Solitaire is a good way to practice playing under real-world conditions. Start with two distinctive sets of boules — a black set, say, and a silver set. Then play against yourself as if you are two different players— black against silver.
The trick to making solitaire fun and a learning experience is to give the two players two different playing styles. For example—
- Silver is a careful, conservative player. He prefers to point. Although he will shoot when forced to, in a tight situation he much prefers to try to out-point Black. He points with a pretty consistent rolling half-lob.
- Black is a wild and crazy player. In a tight situation his first impulse is to shoot, and he loves to throw high lobs. He will try high-risk throws that Silver would never try. Black points with a high lob that isn’t as reliable as Silver’s rolling half-lob, but occasionally produces spectacular results.
Definitely keep score. It will be interesting to see if one style can out-score the other.
Solitaire is good for practicing “conscious” play. Don’t just step into the circle and throw. Each time before you throw, stop for a moment to think and plan. Think about strategy— What is the best throw in this particular situation? Is there a slope in the ground that you must compensate for? Decide exactly what you want to try to do. Before you point, mentally pick out some feature of the terrain— a twig, a pebble, a shadow, a hump or dip in the ground— and use it to mark your intended donnée.
Don’t worry about taking time to think things through. In Solitaire, the opposing player never protests because you’re taking too long.
When you throw, practice staying conscious. Pay attention to how the boule felt when it left your hand. And pay attention to where your boule or jack hit the ground relative to your intended landing spot. Did you hit your donnée?
Depending on what you want to practice, specify special rules for one or both of the players.
If you want to practice pointing, then specify that neither player can shoot— they have to try to out-point each other.
If you want to practice shooting, specify that each player must shoot with at least one boule.
My favorite special rule (which I think is actually a good rule-of-thumb in real play) is “If one team’s first boule ends up less than 12 inches from the jack, then the opposing team always tries to shoot it.”