The game of boule de fort dates from approximately 1830 and it is practised in the western part of France, especially in the region between Tours and Nantes. The dimensions of the courts are 7 to 8 m wide and 22 to 28 m long. The courts are mostly indoor and made of a special kind of rammed soil. Cross-sectional they have the shape of a bowl. While playing to the jack, the maître (diameter 80 mm), the players can use the borders which means the boules can make several turns before reaching the jack.
The boules are not spherical, but flattened: a diameter of 12.5 to 13 cm and a thickness of about 10 cm. It is possible that this particular shape is imported from the English crown green bowling. The boules are made from very hard wood (mostly rowan or ash-tree) and the weight is between 1200 and 1500 grams. At the present, there are also boules from synthetic material, but most players prefer the traditional wooden boules.
There is some debate but no real controversy in the split between those who use wooden boules and those who prefer synthetic varieties. The rules remain the same, though it would be expected that both teams use the same category of equipment.
One side of the boule is excavated some centimetres, whilst the other side is weighted normally with a piece of lead which means that there is a light and a heavy side which will normally make the boule rest on its heavy side. In French: sur son fort. The boule has an iron hoop with a width of about 5 to 6 cm around its circumference that is polished a lot by the players during the game.
Although playing in teams of two is the most traditional way, there are also competitions for singles and triples. Each player has two boules, with an exception of three boules for singles. The game is played up to 10 or 12 points At the present, there are still about 400 clubs and 40.000 participants.
The game of boule nantaise resembles the game of boule de fort and dates from the beginning of the 19th century. The game is also practised on curved playgrounds - mostly indoor - but the courts are smaller: a width between 4 and 5 m and a length between 13 and 16 m. The most important difference is the shape of the boules: spherical instead of flattened. The boules are bigger and heavier, up to 160 mm and 2000 grams, and also made from wood or synthetic material. The jack has a diameter of 80 mm and a weight of 800 grams. As in the game of boule de fort the players can use the borders.
The teams consist of three players each with two boules. The game is played up to 9 points.
At the end of the 20th century there were about 1500 players left in Nantes, but the number of participants has been decreasing for many years.
Another name is boule parisienne or jeu parisien, accordingly to its most important appearance in the region of Paris. The game has its origins about 1865. The French word berge means border. Curved borders made from cement or concrete surround the court and the players can use these borders as in the game of billiards. The jack is a big iron marble, named Coco.
The courts have a width between 3 and 3.3 m and a length between 30 and 32 m and have two areas with a length of 4 m at each side of the lane. These areas are the sections where the jack has to be thrown to.
The boules are the same as the boules of jeu lyonnais, and have a weight between 1000 and 1100 grams and a diameter between 95 and 100 mm. There are competitions for quartets, triples, doubles and singles and in any case the players have three boules each. The game is played up to 13, 15 or 21 points.
The game of boule des flandres or jeu de palet was practised on public roads in the northern part of France. The origin of the game is the so-called boule plate, flat boule. As a matter of fact, the boule is a metallic disc and not a sphere. In the region of Dunkerque there are several types: boule à la platine, boule à la grille, boule à l'oiseau. The distances vary between 5 and 18 m, depending of the locality.
The most ancient game of bowls in France is practised in the western part of France, especially in Brittany. The game is also called boule en bois, because the boules in the past were made of hard wood: ashtree, elm, beech or box, but later tropical guaiacum. In the 1960’s synthetic materials entered into the game of boule bretonne and players use these new materials, which have contributed a lot to the development of the game. The synthetic boules do not wear out as much as wooden boules and they offer a range of diameters between 9 and 12 cm and a range of weights between 500 and 1000 grams and more. The wooden jack has a diameter of 55 mm.
The game is normally played up to 12 points, but in friendly games 9, 10 or even 15 points would not be unusual. These friendly games can be played with teams that consist of 4, 5 or 6 players. The official tournaments are played in either; singles (Pen eus Pen in the Breton language; each player having two or three boules), doubles (again each player has either two or three boules) or triples (each player has two boules).
In the past the game was played anywhere: on half-hardened places, sunken roads, farmyards and even in the sand dunes or meadowlands. Nowadays this style of game has almost disappeared and the game is played in specially constructed boulodromes. The courts have a width between 3 and 5 m and a length between 16 and 20 m, which are usually marked by wooden borders. A player of the team that wins the toss throws the jack out at a distance of at least 12 m from the starting point.
Like in most games of boules, there is a pointer (in the game of boule bretonne: placeur or poseur) and a shooter. The pointer plays his boule with one foot against the wooden border of the court or in a circle; his other foot stretches forward or sidewards, in order that he can find the best trajectory for his boule. He has the choice to roll his boule along the ground or to throw his boule high through the air in order that the boule lands not far before the jack and rolls forward very little. This technique is called in Breton: pok. Just like the technique of pointing, the shooter can roll his boule (tirer à roule) or shoot directly (tirer à pok) at the boule that must be removed. In both techniques, the shooter makes two or three jumps before throwing his boule. What is remarkable in the game of boule bretonne is that all boules are played overhand, just like most of the games of boules in the western part of France which is in contradiction to the games in Southern France
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