LEGO vs. Mega – An Analysis – Part 2

In any modular building system, be that based on plastic bricks, wood blocks or metal elements, the key to success is always how those individual bits go together. For once this is really a case of “the whole can only be as good as the sum of its parts” in a very literal meaning. That’s no different for Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx or for that matter other systems built on LEGO-compatible pieces.

With all of these some commonly accepted base parameters and criteria must be met. Those can be quickly summed up as follows:

  • Mechanical stability and robustness of each individual piece.
  • Highest possible manufacturing quality of each element to comply with standard measurements and tolerances.
  • Sufficiently stable connections of elements with each other, either directly or specific adapter pieces.
  • A good selection of components to cover a wide range of possible building scenarios.
  • Availability of elements in large quantities to keep costs down.
  • Interoperability and interchangeability of parts to allow for quick conceptualization, fast production turnovers and easy eventual repairs.
  • Optional parameters like multiple colors, system-specific color-coding or grouping of elements according to function, additional custom elements and finally integration with compatible systems from other vendors.

Evaluating all of these aspects would be an enormous task, so I’m going to focus only on a few aspects. First let’s have a look at what parts are actually available in the Mega range and how they potentially hold up.

This section will assume you know your way around LEGO‘s parts repository, since it’s simply impossible to include matching counterparts for every element nor is ist feasible for me to include even more photos – it’s enough work as it is. So I’ll mention items here and there by name only and then you should be able to figure out things with a bit of help from an Internet search. The same is true in reverse. This will by no means be a complete listing or reference catalog of every Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx part. Everything shown should merely be seen as an example of a specific element category based on shape and functionality. There’s a good chance you will come across items you have never seen before with every new set you build.

Standard Parts

As a system based on the original concepts and designs by LEGO, inevitably there will be elements that are exact copies, even though in both worlds some of them become less and less relevant and are replaced/ superseded by other elements and new building techniques. This in particular extends to the classic 2 x 4 brick and its siblings of which ironically in some sets not a single one is included these days. However, this is more than made up for by the use of only one unit wide bricks that have pretty much become the go-to element in various lengths not just for shaping walls. Other basics include plates and tiles of different lengths and widths, though already here are some minor deviations in terms of which combinations are actually available.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Basic Elements, Bricks

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Basic Elements, Bricks

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Basic Elements, Bricks

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Basic Elements, Plates

Most interestingly Mega have decided to include 1 x 5 plates and tiles (which stupidly enough I forgot to include in the pictures), meaning that from 1 x 1 up to 1 x 6 you have a full deck of choices whereas LEGO only uses two-unit-increments after the 1 x 4 plate. The reasoning here can of course be argued, but from a practical point of view this solves a few issues like centering an odd length element on an even length one by half a stud width or covering gaps where otherwise you would have to use a 1 x 2 and a 1 x 3 plate/ tile in combination, possibly at the cost of less stable connections. Additionally it also can avoid those unwelcome situations where you need to fill a leftover gap with a 1 x 1 element.

Same, same, but different

In addition to the straight replicas there is a considerable number of elements that cater for the same functionality and in fact look something like 90 percent identical, yet feature structural differences that affect how they can be used. Sometimes this is because they need to integrate with other, even more specific parts, another time it’s merely a different approach to manufacture an element that may dictate e.g. a different split of the mold.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Modified Bricks

Modified bricks with sideways studs compared to the LEGO variants.

A perfect example for this are the modified bricks with studs on the sides. Unlike LEGO‘s version, Mega‘s variant has hollowed out reverse sides that are shaped in such a way they can be plugged onto other bricks directly. In the LEGO world this option only exists for 1 x 1 bricks, but here it is also available on the 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 ones. How useful this may be in practice is something yet left to discover, but at least in theory it would add one more possibility to sideways/ perpendicular building techniques.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Hollow Studs Example

A regular plate and its alternative version with hollow studs.

Another good example are plates with studs that have holes that actually go through the entire plate, not just the stud itself. There is of course a specific reason for this, namely how the can be used with Mega‘s mini pin system, which is explained further below. Except for a few larger plates where only select studs in strategic positions are fully drilled through, so to speak, there are redundant versions e.g. of 1 x 3 plates. So for all intents and purposes, those plates do not replace the original ones with solid studs but rather complement them to be used instead when necessary.

Clever little buggers

So far we have only covered items that are mostly identical, but of course the differences in the individual implementations of the same basic rules only become clear once you move on to parts that truly distinguish them from one another and ideally advances them beyond the competitors. Often they are just tiny modifications to specific bricks, other times more fundamental changes and then of course there is a whole slew of unique elements designed from scratch that you may not find elsewhere. Some of it isn’t worth making much fuss about, but there are some things that made me go “Ah, that’s quite ingenious!” more than once and therefore I want to point it out here.

Exhibit a: Curved Slopes and rounded Parts

This is something that always leaves me somewhat unsatisfied with LEGO sets. There are a few reasons for this. One of the most obvious is that a lot of those pieces use very large radii, resulting in a very flat curvature/ inclination. On the other hand the parts that on Bricklink go as rounded bricks/ modified bricks with curved parts often lack matching counterparts like suitable corner pieces, cones or even basic intermediate bricks to bridge gaps. Additionally in recent years many of those bricks (and arches) have been outfitted with an extended edge at the bottom that adds an offset, not always making it possible to get smooth transitions by just putting one curved element next to another. Don’t get me wrong – I understand why LEGO are doing it (to facilitate assembly and disassembly and avoid too much friction), but it’s not simplifying the overall design and build of a model.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Curved Slopes

Different curved slopes and rounded elements.

 

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Curved Slopes

Another view of the rounded elements. Note the consistent radii on some items, allowing for easy stacking and alignment.

 

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Curved Slopes

The classic 2 x 2 rounded slope in different colors.

Mega in my view does a much better job here with slopes using smaller radii and foregoing this odd “step”. I much prefer this straightforward method as it results in a better representation of curved surfaces, especially when pieced together from multiple parts. Naturally you also get the additional curved bricks that are so missing from LEGO‘s range. In fact it gets even better since they also come as the “inverted” flavor, meaning you have versions that can be plugged on from below. As a result you can create an almost perfect horizontally cylindrical shape right off the bat just by putting a few pieces together. In the LEGO world this would be the point where you’d often have to resort to (expensive) curved panels, hinge plates and convoluted SNOT (studs not on top) sideways/ perpendicular building techniques.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Round Bricks

Some rounded bricks. Note the two different radii on the quarter sections and how this could be used to create different shapes.

This process is further facilitated by a couple of specific rounded bricks that can be used to create transitional areas or cap of some of these constructs. The interesting observation here is that there are also rounded bricks cut in half and some that have two different radii. This can be particularly useful for vehicles where you may need small radius rounded corners or rounded protrusions need to look like they are part of the surface/ butt-joined to it/ half-recessed molded into it. When turned on their side using respective bricks and adapters they can also mimic boxes and rounded covers like you find them on military vehicles quite often.

In fairness, though, one has to concede that this is basically an unsolvable mystery for both companies. It’s simply unpredictable which radii you may need to create a specific curved surface on a model and it’s a game you only can lose. You’d have to have hundreds of different pieces just in case. That being so, neither can ever be entirely complete and so there will be gaps in the parts selection no matter what.

Exhibit b: Straight Slopes

Tying into the previous point to some extent are the straight (triangular) slopes and “roof” bricks. They can of course be used to visually create the illusion of extending an imaginary radius and let things taper off and smoothly blend in with the surroundings. A noticeable distinction between the two companies is that many of the basic Mega slopes will be plain and not have an extra stud on the raised end like is common for LEGO (see the section on studded slopes for typical examples). While this simplifies just plugging on those items as a cover onto a finished superstructure, it has the disadvantage of also making it a lot easier to inadvertently snap those slopes off again.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Straight Slopes and Wedges

Different straight/ angled slopes and wedges. Note the steps and insets on some of them.

 

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Straight Slopes

A bunch of straight slopes unique to the Mega system.

A point you cannot ignore is that most of the smaller slopes come in two different flavors: one with a full brick height and one with two-thirds brick height as LEGO does it. The question here is whether this is actually necessary, as it can massively complicate the building process. You can literally spend hours digging through your parts trying to find the correct version. For myself I have decided that this is pretty much a waste of my time and therefore wouldn’t mind if the full height versions got retired/ abolished.

My point here: Mega has developed quite refined SNOT/ studs on sides techniques over the years, so clearly there would be ways to substitute those elements and use a different construction method where the orientations are changed. From my limited experience building some Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx sets I have rarely encountered a situation where holding on to those full height slopes struck me as essential. Most of the time using a 2/3 height and compensating with a plate beneath seemed just as good. At best one could argue that for some models it might make the appearance slightly more blocky when angled and curved regions do not transition as smoothly, but I’d take this as a minor issue.

Exhibit c: Studded Slopes

Getting to the truly interesting parts, we first have to mention the studded slopes, meaning slopes with studs on the actual angled face. I think those are pretty cool for a number of reasons. The most obvious one is of course the plain use for directly attaching elements at an angle. This is often used for details such as railings, grip bars, shield elements or even eyes on creature models and unless you have seen it, you probably won’t believe how such a simple thing can liven up a model and make it feel more “real” as even on very perpendicularly constructed technical items like a support beam structure on a large machine in the real world you will often find latches, lugs, protrusions, panels, levers, switches and other auxiliary stuff fixed at an angle, be it just for user friendliness for the human operators.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Slopes with Studs

Angled slopes with studs on top.

By extension this also solves to some degree a deeper problem: the number of elements you may need overall to represent specifically angled and curved surfaces. By smartly combing a limited number of e.g. curved slopes with those studded slopes you get yourself a new subset of angled elements. After all, two times 30 degrees still makes 60 degrees, doesn’t it? This for instance can be used to good effect to create round-ish or beveled bridging panels when conventional vertical construction and sideways techniques are used.

Some people would probably argue that this can be done with LEGO using all sorts of hinges, but it’s simply not the same in terms of stability or simplicity of construction. Moreover Mega use hinges as well where appropriate, so that argument gets even less valid and relevant. The pertinent question therefore only can be why LEGO isn’t using something similar. They most definitely tried some time in the 1990s, but never consequently followed through, so this didn’t go anywhere and we’re all left for the worse by having to jump hoops when requiring a specific angled construction.

Exhibit d: Direction Inverter Plates

This next item sticks out like a sore thumb and for me is a very painful omission from LEGO‘s parts. Yes, even if you accepted the absence of custom angled parts and a few other things, wouldn’t it often just be wonderful to be able to build bi-directionally with studs on studs? That alone could make up for some gaps in the portfolio. Most importantly it would give a huge boost to detailing the undersides of models. Say what you will, by comparison the lower sections even of a LEGO UCS model look barren and there simply is no way to attach more details because most of them will require a stud, not a hole. Or do you remember how you always need to use axles to combine round bricks and plates to get studs on both ends?

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Direction Inverter Plates

Direction inverter plates. Note how the top (left) and bottom (right) are identical in the studs layout and only the strengthening ridges differentiate the underside.

Having those simple inverters would do a lot and as the pictures illustrate, it doesn’t require a ton of different shapes and is once more about strategically placing the right element and then build on it. This is even more frustrating since basically the 2 x 2 inverted tile sometimes used to smoothly fair over undersides of plates already almost looks like the corresponding inverter plate. It’s just missing the opposite side studs.

Exhibit e: SNOT Adapters/ Converters/ Angular Plates/ Brackets

Full disclosure: For my own LEGO MOCs I try to avoid these items like the plague (as do many others), but LEGO keep using them in almost every set in one form or another for building stuff on the sides of bricks. The one, yet single most important reason why I prefer 1 x 1 bricks and have quite a dislike for what on Bricklink is called “brackets” (and LEGO simply calls “angular/ angle plates”) is that pesky offset they introduce. As we say here in Germany the sideways part is neither fish nor flesh, with the plate thickness/ height not actually being a normal plate height, but more like half of it .

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, SNOT Adapters

Mega SNOT adapters compared to their LEGO counterparts. Note the differences in sideways plate thickness and the resulting offsets.

 

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, SNOT Adapters

Some more Mega SNOT adapters.

That in itself wouldn’t necessarily be an issue, but the stinker is that there are no elements that compensate this offset again. This often makes it impossible to create “watertight” connections and to boot, anything plugged on there may feel “springy”. There is of course again a reasoning behind this – avoiding too much stress on the elements by giving them some room to move and bend plus in addition avoid scratching by not letting surfaces of bricks touch directly. In practice this idealistic approach however more often causes a lot of head scratching than it helps you build your models. Most of the time you need to “thicken up” to even be able to attach for example a curved slope directly, which in my view defeats the purpose.

As you probably already guessed by now, Mega take a different approach and one that I much prefer. Yes, they use a full plate height on the sides – or none at all. The latter is in particular clever and represented by that little piece with the studs-only on the side. Granted, at first sight those look like micro-wheels directly molded onto a 1 x 2 plate look fragile, but the whole construct is rock solid. Since the placement of the studs will center everything attached to them exactly between two plates, this is often used to attach little details that themselves are only two-thirds of a brick height or in situations where you would fair over the construct with a curved slope for instance that with its open end would bring it up to a full brick height again.

Exhibit f: The Rest of the Lot

As should be evident I could go on for quite a while, but to bring this to a close allow me to just point out one more little gem whose usefulness impressed me.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Round Brick/ Turntable

The round brick that also doubles as a turntable.

On first glance the 4 x 4 round brick with a central pin hole doesn’t really look that much different from the one LEGO has, but where things once more show how a bit of collateral thinking goes a long way is the inclusion of an underside plate with an attached short pin segment. This allows the brick to double as a simple turntable element and is in fact not dissimilar to LEGO‘s older style turntables. Granted, it feels a bit “so 1990s”, but since you actually get the full package every time by ways of it being packaged on the original sprue, you’d be hard pressed to complain. In a pinch it will do and also as a stand-in for a prototype while you come up with a more robust solution (if it’s really needed).


What’s interesting to me about all of this is how similar requirements can lead to almost totally opposite solutions at times, at least with regards to some aspects like construction techniques and user-friendliness. Both companies no doubt started out quite similar, but then somewhere things took a serious turn and the part designs deviated more and more in the sense that Mega after copying the basic bricks (and perhaps some additional not so useful LEGO stuff) they worked up a deeper understanding of what would be required for their needs and created their own designs.

To me it’s also apparent that Mega simply are more pragmatic in their approach whereas LEGO all too often seem to lose themselves in more academic, hypothetical considerations like long-term effects on the brick repository, brick durability and their self-imposed rules on what good and what bad building techniques are. None of that may be relevant at all to you as a builder, though. I at least don’t know if ten years down the road I’ll still be doing this and whether or not I then will get crazy over crumbling aged bricks from a decade ago.

Nice to have?!

There’s quite a huge category of elements that I would consider nice to have, but that are not necessarily essential to actually building the models in terms of contributing to structural stability or allowing you to do things that you couldn’t do otherwise. To some degree they are therefore optional, but really make life easier and your models look better. A good chunk of the pieces is what in modelers circles is referred to as greebling, i.e. small elements with a specific surface texture that break up the smooth surface.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Detail Parts

A plethora of little “greeble” details.

A first sub-set are the various gratings, grilles and gills. Unlike LEGO‘s generic gutter grating/ radiator grille (design no. 2412) having to fill in for almost every use case over there, you get a much greater variety here, whether it’s an actual mesh imitation, real protruding bumps or just the play of light and shadow to give the illusion of something being there. In combination with other elements that partially cover up things and some of Mega‘s more unique colors that can create some nice illusions such as engine details, open avionics bays and so on. Funny, though, an actual copy of LEGO‘s design is missing, which still could be useful at times. E.g. floors of some vehicles are regularly covered with this kind of plates to allow dirt and water to fall through.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Hand Rail and Tube Elements

Some parts that could be used as hand rails or external surface tubing.

Another group of those small items are all kinds of latches, hatches and covers that can be used to similar effect. Some of the more voluminous elements are also used to simulate “black boxes” on military equipment, meaning battery cases, electronics modules or in case of round parts things like cooling jackets for gun barrels or night vision devices. On Sci-Fi-oriented models they also often double as externally visible bumps caused by internal equipment such as landing gear bays, clamp mechanisms for cargo containers and so on.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Radial Fans and Grilles

Some radial fan, grille and cap elements used to simulate jet engine parts, exhausts and intakes.

A further set of parts is dedicated to simulate different kinds of intakes and exhausts. There is some overlap with other uses, so the grouping is a bit arbitrary and some elements are listed redundantly, but we won’t let this stop us from mentioning them here. However, the most noticeable parts are of course the fan imitations that on several models are used to simulate jet engine front and end sections. Most often they are used as simple caps and not faired in with extra curved slopes and that’s why they have a molded-in lip. At times this becomes a bit of a disadvantage, though. When you want the inner part of your engine to “light up” in a different color, you have to find ways to stack those elements (or use others entirely) and disguise/ hide the lip. Still, in my view it’s way better than LEGO‘s reliance on printed round tiles (at best) and transparent dish pieces for similar situations.

A somewhat ambiguous topic are wedge plates. It’s a subject I don’t particularly like to deal with in the LEGO world already for the simple reason that there are way too many variants and one never seems to have the right ones at hand, at least not in the right colors or sufficient quantities. Even if you have, it’s easy to get some of them mixed up. Others are used more rarely and just lay around and catch dust. Having even more options on that end can make life only more difficult. Mega have done just that. In addition to there seemingly existing a plate for every angle and length, there are further sub-variants of some plates. Some have a protruding tab with an extra stud, others an extra row of studs on one of the sides. See how this could get really messy really quick?

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Tiles

Various tiles. Note in particular the large tiles and the wedge shaped ones.

In more happy news on that wedge thing, there are tiles that perfectly line up with the angled sides or at least roughly follow the angles. This is used to good effect to simulate different panels on a model and accentuate the “flow” of a design by orienting the tiles suitably. This is helped a lot by the fact that Mega unlike LEGO still uses large tiles like e.g. the 6 x 6 one in full square or as a diagonally cut-in-half version, making fairing over even a large model relatively easy. Additionally, tiles with cropped corners can be used to simulate recess access ports and similar. Combined with all the more traditional flavors like one unit wide strip-type tiles this opens lots of opportunities for hinting at details without actually building them. In fairness, though, LEGO are catching up with several new “modified” tile types having been released that would allow to mimic some of those effects.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Wedges and Custom Parts

One thing I have observed is that Mega‘s wedge pieces seem a bit more versatile while at the same time not requiring as many variants. This is strictly subjective of course, but my impression is that this mostly comes down to a few simple things:

  • The wedges are usually better tailored to line up with the straight and curved slope bricks. As a result you can build smooth surfaces without getting unwanted steps more easily.
  • More focus is placed on integrating them during the build instead of just plugging them on later, effectively handling critical regions by blending them in with the surroundings.
  • Larger wedge pieces are almost always split into left and right sections instead of being one huge chunk.

At least for the military and fictional spaceship stuff this makes perfect sense and it does for some other subjects as well. It also incidentally seems to have the effect of enforcing a somewhat consistent scale and style of the models. At least for the few ones I have they seem to line up pretty well in that regard. Admittedly, though, due to the availability and pricing issues explained in the first part of this series I have not been able to get my hands on a set that is supposed to represent a really huge vessel and has been shrunk down heavily. I could well imagine that this has a much larger impact on how you perceive the proportions of a model then and how exactly it replicates the original.

In the interest of a balanced view and fairness towards LEGO I also fully understand why they have so many large wedge pieces (and a ton of matching other large parts to go with them). When you have series aimed at kids like City or Friends it only seems natural that you will want to simplify the building process and ensure stability by using less, but larger and more solid parts. Assembling a bonnet of a Friends vehicle sure would be more challenging if there weren’t those pre-shaped triple curved 4 x 4 or 4 x 6 wedges that already instantaneously look like the hood of a 70’s car.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Landscape Pieces

A selection of landscape pieces in different colors.

As a last group of items that I find quite, quite useful and wish that LEGO had them, too, are the ground pieces/ plates with the irregular, jagged edges. I’m not pretending that I would need them all the time, but one of the ironies here is that I’m always dreading having to build a structured landscape from LEGO for the exact reason that they don’t have these simple plates. Sure, a lot of times it doesn’t seem necessary to begin with, but how about sets like Mia’s Treehouse? To me it appears that it would have looked so much better and more organic on an irregular piece of ground. I would think that similar observations could be made for instance for the current Arctic series in City. Some rugged pieces of ice perhaps? Sounds attractive to me…

The ugly side of Things

While so far most of what I have written will no doubt sound a bit all too good to be true, the old axiom of “where there is light, there is also shadow” rings true and it’s a rather dark shadow looming. Yes, unfortunately Mega don’t really have a handle on anything that plugs a pin into a hole, so to speak. There are several subsets of parts that have issues but let me exemplify them by focussing on the mini pin system.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Mini Pin Elements

Some parts of the mini pin system.

This refers to elements that fit into a hollowed-out stud’s inner diameter or similar. In the LEGO world those would be referred to as bars, antennas, hinges or modified bricks in Bricklink lingo, though their use there is nowhere near as extensive – and for good reason. Let’s get one thing out of the way – no, it’s not the stability or robustness of the thin elements. They may look fragile, but they are a lot tougher than you may think. Unless you really step on them, they are difficult to break or damage. The one exception here are occasionally some colored transparent elements since they use a more brittle material. Generally though, this stuff is quite stable. So what’s the problem then?

As you might have guessed, any such system is highly dependent on extremely small tolerances of the female (hole or socket) element and the male element (pin) and this is where this particular implementation fails more often than not. It’s a case where a micrometer too little or too much can have an enormous impact. Typically you will struggle with “too much” on the pins and “too little” on the holes, meaning there will be a lot of resistance when you try to insert the pins. At times the friction is so strong it will be impossible to get the pins flush with the element that holds them and they grind to a halt long before their actual stopping point like the little stopper ring on some elements or the bottom of the opposite hole.

The inverse of the above happens much less frequently, but can be just as annoying. When you are supposed to e.g. attach an element using the small 90 degree “hook” at a specific angle and it isn’t tight enough, the element will simply tip over or rotate freely in a direction you don’t want it to. This can be very frustrating if you want to align cannons/ guns on a model and they always droop down according to gravity for instance or the fins of your rockets don’t stay aligned.

Finally, to top it off there is a really stupid use of the mini pin system. I can’t put it any nicer, in particular since it truly exposes the shortcomings of the whole approach and can be extremely aggravating. This time comes when you are supposed to join multiple tubes with two-sided pins to form long “axles”, tentacles or whatever. Connecting two tubes? Okay, that still works. Connecting three, four, five? Not so much. Point in case: The whole system gets bendy and unstable. The risk of damage increases with every bit of length you add and ironically it’s usually not the pins, but rather the tubes that start to crack as the forces wedge the pins deeper and deeper into them.

Now here’s the thing: On an idealistic level, none of this should be any concern. After you’ve built the model and put it up in your showcase, why should you care? It may have been a pain, but you wrangled it into submission, after all (or simply glued it into place or scraped of some plastic). But of course there’s a difference between “working okay” and “doing it right”. Things can get very ugly once you may need to/ want to disassemble a model or rectify an issue during the built. Pulling out those pins can require all the tricks in the book like using rubber gloves to increase grip or even heavy equipment like pliers, in which case of course you will inevitably make scratches and dents, ruining the parts. See the issue?

Ultimately the described issues boil down to precision and manufacturing problems, so there’s hope yet that one day this may work flawlessly, but for the time being this is a major pain in the neck. In fact it would be half as painful if it wasn’t even used as often. Don’t get me wrong – there is an inherent elegance and power to the system as such and I for instance like the angled arm piece a lot when it’s used to construct support structures, limbs or trees, but overall it’s just not the easy-going fun it probably should be. Where possible other solutions should be used and the system as a whole is likely a good candidate for parts revisions and much stricter quality management.

Similar observations apply to other systems that depend on a similar mating logic, be that the cross-shaped “real” axles or the full size regular pin system. In the latter case it stands to note that most often you will notice that the pins feel somehow coarse and rough and are already difficult to insert in the holes. As you would expect, they then cause way too much friction, sometimes making what should be an easily movable part or sub-assembly almost unmovable. Again, I strictly consider all of those things I mentioned problems during the production process that could be resolved, but that doesn’t change the fact that for you as a builder they are a concern

Custom and spicy

An important part of Mega‘s more complex collectible sets are all sorts of custom parts that are specific and exclusive to a model or at best used a handful of times throughout the whole range. A very typical example for this are the various cockpit canopies of the aerial vehicles and spaceships the in the Halo, Destiny and Call of Duty series. This is complemented by equally custom-shaped intake parts on some models, though it seems that those by now have been used so often they almost qualify as regular parts.

Mega Bloks/ Mega Construx, Scenery Parts

A look at some scene decoration.

I would put some other parts in that same category. There is for instance a specific set of ammunitions belts, gun barrels, rockets, jerry cans etc. that pretty obviously once were developed as parts for the mini figures or as decorative scene elements and are frequently used to add interest to models or stand in as lookalike parts when they are similar enough. LEGO of course does this, too, to some degree. When you do a little research on the matter it’s really surprising how many elements originated as minifig accessories.

On that note: Of course more or less a good chunk of the mini soldiers consist of “custom” parts in that when necessary they are put together from existing elements in new colors or indeed actual entirely fresh parts are created for them. Usually the latter especially extends to helmets and faces or special pieces of armor, though basically it can be anything. Even weapons like machine guns will often be recreated so exactly, that new parts are needed to represent a specific mark, production batch or modification. This attention to detail is admirable, but totally wasted on me.

Now the fundamental question here is of course is whether this is worth it and how it figures into the bigger picture. Many defenders of LEGO‘s approach to avoid custom parts and instead try to recreate everything using standardized parts is of course understandable and makes a lot of sense when you strictly consider the modular nature of the system. However, all too often it becomes a seriously limiting factor as well as some recent examples like the Aston Martin DB 5 (10262)show. Point in case: Those models are marketed as collectors items, after all, so creating custom parts to make them look prettier would not be such a bad thing.

That’s also my stance on how Mega Construx/ Mega Bloks do it: I don’t mind or even welcome those custom parts when they solve a very specific issue on a model that I’ll keep around in its assembled form and will just enjoy it as a display model. I much prefer a cockpit to look right and believable than its complex curvatures being hacked together from other parts that still don’t look right. Mega being able to do it without bankrupting also disproves an old theory – no, it’s not about the cost for new molds being prohibitive and unattainable. There are other considerations at work and the two companies simply have decided to take a different approach to the subject.


While this article is already long and exhausting, we by no means have covered everything there is. There is still a considerable number of specialized bricks, items with pins, hinges and so on left, but covering these in detail would indeed be way too much and go beyond the original intention of comparing the two systems. I’m probably already too detailed in many areas and have written way too much.

Words of Wisdom?

Ultimately the question of whether LEGO or Mega do it better is nigh on impossible to answer. It’s a constant race and this is easily evidenced by how the systems develop and sometimes you have to wonder who is copying who or at least drawing inspiration from.

How even simple changes can advance things is for instance apparent with the angled 1 x 2 slopes (design nos. 29119 and 29120) LEGO introduced in 2017. Ever since they are used everywhere to create nicely curved ends on cars and similar and sets like the Statue of Liberty (21042) would look totally different without them. Yet the truth is that Mega had this type of element for much longer and have used it to good effect. Similar observations could likely be made for the opposite direction for some parts just as well.

Due to their cleverness and usefulness I’m on the verge of saying that the pupil (Mega)surpassed the master (LEGO)on some parts, yet Mega‘s parts portfolio feels oddly old-fashioned at times. I blame this mostly on some redundant items anda few “weak links” like the pin system that make building not always enjoyable. Some quality issues and the unusual colors figure in here as well, but that’s a discussion for another time. Still, you can’t deny that some of these solutions are simply more efficient than what LEGO offers.

In a way this is where LEGO‘s own good intentions also get in the way. At times they are simply too academic about it instead of just having fun and running with it. I would also dare to guess that the crisis in the early 2000s and the following massive culling of usable parts has led to LEGO moving extremely cautiously. So there’s that, too. In the end, though, it’s about how everything goes together and the finished models look and we will explore more of this aspect in the next
article.