Petanque and Boules are outdoor games played with metal boules. This makes it too noisy for indoor environments, and hard to play in places where a concrete or asphalt playing area is not available. The La Molle Soft Boule set is designed to allow you to play petanque or boules indoors or on surfaces that would be damaged by standard metal boules.
The sets are available in two colours, red and black, or silver and gold, which means that with two sets four player games are possible. I bought the silver and gold set, mainly because it looked more like the metal boules usually used to play.
Each set contains everything needed for a two-player game, (although if you want to keep score you need to supply your own pad and pen):
- three boules of each colour
- two jacks (small orange boules also made of leather)
- a rope loop for standing in
- a measuring tool (rope with a pointer on the end).
The Boules and Jacks are made of leather and filled with millet seed, so that they can deform slightly on landing. However they roll and handle like normal petanque boules. I've seen these used on carpet, hardwood and even a bowling green. They don't just reduce surface damage, they also reduce noise considerably, so they aren't unknown in pubs and offices.
They are weighted and sized to be equivalent to tournament boules, which means that rather that just being toys they are a useful way to keep your arm in if you play petanque professionally. Without the slick surface of metal or resin boules they are also easier to grip, which may make them a good introduction to the game.
The quality is very high. They are hard-wearing: I've had mine for a few months now and the leather is barely marked, although if you use them on rough or sharp surfaces the boules could scuff. Being leather, you can't really get them wet as drying them out is difficult and they may deform, but then they are meant for indoor use. With a bit of care these could last for years.
The worst part of the package is the case, which is simply plastic, with a zip that allows the entire front to be folded open. Inside, a moulded insert holds the boules in place, although it is easier to get the boules back in than out and it could have done with finger holes to get your hands underneath the boules. Turning it upside down and hitting the bottom usually works. If you want to use these long term, replacing it with a better bag may be necessary, as the plastic moulding on mine has begun to show white stress lines and may crack soon.
These are as much for adults as children. They are cheaper than a standard metal boules set and, while they may seem expensive as a toy compared to children's plasic boules, they are quieter, better quality and actually give a realistic petanque feel to the game, since they are weighted correctly. With basic care one set could last you years.
The only problem is availability. In the UK it seems as though they are only available online and I had to order mine from Amazon because none of the shops had them.
Personally I have been very impressed by them, and thoroughly enjoyed playing. One small issue I did encounter playing indoors however is that these balls - rolling fast across the floor - also double as great cat toys and everytime I get them out two eager faces appear.
Overall, these are a fun game for adults and children, and quiet enough to be used indoors without damaging the playing surface or annoying the neighbours.