When there’s no other event organised, we usually have an informal mêlée at club sessions, i.e. mix everybody up into teams. Below are a few guidelines to ensure that everybody gets the most from the mêlées.
Mêlées serve two main purposes:
- Everybody gets the chance to play with and against different players – a good way of improving your game.
- It provides the basis for an informal competition, Winners play Winners, Losers play Losers.
How to Mêlée
There are different options for how to choose teams, depending on how many players there are and what they prefer to do.
For a small group, one player takes one boule from each player and throws them towards a jack. Those nearest the jack play together, those furthest away play together. With a larger group, each player throws one boule. If you’re brave – AND you’ve checked there is nobody in the way!!! – throw them over your shoulder or throw with your non-playing hand. If you’re ambidexterous, well, you’re very lucky 🙂
This is the most informal, ‘fun’ way and – by definition – means anybody can play with anybody. Depending on the luck of the draw, you could get two good players, two good shooters, two good pointers, an experienced player and a newcomer, etc.
Despite the fact that it’s random, occasionally players complain that this puts the best players together, in which case there are other options. You still throw the boules at random but instead either choose:
- Odds and Evens, i.e. 1st, 3rd & 5th vs 2nd, 4th & 6th, etc.
- Nearest and Furthest, i.e. the player(s) nearest the jack plays with the players furthest from the jack – remove those boules and then take the next nearest, the next furthest, etc.
- Natural Groupings: there will usually be a natural grouping of boules – these players will play together. Best to have a second option, in case there aren’t any groups!
- Team Captains: nominate the team captains and then the players nearest the team captains will play together. NB you don’t have to choose the ‘Best’ players – you can choose anybody and make them ‘Captain’.
Make sure that one person is in charge before you start and announce what system you’re going to use.
Pointers and Shooters
An alternative to a random grouping is to preselect Pointers, Shooters and Middle players. First throw the Pointers’ boule to determine the order, then throw the Shooter’s boules and pair them up in order with the Shooters and finally throw the Middle players, if playing triples.
This has the advantage of still having random pairings but with more ‘balanced’ teams. Obviosuly this works best when you have even numbers of Pointers and Shooters.
The picture shows how they mêlée at a club in Arlès. There is a large stone next to the terrain with three rows where players put their boules – one for Pointers, one for Shooters and one for Middle players. When there are enough boules for a match, each row is thrown in the air to randomise the teams.
It’s a good way to create ‘balanced’ teams.
What do you think the player is doing in the next picture?
Yet another way to mêlée! Here the boules have been dropped on the terrain and the player is taking boules from behind his back to see who plays with who. Only the French could think of that one 🙂
The Golden Rule
DO NOT PICK YOUR BOULE UP unless you know:
- who you’re playing with and
- who you’re playing against
Anybody who does pick their boule up and afterwards wander around not knowing who they are playing with – yes, there’s always one! – should be invited to organise the draw 🙂
Winners v Winners, Losers v Losers
This basically is an informal KO – a good way of providing an element of informal competition, rather than having one group play together all day to the exclusion of the others.
SHOUT when you’ve finished your game, so that the others know you’re ready.
If the other team(s) haven’t finished, by all means continue and/or practice BUT stop when they are ready, so that the next games can get under way.
NB If there are three teams, you can still play Winners v Winners, Losers v Losers but don’t just have the first two play together, as this will exclude the third team.
Instead, if the teams are A, B & C. If A & B finish first, the Winners play together but the losers should wait for C to finish. Then the winner of C plays the best loser and the other two teams play each other.
The Number’s Game
|3||Go and have a coffee|
|5||3 v 2|
|7||4 v 3, 8 boules per side|
|9||1 Doubles + 3 v 2|
|10||1 Doubles + 1 Triples|
|11||1 Triples + 3 v 2|
|12||2 Triples or 3 Doubles|
|13||2 Doubles + 3 v 2|
|14||1 Triples + 2 Doubles|
|15||1 Triples + 1 Doubles + 3 v 2|
If latecomers arrive, they can ”help the losers”. Etiquette is that the winning teams stay together. If there are several latecomers, then the losers can regroup to include everybody.
Mêlées are a great way for informal sessions – they mix everybody up and provide the basis for an informal competition. What more could you ask for!?