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A zombie boule is a boule that dies and then returns to life and attacks the living. It is a boule that is knocked out of bounds, hits something, rebounds back onto the terrain, and then moves or deflects or stops still-living balls (boules or the jack). When that happens we are confronted by The Zombie Boule Question:
A zombie boule has interfered with the game. What should we do?
Article 19, which covers dead boules, gives us these instructions for dealing with zombies.
Any boule is dead from the moment that it enters an out-of-bounds area. … If the boule then comes back onto the game terrain, either because of the slope of the ground, or because it rebounds off of an obstacle, moving or stationary, it is immediately removed from the game and anything that it displaced after its trip through the out-of-bounds area is put back in its original location provided that those objects had been marked. [Note that the words “provided that those objects had been marked” were added in the 2016 rules revision.]
The problem with this rule is that “putting things back in their original places” is a useless concept. In real life, the original places of balls are never marked, so it is impossible to put things back in their original places. And who knows what “original place” means for a ball that was in motion when it was stopped or deflected by a zombie? If an umpire is called in to make a decision in a Zombie Boule situation, he will always rule that the zombie boule should be removed, everything else should be left where it is, and the game should continue.
As soon as we forget the notion of “putting things back in their original places”, everything becomes easy. What might help, perhaps, is a way of thinking about zombie boules that makes it easy to see the answer to a Zombie Boule Question. Something like this.
A boule that goes out of bounds is dead. After a boule is dead, if it interacts in any way with a live ball, it is treated as part of the terrain (like a stone). As soon as possible after a boule dies, it should be moved to a location outside of, and well away from, the dead-ball line and left on the ground.
Thinking about zombie boules this way won’t change the way that zombie boules should be dealt with. But it might make it easier to see the right answer in some zombie-boule situations. Like this one.
Boule A is hit by boule B. Boule A is knocked across the dead-ball line and is stopped by the wooden sideboard. Boule B quickly follows. Normally boule B would go out-of-bounds, but in this case it is stopped by boule A. It doesn’t completely cross the dead-ball line. (See the diagram, below.) Is boule B dead?
The answer is— NO. Boule B never went completely out-of-bounds so it is not dead. The fact that boule B was stopped by a dead boule makes no difference whatsoever. As far as a live boule is concerned, a dead boule on or near the terrain is just another feature of the terrain, like a rock or a tree root. When boule A stopped boule B from crossing the dead-ball line, it was just as if a rock or root on the terrain had stopped boule B.
In this example, everything happened very fast. But the same kind of situation can develop slowly. Suppose that Boule A is knocked out of bounds. Then another boule is played, and another. Then boule B ends up being stopped by boule A. Just as before, boule B is still alive.
In this slow-motion situation, international umpire Mike Pegg has ruled that
The player of boule A and his team is given a warning for not removing the dead boule.
I take it that Mike is acting on a rule interpretation in which “the terrain” includes not just the in-bounds area but also the out-of-bounds area to some unspecified distance from the dead-ball line. That’s why he has also stated (the underscores are mine) that
anything (boule, bag, etc.) on the terrain and in a position that it would stop a boule or jack from completely crossing the dead ball line should be removed. Which is why you often see umpires moving bags and the like to the other side of the timber surround.
This post has been updated for the 2016 FIPJP rules revision.
It supercedes three earlier posts about zombie boules.
Here is a list of the important changes to the rules of petanque made by the FIPJP in 2016. (This is an expanded version of an earlier post.) The 2016 FIPJP rules of petanque are available on the FIPJP web site and the Rules of Petanque web site.
2017-03-17: added a note on the need for a new interpretion of Article 8 and a photograph of an approved folding circle.
- Article 10a has been renamed to be Article 11, and all subsequent articles renumbered. So the rules now have 41 articles, rather than 40.
- Article 3: The weight of the jack must be between 10 and 18 grams. (This means that synthetic jacks, which weigh 22g, are no longer permitted.)
- Article 5: The opening sentence has been changed from “Petanque is played on all terrains,” to “Petanque is played on all surfaces.”
- Article 6: Folding circles (cercles pliables) are permitted but only if they are of a model and rigidity approved by the FIPJP. (Folding circles that are approved by the FIPJP will be marked “Agréé FIPJP”.)
- Article 6: The throwing circle must be marked before the jack is thrown.
- Article 6: If a player picks up the circle when there are boules still to be played, the circle is replaced but only the opponents are allowed to play their boules.
- Article 7: The team winning the toss or the previous end will have ONE and only one attempt to throw a valid jack. If the thrown jack is not valid, the jack is given to the opposing team which then places the jack in any valid location on the designated terrain.
- Article 7: The throwing circle must now be placed at least two meters from any other active circle.
- Article 7: During time-limited games only, for a thrown jack, the required minimum distance from a SIDE dead-ball line (not from an END dead-ball line) is reduced to 50cm.
- Article 8 contains the following sentence: “Before the jack is given to the opposing team for them to place it, both teams must have recognized that the throw was not valid or the Umpire must have decided it to be so. If any team proceeds differently, it loses the right to throw the jack.” The words have not changed, but the second sentence must be given a new interpretation in light of the changes to the rules for the throw of the jack.
If Team A throws a jack that appears to Team B to be long, and Team B picks the jack up before Team A agrees that it actually was long, an umpire may rule that Team B has lost the right to place the jack, and give the jack to Team A, which will then place (not throw) it. It is likely that the second sentence will be revised in the next version of the rules.
- Article 10: “Sweeping” (the ground with a foot) in front of a boule to be shot is now specifically mentioned as a violation of the rule against changing the terrain. (This is a clarification of, rather than a change to, the existing rule.)
- Article 26: Players must stand at least two meters away from an umpire while he is measuring.
- Article 27: If a player picks up his boules from the playing area while his partners have boules remaining, they will not be allowed to play them.
- Article 31: It is now no longer the responsibility of each team to check and verify the opposing team’s licenses, boules, qualifications to play in the competition, etc.
- Article 33: A mene is considered to start when the jack is thrown, regardless of whether or not the throw was valid.
- Article 35: In order to simplify the penalties, the penalty of disqualification of TWO boules has been eliminated.
- Article 35: The rules now officially recognize the use of colored signal cards.
- Article 35: The discussion of warnings has two new provisions. (1) A yellow card for exceeding the time limit will be imposed on ALL of the players of the offending team. (2) If one of these players has already been given a yellow card, that player will be penalised by disqualification of a boule.
These new provisions are poorly written and it will probably be some time before umpires agree on how to interpret them. One likely outcome is this— In the past, umpires usually treated a time-violation as an individual offense. Thus, if player A on Team T exceeded the time limit, the umpire would give A a warning. Later, if player B on Team T exceeded the time limit, the umpire would give B a warning. Now, with these new provisions, it seems likely that if player A on Team T exceeds the time limit, the umpire will give Team T a warning. Later, if player B on Team T exceeds the time limit, the umpire will penalize Team T by disqualifying one of the team’s boules.
- Article 39: Correct dress is required of the players, specifically: (a) it is forbidden to play without a top (i.e. with a bare torso) and (b) for safety reasons, the players must wear fully enclosed shoes. In addition, it is forbidden to smoke (or use an e-cigarette) and to use a mobile phone during a game.
American players should note that the FPUSA rules have changed in another way.
Following a new policy, the FPUSA has adopted the 2016 international rules “as written” as its national rules.
Adopting the international rules “as written” means doing away with the italicized modifications and addendums added to the FPUSA version over the years. Doing so also means our players will learn to play per the international rules, nothing more, nothing less. [Mike] Pegg’s advice to the FPUSA is to publish the rules as adopted in December 2016 by the FIPJP and separately publish clarification for the more ambiguous and broadly interpreted aspects of the rules or for issues unique to the FPUSA. We agree with Mike and are already in the process of updating the “2015 Interpretation’s” currently in use by the federation.
Previous versions of the FPUSA rules also differed from the FIPJP rules in the wording of the Puddle Rule in Article 9. With the adoption of the FIPJP rules “as written”, that difference no longer exists.
What does it mean to “disqualify a boule”?
Depending on the context, “disqualifying a boule” can mean one of two quite different things. The key to recognizing the two contexts lies in the expression “disqualification of the boule played or to be played.”
The first context is one where we want to disqualify a boule that has already been played. Suppose, for instance, that a player has already received one warning for a foot fault— for standing on the circle while throwing. Now, the umpire is watching him closely. Again, the player stands on the circle while throwing his boule. The umpire shows an orange card and tells the player that the boule that he has just thrown is disqualified because of his repeated foot fault. In that context, we can point to a specific boule and say “THAT is the boule to be disqualified.” That specific boule is declared dead and removed from the terrain.
The second context is one where we want to disqualify a boule that has not yet been played. Suppose, for instance, that a team has already received one warning for violating the 1-minute rule. Now they are standing around and discussing strategy. Their discussion takes more than one minute. The umpire approaches the team and informs them that one of the team’s boules is now disqualified because of the team’s second infraction of the 1-minute rule. But… which boule should be disqualified? Suppose that the team has 4 unplayed boules. How does the umpire pick out which boule he is going to point to and say “THAT is the boule to be disqualified”?
The answer is that he doesn’t. In this situation, “disqualifying a boule” doesn’t mean picking out a particular boule for disqualification. It means reducing the number of boules that the penalized team (or player) is allowed to throw in the future. As Mike Pegg said during an exchange on “Ask the Umpire”—
If the team has 4 boules and are then advised that 1 boule is disqualified, they then have 3 boules.
They may have 4 unplayed boules in hand, but since one of those boules has been disqualified, they are now allowed to throw only three boules. Which boules they choose to throw is up to them. If the penalized team has no more boules to throw, the number of boules that they can throw in the next mene is reduced.
As Article 35 says—
If one of these players has already been given a yellow card, he will be penalized by disqualification of a boule during the mene in progress or for the following mene if he has no more boules to play.
Excluding a player
After disqualifying a boule, the next level of penalty is the exclusion of a player from the rest of the game. The procedures for excluding a player are similar to the procedures for disqualifying a boule.
On the one hand, the umpire may walk up to a specific player and say, “YOU are excluded from the rest of the game.” On the other hand, the umpire may walk up to the captain of a triples team and say, “For the rest of the game, starting with the next mene, your team is allowed to play with only two players.”
One of the problems with the FIPJP rules document is that it mixes together in one document material that properly belongs in three different documents— rules of the game, administrative procedures, and guidelines for umpires. In particular, mixing guidelines for umpires with rules of the game blurs the difference between the two. The rules about “putting things back” are a good illustration of this problem.
There are a variety of ways in which a ball (boule or jack) can be moved illegally during a game. When a ball is illegally moved, players then confront the question of whether they should leave it where it is, or put it back in its original location. It is an often-overlooked fact that the rules about relocating an illegally-moved jack are different from the rules about relocating an illegally-moved boule.
Wherever the rules discuss the jack, they say that the jack can be put back in its original location (remis à sa place primitive) only on condition that its original location was marked. In contrast, in the one place where the rules discuss boules (Article 22), they say simply that the boule should be put back (remise en place). This is quite understandable because it is only a jack, not a boule, that is likely to have its original location marked. It is a tradition (a fading tradition, now, I think) for players to mark the location of the jack immediately after it has been thrown, in order to avoid The Pushed-Jack Question.
Now, into these relatively clear waters, we will mix a dollop of guidelines for umpires.
Article 12 – Jack masked or displaced … To avoid all disagreement, the players must mark the position of the jack. No claim will be accepted [by an umpire] regarding unmarked boules or an unmarked jack.
Article 22 – Displaced boules … To avoid all disagreement, the players must mark the boules. No claim will be admissible for an unmarked boule, and the umpire will make his decision based only on the locations of the boules on the terrain.
Basically, this boils down to two guidelines: one for umpires and one for players. The guideline for umpires is:
When making a decision concerning an illegally-moved ball (boule or jack) an umpire will ignore any claim by players about the original location of the ball if that original location is not marked, and will make his decision based only on the current locations of the balls on the terrain.
In light of this guideline for umpires, the rules offer the following guideline (or advice, really) for players.
An umpire will ignore any claim that you might make about the original location of a ball if that original location is not marked. Therefore, the only way that you can avoid the certainty that an umpire will rule NOT to return an illegally-moved ball to its original location is (a) always to mark the current location of every ball on the terrain, and (b) always to create new marks and erase old marks whenever any of the balls is moved.
These guidelines generate many questions and a lot of discussion on online petanque forums. This is not the place to get into them. The point that I want to make here is that these are guidelines for umpires, not rules of the game. That means that—
(a) If you are an umpire, and are called on to render a decision in a game, these guidelines are binding on you. You MUST follow them. You, as umpire, can NEVER return an unmarked boule to its original location.
(b) If you are a player in a social game where there is no umpire, these guidelines do not apply to you. For you, they are simply irrelevant. You and your fellow players are free to agree on a location, put the boule back (approximately) in its original location, and carry on with your game.
However, in case (b), remember that the rules for relocating a jack are different from the rules for relocating a boule. Even in a social game, if you want strictly to follow the rules, a jack can be relocated to its original location only if its original location was marked.
Note that if you are playing in an umpired game and a ball is moved illegally, you are NOT required to call in an umpire to render a decision. (An umpire may of course decide to step in uninvited.) When no umpire is present, your game is in essentially the same situation as if you were playing social petanque. You and your fellow players are NOT bound by the umpire’s guidelines. In the case of an illegally-moved boule, if you and your fellow players can agree on a location, you are free to relocate the illegally moved boule and to carry on with the game.
Other posts in Putting Things Back category
In the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules, a third paragraph was added to the text of Article 27. The article in its entirety now reads:
Article 27 – Picked-up boules
It is forbidden for players to pick up played boules before the end of the mene.
At the end of a mene, any boule picked up before the agreement of points is dead. No claim is admissible on this subject.
▶If a player picks up his boules from the game terrain while his partners have boules remaining, they will not be allowed to play them.◀
Paragraph 3 was a good idea. Before it was added, what the article implicitly said was——
If a player (deliberately) picks up one of his own boules, the boule is dead and the player receives (only) a warning.
The idea that a player would want deliberately to remove one of his own boules might seem strange. But it isn’t, really. Suppose, for instance, that you are playing on team B when one of the following situations arises.
- Team A has thrown all of their boules, while your team still has four boules to play. The front is completely open, just waiting for you to point those four boules in and score four points, EXCEPT… one of your own boules, B1, is in the way. It is sitting exactly on the ideal donnée for your pointing throws. It is a great blocking boule, but now it is blocking you rather than the opponents.
- Your team has one point one the ground. If you could shoot away opposing boule A1, your team could score four points. But boule B1, one of your own boules, is right behind A1, kissing it. You’re familiar with Newton’s cradle and you know the physics of this kind of situation. If you shoot A1, B1 will go flying and A1 will hardly move.
In both of these situations (and there are others like them) it would be to your advantage if you could pick up your own boule and remove it. In some circumstances, it might be worth doing even if you got a warning from the umpire for doing it. In social games played without an umpire, you wouldn’t even get a warning. Soon, perhaps, the idea would spread that picking up one of your own boules was a recognized and acceptable part of the game.
The addition of paragraph 3 to the text of Article 27 fixes that. Don’t think of paragraph 3 as specifying a punishment for picking up your own boule. Rather, think of it as eliminating the possibility of gaining any advantage at all from deliberately picking up one of your own boules.
Note that if a player deliberately picks up one of his own team’s boules, the rules in in Article 22– which cover boules that are accidentally picked up— do not apply.(1) Even if the boule’s original location was marked, if the boule was deliberately picked up it may not be put back in its original location.
Paragraph 3, like many other rules, has the potential to cause problems for umpires. Although paragraph 3 describes a situation in which a player “picks up” his boule from the game terrain, the word “picks up” (enlevée) is used loosely, and it covers such deliberate actions as kicking a boule off of the terrain, or even just kicking it away from the head.
Consider, for instance, our first example. B1, one of team B’s own boules, has become a nasty blocking boule for team B. Ben, the captain of team B, walks up to the boule to inspect the situation. He sees a divot not far from the boule. He starts using one foot to scrape dirt toward the divot when— suddenly— he loses his balance. Swinging arms and legs wildly in an attempt to regain his balance, he accidentally kicks B1, knocking it a meter away.
Now the umpire has a problem. He must decide whether Ben’s action was or was not a genuine accident. If it was an accident, B1 stays where Ben kicked it (because its location wasn’t marked). But if Ben deliberately moved B1 the boule is dead, and so are all of team B’s remaining unplayed boules.
Rules about players doing something accidentally (or deliberately) inevitably raise the old, old question— “He did it. But in this particular case how can we know whether he did it accidentally or deliberately?” That’s the problem that this rule potentially poses for umpires.
(1) Article 22 If a stationary boule is displaced by the wind or slope of the ground, for example, it is put back [in its original location]. The same applies to any boule accidentally displaced by a player, an umpire, a spectator, an animal, or any moving object.
This post is an excerpt from the next edition of A Guide to the Rules of Petanque, now in preparation.
Players often have questions about when a mene begins and ends.
Actually, the rules don’t contain the concept (or at least, not a substantive concept) of a mene ending. It is precisely because the rules say nothing on this topic that there are questions and disagreements about when a mene ends. International umpire Mike Pegg says that a mene ends when the last boule is thrown. The FPUSA rules interpretations say that a mene ends when the points have been agreed.
What is important in the rules is not when a mene ends but when it begins. When a mene begins is important in two different situations, and the rules for when a mene begins may be different for those two situations.
A late-arriving player
The first situation is when a late-arriving player arrives and is ready to join the game. In this situation the player must wait until the start of the next mene before joining the game (see Article 33). Note that the rules about when a mene begins changed with the 2016 revision of the rules. In earlier versions of the rules, a mene was considered to begin with the successful throw of the jack. In the 2016 version of the rules, Article 33 says
A mene is considered to have started when the jack has been thrown regardless of the validity of the throw.
The time-limit signal is announced
The second situation is when the time-limit signal is announced (usually by the sound of a whistle or bell) in a time-limited game. Typically when the time-limit is announced players may finish the current mene and then (depending on the competition rules) play one or two additional menes.
Competition rules often include rules (for that particular competition, for the purposes of working within time-limits) about when a mene is considered to begin. Possible rules for the second and subsequent menes include—
- A mene begins when the jack has been thrown (successfully or not).
- A mene begins when the jack has been successfully placed.
- A mene begins when the first boule of the mene has been thrown.
- A mene begins after the last boule of the previous mene has been thrown.
- A mene begins after the points have been agreed at the end of the previous mene.
A new end will be considered as started as soon as the result of the previous end is known.
So does the 2015 version of the FPUSA rules interpretations.
A new end will be considered as started as soon as the result of the previous end is known.
The Petanque New Zealand umpire’s guide uses option #4. Note that the opening paragraph in this quotation is written as if it is discussing a question about when a mene ends, but the wording of the first bullet point makes it clear that the discussion is really about when a mene begins.
When the time signal is sounded, players decide if all boules of the end have been played and have come to a stop. If so, that end has finished (regardless of measuring and deciding points). It is the most objective point at which to make a decision re the end of an end, as it does not allow players to ‘play for time’ through measuring, deciding points, calling the umpire etc. So when the time signal is sounded…
- If the last boule of the end has been played and come to a stop, you have officially started the new end and are therefore able to play that end, plus the tournament’s official ends.
- If the last boule of the end has NOT been played or NOT stopped, you finish the end and then play the tournament’s official ends.
The PNZ umpire’s guide is clear that this rule is NOT to be used for determining when a late-arriving player may join the game.
This rule applies only in timed games to determine how many ends remain to be played after the time signal is sounded. It is not used for any other purpose.
Players sometimes say “the jack must be thrown within a minute after the end of the previous mene.” But that is not what the rules say. What the actual rule, in Article 21, says is–
Once the jack is thrown, each player has the maximum duration of one minute to play his boule. This short period of time starts from the moment that the previously played boule or jack stops or, if it is necessary to measure a point, from the moment the latter [the measurement] has been accomplished. … The same requirements apply to the throwing of the jack.
The rules do NOT say that that the jack must be thrown within a minute after the end of the previous mene. They say that that the jack must be thrown within a minute after the last boule thrown in the previous mene has come to rest (or, if measurement was necessary to determine which team holds the point, after the completion of measurement). There is no mention of “the end of the previous mene”.
Rather unrealistically, the rules assume that the agreement of points occurs instantaneously after the last boule was thrown (or measurements were completed). This isn’t a problem because, during actual play, time spent during the agreement of points is treated as time spent in measuring.
There are a few places where the expression “the end of the mene” does occur in the rules. One place is in Article 27.
Article 27 – Picked-up Boules
It is forbidden for players to pick up played boules before the end of the mene. At the end of a mene, any boule picked up before the agreement of points is dead.
Here, use of the expression “the end of the mene” helps make the assumed context of the rule clearer but doesn’t affect the substance of the rule itself. You could eliminate all references to “the end of the mene” without changing the rule.
Article 27 – Picked-up Boules
It is forbidden for players to pick up played boules before the agreement of points. Any boule picked up before the agreement of points is dead.
The other place where you can find the expression “the end of the mene” is in Article 13—
Article 13 – Jack displaced into another game
If, during a mene, the jack is displaced onto another game terrain… the players using this jack will wait for the end of the mene that was started by the players on the other game terrain, before finishing their own mene.
Here, “waiting for the end of the mene” is an important part of the rule, but the expression is not being used as a technical term. It simply means waiting for one game to finish using a patch of ground so that the other game can use it without the two games interfering with each other.
This post is an excerpt from the next edition of A Guide to the Rules of Petanque, now in preparation.
Petanque New Zealand has released its new rules interpretations, for the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules. The interpretations are formatted as comments (in red) interpolated into the text of the rules. The new document is available at the PNZ web site, HERE.