If you know lawn bowls, more or less you know also petanque, a sport that falls into the category of boules sports, along with raffa, bocce, boule lyonnaise, lawn bowls and crown green bowling.

All of these sports share something in common, in that players or teams play their boules/balls towards a target ball.

The objective in petanque is to score points by getting boules closer to the target than your opponent after all boules have been thrown. This is achieved by projecting boules closer to the target, called a cochonnet, or by hitting the opponents' boules away from the target, while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground.

The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel. It can be played in public areas in parks, or in dedicated facilities called boulodromes.

Pétanque is played by two teams, where each team consists of one, two, or three players. In the singles and doubles games each player plays with three metal boules. In triples each player uses only two.

The area where a pétanque game is played is called a terrain. A game can be played in an open area like a public park, where the boundaries of the terrain are not marked, or more formally on a "marked terrain" where the terrain boundaries are marked (traditionally, by strings tightly strung between nails driven into the ground).

In pétanque, players throw while standing in a circle. Traditionally, the circle was simply scratched in the dirt. Starting around 2005, red plastic "prefabricated" circles were introduced and are now widely used in formal games. A circle drawn on the ground must be 35–50 cm (14–20 in) in diameter, while a plastic circle must have an inside diameter of 50 cm (20 in).

End

A game consists of several ‘ends’ or ‘rounds’ which consists of throwing out of the jack (the little wooden target ball), 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 or the round. 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.

As the game progresses, each team accumulates points until one of the teams reaches 13, the winning number of points. An end is complete when both teams have played all of their boules, or when the jack is knocked out of play (goes "dead").

Order of play

Which team plays first is determined by a coin toss. 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 meters (20–33 ft). A player from the team that threw the jack, throws the first boule. Then a player from the opposing team throws a boule.

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