The Rules of Boules

The Rules of Boules

Enjoyed by over 20million French people each year, boules is the perfect game to play on a laidback sunny afternoon, and at the Maytime Inn, we are lucky enough to have our own specially built pétanque court for you to enjoy. It’s an easy and relaxing game to play, but initially, the rules can seem a bit daunting. So, to help you get the most out of this gloriously chill game here are the definitive rules of boules.

Step 1 select your teams

Before you can play the game you will need to decide who is playing against who. Pétanque can be played by two single people or two pairs on opposing teams who each throw three boules, or it can be played by two three-person teams with each player throwing two boules.

If you cannot decide who should be on whose team a traditional way to select partners is to let the boules decide — every player throws a boule at the same time, the players whose boules land closest to each other are on the same team.

Step 2 pour your drinks

Now, this is an integral part of the game. Pour yourself a refreshing glass of chilled rosé, or a glass of pastis if you’re a real Francophile. These are the traditional pétanque tipples (with the ban on alcohol consumption being lifted from Professional games by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2007). Drinking isn’t compulsory, but if you are going to drink alcohol while you play we really think you should order something from the bar that will help you get into the mindset of being a septuagenarian farmer from Provence.

Step 2 Pick your boules

Now that your teams have been decided, and you have yourself a refreshingly Gallic drink, it is time for each team to pick their boules. The patterns on the metallic boules are used to differentiate the two opposing teams within the game, in the same way as spots and stripes do in a game of pool, so make sure your boules match your teammates!

Step 3 toss the pig

Now, let the game begin! Start by flipping a coin to decide which team goes first. The first player of the team that won the toss, places a circle (or etches a circle into the earth with a stick) in the court at least three feet from any obstacle.

From within the circle, this player must then toss the cochonnet (which literally translated means piglet) which is the small wooden ball, in any direction but it must land within 20-30 feet of the starting circle and be at least three feet from any obstacle.

Step 4 throw your boules

With the cochonnet now in position, the same player which threw the cochonnet takes their first turn. As always from within the circle they will toss their first boule with the aim of trying to make it land as close to the cochonnet as possible, hitting the cochonnet is allowed.

Once the starting player has thrown their first boule, the first player of the opposing team takes their turn, where they must try to get even closer to the target than their opponent, even if they need to knock their opponent’s boule out of the way to do so.

Step 5 Holding point

The team with the boule closest to the cochonnet after this part of the game is said to be ‘holding the point’. This means that the opposing team must keep taking turns in throwing their boules at the cochonnet until one of theirs is closest to the target. if they achieve this, they take the lead and the other team takes their turn trying to recover the lead.

There aren’t really any official rules regarding what order members within a team must follow when throwing their boules. However, they are only allowed to throw their own boules, they must go one at a time and, of course, only throw from within the starting circle.

Step 6 winning a round

Once one team has thrown all of their boules, the other team is allowed to throw the rest of theirs. When all of the boules have been thrown, it is time to count up the points, in pétanque only the winning team of each round scores any points. The winning team is the one which has the closest boule to the cochonnet, for which they score one point, they also get an additional point for any boules that were closer to the cochonnet than the opposing team’s best boule.

Step 7: playing a new round

Once the points have been counted and recorded, a new round begins, the winners from the last round start and a new starting circle is placed around the final position of the cochonnet.

Step 8: Winning the game

The game is won by the first team to achieve 13 points. There is no maximum or a minimum number of rounds to be played.

(Optional) Step 9: Kissing Fanny

A little quirk of the game is that if a team is beaten outright with a score 13-0 they are known as ‘Being Fanny’ (être fanny). Traditionally teams that scored no points were ceremonially humiliated by having to kiss a painting of the bare bottom of Fanny (The goddess of pétanque) while the winning team rang bells and pointed and laughed.

However, today if this unlikely score happens, the forfeit is commonly buying a round of drinks for the winners “Fanny paie à boire”. You can choose whether or not to play to this rule.