“We’ll take the point”

[revised: 2018-08-18]

The score was tied at 12-12. Robert and I had the point, and Robert had one unplayed boule. Our opponents threw their last boule, but failed to gain the point; we had won! I was ready to declare victory, but Robert insisted that the game wasn’t over until all boules had been thrown. So we waited while Robert went to the circle and threw away his last boule. THEN we declared victory. Was Robert right?


Team B is out of boules; Team A still has one unplayed boule. There are many boules close to the jack. Team A believes that they have the point, and they are afraid that if they play their remaining boule they might mess up things around the head and lose the point that they have. So the captain of Team A says “we’ll take the point” and walks to the head for the agreement of points.

The teams measure, and they discover that Team A actually does NOT have the point. So the captain of Team A says, “Well, in that case we will play our remaining boule.” Team B protests and says that Team A, by saying “we’ll take the point” has given up the right to play any more boules. Who is right? Can team A play their remaining boules?

In some clubs there is a custom of saying “we’ll take the point” rather than simply dropping the team’s remaining unplayed boules. This is NOT part of the FIPJP rules. The FIPJP rules generally do not recognize verbal actions. So if a team says “we’ll take the point” and then wants to retract that statement, they can do so (because in the eyes of the FIPJP rules, they never said anything in the first place). (Compare verbally accepting a thrown jack and then challenging it.) An FIPJP umpire’s answer to Question 2 will be: YES, team A can play their remaining boules.

Note that there is a dissenting opinion from the Dutch petanque federation (NJBB).

“When a team chooses to say “we’ll take the point” they are in effect saying “Consider all of my boule(s) as thrown: Let’s determine the final score”. That is, by saying “we’ll take the point” they are giving up the right to play their remaining unplayed boules.They are in effect VIRTUALLY throwing away their last boules. By analogy with the rule that you may not re-throw a boule once it has been thrown, a boule that has been thrown (even if it was thrown virtually and not actually) can’t be thrown again.”

I agree with the FIPJP position. Team B was not harmed in any way when team A said “we’ll take the point”, and it will not be harmed in any way by allowing team A to retract that statement. No harm, no foul.

The FIPJP position means that teams should never say “we’ll take the point”, and should never accept it from an opposing team. Teams should always play all of their boules, and insist that the other team does so also, even if that means simply tossing unplayed boules aside. The one reasonable exception to this rule occurs at the end of a game. If it is clear that a team has won the game, there is no reason for them to throw away any remaining unplayed boules. Robert, in Question 1, didn’t recognize this exception, which is why he insisted on throwing his last boule. I don’t think that that was absolutely necessary, but Robert’s insisting on it wasn’t crazy either.


The weight of the boules

Article 2 specifies three weight-related requirements for boules.

  1. Boules must weigh between 650 and 800 grams.
  2. The manufacturer must engrave the weight on the boules.
  3. The manufacturer’s weight mark (le chiffre du poids) must be legible.

The reason for the weight-mark is to make it easy (or easier) to detect a “stuffed” boule. Injecting a substance like mercury into a boule will, all else being equal, increase its weight. So an umpire can simply weigh a boule and be reasonably certain that it has been tampered with if it weighs more than the weight mark.

The requirement for a manufacturer’s weight mark was first added to the French (FFPJP) rules in 1974, and one guesses that the number of stuffed boules has been dropping steadily ever since. As recently as October 2016, at the European (CEP Eurocup) Championships held in Monaco, there was an incident in which the German team was disqualified when it was found to be playing with a stuffed boule. The interesting thing is that the competition was the veterans’ triples competition— the old guys. As the older generation of players dies out, I expect incidents of stuffed boules eventually will stop altogether.

An interesting fact is that a boule slowly loses weight as it is played with over the years, so a boule that has been heavily used for decades can lose as much as 5 to 10 grams of weight. This fact of weight loss prompts players to wonder if there is any amount of weight loss that is too much. Is there some fixed number of grams, they ask, or some fixed percentage of its original weight, that a boule can lose that will render it illegal?

The answer is YES, but you won’t find that rule in the rules of petanque. It is in another document.

The FIPJP publishes a document that lays out requirements for the manufacture of certified competition boules— Conditions Requises Pour L’homologation De Boules De Petanque De Competition (“Requirements for the Certification of Competition Petanque Boules”). Buried in that document are several requirements for what can and cannot happen to boules after they leave the manufacturer.

Article 7 – Note: boules of steel or bronze cannot be subjected to any heat treatment after sale to the user.
Article 9 – In no case can the regulatory marking be changed [retouché] after sale to the user.

Article 8 (“Weight”) says this (I have bolded the part that is important for us here)—

The weight of the boules must be between 650 grams minimum and 800 grams maximum. The following tolerances are allowed:

(a) Manufacturing tolerance for each boule: The maximum difference between the engraved weight and the actual weight may not be greater than plus/minus 5 grams.

b) Tolerance of wear due to use in play: Weight loss should not exceed 15 grams below the marked weight.

When Ray Ager brought up this question on “Ask the Umpire”, Mike Pegg replied that this document contained rules only for the manufacturing of boules, not rules for boules in play. And if the FIPJP rules were well organized, that would be true. But, as we have seen, Articles 7, 8, and 9 actually do contain rules for boules in play. And the meaning of Article 8, clause (b) is quite clear. So there really should be a fourth weight-related requirement for boules in Article 2 of the rules of petanque.

Weight loss due to wear and use in play may not be greater than 15 grams below the marked weight.

This post is an excerpt from A Guide to the Rules of Petanque.

The second half of this post has been completely revised in response to information in a comment by “Dr. Carreau”.  Doctor, thank you! 🙂