Betta – Arrange Fishy Displays

Betta box and components spread out
Betta box and components spread out

Originally known as Siamese fighting fish, bettas are a beautiful breed of fish native to Southeast Asia. They were first domesticated over 1,000 years ago in Thailand. Fast forward to the 21 century; Betta fish can be found in households all over the world. Betta is a puzzley game where players create specific patterns of fish in 3×3 displays.

Betta was designed by Ikhwan Kwon and published by Synapses Games, and plays 1-5 players in about 20 minutes. The game includes three ways to play: Staff Members mode (2-4 players), Betty Mode (2-5 players), and solo.

Betta setup for four players

How to Play

In Staff Members mode, players take turns placing Betta cards on displays to create patterns to score points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. A player performs three steps on their turn: place, score and draw.

A turn begins by placing a Betta card into one of the displays. Cards may be rotated in any direction, and cover other Bettas already in the Display, but they can’t be placed on a Display that’s already full of fish.

Betta card placed in display

Next, players will score points in one of two ways:

  1. Score two points for placing a Betta card on an empty Display.
  2. Score three, five, or seven points for creating a Pattern that matches one of the Pattern cards.

A Pattern is considered complete when:

  • Bettas of a single color match a Pattern card’s white squares.
  • At least one of those Bettas is on the card just played, even if it’s not the player’s color.
  • It doesn’t matter which orientation the Pattern is in, or even if that Pattern was there before.

Patterns may be scored multiple times over the course of the game. After scoring, the player draws a new Betta card and play passes clockwise.

Game end

Trigger the end of Betta when all Displays are completely filled, or when each player only has two cards left in their hand.

Then final scoring begins, where each player scores additional points for the number of Bettas of their color in each of the displays.

The player with the most points wins.

Additional Game modes

Betty Player

The Betty game modes increases player count up to five and slightly changes gameplay. If playing with five players, the number of displays is increased to 10, one player plays as Betty and uses a different deck of cards and the gray scoring fish. Game play is exactly the same as Staff mode. But at game end, the Betty player scores points for empty spaces left in each display.


In solo mode, only three display cards are used. Shuffle all four Betta decks (no Betty cards), then take 15 cards to make a deck. Draw a hand of three cards to start, then play as in Staff Members mode, ending after all 15 cards are played or all Displays are completely filled.

For Display scoring, determine which colors of Betta would score the best and gain points according the the chart listed in the rulebook. Check the Employee Review section of the rulebook to see ranking.


We have a pet Betta named Fhineas, so Betta immediately drew our family in, That said, Betta‘s theme, artwork and gameplay gel perfectly together. Its clever spatial puzzle reminds me Shifting Stones in some ways.

Betta card backs

Fluid turns and Agency

Games will fly by like an ocean breeze, especially if everyone uses downtime to plan their next turn. Turns can be quick if players plan ahead or have great spatial reasoning skills. With younger kids, expect increased turn times as they try to map out patterns across multiple cards.

Players have plenty of agency, as their placement can impact other player’s turns. If the Betta you’re playing won’t net you any points, it could be worth using it to prevent someone else from scoring a seven point card. But we rarely tried to mess up other players because each player only gets seven turns.

No Flounders here

Betta‘s fun ramps up after the first turn. Scoring escalates quickly and happens almost every turn. The end-game scoring added an extra notch of tension as players try to maximize their own color bettas in each display.

It’s not area control, because everyone still scores as long as they have any fish present. But racking up 10-15 points on a display can swing the game your way.

We also appreciate the inclusion of two extra game modes for higher player counts and for a quick solo game.

Betta‘s cards are surprisingly durable. Sometimes they can get a little snagged on each due to their cut outs, but after several games, not one has torn!

Betta card bending
Surprisingly durable, even with bending

Final Thoughts

Betta is an enjoyable game that will remain in our library. We played it with with ages ranging from 13 to 71; it only took about a minute to explain the rules and players were off swimmingly. Betta is the kind of game you’ll play multiple times in a row because it’s so short and scores can be pretty tight.

Betta doesn’t require a lot of space, making it perfect to take along to a café or play at home on your coffee table. I’d highly recommend it for fish enthusiasts or those who like pattern making games.

You can get a copy of Betta on Amazon or ask for it at your friendly local game store.

Fhineas approves!

The Family Gamers received a copy of Betta from Synapses Games (via Flat River Games) for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

  • 8/10
    Art - 8/10
  • 6/10
    Mechanics - 6/10
  • 7/10
    Family Fun - 7/10


Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 1-5
Playtime: 20 minutes