Brännboll is a game similar to rounders, baseball, and lapta, which is played at the amateur level throughout northern Europe, including Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany. In some areas, it is better known as slaball or brennball. For the most part, the game is played in parks and fields, though some schools include it as a part of their physical education curriculum.
Since there is no central governing body for brännboll, there are no codified rules, though games played generally follow the same regulations and traditions. The game is usually played with a tennis ball, and unlike baseball and cricket, there is no pitcher or bowler. Instead, the batter himself throws (or bounces) the ball and hits it with his bat. “Fair territory” is usually determined according to natural features such as trees, or sometimes is little more than an imaginary border, and like baseball, these borders don’t restrict how far the ball can be hit straight away from the batter. As a result, there is no standard size for the field of play.
Upon hitting the ball, the batter then makes their way around the four bases (usually counter-clockwise), while the fielding team catches and throws the ball back to the designated catcher positioned by what is known as the outing base (brännplatta). The catcher announces the end of the batting round with “out” (bränd, “burned”) when they step on the outing base with the ball in their possession.
If the runner is caught between two bases at the end of the batting round, they move back to either the last visited base or, according to some local rules, back to first base. When this occurs, the fielding team earns a point. The offensive team can have as many players on the bases as they like, as there are no restrictions (i.e. you can have more than one runner to a base, as both those runners might be caught between the same two bases when the ball makes it back to the catcher).
If a fielder catches a fly ball before it hits the ground (lyra), the fielding team also earns a point. However, if the batter makes it past fourth base before the ball gets to the catcher (varvning), the hitting team earns a point. If the hitter gets what we’d call a home run (frivarv/helrunda), the offensive team gets 6 points.
If all players on the batting team fail to reach fourth base (and thus rejoin the queue to hit again) and no batsmen remain in the queue, the hitting team as a whole is caught out (utebrända). This results in 5 points awarded to the catching team. The indicator at which the two teams switch sides also remains unclear, and likely differs from location to location. Typically, however, each team get to play on each side, usually one or two times each.
Interestingly, in spite of the lack of organization, there is a brännboll world championship known as Brännbollscupen. It is played annually in Umeå, Sweden. Brännbollscupen was first organized in 1974 with 44 teams taking part. Over the years, the tournament has grown to over 1,000 participating teams.
You can watch a bit of brännboll (including a team of superheroes, it appears) being played here: