Pétanque – The Game That Rhymes with “Badonk”

For our next installment in our series describing the games we’ll have available at The Yard, we head from Scandinavia to Provence in the south of France, where the game of Pétanque originated in the early 20th Century.  The game is cousin to other “Boule games” like bocce, lawn bowling and boule lyonnaise, some of which have been around since ancient times. 

The name Pétanque is derived from the expression pès tancats, meaning “feet fixed’”or “feet planted” (on the ground), and the game can be distinguished from boule lyonnaise by the fact that it is played with your feet planted squarely within a 20-inch circle.

In Pétanque, the objective is to score points by having boules closer to the target than your opponent after all boules have been thrown. This is achieved by projecting boules closer to the small target ball, called a cochonnet, or by hitting the opponents’ boules away from the target.  The game is played by two teams consisting of one, two, or three players per side and consists of several “ends” or “rounds”.

An end consists of throwing out the cochonnet, followed by the two teams throwing their boules. After both teams have thrown all of their boules, the team with the boule closest to the jack wins the end. The winning team scores one point for each of its boules that is closer than the opposing team’s closest boule.

That means that the winning team could in theory score as many as six points in an end, although a score of one or two points is more typical. 

A woman holding two chrome boules behind her back.

As the game progresses, each team accumulates points until one of the teams reaches 13, the winning number of points.

A game begins, like all games at The Yard, with Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine which team plays first. The team that wins starts by placing the circle, then standing in the circle and throwing the cochonnet to a distance of 20 to 30 feet. A player from the team that threw the cochonnet throws the first boule. Then a player from the opposing team throws a boule. 

From that point on, the team with the boule that is closest to the cochonnet is said to “have the point.” The team that does not have the point throws the next boule and continues to throw boules until it either gains the point or runs out of boules.

If at any point the closest boules from each team are equidistant from the jack, then the team that threw the last boule throws again. If the boules are still equidistant then the teams play alternately until the tie is broken. If the boules are still equidistant at the end of the end then neither team scores any points.

The team that won the end starts the next end. A player from the winning team places the circle around the cochonnet. He/she then picks up the cochonnet, stands in the circle, and throws the cochonnet to start the next end.

The petanque balls on a green grass.

We think you’re going to like this simple, but competitive, game of skill.  And like all things French, we think it goes best with a glass of wine.

To learn more about Pétanque, view the video below!

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