I like to review the LEGO® sets that I build. But, the question arises, how do you rate LEGO® sets consistently so that you can compare sets of different sizes, costs, and themes? Well, I have devised a rating system which is now in its fourth iteration. The newest update to this system came in July 2019. Prior to that, many of my ratings were based on data derived from reviewing LEGO® catalogs. However, after running reviews on True North Bricks for several years, I have enough set data of my own to work with. Calculated averages, as well as high and low values are based on all of the sets I have reviewed on this blog since 2016. Scores derived before July 2019 may vary slightly in terms of exact percentages from what is described below.
This section is based on an average of two scores which are weighted equally: the cost-per-brick, and the build-time value.
As of July 2019, my current average cost per brick sits at $0.14 CAD. Much like in Canadian schools, 60% is considered a pass, and 100% is the best score that can be awarded. The average of a pass and a perfect score is 80%. Since $0.14/brick is my average right now, it has been assigned a score of 80% on my value scale. $0.07/brick is the best value I have seen in three years of reviews, but that only occurred once. I have seen $0.08/brick on several occasions, but it is still not very common. For this reason, I have assigned $0.08/brick as the bar for earning 100%. The scale was developed based on that, which translates to 1% equaling a change of $0.003/brick. For example:
- 100% = $0.080/brick
- 99% = $0.083/brick
- 98% = $0.086/brick
In reviews before July 2019: $0.09/brick was considered 100%, and my average cost per brick was different. $0.14/brick was 83%, whereas now it is 80%.
I think it is important to get as much build time as possible when investing in a LEGO® set. So, I time how long it takes me to build each set. I use this information to calculate the cost-per-minute of build time. Based on the reviews I have done, one minute of build time costs $0.84 on average. So, similarly to above, this was assigned a score of 80%. The single best build time value that I have seen was $0.37/minute. However, most good builds are in the $0.40-$0.50/minute range. So, I have assigned $0.45/minute as being a 100% score. Based on that, 1% is roughly equal to a change of $0.02. For example:
- 100% = $0.45/minute
- 99% = $0.47/minute
- 98% = $0.49/minute
In reviews before July 2019: In January 2019, my average was $0.85/minute. Before that, it was $0.75/minute (though this was based on incomplete data). I only accorded a passing grade (60-65%) for an average build-time score, which hit many good sets hard in terms of points. I have now placed an average score here in line with an average score in other sections of the review. Before February 2019, this score was part of the entertainment section of the review.
This section focuses on the actual build experience and techniques used for a set. It is scored on ten. It loses points for things that I don’t like about building a set. If I really don’t like an aspect of the set, it may lose a whole point. If there is something that I am not fond of, but that is not horribly bothersome, it may lose only half a point. This is fairly subjective, but presumably you are reading my reviews for my opinion.
In reviews before July 2019: I used a slightly more complicated version of this where I awarded points for things that like, and deducted points for things that I didn’t like. Likes could gain up to five points, dislikes could lose up to five points. I decided to just make this simpler. In the end, I doubt it will change much in terms of scoring.
This section is based on the average of two scores which are weighted equally: Minifigure design, and the brick-to-Minifigure ratio.
I LOVE Minifigures. They are one of the most important aspects of a set for me, and I will often buy a set just because I want a Minifigure in it. I grade Minifigures based on their design and the accessories that they come with. Accessories are really important when building up your own LEGO® city. Each Minifigure in a set can be awarded a total of 15 points, which is converted to the percentage afterwards to make it comparable to other sets with different numbers of characters. So, if a set comes with two Minifigures, this section will be graded on 30 points. If it comes with three Minifigures, this section will be out of 45 points, and so on. Minifigures earn design points for:
- Having 10 basic parts:
- Hair/hat/helmet (1 point)
- Head (1 point)
- Torso (1 point)
- Two arms (1 point)
- Two hands (1 point)
- Hip joint (1 point)
- Two separately moveable legs (1 point)
- More than just a classic, generic face print (1 point)
- Double sided face (1 point)
- Torso printing (1 point for front, 1 point for back)
- Leg printing (1 point)
- Additional points for accessories, extra parts, or extra printed details
In reviews before July 2019: the rating system is the same. Before July 2017, it was based on a similar 10 point system.
Since I enjoy Minifigures so much, the number that I get in a set is also important to me. As a result, I calculate the ratio of bricks to Minifigures. This allows me to compare the number of characters that I get in sets with different brick counts. My current average is 139 bricks for each Minifigure in a set. Similar to the value section, this average was assigned a score of 80%. My best brick:Minifig ratio ever was 36:1, but that is exceedingly rare. I have set the bar for 100% at 40 bricks per Minifigure. Based on that, a 1% change on the scale represents a change of about 5 bricks. Meaning:
- 100% = 40 bricks/Minifig
- 99% = 45 bricks/Minifig
- 98% = 50 bricks/Minifig
In reviews before July 2019: the scoring for this section was not really based on quantifiable data, but a more arbitrary assigning of values. 100 bricks per Minifigure or less was the 100% mark, and a 10% change in grade equaled a difference of 50 bricks. A 10% change is still a difference of 50 bricks in my new system, but the scale has skewed based on the data I have collected. Previously, my average ratio of 139:1 would have earned a score of around 92%.
This section is based on two scores, each out of five points total. A set starts out with five “Adult Fan of LEGO®” (AFOL) points, and loses points for things that make it less appealing to me as an adult collector (looks, display potential, appeal, etc). It also starts out with five “Kid Fan of LEGO®” (KFOL) points. This is where I get to reminisce about my childhood, and try to imagine how a much younger version of myself would have felt about a set. Honestly, it is one of the most fun parts of writing a review for me. A set loses points if I feel like kid-me would not have liked something about it, and if I feel it would have decreased the play value of the set for me. In the end, the scores are added for a total grade out of ten.
In reviews before July 2019: This section was based mostly on an AFOL collector’s opinion of a set. I looked at whether or not I would keep a set built in my LEGO® city after reviewing, or if I would re-purpose the parts into a MOC.
Finally, I take the value, build, Minifigure, and entertainment scores and find their average. In this case, each section carries the same weight and is worth 25% of the overall score that I give a set.