OBJECTIVE OF BOCCE BALL AND PÉNTANQUE: Get your balls as close to the jack, or target ball, as possible.


MATERIALS: Balls, Court 

TYPE OF GAME: Ball/Boules/Bocce

AUDIENCE: Family players


Bocce Ball and Pétanque are two separate but very similar bocce/boule (ball) games from Europe. Booce Ball was developed in Italy, while Pétanque originated in France; but, both are widely played in Europe, and to a lesser degree in North America and Australia. Since both were conceived in refined in Europe, measurements for these games are metric. 

The crucial difference between Bocce and Pétanque is that the former is more akin to skee ball and bowling, while the ladder is a tossing game. The particulars that also set the two apart will be further expanded upon in each section. 


Bocce Ball is historically played on asphalt or soil courts measuring 27.5 meters long and 4 meters wide. Conversely, any court will do for Pétanque except asphalt, concrete, or tile. For instance, your freshly mowed backyard is a great balance of soft and firm for Pétanque. There is no maximum size for a Pétanque court, but the minimum is 12 meters by 4 metes wide. 


The objective of Bocce Ball and Pétanque is essentially the same: get as close to the target ball as possible. The games pit two teams against one another, typically on-one-one, two-on-two, or three-on-three in Pétanque; however, teams may consist of up to four players in Bocce. 


Bocce Ball utilizes eight grapefruit-sized bocce (balls) made of solid wood or resin and a pallina (jack). Each team has four balls with a different color or pattern to differentiate between the two teams. The game is always played with two teams, consisting of one, two, or four players. Players throw four balls, and in teams greater than one rotation of turns must be established. 


Games commence with a coin toss; the winner chooses if they will either toss the pallina first or pick the color of their balls. The pallina must be tossed within the boundaries of the court and past the centerline. Teams who fail to meet these requirements must pass the pallina to the opposing team. 

Whoever successfully tosses the pallina continues to play by throwing the first ball. Balls that are thrown out of bounds must be thrown again until they are within the boundaries of the court. 

This game follows one rule: the nearest ball rule. The ball which is nearest the pallina is “in” and the opposing team is “out.” The team which is “in” steps aside and lets the opposing team toss their bocce until they either run out of balls or get closer to the pallina. This pattern continues until both teams have thrown all there balls, this is called a frame. At the end of each frame, points are awarded and bocce collected. The team that scored in the previous frame starts the next one by re-throwing the pallina. 

Balls are thrown underhand with the palm facing upward, similarly to skee ball. But, they can also be rolled or bounced. Players also take a step forward to the foul line without crossing it. On the second crossing of the foul line, the infringing team forfeits their points to their opponents for that frame.

Balls thrown beyond the court’s boundaries are considered dead and are removed from the frame. In the event the pallina is knocked out of the frame, the frame immediately ends with no points awarded to either team. 

Throw balls to get near the pallina or to move your opponent’s balls further from it. One team scores per frame, they earn 1 point per ball that is closer to the pallina than their opponents. The first team to earn 16 points wins. 


Despite the similarities Pétanque has to Bocce, it is different enough to require its own explication. Pétanque uses hollow, orange-sized balls made of metal and a cochonnet or bouchon (jack). It can be played on a variety of terrains. Teams consist of one, two, or three players. In a two-on-two game, each player receives three boules. In a three-on-three game, each player receives two boules.


In an identical fashion to Bocce Ball, the game is initiated with a coin toss. Before any tossing can occur, a circle of 18-inch diameter should be drawn — this is the throwing circle. Boules and jacks must be thrown from the circle. The team that won the toss must throw the jack between 20 and 33 feet, after they may throw their first boule. 

Then, the opposing team throws their first boule, attempting to get even closer to the cochonnet. The team with their boule closest to the jack is “pointing,” and that boule “has the point.” If the opposing team gets their first boule closer to the cochonnet, they have “taken the point.” 

The team furthest from the cochonnet, or without the point, throws all their boules until they “take the point” or run out of boules. Teams may attempt to knock their opponent’s boules away from the bouchon, especially the one “holding the point,” or closest to the bouchon. This strategy is called shooting. 

The game continues in this fashion until both teams run out of boules. Next, points are counted and awarded. The team with the boule closest to the jack earns a point for each boule closer to the jack than their opponents. 

The scoring team starts the next frame, re-tossing the bouchon, and their first boule. The first team to score 13 points wins. 

Unlike Booce, boules are thrown palm down and while still. Some players choose to squat while they toss their boule for more control. 

Nakoa Davis