Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: A Year in Review

Inspired by this post on Gimme LEGO, and by the prevalence of "Year in Review" things in general that crop up at this time of year, I've decided to take a look at some of the things that were the best in my LEGO life of the past year.

LEGO Set of the Year:

There can be little doubt, I think, that the most amazing set I acquired in 2011 was Medieval Market Village. Released in 2008, this set is the almost-uncontested pinnacle of LEGO's Castle design thus far. Some of the Kingdoms sets of the past year went a long way towards incorporating some of the magic of Medieval Market Village into the more everyday sets of the theme, but this enhances rather than detracts from the Market Village's prestige.

So why was the Market Village my set of the year, rather than a 2011 set? Were the 2011 sets that bad? No, not at all; on the contrary, LEGO put out some amazing sets in 2011. The thing is, however, that 2011 was not a year about expanding out into new things in my collection, but of consolidating what I had. In the first few months of the year, I rebuilt a number of sets that hadn't been constructed since the Great Take-apart of 2004. In my trips to the LEGO store, I've focused more on smaller sets, mystery bags, and the pick-a-brick, with an eye towards increasing my liquid parts supply than to broaden my set horizon. Medieval Market Village was the only outstanding set that I got that I can say with a high degree of certainty will not be taken apart. This trend towards consolidation was increased in mid-summer when I had a number of minifigs stolen, and my Bricklink orders which had already been focused on finding parts to rebuild long-dismantled sets became additionally focused on replacing lost figs.

LEGO Theme of the Year:

Hands down, the Collectible Minifigs were my Theme of the Year. This was the second year LEGO had been releasing collections, and 2011 was nowhere near as frenzied as 2010 had been, when shortages of Series 1 and 2 led to mad scrambles by LEGO fans and exorbitant repurchase fees on Bricklink. By contrast, Series 3 through 5 were easy to find and remained present in stores for a generous amount of time. That said, however, I only bought two collectible minifigs in 2010, both off Bricklink, discouraged by the difficulty of finding them. In 2011, however, I caught the bug.

The Elf was the one who started it. When I picked him up in January, I was still in "old me" mode, which told me that I was only going to pick up one or two per release. The problem, if I may call it that, is that I did so well identifying him by feel that I wanted to do it again, and believe it or not that was the trick: I got hooked on the success of grabbing the one I wanted... and I've yet to disappoint myself. And the numbers are telling: a year ago I had 2 Collectible Minifigs and today I have 32.

LEGO Minifig of the Year:

This is the hardest category to pick yet... and turning to the Collectible Minifigs is, the last category notwithstanding, not going to provide the solution. As many Collectible Minifigs as I bought, none of them has definitively stood apart as the Minifig of the Year.

Instead, I'll recognise Lucien and Alex from Aquazone Breakfast News as the Minifigs of the Year, for the simple reason that 2011 was the year that my focus on Minifigs and their accoutrements took a significant step from the realm of game-play to the realm of storytelling. Grandfather's Tale, the year before, had already begun the process, but Aquazone Breakfast News took it a step further. More importantly, AqBN has been an ongoing commitment, and because of its weekly nature (daily, in December) was the most constant element in my LEGO life.

Other Thoughts...

2011 was a major shifting year for me. This blog was a large component of that shift, as the recognition of Lucien and Alex may already suggest. Also too, the new emphasis on consolidation, rather than expansion, has seen an increase in the time I spend on LEGO, rather than a decrease, as might be expected. Filling out the corners of my existing LEGO-verse and LEGO collection has been a more focused, and more attainable, goal than simply keeping up with each year's new round of themes.

2011 was also the year that I realised that my fiancée (girlfriend, at the start of last year) was not going to be a one-time LEGO purchaser, but that she had it in her to be a rather significant LEGO fan herself. I have yet to visit the Braintree LEGO Store without her, and she's spent probably as much money there as I have. So far, she's more of a collector, especially of the cooler licensed sets, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

And that was my LEGO 2011--what was yours?

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