From board games and cards to puzzles – tabletop games are having a renaissance. Family company Ravensburger sells them all over the world. Ravensburger is right at the forefront of the German games market and is in the sector’s top ten in Europe. The brand is connected to Koehler Paper through a partnership of more than 60 years, which is now extending to the collections of countless playing card enthusiasts around the world. Hanspeter Mürle, CEO of Ravensburger AG, told us why.
“They used to beat me all the time!” Hanspeter Mürle has to laugh when he talks about what it was like playing memory® with his children. But that didn’t deter the CEO of Ravensburger AG from playing. “Our first ‘house game’, as it were, was called ‘Wer war’s?’ [Who was it?]. A board game. We played it absolutely everywhere we went. That’s a few years back now and my children have grown up since then. At the moment, we play a cool new card game. ‘That’s not a hat’ is a bit like memory® and is brilliant for parties.”
The game is fast, funny, and easy to understand, he says – features that a lot of card games have in common. It’s no accident that they are one of the most popular types of game in the world – a trend that’s on the up. Data portal Statista predicts global revenue for 2023 will reach around 2.58 billion euros. That’s set to increase to 3.16 billion by 2028.
Trading Cards – Joining a New Segment with Disney
Trading card games are a huge segment of the card market. Ravensburger was not used to operate in this field, but that is changing now. The family company has entered the trading card games market in 2023 together with one of the world’s biggest names in the entertainment industry. We’re talking about Disney.
„Disney Lorcana“ is the name of the brand-new trading card game. It shows the Disney characters in a new form and in a completely new world. “The game is easy to learn, even for those who are new to trading card games,” explains Hanspeter Mürle. And it should also meet even the highest expectations of fans. “Not just in terms of the strategic depth, but also regarding the quality of the cards. Quality plays a crucial role in success. Players,” explains Mürle, “have very particular expectations of how a card should look and feel, and how it bends or slides over other cards. They want the feeling of holding something high-quality in their hands.” He added: “Manufacturers on the trading card market have certain quality benchmarks that we all know. And the benchmark is now being set by playing card board from Koehler.”
„Players want the feeling of holding something high-quality in their hands.“
CEO of Ravensburger AG
„Koehler is the Benchmark“
In fact, Koehler Paper is the world market leader of cardboard for playing cards. No matter where you are in the world – if you own trading cards, you are holding paper from Oberkirch in your hands. There are good reasons why the world’s leading trading card manufacturers and now Ravensburger, together with Disney, rely on Koehler quality:
at a Glance
Koehler’s cardboard for playing cards sets the standards for durability, aesthetics, and the unique sensory experience when a player touches the cards. For example:
The term ‘snap’ means how a card returns to its original shape after it has been bent. For example, when you lift up the corner slightly to see what card you got. The permanent snap of each batch of cardboard is tested in a lab at Koehler.
Many games are played hundreds of times. And a card should still be perfectly easy to read even after those hundreds of games.
Are the cards opaque? If players could see what was printed on the reverse of their fellow players’ cards, the game would be pointless. That’s why Koehler’s card board for playing cards consists of three layers: Two layers of card board for the front and back, and a special black adhesive in between.
Does the coating on the cardboard break when you bend the card? It doesn’t with Koehler cardboard.
This characteristic should also be consistent for all cards. It ensures that they move smoothly in automatic shufflers and that players can fan them out evenly in their hand.
And of course, playing cards must simply feel good in your hands. Koehler takes care of this with different types of finishing. “The designs are then printed on the cardboard by a specialist company we use,” explains Hanspeter Mürle. “But all elements play a role in achieving the fantastic overall result. It’s a bit like a car. The metal in the bodywork is like the paper in games. It’s part of the overall product – a hugely important part at that. Every aspect of the quality has to be excellent, whether it’s the look, feel, or durability, and Koehler is the benchmark here.”
Valuable Partnership, not a One-Way Street
To achieve this quality, Ravensburger and Koehler have been working together since 1964.
It’s not simply a partnership based on delivering or receiving the ordered paper. The two sides work closely together in a trust-based relationship right from the development phase of a new product. “In the case of Disney Lorcana, we originally wanted to use another type of cardboard, until we took advice from Koehler,” explains Hanspeter Mürle. “If you want to be a winner in the trading card world, you have to be able to meet the fans’ high expectations, including when it comes to the material and feel. That takes specialist knowledge. There are also a lot of forged trading cards in circulation. But the players can tell if the cards are genuine by the quality of the cardboard. If you want your product to have longevity on this market, you should not cut corners when it comes to quality.”
Sustainable Supply Chain
The partnership between Koehler and Ravensburger is truly special. It is largely based on closeness, both personal and geographical. This is an important factor when it comes to sustainability, for example. “Short supply routes are very important, particularly in the energy-intensive paper industry, as they mean less energy consumption,” explains Hanspeter Mürle. It’s still a matter of thousands of tons of paper each year, but in the case of Ravensburger they only have to be transported roughly 200 kilometers across the Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg. “Plus the Koehler Group plans to be carbon-neutral by 2030 at the latest. That will of course benefit our own carbon footprint too,” says Mürle. The next sentence makes him smile: “We also definitely benefit from the fact that we are a family company working with another family company. It’s not the same as at a big corporation, where you‘re ultimately just a number.”