Kubb is a tactical game, and almost all of those tactics come into play during two phases – the defenders will probably have some tough choices to make about how best to stand thrown field kubbs, and the attackers will have to figure out the best way to take down the resulting groups. Here are a few pointers on how to make the best decisions when you’re looking at a woodpile & trying to figure out how to turn it into a baton-eating monster.

The first thing to do is stand the forced kubbs; the leaners, half-ins, and those that must be stood a certain way to allow others to be raised in-bounds. (You DID read our last entry, right?) If you don’t have any choice in the matter you might as well get them out of the way first then evaluate the remainder. Are there any “obvious” kubbs to stand, like runners or ‘east-west’ kubbs that can be raised away from the pile and soak an additional baton? Do those next!

Reevaluate. How many batons are likely to be needed for the kubbs that are currently standing? (We borrowed a Golf term and call this ‘par’.) Look at the group from the attackers' point of view - literally AND figuratively. How would you attack the group as it stands now, and how would you expect the kubbs & baton to move after impact? Facing (how the kubbs are oriented) is the most important factor here. Kubb is a game of physics and geometry, and judging these shots is like judging complex combination shots in billiards, with the added uncertainty that square corners bring to the table.

 

(Playing in the snow is great for this phase because you can draw lines in it-Team Knockerheads drew a lot of lines in the snow at the Loppet!)


Repeat this estimation for each anticipated baton. Admittedly, this is a lot like forecasting the weather because the farther into the future you’re looking the harder it is to predict. Make your best guesses anyway, because even if you’re only right part of the time it’s better than never guessing at all. Are there any ‘holes’ in the pattern you can stand a kubb in? Space for the sake of space isn’t always the right move – sometimes it just opens up room for debris to do damage, whereas coming closer to another kubb can sometimes get it out of the line of fire or leave one or more other kubbs isolated.

For instance, take the ‘inside double’ scenario. Picture 4 field kubbs that have been tossed into an X pattern:

 

Standing each away from the center generates the most overall space, but you’ve created two possible doubles and a sharpshooter may have a good opportunity to clear them with two batons. If, on the other hand, you stand two of the kubbs towards the center then you’ve created an ‘easy’ double on the inside, but have isolated two kubbs on the edges and most likely soaked up an extra baton.

 

Also keep in mind that ‘horizontal’ space is much more important than ‘vertical’ space. It’s relatively easy to strike a kubb and push it up the pitch, at least when compared to how difficult it is to push one across it. I will usually prefer to build a relatively tight horizontal fence rather than a looser vertical line. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do, and either way you raise a kubb will offer a double to your opponent. When you have to choose the lesser of two evils the most important thing is to ensure that the line through the double points away from any other field kubbs. If that isn’t an issue (or isn’t possible) then once again go with the most horizontal – if they’re shooting across the pitch it can lengthen the shot by a meter or two AND it reduces the chances that they send debris downrange.

Another thing to pay attention to is the ground itself. (Nearly forgot to include this bit - tip of the hat to Dano for the reminder!) Every pitch is different and has its own peculiarities – bumps, divots, clumps of grass, and a host of other things can make for uneven ground, and a leaning kubb might be toppled by a touch that a sure-footed kubb could have shrugged off. Location is more important than footing because it’s better to occupy a whole baton (even if it’s just a glancing blow) than be sure footed while increasing the risk a double. If the direction you stand the kubb doesn’t seem to directly affect the baton count, then by all means make those attackers hit it squarely!

Run through all of your remaining choices before standing any questionable kubbs, because you may see a later opportunity that contradicts an earlier choice. Don’t commit to anything until you’ve decided where they are ALL going to go.

As a general tip, don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen. Everyone on the team should participate in the process to make sure all of the likely scenarios are discussed, but there should only be one player raising the kubbs (at least in the main group – obvious outliers can be handled by a teammate). Remember, once a kubb goes up you’re committed, and making sure that only one person touches the questionable kubbs will help eliminate miscommunication and costly mistakes. Giving away even one kubb for free because of poor placement is one too many.

Finally, keep in mind that standing kubbs is largely about playing the percentages. If you stand a group that you think will take three batons and the attackers clear it with one it doesn’t necessarily mean you were wrong – it could just mean they got some very lucky bounces. (Don’t write it off and forget about it either, because if a pattern emerges then maybe you need to rethink how you’re judging par.) Over time though, making the best decisions in this phase (and getting a miss from your opponents now & then) will keep your base kubbs safe and get you advancing to that advantage line to seal the win.


Good Kubbing!