Woodchuck, etc.

WoodchuckThere’s a Swedish game called Kubb , which is quite similar to the Karelian game of Kyykka and clearly connected to the Russo-Canadian game of Bunnock, which was originally played with the ankle bones of horses. There’s also the Finnish game of Molkky, which is a relatively close relative, but different. Which brings us to Woodchuck – a faithful reproduction of the Swedish original, but played with 4 Woodchucks instead of 5, and 5 throwing batons instead of 6.

Since Woodchuck is moderately priced and readily available here in the US through Simply Fun, let’s talk Woodchuck.

Woodchucks are made of wood, which, from the Kubb-perspective, is quite traditional. You can play on a lawn, or in the sand, or any nice flat area, 12-feet wide and 25-feet deep. Four Woodchucks are placed at one end of the playing field, spaced evenly apart, in a line. The other 4 are placed at the other end. The King Woodchuck is placed exactly in the middle of the field.

There are two teams, which, for the sake of clarity (which, even though the game is quite simple, will soon prove most valuable), let’s call one team the Beavers and the other the Otters.

Teams don’t have to have the same number of players. You could have 6 Beavers and only 4 Otters. Or even just 1 Otter if things turn out that way.

Let’s say the Beavers go first. They throw their Throwing Batons, one at a time, underhanded, end-over-end, at the Otters’ Woodchucks. It’s like throwing horseshoes, the idea being to knock over all of the Otter’s Woodchucks while being extremely careful not to knock over the King Woodchuck. And let’s further say that the Beavers managed to hit 3 of the Otter’s 4 Woodchucks.

Now it’s the Otters’ turn. Remember, they only have one standing Woodchuck. Oddly enough, before they can throw any of their Throwing Batons at the Beavers’ Woodchucks, they first have to throw each of their fallen Woodchucks into the Beaver’s half of the playing field. Then they stand each of those Field Woodchucks on their ends. Then they use their Throwing Batons to try to knock over their Field Woodchucks. And then, and only then, can they aim for the Beavers’ Woodchucks. Know what I mean?

What makes this all so difficult to understand is that the game breaks a central convention of most sports. The Woodchucks are more obstacles than targets, and the obstacles get moved around as the game progresses. There is only one actual target – the King Woodchuck.

Anyhow, once a team has managed to knock over all the Woodchucks on the other team’s side, then they can go for the King.

Clearly, from a Junkyard Sports perspective, this game can be played with almost anything that you can stand up and knock over. And you can use tennis balls or tuna cans as easily as you can use Throwing Batons. In fact, the article on Kyykka points out that students frequently make their own sets using:

  • 80 empty 500ml beer cans (330ml soft drink cans work as well)
  • Sand
  • Duct tape
  • Plastic/aluminium piping

And one more thing that makes it especially worthy of our collective consideration, found in the Wikipedia article, is the observation that “sportsmanship and a sense of fair play…is a trademark of this unique game.”

One thought on “Woodchuck, etc.

  1. Hi Bernie… I played Kubb when staying with friends in Sweden. It really is surprisingly fun. I sent away for a set as soon as we got back but haven’t played it since. Thanks for reminding me to dust it off.

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