When you have a lot of teams and players, scheduling match-ups is extremely difficult. Some games finish quickly, while others drag on. Teams that have finished their game sit around waiting for their next opponents to finish THEIR game. And it takes a LOT of time for all of the match-ups to be played and the competition to finish. These problems create a real need for short-form games— games that can be played in a limited and predictable amount of time.
There are three ways that you can play a short-form game. You can limit the time allowed for the game. You can limit the number of rounds played. Or you can play to a winning score of less than 13.
The traditional solution is time-limited games. A specified time limit is set, and when it expires games must finish their current mene, and play only one or two more menes. If that mene ends in a tie, then they play still one more mene.
There are two problems with time-limited games. The first is that they aren’t very effective in producing games of a predictable length. The second is that playing against the clock introduces a new but distasteful tactic — stalling for time when your team is ahead.
Set-number-of-rounds (SNOR) games
Philippe Boets, of Petanque America, prefers a different solution. He calls it compact format games with a set number of rounds. Set Number Of Rounds. SNOR.
The idea is simple. All games are played to a set number of menes (six, for example) or to 13 points, whichever comes first. The team in the lead at the end of the last mene is the winner. If the teams are tied at the end of the last mene, they play one more mene, a tie-breaker.
Philippe says that the SNOR format works especially well for club tournaments. Instead of a tournament being a grueling all-day endurance test, the entire event can be finished in three or four hours.
The Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island Petanque Club uses SNOR games for regular club play, and it has worked very well for them. A round typically takes about 5 minutes, so they can reliably predict that a SNOR game of 6 or 7 rounds will take 30-35 minutes. A family can arrive at 2pm, play three games, chat with friends, and be confident that they will be able to leave around 4pm. Philippe believes that the compact SNOR format has been a significant factor in the success of the Amelia Island club.
Some players may love short-form games (which allow them to play and socialize with many other players) while long-time players may feel that short-form games aren’t traditional “real” petanque. That’s why Philippe recommends that new clubs use short-form games from the very beginning of the club. If the club’s new players have always played short-form games, they won’t be limited by ideas of what’s “traditional”.
One minor issue is scorekeeping. When you are playing a limited number of ends, you need to keep track of the number of ends played as well as the team’s scores. One idea is to use a portable scorekeeper to keep track of the number of ends played.
The third kind of short-form game is a game played to fewer than 13 points. You can decide before the game to play to 11 or 9 or 7 points. If you don’t have the time to play to 13, you can ask your opponent “I have to leave by 4:30. Would you like to play a shorter game, say to 9?”
Reduced-point games are NOT, however, a good way to keep games in a tournament to a limited, predictable length. If one team is MUCH better than the other, it can reach 9 points and win in two menes. On the other hand, if the teams are equally matched and have to work hard for every point, it may take 17 menes for one team to beat the other 9-8. One game would take 10 minutes; the other would take 90 minutes.