Spielwarenmesse 2023: I was there! Part 2

Who are the people who are enthusiastic about the toy industry and make the Spielwarenmesse the event of the year? What did they want to discover at Spielwarenmesse 2023 in Nürnberg? Meet them in our visitor portraits captured for us by Peter Budig.

Macarena Macaya, Sofia Salas, Ginika Nwobodo and Daniel Barria presented their game inventions to the publishers' scouts in Hall 11.1. Photo: © Peter Budig

Macarena Macaya from Chile, Sofia Salas from Mexico, Ginika Nwobodo from Nigeria, and Daniel Barria

What a story. It shows us just how international our world has become, how close we can become even though we hail from many different parts of the world: These three young female entrepreneurs are all around the age of 35; they go by the name of Macarena Macaya, business founder from Chile with a Master’s degree in Play & Education; Sofia Salas, product designer from Mexico; and Ginika Nwobodo from Nigeria, who by now owns a toy store called Joy and Toys. Macarena’s partner, Daniel Barria, who founded the board game publishing house, Brisko Editorial is the fourth in the round. The three women met while studying for their Master’s degree in the context of the PETal Erasmus master programme of the universities Universidad de Córdoba (ES), Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa (PT) and Marmara University (TR). They stay in regular contact via social media channels. We met with them at the Game Inventors Convention in hall 11.1 – with over 140 game designers from around 20 countries, this international game invention convention launched successfully at the fair on the Friday. They have invented a concept which helps to improve one’s learning experience with the help of games. Emotional learning and empathy are of special value here. The games designed specifically for this can be used to benefit schools as well as during coaching sessions. In Mexico, they established a successful start-up and launched their Puercomonte featuring cultural awareness games. For now, they are looking for publishers that will help them to publicise their idea in Germany and across Europe.

Game author Reiner Knizia as a guest at Schmidt Spiele in Hall 10.1. Photo: © Peter Budig

Reiner Knizia, game designer from the, United Kingdom

Reiner Knizia is the star of the board game scene – no other designer has invented as many games as he has (Wikipedia: “More than 20 million copies have been sold of the 700+ games that he has invented.”) He is a guest at the Red Night Party at the booth of Schmidt Spiele and is thrilled about the fact that many board game fans recognise him and want to talk with him. Knizia came up with the Mille Fiori title for Schmidt Spiele and in 2023, he added the expansion: Mille Fiori – The Masterpieces. The story behind the game: The goal of Mille Fiori – The Masterpieces, is to perfect the strictly guarded art of glassmaking to create as many masterpieces as possible.


Franka Meusel of Meeplebox Events meets clients for whom she organizes game events in Nuremberg. Photo: © Peter Budig

Franka Meusel from Pirna near Dresden, Germany

Franka Meusel is the general manager at Meeplebox Events. She organises events at trade fairs and here in particular, games events. The business jargon terms this “borrowing games from a range of game publishers”. At this Spielwarenmesse, she was not on a specific mission, but rather came to observe, expand, and consolidate her network. “I have the most important acquisition talks at the SpielCafé”, she tells us.


Peter Lau came to Nuremberg with his partner Michito. Photo: © Peter Budig

Peter Lau from Hong Kong

They are back: the business professionals from Hong Kong. Peter Lau sells a range of quality toys, books, and board games via different online shops. He is a regular at the Spielwarenmesse. This year, he and his life partner focused on puzzles with European and US motives that are currently very much in demand.


Instead of organizing dealer training courses, Volker Schäfer now runs the Allerlei Spielerei store in the idee+spiel Eventhaus in Hanover. Photo: © Peter Budig

Volker Schäfer from Hanover, Germany

Allerlei Spielerei – so the name of Volker Schäfer’s toy shop in Hanover. His life story is proof, as is so often the case during talks held at the trade fair, that success in the toy industry is almost compellingly tied to a personal passion for the product. Schäfer – together with Franka Meusel – worked on a family-focused game project at the Felsenweg Institute Dresden. He worked in marketing and with editorial teams for game publishers and organised training seminars for the trade. But the wish to own his own toy shop remained. His choice was obvious when he learned from Heinz Lehmann, a legend among game retailers, that the latter wanted to step away from working at the shop. Ever since, the two have had something of a business marriage: Lehmann organises game events at Schäfer’s toy stores where mainly board games, card games, and puzzles are on sale. “The visit to the trade fair is an El Dorado for someone as crazy about games as I am. This is where I find everything that I may add to my offer that I cannot Google because I was not aware that they even existed!“


Sophie Schädler and Ulrich Schädler drove from Switzerland to Nuremberg with great joy. Photo: © Peter Budig

Sophie Schädler from Switzerland

As a primary school teacher, Sophie Schädler has her own perspective on the world of games: “To use games in class in order to ease and intensify the learning experience has been a thing for years now. Unfortunately, many of those so-called didactic games have little value when it comes to playing and are purely centred on a learning experience. Pupils quickly see through this, and these games have a bad reputation. But this does not have to be the case! I play real games with my pupils, for example, Mancala, an ancient African board game which allows you to learn and have a lot of fun at the same time. You always learn when you play. Emotions are paramount!” With this emotional outlook Sophie explores new products from the board game scene, and selects and plays with her husband or colleagues to find out what is suitable in class.

Harald Schrapers and Guido Heinecke in the East Press Center at the International Toy Fair. Photo: © Peter Budig

Harald Schrapers from Duisburg and Guido Heinecke from Konstanz

They represent an organisation which, after its formation in 1978/79, brought an enormous boom to an entire industry: Harald Schapers chairs the Spiel des Jahres (boardgame of the year) jury; Guido Heinecke is the association’s general manager. They have since been selecting a family board game every year, as well as slightly more complex game for aficionados, and a children’s game of the year with a jury of independent journalists. “As journalists, we are naturally primarily tied to the game publishers and always want to be up to date with everything that is new. Add to this that this is where the game designer scene comes together and new designers of board games present themselves”, says Schapers. And Heinecke adds: “The SPIEL fair in Essen is now also part of the Spielwarenmesse eG and I very much look forward to both events of the industry.”

Jens Junge with students from the "Strategy Design" course at the Ravensburger stand. Photo: private

Prof. Dr. Jens Junge from Berlin 

Jens Junge is the head of the “Institute for Ludology”, which is basically the practical part of his professorship in business (SRH Berlin University of Applied Sciences; School of Design and Communication). Since his childhood days in Flensburg, he has been passionate about comics and board games and is a knowledgeable expert known in the scene as well as an academic thinker. Junge tells us with enthusiasm about an encounter that can only happen in this way at the Spielwarenmesse: “At the booth of the Ravensburger game publisher I spoke with the head of Corporate Investment Management, Thomas Bleyer. Florian Baldenhofer from Seattle happened to be standing next to us. He is the head of Ravensburger USA and managed to obtain a license from Disney for Lorcana, a trading card game, for the board game professionals from Germany. While talking about this new card game, I suggested that we stage its official launch at the 100-year-old card game museum which is situated inside the Altenburg residential palace. This idea received a very positive feedback and planning is now underway.” In the city that is home to several German card games – Altenburg – Jens Junge is in charge of setting up and running study and research collections for board games in cooperation with the local card game museum.