Mölkky is a Finnish game*, invented in the mid 1990s. I saw a set of Mölkky skittles for sale in the UK, and quickly realised two things:
- It would make a great game to take camping with our Cubs or Scouts, especially since they are already fans of kubb.
- I could make a set myself for much less than the retail price.
This is how I made a set from scrap timber, and I've included the rules as well, to save you a few minutes on Google.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Obviously, the main thing you need for this is timber.
You can buy finished timber, recycle chair legs, or use found wood like driftwood or fallen branches (remember, do not cut or break wood from live trees). Aim for a thickness of around five to eight centimetres (two to three inches), and around two metres (six feet) in total.
The exact dimensions are not crucial, go with what fits your available materials and suits your personal taste (there isn't even a hard reason for your skittles to have a circular cross section, so, go ahead, make them square if you want).
For tools, the main thing you need is a saw capable of cutting the timber you are using, either a hand saw or a power saw. You may also need tools to finish your timber to the quality you desire, such as sandpaper or a knife for smoothing edges, and something to mark numbers on the skittles.
Step 2: Cutting.
You need to cut twelve skittles and one throwing pin, or mölkky (although you may wish to cut two).
The skittles need to be cut with one end at around a 30º angle. If you are cutting all the skittles from a single piece of wood, that means that you need to alternate between 30º and 90º cuts, starting with a 30º cut.
You are aiming for lengths of about 20cm / 8" for both the skittles and the mölkky.
Step 3: Trimming
Both for comfort, and to prevent the wood splitting too quickly with use, the edges of the skittles and the mölkky need to be chamfered or rounded off.
The way you do this is down to your taste, your tools and your skills: sand them off with a dremel, shave them off with a sharp knife, or trim them with a machete, it's up to you.
I used my belt sander to smooth off the sides of the very rough scrap timber I was using.
Make sure you leave the bottom of the skittles flat enough that they still stand (you can get as creative as you like at the top), but the mölkky doesn't need to stand, so the ends can be completely round if you want.
Step 4: Marking
The skittles need to be marked with the numbers 1 to 12 on the sloped end.
You can carve the numbers in, paint them on, use permanent markers or any combination you like.
I just added numbers with a Sharpie.
Step 5: Play the Game
You need at least two players, but you can play with more, or with teams.
To start the game, stand the skittles together in a close group.
They should be in four rows, according to their numbers. From the back, these are:
7, 8, 9
5, 11, 12, 6
3, 10, 4
The players stand 4 large steps* away from the skittles, and throw the mölkky at them.
If they only knock one skittle over, the player scores the number on that pin. If they knock over more than one pin, they score one point for each pin (for instance, if they knock over pin 6, they score 6, but if they knock over pins 6, 9 and 4, they only score 3 points).
Pins only count if they fall all the way over. If they end up leaning on the mölkky or the other skittles, they don't count.
After counting the score, stand up all the skittles wherever they landed (not back in the original cluster), and it is the other player's turn.
Players keep taking turns until their score totals exactly 50. If they go over 50, their score is cut back to 25, and play continues. If a player misses the skittles entirely, three turns in a row, they are eliminated from the game.
(*I have based these rules of play on the Wikipedia Mölkky page, since I can't read the official Finnish page. Caveat: I have tweaked them slightly to account for games involving players of very different age and size.)
Step 6: Storing the Game
You can store the pieces how you like, maybe make a dedicated bag, or in a plastic box.
If you are making your Mölkky set for your Cub or Scout camps, it is likely that some or all of the players will be new to the game, so it is a good idea to include a copy of the rules as well, you could laminate it to last longer, or stick it to the inside of the lid.
I have added a PDF file of the rules that you can print out and use if you want (you do not need to be Pro to download this PDF).