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skat cat!

It was a week where cats caught were caught up in a media storm.

The ‘friendly neighbourhood serial killer’ said the Cats to Go website.

And there was John Innes being quoted. John is famous for many things. He is NZ’s rat specialist. Yes! such a person does exist. But, more important to us, John did all the spine work for the game (which predator eats what), and compiled the book that comes with the game.

“In New Zealand native forests,” said John “ship rats are the major prey, and this little-seen predator eats many more birds than cats do.

“I agree with the website that ‘we need to control cats and rats together’. . .

“In the meantime, pet cat owners should educate themselves about the possible threats of their cats to local wildlife and they should plant trees and shrubs suitable for native wildlife.“

Reminds me of the Ogden Nash poem:
bigger fleas have littler fleas upon their back to bite ’em
littler fleas have littler fleas
and so ad infinitum

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a tall tail (but not)

Last night I spent the evening on a farm up in the hills behind Waikanae. It was a restful break from all the planning of January.

Behind the house was a paddock with a donkey and a goose. The goose was flapping its wings, trying to entice the donkey to play. There was no action – donkey was not in the mood. I was told that, on other nights, the goose will jump on the donkeys back to get things really going!

And there, strutting around us was a male peafowl: a peacock. They were brought here from India & Sri Lanka, via England, from 1843 onwards.

This one was displaying its colours. Not the tail, which is actually small & dull brown. The spectacular shimmering train of feathers he displayed was actually greatly modified ‘coverts’, above the tail.

In Cloak of Protection the peafowl is a bird of the settlement. Its main predators are ferrets, humans, and kahu/harrier.

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the fish & chips companion

Living by the beach, seagulls are everywhere. Up in the sky riding the updrafts, or dropping sea-shells from great heights onto the sand to smash them open, or squabbling with each other over territory.

There I was sitting at one end of a park bench (over-looking the beach): there was tarapunga, the red-billed gull, sitting at the other end (over-looking me).

The attraction? My paper wrapping of fish & chips.

My lone companion kept vigil. No other birds allowed! Well – not until this one had been feed, then it was too busy eating to chase the others off!

Seagull numbers increased after human settlement. Mainly due to offal & sewage discharges straight into the sea. These discharges reduced from 1970. So the seagull population has dropped – through you’d never know it on Waikanae Beach!

It’s summer. The beach teems with life. And tarapunga will take every opportunity it is given!

Information from the booklet that comes with the game. In Cloak of Protection, the main predators of tarapunga, the red-billed gull, are ferret + cat.

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variations on a theme

Often I write about the game as it is played by children & families. But I also have regular players who are adults. And they play some interesting variations. Here are three that fit within the rules.

1) No-one ever builds a cloak as they are collecting cards. They just lay the cards randomly in lines in front of them. Then they wait ‘til the last moment to show their cloak. In this way, while the cards are showing, the actual cloak remains hidden.

2) All the cards are held in the hand, which must be quite a fistful(!) but is quite possible. Keeping the cards hidden makes trading much more edgy, as you never know how much you are helping the other person.

3) 8 players. 2 packs. Players proved much readier to sacrifice their gods, rather than their birds, so the game moved quickly, remaining interesting & dynamic.

Do you have any interesting variations in the game? If you do, plse post & let us know.

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@ the Upper Hutt Library

SO yesterday I spent a pleasant hour at the Upper Hutt Library. Students there played Cloak of Protection as part of their Summer Reading Challenge.

This was my first session in a library & it was a treat! We had a great corner to play, with plenty of right-sized tables.

Librarians were on hand. Kate, the Children’s Programmes Co-ordinator, kindly organised the visit, and was an amazing hostess. Sophie (pictured) carefully watched over a group.

Whoops soon filled the library, as the kids got their cloaks underway. These sounds were a joy & a delight to librarians’ ears!!!

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Wellington Enviroschools update

Our first sale on this programme was 26 Sept 2012. That was the day we launched the teaching, learning & sales partnership with Enviroschools Wellington.

21 schools from this region now have a page on this site, & 14 of these have begun gaining points toward rewards. Points range from 1 to 39. Muritai School – who are sitting on 39 – have received $125 (which they are putting toward their new worm farm), plus 4 games to go in their classes.

December has been very exciting! If you do the maths, you’ll see that today’s total is 86 games. So the cloak spreads.

So – to all you students who are getting a game in your Christmas stocking this year – I hope you, your friends, and your families have a blast playing the game. All the best. And thankyou.

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nature nerd stocking fillers

at that least that’s what Nicola Toki has put us under, in her blog this week on STUFF (Dominion Post on-line). Titled In Our Nature.

Here’s what she said about the game:
“The maker of Cloak of Protection kindly sent me one of the games, which the bloke and I played last night. The bloke was tired and is notoriously cranky about card games in general, but he got quite into this one, beating me (annoying!) and it didn’t take us long to work out that if you landed a “predator” card it was night-night to half of your collection.

“This game is entertaining, educational (the impacts of predators on our native species becomes very obvious very quickly) and the cards are beautifully illustrated. I’d definitely recommend it for families that are interested in our native wildlife. It’d be great for camping or at the bach over summer.”

Thanks Nicola.

She knows her stuff, having written a couple of books herself.

The first, Invaders – animals from elsewhere that are causing trouble here – was selected as a finalist in the 2010 LIANZA Children’s Book awards for best non-fiction. It’s basically about all the baddies that we’ve brought over here (including sneaky stowaways, out of control pest control, and pet escape artists), and the impact they’re having on our precious native wildlife.

The second book Wild Buddies – friendships and unusual relationships in nature – is about all the different wildlife that relies on other species to boost their survival. Like, for example, the tuatara that take over the burrows of seabirds, eventually becoming flatmates from hell, muscling into their space, eating their eggs and chicks and generally being a pain. Or the worm that takes over the mind of a weta!!

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on Newstalk ZB

Last Tues I was on Danny Watson’s show on Newstalk ZB – new products / bright ideas. Danny has this session on the first Tues of each month, & it’s fascinating what NZers are up to!

I’ve had some calls & quite a few orders for the game, Cloak of Protection. So a big thankyou to Danny.

Should you want to listen in: click our link, second right (Jil on Newstalk ZB)

Danny thought that ‘the images were so fantastic you could put the cards on the wall’. Here’s one that caught his eye in the (black & white) book that comes with the game. Adzebill.

Adzebill were 80cm tall, flightless, rail-like birds. Their massive down-curved bills were probably used to capture animal prey as large as ducks.

Giant flightless birds, chasing huge flightless ducks. Must have been quite a sight!!!

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board game geek

I’ve listed the game on board game geek. The wonderful people there kept rejecting my description of the game & making me re-write.

The rewritten, rewritten, rewritten, version is now up on our Cloak of Protection page and on our BUY page. What do you think – is it now worth the 4 gold coins it was finally given??