Petanque is a game where players throw steel boules towards a wooden coche to be the nearest or sometimes to knock out the opponents boules. It’s a game that’s sociable, slightly energetic, easy to learn but has deeper subtle aspects and includes an element of luck.
Players of all ages and abilities can compete together and you can be as sociable or as competitive as you want. Equipment is not expensive and most clubs will lend you some boules and teach you the rules to get you started. Once you get the bug you can buy your own boules and start getting better. One day you might even win a game!
The game itself is called Petanque and it comes from old French words meaning feet anchored. There are many different versions of a game where steel balls are lobbed at a wooden jack; some say Francis Drake was playing boules when the Armada was sighted.
The version played most often started in 1907 when a player who was getting a little too old to play an energetic version where you ran up to launch the boule so he created a version where you stood still and the length of the game was shortened to between 6 and 10 metres. Now millions of people play this version called Petanque.
How do you say it? Pay – Tonk.
The game starts when a player draws a circle and then stands in the circle to throw a coche (also called a cochonnet or le petit) a distance of 6m to 10m. Then he throws the first boule of the game. The opposing team plays their first boule and whoever is not winning throws again until they are winning then the other team attempts to do the same.
In pairs each player has 3 boules, in triples each player has 2 boules. It is possible to play singles as well. The game continues until each team has used all their boules and then scores are decided. Only one team scores each end. They can score a point for each of their boules nearer the coche than the opposition. This can be anything from 1 to 6 points. Several ends are played until one team reaches 13 points and wins the game. It usually takes 30 to 45 minutes for a game, depending on how strategy & tactics are used.
This sounds quite sedate but there are different styles of shot. Pointers try to place their boules near the coche, shooters try to knock opponents boules out of the way by hitting them hard. There’s the chance for deep strategy and clever tactics and often the end isn’t decided until the very last boule is thrown.