What you're talking about sounds like activity that is common for a contest or a QSO party. If you're not familiar with QSO parties they are organized like contests, but the organizers try to emphasize everyone having fun, and don't focus quite as much on scores. There is a saying though, that if something smells, looks, and feels like an elephant then it'...
Guessing it was a contest, and the numbers were the exchanges, per the contest rules.
The exchanges vary by contest, so it depends on which contest you heard.
Try searching the contest-calendar, here:
Perhaps with some more information we can narrow it down.