What is Pétanque?
The game of pétanque is a game originating in France and has evolved over the last 100+ years. Pétanque was officiated in the city of La Ciotat in southern France in 1910. The game now is internationally played both casually and competitively and loved by millions of players.
Similar to bocce, it is a game of throwing balls (boules) as close to a target ball (cochonnet) as possible. This game can be compared to a mix of bocce, curling, chess, and jacks, but entirely unique in its own right.
Watch the excellent video here to see the basic rules of the game and how play is conducted on the terrain.
Continue reading on for more information about the game, rules, and positions of play!
Types of Player Positions
pointeur / pointer
Pointers are players who focus on rolling their boule as close to the cochonnet as possible. There are many styles of which a pointer can throw their boule. You may see pointers either stand or crouch within the circle when throwing.
milieu / middle
Middle players or milieu (mil-yeu) is a dynamic and highly versatile position based on the current round. They specialize in both shooting and in pointing and are critical positions in competitions. They approach the field focusing on utilizing all potential possibilities.
tireur / shooter
A shooter or tireur (tee-ruer) are the sharp shooters in the game and throw their boules to knock out the opposing team’s boules. This player is entirely focused on accuracy and the perfect shot, the carreau.
What do I need to play?
To play you’ll need some basic equipment and focus on having fun!
A set of 3 pétanque boules
A wooden cochonnet
A circle ( 50 cm in diameter)
A terrain (gravel, sand, or packed dirt)
What if I don’t have equipment or boules?
If its your first time playing pétanque, come join the Mile High Pétanque Club on our days of play! We have plenty of extra sets of boules and equipment for you to try the game and learn the ropes.
Want to purchase your own equipment?
You can purchase equipment from myriad shoppes and websites. Here in the states, we recommend visiting PetanqueAmerica.com to purchase equipment, boules, and accessories to get you started.
Likewise, if you’re wanting professional or special boules, it sometimes is best to purchase direct from the manufacturer.
How to Play
Basic Rules of Play
Order of Play
A game begins with a coin toss to determine which team plays first. The team that wins the toss begins the game by placing the circle, then standing in the circle and throwing the jack to a distance of 6–10 metres. 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. That team 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 cochonnet, 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 mène (round) then neither team scores any points.
The team that won the end starts the next end. A player from the winning team places (or draws) a circle around the cochonnet. The player then picks up the cochonnet, stands in the circle, and throws the cochonnet to start the next end.
An end is complete when both teams have played all of their boules, or when the cochonnet is knocked out of play (goes “dead”).
If the end finishes in the usual way—with the jack still alive and one team with the closest boule—then the team with the closest boule wins the end and scores one point for each of its boules that is closer to the cochonnet than other team’s closest boule.
If the cochonnet is alive but there is an “equidistant boules” situation at the end of the mène, then neither team scores any points. If the cochonnet is dead at the finish of the end, then if one (and only one) team still has boules left to play, that team scores one point for each boule that it still has in hand. Otherwise neither team scores any points in the end (like an inning in baseball in which neither team scores any runs).
Les Règles Officielles
The official rules are regularly updated, revised, and reviewed by the FIPJP. The Fédération Internationale de Pétanque & Jeu Provençal – FIPJP – is a global organization that oversees all licensees of pétanque and the Provençal game – two related sports that also have a common modern history. To see the official rules, click on the button below.
Come play with us!
Check out our schedule and visit us to learn and play the game.