Carcassonne is Life

Everyone who knows me well knows about the game Carcassonne. Its a german tile laying game first published in 2000 by Hans In Gluck. Its name is take from a medieval fortified town in south France also called Carcassonne. Mimicking a simplified version of medieval Europe the game is based around three basic assets: Cities, Roads, and Fields. Using the game tokens, fondly called meeples, players then compete to score points based on placing tiles with these assets and strategically placed meeples. A relatively simple game to start, but as with every game the strategy behind the game  can get extremely complex with each person take their own specific route that they think will win. What does any of this have to do with my title? Well this relatively obscure game has become a fixture point in my life. I was first introduced to this game on a leadership retreat during my time as a Section Officer for Section C-7. The two years I served as an officer were some of the most transformative as an individual that I have ever experienced in my life. I learned to be a better, more well rounded person through my interactions with my fellow officers as well as the guidance of the great advisers I got the opportunity to work with. As with ever transformative period, I struggled with many issues from school and personal growth, but Carcassonne was always a positive to look forward to in this time of variability, maybe thats why it has become such a fixture in my life. Whenever possible we would always make sure to play a game at the end of our meetings. It gave us a time to all sit together and let down your guard down. One of my favorite quotes I have seen floating around the internet goes like this: “If you’re not prepared to lose a friend you have over a board game, you’re not playing hard enough”. Given the strategies some of my friends have in playing Carcassonne this always felt like a definite possibility. In reality I think it was doing the opposite. This may sound like a marketing advertisement for board game makers, but I am a firm believer that board games bring you together. There is a sense of community and competitiveness that you get in board games that I think is missing when playing other interactive games such as video games. The ongoing strategies, the mental game trying to convince others where they really wanted to play their piece, and numerous subplots both related to the game and whats going on in life between each person play out during a game.

How this obsession turned into a different hobby is a bit of a different story. Carcassonne the game has many expansions. The last time I checked I had the following game sets:

  • Base Game
  • The River II
  • Inns and Cathedrals
  • Traders and Builders
  • The Princess and the Dragon
  • The Tower
  • Abbey and Mayor
  • Bridges, Castles & Bazaars
  • Hills & Sheep
  • The Phantom
  • Carcassonne Minis:
    • The Flying Machines
    •  The Messages
    • The Ferries
    • The Gold Mines
    • Mage & Witch
    • The Robbers
    • Corn Circles II

That brings me to around 300 game tiles, 90+ meeples, and numerous other game pieces to keep in one place. The cardboard box just wasn’t suited for carrying that many expansions, so I decided to do what any engineer would, come up with a new solution. This is what led me to creating the original Carc Box as we affectionately call my creation. The original box was made of cherry board that had been sitting in the basement for years. Working with my father I was able to create a box that had both enough space for all my pieces and dividers for each of my pieces.
Box1

This worked extremely well, but some of the imperfections set off my OCD. The top was made from multiple boards glued together and was pretty warped and the latched really snap when they are undone because of this . The dividers were made out of smaller lexan laying around and cut as more of an experiment that a finished product. The wood dividers that held the pieces in place also were tight enough that I think they leave marks on the side of the cardboard pieces. I still use this box to this day for my own personal set, but I vowed that if I ever created a second box that I would fix many of the issues I had with box. It was very much a prototype, but I have so many memories with it as this point that it would be hard to replace. It took a few years, but eventually I decided to make a second box to give as a thank you item to my adviser for all he has done for me over the years, including introducing me to Carcassonne. For this box I decided to make it out of rich mahogany. I made some improvements as well. I worked harder to get the lid to sit flat. I used lexan dividers across the entire box with the tile side having lower dividers so you could still grab the pieces. I also decided to rout out a large area of the lid to create a pocket instead of holding the board in place with metal tabs. This worked well, but also allows the meeples to switch dividers occasionally. To personalize the box I used gray lexan as he always played with the gray meeples, I also put a handle on the front so that the box could be easier to carry. This box is also a beautiful piece of art that I am quite proud of creating. I really liked the design changes added into this one, along with the beautiful wood I got to work with.

Box2

When you create something for someone else, thats when a third person usually asks “When do I get my own?” Which is the story of how Carcassonne the Box v3.0 got started. At first I started thinking, you know what I’ve built two of these things and neither myself or my father could remember how we put certain parts together or how we did certain features for sure. This led me to document the entire build from start to finish. I posted the DIY album to reddit where it proceeded to go STRAIGHT TO THE FRONT PAGE!  As of today the imgur album has been viewed by over 200,000 individuals. That number just boggles my mind. Almost a quarter of a million people have seen some of my work. I did not really know what to expect when I posted that album. It could have been buried in the myriad of new posts, or gone to the top and be loaded with the trolls of the internet. I guess I did not expect the overwhelming positive support that I received from commenters. I had at least 5 people ask if I wanted to take commissions to build them boxes, numerous other amazing job comments, and my favorite one “It must be nice to be awesome and talented.” After building box 1 and 2 I figured whats can I do special for this box, thats how the herringbone pattern came about. that part alone I would estimate was 75% of the total labor and 90% of the time put into this project. After all that I did get posts from expert woodworkers that said in all likelihood it would break apart due to the cross grains of woods. (No not crossfit, but similar as the wood is fighting each other) All I can respond to that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ If there is an epic failure then at least I can say is I learned to not do that again. If it stays together then I have an amazing box to give to one of my friends.

Box3

Its weird to think back in life and think how things would be different if you don’t do X, Y, or Z. I’m not talking about ragrets in life, but how it would be different if you were introduced to something or if something never happened. What would have happened if I was never introduced to Carcassonne? Would I have as good a relationship with my friends as I do now? Would I have had an opportunity to learn a new hobby/skill such as wood working? Would I have had an opportunity to show something to 200,000 people? These are questions that I cannot answer, but I am glad that I can answer YES to all of them at this point in my life. It might be a simple, obscure game, but to me, Carcassonne is Life.