Get the "boule" rolling with Pétanque!

  • Pétanque Playeur (Very popular game in South of France) at Cagnes-sur-Mer

    Pétanque Playeur (Very popular game in South of France) at Cagnes-sur-Mer

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Emmanuel Valentin


Get the "boule" rolling with Pétanque!

What is Pétanque?

Pétanque, pronounced "pay-tonk", one of Europe's most popular outdoor games, is a distant relative of horseshoes and a cousin of the Italian 'bocce'. The game originated in Provence in the early 1900's. The aim is to toss – underhand, palm down - or roll a number of steel balls as close as possible to a small wooden aim ball, called "but" or "cochonnet" (meaning "piglet" in French). Players take turns, and whoever ends up closest to the aim ball when all balls are played, wins. Unlike horseshoes, where the aim stake is fixed, pétanques' aim ball may be hit at any time, which can completely turn around the score at the last second. And whereas the official bocce rules call for a prepared court, with markers and sideboards, pétanque can be played on most outdoor surfaces.

No special skill is required, adults can play with children, and the equipment is inexpensive. The game of pétanque is simple, relaxing, lots of fun and a perfect way to make new friends. Last but not least, pétanque can be (and usually is) played while enjoying a cool drink (in France, often pastis) and some tasty outdoor snacks! No wonder this extremely pleasant game is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide.

Basic rules of pétanque

The game is played by two teams of one, two, or three players each. Each player uses three or two boules.  Toss a coin to decide which team starts.  That team draws a circle to define the starting point for the round, and any one of their players throws the "piglet" between 18 and 30 ft away, followed by the first boule, as close as possible to the piglet.  The other team now has to get closer and must throw boules until they succeed. As soon as they do, it is back to the first team, and so forth. When one team is out of boules, the other team throws its remaining boules.  Only the team with the closest boule scores. Any boule(s) they have closer to the piglet than the closest boule of the other team is a point.  The winning team starts a new round from where the last round ended.  The first team to reach 13 points wins. "Voilà, c'est tout !"  Players should always stand inside the circle, both feet together.  Knocking another team'' boules - or even the piglet - out of place is not only allowed, but more fun as well. There is no rule as to which player of a team gets to throw. The same player can throw two or three times in a row.