The game of petanque is about throwing small metal balls (boules) at a jack (cochonnet). Points are scored by positioning the boules as close as possible to the cochonnet. The game can be played as singles, doubles or triples. One of the joys of the game is that it is very simple without too many rules. However if you want something more challenging, petanque can be a highly tactical game.
Benefits of Petanque
Petanque can be played by any age group. Petanque is a recognised sport in primary schools, while many clubs have active members who are well into their 80s.
Petanque is an integrated, non-gender specific sport - men and women compete on an equal basis, with or against each other.
Petanque can be played indoors (covered terrains) or outdoors.
Petanque can be played on a variety of surfaces (just about anything except grass, concrete or tarmac).
Petanque can be played all year round.
Petanque is suitable for the disabled.
Petanque is not too physically demanding - it doesn’t require extreme levels of fitness.
Petanque develops hand-eye co-ordination, thinking processes (tactics and strategies), problem solving and teamwork skills.
Below are the unofficial (but simplified) rules of the game:
Where to Play
Petanque, also known as Boules, is played outdoors on any reasonably firm surface: your backyard, the park, a field, a gravel parking lot, a shell driveway, etc. Hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt or very soft surfaces like fine beach sand or long grass are not recommended. Ideal surfaces are either shell or fine quarry stone based (10mm - 20mm deep). Any place that is open and fairly flat is a potential site. A few bumps and hollows are fine and they can even add more challenge to the game.
Choosing Your Teams
You will need to divide up into two teams. These can be teams of one, two or three players, known respectively as Singles (one player on each side), Doubles (two players on each side), or Triples (three players on each side). For leisure play, a good way to choose teams is for one person throw the coche and then get each player to simultaneously throw one boule towards the coche. Distance from the coche is then estimated. Teams are selected by combining each of the odd players (1-3-5) into one team and each of the even players (2-4-6) into the other team. (1 being the closest to the coche and 6 being the greatest distance from the coche).
Selecting Your Boules
Each team's boules should have markings that distinguish them from the other teams boules. This makes the boules easier to identify when counting up points. If all boules are identical, mark one team's boules with a felt pen. When playing Singles or Doubles, each player uses three boules and for Triples each player uses two boules.
Deciding Who Starts
The normal method is with a toss of a coin.
Tossing the Coche
The team that wins the coin toss chooses the starting location and then selects one of their players to throw out the coche. The starting location is indicated by a circle that is 30 to 45 cm in diameter and should be at least a metre away from any obstacle. The circle can be drawn with chalk, with a stick, the coche or even your finger. The player who leads off, stands with both feet inside the circle and throws the coche. The coche can be thrown in any direction but must come to rest within 6 to 10 metres of the starting circle and one metre away from any obstacle.
Throwing Your Boules
Boules must be thrown from within the starting circle and with both feet on the ground. The aim is to throw the boule so that it comes to rest as close to the coche as possible; it is allowable to touch or move the coche. The player should stay in the circle until their boule has landed. Next a player from the other team will have their throw. They will step into the circle and try to land their boule closer to the coche - it is fully allowable to knock your opponents boule out of the way as part of the process. (In fact as you become more experienced, you will see it is an important part of the strategy of the game). The boule closest to the coche is said to be "holding the point." The other team must then continue throwing their boules until they are holding the point or they run out of boules. Team members are not required to play in any particular order when throwing their boules; however, they must only throw their own boules and they must throw their boules one at a time from within the starting circle. They must also only throw their own boules, they cannot borrow boules from a team mate. If they take the lead (hold the point), the other team then tries to reverse the situation by landing a leading boule.
Winning the End
Once a team has thrown all its boules, the other side is allowed to throw their remaining boules. Once all boules are thrown, the points are counted. The team that has their boule closest to the coche wins that end. Additionally, they also get an extra point for each boule that is closer to the coche than their opponents closest boule. Only one team scores points per end. You cannot score negative points.
Beginning a New End
Once the points are tallied, the next end begins with the previous end's winners drawing a new starting circle. The team that won the previous end then selects a team player to toss out the coche to start the process all over again.
Winning the Game
The first team to 13 points wins the game. There is no minimum or maximum number of ends that must be played.
Good luck, and most of all enjoy yourself. Remember, the traditional way of playing is with a boule in one hand and a wine in the other!