Splitting Hairs on Splitting Kubbs:

Splitting kubbs....literally (pic)

Kubb is… (brace yourself) a Team Sport. Barring local ladder tournaments to keep things interesting, no tournament has a 1 player per team minimum. Maximum baton rules are also a staple of tournaments to make sure the team that is the best...wins. Yet there are no maximum kubb throwing rules. A player serving as the inkastare (the kubb thrower) can throw all the kubbs, each game of a match; all matches in a tournament. This year at U.S. Nationals, some players will be throwing kubbs for 2 days straight, and if I were Eric, I would fear reprisal from the folks that manage the soccer fields. Those first 4 pitches are going to look ugly come Sunday night. And only a few players will be responsible for it.

WARNING: I’m using some math based on a 17 matches I have data for, namely Des Moines teams participating in various US Nationals Ruleset tournaments (Nationals, MN, Oktoberfest, Fall Kubb Klassic, etc.). This is not complete data, but the intent isn’t to argue over a match averaging 2.5 vs. 2.3. I think you will get the point:

If the average amount of kubbs thrown in a game is 5, and the average kubb game lasts 6 rounds, a player will throw 30 kubbs average in a typical tournament game. Assuming the team makes finals, they would have played 3 round robin matches, a potential bye (1/2 game), a 64 team elim, 32 team elim, a 16 team elim, and semi's. That’s 7.5 matches. If a match average is 2.5 games, that all adds up to this:

An inkastare making finals will throw 562.5 kubbs this year at Nationals. (5*6*7.5*2.5= 562.5)

A typical player on a 3 player team that makes finals will throw 225 batons at Nationals. (2*6*7.5*2.5=165)

An inkastare will throw over 787.5 "things" while his teammates throw 225 "things".


Some players would argue that not distributing kubbs weighs too heavily in favor of the team with a good inkastare. From my perspective, inkasting is a significant part of the game, and without equal distribution of kubb throwing, you are giving 562.5 kubbs to the player best at it. Distributing the kubbs can significantly even the playing field for a tournament.

Some people feel that splitting kubbs becomes a way to make a match fairer. The argument is that everyone should participate somewhat equally in the match. You split batons equally; why not kubbs? The winner of a tournament, in some people’s eyes, should be the team that has players that excel at all facets of the game.

Arguments against splitting kubbs can be sound and valid, depending on the intent and reasoning for doing it. If fairness is the reason, you may need to consider how fair it is to have the most accurate player always throwing at the king to win. If the intent of splitting the kubbs is to find the best all-around team in all phases of the game, someone may argue that you also need to govern which baton shots players may take. For example, if one player spends all day blasting at 4m-5m field kubbs and passes the 8m shots off to their partner, then specialization occurs, one thing that splitting kubbs reduces, if not prohibits. What level of anti-specialization is going to be deemed acceptable to meet this criteria?

To use a (relatively) similar analogy using baseball, the team doesn't share the responsibilities as the pitcher. Just so in kubb, the inkastare doesn't have to share the kubb throws. Yet, the pitcher still has to bat. Just so, the inkastare has to throw a baton.

Whether you agree that splitting kubbs is better for a tournament or not, here is my prediction: I believe you will see a major tournament in the Midwest that requires splitting kubbs. Kubbistan is already doing it for their 5 year tournament, and I have heard whisperings of splitting kubbs at many tournaments. And I would expect to see it in the next year or two. Arguments against it have merit. Some say that unless World Championships changes to splitting kubbs, US Nationals won't. And if US Nationals doesn't, neither will the smaller tournaments. Time will tell....

So…how do you split them equitably?

The Des Moines Kubb Club has some experience with splitting kubbs. We have done this for league, for our winter tournament, and during friendlies. We have tried various ways to split/distribute kubbs, each with pros/cons, and varying levels of required game management. Below is a list of the ways we have played with and discussed as a group:

Splitting – equally distributing the kubbs during the Kubb Tossing Phase, between an amount of players equal to the minimum team size.

Alternating rounds – Alternating kubbs throws during a game/match, between an amount of players equal to the minimum team size.

Alternating throws – equally distributing the kubbs between an amount of players equal to the minimum team size, and not allowing a player to throw 2 kubbs back to back, during the Kubb Tossing Phase.

Max – a player cannot throw more than X kubbs per round (generally used is X=5, as this can accompany 2 player teams)

In Depth – Splitting Scenario:

Paul and Eric have 7 kubbs to throw. Using Kubb Splitting rules, Eric and Paul would have to split the kubbs as evenly as possible. So Paul throws 2, Eric throws his 4, and Paul throws another. Order is determined by the team, and so is the decision on who throws the odd numbered kubb.

“Here are 7 kubbs - split them as evenly as possible and throw them in any order you wish.”

In Depth – Alternating Rounds Scenario:

Paul and Eric have 7 kubbs to throw. Using Alternating Rounds rules, Eric or Paul would throw all 7, but next time they throw kubbs, the other player would have to throw next phase. So Eric throws 7 this round, and next round Paul throws 8 (the opponent hit one of their baselines).

“Here are 7 kubbs – you throw them all and I’ll throw them all next time we need to throw them.”

In Depth – Alternating throws Scenario:

Paul and Eric have 7 kubbs to throw. Using Alternating Throws rules, Eric or Paul would throw 1 kubb first, then the other player would throw 1. They would continue until there were no more kubbs to throw. Who throws first is their decision.

“Here are 7 kubbs – I’ll throw one, then you throw one, and we will do that till there no kubbs left to throw.”

In Depth – Max X Scenario (where X=5):

Paul and Eric have 7 kubbs to throw. Using the Max rules Eric and Paul can throw no more than 5 kubbs a round. Eric throws 5 and Paul throws 2.

“Here are 7 kubbs – One person can throw up to five, but we can split them 4 to 3 if you want.”

Other considerations for kubb splitting:

There are many other events, timing issues, and loops that can come up that you should be aware of. For example:

How do you handle punishment kubbs? You probably want to have the player who originally threw them to rethrow them, but what if it’s hard to tell who’s kubb was out?

How do you handle rescued kubbs? Do they count toward the total number distributed?

Throwing order; who goes first?

Can I alternate each round/game/match between the different types of kubb splitting rules?
Do you alternate the odd kubb every phase, or can the same player always get the additional kubb to throw?

All considerations that a tourney coordinator needs to be able to speak to.

The intention of this article is to help promote the idea of splitting kubbs, and to start discussions around the best way for that brave and unknown Midwest tournament director to do it, as well as spark even better ideas, and more discussions on the topic. So please, discuss!

Now for the big question, right…which one do I like, you ask? Well, I am a fan of not splitting kubbs. I am also a fan of splitting kubbs. It’s similar to how I am a fan of pie and cake, and I will eat pie and cake in the same sitting, if allowed. I’d play in 2 tournaments in one weekend, as well (but I’m not allowed to do either of those things).

Who wants kubb cake? (pic)

Sign me up for a slice of pie, some cake, and a tournament where kubbs are split. I’m game!