Jil Hemming

Originally pubilished on Stuff here

Jil Hemming first realised her Cloak of Protection card game could be a hit when a 5-year-old stole a bundle at a kindergarten fair.

Since then about 100 schools throughout the

North Island have begun using the native bird game to familiarise children with past and present birds and their predators in a fun way.

The game has now become one of four finalists in the New Zealand Games Association Awards, honouring ingenuity in the realm of card games.

About 10 years ago, Ms Hemming, of Waikanae, made a pack of cards featuring native birds for her daughter, then 5.

“I wanted her to hold New Zealand birds in her hands and play with them. Then the neighbourhood kids came and they were a huge hit.

“When a 5-year-old kid stole some at the fair, I thought if someone doesn’t mind getting into that much trouble, I was on to something,” the former teacher and writer said.

About six years ago she contacted Landcare Research and it started to work on the structure of the game, and scientists tested it in their lunchtimes.

The aim of the game is to build a cloak (collection) of birds in one realm: forest, sea, settlement or extinct.

If a predator icon is present on a card, it eats the bird.

But other cards, like gods and wild cards, can save them.

Two to four players aged 7 and up attempt to be the first to construct a cloak.

The first-time card designer has partnered with Enviroschools Wellington and Taranaki to allow schools to fundraise through game sales.

Cloak of Protection is also available at Zealandia, Commonsense Organics, Nga Manu Nature Reserve, Pataka, Expressions Gallery in Upper Hutt, and Mahara Gallery in Waikanae.

Winners of the Games Association Awards will be announced in August.