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Where have all the baseplates gone?

ParkGradesParkGrades Member Posts: 106
edited March 2012 in Building and Techniques
My children love building free-standing creations, vehicles, etc. However, they seem to love building on baseplates even more.

From my own anecdotal observations, it seems that LEGO is producing fewer and fewer large base plates (that are included in sets) over time (examples below).

Does anyone have any information or theories as to why this might be? And, does anyone else feel that LEGO should start adding more "large/unique baseplates" to their sets again?

Examples:
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Comments

  • prof1515prof1515 EarthMember Posts: 1,561
    The heyday of classic Town and Castle was when Lego used baseplates the most. Nowadays the most you'll see them used is in the Modular and the rare set here and there. It's pretty much been the case since the advent of the Star Wars line though it was already happening before that.
  • ParkGradesParkGrades Member Posts: 106
    It would be nice if they started selling more "complicated" baseplates on their own - but I'm sure the company has its reasons...
  • chrisdojochrisdojo Member Posts: 168
    My guess it TLG has done away with base plates to save $$$.... isn't that what most company decisions boil down to? :)
  • prof1515prof1515 EarthMember Posts: 1,561
    They still manufacture some of them as evidenced by the Modular line. However, their designers seem very skittish about using them for their various themed and licensed lines. They're used occassionally but no where near to the degree that they were in the past.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Member Posts: 4,401
    ^ Most noticeably missing in the Creator sets these days...
  • bmwlegobmwlego Long Island, New YorkMember Posts: 793
    A LUGmate of mine told me that LEGO relied on a partner to create baseplates. My guess is that in order to save $ they have moved away from this practice and begun including large plates instead.
  • ParkGradesParkGrades Member Posts: 106
    A LUGmate of mine told me that LEGO relied on a partner to create baseplates. My guess is that in order to save $ they have moved away from this practice and begun including large plates instead.
    Interesting. I just wish there were a greater variety of large or unique baseplates these days -- my kids love them!
  • dimefielddimefield Edmonton Alberta CanadaMember Posts: 314
    Lots of the Lego games include large baseplates, 16 x 32 and 32 x 32 and can be picked up at good discounts as well.
  • sidersddsidersdd USAMember Posts: 2,432
    ^ Recent games are just coming with plates (8x8 or 16x16), and not baseplates though. Look at the Ninjago game for example - comes with 4 16x16 green plates for the base of the game. No reason it couldn't have just been a single 32x32 green baseplate.
  • LegobrandonCPLegobrandonCP CanadaMember Posts: 1,914
    Soon... baseplates will be an extinct species. :( I love baseplates, it is a shame TLG is deciding to cut putting BP in sets.
  • prevereprevere North of Bellville, East of Heartlake, South of Bricksburg, West of Ninjago City Member Posts: 2,904
    ^ Agreed. You see a set like DA and no baseplates. Really, c'mon man.

    And how exactly are you supposed to create a city with roads without these? I know TLG offers roadplate packages - but A) they are different colors than the old light gray some of us vintagers love; and B) their current package doesn't include straight roads

    http://shop.lego.com/en-US/T-Junction-Curved-Road-Plates-7281
  • LegobrandonCPLegobrandonCP CanadaMember Posts: 1,914
    It's too bad they don't offer single road plates. If you want 20 straight road plates you're going to have to purchase it with the crossroad. Then you're going to have 20 unwanted crossroad plates.
  • dimefielddimefield Edmonton Alberta CanadaMember Posts: 314
    @sidersdd guess i better stock up on Ramses Pyramid and Meteor Strike then!
  • sidersddsidersdd USAMember Posts: 2,432
    ^ Yep, I bought 15 Ramses Pyramids when they were $10 at Target. Got 5 Meteor Strikes from Target when they were $5.90.
  • prevereprevere North of Bellville, East of Heartlake, South of Bricksburg, West of Ninjago City Member Posts: 2,904
  • LegobrandonCPLegobrandonCP CanadaMember Posts: 1,914
    edited March 2012
    ^ Yep, I bought 15 Ramses Pyramids when they were $10 at Target. Got 5 Meteor Strikes from Target when they were $5.90.
    I got Ramses Pyramid for $5. I posted this a while back on Toys N Bricks. But do the Targets near you still have Meteor Strike? I'm really interested in the 16x32 grey BP.
  • sidersddsidersdd USAMember Posts: 2,432
    ^ I haven't seen Meteor Strike for a while. They were clearanced during the holiday season. That's the last I've seen of them.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Member Posts: 4,401
    ^ Amazon for about $10...
  • Si_UKNZSi_UKNZ NZMember Posts: 4,179
    edited March 2012
    Until a few days ago I would have been lamenting the demise of (some) baseplates, but I recently had a problem which I think might highlight why they're disappearing.

    I'm building a 1 metre long model, and I decided to retrospectively add baseplates to the underside for strength. Once I did, however, bricks kept popping off - literally - it put the rest of the model under a lot of tension in many places. These are some places where I should be able to add bricks on the model, but I can't because everything is being squeezed to tightly they just pop off again. Large cracks started appearing and eventually one end of the model dropped off. I'm sure you get the picture.

    It seems that baseplates do not hold their tolerances in the same way that normal bricks do. I'm not sure if this is something that happens over time due to the different type of plastic, or whether it's due to errors in the tolerances in the initial build process.

    Either way, I'm currently finding that baseplates do not live up to the usual high standards I'd expect from Lego, although you might not discover this until you try a longer 'run' of studs.
  • bmwlegobmwlego Long Island, New YorkMember Posts: 793
    What do the LEGO designers who frequent this site have to add to this speculation if they arent bound by a NDA?
  • Si_UKNZSi_UKNZ NZMember Posts: 4,179
    edited March 2012
    For reference, the baseplate which did this is a white 16x32 which came with 3538 downhill snowboarders set.
  • dimefielddimefield Edmonton Alberta CanadaMember Posts: 314
    I tried putting my Kings Castle on a 48x48 grey baseplate to make it easier to move and the large plate to baseplate fit was almost impossible to do. Not sure if this because of slight differences in the mold or just trying to put something thats already built onto a baseplate. Maybe if you built on to the baseplates from scratch they would work better.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Member Posts: 4,401
    With all the modulars on baseplates not to mention the road plates, I am not worried they're going to disappear completely.
  • DaddyWhaleDaddyWhale Member Posts: 130
    I tried putting my Kings Castle on a 48x48 grey baseplate to make it easier to move and the large plate to baseplate fit was almost impossible to do. Not sure if this because of slight differences in the mold or just trying to put something thats already built onto a baseplate. Maybe if you built on to the baseplates from scratch they would work better.
    I suspect the difficulty arises from trying to fit an already built model onto the baseplate. There's a little bit of wiggle room in the model that makes aligning with the baseplate studs difficult.

    With respect to the availability of baseplates in general. They seem common enough in sets that are meant to be displayed - e.g. Taj, Grand Carousel, the modulars, games including chess sets. My guess is that sets like MMV and DA don't have them because they would make changing things around - where do you put the tree relative to the buildings? do you keep the buildings open or closed? - more difficult. After all, kids (bless 'em) like to mix things up.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Member Posts: 4,401
    Base plates were one of my favorite with which to play back when I was a kid. I do, however, leave room for the possibility that I may have just been a weird kid. ;o)
  • graphitegraphite USMember Posts: 3,264
    In my ~5 hours standing in LEGO stores yesterday at the counter filling PAB boxes I did notice that a lot more people than I would have expected looked at or bought base plates. Was interesting to see some kids actually excited about having a base plate and trying to decide between getting a green and blue or one of the big grey ones. I don't think I ever had a base plate bigger than 8x16 when I first played with legos and not sure I really would've used one as a kid, but as an AFOL it would be nice if they had a few more available options.

    Like I'm happy they have the straight/cross and straight/curve road plate options but it would be nice if they had a straight/straight package. Kind of hard to layout a town with so many curves and cross sections available without spending a ton to get enough straight.
  • DaddyWhaleDaddyWhale Member Posts: 130
    Just to follow up on my last post. It seems to me that sets have gotten larger on average over time. Sets with more than 1000 pieces were relatively uncommon in the last century. Now they are quite common. As sets get larger, alignment issues become more pronounced, which may make baseplates less play-friendly.
  • dougtsdougts Oregon, USAMember Posts: 4,129
    The 32x32 tan has been the only base plate in a released set since Pet Shop came out with two of the 16x32 green ones. I half suspect they are just burning through the last of the inventory on the tan 32x32s, and the other half of me suspects they will just continue supporting as few types of baseplates as possible, and our currently down to one.

    It would be interesting to know if the roads and plain grey/green/blue base plates they currently sell are recently produced, or if they are just back stock that they continue to try and sell off.
  • legomyLEGGOlegomyLEGGO Member Posts: 63
    I picked up several plates with the TRU BOGO50% deal yesterday - picked up greys, blues and greens (I forget the actual sizes). Though I wish the plates were connectable at the bottom.
  • rocaorocao Administrator Posts: 4,290
    Baseplates require a lot of plastic so they are expensive to produce. LUGBulk pricing leads me to believe that they add around $2-$3 USD to LEGO's cost of making a set, and more importantly, would represent about ~$5 USD more to the retail price of a set when the profit margin is added.

    My guess is that TLG's shift away from baseplates is a reflection of their belief that the customer's perceived value of including the part does not justify the cost increase. This could simply be a common approach at the designer level, but I wouldn't be surprised if a study was conducted and it is a company-wide philosophy.

    In my opinion, sets today are more model-specific, whereas sets from the heyday of baseplates presented a stronger concept of alternate building, for which baseplates would present a workbench.

    Nowadays, those desiring baseplates have the option to purchase them separately and obtaining them is easier and cheaper than having to mail-order them in the past. The plastic in sets can be put more directly towards models or to keep down the retail price. Making them accessories seems to make good business sense.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Member Posts: 4,401
    @rocao - Has this been brought up at all in Ambassador Forum? If not, any chance you or the good Dr. can pose this question? While I totally agree with your assessment above, it would be nice to see if we can't get a formal response from TLG. Additionally and if it looks like these are going to be more scarce in sets, I imagine some of us may start grabbing more of these discounted games and/or leveraging the BOGO's for cheaper plates.
  • mathewmathew Member Posts: 2,098
    In my opinion, sets today are more model-specific, whereas sets from the heyday of baseplates presented a stronger concept of alternate building, for which baseplates would present a workbench.
    That's probably true. I just built the Polaris Space Lab set #6972-1 and the instructions specifically use the base plate as part of the contruction. It would of been very difficult to build without the baseplate.

    Like others have said, the problem with the baseplates are that they tend to warp or loose clutch with large numbers of bricks. Still I kind of miss the old space sets with the moon baseplates. These sets are quite beautiful in their design.

  • rocaorocao Administrator Posts: 4,290
    ^^ Navigating the LEGO forum isn't easy so I can't conclusively determine if they've fielded a similar inquiry in the past. I don't mind starting a new topic about it, but I'll give this thread about a day or two for someone like @davee123 to come and impart some wisdom that would preclude the need.
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 813
    edited March 2012
    I vaguely remember being told that baseplates were pretty pricey to manufacture, because they're not injection molded like other elements. As I recall, they make them in large sheets, and then custom cut them in squares. Way-back-when, they used to cut baseplates to some bizarre dimensions, like 50x50, 16x22, 8x12, 10x16, etc. But now, they're almost always in multiples of 8 studs, which (I assume) is to cut back on wasted unused baseplate material.

    As for why they're not appearing as much these days? I would guess 2 reasons, but I haven't really gotten any confirmation:

    1) Price. Since Jorgen became CEO, a lot of importance has been put onto keeping things cheap. For every baseplate in the set, that's a bunch of extra pieces that would have to come out, thanks to each set's budget. So it'll probably only happen in certain situations.

    2) Quality. Baseplates are a nice idea-- but they have oddities with clutch power (some studs and some elements don't hold as well), and they also get destroyed easily by being bent, and are difficult to make flat again.

    I'd certainly appreciate hearing an in-depth answer to the question, though. Not sure if the ambassador forum will provide one (theirs are usually more concise), but it would still be interesting to hear!

    DaveE
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,191
    edited March 2012
    When baseplates were first introduced in 1950... TLG took all the "floor sweepings" of miscellaneous ABS pellets... and rather than throw them away... they washed them and put the mix into the old thin 10x20 baseplate mold.

    My favorite baseplate dates to that era... and I call this one "what if you dropped a watermelon on your baseplate".... ;-) (From Chapter 44 of the LEGO CD)
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    Has anyone mentioned any CIty sets yet? Off the top of my head, all the 2010/11 buildings have some - Fire Station, Police Station, Space Centre, Bank and Money Transfer, Harbour, City House. Granted most of these are only 8x16 plates, but there are a few 32x32 baseplates in there.
  • MinifigsMeMinifigsMe Member Posts: 2,844
    I do think base plates have their uses, and as long as they're available to buy as add ons, that's ok. I personally like the large plates they use now, I like being able to reconfig them, stack them on other sets/bricks/plates and they're reusable for MOCing floors etc, I just need to learn how use them properly to make larger floors.
  • natro220natro220 USAMember Posts: 545
    Has anyone mentioned any CIty sets yet? Off the top of my head, all the 2010/11 buildings have some - Fire Station, Police Station, Space Centre, Bank and Money Transfer, Harbour, City House. Granted most of these are only 8x16 plates, but there are a few 32x32 baseplates in there.
    None of those sets have 32x32 baseplates...they've only appeared in the modulars recently. The baseplates in the Fire Station and Harbor are just the crummy 16x16 "road" ones.
    Back in the 80's and early 90's, every larger town set (police stations, fire stations, town plan) came with a larger 32x32 baseplate, and some came with more like the Big Rig Truck Stop. It was much easier to line everything up and square up your city when everything came 32x32. I remember this started to deviate in the 90's, around the time they started to juniorize everything. Super Cycle Shop comes to mind.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Member Posts: 4,401
    I need to stop reading this thread because I now can't get Paula Cole out of my head...

    Where is my John Wayne?
    Where is my prairie song?
    Where is my happy ending?
    Where have all the baseplates gone?
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,332
    ^^7498 Police Station comes with a 32x32 base plate and a 32x16. 3368 Space Centre comes with a 32x32
  • natro220natro220 USAMember Posts: 545
    ^^ haha, thanks Yellowcastle...too funny

    @cheshirecat, thanks! Didn't see the 32x32 on the Police Station. But still, they are coming few and far between now a days...even in the Creator houses and buildings (log cabin, lighthouse, and from the looks of it the new Seaside house don't have them...and they have been a good source for baseplates the last few years.)
  • graphitegraphite USMember Posts: 3,264
    @Yellowcastle I first thought of Bonnie Tyler - Holding out for a hero. lol
  • dougtsdougts Oregon, USAMember Posts: 4,129
    ^ was thinking the same thing, having just sat through the Footloose remake (my wife's idea...)
  • dougtsdougts Oregon, USAMember Posts: 4,129
    and she really had to twist my arm. On general principal, I am ardently opposed to remakes and refuse to support them.
  • JasenJasen Member Posts: 283
    ^You watched the remake?? I hope she supplied liquor! haha
  • JasenJasen Member Posts: 283
    Back on topic, I still have some old baseplates, this is half, the rest my sister has. Even got the old Shell Petrol Station baseplate :) That set was great but the Space sets ruled my childhood :D
  • natro220natro220 USAMember Posts: 545
    ^love the old moon baseplates! I've got a few too.
  • JasenJasen Member Posts: 283
    ^love the old moon baseplates! I've got a few too.
    Yeah they are very cool :D


  • dimefielddimefield Edmonton Alberta CanadaMember Posts: 314
    Picked up a couple Race 3000 games on discount today, comes with a green 16 x 16 and a green 16x 32 baseplate
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