Gotta save ’em all: New card game aims to protect Aussie wildlife

Gotta save 'em all: New card game aims to protect Aussie wildlife

Joel Howland, who is currently studying Animal Science at Flinders University in South Australia, created ANiMOZ – Fight for Survival, a card pack to get kids involved in conservation. Howland began pre-selling the starter packs on May 20th from his own website and has already booked more than 300 orders. The former journalist and marketer avoided crowdfunding platforms so he could give a portion of the profits to conservation efforts rather than pay the crowdsourcing service fees.

Besides online, Howland has lined up various zoo gift shops and other retailers to sell the game. So far he has The Australian Reptile Park, run by wildlife expert and TV Personality Tim Faulkner; Red Parka gifts, owned by author and artist Jennifer Cossins; Aussie Ark conservation organisation; and Inala Tours on Bruny Island all pledging to stock the cards.

The $29 starter pack contains 54 animals and is being pre-sold at $19, with potential booster packs to be released later. Players in the game are “rangers” whose goal is to make their animals live in a healthy ecosystem while outcompeting their rivals. Players need to strategize using the actual powers and weaknesses of each animal to win.

“In the gameplay, kids learn about the dangers [like] climate change, habitat destruction, and invasive species,” Howland said. “They actually learn about what’s endangering the wildlife.”

These powers and weaknesses of the animals are based in fact and make up most of the game’s educational value. The thorny dragon, for instance, prefers deserts and sucks water up its leg into its mouth, and the wedge-tailed eagle has electromagnetic vision, but is weak to poison.

The idea for ANiMOZ emerged when Howland talked to his nephews about their favourite trading card game and was floored by their depth of their knowledge. The young boys had memorised card rarity, powers, strengths and weaknesses, and could easily recognise and name the cards on pictures alone. “If kids grew up knowing and loving Australia’s native wildlife like these imaginary creatures, it would change the conservation landscape,” he said. “They would care a lot more about that.”

Illustrated by conservationist Bonnie-Marie, the game is designed for children of all ages. Older children are engaged more on the competitive level, while the younger audience enjoys the pictures and the animal powers.

This is the first game Howland has created and it took about a year to workshop the rules before it was ready to release. “I love board games and card games, but there’s a big difference between just enjoying them and being a gamer who understands mechanics and how games play out,” he said.

One of the big drivers for gameplay, the unique traits and abilities of Australia’s native wildlife, emerged organically as Howland looked up the animals for the game. “The more I researched, the more ideas I came up with,” he said.

Rohan Neagle