Pétanque: What is the French game being celebrated by Google Doodle and how do you play?

 (Getty Images/EyeEm)
(Getty Images/EyeEm)

Sunday’s Google Doodle celebrates the iconic French game of Pétanque – a game loved and played around the world.

In its honour, Google has created a special interactive game that allows you to play a random match or challenge your friends.

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Pétanque - a game with its origins reaching as far back as the Ancient Greece (Google)
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Pétanque - a game with its origins reaching as far back as the Ancient Greece (Google)

A similar game – using flat stones and eventually stone balls instead of today’s metal boules – was popular among the Ancient Greeks, long before Pétanque became a mainstay of French living.

After modifying the game by adding a target ball, Ancient Roman soldiers and sailors brought the game to France.

The game as we regonise it today originated in 1907 in Provence, France, when a local cafe owner changed the rules to accommodate a player whose rheumatism prevented him from running.

Since it is not a particualrly physically demanding game – thanks to the reduced length of the playing field and a stationary toss – Pétanque quickly became a popular afternoon activity across France.

How do you play Pétanque?

Pétanque, which is referred to interchangeably as Boules, is best enjoyed on hard dirt or gravel, and can be played either in public areas, such as parks, or in dedicated facilities known as boulodromes.

As far as the rules go, they are fairly quick and easy to grasp: throw, toss, or roll your team’s metal boules closer to the target boule than the other team. The first player or team to score thirteen points wins.

Simple rules aside, there are some nifty tactics for players to employ that can give them the winning edge over your oppenent.

“Shooting” is a popular strategy, often used at competitive levels, where players attempt to knock away an opponent’s boule from the target.

Pétanque has evolved from being a game purely for leisure, and is now played competitively at regional, national and international levels throughout the world.

The best players attend showcase events like the Mondial La Marseillaise in France and the La British Open in England.