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What's your favorite unique City subtheme

FireFox31FireFox31 Member Posts: 305
edited May 8 in Everything else LEGO
What is your favorite unique City subtheme?  By "unique", I'm referring to the subthemes which don't repeat each year like Police and Fire.  There's typically one unique subtheme each year with sets across the full range of price points.  The themes I'm referring to are:
The announcement of 2023 City Arctic prompted me to post this question.  I came out of my long dark ages in 2015 in time to catch 2014 City Arctic.  Each year, I look forward to the unique City subtheme and they almost always impress me.  As a fan of animals, I'm always excited to see the new animals released in these subthemes.  City also hosted great non-conflict oriented space sets in 2019 and 2022 just like Classic Space of my youth.
I'm having a hard time choosing a favorite and would have to spend time comparing my top picks to see which is the best.  My top five are 2014 Arctic, 2015 Deep Sea, 2017 Jungle, 2021 Wildlife, and 2022 Space.
TLG, please make a full subtheme of Farm!  The last round in 2009 was too long ago.


  • PhoenixioPhoenixio Member Posts: 352
    Back before my dark ages, I was quite fond of that one wave of Racers sets with the animal-themed jackets.  Recently, Stuntz, even though it had two waves at least, also caught my interest a bit.

    While I do like all the animal-rescue and space-based ones, I've never pulled the trigger.
  • BrickchapBrickchap Member Posts: 1,547
    @FireFox31 What a great discussion! Thanks for posting!

    Hmmm well I really liked 2015 Deep Sea. The Deep Sea Ship was an awesome set with multiple submarines, a cool ship that floats and has a working crane, lots of sea creatures, and probably Lego's first complete shipwreck. It was also really cool how it was an interwar freighter with gold (great for kids tying in other themes like police or cargo). Also one of the few Lego flying boats.
    The 2008/2009 Farm was awesome, as was 2008 Construction Site.
    I'm really quite puzzled why lego has never made a complete construction theme since pre-2010. Kids LOVE Construction, and a construction site makes a lot of sense for 'build and rebuild' which is what Lego is all about. We do get construction vehicles occasionally but they are either super juniorised, or released on their own like the great new mobile crane. A full construction site set would be great.
    The original 2012 mining theme was an awesome new idea, I liked the realism and all were great sets. Likewise, demolition was creative (our first wrecking ball), although not as expansive as previous 'construction-esque' themes. I really don't like the newer mining stuff.
    2011 Space was awesome too and I liked that it was realistic, whereas more recent space themes have been way too futuristic.
    Oh and 2011 Airport was the best airport terminal we ever got with a great expansive line. Sadly subsequent airport themes have been less and less
    The current Farm subtheme was very disappointing. Sure, the new animals are cool but the sets were very limited, with the main farm set being juniors!! And a stereotype American barn with a pretty lame tractor.

    To answer your question though, I suppose deep sea because it was a complete theme (whereas others feel very rushed or there arent many sets at all eg Farm).
  • 560Heliport560Heliport Member Posts: 4,269
    My favorite is 2018 Arctic- I bought all of them, plus extra Starter sets. I added wheels to the #60195 Arctic Mobile Exploration Base, and swapped the rims to Bright Orange, to better match the TC 497 Overland Train, which obviously inspired the set. I also added a turntable to #60192 Arctic Ice Crawler.
    Second place would go to 2016 Volcano Explorers.
    IMHO Coast Guard 2008/2013/2017 could be on the list of subthemes.
  • BrickchapBrickchap Member Posts: 1,547
    @560Heliport Thanks for mentioning the TC 497, I hadn't heard of this before but really interesting! I'm surprised Lego still hasn't made an Antarctic Snow Cruiser; it's a Lego set begging to be made. Huge oversized tires (basically a giant Tonka truck) with a propeller plane on top. What more could kids want?
    I agree the Arctic themes are really cool, frozen animals was a nice change. I prefer the 2014 one the best (it was great getting an ice breaker). Volcano Explorers was also a very unique and creative ideas, with pretty well done sets (including an excellent excavator)
  • The_RancorThe_Rancor Member Posts: 2,623
    It’s interesting because some of these aren’t truly unique when TLG choose to redo them or add more sets on every couple of years - the Arctic and underwater/diving subthemes are good examples of those and they’re merging them this summer!

    One of the subthemes that I’m really surprised we haven’t had ‘in earnest’ for a long time is construction. I can only assume TLG’s market research leads them to believe that only 4-6 year olds want an occasional 4+ construction set and children older than that aren’t interested. The ‘demolition’ subtheme could still be regarded as unique though perhaps.

    One of my favourite subthemes was the Jungle one from 2017. I bought the full collection because the environments reminded me of Adventurers/Indiana Jones, the animals were new and a lot of the vehicles were also really well designed with that flame yellowish colour.

    Some of the more obvious subthemes you might think of stand a chance of being problematic for TLG. They likely won’t do Mining again for the suggestion of open cast mining being a blot on any landscape.

    I’m still waiting for a proper marina or harbour subtheme to come back again. Seems like it would have pretty universal appeal. Rather than one fishing boat every few years or so.
  • BumblepantsBumblepants Member Posts: 7,729
    Jungle and Volcano were both great just because of how unique they were. I think I mostly just got the jungle cats from bricks & pieces though. 
  • pxchrispxchris Member Posts: 2,438
    I've definitely been a sucker for the space sub-themes of City in 2019 & 2022!
    The Jungle sub-theme was also pretty great, as was the Wildlife Rescue one of 2021, especially for all of the animals.
  • FizyxFizyx Member Posts: 1,364
    edited May 8
    I was trying to come up with an answer to this, and every time I thought I settled on one I had a 'but what about this?' moment with another theme... I don't think I can pick just one.  LEGO has done a fantastic job of making each of the themes unique and interesting without overloading them.  I think I can safely say that my favorite three in general are Arctic, Deep Sea Explorers, and Space.  But... the rest really are not far behind, and a new Construction or well done Mining sub-theme could very easily join or supplant those 3 for at least a little while.

    EDIT:  I was also going to agree with @pxchris above and forgot to! The sets/builds in the Jungle and Wildlife Rescue themes were definitely not the best imo, but they more than made up for it with the loads of new animals.  I'm a sucker of LEGO animals of any stripe, but especially big ones like elephants and big cats :)

    This is a really great question!  Made me think quite a bit!
  • eMJeeNLeMJeeNL Member Posts: 821
    edited May 8
    The 2014 Arctic was very cool IMHO. Unfortunately it was before I really got out of my dark ages for System (I was getting into Technic briefly around that time), for fortunately I didn't as it's not really a theme that fits my collection now.

    But still, those sets looked great!

    2009 Farm would've been so cool to furnish my City; unfortunately I was too late (again). The 2005/6 construction line I also really like, and I am SO happy the BrickSet-Modular Building Site basically gave us the huge crane with a "free" building (compared to prices for #7905 nowadays) :)
  • FizyxFizyx Member Posts: 1,364
    eMJeeNL said:
    The 2014 Arctic was very cool IMHO. Unfortunately it was before I really got out of my dark ages for System (I was getting into Technic briefly around that time), for fortunately I didn't as it's not really a theme that fits my collection now.

    But still, those sets looked great!

    2009 Farm would've been so cool to furnish my City; unfortunately I was too late (again). The 2005/6 construction line I also really like, and I am SO happy the BrickSet-Modular Building Site basically gave us the huge crane with a "free" building (compared to prices for #7905 nowadays) :)

    I still have the Icebreaker from 2014 on my wanted list.  It's one of the only LEGO ships from a regular theme that I've ever really felt like I had to have.  And definitely wish they would give us more cranes/buildings under construction.  I'm such a sucker for a good crane!
  • JudgeChuckJudgeChuck Member Posts: 1,591
    I've got all of the Mars Exploration (2019),  Space (2022) and Deep Sea Explorers (2020) sets, including all people packs & polybags etc.. I also have some of the Wildlife Rescue (2021) sets.

    I'm not sure I can easily pick a favourite of those, as each has some really great features.

    I am very tempted by the new Arctic (2023) sets as well!
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Member Posts: 10,837
    Farm, but I have to say the Underwater and arctic themes have been attractive, especially with the animals in them.
  • iwybsiwybs Member Posts: 401
    Space 2019 and Space 2022 are the only release waves in any theme where I've bought all the sets as soon as I could.
  • BrickchapBrickchap Member Posts: 1,547
    @The_Rancor Yes, I forgot about harbour! Again, not sure why we haven't had a full 'seaside/harbour' theme since what, 2011?
    Kids love boats, especially ones that float. And while Great Vehicles occasionally gives us just about every watercraft except a fishing boat, even though they are all called 'fishing boat', where's our cargo ship?
    A cargo ship that floats and can be loaded and unloaded with a crane (also usually comes with a truck and dock) is an instant playset. It could also easily incorporate the new road plates, as well as connect to trains.
    A marina would be a cool set (I've always wanted a modern remake of Sail and Fly Marina). Side note, a flying boat (passenger plane style) would be awesome and very unique. Oh and I was going to say, I don't see anything controversial about a cargo ship (compared to mining or obviously an oil tanker is out of the question)
    I also find the probable determination on lego's part that 'only really really young kids like construction' to be very strange and wrong. Indeed, if that were the case then why do they release mobile cranes very often, (including the quite sophisticated recent blue one), along with Great Vehicles sets of cement mixers, dump trucks etc.? One of the things I've always wanted to see since I was little was a Lego road building set with a road layer (whatever that machine is called), a roller and a small dump truck. Another set missing is of course a construction site itself, which I really don't see why older kids (and by older I mean like 6+) wouldn't like that? We have more pieces for prefabrication now and more emphasise across themes on building sections and joining them (eg Creator Modular Houses, that new Friends apartment etc.)
  • Switchfoot55Switchfoot55 Member Posts: 3,485
    Although I own very little of most of these subthemes, for me it's definitely Arctic first, followed by the Jungle (of which my son owns all of them), and then the Farm themes. 

    I very much agree that these are almost always a highlight to see as they start to be released! 
  • WesterBricksWesterBricks Member Posts: 968
    I'm partial to the 2005-2008 "resurrection" of Lego City that also helped pull the company out of its dark age.  The style of the cars and trucks in that era were so attractive and solid, and the play sets were impressive, like #7905 Building Crane or #7900 Heavy Loader.  #7239 Fire Truck is held up as an example of the type of set that corrected the company's course, and it's still one of my prized possessions.
  • KeilupKeilup Member Posts: 268
    edited May 9
    Farm.  Ironically though I own next to none of them.  I double-checked and see there are 12 sets under the "City" > "Farm" subtheme.  I only own two recents #30590 and  #60345.  I guess there are other sets out there that are farming related, just not under the "City" > "Farm" subtheme like #316-3 or more recent #42136.  Seems as there are quite a few under the Technic theme, which does make some sense.

    So why Farm?  Well, I was born and raised on a dairy farm.  Spent many hours in my youth operating farm equipment and very much understand and appreciate what it means to be a farmer.  I have a small collection of 1/32 and 1/16 scale equipment as well as a fairly sizeable 1/64 collection that started in my youth.  One of my dreams was to build a large farm layout similar to a n-gage train layout or Lego city layout with my 1/64 scale models.  May never do it though.

    It would be awesome to see a big diversity of "City" themed sets around farm equipment especially if they were to say make them John Deere based similar to #42136.  With today's pieces and techniques, I think some pretty amazing sets could be created.  I've seen many wonderful MOCs.  (John Deere 4020 by Pehter on Rebrickable for example is excellent!) Then there's official sets like #7634, #7636, #60223, and #7636.  I really wanted and planned to get #7636 but didn't.

    So why didn't I get any?  Well, I guess part of it is I figured if I did buy one, I'd want to get them all (well maybe not the Technic as I tend to stay away from Technic) and of course a lot them are older, harder to find, and more expense.  So I just haven't.  But should Lego get serious about making a new "Farm" theme with great builds (in line with how impressive #42136 is, but in system form), I'd probably be all in.  However, I probably represent a niche market that would love to see a "Farm" theme in lines of how I would want it - broad and realistic - whereas the demand and profitable market is most likely more in line with the design of #60346.  I can dream I guess.
  • eggsheneggshen Member Posts: 602
    I really enjoy the City subthemes. I have six favorites:
    #1 Volcano Explorers - Big fun vehicles plus volcanos?
    #2 Deep Sea Explorers (2015) - Hits me right in my Atlantis/Aqua Raiders soft spot.
    #3 Arctic (2014) - I really liked the modularity of the "huts", really fun. Plus penguins, dogs, AND polar bears? 
    #4 Jungle Explorers - Big cats and cool vehicles plus an Indiana Jones feel.
    #5 Coast Guard - I have no idea why, I love all the boats. I've collected other boats in other city subthemes just to go with my coast guard boats. I collected all of the sets from 2013 and 2017, I missed out on the 2008 ones (other than the Tower set). And no, I don't live near the ocean or even own a boat.
    #6 Swamp Police - I like all the swamp elements (hovercraft, swamp boats, crocodiles) plus the bad guys feel like fun. Like they are the Dukes of Hazard and Smoky and the Bandit making moonshine in the Okefenokee while hiding from Boss Hogg, Cletus and Roscoe P. Coletrane. Where's Flash, guh guh?

    The thing I notice among these themes is the presence of a main interesting color - Bright Yellowish Green, Bright Orange, Earth Blue, Bright Blue, Bright Yellow, Flame Yellowish Orange. Also treaded vehicles are a plus and/or boats.

    I also like the construction and mining sets, but not nearly as much as the above. And I've been ignoring the newer versions of the above because I'm running out of room.
  • FireFox31FireFox31 Member Posts: 305
    I'm surprised to hear positive things about Volcano Explorers.  I recall the Brickset comments at the time being quite negative.  Perhaps just divisive because it's so different, which is what makes these subthemes great.
    It’s interesting because some of these aren’t truly unique when TLG choose to redo them or add more sets on every couple of years
    "Unique" isn't the best word to describe these subthemes but I've been unable for years to find a better word.  Outside of the city, non-perenial, non-conflict, exploration, etc.  They're all operating at some extreme (even Farm).  They all have environment or bases, more than just vehicles and buildings.  These traits keep me coming back each year.  And animals.  I'm a sucker for the animals.
    IMHO Coast Guard 2008/2013/2017 could be on the list of subthemes.
    Coast Guard seemed too close to typical public service subthemes like the perennial Police and Fire.  That also led me to exclude Harbor from the list.  I am most interested in ones set outside of the city (excluding Forest/Mountain/Sky/Swamp Police).
    I’m still waiting for a proper marina or harbour subtheme to come back again. Seems like it would have pretty universal appeal. Rather than one fishing boat every few years or so.
    I really overlooked Harbor in the above list, thinking it was just boats.  It really could be a subtheme with vehicles, environments, and buildings like the others.  #21310 Old Fishing Store taught TLG that people love seaside.  A full Harbor theme could include fishing, recreational, rescue, cargo, and settings like a sandbar/island, lighthouse, marina, cargo crane.  Paradisa reboot!
    Keilup said:
    However, I probably represent a niche market that would love to see a "Farm" theme in lines of how I would want it - broad and realistic
    By not making broad and realistic Farm, TLG is missing an opportunity for engaging play.  As you know, farming is intense and could really expose children to the hard work and "cool machines" which make the food they know and love.  Seems like #7636 Combine Harvester and similar machines would be weird and wonderful in the eyes of children used to seeing cars and trucks.  Now, when will Bricks And Pieces have those corn pieces in stock for be to buy a field worth of.
    Brickchap said:
    I'm really quite puzzled why lego has never made a complete construction theme since pre-2010. Kids LOVE Construction
    Perhaps TLG could appeal to kids older than 4-6 with the engineering and challenge of construction.  More than "big yellow trucks", it's about shifting huge weights, supporting incomplete structures, interior and exterior finishing, etc.  Maybe multi-stage building instructions where you iterate on one building by making a frame, then sheathing the exterior, then finishing the interior, then furnishing and adding occupants, pausing at each step.
  • 560Heliport560Heliport Member Posts: 4,269
    BTW I have all of the Volcano Explorers sets. I really ought to build a diorama for them, using my several hundred Trans Bright Orange cheese slopes from PAB. 
  • BrickchapBrickchap Member Posts: 1,547
    edited May 10
    @FireFox31 A new subtheme called something like Paradisa Beach or something would be awesome! After all, City seems focused on Downtown (which is 99% Police and Fire Stations...), and the wilderness (these unique themes we've been discussing).
    So it would be great having a semi-evergreen theme (under the 'City' banner) that focuses on the seaside with all the suggestions you had. It would be cool getting sets like Fun at the Beach, at the same time as a proper marina, various boats, as well as more industrial ocean stuff. It could also mean Lego make ships they haven't done before, like a heavy lift ship (those ships that carry other ships), a floating crane, lighthouse ship, generic research vessel (not tied to any specific theme), dredger, regular hovercraft, scaled down ocean liner, passenger and/or vehicle ferry etc. A cool set could be a fishing village with say 3 small traditional fishing boats (like the prawn boat from Hidden Side) and something along the lines of a much smaller Old Fishing Store. A 1940s style freighter would be a great set, loading cargo into the hold with on-board cranes and would make a good change from regular cargo ships we've seen before. (plus the addition of onboard cranes means Lego could reduce the price by not needing to include a dockside crane)
    I'd also love to see a flying boat station as I mentioned. After all, a 1930s/1940s style flying boat is a great way to have an 'airport-like' set when the Airport theme isn't running. Oh and a pilot boat. I've always wanted a Lego pilot boat.
  • BrickchapBrickchap Member Posts: 1,547
    @FireFox31 Ill start a new comment so I don't hijack your thread with an essay, sorry!
    I also completely agree regarding Farm. In my opinion farming is something the majority of kids can relate to (whereas many people, even here in Australia have never seen the beach or the ocean). Farming also tends to be relatively similar around the world. Educating kids (especially ones in the cities) as you say about the hard work and important role of our farmers is essential. I'd also argue Farm is a good theme for combining boys and girls, with both heavy machinery and animals. Farms seem reasonably popular in Friends so I don't see why we can't have a more complete farm line in City. I'd love to see an American farm, a British farm and Australian farm represented. American farm with the classic red barn, maybe a horse trailer, British farm with a stone building, sheep and a classic Land Rover, and an Australian farm with a homestead, ute, windmill, Hills hoist etc. Also, farms make more sense in being close to a city than a volcano or Arctic does!
  • BrickchapBrickchap Member Posts: 1,547
    @FireFox31 Finally construction. I really like your idea, indeed I'd suggest you contact Lego about it! Making it more educational is an excellent idea. We have good pieces now for prefabrication as I said, and yeah that would be cool building a frame, adding walls, then having little furniture assemblies to add. Maybe each set could focus on a specific of engineering, like a bridge that demonstrates the strength of triangles?
    As a side note I must say I'm surprised people believe only kids 4-6 are interested in construction, yet older kids are still interested in police and fire? It's especially strange given the similarities between construction and demolition (plus mining vehicles are pretty much big yellow trucks), yet those themes were made and not construction.
  • MaffyDMaffyD Member Posts: 3,579
    Space. The more forward-thinking/aspirational/futuristic the better. I have all the Mars sets with vehicles (I couldn't cope with the minifig packs) and all the recent Artemis-themed sets. They are very well designed. Although the prices on some of them were yikes until they got discounted.

    Apart from that I thought the vehicles in the Volcano Explorers sets looked pretty awesome. I'd buy those if I had more space (or indeed, less Space).
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