Zombie boules – Dealing with the living dead

A zombie boule is a boule that dies, and then comes back to life and messes with the living.

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You are most likely to encounter a zombie boule during a game played on a marked terrain surrounded by boards. A boule is thrown or knocked out of bounds, hits the wooden surround, and rebounds back onto the terrain.

Just rolling back onto the terrain doesn’t create a problem. (The boule is dead; it is removed from the terrain and the game continues.) The problems begin when a dead boule comes back to life and attacks the living. A zombie boule might hit and move the jack or the still-living boules. Or, it might change the speed or direction of a living jack or boule that is in motion.

When a zombie interferes with stationary balls

First, let’s look at cases where the zombie interferes with stationary balls. The boule is knocked out of bounds, hits something, rebounds back onto the terrain, and moves a jack or boule that is sitting motionless on the terrain.

Article 18, 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 place.”

Bottom line— the zombie boule is removed. Anything that it illegally moved is put back in its original place.

About “putting things back in their original place”

“Putting things back in their original place” is a difficult concept for the FIPJP’s rules.

The FIPJP’s rules are not written with social play in mind. The FIPJP’s rules are designed for use in fiercely-competitive tournament-level competitions and they assume the presence of umpires. Players engaged in a social game may have no problem with the idea of simply putting things back in their original places and carrying on with their game. But an FIPJP umpire will have a BIG problem with that idea.

For the FIPJP rules, the paradigmatic situation is a tournament situation where an umpire is called in to make a ruling. The players describe the situation to the umpire, but their narratives may be unreliable or biased. The only reliable evidence that the umpire has is what he can see on the ground. Therefore, the official position of the FIPJP rules is that things should be put back in their original positions if and only if those original positions were marked (that is, were marked with marks that the umpire can see). If the original positions were not marked, then the umpire has no reliable way of telling what the original positions were, so perforce he must rule that everything is to be left in its current location.

It can be argued that an umpire’s prime directive is to keep the game and the tournament running as smoothly as possible, to be as fair and reasonable as possible, and to apply the rules correctly. An umpire can, if he wishes, be quite flexible in considering many kinds of evidence— tracks in the dirt, the possibility of attempted cheating, and so on. If the facts are clear and both teams agree on what did happen and what would have happened, the umpire is free to make a common-sense ruling that is acceptable to both teams, and put things back in (approximately) their original places. But don’t count on it.


When a zombie interferes with moving balls

Now let’s look at cases in which a zombie interferes with moving balls. This can occur when boule is knocked out of bounds, hits something, rebounds back onto the terrain, and is hit by a moving jack or boule.

Here is my paraphrase of a question posed by David Hayward on our FAQs page. (Essentially the same question, involving a boule rather than the jack, was discussed in on the “Ask the Umpire” forum.)

A game is being played on a marked terrain surrounded by boards. A boule is thrown. It hits the jack. The jack is knocked toward the out-of-bounds line. The boule keeps moving, goes out of bounds, rebounds from the boards, comes back onto the terrain, and hits the still-moving jack.

At the moment that it was hit by the zombie boule, the jack was in motion and on its way toward going out of bounds. But the zombie boule stopped the jack in its tracks, and the jack stayed in-bounds. What should be done in this situation?

The best answer, I think, is “It depends… “

If both teams agree that the jack, if it hadn’t been interfered with, would have gone out of bounds, then the common-sense interpretation of Article 18’s “putting the jack back in its original place” would be to put the jack out-of-bounds, that is, to declare it dead. That’s what would happen in social play. In competition, too, an umpire could rule that way— if the teams agreed and the umpire judged it to be fair.

If the teams disagree, however, the situation is more difficult. Suppose that one team thinks that the jack (if it hadn’t been stopped) would have gone out of bounds. And suppose that the other team thinks that the jack would have (or might have) remained in-bounds. In such a situation there is no unbiased estimate of what might have happened. Each team’s judgment may be affected by their self-interest.

If an umpire is called in to make a ruling— in a situation where the teams disagree, and given what he can see on the ground— he will probably rule that the zombie boule should be removed, the jack should be left where it is, and the game should continue.


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