In the 2016 revision of the FIPJP rules, a paragraph was added to the end of Article 27.
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, if a player deliberately picked up one of his/her own played boules, the boule was dead and that was that. The player achieved his goal (to remove the boule) and there were no negative consequences for the player.
But… why would a player ever want deliberately to remove one of his own boules?
Suppose that you are playing on team B when one of the following situations arises.
- Team A has thrown all of their boules, while your team still has four boules to play. The front is almost completely open, just waiting for you to point those four boules and score four points. But there is a problem. One of your own boules, B1, is sitting exactly on the ideal donnée for your pointing throws. When it was first thrown it was a great blocking boule, but now it is blocking you rather than the opponents. You wish it was out of there.
- 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 situation. If you shoot A1, B1 will go flying and A1 will hardly move. You wish boule B1 wasn’t there, so you could shoot A1.
In these situations it would be to your advantage to pick up and remove your own boule. It would be worth it even if the umpire gave you a warning. In a friendly game there’d be no umpire; you wouldn’t even get a warning. Soon, perhaps, the idea would spread that removing one of your own boules was a recognized and acceptable part of the game.
The new paragraph in Article 27 fixes that problem. The new rule eliminates any possible benefit from deliberately picking up one of your own boules.
The new rule also creates a problem for umpires. Suppose that Ben, the captain of Team B, (accidentally?) kicks boule B1. Now the umpire must decide whether Ben’s action was or was not deliberate. If it was an accident, then boule B1 stays where Ben kicked it. But if Ben deliberately kicked B1 (in effect, removing it from the terrain), then Team B’s remaining unplayed boules are dead. But the umpire is not a mind reader. How can he know whether Ben’s action was deliberate or accidental?
Or should the umpire strictly follow the letter of the law and rule that kicking a boule is not the same thing as picking it up, so the new rule does not apply. If he does, then we’re back where we started. Ben can’t pick up his boule with impunity, but he can “accidentally” kick it away.
This post is an excerpt from the next edition of A Guide to the Rules of Petanque, now in preparation.