The best outdoor games to enjoy this summer

By Marianne Françoise Dick
Kubb game

Photo: Getty

From pétanque and kubb to molkky, while the sun is still shining these are the games we recommend to try outdoors

This year, perhaps more than ever, people across the world have realised the importance of getting outside. Norway’s concept of friluftsliv comes to mind, which celebrates the power of open-air living – regardless of the season or the weather. What better way to enjoy it this fall than with a spot of outdoor amusement?

There’s a reason why outdoor games have graced our screens and the pages of our books for centuries. They’re certainly a charming way of enjoying the fresh air, but there’s something thrilling about them too. Take, for example, one of Britain’s best-loved pastimes – croquet. Its association with Lewis Carroll’s surreal interpretation in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which features flamingo mallets and hedgehogs as balls, can make it appear whimsical. But don’t be fooled. Its deceptively colourful apparatus can certainly be used strategically – and forcefully – when necessary. In the cult Eighties classic Heathers, a tense game is made quite sinister with the addition of sharp tongues and even sharper shoulder pads.

Boules (or pétanque) might be considered the most stylish of outdoor games – both Chanel and Louis Vuitton have sold monogrammed sets and Karl Lagerfeld once hosted a star-studded pétanque party. The rules of the French game are incredibly simple, however that certainly doesn’t mean it’s boring. It can be played for hours and pairs especially well with some of its native soil’s esteemed vintages. All players have to do is throw their boules as close to the small ball (known as the jack or the cochonnet) as possible. An afternoon filled with clacks and conversation is always one well spent.

We don’t recommend playing Kubb for the first time after a few glasses of wine. This Swedish bowling game, known as ‘Viking chess’, requires a little more precision and culminates in the capture of the king. The royal is represented by a wooden block (or kubb), which is placed in the middle of the two teams. To get to the king, each team must first take out a number of other kubbs by tossing wooden batons, but if you topple the king early, you lose immediately. Akin to the Vikings, this game takes no prisoners.

Molkky, in contrast, is a relatively modern and slightly more irreverent Finnish invention. Players take turns to throw a wooden baton at an arrangement of numbered skittles in order to determine their score. The winner is the first to reach 50 points. Easy? Not quite. You must score exactly 50 or you’ll have to start again at 25, and potentially be labelled a ‘mölvästi’. Yes, it does come with its own vocabulary…

Outdoor games are not only a leisurely way of enjoying the open air beyond the summer months, they also help to bring generations – and even strangers – together. In fact, the best part can be rounding off the day with al fresco nibbles and well wishes. Grudges are optional.

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