What Is Varpa?May 22, 2017
For thousands of years, cultures and civilizations around the world have played games. Chess, checkers, dice and backgammon are some of the more popular throwback games – but what about varpa?
Varpa is a game that has a similar concept to the Italian bocce or the French boules – get an object as close to the target as you can. Except, like a good Swedish Viking who invented the game – varpa traditionally uses heavy stones or pieces of metal.
Depending on your source, the rules may vary slightly, but the general rules go something like this: A pitcher starts with a designated number of tosses (36 seems to be the standard number) in a field size that suits their gender and age. After each pitch, the distance to the target is measured each time. The person with the shortest distance at the end of the tossing is the winner.
We found a handout from the Swedish Varpa Association that helps define the classes and throwing lengths. Females have a field distance of 10-15 meters, while the fellas’ field ranges from 12-20 meters. The pitch is all in the shoulder (kast med ansats) – this handout gives a step-by-step illustrated demonstration on how to throw the varpa.
Today, there are still a few varpa teams and leagues, and it’s one of the handful of games played during the annual Stånga Games (Stångaspelen) held in Gotland. We found some photos from the Stånga Games, and while the text is in Swedish, you can get a sense of what the day entails (it looks like Field Day from our elementary days).