Dealing with a forgotten boule

petanque_players_discussingWhat do you do when one team forgets that it has an unplayed boule?

There are a lot of boules on the ground. Your team (team A) has the point, and unplayed boules.

You ask the opponents (team B) if they have any more boules to play. They look around, don’t see any, and say “No, we’re out.” So your team plays a boule. Then one of the opponents says “Ooops! I made a mistake. Bob still has one boule left!”

What do you do?


One line of thinking is that your boule was thrown contrary to the rules or that it is a boule thrown out of turn.

This, in our opinion, is WRONG. Team A did nothing wrong. It is a team’s responsibility to keep track of their own boules. The team at fault was team B, for failing to do that.


The FIPJP rules are badly written. If they were better written, they would contain this rule—

Whenever asked, a team must willingly, honestly, and correctly report the number of unplayed boules it has.

In our example, team B simply made a mistake and genuinely forgot the boule. (Perhaps they were trying to cheat. It can be hard to tell.) But in either case team B broke this unwritten rule. And in either case, by not correctly reporting their unplayed boule, team B forced team A to lose the boule advantage. That’s not right. Team A should not be punished for team B’s mistake.

Here, we’re thinking of the second of our general principles for applying the rules.

A team that breaks the rules (deliberately or accidentally) should not benefit from its illegal action.

Team A’s last boule should stand, and team B’s forgotten-and-then-remembered boule should be declared dead.


The situation would be different if team A had not asked their opponents if they still had any unplayed boules.

Suppose team A just looked around, didn’t notice any unplayed boules, didn’t bother to ask the opposing team if they still had any unplayed boules, and proceeded to throw. Then it would be team A, not team B, that was at fault. In such a situation, it is the responsibility of the team about to throw to verify that the opposing team is out of boules. The concept here is basically that of due diligence[1]. Team A didn’t do that, so team A’s boule truly would have been thrown contrary to the rules.


[1] Asking the opposing team if they still have any unplayed boules should be sufficient, I think, to satisfy any reasonable requirements of due diligence. Conversely, failing to ask is a failure to perform due diligence.

Some commentators are of the opinion that a team is required always to count, or keep a mental count of, the opposing team's boules on the ground. That's just silly. It would be difficult, time-consuming, and error-prone. And it would make every team responsible for the OTHER team's responsibility— keeping track of their own boules.


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One thought on “Dealing with a forgotten boule

  1. One alternative suggestion: In this case both teams made the mistake of not knowing who should throw next and therefore neither team should benefit (or be penalized). The thrown ball should not be dead, the remaining unthrown opponent boules should likewise not be dead.

    It’s difficult to codify in terms of a rule though. The standing rule brings up an unlikely possibility that if a team throws and does not realize that they have the point and throws again the opponents could call the second ball out of play and dead. Most likely all of these situations indicate it is a recreational game and both teams should laugh it off, have another glass of wine.

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