Pétanque is a form of boules where the goal is to toss or roll hollow steel balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a jack, while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground. The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel. It can be played in public areas in parks, or in dedicated facilities called boulodromes. Similar games are bocce, bowls and (adapted to ice) curling.
Pétanque is played by two teams, where each team consists of one, two, or three players.
In the singles and doubles games each player plays with three metal boules. In triples each player uses only two.
The area where a pétanque game is played is called a terrain. A game can be played in an open area like a public park, where the boundaries of the terrain are not marked, or more formally on a "marked terrain" where the terrain boundaries are marked (traditionally, by strings tightly strung between nails driven into the ground).
In pétanque, players throw while standing in a circle. Traditionally, the circle was simply scratched in the dirt. Starting around 2005, red plastic "prefabricated" circles were introduced and are now widely used in formal games. A circle drawn on the ground must be 35–50 cm in diameter, while a plastic circle must have an inside diameter of 50 cm.