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Finnish publisher Onni Games has two new titles in the queue for 2010: One is the Finnish-language trivia game Arvuutin, about which I'll say no more as my Finnish is a bit rusty these days; the second game, though, is Aether and it will include rules in English and German, in addition to Finnish. (As I mentioned in the Toscana game announcement the other day, I need to add a set of Scandanavian and Finnish flags to the rules section. So many new games from this part of the world!)
In Aether, players try to use the basic elemental powers to claim aether, the fifth element in Greek philosophy and an element not subject to transformation, unlike the other four in our physical world. To set up the game, players place a number of colored tokens and four randomly chosen element tiles behind their individual screen. The hexagonally-divided game board is seeded with aether tiles and a number of randomly drawn element tiles.
On a turn, a player places one of her element tiles on the board in an empty location, then has the option of placing a token on the tile just placed. If placed on a blue tile, the token represents a water elemental; on a green tile, it's an earth elemental; and so on. The strength of that elemental is equal to the number of adjacent tiles of its element (including the one underneath it) minus the number of enemy tiles adjacent to it. Earth weakens water, water weakens fire, and so on. Before placing a tile, the player has the option of swapping tiles for a new set at a cost of one colored token, thereby reducing your opportunities to claim spots on the board.
Once the board is filled, players determine who wins the points for each of the aether tiles, with the player having the most elemental strength (even of different types of elements) adjacent to the aether winning the tile. In a tie, players split the points of an aether tile. Players score an additional three points for each token not placed or sacrificed to enable a swap, and the player with the most points wins.
If you want to try Aether now, you can visit the online browser version of the game, which allows you to add 0-3 AI opponents in case you don't have enough humans on hand to play.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com