Lego's quality is consistent and its popularity undeniable. However, factors such as playability, versatility, and collectability make some sets a better value than others.
Lego Playability.Many Lego aficionados thrive on the thrill of the build and the pride of creating display pieces. For children, however, playability is a key concern. Sets that get tossed aside after initial assembly become nothing more than plastic playroom shrapnel, leaving both kids and parents disappointed.
The sets that score the most points for entertainment value in Lego reviews have a few things in common. First, they are designed with multiple builds in mind. The Lego City Power Boat Transporter (starting at $34) covers both land and sea, letting kids drive up ramps, transport precious cargo, and navigate bathtub waters with their creations. The mom and blogger behind The Brick Life includes the Power Boat Transporter in a roundup of the year's top five Lego City sets. She especially likes how the boat handles in the hands of a child, according to her Lego review. A consumer who posted a review on the Lego site appreciates that the Power Boat Transporter works well with vehicles from other sets.
Hagrid's Hut from the Harry Potter series (starting at $40) is not only a good value but also highly playable, according to Lego reviews. Lego has outfitted the hut with impressive features, such as a light-up fireplace and a swinging cauldron, that add to the make-believe experience. One consumer who posted a Lego review on Amazon reports that the structure holds up well even with daily play, although a user who posted a review on the Lego site opines that the hut is too small.
In the realm of Star Wars, Luke's Landspeeder (starting at $25) appeals to consumers with its easy-to-manage size and details such as a secret compartment for lightsabers, according to Lego reviews. The five included Lego minifigures add to users' enjoyment. A consumer who posted a Lego review at Walmart notes that five is an impressive number of minifigures for the price.
Another Star Wars set, Mace Windu's Jedi Starfighter (starting at $40), offers not only a well-designed starfighter but a Separatist speeder and two STAPs (single trooper aerial platforms) for more battle scenarios. Kids appreciate the fairly simple build and parents, such as this one who posted a Lego review on Amazon, note that the set's multiple vehicles reduce squabbles over sharing.
Lego Minifigures.Kits such as Luke's Landspeeder increase their value by featuring a higher-than-expected number of Lego minifigures. Rare figures up the value of a set to the collector. From a playability standpoint, a robust lineup of Lego minifigures lends itself to detailed reenactments, especially when it comes to licensed characters. How can Star Wars fans recreate favorite scenes without the proper characters, after all?
Luke's Landspeeder comes with five sought-after Star Wars minifigures: a young Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a security droid. The only other way to acquire some of these Lego minifigures is by investing in a high-end set such as the Death Star (starting at $400), which makes Luke's Landspeeder a bargain for collectors.
Hagrid's Hut is another such case. Nearly every Harry Potter set includes the boy wizard himself, and a few include Hermione Granger, but Ron Weasley is inexplicably harder to track down. This kit includes all three Harry Potter minifigures for about $40 -- and throws in Rubeus Hagrid, baby dragon Norbert, and giant spider Aragog for good measure. One aspect of the Lego minifigures that contributes to the play experience is their changeable facial expressions, as detailed in a review on the Lego site. A few consumers on the Lego site and on Amazon would have liked to see Hagrid's dog, Fang, in this set as well.
One common issue that comes up in reviews is minifigure theft. It's not unusual to see Lego buyers post about compromised boxes and missing characters. One self-described AFOL, or adult fan of Lego, writing a review on the Lego site Brickset reports that Lego seems to have wised up to this problem and changed the way it packages minifigures so as not to tempt thieves.