See other posts about boundaries and boundary lines.

A dead-ball line, une ligne de perte, is a line that, like James Bond, is licensed to kill. More precisely, a dead-ball line is a line that kills any live ball — boule or jack — that crosses it.

To start, there is a difference between a guide line and a dead-ball line. When a playing area is marked off into lanes (cadres, pistes) the lines (usually strings) that mark the edges of the individual lanes are called “guide lines”. Depending on the context, any particular guide line may or may not also be considered a dead-ball line.

Note also that older versions of the FIPJP rules used the expression “THE dead-ball line”, implying that there is only one dead-ball line. The current version of the rules uses the expression “a dead-ball line”, which implies that there are several dead ball lines.

To make it easier to explain dead-ball lines, I am going to classify them into three types. (Note: the FIPJP rules don’t do this.) I’m going to call the three types exterior, interior, and local dead-ball lines.

• Local dead-ball lines are tied to a specific game — they are the local dead-ball lines for that game.
• The exterior and interior dead-ball lines are global — they apply to every game being played in the playing area.

Here are the definitions and explanations exterior, interior, and local dead-ball lines.

1. The outer edges of the playing area (aire de jeu) are exterior dead-ball lines. A live boule or jack, from any game, is dead if it crosses any exterior dead-ball line.

Together, the exterior dead-ball lines form a single closed boundary line around the entire playing area. This boundary is what the rules used to refer to as “the dead-ball line”.

2. For games played on rectangular lanes (cadres, pistes) the boundary lines at the short ends of the lanes are interior dead-ball lines. A live boule or jack, from any game, is dead if it crosses any interior dead-ball line.

3. Each game has its own local dead-ball lines. In a normal (non-time-limited) game, the far sidelines of the neighboring lanes are the local dead-ball lines. In a time-limited game, the sidelines of the assigned lane are the game’s local dead-ball lines.

The diagram below shows the situation in normal (non-time-limited) games.

Two terms related to “dead-ball line” (ligne de perte) are “in-bounds” (terrain autorisé) and “out-of-bounds” (terrain interdit).

The combination of the global and local dead-ball lines determines which areas are terrain autorisé and terrain interdite for any particular game. For a game played under a time limit (au temps limité), the assigned lane is in-bounds, and everything else is out-of-bounds. For a normal (non-time-limited game) the assigned lane PLUS any neighboring lanes are in-bounds, and everything else is out-of-bounds. Often a game’s in-bounds area will include three lanes — its own assigned lane PLUS the neighboring lane on one side PLUS the neighboring lane on the other side.

At one time, the rules actually did specify something called “THE dead-ball line”. It ran around the outside of the playing area, and could be drawn anywhere from zero to four meters from the exterior lanes.

The vagueness in the specifications for the location of the dead-ball line caused a lot of confusion, so those specifications were removed in 2008. Amazingly, nobody noticed that in removing the specifications of the LOCATION of the dead-ball line, they had removed ALL specifications of the dead-ball line! The exterior dead-ball line had disappeared!

When the dead-ball line made it back into Article 5 in 2010, it was no longer “THE dead-ball line”. It was “dead-ball lines” in the plural. And it was no longer something separate from, and outside of, the playing area— it was simply the outer boundary of the exterior lanes in the playing area.

[The] strings marking the boundaries of the different terrains are not dead-ball lines except for the lines at the foot of lanes and the lines of the exterior lanes.

The authors of the FIPJP rules haven’t yet realized that the abolition of the dead-ball line (as something different from the outer edge of the playing area) makes the whole notion of “dead-ball lines” pointless. It is now possible to express all of the rules in terms of one simple concept— the terrain autorisé. In English, we might call it the game area. The game area for any given game is the area where a boule can travel and still be a part of the game, still alive.

1. The game area for a time-limited game is the assigned lane.
2. The game area for a non-time-limited game includes the assigned lane and any neighboring lanes.
3. The jack may not be thrown to a position less than a meter from the boundary of the game area.
4. A boule or jack is dead if it leaves the game area.

We could still use the expression “dead-ball line” if we found it handy. It would simply mean the edge or boundary of the game area.