Dealing with a forgotten boule

updated 2021-12-21

What 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. I still have one boule left!”. … What should be done?

Team B had an unplayed boule. Team A gave Team B the opportunity to play next. Team B refused to do so. It makes no difference that Team B acted because of a mistake rather than a deliberate desire to cheat. For whatever reason, Team B refused to play when it was their turn to play. Team B was at fault.

The determination that Team B was at fault rests on the idea that (a) playing a boule when it is NOT your team’s turn to play, and (b) refusing to play when it IS your team’s turn to play, are flip sides of the same coin. They are both violations of the rules. Just as a boule can be played contrary to the rules, a boule can be withheld from play contrary to the rules.

When a team has an unplayed boule, and it is their turn to play, and their opponents give them the opportunity to play their boule, then if (for whatever reason) they do not play their boule, they violate the rules. More charitably, we can construe the act of refusing to play their unplayed boules as a declaration that “We’ve played all of the boules that we’re going to play.” (Compare: “We’ll take the point.”) In any event, by refusing to play when it is their turn, they forfeit the right to play any more boules. The bottom line is— a forgotten boule is dead and may not be played.

Note that the situation would be different if Team A had simply gone ahead and thrown its boule, without checking to see if Team B had any unplayed boules. In that case, Team A would not have done its due diligence, and they would have been guilty of throwing a boule out-of-turn.

How NOT to think about a forgotten boule

Before a team plays a boule, it is responsible for verifying that it is their turn to play. With that in mind, players sometimes say that in our example, Team A was at fault, and its last boule should be considered to have been “thrown out-of-turn”. If you point out that Team A had made a reasonable effort to verify that it should play next— that it had “done its due diligence” by asking Team B if they had any unplayed boules— these players will reply that that was not enough— Team A should have “counted the boules”.

This is rubbish. If your opponent tells you that he has no unplayed boules, that is enough to justify you in going ahead and playing your next boule. You are under no obligation to double-check what he says by counting the boules, or by doing anything else.

If either team is at fault for not counting boules, it is Team B, not Team A. Just as a team has a responsibility to make sure that it is their turn to play before they play, a team also has a responsibility to make sure that they have no unplayed boules before they refuse to play. It was Team B, then, that should have been counting its boules, not Team A.

The Forgotten Boule and the Boule Advantage

There is also a very pragmatic reason why a team must not be allowed to play a “forgotten” boule. It is connected to the notion of the boule advantage. Let’s look at a scenario in which a team is allowed to play a “forgotten” boule. Team A has just taken the point, leaving both teams with one unplayed boule.

  1. Team A turns to Team B and says “We have the point. It’s your turn to play.”
  2. Team B (conveniently forgetting its unplayed boule) says “We’re out of boules.”
  3. Team A says “OK” and throws its last boule. Team A now has game on the ground.
  4. Team B says “Oops. I just remembered that I still have one more boule!”
  5. The umpire agrees to let Team B throw its “forgotten” boule.
  6. Team B plays its “forgotten” boule, and with it takes the point, wins the mene, and wins the game.

Team A had the boule advantage at the beginning of this scenario, but Team B ended up throwing the last boule. How did THAT happen? By conveniently “forgetting” its unplayed boule, Team B forced Team A to throw its last boule. When the umpire allowed Team B to play its “forgotten” boule, this gave the boule advantage to Team B. In short, allowing Team B to play a “forgotten” boule allowed Team B to cheat Team A out of the boule advantage. This kind of scenario is the predictable consequence of allowing a team to throw a “forgotten” boule, which is why teams must NOT be allowed to throw forgotten boules.


1 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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