These Mini Bricks Might Become a Lego Fans' New Obsession
A deep dive into a smaller, more affordable option.
One particularly fun discovery I made while learning more about generic Lego alternatives over the last year or so was a line of mini-size bricks from Chinese brick maker LoZ. I’ve become kind of obsessed with LoZ’s Mini Street View series, thanks to their low price, high level of detail, and overall high quality.
I suspect a lot of adults like Lego sets in theory, but are turned off by their increasingly high price tag and the sheer size LEGO models take up when completed. If that’s you, you might find LoZ blocks to be as compelling an alternative as I have.
LoZ mini bricks look and feel like “LEGO system” bricks in almost every way. They come in the same colors, same brick shapes, same everything. Except…. they’re smaller. Here is a 4x1 plate as a comparison:
If you want to get technical, a 2x2 lego brick is 16mm wide, while the same 2x2 LoZ Mini brick would be 12mm wide.
After switching, LoZ blocks felt tiny, fiddly, and a little hard to work with. But after building with them for a while a flip was switched, and now going back to LEGO-size bricks makes them feel big and chunky. You get used to LoZ’s smaller size and lighter weight pretty quickly.
Build Time & Piece Count
Like LEGO, LoZ manufactures a wire variety of mini brick sets, but the ones that spoke to me the most were the aforementioned mini street builds. They clock in at around 400 pieces each. This piece count leads to a build time of around ~2-3 hours, which makes them a perfect snack. I find myself building one on the weekends, or building one over a couple of evenings. It’s a nice alternative to the massive 4000+ piece Lego sets I find myself drawn to. I built a couple of bigger 1000+ piece sets using LoZ Mini Bricks and didn’t enjoy myself as much.
My favorite feature is just how extremely detailed all the sets are. Basically every stud is covered. They’re all very bright, lively, and “busy.” Despite building several of them by now, I’m continually surprised how much detail work LoZ manages to cram into each tiny interior. No space is wasted.
The mini street series is also seriously affordable - sets can be grabbed from AliExpress for just around $7, shipped to your door, once some discounts kick on. This is a huge factor in what makes them so compelling and addictive. The builds are compact and satisfying enough, and go together fast enough, that once I’d purchased and put together a few I just wanted to keep going and get them all. They’re addictive!
Thankfully, the brick quality remains high, despite these sets’ almost suspiciously low prices. Are they as high quality as Lego? No. You’ll probably experience one brick in each set that fits a little loose, and a few more that will fit a little too snug and are hard to attach. But overall everything snaps together exactly as expected, and I personally find the value-for-money almost unmatched.
They’re Just So Cute
OK I guess I’m kinda repeating myself at this point but I think the style of these things is just so on point. They’re colorful, thematic, and lively.
Your Mileage May Vary
A couple things to keep in mind which you may consider a positive, or might consider a drawback, depending on your specific tastes or point of view:
The Finished Product Size
It’s tough to understand how truly small and dainty these sets are when completed, even after looking at pictures! On the one hand this means that you could easily fit four or more on even a small desk, taking up less space than a single Lego set. Even small living spaces would have plenty of nooks and crannies to tuck sets into. But on the other hand it definitely means these aren’t dramatic “statement” pieces like the flagship Lego sets are.
For me - I love building and collecting new Lego sets but I just plain run out of space for them. These LoZ Mini Street sets let me keep my interest in the hobby alive, while solving for one of its major drawbacks. I never need to look at a set and stress about where I’m going to put it, when it’s completed.
They’re Very Uniform
All the LoZ Mini Street builds - while highly varied in their theme, colors, and outward appearance - are a much more uniform build than they may first appear. They all feature a uniform square first and 2nd floor, and are all topped with a unique “statement” piece on top. This can be nice because it allows you to snap them together in near-endless combinations, and there’s a comfort in the familiarity of these builds. But after build several back to back, as I have, a little more variation or originality would be nice to see on top of these small square base plates.
Awkward Sticker Use
LoZ sets use a lot of stickers to achieve much of their variety and detail. This is, in and of itself, already a turn-off for some builders. But it’s understandable given the ultra-low price tag. But what’s more frustrating is how the stickers are frequently used. You’re often asked to wrap stickers around rounded brick corners, which is hard to do accurately and without wrinkling. You’re also often required wrap a single long sticker around multiple bricks, turning it into a “single” piece, which can be frustrating.
Some Build Techniques Are Iffy
LoZ’s small bricks themselves may get impressively close to Lego standards, but the same can’t be said for the build techniques and instructions. Although the instructions have never - in 10+ sets - been too unclear for me to follow, they aren’t as clear as Lego’s. You’re commonly asked to build an entire “layer” of 20+ bricks in a single illustrated step. More frustratingly, the build techniques can sometimes get pretty awkward, requiring you to squeeze two pieces together when you have no leverage to do so, or place a piece into a hard-to-reach position. Not a dealbreaker by any stretch, but it is something to keep in mind.
Where You Should Buy Them
Be warned: LoZ does not have an “official” store! If you Google “LoZ Block Store,” “Where to buy LoZ Blocks,” etc., you’ll come across all kinds of official-looking online storefronts selling these sets for far higher prices than I’ve been talking about here in this newsletter. Just ignore them all and buy directly from AliExpress.
If you’re not familiar with AliExpress, think about it as a Chinese combination of Amazon and Ebay. It’s a website where thousands of Chinese merchants can set up their own online stores and sell directly to customers worldwide.
These LoZ sets on AliExpress ship directly from China to your door, so expect it to take a while. 4 weeks if you’re lucky. 8+ weeks isn’t unusual. The orders do all ship with tracking, so you’ll be able to see how your order is moving. It isn’t uncommon for an order to wait for a week to get onto a boat, spend two weeks on the boat, and then spend another two weeks waiting to get unloaded at port, and so-on.
Each AliExpress seller is their own independent business, so I understand it might feel sketchy to give them $30+ and hope your bricks show up in a couple of months. But a few things to keep in mind -
I personally have yet to have a bad experience. Over a half dozen orders have arrived safely and as-promised. Usually faster than I expected, too, as long as you don’t expect an Amazon-like shipping experience.
Individual sellers have verified user ratings and reviews. Don’t buy from a brand-new seller. Avoid sellers with suspiciously low prices. Consider paying $1 more to buy from a seller with more or better user reviews. A little common sense can go a long way.
Although the sellers are independent, AliExpress itself is big and well-known. Customer service and refund requests are easy to submit and handle.
These are the sellers I specifically bought from, if you’re looking to follow in my footsteps:
But you really don’t need to. Prices fluctuate a lot and a cursory look at AliExpress today - I bought my sets earlier this year - shows other popular sellers may now have prices a few dollars cheaper. Here are some I found:
This Seller features everything I’d look for when buying LoZ Blocks on AliExpress. Lots of orders, good prices, lots of reviews.
Another seller with good prices and a good reputation on the platform.
Finally, this third seller’s prices are very slightly more expensive - we’re talking $30 for four instead of $26 or so - but their reputation and reviews are even more positive.
I would buy from any of these sellers today, but honest there are lots of good options. If I were to buy from one store today I would probably make it this one. A couple of stacking discounts for a % off and flat $$ off your order gets the prices down to just about $7 per mini set.
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A couple more quick things to keep in mind:
Many AliExpress sellers give a price to ship a set with and without its original box. When it ships without, the set arrives in its own baggie, tightly packed within the shipping box. It is usually much pricier to ship with the original box, as you’re basically paying to ship empty air (the extra space inside the box) halfway around the world. If you’re like me and have a collector’s mindset, the idea of not having the box might bother you. I strongly advise you to let that feeling go - the boxes aren’t nice. They’re thin and don’t feel collectible or feel like part of the experience. Just buy the set and save yourself a chunk of money.
The LoZ Mini Street series sets can be purchased individually, but they’re often cheaper and generally seem intended to be bundled together in sets of four. Sets that are $9 or so individually can generally be grabbed in a set of four for $30. Many AliExpress stores also have “Spend $50 get $5 off”-style instant discounts, which also helps.
As for me, after having such a positive experience buying + building my first four LoZ Mini Street sets, I was impressed enough with the quality and price to immediately turn around and buy 20+ more. I’m still working my way through that backlog and still checking every couple months to see if more in the line have been released. They allow me to perfectly scratch that “I want to build something with bricks” itch, without the commitment of a full-size Lego set.
So glad to get another issue of Paperwave! I had no idea mini-bricks was even a thing! I will definately be getting some - my daughter has recently got into legos, and the assembly is her favorite part (with me being the 'pieces hunter' - trying to stay one step ahead of her). She plays with them a little afterward, but mainly takes them apart and builds them again. It looks like we could have a ton of fun for WAY less money with these! And they're right up her alley, being so decorative and cute! Thanks Justin!
Great to see you back! Nice to see that there is some quality there and I love the smaller space saving size when space has become such a premium. It's definitely one of the greater positives for me, though it's also a negative since it won't match up with other Lego sets lol
Seeing your positive review and tips though, it's probably worth it to at least give a set a try since they have a lot of variety