Game Tactics

Taking your shot

The most important thing is to always do the same thing every single time! Formal Advice from Pétanque England says.

• Go to the Cache and look at the distances between Cache and Boules – it looks different up close to what you see when standing in the circle.

• Plan the required tactical shot regarding the situation – Shoot or Point.

• Identify where on the piste your boule is going to land, flatten this area if required.

• Step into the circle, lead foot first pointing at the coche, bring in the second foot slightly behind and slightly turned out. [This instruction is overridden by many players who like their feet side by side].

• Visualise the shot you’re about to make, where it first lands and where it’s going to stop.

• Hold the boule and make sure that you hand is level and not turned to the side (reference here to “shooting round corners”).

• Make a nice clean action of presenting the boule, swinging back behind you, throwing it high and releasing it late. Bending the knees during the swing is recommended.

• Analyse what you did as the shot unfolds.

A Mantras to repeat again and again to yourself!

“If you are going to lose an end, only loose by one point!”

Too many times; after both teams have had their opening shot one team will have a boule sitting over the coche. The other team is then so intent on dislodging that perfect boule that they use up all six boules mainly trying to shoot it out. Then comes the disaster when the team with the perfect shot plan out to score a load of point by shooting out the 1 or 2 boules that are remotely near the coche.

Had those extra five boules all have been pointed in around the coche, especially in front, then it’s quite likely that only one point will be lost!

Tactical Position

Boules that are behind the coche are worth a lot less than those in front! The Boules in front can be promoted. They may get to be better positioned if an opposition shoot/point attempt goes badly.

If you find yourself “not-on” then your own team boules can be promoted up.

Boules Behind the coche can be played onto – it’s easier to aim at a boule than to try to point a perfect distance.

As the game progresses it’s important to count how many boules are near to the coche and in what order. Forget to check this and you could risk losing a huge score.

It cannot be underestimated just how beneficial it is to have a Boule in-front of the coche. That Boule does not have to be the closest – it could be 18 inches or two foot in front and still make a huge impact on the end. This is because team-mates are told – “That one is ours so it doesn’t matter of you hit it”. So if you do hit the boule in front you will then have two boules in front! For the opposition team they are told “Keep away from that one”! This innocent bit of advice has a very damaging effect on the thrower who will compromise their own shot and be way off to the side and waste there shot(s).

The essential difference between Pointing and Shooting

Pointing is all about getting the boule to stop near the coche. This can be seen as two different exercises! One to throw your boule far enough and the other to get the left/right aiming right. Most of us can get the aiming right at the point when we let go of it. Quite what happens on the first collision with the ground is a bit of a mystery where we are in the lap of the Gods. Getting the distance right is more about experience of the game which you just obtain from turning up as often as you can. The higher you lob the boule then the more it will stop promptly and the left/right divergence will reduce, however it takes a lot of practice to perfect this.

Shooting is all about knocking a specific opposition boule out of the way. There is a huge importance on hitting the boule that you aim at. The outcome of missing and hitting other boules can be very damaging to the position. If you miss the target boule then you could easily clear out the few team boules that are anywhere new the coche and the situation will get rapidly worse. Also you team will have less boules to place in front of the coche and the opposition team have one more additional boule to hopefully gain extra points with.

An Extra Hard Point This is a shot that gets played a lot of times when the opposition have a Boule which is virtually touching the coche and just can’t appear to be hit. This shot “will nearly hit it” as throwers keep saying as they throw a whole set of boules past the coche and leave them one meter beyond the coche. This type of throw is not in any exercise books AND YOU MUST STOP THROWING IT! The result of repeating this throw is nearly always a loss on the end of three, four, five, six points.

If there is an opposition boule sitting on top of the coche then you should examine the situation and decide if anybody on your team is an experienced shooter and is having a good day – ask if they are confident of shooting out the opposition boule without missing? If the answer is no then you decision must be to point in but with the instruction that the boules MUST not go beyond the coche. This is because the opposition team are soon going to be facing the joy of seeing you are “all out”. At this point it is important that the opposition team start considering “Taking the one”. The opposition will not be considering that if many of your boules are one meter beyond the coche as this is an invitation to go for a large score.

If you do start shooting at the opposition boule, and miss, then it is still very important to count how many boules you have left so that you can leave a few in front of the coche.

Just think about your own experience of playing the game and remember how many times the opposition have thrown one fantastic shot on their first throw – and then go on to take five or six points! This should not be the case! They only threw one fantastic shot so they should be held to a low score.

Bowling and not throwing

Many players come to the game from Bowling (Green) or Ten Pin Bowling where it important to get the direction correct. This can backfire if you find yourself on a piste with thick gravel that doesn’t allow rolling. Otherwise, there can still be a problem on smooth Pistes (like Eagles Park and Saxons) because judging the distance before the Boule will stop is a difficult skill. The formal method of throwing recommended by PE is much more of a High Lob in the air with the first impact with the piste a heavy thud should be at least half way to the coche. As the distance to the first impact increases the amount of left/right deviation reduces and the distance the Boule runs on will reduce. Every player has to find their own style which can only really be worked out with lots of sessions and experience. A bowling player will be landing their boule very close to the circle and be satisfied with how the left/right deviation is small. In the long term a bowling player who wants to progress will have to cease this style and learn to throw a high lob.

Throwing the Boule the right distance

You don’t have to be playing this game long before you realise that a lot of shots get sent off to the left or right because of an unfortunate first bounce of the boule and the piste. Everybody has this problem but there are some measures to reduce these annoying off to the sides! Firstly you should become aware of where you throws are going to first strike the ground. Examine this spot and see if it needs flattening. The rules of the game allow you to walk up the piste, flatten out a single divot, all before you take your throw. Its worth doing this if you see a big divot in an otherwise flat part of the piste. If however your Boule is due to land in an area of the Piste which is very rutted, maybe in the underlying surface, you should be able to select a place to land further on up the piste and adjust the throw to still make it stop at the piste. This is a hard skill to acquire but could teach you something useful… Throwing the Boule Higher will reduce the distance it rolls on after landing, and it also tends to reduce the amount of deviation to the left or right.

Backspin and keeping your hand flat

The recommended throwing method requires the boule to be rolled out of your hand as you release the grip. For most people this means that it rolls out under your fingers and develops some backspin. Once you have some experience of the game and throwing the boule it can be an interesting exercise to turn you hand out against the advice above! You will discover that on the first impact the boule will deviate to the left (to the right if you are left handed). This deviation is caused by the backspin that is part of your throw.

Carrying out this exercise will convince you to keep your hand flat when you release the boule. One way to get this right is to imagine a flat table and place your hand flat on this table. Bring up your fingers without tilting your hand to the right (to the left if you are left handed). After you have thrown your boule you hand should be flat again ready to be placed back on this imaginary flat table.

Carrying out this exercise and comparing notes with other club members will make you alert to the presence of the backspin. The more backspin you have the quicker your boules will stop with less left/right deviation.

Counting Boules played

This might be a bit tedious and tend to get lost if you’re chatting about stuff but it is certainly a good idea to keep a score of boules thrown during each end. If you are called to play next and you haven’t been counting the boules then take a moment to do a quick count or ask a team mate. The answer could be important in helping you decide what to attempt. If your team has a lot more boules left then trying hard to be “on” is important. If you about to run out and the opposition has say four – then you should prepare to force the opposition to “play for the one” by putting all remaining boule(s) in front of the coche.

Taking the One

There will be moments when the opposition team says, “Were all out”. So, what do you do with your teams remaining Boules?

The first action should really be for you team to all go to the coche and look at the situation up close. If you are not yet “on” then this has to be the first objective so decide who is most likely to fix this. Solutions could be to roll onto opposition Boules if they are behind the Coche or shot out opposition Boules if they are in-front of the coche (and you have a confident Shooter in the team).

Once you are “on” then don’t be greedy if there is a chance of losing your point(s). Pointing or shooting where you will be going close to opposition Boules should be avoided. Shots that go into empty space are much safer.

If you do decide to shoot out an opponent’s Boule then the Shooting should be done first in-case it goes wrong! The time to do this is when a single Opponents boule is close to the Coche and beating many of your team mates Boules. E.g. You have 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th. So, knocking out the opposition 2nd will count as three more points.

Remember the Golden Role “Never Shoot on your teams 6th Boule”. [I won’t explain why but experience backs up this advice]

A Summary of the Above

All of the above topics are related to each other in some way and back each other up! They do not conflict anywhere. They all have common objectives and themes.

In summary.

1) Point Boules without putting them beyond the coche.

2) Shoot sparingly only if your team-mate(s) agree and you WILL NOT MISS.