Beauty always faked? – LEGO Friends Magazine, March 2021

With the pandemic still keeping a lot of people at home along with kids, every little distraction is welcome. While the individual views and preferences on this may differ, the LEGO Friends magazine for March 2021 could be part of that complex puzzle.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2021, Cover

Of course there’s the usual stuff ranging anywhere from ordinary to pretty terrible such as the comic and the posters. Can’t help it, but despite the visual overhaul last year this still looks quite awful on so many levels and the clichéed, locked character design with the ever same hair styles and all too similar clothes doesn’t help, either. It’s just forgettable stuff. I have a hunch that if I had a daughter, I’d get her different magazines.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2021, Comic LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2021, Poster

On the bright side, there’s a bunch of sensible activities like crafting and coloring images. Nothing revolutionary and in fact getting some decent ribbons and double-sided sticky tape to wrap whatever vessels you have at hand might still be tricky, given current circumstances, but in my opinion it’s a good idea to remind today’s kids of the simple joys of crafting. We used to do this all the time way back then and it seems like we’re talking too much about LEGO Dots when perhaps indeed we should be promoting such stuff a bit more…

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2021, Crafting

The large coloring image is unfortunately not printed on a single sheet and even though in my example the alignment of the separate pages was near perfect, you might want to make things easier for your kids by gluing them to a single sheet of paper or photo-copying/ scanning and printing. There’s also a second such image on a singular page featuring a portrait of Stephanie.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2021, Coloring

The buildable extra isn’t anything special, though admittedly it could have been worse. At least there’s a lipstick on this beauty table and they even included a wig as an extra! One thing that downright annoyed me is how hard they tried to pretend that the mirror would actually be metallic or genuinely reflective. Is it just me or is this just getting ridiculous? The work it took to Photoshop those images probably could have just as well been spent on designing that simple round foil sticker this would have needed.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2021, Extra

Overall this is once again just your standard run-off-the-mill issue and its mediocrity is only mitigated by the fact that we have something to look forward to in the next issue. It will feature one of the new baby kittens and that should definitely prove much more interesting than this rather mixed bag…

More Dots? – LEGO Dots Round Two

On a day where LEGO are making waves with their Art Mosaics, some sort of overpriced Dots for adults, it’s time for us to talk about some further actual Dots sets, in particular the Desk Organizer (41907) and the Jewellery Box (41915).

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: No, I’m still not convinced that the concept of Dots has merit or a long-term sustainability – just like the last time. One day it will just fade out as if nothing actually happened. It’s not only a limitation inherent in the whole concept, but also in how LEGO go about it in my opinion. More on that later. As such, I’m still viewing the sets mostly as parts sources for those tiles and a few other bits in previously unavailable colors, with these reviews being merely a byproduct. I’ll try to be as objective as I can, but of course I’m biased right from the start.

LEGO Dots, Tray Size Comparison

This year’s sets come in slightly larger boxes/ tray’s than the initial releases, that is the trays are rectangular instead of square shaped. The color of the season is apparently Pale Yellow/ Bright Light Yellow. Overall I’m still not fond of the idea as – let’s face it – it ends up being extra plastic trash eventually even if you keep the trays around for a while for other uses. Every bit of stuff in the sets still would have fitted into a suitable cardboard box and if they were so adamant about it it would even have been easy enough to include a die-cut foldable paper tray.

LEGO Dots, Desk Organizer (41907), Box

LEGO Dots, Desk Organizer (41907), OverviewBuying the Desk Organizer (41907) came about in its own weird and wondrous way. I have tons of tiles in Coral from Friends and The LEGO® Movie 2 sets, including the 1 x 1 pizza slice type, but none of them included the 1 x 1 square tile. This was quite a revelation when I realized this would be the first time those tiles had actually been produced. Combined with the fact that I also barely had any regular Orange tiles in my parts stock, this kind of tipped the balance. All I had to do is wait for the price to drop a little.

LEGO Dots, Desk Organizer (41907), Plain, Front View LEGO Dots, Desk Organizer (41907), Plain, Rear ViewThat latter point of course remains one of the critical factors. Would I pay 20 Euro for such a set? I don’t think so. The 15 Euro I got each of the boxes in this review for are probably okay, but truth be told, I can’t see much value here, so 12 Euro would be even better. I’d bet that if it wasn’t for the current situation and many LEGO sets being in short supply, we’d already have such a discount.

The point here in particular is of course that this set doesn’t feature any special or exotic parts beyond the tiles themselves. Jokingly one might say that someone just stopped by the Friends production line and snagged a few pieces for these sets. the only exclusive item is the 1 x 2 x 3 picture holder brick, this time in Bright Light Pink.

LEGO Dots, Desk Organizer (41907), Plain, Open Drawer

LEGO Dots, Desk Organizer (41907), Plain, Decor Plates RemovedThe most disappointing thing to me is that they didn’t even bother to consistently color all bricks in Dark Azure. It may seem like a minor thing, but you wouldn’t accept such a messy coloration even in cheap desk organizers from the dollar store. It also once more has this ugly effect of white hair lines peeking out from underneath. The young crowd this is targeted it won’t mind, but it stills feel unprofessional.

The plates themselves can be easily removed, facilitating the creation of patterns by not having to juggle the whole model. The SNOT bricks work sufficiently, but for my taste the connection could be stronger. I would probably have added a second row at the bottom edge at least. If you remove the plates a lot, at some point they might lose their clutch power and come off on their own just by sliding the model on the desk.

LEGO Dots, Desk Organizer (41907), Decorated, Front Left View LEGO Dots, Desk Organizer (41907), Decorated, Front Right View

As far as the decorations go, and that’s ultimately one of my core criticism with the Dots line, there’s not much new to discover. It seems LEGO have locked themselves into a very specific line of thinking here where everything needs to be “dottier than dotty”, meaning anything larger than a 1 x 1 tile isn’t even considered. In this particular example this is almost tragic, as there would be so many alternatives.

Since I couldn’t be bothered with the proposed designs, I went right ahead with my own color stripes design. LEGO could easily have included a bag of those in a few select colors as I’m sure it would also go well together with some people’s wallpaper designs. Other alternatives could include brick wall designs with 1 x 2 tiles, large checkerboard patterns with 2 x 2 tiles or even more advanced stuff using arched tiles, corner tiles and such.

I can only reiterate my point from my original article: LEGO need to loosen up and be much more generous and liberal with their parts usage to make this a truly creative toolkit rather than this weird paint by numbers thing where your options are limited from the outset by what pieces are even included.

LEGO Dots, Jewellery Box (41915), Package

The second set in this review is the lesser one, no doubt, but what can you expect from a simple jewelry box? This is once more one of those cases where, if it wasn’t for the parts being included in specific “new” color variants, you could slap it together from your own parts repository. The elements in question are the 1 x 12 x 1 bricks in Lavender along with the 16 x 16 plates in Light Aqua.

LEGO Dots, Jewellery Box (41915), Plain, Front View LEGO Dots, Jewellery Box (41915), Plain, Rear View

The overall construction is sturdy enough, but at only effectively 2.something bricks depth, the box feels very shallow. A third row of bricks might not have hurt and potentially also have allowed for a more elegant locking mechanism. This by all means sub-par and even worse than the ones used on the Disney story books.

LEGO Dots, Jewellery Box (41915), InteriorI also would have expected the interior to be tiled over at least partially and of course to make this really interesting the little Madames Bijous would no doubt have loved to stare at their own face in a mirror in the lid, i.e. LEGO should have included one of those reflective plastic pieces that they have in some sets. a few little tweaks could have made this set much better.



Again I didn’t bother much with the suggested designs and ventured out on my own exploration. The Light Aqua plate just begs for a water-based motive and given the large area that would need to be covered it sure makes things a lot easier if you use some other elements.

LEGO Dots, Jewellery Box (41915), Decorated Lid

Overall my stance on Dots hasn’t changed much. I’ll keep exploiting them for my own purposes while they’re around, but that’s pretty much it. If I had kids at the proper age I might consider getting them one or two of these sets for their birthday so they can fancy up the table they’re doing their homework on, but I sure wouldn’t go out of my way. The sets are too much all over the place in terms of design and color schemes and the playing around with different patterns simply loses its appeal after a while.

Dots or Nots? – An examination of LEGO Dots

It was of course inevitable that I would review some of the LEGO Dots products, so here we are.

LEGO Dots, Various Products (41903, 41904, 41905, 41908)

Let me begin by saying that I pretty much stand by what I said in my initial thoughts/ ponderings when the products were announced. With the series being what it is, LEGO are entering a weird market with extremely short-lived product cycles and on top of that very little of it actually exists on the same quality level as LEGO products usually do. If you will – by competing with lesser products there’s always the risk that the perception and reputation of your own products gets tainted.

The other thing – and I also mentioned this to some degree in my other article – is that this is basically a no-win scenario with limited long-term prospects. Whatever LEGO are doing, they can only get it wrong. The deeper issue here is of course the conflict between the claims to infinite creativity vs. the viability of a commercial product. This means that you could do sets with 5000 pieces of all varieties and still not have covered all options while at the same time very few users would actually exploit this potential.

On the other hand you could do limited sets that cover a specific subject, limiting the creative exploration and also having the simple side-effect that at one point you may have done all the pencil holders, jewelry boxes and so on you can think of and as people lose interest, so dwindle your sales. For now of course none of this may be particularly relevant or critical, but I’d bet that in two years these things might become valid considerations.

LEGO Dots, Various Products (41903, 41904, 41905)

This dichotomy can easily be observed in the overview  image above. I have not bothered much with re-creating the proposed standard designs from the sets, but immediately ventured out on my own. For that I threw in a ton of elements from my own collection and only used the originally suggested pieces here and there. Now the point is of course that I could always have done that using my own stock already.

As such, I therefore consider Dots more of an enabler or expansion to what has been possible to some degree. Most importantly Dots introduces a bunch of pieces that have never been available before, meaning in most cases not having been available in sufficient quantities or specific colors, a few completely new items notwithstanding.

LEGO Dots, Trays with Pieces

Now let’s address the other elephant in the room: Some of the sets use these large plastic trays as their on-shelf packaging. While I’m sure we’ve all gotten used to the gazillion tiny plastic bags in every box of LEGO (which of course are also present here and contain sub-sets of pieces sorted by specific colors), this really strikes me as one step too far in the wrong direction. You know, LEGO keep beating about the bush about trying to be eco-friendly and then this? I won’t pretend that I’m a green warrior and I sure do enough things that aren’t ideal for the environment, but this is one of those unnecessary little things that could easily have been avoided.

This is even more so the case as the above image perfectly illustrates how inefficiently the space is used. Once the larger parts packed into the center section of the tray have been used up, only thin layers of the smaller decoration pieces remain and cover the bottom of the tray. If at least those compartments were filled to the brim this might have been acceptable. However, in this current state most of the elements would have fitted just as well in a standard LEGO box and some small match boxes.

If nothing else, this seriously needs to be reconsidered for future products in this series. Point in case: It may be nice to have those trays around for building, but very few will hang on to them forever and throw them away at some point, latest when the “carpet monster” has devoured the last piece or the parts have been sorted in other storage boxes.

LEGO Dots, Various Products (41903, 41904, 41905)

Moving on to the individual products, there is mostly not much to say. Predictably, they all follow the same template of being super simple, not particularly elaborate or sophisticated builds with the main focus being the “decorating” afterwards with the colored tiles. It’s for kids, after all. There’s really no particular challenge here. I must admit, though, that some of the choices have me shaking my head. A few connections are just too flimsy for their own good and overall stability is not great in places.

LEGO Dots, Cosmic Wonder Bracelet (41903), Package

The silicon wrist bands/ bracelets are perhaps the least relevant for the serious adult LEGO aficionado except for the unique printed tiles they come with. In addition, the Cosmic Wonder (41903) includes a new type of 1×1 pieces by ways of the hexagonal pearl/ dome/ knob pieces.

LEGO Dots, Cosmic Wonder Bracelet (41903)

The bands themselves are rather rigid for apparent reasons, i.e. they must not deform too much in order for the studs to retain their shape and volume, thus holding the elements firmly. This mostly works as long as the band retains its perfect loop form, but as soon as there is some form of internal warping or twisting, bits may still fall off. They are also sensitive to getting caught in the edges of sleeves and may shear off, too.

As far as the size is concerned, I am able to just wrap the bracelet around my wrists on the last notch. I’m neither particularly muscular nor skinny, so I would assume that for most people of average size and stature this works out just fine, allowing this to be an interesting accessory and playful distraction e.g. at parties. Naturally, kids should have it even easier.

LEGO Dots, Jewelry Stand (41905), Package

The Jewelry Stand (41905) is at this point the largest build in terms of height and width, not the number of parts. However, its large dimensions come at the cost of not such a great mechanical stability. The two heart-shaped elements forming the “cloud” can easily be broken off if you’re not careful and the same applies to the multiple rounded plates forming the tray at the bottom. That is to say you have to watch where you are holding it when moving it around. The frame on the back is pretty robust, though, so that’s where you should grab it.

LEGO Dots, Jewelry Stand (41905), Back Side

The unique sales point for many people of course are the glossy metal curved tiles. Together with the heart plates, that at this point are exclusive to this set, this will be the main reason to even buy this set for more technically minded MOC builders on the lookout for metallic parts. The rest will depend on how much you get out of Dark Pink and Lavender tiles, obviously. 😉

LEGO Dots, Jewelry Stand (41905), Front Side

The Picture Holders (41904) aren’t actually that interesting if it wasn’t for the elements in “natural” colors, i.e. the ones in Tan, Medium Nougat and the grey tones. It’s certainly not for the 4×4 plates of which I have tons from dismantled Brickheadz and other sets already.

LEGO Dots, Picture Holders (41904), Design Examples

Of course LEGO wouldn’t be LEGO if they didn’t get this wrong, either. Unfortunately there are way, way too few of the elements in question in the sets, seriously limiting the options to create interesting animal faces. For instance there isn’t even three of the Dark Pink tongue-shaped pieces. Go, figure!

LEGO Dots, Picture Holders (41904), Top View LEGO Dots, Picture Holders (41904), Backside View

Construction of the cubes is as straightforward and simple as you might have guessed already – a bunch of 2×2 corner bricks built around some bricks with studs on the sides onto which the plates are plugged.

The actual image holder brick is a newly designed single part. No doubt it would have been possible to create the functionality with other pieces, but again it’s a matter of that you may not want kids of a certain age have to struggle with construction that requires them to create specific gaps or create mechanical tension.

LEGO Dots, Picture Holders (41904), Usage ExampleOn that note, I found the image holder to be a bit too tight when using thicker stock like the card shown in the image. If you value your precious family photos or collectible items, you may need to work the slot e.g. with a knife or screw driver or even actually sand down the small notches a tiny bit to loosen things up.

Finally, there are “Extra Dots” that come in small foil bags and what can I say? While the whole concept of Dots is at best questionable, this one takes the cake in terms of ridiculousness. okay, it gives you a bunch more of those desirable quarter tiles in funky colors  and there are some transparent round tiles with a glitter effect, but the rest is quite frankly a joke.

LEGO Dots, Extra Dots (41908), PackageThe print quality of the emoji tiles is sub-par at best, downright terrible at worst. Most motifs are completely misaligned and not centered and the prints themselves are flat and dull. This is way, way below what people have come to expect from LEGO.




So what’s the overall verdict? While I’m sure at least some kids love some of the Dots stuff, I can’t say I do. I really wanted to like it and give it a fair chance, but ultimately I ended up doing what probably a majority of adults does – buying the sets just for the parts, in particular the colored tiles.

With that in mind my advice can only be to stock up while supplies last because I really don’t think this will be around for too long, given the circumstances.It’s just not a good product and chances are it will be outrun by the next “kids craft” fad soon enough, anyway. Anyone remember what happened to Looms a few years ago? Exactly!

Connecting the Dots

It’s that time of the year where there’s all those fancy toy trade shows, first in London, currently in Nuremberg and soon in Tokyo, and of course that’s ample opportunity for LEGO to give some new products a grand roll-out and drip-feed embargoed info to journalists and dealers on others.

LEGO Dots is in the first category and after lots guessing we now finally know what it is. Yes, comparisons to Clikits from fifteen years ago feel appropriate and that’s where I have a problem. Seeing that that other product didn’t last long and barely made an impression on anyone, I’m willing to bet that this will be history repeating itself and two years down the line it will more or less quietly disappear again. There are a few things that rub me the wrong way.

First, with this stuff LEGO more or less are competing with hundreds of similar products in what I like to call “trashy kids craft”. You know, things like Aquabeads, whatever is the latest variation on self-adhesive rhinestones or the long-forgotten loom silicone rings. There’s a new hot thing every half year and the shortness of the hype cycles is only outdone by songs on the radio. To me it just doesn’t feel like that this is a market they should even be in. It just isn’t very exclusive or high-profile, things which LEGO otherwise keeps touting.

Second, and perhaps an even bigger problem, is that the concept will likely wear out quickly. The number of patterns you can produce with a given number of pieces is ultimately finite. Well, technically it isn’t, but I don’t imagine the kids this is targeted at to go out of their way to go too crazy on this and change their bracelets, pen holders and so on every day, especially with something as finicky as those tiny 1×1 tiles. It gets tedious rather quickly.

Third, for me as a MOC builder having some of those elements in new colors is a nice thing and I’ll definitely buy a couple of sets for my parts stock, but how far can you take that? After a short while you’ll have so much of this stuff floating around, you just don’t know what to do with those buckets of pizza-corner tiles in colors you’ll never use. You may not even be able to sell them with profit because everyone will suffer the same issue. On the bright side of course this means that we likely won’t have to worry about supplies for the next decade.

As it stands, to me this seems a weird move, after all. I had a gut feeling right from the start that LEGO Dots might be a product of limited relevance to me, but somehow they managed to disappoint even my low expectations. I’ll take the pieces for what they are worth, yes, but overall my feeling remains that LEGO should better invest in other things than trying to come up with such ephemeral products just to cash in on an artificially created short-lived hype bubble…