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Teaching Boules to Americans

Submitted by Joel on Tue, 09/11/2018 - 12:31

When we first arrived at Cyprus, our hosts told us about how much they loved a game they called 'boules'. They were referring to 'short mat boules' (or bowls for us Yanks). When they returned, they invited us to play a couple games with them and we eagerly agreed! We had never seen the game played before (or heard of it for that matter), but we both really enjoyed it, even though we were terrible at it. There's a lot of finesse and strategy to it. All in all, very enjoyable. 

The scoring and strategy of short mat boules (which I will now just call 'boules' even though there are a ton of versions that I'm NOT talking about) turns out to be a lot like curling. I had recently watched a bit of curling since the USA was doing so well in the Olympics. A lot of the terminology is the same, just as a round of each side tossing their stones/boules being called an 'end'. There are also 12 ends each game and the scoring is the same. 

Every end will almost always have someone scoring at least one point. Each boule that is closer to the 'jack' than all of the other team's boules will score a point. So one end could score as much as 8 points (we played 4 player teams each with two boules)! Most only score one, maybe two, though. 

Rolling a boule takes a lot of finesse. One side is weighted, so it will curve to the biased side. If you roll it the wrong way, it just goes off the mat. You can't roll it too hard, or it goes off the end, and too soft just gets removed. Also, there's a wooden block in the middle that you have to roll around! But it's easier than it first appears.

Bethany's first roll was right next to the 'jack' (a little ball used for scoring). She was much better at the game than I was. I steadily got worse and worse, while she perfected her technique of ambidexterity. Most people will just roll the biased side on either side of the wooden block using the same hand. Bethany was much better at using her left hand to roll on the left side and right hand to go right. I just always threw it too hard. 

In the end, Bethany and I each won a game, so someday we'll have to have a tie breaker to see who the real champion is...