How we made QUARTETnary – the card game about the geological time scale

How we made QUARTETnary – the card game about the geological time scale

QUARTETnary is an educational card game about the geological time scale. Consisting of 60 beautifully illustrated cards, QUARTETnary explores the events in Earth’s history: from dinosaurs to humans and from the formation of the Alps to the formation of the Himalayas. It was designed by Iris van Zelst (me! Your fabulous former Editor-in-Chief), and illustrated by Lucia Perez-Diaz (also a former editor of the GD blog). We are running a Kickstarter now to print QUARTETnary! In this post we will update you on the progress of the Kickstarter and reveal how this project came to life in the first place…

Check out the Kickstarter for QUARTETnary as it contains all the information about QUARTETnary you could ever dream of: the science behind it, its educational merit, reviews, lots of art, and of course the practical side of things: how to get a copy and become part of the game yourself?!

Kickstarting QUARTETnary

Holy freaking moly! We launched our Kickstarter campaign on February 20 and reached our goal within 12 hours! We knew there were a lot of enthusiastic geonerds out there, but this far exceeded our expectations! Now we want to see how far we can take the Kickstarter, because every penny goes towards us losing less money (yayyy) and providing some financial breathing room to develop the next geo game (I have many, many, many ideas!!).

To get us closer to the next Kickstarter milestones, we decided to reveal full sets of cards whenever we hit a new milestones. Thanks to our wonderful backers, the Hadean set of cards (at €10,000) and the Ordovician set of cards (at €12,500) have already been unlocked! Can we get to €15,000?!

Reveal the Devonian cards by backing the Kickstarter now!

And do you want to know how to play QUARTETnary? Then check out this video below where you will join four silly scientists as they play QUARTETnary. An astrophysicist, atmospheric chemist, planetary scientist, and geophysicist. Who will win? Place your bets now!

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The history of QUARTETnary

I first began dreaming of QUARTETnary in December 2018. I was lounging in my hotel room at AGU in Washington DC and feeling a bit down. I had to finish my PhD within the next year and I had no idea how to do it. I still hadn’t submitted a single paper (even though I had been doing my PhD for 3.5 years by then) and was truly starting to despair. Like any real artist, this desperation fuelled my inspiration on that fateful day in the US: what better way to try and finish your PhD than to start yet another project? A card game about the geological time scale! Sounds like a great idea!

After AGU, I came back refreshed and inspired to ETH and started pitching the idea to several colleagues and working on it on and off with some friends. We were trying out some different graphic styles and I tried to find an illustrator, but this proved to be quite difficult… So, as I finished my PhD and moved country to pursue my first postdoc, QUARTETnary lay dormant for a while.

And then… the pandemic happened. Everything moved online and I was suddenly faced with keeping the EGU Geodynamics blog alive and well while being unable to nudge people at EGU in Vienna to join our blog team! All the recruitment had to be done online. Tricky. And yet, I managed to assemble a new blog team. In fact, one new editor actually reached out to me to ask if she could be part of the team (amazing). This was of course Lucia. I quickly realised Lucia was an illustration genius and in October 2020 I pitched QUARTETnary to her. After assuring Lucia that ‘no, I’m sure it won’t take much time at all’, the game slowly started to take shape and we won a Public Engagement Grant from the European Geosciences Union in 2021 to further develop the game.

As time flew by, there were more lockdowns, more international moves and jobs, and less and less progress on QUARTETnary. We were both quite busy. Still, Lucia managed to finish a few preliminary card designs in December 2022, which allowed Iris to enthusiastically show off QUARTETnary to a couple of old university friends from the Netherlands. One of them, Ronnie, mentioned that he had always wanted to set up his own company. Perhaps QUARTETnary could use his expertise? This seemed like a great idea, since I knew nothing of running a business and am quite keen to keep it that way (although unfortunately I can’t completely escape it anymore).

With this new impulse of motivation and now a structure in place to actually make the game, the three of us poured our souls into QUARTETnary with renewed vigour. Iris finished the game design, Lucia finished the illustrations and produced beautiful branding, and Ronnie sorted out the business end of things to make sure QUARTETnary could be produced and distributed without any of us going too broke. A major milestone in October 2023 was that Iris and Ronnie officially founded their own company The Silly Scientist with the aim of publishing and distributing QUARTETnary and dreams of many more sciency games and fun, creative forays into science communication for the future!

Now, we reached our Kickstarter goal in 12 hours and we can actually produce QUARTETnary! We want to see how far we can take the Kickstarter, because every penny helps! With your help we will be able to make more sciency games in the future! Anyone up for a game about geodynamics?

Let’s do this!

Explore the history of the Earth with QUARTETnary! Get your copy now!

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Iris is a postdoc at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, Germany. Her current research revolves around modelling Venus. Previous projects concerned subduction dynamics and the associated seismic and tsunami hazards. Iris is the former Editor-in-chief of the GD blog team and now sometimes just blogs for fun. You can reach Iris via email. For more details, please visit Iris' personal webpage or check out her youtube channel:

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