Creating a Punishment Kubb - second only to knocking the king over early to lose the game when it comes to team morale draining moves. However, as a defender, the question becomes, where do I put this thing? Behind the King, on my baseline, behind a centerline pin? There are many options and variables to consider as well, such as "Am I winning or fighting from behind?", "How many field kubbs does my opponent have to throw?", "How skilled is my opponent, and are they likely to succumb to the pressure of a king shot?" The strategies listed below will bring order to chaos, clarity to fog, and advantage lines to teams.

According to the U.S. National Kubb Championship rulebook , Punishment Kubbs are defined as follows:

"Punishment Kubb: Teams are allowed one fault per kubb while throwing field kubbs (the kubb comes to rest in such a manner that it cannot be raised in bounds). If the second throw of the kubb is also judged to be a fault then the kubb is referred to as a punishment kubb and the defending team can place it anywhere in their half of the pitch provided that it is no closer than one baton length to the king or any field marking pin."

Here are the three places I will place a punishment kubb, and when I will do so:
 

1) The baseline.

This is probably the most common placement of punishment kubbs in the game. It is conservative, and about as "safe" a play as you can make. I will place a punishment kubb on the baseline if I am behind by two or more base kubbs (basically taking advantage of the opportunity to "get one back"), or if I have left my opponent an advantage line (there's no need to make it any easier on them!).

2) The sideline.

If the game is about even I will usually get a little more aggressive and place a punishment kubb on the sideline farthest from any other field kubbs in order to increase my odds of getting an advantage line. The general rule of thumb here is to place it about a half meter from the baseline for every field kubb thrown by the attacking team, so if they've only thrown two and one is a punishment kubb I'll place it about a meter in, and if they've thrown six I'll place it only a meter off of the centerline. However, if there are more than six I probably won't place it within a meter of the centerline - I'll go for the kill and force the king shot.

3) Behind the king.

Placing the punishment kubb a baton-length behind the king is the most aggressive move, and I will generally only do this if I am up by two or more base kubbs or my opponent is throwing a boatload of field kubbs (and even then it depends largely on the grouping of the other fields - if they've thrown a tight cluster I might be a little more conservative.) It will also depend on my assessment of my opponent - is their short game a little iffy sometimes or are they a shooter? Do I think they might burn a baton or two due to the added pressure, or are they as cool as the other side of the pillow? The bottom line is that I am creating a five meter shot and most players will pick these up several times a game; the difference is the pressure of knowing that a miss to the wrong side could cost them the game, and I have to make a judgment call as to how they will react. Keep in mind that while an instant win here is nice, if the opponent misses once or twice due to being overly cautious then this was still a successful move - if we're at the stage of the game where I'm forcing a king shot then a couple misses can make a big difference, and rattling their cage a little in the endgame is always a plus!

One thing that I have recently been paying attention to is the “handedness” of the opponent when placing a penalty kubb behind the king - I used to simply center it one baton length directly behind. I have realized that pushing it a kubb-width one way or the other can significantly change the window of attack – for a right-hander push it to their left, opposite for a lefty. The requirement of keeping both feet inside the sidelines will generally put their legs in the way of picking up the penalty kubb from their off side. By my estimate, pushing it one kubb width to their off side closes the “room for error” on their good side by over half (from 0.6º to 0.2º), without significantly “opening” the window on their weak side (from 0.4º to 0.6º). True, they end up with a very similar margin for error overall, but it’s a less natural throw.

A few general notes:

Remember to watch out for creating an opportunity for a double (or worse) – especially when placing on the baseline or sideline.

Try to anticipate where you think the throw will come from, and face the kubb in that direction. Presenting a flat face reduces the visible cross section and makes the target a little smaller. There is an opposing school of thought here; that pointing an edge toward the thrower gives the kubb a little more lateral support, thereby making it resistant to toppling and requiring a more direct hit. In the games I've played I've seen a lot of kubbs jostled without falling, and I have noticed no significant change in the frequency of this due to orientation, so as for me I side with the "make it a smaller target" crowd.

One of the beautiful aspects of this game is that it is never the same game twice, and no hard set of logic will work in every situation. Strategy in Kubb is as much about instinct as it is analysis, so remember to listen to your gut!

Disagree? Have some additional insight? We'd love to hear it! Drop us a line at desmoineskubb@gmail.com and tell us how wrong we are - as students of the game we are always interested in new ideas, and strategy can ALWAYS improve!