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Frequently Asked Questions

I have a question about: 


1. What is QUARTETnary?

QUARTETnary is an educational card game about the geological time scale. Consisting of 60 beautifully illustrated cards, QUARTETnary explores the important events in Earth’s history: from dinosaurs to humans and from the formation of the Alps to the formation of the Himalayas.


Gameplay follows that of the classic card game Quartets, where players aim to collect sets of four cards belonging to a specific group (in this case, a certain geological time unit). At the end of the game, the player with the most complete geological timeline (i.e., the most quartets) wins the game!

2. What does the name 'QUARTETnary' mean?

The name QUARTETnary is a bit of wordplay as it combines the words 'quartets' (an old, well-established card game similar to Go Fish and Happy Families) with the word 'Quaternary' (the name of the most recent period in the geological time scale and hence the time period we all currently live in). We also like that it sounds a bit like 'Pictionary' (another well-known game) and simultaneously has quite a unique spelling, so it is easily googleable! So that is where the name QUARTETnary comes from!


3. How do you pronounce QUARTETnary?

Excellent question! Honestly, we went back and forth on this a lot (mostly because we kept forgetting ourselves). In the end, we went with a Dutch inflection, because that’s where we’re from and we might as well roll with it. Basically, 'QUARTET' is pronounced like you would in 'string quartet' and 'nary' is pronounced like in 'Pictionary'. For the phonetics lovers, QUARTETnary is pronounced kwɔːˈtɛtneəri. You can also watch the QUARTETnary Kickstarter video to listen to how Iris pronounces it. So that’s how we do it, but feel free to pronounce it however you want!

4. How do you play QUARTETnary? What are the rules? 


Tada! Here are the rules: 

Shuffle the cards and deal 7 cards to each player face down. Put the rest of the cards in a face down draw deck that can be easily reached by all players. During the game, players keep the cards in their hand hidden from other players, but they are allowed to look at their own cards. The youngest player starts and turns are taken clockwise. 

A turn consists of a player (player A) asking one of the other players (player B) if they have a certain card which would help them to complete a time unit. For example, player A could ask ‘Player B, do you have the magma ocean from the Hadean?’. 

Note that player A must already have at least one card from a time unit in their hand before they are allowed to ask for another card from that time unit. 

If Player B has the requested card, they hand it over and Player A asks for another card (from another player if desired). If Player B does not have the requested card, player A draws a card from the draw deck and their turn ends. The player on their left takes the next turn.

As soon as a player completes a time unit (i.e., obtains all four cards of a quartet), either after asking for a card or drawing one from the deck, they announce it out loud to all the players and place the completed time unit in front of them as a stack of 4 face-up cards. When multiple quartets have been acquired by a player, the stacks of time units should be placed in the relative order of the geological time scale with the oldest time unit on the left and the youngest to the right. 

When a time unit is completed after successfully requesting a card, the player is allowed to continue their turn. 

When a player completes a time unit by drawing a card from the draw deck at the end of their turn, they notify everyone of their quartet and place it in front of them. However, since their turn has ended, they are not allowed to ask for another card. Instead, the turn of the player on their left starts. 

When a player runs out of cards, they take a card from the draw deck if they are still available. Normal game play then resumes based on the rules outlined above with players allowed to continue their turn if they previously successfully requested a card from another player. 

The game ends when all quartets have been created. The player with the most complete geological time scale of the Earth (the most completed time unit quartets) wins!

You can download the preliminary rule sheet here.

5. How many players does QUARTETnary support? 


QUARTETnary can be played with 2 to 5 players and has a solo domino mode.


6. Does QUARTETnary have a solo mode? 


Kind of! The cards of QUARTETnary can also be used as dominoes since cards from adjacent time units connect to each other through the colours of the left bar on the cards. So, we highly encourage you to puzzle the entire time scale together and make a geological timeline with all your favourite events! However, to really play QUARTETnary as it is meant to be, we recommend finding 1 to 4 other people to join you in the fun!


7. What is the recommended playing age of QUARTETnary? 


QUARTETnary is quite a simple game to grasp and since it involves memorising who has which cards, children tend to be great at it! However, there are quite a few complicated, long words in the geological time scale (such as Proterozoic, Carboniferous, and Cretaceous), so we recommend a minimum playing age of 8 years to be able to read the cards. There is no maximum age. Please enjoy forever!


8. How long does one game of QUARTETnary last? 


We have done some playtesting and found that games usually last between 25 to 35 minutes. This includes setting up the game (consulting the rules; shuffling the cards) and laughing to mask your pain as other players steal your cards.


9. How scientifically accurate is QUARTETnary? 


Very! Hopefully. 

The game has been designed by Dr. Iris van Zelst (an actual geophysicist who studied all of this at length) and she has taken great care to consult multiple sources to make sure that everything in the game is more or less in the right place in the geological time scale. Of course, it is very tricky to distil the entire history of the Earth in just 60 key words (each card represents one key event / word), so some nuance has inevitably been lost. Many mountain ranges for example have experienced multiple phases of mountain building in different time periods before they reached their current look. Similarly, there might be a unique fossil found towards the end of a time period for a certain evolutionary trait, but that trait only really started to be seen in the fossil record in abundance in the next time period. In addition, scientists can always discover new things in the future that change the details of the geological time scale. We cannot represent this level of nuance in the game. 

To add some nuance and more detailed explanations back into the game, Iris wrote a complementary information booklet that explains some of this. However, QUARTETnary is mainly suitable as an introduction, refresher, and/or conversation starter about the geological time scale. If you want a detailed, up to date history of the Earth, we suggest looking into the many books and online resources that exist on this topic. As a book recommendation, Iris consulted the book 'Earth System History' by Steven M. Stanley when she designed the game. 

Also note that the illustrations on the cards are all artistic interpretations of scientific concepts, animals, plants, mountain ranges etc. They should not be confused with accurate scientific drawings or infographics.

10. How effective is QUARTETnary as an educational tool? 


Great question! We hope it will be very effective, but we are still figuring this out ourselves. 

Repeatedly playing QUARTETnary will most likely give players a better understanding of the names and colours of the different time units in the geological time scale and familiarise players with the different events in Earth’s history. 

To properly study the educational benefits of QUARTETnary, we will send out voluntary surveys to our Kickstarter backers that should be filled in before and after playing QUARTETnary. This way, we will be able to track how a player’s understanding of the geological time scale evolves as they play QUARTETnary. We then aim to write a scientific paper about QUARTETnary and its educational benefits for the journal 'Geoscience Communication'. 

In playtesting, we tested these surveys and early results suggest that at least Iris' colleagues now know a lot more about the geological time scale than before!


1. Where do you ship to? 


We ship to the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States of America. 


Note that different shipping rates apply for different countries. 


2. When will my order ship?


We aim to ship all Kickstarter orders by November 2024 at the latest. Other pre-orders will be shipped after the Kickstarter orders have been fulfilled. It takes this long, because we need to factor in time for Kickstarter backers to provide their desired name in the booklet (if they have chosen that reward) and design that page in the booklet, before we can send it off to print. Then, the production and distribution process by our printer, Cartamundi, will take at least 3 months as they have to fit our project into their printing schedule. When we receive the games, we will send them out to you, but that will also take some time (we are mentally preparing ourselves to pack lots of boxes hopefully. You will be astounded by the amount of things Ronnie has learned about cardboard. Apparently there is a lot to it). We will do everything in our power to get your order to you as soon as possible, but note there might always be some unexpected delays.


3. Where will my order ship from? 


All orders will be shipped through our partners in the Netherlands and Germany. Practically speaking, this means Ronnie will have some fun hours/days/weeks ahead of him where he is making parcels, before sending them onwards to Frankfurt (Germany), where Deutsche Post will handle the majority of our distribution.


4. When my order arrives, will I have to pay import duties or taxes? 


Great question. Any import duties or other customs clearance fees will be the responsibility of the customer. Whether or not you need to pay import duties and/or taxes depends on where you are located. Each country has their own rules for imported items and we advise checking this prior to ordering to avoid any unexpected costs.  To make it a bit easier, we have looked up the rules for some ‘major’ countries. Our predictions are as follows:


Customers from the European Union should not be required to pay any customs duties.

Customers in the United Kingdom should not be required to pay import VAT or customs duties if their total order amount remains below 135 GBP. When your order exceeds 135 GPB, you will be contacted by your local courier company to pay 2% import duties and 20% import VAT on the total amount, as well as potential delivery charges (‘handling fees’) before receiving your rewards.


Customers in Switzerland should not be required to pay import VAT or customs duties if their total order amount remains below 62 CHF, but may be subject to handling fees by the postal and shipping services who take care of all customs clearance formalities. When your order exceeds 62 CHF you will be charged an additional 8.1% import VAT.


Customers in the United States of America should not be required to pay import VAT or customs duties for orders up to $800, but may be subject to a Merchandise Processing Fee by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


Backers in Canada will be required to pay 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST). The government of Canada has entered into agreements with certain provinces to collect Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) at a rate of 13%. If you live in a participating province, you will have to pay the HST instead of the GST.


Backers in Australia and New Zealand should not be required to pay import VAT taxes or customs duties up to 1000 AUD or 1000 NZD, respectively.


5. Why don’t you ship to my country? 


Apparently if you start exporting/importing goods to different countries, you need to adhere to international law (annoying). This includes tax regulations, as well as environmental law, and it turns out that it gets really complicated and really expensive really quickly. Ronnie has done a stellar job to figure out what needs to be done for which country and he found out that some countries are just too complicated for us to attempt shipping to at the moment. For example, there is no way we can currently figure out the tax regulations of South Korea since they are written in Korean. So, to make sure the project remains financially viable without breaking any of these laws (and to ensure we do not attempt things we are not ready for), we unfortunately only ship to certain countries. 


If you really want us to ship to your country and you know some other people who would like to receive QUARTETnary in that country too, shoot us a message at and we will see if there is anything we can do.


1. Can I sell QUARTETnary in my store? 


Absolutely! We offer special business to business rates and, since we are a registered business, we also support reverse tax charges. Shoot us a message at to receive a custom quotation. Note that we ask retailers to wait with selling QUARTETnary in stores until all our Kickstarter backers have received their copies.


1. Will you ship to other countries in the future? 


Hopefully yes. We would love to start thinking about expanding The Silly Scientist and ship to more countries. Please keep an eye on our website and subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest updates.


2. Will QUARTETnary be available in languages other than English?


In the future, hopefully, yes. For now we are just focussing on the English version, but we could easily translate QUARTETnary into other languages. Our in-house languages include Dutch, Spanish, and German. We will also hopefully be working with distributors and wholesalers in different countries, so maybe there would be a demand for copies in other languages in different countries. 


The reason why we are hesitant about translating QUARTETnary at the moment is because it is quite expensive to print a new (fully translated) game. We would have to take into account the (quite high) minimum order quantity of the printer we are using and we need to make sure there is sufficient demand to avoid losing money. Hopefully our little company will take off and we can start offering QUARTETnary in other languages. Until then, please let us know if you would be interested in a copy of QUARTETnary in another language so we can gauge demand. Shoot us a message at with your preferred language and/or the number of copies you would like!


3. Is QUARTETnary a one-off project or do you have future plans? 


QUARTETnary is our first product, but we have many, many, many plans. Too many, Ronnie would say. To make sure we can realise some of them, we have created our own company called 'The Silly Scientist' with the aim of publishing lots of fun games, puzzles, and other surprises in the future that are all firmly rooted in science. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest updates.

The future
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