Happy New Year, everyone!
2021 might not have been a great year overall, but it was a very good year for LEGO. 2021 saw the company release several hundred new sets. It was also the year that LEGO fully doubled-down on its adults-only marketing. We’ve seen more sets for adults in the last 12 months than ever before, and that’s something that’s set to continue.
So, for us AFOLs, 2021 was an excellent year. We saw some of the biggest ever sets come out last year, alongside some truly impressive models, both big and small. But what were the best of the year? And what were the worst? Let’s take a journey back over the last 12 months, shall we?
The Best LEGO Sets of 2021…
Where do we even start when it comes to the best LEGO sets of 2021? There have been so many, and we’re not even exaggerating. We could list dozens of sets we’ve been impressed with, but picking out the true cream of the crop has not been easy.
Heading right back to the start of the year, we need to mention LEGO Ninjago 71741 Ninjago City Gardens. This surprise-dropped half way through January, offering a companion set to the now-discontinued Ninjago City and Ninjago City Docks. Not only is it the biggest LEGO Ninjago set ever made, it’s one of the best, most detailed sets to come out of 2021, of any range.
But if we’re talking about ranges, then LEGO Ideas is the one that’s shone brightest this year. Practically every set to come from Ideas has been absolutely wonderful, showcasing just how much talent there is across the LEGO community. LEGO Ideas 21325 Medieval Blacksmith is perhaps our favourite Ideas set from the year. It’s a set that harks back to classic LEGO, bringing old-fashioned knights into the modern day, but one that shows off some of the best LEGO architecture we’ve seen in a set. It’s packed with detail, and truly stunning. Honestly, if you don’t own this one and enjoy LEGO buildings, definitely consider picking it up.
Another stunning set from the Ideas range is LEGO Ideas 21327 Typewriter. A typewriter with working parts, made out of LEGO? It sounds absurd, but it truly is one of the most innovative and remarkable sets to come out of 2021. It was designed by Steve Guinness, who you might know from the first series of LEGO Masters UK. While you can’t actually type on it, you can feed in paper, push each alpha-numeric key and move the typebar.
Matthew reviewed it for us earlier this year, and he was blown away by its detail, stating that no other set is “as capable of wowing somebody who’s yet to join the AFOL ranks”.
While we’re on the subject of LEGO Ideas, we’d be remiss not to mention Home Alone, Winnie the Pooh and Fender Stratocaster. All three of them are very different sets, but each stunning in their own way. LEGO Ideas 21330 Home Alone packs in a ridiculous amount of detail, not just for fans of the film but for fans of LEGO in general. We absolutely love the way the front of the building opens up, allowing you to see clearly inside. It’s a method we hope is adopted in future LEGO house/building constructions. It could be a game-changer for Modular sets, for example.
LEGO Ideas 21329 Fender Stratocaster is a perfectly recreated guitar and amp which makes a wonderful display piece for any music lover. The detail of the amp in particular is wonderful, and even if stringing the guitar was a little fiddly, it’s ultimately worth the pay-off. Richard reviewed it for us, concluding that “few models have the ‘wow factor’ that this does once built”.
As for LEGO Ideas 21326 Winnie the Pooh, few sets are as colourful and delightful as this one. It’s a strange one – a children’s cartoon recreated as an 18+ set – but there’s an exquisite level of detail in Winnie the Pooh, and it’s a set that doesn’t break the bank. Kim reviewed it, claiming it to be a model “packed with so much detail that it outshines most other sub-£100 sets.”
Not all of the best LEGO sets of 2021 have to break the bank, either. We’ve had some truly outstanding builds in the what we’d consider “pocket money” range. The first that deserves a mention is LEGO DC 76188 Batman Classic TV Series Batmobile. It’s only a small set at 345 pieces, but with an RRP of just £29.99, the finished model is one to behold. Despite its small size, it’s a perfect recreation of a classic 60s Batmobile. For children, it’s an ideal play toy, but thanks to the inclusion of a stand and information placard, it’s a great AFOL display piece too.
Richard reviewed the Classic Batmobile, calling it an “absolute steal”, and a “must-have” for any Batman fan.
Also in the budget range is LEGO BrickHeadz 40492 La Catrina. 2021 has been a rather slow year for BrickHeadz, particularly licensed ones. Thankfully, LEGO seems to be picking up the pace already in 2022, but last year at least had a few notable mentions. Along with the BrickHeadz Pets range, we got the delightful La Catrina to celebrate Mexico’s Dias de los Muertos. She’s colourful, filled with detail, and one of the best LEGO sets you can buy for just £9.99.
We also need to give a special mention to LEGO Creator 31122 Fish Tank. For just £24.99, this is a delightful 3-in-1 set whose main fish tank build brightens up any room. We also love LEGO 40516 Everyone is Awesome. Not only is it a wonderfully uplifting (and budget-friendly) build, but it spreads a positive message of inclusivity.
LEGO Ideas hasn’t been the only range to stand out this year. There’s been a brand new one that we’ve absolutely loved – the Botanicals range. It started with the release of LEGO 10280 Flower Bouquet and LEGO 10281 Bonsai Tree back in January 2021. Later in the year, LEGO 10289 Bird of Paradise followed suit. The three sets marked an important milestone for LEGO; a new era when it comes to creating sets for an adult market. These sets aren’t simply about the build, or a play experience. They’re designed to be showpieces in your home when you’re done. Indeed, many new builders have been lured to LEGO by these sets, and it makes us excited to see what else LEGO comes up with this year.
Matthew reviewed the Bonsai Tree for us earlier this year, claiming he “can’t recommend the set highly enough”. And Kim reviewed the Bouquet, concluding “we had a blast building the Flower Bouquet, and now we get joy out of seeing them on display every time we walk past.”
We have two large LEGO sets left to mention; two record-breakers, actually. First up, we need to call out LEGO Marvel 76178 Daily Bugle as one of the best sets of 2021. This 3,770 piece set is expensive at £264.99, but it’s worth every penny. It’s a stunning set – and it’s huge. We mean seriously huge; it stands tall at 82cm. It’s the biggest LEGO Marvel set ever released, and it also packs in a whopping 25 minifigures. Its skyscraper design means it adds character to any LEGO City setup you may have, too.
Richard reviewed this for us upon release, being so bold as to say it’s “one of the best LEGO sets ever released”. High praise indeed.
The final record-breaker that also happens to be one of the best sets of 2021 is LEGO Art 31203 World Map. In terms of pieces, this is the largest LEGO set ever released, with a whopping 11,695 pieces. Since it’s a LEGO Art set and has a couple of different configurations, however, not every one of those pieces will be used in the final build. It’s still huge regardless; the finished picture measures over 1 metre wide. So you’ll need a lot of wall space to display it. It makes a stunning piece of art when finished, though, there’s no denying that.
…And the Worst LEGO Set of 2021
Admittedly, there haven’t been very many bad LEGO sets to come out of 2021. Overall, it’s been an excellent year filled with wonderful sets. One set does stand out in particular for not being up to LEGO’s usual standards, however. That set is LEGO 10279 Volkswagen T2 Camper Van.
When it was revealed, we were particularly excited about the T2 Camper Van. A follow-up to the now-discontinued T1 Camper Van, it looked fantastic. In a striking blue colour, it packs in realistic detail, like working steering, a fully-featured interior and a pop-out roof. But in reality, this set has caused endless stress to many LEGO builders.
In our review, we wrote about the difficulties we faced when putting the Camper Van together. Building one part of the model caused another part to collapse, which happened more than once. When finished, it was extremely fragile; when we tried to pop the Camper Van on display after our review, we ended up having to rebuild sections again. For us, the front and the back of the van proved to be the most troublesome.
It seems we were far from alone, too. Looking at the store listing for the set, you’ll find hundreds of reviews criticising the quality of the build. We’ve also had numerous comments on our own review, with lots of builders all frustrated with the experience they’ve had while building.
LEGO has never made any official statement about the quality of the Volkwagen T2 Camper Van, so it’s hard to know what went wrong. It’s clear to us, and to most people who built it, that it’s not up to the company’s usual standards. And for a set that retails at £150 (now £139.99 after a recent price shuffle), that’s really disappointing.
Still, one miss after many, many hits isn’t bad going. We just hope that the mistakes in this set aren’t repeated down the line.
What are your best and worst LEGO sets of 2021? Let us know by commenting below. We’d love to know!