The objective of the game is to get your balls nearest to the jack or cochonnet (meaning ‘piglet’). A coin is tossed to decide which side goes first. The starting team draws a circle on the ground, which has to be 35-50 centimeters in diameter: all players must throw their boules from within this circle, with both feet remaining on the ground.
The team that wins the toss throws the jack 6–10 meters away. A player from the team that threw the jack then throws their first ball. A player from the opposing team then plays. Play continues with the team furthest away from the jack having to continue throwing until they either land a ball closer to the jack than their opponents or run out of boules.
In a broad sense, there are two ways of playing, either pointing (attempting to place the ball nearest the jack) or shooting (attempting to remove an opponent’s ball). Players tend to specialise in pointing or shooting, although in triples the milieu or middle player needs to be able to do both.
Pétanque has a very different mindset to bowls where the dominant way to play is to try and draw the point by placing the bowl nearest the jack. The mentality of the experienced pétanque player is to go on the attack and shoot balls out, and the most spectacular play is always the carreau, where the ball nearest the jack is hit by the ball of the shooter and takes its place.
If the closest balls from each team are an equal distance from the jack, then the team that played last plays again. If the boules are still equidistant then the teams play alternately until the position changes. If the boules are still equidistant at the end of the game then no points are scored by either team.
The game continues with a player from the team that won the previous end drawing a new circle around where the jack finished and throwing the jack for a new end.
Play ends, and points may be scored when both teams have no more boules, or when the jack is knocked out of play. The winning team receives one point for each boule that it has closer to the jack than the best-placed boule of the opposition.
If the jack is knocked out of play, no team scores unless only one team has boules left to play. In this case the team with boules receives one point for each that they have to play.
The team first to 13 points wins the match.
Join in – you’ll soon get to grip with the game and its rules. You’ll soon see that there is a lot more to it than first appears!