There are large LEGO sets, and there are really large LEGO sets. And then there are the ones that take things to an entirely different level. Say hello to the biggest LEGO set ever — LEGO Art 31203 World Map. At 11,695 pieces, this new LEGO Art mosaic is the largest set ever released, beating out the 10276 Colosseum by 2659 elements and the Star Wars 75192 UCS Millennium Falcon by more than 4000. But quantity doesn’t always match up with quality. Come along as we explore the highs and lows of this new set, which will be available June 1st from the LEGO Shop Online for US $249.99 | CAN $349.99 | UK £229.99 and will become available from other retailers globally from August 1st.
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
The box and contents
From the get-go, it’s clear that this is going to be a massive LEGO adventure. The set weighs over 14 pounds, and comes in a 22″ x 16″ x 8″, tab-sealed box. The box itself is pretty sturdy, with a removable lid. The graphics on the front match what we’ve seen in other Art sets like the 31201 Harry Potter crests: A big image of the completed mosaic, bold text down the left edge, and a few inset shots along the bottom showcasing alternate builds. The most striking thing, though, has to be that LEGO opted for solid, flat white for all of the landmasses instead of showing any topography. By contrast, the ocean depths are charted out in a bathymetric mapping of the ocean floor. It’s, shall we say, an interesting design choice.
The back of the box shows the completed model in real-world settings, giving you an idea of just how much space this set will take to display. The actual dimensions are included around one of the smaller photos along the bottom edge: 25.8″ x 40.9″ (65.6 cm x 104 cm). The three configurations for the map are highlighted, as well as a big picture along the right inviting you to “customize the oceans”. Finally, there’s a blurb for the Soundtrack – an audio companion for this set similar to the ones found in the other LEGO Art offerings.
Removing the top lid reveals four main areas: a central part box, two side pockets holding the 1×1 round elements, and a second box that contains the 16×16 bricks that form the backplane of the mosaic.
You may have noticed that there were a lot of 1×1 medium azure tiles strewn about. One of the parts bags had split on me in transit, making the unboxing a little more dramatic than LEGO had probably intended.
Since this is the largest LEGO set to date, you’d be forgiven for expecting the parts list to be several pages long, filled with a ton of diverse elements. Instead, this kit is made up of only 32 different parts, resulting in this somewhat comically sparse inventory page.
The volume of pieces in this set, though, is very apparent when you start to lay out the part bags. There’s one small bag that contains all the lower-volume and one-off pieces, and several more that contain batches of 1-3 elements each.
“Standard” LEGO art sets like 31199 Iron Man come with 9 16×16 bricks to form a 3×3 backplane. By buying three of those sets you can make an “Ultimate build” that spans a 3×9 (48×144 stud) area. The World Map, however, even larger than that. This set comes with 40 of the 16×16 bricks, forming a 8×5 (128×80 stud) image. The bricks come in a large black box with a logo encouraging you to check out the soundtrack.
New for this set are two printed 1×8 tiles. They are used to create a handy color/part guide to keep things organized during the build. It’s a clever addition, and it’ll be interesting to see if these become standard inclusions in future Art sets. You also get a “thicc separator” and a golden crowbar to help with tile removal.
Finally, we get to the most important parts of this set – the 1×1 elements that will form the image. These account for 11,130 of the 11,695 pieces. If you look closely at the photo below, you can spot my minifigure avatar for scale. (As well as the Ziploc bag I used to contain all those loose medium azure tiles.) There are two new colors for the 1×1 round tiles, bright green and teal, which will be welcome additions to detail-oriented LEGO builders and mosaic enthusiasts alike.
The part count breaks down like this:
- White (Plate) – 3064
- Tan – 725
- Coral – 601
- Orange – 601
- Bright Orange – 599
- Lime – 1060
- Bright Green – 601
- Teal – 1879
- Medium Azure – 1607
- Dark Blue – 393
As is usual, there is a some “overfill” for each part, a small quantity of “bonus pieces” in each color to allow for the fact you’re bound to have a few go walkabout during assembly. There seemed to be about 10 extra of each part, but I didn’t try for an exact count. Out of curiosity, I dumped the parts into tall Pick-a-Brick cups to get an idea of comparative volume.
Getting Ready to Build
Fair warning to those considering this set – it is going to take a long, long time to assemble. The main image took about eight hours total, with another half hour on either end for the frame and setup. Speaking of setup, this is a build that will reward organization, so it’s a good idea to get your workspace ready beforehand.
I used my “vintage” supply of X-Pod containers to create some easy-to-reach part bins, but small bowls would work just as well. Other than the 16×16 bricks, the only other part you’ll need for the first several hours is the supply of black Technic pins.
I can offer a couple of building tips to help speed things up. First, take a little time to make “sticks” out of the white 1×1 plate. As I found when building the Wonder Woman mosaic, being able to apply large blocks of color with a “tilt and pop” method (take the stick, jab the bottom onto the stud you wanted to cover, then lean the stack to the side) was a lot easier than grabbing and placing each plate individually. (Sadly, this technique won’t work for all the colored tile in this set.) The other tip involves the color guide plate. The colors in the ocean areas are so chaotic that I found I quickly got confused as to which row/column I was on, and had to do a fair bit of rebuilding at first. By using the color guide as a ruler and sliding it down the instructions I found I could better track things and see what tile had to go on next.
If you’re looking for something to listen to while you build, LEGO has you covered with their soundtrack. Here’s some info about it from the press release:
An accompanying soundtrack featuring stories from travel experts has been curated to immerse listeners in their passion for exploration as they build. The soundtrack features
travellers’ tales from bloggers and adventurers including Torbjørn C. Pedersen, the
first person to visit every country in the world in one unbroken journey without flying,
and blogger Syazwani Baumgartner who has experienced some of the most remote
places on the planet.
Unfortunately, this soundtrack wasn’t available when I was doing the build, so I opted for one of my usual workday playlists instead. But the snippet of the soundtrack I had advance access to later on was interesting, so maybe you’ll want to give the whole thing a try. Just be prepared to listen to it several times…
Recently, LEGO announced that they were moving away from black backgrounds for their instructions, but the Art theme seems to be exempt from that change. That’s not really a problem, as the black background doesn’t hamper what is essentially a paint-by-numbers assembly process.
While the layout of the instructions matches all the other Art sets, the manual itself is wider. This results in a ton of wasted space on each page. It also doesn’t help that the instructions also follow the same pattern as the other kits – each two-page spread is full of redundant shots of “here’s where the pins go” on the left, and a (now doubly duplicative) color guide taking up space on the right. The biggest time-waster, though, is that there are pages and pages of “here’s how to connect each row up,” more or less duplicated directly from each of those two page spreads. It’s not necessarily bad, and admittedly some might find the repetition useful. But, to me, it feels like LEGO artificially increased the page count to make the instructions seem more impressive. I mean, in their press release they even describe them as “a coffee-table style instruction booklet”.
But let’s get back to the actual build. As you can see here, there’s a pretty wide range on the complexity between some of the panels. The all-white landmasses are a pretty mindless build, but the oceans are a different challenge level entirely. It takes a good level of concentration to exactly match the colors for those sections, particularly since there’s not a lot of visual clues if you accidentally skip a tile or even miss a whole row.
Eventually you’ll have three completed panels, allowing for the “three versions” of the map. If you wanted to, though, there’s no reason you can’t pick from eight different looks. It’d be easy enough to start with any of the 1×5 strips and just connect up the rest of the map in order. I suppose documenting that would have lead to an even more bloated instruction manual, though.
Once you’ve picked the style of map you want, the white, brick-built frame goes on around the edge to lock things in place. The final step is adding a couple of hangers to the back, to allow for hanging the completed work on the wall.
If you follow the instructions, you’ll end up with a decent pile of surplus parts. These are there to allow you to “customize the oceans.” More on that in a bit.
The finished model
Okay, let’s take a moment and talk about the elephant in the room: the “plain white land” design choice. The instruction manual has a page titled “An artful celebration of our world” that provides LEGO Art Design Manager Fiorella Groves’ thinking. Initial designs of this set did have a basis on maps with borders and topographic representations, but then things clearly took a different direction. I’m including Fiorella’s full quote here, as reading it helped me feel less grumpy about a look that certainly didn’t meet my initial expectations for this set.
“But this is LEGO Art. I wanted to see how far we could take it. This is the creative freedom we have as designers when we build with LEGO bricks — we can play with the norms. So we removed all man-made borders and created the land masses in a super simple, yet powerful design with a cast shadow effect. With the oceans as negative space, the land masses really pop on a vibrant background of — literally — oceans of joyful colors. We experimented with dozens of test versions until we found a beautifully balanced palette that lets you build a bathymetric version of the oceans whilst being versatile enough to create endless, fun, alternative iterations.”
In person, the completed build does look good. Unless you’re seriously interested in the depths of the ocean, it’s not a particularly useful map, but there’s no denying that it’s very artistic. The white frame is a clean, new look that does differentiate this from the other LEGO Art sets.
I’m planning on making an alternate build using these parts, so I didn’t want to hang it on the wall just yet. Happily, it sits well on a mantlepiece just fine without resorting to the mounting hardware.
As mentioned earlier, the most complex part of this build was color matching the oceans. If the idea of doing this yourself doesn’t sound thrilling, LEGO suggests an alternative: Don’t bother. Instead, “customize the oceans” with your own designs. It would have been nice if they had given us a set of alternate instructions to match the fun designs repeatedly shown on the package, but no such luck. Instead we get a couple of pages of photos for “Inspiration.” So…have fun? (Actually it can be very rewarding creating your own images. Check out our interview with the designer of a website that might help you realize your vision.)
Put a pin in it
LEGO has also included a “play feature” of sorts in this kit. There are 40 1×1 cones that you can cap with tiles and “pin” to the places on the map that are most important to you. In an odd bit of wording, the page in the instruction manual that talks about this says to “Use the cone elements and up to 4 different colored round tiles” to assemble the markers. Why the suggestion to limit yourself to just four colors? Who knows! I mean, it seems like a wasted opportunity not to include a handful of tiles in a few other colors to expand the part list a little. Or maybe some Mixel eyeballs.
Conclusion and recommendation
From a parts perspective, this set is a boon for mosaic builders. If you’re looking for quantity this set has you covered. 11,130 1×1 round elements provide plenty of bulk for custom projects, even if the color range is pretty limited. The 40 16×16 bricks are enough to allow you to repurpose them into an “Ultimate Build” 3×9 scale mosaic, an additional “normal” 3×3 sized image, and still have 4 of those bricks left to spare. At $250 US for 11695 pieces, the price per part is just about 2 cents/per. That makes this not only the largest LEGO set ever, but also one of the lowest cost ratio sets. That said, this set should be dirt cheap on the per-piece graph, considering that the vast majority of it just 1×1 plate and tile. But it’s still nice to see this in a more or less affordable range.
The real problem I have with this set is that they opted to remove all geographic detail from the landmasses. While this design is very eye-catching, it’s not what you normally expect from a map, and was a turn-off for many of the staff at The Brothers Brick upon first seeing it. I can understand the desire to avoid controversy by omitting national borders, and to want to make a creative artistic statement, but there’s no reason we couldn’t have had a bit more detail on the places where people actually live. But maybe this look is just perfect for your world map display tastes. Or maybe you’re an oceanographer and this map is unusually perfect for you. (Hey, it could happen!)
Ultimately, deciding if this set is right for you will strongly depend on if you either like the map design or if you plan to build your own image. As a mosaic parts pack, or as a piece of interesting LEGO Art, this set does earn a solid recommendation from me. But it’s not great example of a “World Map” in my eyes.
What do you think? Is this something you’re excited to get? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
LEGO Art 31203 World Map will be available June 1st from the LEGO Shop Online for US $249.99 | CAN $349.99 | UK £229.99 and will become available from other retailers globally from August 1st. It may also available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
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