This page is part of our Puzzle Brand Comparison. You can find the overview page here.
REVIEW DATE: 1/20/2015 PUZZLE TESTED: various
OUR RATING: 76 points, AA Grade
CATEGORIES: cartoon, fantasy, photographic landscapes, pets, painted landscapes, collage, ‘puzzle plus’ (What If?), vintage
CUT: grid cut, high variation FINISH: matte, seamless
PIECE FIT: fairly tight PIECE SIZE: normal
SUMMARY: Ravensburger ranks highest in our brand quality assessment for good reason. They make quality puzzles through and through–from the outside of the box, to the goodies you’ll find inside, to the thickness and cut of their pieces, to the crisp ‘softclick’ fit, and their lovely image reproduction. They have a fresh and interesting puzzle catalog with unique and commissioned new images offered frequently. Long live Ravensburger!
1. BOX — 11/10
How deluxe does the box looks and feel? Is it sturdy? Will it hold up over time? How nicely does it arrange on the shelf?
Ravensburger has some of the best boxes in the puzzle industry. The boxes feel quite heavy, like a high-end German board game. The sharpness and color of the box image is perfect, and it has a nice matt/linen finish.
All the 1000 piece Ravensburger boxes are a standard 14 5/8″ x 10 3/4″ x 2 1/8″. This makes shelving easy as the boxes are consistent.
The Ravensbuger name and piece size are easy to find. While the artist name is not on the front of this box, the series name “What If? No 9” and puzzle image name “Santa & Rudolph” are very visible. And the artist name, bio, and even photo are on the box bottom. I love the graphic design of this front, with the gold background, the red, gold and blue color scheme, and the ‘fun time’ words and fonts. It’s very compelling–and the cartoon image is awesome.
All four sides of the Ravensburger box have the Ravensburger logo and a picture of the puzzle. The series logo and number is also shown on both a long and short side (see below), as well as the name of the puzzle “Santa & Rudolph”. I love having the series name and number because it makes for particularly attractive shelving of a series. TThe artist name is not on the sides, but the series logo somewhat replaces it, and info on the artist is shown on the bottom of the box. The copyright year is on one side of the box (2014 in this case). (Ignore the cruddy shrink wrap — I did that when I re-shrinked it. It didn’t come that way!)
Ravensburger knows how to do the back of a puzzle box! So many brands have a blank bottom or some generic warranty info that goes on all their puzzles. This lovely box uses the bottom to tell us more about the puzzle series and puzzle image, show us yummy graphics, and have a bio and photo of the artist, Geoff Tristram. Yay! I love knowing more about a puzzle image and artist. There are also ‘puzzle hints’ on the back, clues to the final image.
Note that some Ravensburger puzzles, particularly those not in a series, don’t have a specialized back like this, but instead use their standard multi-lingual back, shown below. But I’m grading based on this series box.
I gave a bonus point for this box because it makes you want to start solving the puzzle the minute you pick it up. Very fun design!
2. INSIDE THE BOX: 11/10
How deluxe are the internal goodies (such as posters or brochures)? When you remove the pieces is there puzzle dust, pieces stuck together, hanging chads, and places where the image has begun to separate from the backs?
Ravensburger puzzles have excellent quality inside the box as well as outside. The puzzle below was issued in fall of 2014 in the UK and was puzzle #11 in the “Best of British” series. Inside we have 4 color inserts — a multi-page brochure of Ravenburger’s 2014 puzzle collection, a ‘guarantee’ page, a page that contains the puzzle image and description for separate reference when piecing together the puzzle, and a page about a different series, the “What If?” series. Lots of goodies!
Below is a photo of the puzzle reference page that comes inside the puzzle — very nice! (click for closer view). It has info on the artist too.
As for the puzzle bag itself — the puzzle is in sturdy plastic with small holes to prevent the build-up of moisture. The pieces are completely separated, as you can see in the photo, with no hanging chads or need to rip pieces apart. The image top is firmly adhered to the piece with no lifting and no damage. There is very little puzzle dust. The piece backs are a nice blue color.
This box gets an extra bonus point for not only having a poster-like reference image, but having a mini-catalog and additional color series sheet as well.
3. PIECE THICKNESS: 10/10
How thick are the pieces compared to other brands? How does a piece feel in your hand? How easily are pieces damaged or bent during assembly and separation?
We use Ravensburger as our ‘benchmark brand’ for good quality thickness in puzzles, so that should tell you something. The brand is widely accepted to have high-quality pieces, so we use it as our baseline. Below are photos of Ravensburger vs the other thickest brand I’ve found so far (Gibsons) and the thinnest I’ve tested (D-Toys).
4. PIECE SIZE AND SHAPE: 9/10
Are the pieces standard shapes? Special shapes? How much variety do they have? Are they large or small?
Ravensburger is a grid-cut puzzle–more or less straight rows and columns with all corners lining up. This is the standard for European puzzles and some puzzlers prefer it. Personally, I prefer more creative non-grid cuts like Springbok, House of Puzzles, Sunsout, and Bits and Pieces. However, within the field of grid-cut puzzles, Ravensburger has it’s usual amazing quality. The pieces have funky lines versus being exactly straight and there’s a good variety of piece shapes, not too many basic two-knob, two-hole. As you can see from the image below, each piece is unique.
The piece size is a good, average puzzle piece size, not too small. In fact, we use Ravensburger as our baseline for piece size also.
5. PIECE FIT: 10/10
Do pieces interlock well? Can it be confusing if a piece fits or not? Can you move groups of pieces together? Does it look snug when it’s done?e?
The puzzle fit is excellent. Ravensburger boxes tout a patented “Softclick Technology”, and there is a particularly satisfying feedback when you put a piece in place. Even when there are broad areas of similar color/pattern, it’s never confusing if a piece fits or not. You can feel that it fits (or doesn’t). When a group of pieces are assemble, they’re movable with care, though the fit is not as tight as some, and not tight enough to lift the puzzle without glue. The final picture has a seamless look.
6. IMAGE REPRODUCTION: 10/10
Are the colors bright and vivid? Is the image sharp or feel like a bad Xerox? How is the finish/texture on the pieces?.
Ravensburger puzzles are excellent in this category. Their colors are bright. The finish on the puzzle top is a quality-feeling linen matt that eliminates glare, and the crispness of the image is perfect.
7. IMAGE VARIETY: 15/10
Does the brand have a wide variety of fun images and good artists?
Above: “Kitchen Cupboard” by Colin Thompson 1000 pieces, “Best of British 10: Frog and Trumpet Pub” by Geoff Tristram 1000 pieces, “Tarot” by Ciro Marchetti 1000 pieces.
Ravensburger covers all popular puzzle categories. They carry photographic puzzles, children’s puzzles, Disney and other licensed brands, painted rural scenes, cartoon puzzles, vintage, fantasy, collage, and even 3D. They release a great many new puzzles each year. And their images always feel fresh and not overused or too ‘same old same old’.
Specifically, I’m grading the Ravensburger UK puzzle catalog. The US Ravensburger (same company, different catalog) is, in my opinion, far inferior in images and offerings. For example, the US catalog doesn’t have ‘series’ or much in cartoon images or fantasy. But that’s easily solved in our global economy–I just get the UK puzzles!
Ravensburger scores extra points in this category for a number of things. First, unlike many lesser puzzle companies that just license existing artwork, Ravensburger commissions special exclusive art for some of their puzzles. In fact, I believe Geoff Tristam, who does their marvelous “Best of British” and “What If?” series, works exclusively for Ravensburger. They also carry some great puzzle artists that are (at least currently) exclusive to Ravensburger like Colin Thompson. And they also offer ‘puzzle plus’ ideas such as their wasgij-like series “What If?”–which is, in my opinion, even better than Jumbo’s Wasgijs. They also have offered spiral puzzles, have a ‘challenge’ series (Perplexing Puzzles), and other unusual concepts. They also have one of the top limited edition annual Christmas puzzle series on the market. In general, I love the way they do “series” because they’re more fun to collect that way.
SUMMARY: 76 points
Ravensburger ranks highest in our brand quality assessment for good reason. They make quality puzzles through and through–from the outside of the box, to the goodies you’ll find inside, to the thickness and cut of their pieces, to the crisp ‘softclick’ fit, and their lovely image reproduction. They have a fresh and interesting puzzle catalog with unique and commissioned new images offered frequently. Long live Ravensburger!