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Gaming conventioneers settle for new world record

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Settlers of Catan, as played by 922 (Credit: Mike Smith)

Under normal circumstances, the annual Gen Con gaming convention in downtown Indianapolis, IN is a four-day whirlwind of dice-rolling, bargain-hunting, and celeb-spotting.

But this year, 922 conference goers took time out from their Friday night schedules to set a massive new world record for the largest number of people ever playing the same board game.

The game in question was Settlers of Catan, a European phenomenon that exploded onto the U.S. market some 15 years ago courtesy of Chicago-based publisher Mayfair Games. It’s usually played by between two and four people, who compete, trade, and expand as they spread their civilizations across a new and unspoiled island.

But Friday’s version used a handful of rules modifications, many thousands of game components, and the 20,000 square-foot ballroom of Indianapolis’s JW Marriott hotel to extend the game to an unprecedented scale.

[Related: Monopoly axes the iron, introduces the cat]

A platoon of red-shirted Mayfair representatives patrolled the aisles to keep the game running smoothly, and dice rolls were simulated and displayed on huge video screens at each end of the room. Among the throngs was 29-year industry vet Robert T. Carty, Jr., Mayfair’s vice-president of sales and marketing.

“This is actually almost one thousand people playing in the same game -- not only playing the same game, but playing in the same game,” he told Yahoo! Games. “This is a circular board that seats one thousand people in a daisy-chain. There’s a record for about 1,200 people playing chess simultaneously, but that’s 600 independent games, there’s no one winner. There will be one winner tonight.“

The total was certified by a representative of Guinness World Records, who probably had the least interesting job of all the officials: keeping track of everything from the number of seats to the quantity of early quitters.

And she might have another gig waiting for her in 2014. According to Carty, the only reason Mayfair stopped at 922 this year was because they couldn’t find a room large enough for more -- and Gen Con attendance, projected to be well over 40,000 this year, continues to grow.

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