Differences between Petanque and Jeu provencal

By Mr.Bordsenius at 2001-03-24

Contributed by Ray Ager.
Most pétanque players are aware that pétanque was derived from another boules game, Le Jeu Provençal or “La Longue”. Unlike the third main boules game, Boules Lyonnaise, which is played with larger, heavier boules, Le Jeu Provençal is played with the same boules as pétanque but over a longer distance.

Interestingly, the rules of the two games are very similar, often word for word, but in case you don’t know the key features of Le Jeu Provençal are as follows:

- Is played 15 – 21m

- Pointing: the pointer keeps one foot in the circle and steps forward with the other foot. They can either play from this position or they can bring their foot out of the circle to the other foot but it must not touch the ground.

- The pointer is allowed to test the terrain before playing by tapping a boule and is also allowed to prepare a landing spot, “la donnée”.

- Shooting: the shooter takes 3 running steps and shoots on the run – they must shoot before taking a 4th step.

- Shots must land within 1m of the target boule – rolling shots “à la rafle” are not allowed.

If you’ve seen any of the classic French films, such as Pagnol’s “La Gloire de Mon Père” or “Fanny”, the second part of the “Marseillaise” trilogy, it’s Le Jeu Provençal you’ll see being played. In Fanny, there is a classic scene where a tram lurches to a halt – they’re playing boules, le Jeu Provençal, in the middle of the street and everything has to stop! Afterwards, there’s a dispute between the characters as to whether or not 4 steps were taking when shooting!

While everybody in France plays pétanque, I’ve only ever seen one game of le Jeu Provençal in a village square, although there are still tournaments in Provence. However, le Jeu Provençal still has it’s influence amongst French pétanque players. Although not officially allowed by the rules, players both in social and competitions, will test the ground and often prepare a landing spot. Rolling shots are very much frowned upon – you won’t get a round of applause unless you shoot “au fer” and score a direct hit on the target boule.

Games in France are generally played “in the spirit of the game” rather than strictly to the letter of the rules. Unless there’s blatant cheating, nobody is bothered about minor infringements that make no difference to the game. For example, it’s quite common for players to have a foot, sometimes two, crossing the circle and nobody minds. In the UK, it’s the sort of thing that players object to, even in social games. I suspect that it’s a combination of “cultural differences” plus the fact that a lot of players have never played in France and having seen how the game is really played.

There’s also a strong sense of “playing the game” and what is the right – and wrong – shot to play. For example, if shooting a boule will win you perhaps 4 or 5 points but you merely point for 1 or 2, you’ll get quite seriously criticised for “not playing the game” – “ce n’est pas le jeu”.

To Tap or Not?

Should pointers be allowed to test the terrain before playing? I think they should. Being able to land accurately on a chosen landing spot is a test of the skill of the pointer and they should be rewarded for accurate, skilful play and not penalised by an unlucky deflection from a hidden stone they couldn’t check for.

What do others think? Participate in the poll and let others know your views on the egroup.

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