Last summer the Handicraft area at Camp Tesomas added Kubb as a game to play in their area during free time. I had only briefly heard of the game before and had not tried it much. Soon though I was off playing my first match of Kubb (albeit with very non-standard size pieces as we would later discover) and my addiction to the game was born. We found all sorts of times to run down to Handicraft that summer and play in our brief break periods, on the weekend, or even in the waning daylight when you could hardly see the kubbs you were to be throwing at.
At the end of that summer I went home and quickly made my own set, that I continued to play with through scouting events and at other places. I was firmly hooked on the simple game that still contained some strategy and was accessible to anyone. At the start of this summer season many of us camp staff were into the game again and decided that we should make a weekend trip and go to Eau Claire Wisconsin for the 2013 National US Kubb Championship. We registered two teams, the Kubb Root with Adam Gewiss, Kyle Huddleston, and Matt Hansen and my own team the Rubik’s Kubbs with myself, Bryan Konicek, and James Gilbertson.
After weeks of practice up on the hill, and finally learning the proper sizes of all the pieces (we had been playing with 1″ in diameter batons all last year when we discovered that batons were supposed to be 1 3/4″ in diameter), we were prepared to head off. The camp director kindly gave us all time off for Saturday morning and lent us a cooler and a water cooler for the trip. Saturday morning rolled around and alarms went off at 3:30 AM. As I lumbered into the showers I saw two of the individuals we would need for the trip–a good sign. We were all excited and ready to go play a lawn game halfway across the state with the best in the US. We found the rest of our team early that morning, loaded up our backpacks and coolers into Gewiss’s van, and boldly headed forth into the night. For those unaware, Adam’s van has some interesting features. First off you start with only three doors, and next the passenger door only opens from the inside, and the side door only opens from the outside. During the course of the trip I think we all finally got that down so that at every stop we could figure out the right combination to free all of ourselves for a stretch. This is the same van that has died on me before while riding in it (due to no oil and the engine beginning to seize up somewhere near Mosinee. When Adam went to remove the oil dipstick after we pulled over the plastic head was so hot it ripped off leaving the dipstick in) and this is the van that also would up stuck in my driveway’s ditch for a while. I wasn’t completely confident the van would make it there for us, but Adam assured us that we had a decent shot of making it.
Next we swung into Hanna Venture Base at 4:00 in the morning to steal some ice from the ice machine there to keep our coolers cold on the day. We quietly strode in with our coolers, filled them full of ice for the long day ahead, and reloaded the van and were well and truly on our way. After a little more than an hour we ran into two of our other teammates who were already down in Wausau and picked them up. We took a quick stop at McDonalds for some food and drinks, and broke out the granola bars we had. Then we continued on to Eau Claire.
After about another hour and half, somewhere around 7:00 we drove into Eau Claire and Adam led us to the soccer park where nationals were taking place. It was lightly raining at that point in the morning, but nothing too bad. As we pulled up, we were all in shock. Spreading into the distance was around 50 kubb pitches, all set up with the kubbs on the baseline, ready for a day of play. It was a surreal sight realizing that we were really here to play a lawn game all day.
We headed over to the sign in booth, and got both of our teams signed in and found out the pitches where we would play at. Matt had luckily brought some chairs from his home, and even had a tent with him that we set up, that we could use to store stuff in throughout the day. Many other teams were better prepared with their shade tents and things, and we looked slightly out of place with our camping tent, but what do you expect out of a bunch of boy scouts? We got some good practice in that morning in the light rain and were excited for our first matches at 9:00.
The morning is broken into pools of 4 teams each, and you play every team in the pool. This pool play determines your seeding for the championship bracket. We were in a pool with Throw Storm, Kubba Libre, and Pack of Snipers, a team that had tied for 5th place last year. Our first match was of course against them. All matches in this early pool play are best of 3 games. We lined up for our first game of the tournament and promptly embarrassed ourselves. After a few opening throws we wound up having to shoot at three close field kubbs, something that normally would be no issue. Generally I’d say we would hit down those three close kubbs well over 95% of the time. Not this time. We managed a puny one hit, and this good team now had a very good advantage line and used it to quickly dispatch us. Game over. The next game we redeemed ourselves somewhat, but their hitting and returning was just better. While we fought for many more rounds, they eventually defeated us. Lost two games and the match. A rough start to the morning, but they were a very good team. As of writing this, they made it to the top eight again like last year, and are trying to fight their way into the semifinals.
Next we had our match against Throw Storm. These games were intense! We were quite evenly matched against them. This team was also extremely nice. They were a husband and wife and one of their fathers as best as I could tell. Game one had quite a bit back and forth, but the old man was being extremely clutch. He always threw last, and I’m not sure he missed a kubb in game 1. He was consistently cleaning up every kubb he needed to, including the tough baseline to baseline shots. We eventually lost, and continued to remain winless on the day into game 2. This was another very close game. Our hitting had warmed up, I was returning well. We were each returning about 5-6 kubbs every round and knocking them all over, trying to find a way ahead. After what was probably a half an hour, we finally had managed to eek out the edge and use it for our first win of the day. It was a really satisfying win, and it in some way felt like an affirmation that we were supposed to be there. Now to see if we could win a match! Game 3 was extremely similar to game 2. Long back and forth with great play on both sides, but we were able to come out on top and win. We had gone 2-1 and won our first match.
It was around this point that both Bryan and I knew we needed to go get some sunscreen on. It had been rainy and overcast all morning, but the rain had abated during our early matches. Now with a thin cloud layer, it had fooled us into feeling fairly safe. Of course to those pale folks out there who know, a cloudy day like that is very deceiving. During our match with Throw Storm we knew that we needed some protection, but the match went so long. We both eventually got some sunscreen on and a brief break before our third match, but both of us got some sunburn. As of this morning, I have some decent redness in places and will be feeling it for a few days probably.
As is though, we also realized that if we beat Kubba Libre we would get 2nd in our pool, which would mean we would earn a bye in the first round of the championship! We knew what we had to do. Regrettably I don’t remember too much about the following games however our the team. I know that we managed to win both, and they were both over fairly quickly. I wish I could remember more on this one, but it was a long day with plenty of excitement to be had ahead.
Our other team we had sent in did a bit worse and got third in their pool. They would up playing in the first round of the tournament, and I observed their match for a bit. They were playing a team that had gotten 4th in their pool and was a bit worse than Kubb Root. Kubb Root got the win and went into the 2nd round of the championship bracket, which we had already earned ourselves into. The problem we both were going to have though is we would be facing some of the best teams in the country. Kubb Root was up against the Kubbsicles, the 2012 champions, and as of this year they made it to the top 8. (The top 8 teams return Sunday morning to play the finals, which are currently going on as I write this report). The Rubik’s Kubbs had to play the Lienkubbels, which had placed third in 2012, and also as of right now are a top 8 team this year.
We wound up playing them pretty hard though in the first game. They had left us an advantage line, but unfortunately our hitting was a bit off and we did not utilize it very well in knocking down many kubbs. They fought their way back, we eventually messed up and gave them an advantage line, and that was the end. They took us out in both of the games to win 2-0. However we weren’t that far out of it, and felt pretty well about how close we had played them. With a bit more practice it isn’t out of thought that we could beat them.
As is, the Kubb Roots also lost. All 32 teams that lose in the round we did wind up in the Consolation Bracket however. This is a best of one bracket though, so the games are extra important, as you don’t have the ability to mess up at all, as it could be the end.
I don’t really remember our first match at all. We won it fairly handily as I remember and the Kubb Roots also managed to get into the round of 16 teams. From there we had a fun match against family. I forget their team name, but the mother and father were playing and they had their kids with them too. One was really young and kept running around the pitch grabbing pieces and trying to play with them which was a bit humorous. It was an intense round but we had a slight edge for most of it and managed to win again! We were onto the round of 8. At this point we went to observe how Kubb Root was doing. They were playing a team called R2Kubb2. We were going to be playing the winner of that game. If Kubb Root won, then one of our two teams was guaranteed to get into the top 4 in the Consolation bracket, and the top 4 teams in the Consolation Bracket are given medals! We were close to walking away with some hardware, which was about as well as I thought we would realistically be able to do. The Kubb Roots however wound up losing, and that was the end of their day then. They had a fun time, but now it fell to the Rubik’s Kubbs to ensure that R2Kubb2 didn’t take both our teams out and deny us any hardware.
R2Kubb2 was at the point in the day of getting pretty far into their cooler of drinks however. They were a team of 4 players and some of them needed a smoke break, while others needed to get another beer or two down. They came over from their tent carrying the remaining beers of their case, and I think one of their members downed another two during the match. It was a pretty close game that probably went on for about half an hour. They were doing pretty well, but their hitting was decreasing, probably from the booze to be honest, although the wear of the day was getting on us a bit too. Luckily the other team returned a kubb out of bounds twice and that punishment kubb really slowed them down and gave us an advantage. We slowly whittled down their base kubbs and eventually won! We had secured at least 4th place and some form of medals for us! It was really exciting. However this also assured us at least two more games and it was already about 5:00 pm! The Kubb Roots packed up a bunch of our stuff, and we waited on the other game. It was Throw Storm versus some other Eau Claire team and they seemed to know each other fairly well. They were also extremely evenly versed. Their game lasted for 2 hours overall apparently, and finally was done around 6:30 or so. We now had to face off against the very kind Throw Storm team we had played earlier and gone 2-1 against.
Here however, Throw Storm seemed very worn from their marathon game and we were able to hit better than them. They wound up messing up too and gave us a nice advantage line to work from and we fairly quickly dispatched them. This meant we were in the finals of the consolation bracket, playing for 1st place! The Kubbaholics were the team waiting for us, and they had waited for about 3 and half hours! We were the only games left to go at this point, in fact almost everyone else had left. There weren’t any spectators left other than the Kubb Roots. They cheered us on, but our hitting and returning were a bit poor this match by our standards, and the other team was better on both than us. They wound up winning fairly handily, and we wound up with 2nd place.
Which was still fantastic! We were quite excited. We were each given a silver medal and our picture was taken, and will wind up on their website later. We managed to be the 2nd place in the Consolation bracket at our first ever Kubb tournament, at the US nationals. It was quite exciting, and a really good spot to finish. We went home with something to show, played 14 games of kubb, and went 8-6 on the day. We got to play some extremely good teams, but never felt all that out of it. With further practice, in future years Rubik’s Kubbs could be quite the force it would seem. We are excited about the future, and were proud of the showing we had at our first tournament. It was an extremely fun day, and I hope to make it to more tournaments yet this year and in the future with the guys from our teams.