Give petanque a red-hot go.
Give petanque a red-hot go. Photo Think Stock

It’s not bocce or bowls, but petanque

GAMES are fun. Surely everybody agrees on that. It's often harder to find games that appeal to everyone, but I'd like to move that petanque is one such game that can appeal to a broad audience.

Petanque is a French form of boules that is popular throughout Europe and the South Pacific. All that is required is a flat, gravelly surface, a minimum of two players who each have three hollow steel boules and a wooden jack, or as the Francophile would say, the cochonnet (piglet).

The objective is simple: end the game with your boule closer to the jack than anybody else. But, achieving this is another matter altogether. Players will sacrifice boules to smash opponents' boules away from the prized little piggy. The cream of the crop enjoy wowing crowds with a carreau - this shot removes the opponents' ball while leaving the thrower's boule in its place.

I tried my first game of petanque on the bustling beachfront public courts in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila. First a player tosses the cochonnet to a distance where they feel they have the advantage.

The local players, dressed in thongs and imitation surf brand t-shirts, were extremely patient explaining the rules to me, and within 10 minutes I had a good understanding of the rules. Initially, each player throws their first boule towards the cochonnet and then the player whose ball is closest to the piglet has the luxury, or stress, of being the last to throw. Of course, the moment another player's boule lands closer to the piglet, the dynamics change completely.

At the end of the game points are awarded to the team with the closest ball or balls to the cochonnet. So, if two of my balls were closest to the piglet - they weren't - I'd have earned myself two points. For the record, my opponent defeated me by three points.

Follow David on Twitter: @bigkamo


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