A pétanque match involves several rounds in which each player on each of two teams throws 2-3 boules (see Turn Taking below). Scoring is similar to bocce and curling: points are awarded to the team with the closest boule(s) to the cochonnet at the end of each round (see Scoring below). Matches can involve 1, 2, or 3 players per team. For games involving 1 or 2 players per team, each player throws 3 boules per round. For 3-player teams, each player uses only 2 boules per round.
When starting the first game, a coin toss can be used to choose which team goes first in the first round. If subsequent games are played, the losing team from the prior game will often start first. A member of the first team (any member) stands in the circle and throws the cochonnet 6 to 10 meters. (In casual games, if the cochonnet is thrown outside this range, it is either moved into the range or thrown again from the circle.) A member of this same team (any member, but often the person who threw the cochonnet) then throws the first boule, again with both feet planted inside the circle. Next, a member of the other team throws their first boule. From this point of the round onward, the team whose closest boule to the cochonnet is further away throws next, unless they have run out of boules. Members of a team can go in any order as long as each throws the same number of boules during the round.
In competitive matches, team members are often split into pointers who are good at stopping the ball very near the cochonnet (called pointing) and shooters who specialize in clearing opponents’ boules out of the way. A round is usually started by the team’s pointer, with the shooter reserving boules for later in the round when shooting an opponent’s boule may become necessary.
After all players have completed throwing, the team with the closest boule to the cochonnet is said to have the point. This team receives an additional point for each additional boule they have that is closer to the cochonnet than the other team’s closest boule. Although the two teams can agree on any point total needed to win the match in advance of play, matches traditionally go to either 11 or 13 points, and there is no need to win by 2 points or more.
Click here for additional guidelines for games played at the Boulodrome.