Kubb: The Viking-born Sport from Gotland Island


Sweden’s Gotland Island, located in the Baltic Sea, was once dominated by Vikings during the medieval times. It is said that they created a sport called Kubb. Kubb is a simple game similar to dodgeball and can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of strength or skill. In this article, I will introduce Kubb, a sport originating from Gotland Island, Sweden, and discuss its features and specific rules.

What is Kubb?

Gotland Island, located off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, is known as the largest island in the country, with cities like Visby, where remnants of the Middle Ages can be found. The sport Kubb was born on this island and is now played not only in the Nordic countries but also in the United States and Japan. 

“Kubb” is a Swedish word meaning “firewood”, and it is a game that was invented during the time when firewood was used in fireplaces for heating. The exact time when Kubb was created is unknown, but it is believed to have been during the medieval times when the Viking pirates ruled Gotland Island.

Kubb, which means firewood, is a simple game played with wooden materials. It is a 6-player, 2-team target-shooting and territory-taking game, in which each team throws a wooden stick at the five wooden pieces in the opponent’s territory. The team that knocks down all the wooden pieces in the opponent’s territory and then knocks down the “king” in the center of the court wins the game. 

The rules are similar to bowling, but no special athletic ability or sense is required. The sport is widely enjoyed by people of all ages and genders. Since 1995, the “Kubb World Championship” has been held on Gotland Island, the birthplace of Kubb, attracting Kubb enthusiasts from all over the world.

The Rules of Kubb

As mentioned earlier, Kubb is a combination of target-shooting and territory-taking sports. Kubb is played by two teams, each consisting of six players. 

No special location is required for playing Kubb; a nearby park is sufficient. The game is played on an 8m x 5m court, similar to a dodgeball court, with a center line in the middle and base lines (end lines) at both ends. 

On the base lines of both sides, each team places five “base Kubbs” made of wood at equal intervals. In addition, a wooden piece called the “king” is placed on the center line.

After determining which team goes first or second, the first team throws wooden sticks called “Kastpinnar” one by one at the five wooden pieces standing in the opponent’s territory. When throwing the wooden stick, it must always be an underhand throw, and it must be thrown from behind the baseline. 

After throwing six times, the teams switch, and this continues. Once all five base Kubbs in the opponent’s court are knocked down, the team can aim for the king’s wooden piece on the center line. The team that knocks down the king in the center of the court is the winner of the game.

How the Game Progresses

Here, I will explain some of the finer rules of Kubb. 

In addition to the five base Kubbs and the king in the center, there are also “field Kubbs” in a Kubb match. When a base Kubb in your own territory is knocked down by the opponent, you must throw that Kubb into the opponent’s territory and stand it up at the landing spot. These Kubbs thrown into the opponent’s court are called field Kubbs. 

Until all the field Kubbs are knocked down, you cannot attack the opponent’s base Kubbs. Moreover, during the opponent team’s turn, they can advance up to the position of the field Kubbs and attack from there. Field Kubbs, therefore, can quickly become a disadvantage if not knocked down early, and they play a significant role in aiming for victory.

Other rules include being able to change the order of throwing the wooden sticks in each attacking round. Additionally, although Kubb is typically played with six players per team, the number of players per team can be adjusted from two to ten. 

There are also precautions during the game; if a team attacks the king in the center before knocking down all of the opponent’s base Kubbs, the team will be disqualified. Furthermore, Kubb games can sometimes take a while to conclude, so official tournaments may have a time limit of 20 to 30 minutes. In such cases, the team with more base Kubbs remaining in their court at the end of the game wins.


Kubb is a sport originating from Gotland Island, Sweden, and is believed to have been invented by Vikings during the Middle Ages. The rules are straightforward: each team tries to knock down the five wooden pieces in the opponent’s court by throwing wooden sticks, and the team that knocks down the central king ultimately wins. 

The sport does not require large grounds like soccer or baseball; as long as you have the necessary equipment, you can easily start playing in a nearby park.