic is a Charity with a vision of helping those in need, and rule changes that would negatively affect the majority of teams would be a bad call. Rules that cater 1/3 of the tournament participants would be a bad call.

I do not believe this rule to be negative to any team, but change brings discomfort and uncertainty. All I ask is that you know that I would never make changes to a tournament format that I felt only cater to competitive teams. This one caters to giving an advantage to the better performing team, and competitive teams can have bad performances.

Garrick van Buren Steve, well put. I don't believe the data supports the removal of 2 batons either (by my calculation even a 10% advantage is still <1 baton out of 6)[CH-1]. I predict the major side effect of this rule will be the king toss winner choosing the side (i.e. answering w/ 6)

June 29 at 9:51pm · Like · 4

[CH-1]Garrick – Chris Hodges here. The ~10% advantage is over the course of the entire game, not just the first round. As you know from the PlanetKubb stats, the average game length is about 9 turns – that correlates to about 5 turns for the opening team. 5 turns of 6 batons each comes to 30 batons, and 10% of that is 3. Removing 3 batons from the opening round would reduce the T1 advantage to about zero, while removing only 2 leaves a small (but real) incentive for throwing first. I would agree that this rule will lead to teams that win the king toss choosing side more often – in many ways that is the intent of the change: That the advantage of going first and the advantage of picking the favorable side be more equal.

Stephanie Kidder I don't like it either.

June 29 at 9:58pm · Like · 1

David Ellringer From personal experience in Madison we actually did better than with 6,

June 29 at 10:04pm · Like · 2

Ryan E Bartlett For us occasional players could some one point me to the issue at hand? I would like to read up an form an opinion. Thanks!

June 29 at 10:13pm · Like · 1

Steve Feathers Agree, Mary Tapken, I don't believe there is a sinister motive. I do think it is misguided.

June 29 at 10:28pm · Like · 1

Becca Hodges How is it misguided Steve?

June 29 at 10:34pm · Like

Mary Tapken Ryan the blog discussion is on the Des Moines Kubb web page. Steve I don't 100% agree with using misguided to describe this. I don't feel the explanation has faulty reasoning or judgement.

June 29 at 10:54pm · Like · 1

Tony Hansen I actually like the rule. I think it adds more strategy to a game that is supposed to be strategic, hence the "viking chess" moniker. Unless wind is a major factor[JF-6], almost every team will take batons. With this rule, it actually makes people think about whether they want a handicapped first chance or give it to the other team. I think it is a great rule since it adds more strategizing to the game.

Yesterday at 12:19am · Like · 2

[JF-6] Tony does bring up a good point about environmental factors. The only way that this rule would be LESS FAIR than a 6 baton open would be if there was a serious headwind. In that case choosing side could be more important than throwing 6 batons, let alone 4. Currently, there is no stats correlating environmental factors to win percentages of winning the king toss, but in my experience it can play the biggest factor in a game where light pieces of wood are thrown around.

Steve Feathers It is misguided because it is trying to fix something that. In my opinion, doesn't need fixed. I appreciate Chris Hodges work on this I just happen to disagree with the rule change.

Yesterday at 7:19am · Like · 1

Steve Feathers And yes Mary Tapken, there is always voting with your feet such as not attending a tournament. Something worth considering.[JF-7]

Yesterday at 7:21am · Like

[JF-7]For me, minor rule changes are second to the real reason I go to kubb tournaments. I have met more friends through a weekend out in the sun than I could have imagined. I like winning, but I would easily (if I had the means and time) go to a tournament and simply volunteer. Perhaps I break my arm….I’d still be there Friday night drinking cold ones with you all. I’d still be there watching the finals, hoping for a fair and longer 3rd game. It horrifies me that this was even brought up, honestly. I thought there was more to kubb than playing kubb.

Grant Scott I think Steve Feathers' words are being taken apart in the wrong way, since he and I discussed the issue in person (where opinions can be expressed easily and rapidly as opposed to this format). Chris Hodges put in a lot of work to gather the stats and ultimately came up with this baton option, which is similarly used across the waters, Steve's point is that the stats don't include A LOT of teams due to footage mostly including matches in quarter finals and beyond. Everybody, and I mean everybody, should have an opinion on this matter. But let's remind ourselves not to take it personally or too seriously. I agree with Steve, at this point in Kubb this rule change will hurt the less experienced teams as the 8m % aren't as high along with the lack of top level inkastare will prevent possible "upsets" due to less batons for an open. Some teams' only chance is to win the king toss and open big in game 1 and 3[JF-8]. With that being said, the "new" baton format when used in quarter finals and beyond or if all tournaments use The Meat Grinder (Chris hodges' true gift to Kubb) it will add more turns to games which is a plus. Maybe this baton change adds something to the game, maybe it doesn't. The only way to truly put it to the test would be using the format for all three games in the meat grinder format[JF-9]. Tony Hansen, I think you know a guy that might be able to make this happen in a few months. As at this point in one round I think the strategy is real limited. Round three against team I don't regularly see in QF I give them batons, team I regularly see in QF I'm taking batons.

Yesterday at 7:24am · Like · 3

[JF-8]But…..if the same team doesn’t win the king toss, they have a better chance of coming back in Turn 2 and 4 with the four baton open. Perhaps their opponents hit 1 of 3 (33% at 8m is nothing to scoff at). Now that team goes 1 for 1 in the field. They have 5 now to open the game up on the better team.

[JF-9] Grant brings up something I have been struggling with implementing….simply having the 4 baton open for all 3 games; something I think Chris would argue is even a better equalizer for David taking down Goliath. He also brings up the point that the Klassic format ensures that “like teams” are playing each other, therefore, the 4 baton open has more of an equalizing factor to it. If you are playing a “like team” (one you share the same record with), there’s more of a chance your games are similar in accuracy/efficiency, therefore, you would most likely welcome a 4 baton open.

Grant Scott Wow, that is a really long post... Sorry, not sorry?

Yesterday at 7:25am · Like · 1

Tony Hansen Again, I choose to not look at this change as a "fix," but more as a simple rule change for the sport. Every singly sport out there gets rule changes over the course of its existence. I choose to use rule changes as a chance to see how I can utilize it strategically in my game. The same opportunity happened when the 10 degree rule was changed to 45.

If you really don't like the rule change, simply win your games in two and you won't have to worry about it. haha

Yesterday at 7:29am · Like · 4

Grant Scott Tony Hansen weird huh. One rule takes away power of batons and the other gives power to a baton. Your ending is why I want to see the possible rule change applied to all 3 games.

Yesterday at 7:36am · Like

Ryan Wayne Kolden Interesting discussion! When we started tourneys "up NoRT" in TRF 2010 I taught everyone how to play kubb ( in my own little kubb world) the way I played for 9 years at that point. Then I went to 2011 Nationals, and that changed everything! No shacking- drilling , a whole new kubb world opened up to me! I changed all rules in TRF to that new format, and we had 7 tourneys in TRF 2011. We lost over half of our regular players because of the new rules and everyone called me a dictator. I was going crazy trying to keep everyone happy. As time went on the core players and true sportsman players and new players loved the Nationals format. We played the Basel 3 format in our last tourney and it went well and didn't change things as much as I thought it would[10]. The more skilled players still won the games. The only time it seamed to help was when two equally skilled plays battle and the one that didn't throw first was happy because they didn't have to start so far in the hole. Interesting talk - Peace to you all! See you at Nationals my friends!

Yesterday at 8:24am · Like · 5

[JF-10] It’s important to note that Ryan Kolden runs the majority of his tournaments indoors, free of environmental factors such as uneven ground, wind or a setting sun. I could easily see how Basel 3 (opening with 3) would work very well in an indoor tournament.

Ryan E Bartlett I think Steve Feathers might be right about voting with your feet.. I now have a big decision to make in the near future. It doesn't matter if its rec league softball, MLB, or kubb. If it isn't broke don't try and fix it just because someone else makes a change.[JF-11]

19 hours ago · Like · 1

[JF-11] I would say that the spirit of Des Moines Kubb has always been to put new ideas out there that we feel cater to all levels of play. That was the intent of the Klassic Format. We were the first to deploy it, and now most major tournaments incorporate it. I promise you Bartlett, I would never follow a change I didn’t believe helped the sport, the charities we serve, or the players we cater. I would take a chance and do something new, however.

Steve Feathers I spent the better part of an hour today discussing/debating this thread that I started.[JF-12] It was pointed out to me that I could have phrased things a bit differently and I agree. I am not the most eloquent when it comes to the words I choose. Most of the time they are factually correct [JF-13] but I rarely consider how someone might interpret my words. That being said... I meant nothing personal to ANYONE much less Chris Hodges who is a master at analyzing data[JF-14]. If I offended Chris or anyone else I sincerely apologize. I do not apologize for the debate. I think this thread and the discussion is fantastic. In the discussion I had this afternoon I was asked... you would still go to Nationals wouldn't you? It was not a quick answer. I actually answered with a question or series of questions. The first thing I said was it's hard to vote with your feet when the rules aren't published until the registration is already started and in most cases complete before the rules are published[JF-15]. My suggestion is that tournament directors publish the rules before opening registration for a tournament so those of us who have a preference can make an informed decision. The other question that I believe remains unanswered is the WHY behind the rules change. I was told it was to help ensure that the better performing team wins the match and reduce the chance of upsets. [CH-2] I do not know if this is true or not. However, I like the opportunity for an unknown or middle of the field team to be the Cinderella story and this rule, IMO, reduces the odds of that happening even more than it has been.[JF-16] There is already a 10-12% take away advantage from a King toss since you have to forfeit a baton, if you kill five kubbs on the opening round. You can NOT win until the other team has a chance to answer. I would love to hear what Eric Anderson has to say on this since he is the "founder" of US Kubb and runs the National event. Again, please don't mistake debate for a personal attack.

16 hours ago · Edited · Like · 3

[JF-12] Surprise, it was with me!

[JF-13] Agreed, as most of your points were your opinion, and not backed with data, then I suppose they were “factual” opinions you have.

[JF-14] Warning: Rhetorical Comment here – Master at analyzing data now, “junk science” yesterday. I generally accept conclusions that masters of data analysis share, especially when they spend a ton of time analyzing it and putting context around it.

[JF-15] Slightly irrelevant to the debate at hand, which was “Is a 4 baton open a good thing for kubb” but worth a discussion. I agree here, and I’ve been guilty of this as well. I would encourage all tournament directors to publish all the rules prior to opening registration. I can see where this could become an issue.

[CH-2] I think you and I have different definitions of ‘Upset’. To me, an upset is when a team or player that was expected to perform worse than their more-favored opponent instead surprises people by outperforming them. Kubb’d/Inkubbus, KingPin/Knockerheads, these were cases of the ‘underdog’ performing better and winning. On the other hand, if a runner wins a race because they had a head-start, and wins by LESS THAN THE DISTANCE they started ahead, that’s not an upset, that’s a poorly designed race. Upsets can, and will, continue to occur in reduced baton openers.

[16] During my discussion with Steve, I kept trying to identify how this affects Kubb’d as a baseline. It’s true, you have to outperform your opponent to win at kubb, and he said so himself that he is banking on the king toss to have a chance against a competitive team. With the new rule, a team (good or bad) cannot coast to victory simply by winning the king toss and pacing their opponent. The team performing better will win more games. Less upsets is my personal experience, but MORE chances for a middle of the field team to come back and take a game if the competitive team struggles. Before, a competitive team doesn’t have to play well to win. Less Cinderella stories published perhaps, but MORE CHANCES (more chapters written) of stories forming overall in the tournament. I would love to see a middle of the road team take down a competitive team and NOT win the king toss. That is now more possible in the 4 baton open, AND worthy of Sports Illustrated (Kubbnation Magazine).

Tony Hansen Just remember it is the tournament director who makes the call on rules. They have a tough job and make rule changes based on what they feel is best for their tournament. Everyone is welcome to boycott tournaments to "vote with their feet", but very few of those people are willing to actually run a tournament and make the tough decisions themselves.

As I said before, I choose to use these rule changes as an opportunity to develop strategy to further my game and enhance my enjoyment. I am confident none of the rule changes are made to detract enjoyment. No, the game isn't broke, but that doesn't mean it can't be tweaked to be even better.

16 hours ago · Like

Steve Feathers I agree Tony and one of the things I'm asking for is more transparency.[JF-17] You and those associated with DMK know that I have always been involved in assisting with the DMK Fall Klassic. I understand what the tournament director goes through and all the help they need. Whichever side of this debate you are on, you have the right to choose. I appreciate your perspective even though I respectfully disagree.

16 hours ago · Like · 1

[JF-17]This debate was geared to proposed changes at US Nationals, so we cannot control the transparency of that event. I can make a commitment that I will take a vote on the 4 baton open on the DMK website and that is what we will go with. It will include a sample bias, but it is the best I have.

Ryan E Bartlett I don't march madness to see epic beat downs, where is the fun in that? I watch for the cinderella stories and the upsets. If you want to have more people come and participate in your new and growing sport wouldn't you want that new comer have that possibility to make a deep run in your tourney?[JF-18][CH-3] I would think that if someone was able to pull off such a feat they would be the best word of mouth advertising one could hope for. If you want to keep you club a tight knit exclusive club, then limiting chances of outsiders from making a good showing is a way to accomplish that.

As I grew up I watched my dad as an assistant tournament director of a midwest bass fishing circuit. In the 14 some years that he did this job, never was an idea brought forward in the rules to exclude or hinder new comers. If the idea and purpose of this club is to help and be charitable then the thought would be to find away to get more bodies on the pitch to garner more money to help others.[JF-19] If the idea is to fall in line just because everyone else is doing it then maybe help those more developed player then the club might have to look a different direction to generate funds for charity. I thought that the club prided itself on having and using the unusual meat grinder setup. One would think that maintaining those differences would help grow and entice the membership and fan base to expand the clubs ability to service those in need.

If the club sees necessity to make these changes to club exclusive games that would make sense but, to force it on those that only pay to play the klassic without a membership card seems unfair and unnecessary.

16 hours ago · Like

[JF-18] I think the Klassic Format really helps with that concern, and I really feel the new rule change gives new teams a fighting chance, even if they don’t win the king toss. Another option that I think would help with what you are trying to explain would be a consolation bracket, where maybe the rest of the field gets to move on and compete for a consolation championship. I have never seen a team that didn’t smile when they won a consolation bracket.

[JF-19] Completely agree, and I can tell you from being in two tournaments where this rule change was incorporated (and hosting one tournament), that new teams, overall, were having a blast. Now, if you ask me what I think, I would tell you that it would be easier for new teams to understand opening all 3 games with 4 batons over what you do in the 3rd game only. I think I’d lean to no change or trying something NEW and going head first into a 4 baton open in all 3 games. We pride ourselves on taking on the unknown, so why not on this change….

[CH-3] Ryan. The argument that this change is ‘anti-new-team’ is predicated on the idea that the current 6-baton opening is GOOD for new teams. There is some truth to that – the advantage gained from opening with a full complement of 6 batons can help anybody, at any skill level. *BUT* it is a blade that cuts both ways. Even if the ‘weaker’ team wins the king toss half of the time, then the other half of the time they are starting disadvantaged against a ‘better’ team. And like Tony alludes to below – do you really think that the weaker team will win the king toss half of the time? It’s a skill shot, so I doubt it. I’d guess that at least 6 times out of 10 the ‘stronger’ team wins that toss. Over the long run, the new team is not benefiting here, they are being punished.

**
(5,000 word maximum reached, continue to Part 2)
**