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Published July 04 2013

VIDEO: Some lesser-known options for lawn games

MOORHEAD - On a sweltering afternoon last week, Derek Olson and his friend Casey Young set up a lawn game in the shaded front yard of their Moorhead house.

But they weren’t playing bocce ball or horseshoes – two common games you might see in any given park or backyard around the Fargo-Moorhead area this summer.

Instead, the two men were getting ready to play Kubb, a Swedish throwing game. The little-known pastime, pronounced “koob,” is easy to learn for those looking for something new this year.

The game’s goals involve trying to knock over an opposing team’s wooden blocks, called kubbs, by throwing wooden batons at them. Throwing can only be done in an underhand motion.

Teams take turns throwing, and the first team to knock down all of their opponent’s five kubbs, as well as the king in the middle of the field, wins.

Olson and his friends play kubb instead of other lawn games because the gameplay is simple, yet challenging, Olson says. Kubb also has an element of strategy that makes it more than just a regular throwing game.

“It can be hard to get the range down right, and it takes new players a little bit to understand how it works,” he says, as he lobs one of his batons end-over-end toward Young’s side. The baton hits the ground and bounces, grazing one of Young’s kubbs but leaving it standing upright.

Olson learned of kubb a few years ago from his friend Markus Krueger, the Hjemkomst Center’s visitor services coordinator. Krueger teaches the game at the center’s annual Scandinavian festival.

In the past few years, Krueger says he’s seen more and more people playing kubb in the area, and he thinks the game’s Scandinavian background could be a big reason why.

“That’s really what attracted me to it,” he says. “Who knows, maybe someday instead of horseshoes there’ll be kubb fields in Moorhead.”

Krueger has certainly convinced Olson and Young of the game’s appeal – the men always play it and teach it to friends when they host summer barbecues at their house.

“It’s a pretty awesome game,” Olson says, laughing, after his last throw strikes Young’s kubb dead-on with a satisfying wooden clunk.

More lawn games to try

FARGO – If you’re looking for a lawn game to play this summer, you could certainly do the same old thing that you’ve always done, like badminton, croquet or bocce ball.

Or, you could try something new.

To help you impress and entertain your friends and family for the rest of the season, we’ve compiled a list of lesser-known lawn games with strange names like molkky, rollors and Kan Jam.

Most games will be available through retailers such as Target, Barnes & Noble, Scheels or Amazon.com. Or if you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can try to make your own set from scratch – most of the games in the list have a pretty simple premise.

Beanbags: Maybe the most well-known game on this list, beanbags, also called cornhole, has a simple premise: throw a beanbag into a hole on a slanted board.

Beanbags are a popular tailgating activity, and you’re likely to see people playing it around the Fargodome before North Dakota State University football games.

Ladder toss: Like beanbags, ladder toss, which also goes by several other names (Norwegian golf, anyone?), is becoming more common in backyards around the area. The gameplay is pretty basic: Players throw a bola – a string connected by two balls – to try to wrap it around a two-rung ladder.

Washers: Similar to beanbags, washers is a team throwing game. The goal is to toss washers into a box to receive points.

Quoits: Remember the seemingly impossible ring-toss games at the local county fair? Quoits is kind of like that, but without the carnies. Players try to throw a ring over a target peg.

Molkky: Molkky is a Finnish throwing game involving wooden pins, called skittles, with point values ranging from one to 12. A player gets points by using a separate throwing pin, called a molkky, to knock over the skittles. Points are awarded based on the number of skittles knocked over. Players have to get to exactly 50 points to win.

Rollors: Rollors is sort of like a combination of bocce ball and horseshoes, with a touch of rolling to make things interesting. Gameplay involves rolling wooden discs at a goal. Players who get the closest to the goal receive points.

Giant Jenga: Most people are probably familiar with the regular tabletop game in which players try to build a wooden tower as high as they can by taking blocks from the bottom of the tower without knocking it over.

As if the game wasn’t precarious enough playing on a flat surface, a new, larger version for the backyard has become popular lately. Some models start out 3 to 4 feet high.

Kan Jam: Kan Jam is a flying disc game that requires two Frisbees and two cans and has a simple premise: Throw your Frisbee into a can. Points are scored based on whether the Frisbee touches the can through a teammate’s deflection or without any help.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535