Sybarit from Fundex Games is hands-down the classiest game I have ever played. During our play-testing, it was necessary to host a cocktail party complete with semi-formal wear just so we did not feel like we were insulting it. To make reference to the Finer Things Club from NBC’s The Office, Sybarit is a game “in a very civilized way.”
The classy tin that serves as game box comes in a classy frosted plastic sleeve, reminiscent of classy vodka. It comes with great logos and fonts in an appropriate minimal, but not-too-minimal, style and suggests one play after “a delicious meal with soft lighting and good wine” and whilst “enjoying your coffee and cognac.” Without yet opening the box, there is a certain atmosphere established. Even the game’s name comes from the somewhat esoteric term “sybarite” as explained in the introduction to the rules, “a person devoted to pleasure and enjoyment” for whom “indulging in epicurean pleasures lend meaning to life itself.” The description also points out that a sybarite is not limited to specific ethics but rather “is free to choose his or her own objects of pleasure in areas such as food, drink and social life.”
Sybarit may seem initially confusing with its many stages, but that is a little bit of the fun of being upper class: knowing things that “other” people simply would not. Overall, the game is a question-and-answer trivia contest with some 2,400 questions. The questions come in four topics: food; drinks; etiquette, customs and table settings; and general topics related to food and drinks. Players decide whether they wish to play a regular game (about an hour) or a double game (two hours), because sybarite players may choose to do as they please. Specialized decks of playing cards are set in the middle, and a player draws one whose suit determines the category of the question.
Once the category is given, the player may choose whether to have a one-point or three-point question. One-point questions are such as “What kind of cheese is Vermont best known for?” (Cheddar), “Irish Whiskey is less smokey than scotch. True or false?” (True), and “What country is sometimes called South America’s bread basket?” (Argentina). Harder three-point questions are such as “Which French region boasts the wine chateaux Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, and Pape Clemant?” (Bordeaux), “What are glass noodles made from?” (Mung beans), and “When were twin Popsicles invented” (The Great Depression). The correct answer gains the points; incorrect answers are merely discarded.
Playing cards are kept until the end of Sybarit, giving a random element for bonus by whoever draws the highest cards through the game. A further random element are the four Jokers in varying colors. For a Red Joker, points are doubled. For a Blue Joker, points are doubled on a correctly answered question or lost on an incorrect answer. For a Yellow Joker, an incorrect answer eliminates half the player’s score so far in the game. And for a Green Joker, the points are determined by the score of the last player, possibly a boon with three points on an easy one-point question.
All this subtle strategy and general classiness are great for atmosphere, but the game at its core is a solid trivia contest with the subject of fancy things. Sybarit is listed as two to eight players, eight years old and up (eight might be a tad young; I struggle with a good many of the questions in my late 20s) and appeals to those of us in the Finer Things Club. Certainly not the game for everyone, but then that is some of the point, right?