Petanca Volar is a lawn bowling game that was popular among the Kinilan Nobility before the Kinilan Revolution. It is an exceedingly difficult game to play, and the required equipment is quite expensive, which means few play it in Kinilan today.
The PitchThe game is played on a hard-packed lawn pitch of at 50 meters long by 10 meters wide, with a magical pin and socket positioned 5 meters from the back of the pitch in the middle. Each player casts 8 balls toward the pin each match, and gain points depending a complex scoring system for each ball colour. Some players prefer to play on neighbouring pitches, which removes the purple and orange balls from play, as they rely on the mechanic of interference by or with opposing players. Due to the impact of thrown balls and the required level playing field for bowling, the pitch is difficult to maintain, requiring close attention from skilled gardeners after every game.
Rules and ScoringThe game has 7 different kinds of ball - 4 heavy, smooth balls that are bowled and 3 lighter, roughened balls that are meant to be thrown. Each set typically has a large enough supply of each type of ball to support several players, though each player may only throw each ball a specific number of times. Each player takes turns casting one ball of their choice (primarily marked with a colour denoting what the ball does, but also marked to identify the player that casts the ball), until each have cast a total of eight balls. A player may go over to the far end of the pitch to inspect the field on their turn before casting their ball, but must have both feet on the ground and behind the line denoting the end of the pitck opposite the pin - 45 meters away from the center of the target area. The rules for each colour of ball are as follows:
- Cerulean: The cerulean ball is approximately the size of a grapefruit, but twice as heavy, and is bowled to score points based on its precision compared to other cerulean balls on the field, thrown by the player and by opponents. Each player can throw up to 3 cerulean balls. Its base score starts at one divided by its distance from the head of the central pin in meters, with a maximum of 3 if it is less than 33 centimeters from the pin. This base score is halved for every cerulean ball that is less than half its distance to the pin, doubled for every cerulean ball that is more than triple its distance from the pin, and is tripled for each cerulean ball that is of equal distance to the pin, to the nearest 10 centimeters. If the cerulean balls that fall under this last category are within 10 centimeters of forming a regular shape (opposite sides of the pin, forming an equilateral triangle, square, pentagon, and so forth), the score for each of these balls is multiplied by the number of balls in this formation after all other score modifications have taken place.
- Ultramarine: The ultramarine ball is a light ball approximately the size of an apple, and is bowled to lock in the effect of any ball that it touches, as calculated when it comes to rest. A player can bowl one ultramarine ball over the course of the game, and may not do so the turn after bowling the violet ball. It scores no points itself. Balls that adjust the scoring of other balls have their position marked by a violet or cerulean spike that is driven flush with the surface of the ground - their effects are determined at the end of the game, but their position is locked into place such that their effect is secured. Any ball touched by the ultramarine ball is removed from the pitch before play continues. The green ball's removal upon being touched by any other ball takes precedence over the ultramarine's rule locking in score.
- Green: The green ball is a medium weight ball the size of a kiwi, and is painted to math the shade of the grass of the pitch. A player can throw one green ball during the first 3 throws of the game. It scores 3 points if it is closer to the head of the pin than any Red and White ball, but is removed from the pitch if any other ball touches it.
- Orange: The orange ball is a heavy ball comparable in size to a pineapple, and is bowled to reposition or remove other balls from the pitch. A player can bowl two orange balls over the course of the game, and they can only score one point, and only if they are the closest ball to the head of the pin.
- Red and White: The red and white ball is a light ball comparable in size to a grapefruit, and is thrown as close to the pin as possible. A player can throw as many red and white balls as they want, but it scores only one point, and only if it is closer to the head of the pin than any opponent's ball.
- Violet: The violet ball is a very light ball comparable in size to a pomegranate, and is bowled as close to the pin as possible. A player can only bowl the violet ball once, only if they are playing on the same pitch as their opponent, and not on the final round. The violet ball scores zero points itself, but it alters the score based on a variety of factors. It starts with a base multiplier of 4, which is increased by the number of balls the bowler has yet to throw (to a maximum of 10, when bowled in the first round), and is divided by 1 plus the number of balls closer to the head of the pin. (In short, it is of greater value when thrown earlier in the game, and is reduced in value by balls closer to the head of the pin.) Its lightness makes it a prime target for removal by other balls.
- Black: The black ball is a throwing ball slightly larger and heavier than an orange, and is thrown at the pin to adjust its position. Each player can throw 2 blacks over the course of the game The socket holding the pin is designed with a magical sensor to detect both the force of the impact and how the ball is spinning. Top spin adjusts the pin further toward the end of the pitch, backspin towards the players, and left or right spin adjusts it toward that side of the pitch. Angles are determined by combining left/right spin and top/back spin, and how far the pin tilts is determined by the force of impact. It is removed from the pitch as soon as it comes to rest, and has no impact on scoring aside from adjusting the location of the pin. The pin can be moved a maximum of 20 centimeters from its original position.
TacticsTactics in Petanca Volar vary widely depending on skill levels, and on the individual player's specific capabilities. For example, cerulean and black balls are rarely seen except in very high level play, as the extreme precision required to cast them effectively requires a great deal of dedication, and a skilled player can readily exploit a miscast cerulean. The violet ball is almost always played, but the most skilled players will cast it early, and positioned behind one or two guard balls - often red-and-white, as the rougher texture of the thrown balls makes them particularly resistant to being moved. Skilled players will also make excellent use of the orange ball, imparting a twist to their cast that causes them to turn dramatically towards the end of their roll, enabling them to make surprisingly surgical strikes in repositioning or removing balls from the field. Conversely, the green ball is often ignored by skilled players, as it is very easy vulnerable to removal, and the red-and-white ball is typically cast only to provide interference. The ultramarine ball sees widely variable use - some players will always use it, while others consider it a wasted cast.
Petanca Volar was inspired by two older, far simpler games: Petanca and Volaris. Both games involve a similar pitch, but lack the complex rules attached to the coloured balls. Petanca was a 2 player game in which each player bowled a total of 5 balls, trying to get as close to the pin as possible. The player whose balls ended up closest to the pin would score one point for every ball that was closer than the closest of their opponent's balls, with the final ball cast by each player counting for 2 points. Volaris was also a 2 player game, that involved thowing U-shaped playing pieces toward a much closer pin, with each piece hooked onto the pin counting for 2 points and each landing nearby counting for 1. (There is an ancient game peasants play with horseshoes that is extremely similar, though players of Volaris would never approve of such a comparison.) The combined game of Petanca Volar originally used just two balls - comparable to the orange and the red-and-white of the definitive version, but new balls were added over time as players developed their skills and sought greater depth in the game. The rules were finally codified in 1547 AE, corresponding with the development of the magical pin-and-socket and its interactions with the black ball. Prior to that, the game had simply used a wooden stake only lightly stuck into the ground, and adjustments to the pin were made by throwing an orange ball at the pin rather than bowling it as usual; this often had the result of knocking the stake out of the ground entirely and sending it to some back corner of the field, and had the additional effect of often tearing up chunks of the field far more than a typical game would.
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With rules that complex, I can imagine angry duels by nobility over 'cheating'.
Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
Oh probably. I need to do a duelling article, but it's definitely not a non-contact sport.
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
I love the complex rules surrounding all the different coloured balls. I also like that it's bad form to punish a servant who is one of the judges within a day of playing a game, though I guess if the noble felt like it they could just wait an extra day. I kind of want to play this though.