Original (OK, this thing is probably older than that...) name of the game commonly known as Boule.
Pétanque is always played between two teams. The teams may vary in size from one to three players. Each player gets a number of boules depending on the size of the team:
  • One-player teams: three boules
  • Two-player teams: three boules
  • Three-player teams: two boules
Along with the necessary number of boules described above, very little in terms of equipment is needed. A cochonette (Usually a small ball of wood, but a small rock or similar object will do.) and something to randomly decide which team goes first, usually by flipping a coin (or similar).

Optional equipment might include measuring tape, a large magnet on a string to pick up boules without straining the player's back and some kind of score keeper - usually, the gravel or sand of the pétanque court is used for this purpose.

The court, or terrain is usually 12 by 3 meters and covered with gravel, with a throwing circle in one end. The circle's diameter is usually between 30-50 centimeters.

A round is started by deciding who gets to place the cochonette. This can be done randomly, but usually the losing side of the previous round places the cochonette, thereby gaining the advantage of placing the last boule. Placing is done by standing in the throwing circle and throwing the cochonette 6 to 10 meters into the court.

The team not placing the cochonette begins by throwing a boule at the cochonette, attempting to place the boule as close to the cochonette as possible. The teams then take turns placing boules until all boules are placed. The team that owns the boule closest to the cochonette wins the round. For each of the winning team's boules that is 'better' (closer to the cochonette) than the losing team's 'best' boule, one point is awarded.

Every boule in play as well as the cochonette may be knocked aside by a thrown boule. A throw that hits another boule without touching the ground first, transferring all of it's kinetic energy to the other boule, neatly knocking it away, is called a carreau, and considered a Good Thing. If the cochonette is knocked out of bounds or into a position where it is not visible from the circle and the teams can't agree on how to resolve the situation, these rules apply:

  • If both teams have boules left to throw, the round is void, neither team gets any points.
  • If only one team have a boule left, that team wins the round.
  • If no team has boules left, the round is void.

Pétanque is a great game to bring along on picnics due to the small amount of equipment needed and the fact that gender, age or physical fitness affects the game very little, thus making it ideal for a diverse group of people.

This game is closely realted to and possibly is the ancestor of garden bowls.

It is more closely related to the Italian version, bocce.

All three games are characterised by their slow, considered moves (bowls), which is why they are often played by older people.

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