Backyard Fun: Bocce Ball

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 Maybe you remember playing lawn darts in your childhood.  Our set included two plastic tubes that you shaped into two hoops.  The darts themselves had metal pointed tips with four plastic "fins" off the back for aerodynamics.  You would place the hoops at opposite ends of the playing area and toss your dart into the air in an effort to land the dart in your opponent's hoop.  As you might imagine, there were some safety issues.  In fact, I am fairly certain that they stopped making those.

I first learned about bocce in Europe.  I was immediately enamored with the tradition of it.  This game has been played for centuries.  Although it has often been regarded as a game for the common people, there was a time when it was reserved strictly for nobility.  These days in parts of Italy, it is commonplace to see groups of people playing bocce in the park.  In recent years, bocce has slowly gained popularity in the US.  You can now purchase sets at most discount department stores. 

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 The sets come in a variety of colors and styles.  There are some very nice metallic ones and I found this clear bocce set at Amazon.com. Lastly, in the event you get one of those rare rainy summer days I hunted down this indoor bocce set at uncommongoods.com.  They are fun-colored and have a very modern sensibility. 

There is something really fun about bocce.  If you haven't played before you should give it a shot.  This might just become a summer standard at your house.

savour... playtime

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The rules are fairly straight forward.  For our purposes, we will choose the Open Bocce rules.  They are much less formal than Court Bocce which is meant for tournament play.  Open Bocce is good for backyard play and does not include strict rules about the court itself.  Here's what you will need to get started:

A bocce ball set

A good amount of open, fairly level space

A tape measure

Paper and pencil

The rules:

  1. There can be up to 8 players.
  2. Each team chooses a color or, if applicable, each person chooses a color and a pattern.
  3. Determine who will go first.  You may wish to flip a coin.  At our house, it is usually the player with the closest birthday.
  4. Choose a foul line which you must not cross when throwing your bocce ball.
  5. The first player tosses out the pallino (smaller target ball that comes with the set).
  6. The first player then begins play by throwing out a bocce ball attempting to get as close to the pallino as possible.
  7. The next team takes a shot at getting their ball closer to the pallino than the first player.  If they succeed their ball is called "inside".
  8. The second player continues until they have either gotten a bocce ball "inside" or they have thrown all of their balls.
  9. Play continues until all balls have been thrown.
  10. Points are awarded to the team with the most "inside" balls.
  11. Only the the team with the most "inside" balls gets points.
  12. In the event of a tie, no points are awarded.
  13. The winner of each match throws the pallino and first ball for the next match.
  14. Game is won by the first player to reach 13 points.

Note:  It is perfectly acceptable to hit and move the pallino into a different position with your bocce ball, thus potentially changing the "inside" balls.  Likewise, it is acceptable to knock an opponents balls into a different position.  You may also bank off of your own bocce balls or your opponents.