Few real-world cities dating from the Middle Ages look much like the wonders that graced the covers of fantasy novels I read as a child, but Carcassonne in southern France probably comes the closest. Dating back 2,500 years and boasting 52 towers with fairy-tale roofs dotting its roughly two miles of fortifying walls, it's massive and memorable. But folks who aren't so keen on medieval history likely know it best from the board game of the same name that captures an abstract slice of regional life in the city's heyday, and three Swedish players recently honored the city's legacy of sprawling grandeur by completing the world's largest game of Carcassonne so far.
But just as you don't need the know about the real city's role in the Albigensian Crusade to appreciate its beauty, it's possible to get an idea of the scale of the team's achievement without knowing the game's rules. The project is the work of Paul Sydby, and over the course of several days last March at Gothenburg, Sweden's delightfully named GothCon gaming convention, Paul and his sister Marie Sydby and their friend Robert Wagman won their slot in gaming history. The final game board, which you can see sprawling about over a 108x92 grid in the video below, contained a whopping 10,007 tiles. The previous record-holding game from Germany used only 5,517 pieces. Impressive stuff, especially considering that a typical retail box for Carcassonne contains only 72 tiles.
Carcassonne has earned a reputation in recent years for being a "gateway drug" of sorts for the world of board gaming beyond standbys like Monopoly, as it captures what makes the hobby entertaining while being relatively accessible. The basic gameplay consists of placing down one tile resembling a plot of southern France like a road, a city, or a cloister, and then matching it with another tile that shares similar visual features. Eventually, something resembling a gridded map emerges. Points accumulate with the help of pieces popularly called "meeples," which players place on the tiles they've used.
Simple, perhaps, but enough of a challenge that Paul and his friends found themselves perplexed at multiple stages of their journey. Paul details the goodwill and stress of undertaking such a project in a couple of forum posts on the Carcassonne Central forums, which are full of explanations regarding the team's approach to the rules. His detailed, sequential narrative of the project unfortunately seems to stop midway through the world record attempt, but it's worth reading for (hopefully) playfully passive aggressive gems like this:
"All my closest friends and other relatives wouldn't even consider the idea of helping me out when I needed them the most," says Paul, recounting his hunt for players to help him. "Not really a shocker. Sadly the life I live in at the moment, where I don't have any real friends or family members that would put aside their own greedy minds and egos to help a friend."
Dang, Paul. At least it all worked out for you.