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In the last post, we took a quick look at the evolution of the game of pétanque and talked a little about its popularity and its appeal. Today, let’s take a moment to learn the basics of the game and how it is played.
The aim of pétanque is to get as many of your boules (balls) as close to the cochonnet (the jack—a small wooden ball acting as the target) as possible. Une équipe (a team) can have up to 4 players. Each player is given either 2 or 3 boules to work with depending on the number of players on a team. A coin toss starts off the game to determine which team gets to throw first and un cercle (a circle) is drawn on the ground in which all players must stand to lob their boules.
The cochonnet is tossed up to 30 feet away from the circle. One of the players from the winning team stands inside the circle with feet close together and lobs one of his boules as close as possible to the cochonnet. This is called pointing. A player from the opposite team then enters the circle and attempts the same with one of his boules. This player can also try to knock the other player’s boule out of the way to get his boule closer to the cochonnet. This is called shooting. When you hear someone say “Tu tires ou tu pointes?” they’re asking if you’ll be pointing or shooting. A carreau is when you shoot and displace an opponent’s boule by replacing his boule with one of yours in the exact same spot. This is très difficile (very difficult) and requires a good eye and near perfect aim.
If players on one team fail to get their boules closer to the cochonnet than the other team, they must continue to throw their boules in succession until they run out. Once they have exhausted their supply of boules, the other team must attempt to get the rest of their boules as close to the cochonnet as possible by either pointing or by shooting the boules of the other team. Once both teams are out of boules, the team with the most boules closest to the cochonnet wins the round (every boule equals one point). The first team to reach 13 points wins the game.
Heated débats (debates) have occurred when boules from opposing teams are equidistant from the cochonnet. Outils de mesure (measuring tools) such as tape measures and the old Provençal two-stick method (chopstick calipers) are used to put these arguments to rest but competition remains fierce among dedicated pétanqueurs.
Should you wish to learn more about the game of pétanque and join of a club in your area, visit Federation of Pétanque USA for more information.