Prepare to raid with the help of our trained axeperts, and learn to throw like a Viking.
If you’re looking at options for fun social sports in NYC, you can probably guess some of the sports that will crop up in your search. Some common intramural leagues include soccer, ultimate frisbee and dodgeball.
Perhaps a more surprising find, on the other hand, is axe throwing. This game, recently become an official sport, has begun to spread across the United States in recent years. Axe throwing locations are rapidly becoming a popular spot to visit, particularly for younger generations.
What Is Axe Throwing?
Axe throwing is a sport that consists of exactly what it sounds like — throwing an axe at a target. Usually, it involves two players competing for points. It functions similarly to a game of darts. Unlike darts, however, you’re throwing much larger, sharper and heavier objects, so axe throwing takes place in cages to prevent the axes from hitting anyone. When done in this environment, it’s a very safe sport.
Axe throwing first came about as a sport in Canada, where it soon grew popular. The United States has picked up the game in recent years, with a handful of different venues popping up around the country.
The exact rules of axe throwing vary depending on how strictly the official guidelines are being followed — many specific venues provide their own set of procedures, but the World Axe Throwing League (WATL) has developed an entire rulebook for the tournaments they hold. The rules also depend on which variation of the game is being played. However, for the standard version of the sport, there’s a basic set of rules that nearly all venues will broadly adhere to.
The game takes place between two players who are competing against each other. Usually, the two players will be placed in a cage together, though each player will have their own target, which is made of wooden boards. Each one has a circular target drawn on it, made up of four rings with a bullseye circle in the middle. Two very small circles are drawn between the two outermost rings near the top, one on each side. These circles are called the killshots.
The game lasts ten turns for each player, and the two players take turns. The object of the game is to finish the ten turns with the most points. Points are calculated based on where the axe lands on the target during each turn. Here’s a breakdown of the value of each ring on the target:
Outermost ring: 1 point
Second outermost ring: 2 points
Third outermost ring: 3 points
Fourth outermost ring: 4 points
Bullseye: 6 points
Killshot: 8 points
On the fifth and tenth turns, each player has the option of aiming for one of the killshots. For it to count, they must announce it beforehand. If they miss, they get no points, but if they hit it, then they get eight points.
Points for each player are added up as the game progresses. When the ten turns are done, whoever has the most points wins.
The above rules are simple enough to grasp, but they aren’t the only way of playing the game. A few different variations of the sport exist, though most of them lack any official recognition by organizations like the WATL. Still, they can be a lot of fun to play with your friends on a night out to an axe throwing venue. Here are a few of the most popular variations:
As the only variation to have its own set of official WATL rules, duals spices things up by doubling the number of players involved. Instead of playing one-on-one, four players are divided into two teams. The teams play against each other by having both members of a given team throw at the same time, and at the same target. Their combined points are then scored for that turn.
This variation is extremely similar to the regular version of the game. The only difference is that on any given turn, a player can choose to call their shot, which is to say they can predict which part of the target they’ll hit. If they turn out to be right, they get double the points — but if they’re wrong, they get no points at all.
The cornhole variation reflects duals by splitting people into two teams of two. The difference is that in cornhole, you’re competing to reach a specific number of points — usually 21 — without passing it. So if you have 20 points and score two more on your turn, they don’t count — it has to be 21 exactly. Furthermore, points cancel out. So if you score three points and the other team scores two on a given turn, that means they get zero, and you only get one for that turn.
Around the World
Around the World is a version of the game where players must work their way through each part of the target. They have to first successfully hit the outer ring. Once they’ve done that — however many turns it takes — they move on to trying to hit the next ring down. Then the one after that. After they hit the bullseye, they have to work their way back out again. The first person to complete the cycle wins.
Humans vs. Zombies
Humans vs. zombies is another team variation, in which one team is the “humans,” and the other is the “zombies.” Like in cornhole, points cancel out, but they contribute to an overall score rather than each team having their own number of points. The human team wants to bring the number of points up to 15, while the zombie team wants to bring it down to negative 15. Whichever team reaches their goal first wins.
The task of throwing an axe might seem simple enough — you just pick it up and throw it, right? — but there’s a little more to it than that. How you throw the axe can make a big difference because throwing it wrong can lead to it missing the target or hitting it by the handle instead of the blade. You don’t want your axe bouncing off the wood every time you throw it.
You have two possible options for effective throwing:
Over the head: Throwing over the head is the best technique for beginners because it gives you the most control. It requires you to use both hands, lifting the axe over your head and throwing it forward.
Over the shoulder: Throwing over the shoulder is a more precise technique than throwing over the head, at least once you’re experienced enough to master it. For this throw, you treat the axe almost like a dart, using one hand to launch it in a straight line at the target. For both throws, make sure you hold the axe loosely, so it leaves your hand easily when you throw it. Gripping it hard could result in a bad throw.
Join the Live Axe Throwing League
If you live in or near Manhattan and you’re excited about the idea of starting some axe throwing of your own, look no further than Live Axe. Located on Lafayette Street in Tribeca, we offer plenty of throwing cages where you can unleash your inner Viking while competing against friends or family.