- Designer: Ikhwan Kwon
- Publisher: Jeux Synapses
- Players: 1-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher
Betta is a new game from Jeux Synapses; a company that hit our radar with Coatl. In this game: “Today’s your first day of work at Bette’s Pets, everyone’s favorite pet shop. You were expecting to learn how to stock shelves and operate the till, but Bette bought a boatload of bettas. In order to boost sales, Bette’s come up with a way to make a game out of it, and she’s going to award points based on how well you follow her instructions.
You need to arrange the bettas in 3×3 displays. Customers are most drawn to 6 particular patterns. Use your arrangement ideas (your tiles) to make these patterns pop! Plus, customers love seeing a lot of one color in a display. The more you fill a display with your color, the better your bettas are going to sell. Once the displays have been filled, or everyone runs short of arrangement ideas, the task is done and whoever has the most points wins!”
The short publisher description might actually be enough to play the game – that’s how simple the rules are – but here is a bit more detail… The game actually has three different modes, and I’ll talk a bit about each. There is a regular game, the Betty asymmetrical variant, and a solo mode.
For the regular version, you start by placing display cards in the center of the table, appropriate for the player count. Each of these has a 3×3 grid on it. The three levels of the pattern cards are shuffled separately, and 2 of each difficulty are dealt to the table for this game.
Each player gets the scoring marker in their color, the 12 associated Betta cards (which have geometric cutouts in them), and discards two of them at random. The remaining 10 cards are made into a deck, the top card of the deck is drawn and placed face up on an empty display, and then the player draws a hand of 3 cards from his deck.
On a turn, a player must first place a Betta card from their hand onto any of the displays that is not yet fully filled with fish. You can rotate your card freely, and you are able to cover up previously placed fish as well. Once played, score the card you played. If you played on a previously empty display, score 2 points. Now look at the Pattern cards, and score the highest valued pattern that you created of your own color of fish.- that is, if you made a pattern which includes at least one Betta played this turn. Finally, draw a card to bring your hand back up to 3.
The game continues until every player only has 2 cards left in their hand or when it becomes impossible to play any cards further as all displays are filled with Bettas.
The endgame scoring rewards points for the number of fish you have in each of the displays: for 2/3/4/5/6+ fish, score 1/3/6/10/15. The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the most total visible fish at the end of the game.
There is also an asymmetric version of the game where one player plays as Betty, the store owner. The setup is similar to the regular game. She has her own special deck of cards – and she doesn’t have a specific color of fish. On her turn, she still places cards, scores patterns and draws a new card – scoring patterns of any color; so long as at least one of the fish in this pattern was played this turn. At the end of the game, the Betty player scores points for empty spaces left in any of the displays.
Finally, in the solo mode, you place 3 Display cards on the table, and set up the usual 6 pattern cards. Then you shuffle all four of the Betta decks together and deal a deck of 15 cards for the game. You still go through the same placing, scoring and drawing phases of a regular turn, and the game ends when you have either played all the cards or all displays are filled. Then at the end of the game, you look at each of the three displays and score points based on the number of fish of the most prevalent color.
My thoughts on the game
Betta is a super-colorful game that uses these cards with interesting cutouts in them to fill the fish displays. It is an extremely tactical game – the best play at any given time will be directly impacted by the plays of your opponents between your turns. Early on, you’re trying to make patterns or set yourself up for patterns; though later in the game, you might simply be looking to fill a display with fish for the end game bonus scoring.
I haven’t really found much deep strategy to Betta so far – as I said, it’s a tactical affair where you simply have to wait and see what your options are. Generally, I mostly play to further my own plans, though I suppose there are one or two turns where I might try to disrupt a pattern factory of one of my opponents. As there are only 9 turns in the game at most, you usually don’t want to squander any of your opportunities.
As I mentioned above, it is possible to monopolize a particular display, and then each time you place a card on top of it, you can often continually create high scoring patterns. You want to try to not cover up too many new spaces with each successive card, because eventually all the spaces will be filled and this will freeze that display for the rest of the game.
The art of the game and the cards is nice and colorful, and the displays end up as a beautiful display at the end of the game. The cards are quite slippery, and they are really hard to shuffle or manipulate due the (lack of) texture. The rules actually ask you not to shuffle, and this is wise advice, as any attempt to shuffle them will likely bend the cards as the corners always get stuck in the cutout portions of the card. It would have been nice for there to be a player aid or reference so that the scoring chart(s) for endgame scoring were readily accessible during the game.
Betta is a light tactical game that will likely go over well with families and kids. It’s admittedly a light affair, but I don’t think that it really is advertised as anything different. It is beautiful on the table, and it’s worth a try if you’re looking for a quick game.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale Y
- Not for me…