Originating from Karelia, kyykkä is (normally) a team sport and is related to all other skittles games around the world. The basic idea is to knock small wooden cylinders (kyykkäs) out of your own game-square by throwing sticks (karttu) resembling baseball bats. In Finland today, there are two distinct groups playing the game:
- People having their roots in Karelia
- Students using it as an excuse for drinking beer
NB: This set of rules is just one option; kyykkä typically had slightly different rules in every village, so feel free to change the number of kyykkäs, size of area, throwing distance or any other rule to suit.
Kyykkä Field (Kyykkäkenttä)
Any relatively hard-based flat area with dimensions of 5m x 20m (or greater) will do. Preferably, though, it should be gravel surfaced. If you use asphalt, you'll damage your karttu (throw stick); if you play on grass, the owner will probably damage you after you ruin his or her grass. The field consists of two squares (of side length five metres) in both ends and a 5m x 10m area left between these two. The end squares are called throwing- and game-squares. Your throwing-square is your opponent's game-square and vice versa.
Kyykkäs are wooden cylinders, ten centimetres in height. Their diameter should be between 7 and 7.5 centimetres. At the beginning of the game, kyykkäs are set up on the frontline of both squares: 20 equally-spaced pairs on each line, each pair being stacked vertically. Once knocked down, the kyykkäs are not uprighted.
The karttu is the weapon used to knock kyykkäs down, and out of the game square. It is made of wood and can be up to 85 centimetres long. The maximum permitted diameter is eight centimetres at the thickest point. There is no weight limit.
In men's competition, the opening throw is made from 15 metres (behind your own throwing-square) and subsequent throws from your own throwing-square (10 metres). Women open the game from 10 metres and move to 8 metres to continue. This means that women actually throw from in front of the throwing-square and not from inside it.
Throwing is absolutely freestyle, so long as you throw from your own throwing-square (women from behind the eight-metre line). Just do not step on your opponent's kyykkäs1.
Kyykkä can be played in teams of four or two. Singles competition also exists, but normally kyykkä is considered to be a team sport. In team competition every player has two karttus per turn2.
All the players throw their karttus before the turn is passed over to the other team. Karttus must be left where they stop until all members of the team have thrown theirs.
The winner is the team that gets all of the kyykkäs out of their game-square (in any direction) first, but both teams have the right to throw an equal number of karttus. If both teams clear their square with the same number of karttus, the game is a tie.
If there are just two teams playing, the game goes on until either of the teams has won a certain number of 'ends'3. Teams change squares between ends. With more than two teams it is normal to play a tournament: every team playing two ends against all other teams. In this game format, the winner gets two points; a tie gets one point; and losing, unsurprisingly, zero points. After all the games are played the winner can be determined by counting all the points together.
If you want to speed the game up a bit, it can be agreed that teams throw, for example, just 20 karttus per end. After all the throwing has been completed, the winner is found by counting the kyykkäs left in teams' game squares. For every kyykkä inside the game-square at the finish, deduct one point. For every kyykkä left standing on the front line, deduct two points. Note that, under this rule, a team can lose even if it clears more kyykkäs out of the game square. Of course, if a team clears the square before the agreed end, the game has been won.
- Traditionally, clothing is optional, but recommended.
- Don't take the game too seriously.
- It is an offence to show up without an alcoholic beverage, because this means that you're taking the game too seriously.
Do-it-Yourself Kyykkä Kit
For the easy DIY kyykkä kit, you'll need the following:
- 80 empty 500ml beer cans (330ml soft drink cans work as well)
- Duct tape
- Plastic/aluminium piping4
Put some sand into the cans, remembering that heavier cans/kyykkäs make the game more difficult. Close the cans with duct tape. If you're planning to play more than one or two ends, make sure that you have spare cans to replace those that become too heavily damaged. The pipe should be cut into eight pieces 80-85cm long. The pipe doesn't have to be completely rigid, so it doesn't matter if it bends slightly when thrown.
Of course, you could make your own set from wood but that takes more time and effort. This set will give you basic idea of the game and whether or not it can be played for fun/profit/escaping arrest. And at least you'll have the pleasure of emptying all the cans needed for the set.