There are many ways to play 3-way games. We can recommend these.
Before starting the game, the players decide what the winning score will be— it can be 13 or anything you like.
Decide the order of play at the beginning of the mène (end, round) and use it for the whole mene. (This eliminates a lot of walking to the head in order to determine which player is “away”.) At the beginning of the mene the order of play can be determined by each player’s score, or by who won the previous mene.
Cut-throat is basically singles (tête-à-tête) with three players. Scoring is the same as in normal petanque— only one player scores points at the end of the mene— the player with the closest boule wins and scores points in the same way as normal petanque.
1-2-3 is similar to cut-throat, but scored differently. The closest boule scores 3 points, the second-closest boule scores 2 points, and the third-closest boule scores 1 point. We recommend playing to a winning score of 35 points. This is our favorite 3-way game.
Two Jacks is similar to regular petanque, but it is played with two jacks. When a player throws the jack, he takes TWO jacks in hand and throws them both, simultaneously, with the same throw. Using jacks of different colors makes it easier to talk about the situation on the ground. “Bill has one point on green and Jill has two points on yellow.”
After the jacks are thrown, the players are basically playing two games simultaneously. Each boule is capable of scoring against each jack. After all boules have been thrown, one jack is examined and one of the players is awarded points against that jack in the normal way. Then the other jack is examined and one of the players is awarded points against that jack in the normal way. We recommend playing to a winning score of 21 points. Typically one player scores points against one jack while another player scores points against the other jack. But it is also possible for a player to score against both jacks. It is even possible for the same boule to score against both jacks.
This photo was taken at the end of the mene. The player with gold boules scores two points against the yellow jack on the right. The player with the silver boule scores one point against the green jack on the left. The player with the black-striped boules scores nothing.