Low-tech game is a hit at Mayfair
Kubb, a popular sport in Sweden, requires wooden batons, good
By WENDY E. SOLOMON
Of The Morning Call
Kubb, a game played by the Vikings and now the hottest game going
in Sweden, is being promoted in the United States by a Quakertown
company and attracting curious onlookers at the 15th annual Mayfair
Festival of the Arts in Allentown.
Kubb, pronounced "koob," is like bowling and horseshoe, except
there are no bowling balls or horseshoes involved. But there are
wooden batons that players throw at wooden pegs to try to knock them
down. That's the essence of the game, tossed in with various rules
and strategies to make it interesting. And it's not easy.
In Sweden, adults and children have joined the kubb craze. They
play it in parks. They play it in back yards. They walk around with
little kubb satchels. No right-thinking adult would visit a friend
without making sure the kubb kit is in the car.
"It's real big hit in Sweden," said Ulla Dunkle, who with her
husband, Plummer, and two other couples, co-owns Old Time Games Inc.
of Quakertown, which makes wooden kubb sets. That is, the Dunkles
cut ash and oak pieces in their basement, another couple sands the
wood and the third couple stain, package and do the paperwork. They
sold out of the game when it premiered at the Leif Erickson Festival
in Budd Lake, N.J., last fall.
Dunkle, who is Swedish, hit upon the idea of bringing the game
over from her homeland after seeing how popular it had become last
summer. "You go out in public parks and there's always someone
"I thought, it's such a good game, why isn't it sold in the
U.S.?" said co-owner Paul Thenstedt.
"The unique thing about the game is that a team can be winning
one minute and then it can turn around the next minute," Thenstedt
Played by the Vikings, kubb may have its origins in Scandinavia
or France some 1,000 years ago. Lore has it that young Viking
children invented the game when they gathered firewood. The word
kubb means log or firewood. Swedes have been playing the game for
centuries, particularly on the island of Gotland in southern Sweden,
where some 200 teams will compete in the kubb World Cup.
"It's addicting," said Andy Troutman, 17, a Saucon Valley High
School junior who had just lost a round against senior Erich
Fritchman, 19. Troutman lost when Fritchman knocked over "the king,"
a wooden peg with a crown in the center of the 20-by-10-foot playing
area delineated in a sandlot at Mayfair's recreational corral. "That
was a good game. It just might catch on," Troutman said.
The promoters might have an uphill battle winning over American
youth obsessed with Gameboy, PlayStation and other electronic games.
There are no flashing lights or sound effects, except for the
occasional wayward kubb accidently flung at an opposing team member
Never pick up a baton from the ground until all of them have been
thrown by the opposing team, Dunkle explained to a group of
first-graders from Ironton Elementary School. That's because you
might get hit in the head, she said. "It won't kill you, but you may
get bruised," she said.
Kubb is completely low-tech -- and perhaps that's the joy.
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Reporter Wendy E. Solomon