Saturday, November 25, 2023

Set Recommendations: 2023

When running a fantasy RPG, you want a little bit of everything. You want lots of different scenes, environments, monsters, and characters. If you have the choice between a big variety of simple things or a big impressive thing, choose the variety.

Links go to Bricklink to prevent link rot, but all of them should be in normal stores, possibly at a discount, until sometime in 24.

If your budget is about $100, I'd recommend Dream Village ($30), Escape from the Lost Tomb ($40), Hunter Hound ($20), and Pancake Shop ($11). 

Dream Village is the best of the new Dreams line. The size of the houses and shops is perfect; they efficiently set the scene, and are sturdy and portable enough to be tossed into a plastic shoebox and carried around to someone else's house. This set is better and cheaper than the Elves Goblin Village, which was previously one of my favorite sets.

Small builds like this are also good because they are easy to copy and modify. Once you make these three, it will be easy to make more using other bricks. Keep the instruction book, and follow it again with a few changes to the colors and detailing. You can quickly build up a larger village with similar aesthetics.

Long ago, I was lucky enough to grab a big collection that included most of the large sets from the Adventurers Egypt theme. I rebuilt them into modular dungeon walls and dressing, and they have been a mainstay of my games for years. You can do something similar with the Lost Tomb set, which as this review discusses is a great value. I recommend splitting things up so the wall and statues are separate builds that can be repositioned on a battle mat in different configurations. And try building more statues with different heads, using the same general instructions.

In addition to scenery, you want big monsters and more minis. Ninjago reliably delivers sets that have three minis and a monster for $20, like Hunter Hound:

or Nya's Water Dragon:

I like using both the minifigs and minidolls in games; the minidolls usually represent elves, fae, or celestial creatures. Friends and Disney princess sets are not as good as the Elves sets, but many of them have good terrain. For $20, City of Rosas is a good addition to your collection of terrain and people.

Other good choices this year include Moana's Boat, Cat Hotel, Baby Dragon Battle, and Ninja Brick Box.

Polybags are often good value; never underestimate the utility of those tiny terrain pieces:

But they are often hard to find for list price. You can't just order them online like other sets. I'm not going to recommend something if I don't know how to easily get them, but if you are walking through the Lego section in a store and you see one, they are often worth grabbing.

The Viking Village is a very good set (extensive review with many pictures):

But I can't recommend it highly, compared to what else you could get for $130. Not enough of the action in a game takes place in a village. It basically does the same job as the Dream Village, but costs $100 more. Still, if you want a more immersive and realistic aesthetic, it will do very well as a medieval village, especially with the castle. If you do get it, I would recommend taking them off the water-and-docks terrain and putting them on a more generic baseplate.

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