Deliberately picking up your own boule

In the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules, a third paragraph was added to the text of Article 27. The article in its entirety now reads:

Article 27 – Picked-up boules
It is forbidden for players to pick up played boules before the end of the mene.
At the end of a mene, any boule picked up before the agreement of points is dead. No claim is admissible on this subject.
▶If a player picks up his boules from the game terrain while his partners have boules remaining, they will not be allowed to play them.◀

Paragraph 3 was a good idea. Before it was added, what the article implicitly said was——

If a player (deliberately) picks up one of his own boules, the boule is dead and the player receives (only) a warning.

The idea that a player would want deliberately to remove one of his own boules might seem strange. But it isn’t, really. Suppose, for instance, that you are playing on team B when one of the following situations arises.

  1. Team A has thrown all of their boules, while your team still has four boules to play. The front is completely open, just waiting for you to point those four boules in and score four points, EXCEPT… one of your own boules, B1, is in the way. It is sitting exactly on the ideal donnée for your pointing throws. It is a great blocking boule, but now it is blocking you rather than the opponents.
  2. Your team has one point one the ground. If you could shoot away opposing boule A1, your team could score four points. But boule B1, one of your own boules, is right behind A1, kissing it. You’re familiar with Newton’s cradle and you know the physics of this kind of situation. If you shoot A1, B1 will go flying and A1 will hardly move.


In both of these situations (and there are others like them) it would be to your advantage if you could pick up your own boule and remove it. In some circumstances, it might be worth doing even if you got a warning from the umpire for doing it. In social games played without an umpire, you wouldn’t even get a warning. Soon, perhaps, the idea would spread that picking up one of your own boules was a recognized and acceptable part of the game.

The addition of paragraph 3 to the text of Article 27 fixes that. Don’t think of paragraph 3 as specifying a punishment for picking up your own boule. Rather, think of it as eliminating the possibility of gaining any advantage at all from deliberately picking up one of your own boules.

Note that if a player deliberately picks up one of his own team’s boules, the rules in in Article 22– which cover boules that are accidentally picked up— do not apply.(1) Even if the boule’s original location was marked, if the boule was deliberately picked up it may not be put back in its original location.

Paragraph 3, like many other rules, has the potential to cause problems for umpires. Although paragraph 3 describes a situation in which a player “picks up” his boule from the game terrain, the word “picks up” (enlevée) is used loosely, and it covers such deliberate actions as kicking a boule off of the terrain, or even just kicking it away from the head.

Consider, for instance, our first example. B1, one of team B’s own boules, has become a nasty blocking boule for team B. Ben, the captain of team B, walks up to the boule to inspect the situation. He sees a divot not far from the boule. He starts using one foot to scrape dirt toward the divot when— suddenly— he loses his balance. Swinging arms and legs wildly in an attempt to regain his balance, he accidentally kicks B1, knocking it a meter away.

Now the umpire has a problem. He must decide whether Ben’s action was or was not a genuine accident. If it was an accident, B1 stays where Ben kicked it (because its location wasn’t marked). But if Ben deliberately moved B1 the boule is dead, and so are all of team B’s remaining unplayed boules.

Rules about players doing something accidentally (or deliberately) inevitably raise the old, old question— “He did it. But in this particular case how can we know whether he did it accidentally or deliberately?” That’s the problem that this rule potentially poses for umpires.

(1) Article 22 If a stationary boule is displaced by the wind or slope of the ground, for example, it is put back [in its original location]. The same applies to any boule accidentally displaced by a player, an umpire, a spectator, an animal, or any moving object.

This post is an excerpt from the next edition of A Guide to the Rules of Petanque, now in preparation.


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