I was at Walmart not long ago scouring the LEGO® aisle. Something different caught my eye. Normally I just breeze past the fake LEGO® without a second glance. However, on this trip, I saw the Block Tech building base on the bottom shelf. It is a road base plate, and it is five dollars. As you all know, genuine LEGO® road plates come in packs of two. Additionally, they cost $19.99 in Canada. That means that each individual plate in the package is $10. Therefore, this plate is half the price. I decided to take it home and have a closer look.
I am sure several LEGO®-purists are probably starting to fume at this point. Often, I am right there with you. Incidentally, I stopped buying bricks on Craigslist because someone sold me a bunch of Mega Blocks mixed with LEGO® bricks. Nonetheless, this is my dilemma. I need more straight roads than junction plates. However, to get one straight segment, I spend $20 and I end up with an intersection plate that I do not want. Road plates are quite expensive in my opinion. Lo and behold, I see this individually sold, straight section of road that is half the price of the LEGO® version. Naturally, I am curious. If you are a purist and are not feeling that “what if”-tingle right now, then stop reading. But, if like me, you are just a little curious, then enter the dark side and read on…
Block Tech roads are cheaper and come individually packaged.
Alright, so now that we have lost a few of the hardcore collectors, let us take a moment to consider what we are dealing with here. This “building base” brand is “Block Tech: quality bricks compatible with other leading brands”. According to the packaging, the plate design is from the United States, but RMS International manufactures it in China. A quick look at their website reveals they make a lot of products for kids that copy popular brands like LEGO®, Nerf, Super Soakers, and Play-Doh.
Alas, the company is not the purpose of this article, the product is. My initial comparison shows marked differences right from the get-go. To start with, the LEGO® plate is darker grey, and the margins of the street feature a broken line and some painted-on storm drains. Conversely, the Block Tech plate is lighter in color, and has solid margins. Additionally, the street is wider on the Block Tech plate. In fact, the buildable area on the Block Tech plate is one row smaller than the LEGO® plate. Consequently, it is only five studs across. Different? Yes. Horrible? No. In fact, it accommodates the eight-stud-wide cars better.
Block Tech roads are wider.
The differences continue when you flip the plates over. Further, this is where it also starts to get interesting. A LEGO® base plate is exactly that, a base. It goes on the bottom, and nothing is meant to go underneath it. Conversely, the Block Tech plate does not have to be the bottom. You can build under it and attach it as an upper layer. My mind is already swimming the possibilities. Imagine sewers, subways, and cities built in layers. Granted, you can achieve that with a regular base plate. But this Block Tech plate makes it EASY. However, the Block Tech Plate is thicker than the LEGO® version. So, if you have the two side by side, your road will not be flush.
While the Block Tech building base is thicker than a LEGO® base plate, it is also interesting to note that it is the same thickness as a regular LEGO® plate. So, you can easily add it as a layer without screwing up the proportions of everything above it.
Block Tech is as thick as a regular LEGO plate (not baseplate) and you can build under it.
Okay, so it has a neat feature. But, is it compatible? The answer is: yes. It clutches LEGO® bricks very well. I would have to buy more of this stuff to determine if there are quality issues on a larger scale, but this plate seems fine. It also has some elasticity, so the plastic does not snap too easily. Granted, I was not trying to break it. But I was satisfied with my initial attempt to work with it. The next step will be to try it in an actual building project.
Will I buy other Block Tech products? No. A quick look at their offerings does not have me impressed, and their “Minifigures” look bad. But, their building bases intrigue me because they are cheap, compatible with LEGO® bricks, and I can build under them. Additionally, there are more than just road plates. There are regular plates in a variety of sizes and colors.
One thing is certain, this Block Tech plate fills a need that LEGO® does not have a convenient solution for. If the LEGO® Group produced a large plate that I could build on top of as well as below, I would buy it from them. I recently shared my Willa’s Witching World MOC, and a plate like this will make building the city layer above easier. Additionally, I like being able to buy one stretch of road. What are your thoughts? Intrigued, or outraged? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below or reach out on social media.
Until next time,
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