Sunday, March 20, 2016

Nothing But Brick's An Amateur Guide To Army Building

Today, I'll be writing about the dark and sinful aspect of collecting Lego: Army Building. Well, it's really not that bad as long as you have your life and your budget under control. I admit that amassing an army of figs could get pretty addictive and it could burn deep holes in your pockets especially if you're not mindful of your purchases. 

I am not an addict.

Here in the Philippines, Lego is a very expensive hobby since the malls sell the sets at relatively higher prices as compared to their actual retail values. I'm not entirely sure about the business aspect of the hobby but I could only guess that this is due to importation taxes and distributor profit, given that there is only one exclusive distributor in the country. Like I said, this is only a hunch so if I'm wrong, please correct me. 

The good thing is, there are growing communities of Lego fans who are offering alternatives to buyers with online brick shops that sell sets and pieces at affordable prices. I think this is crucial to local collectors who are working on a tight budget like me. I remember when I emerged from my dark ages, I started buying this particular set because I liked the printing on the main fig's torso. This was before I joined PHLUG and its online community of sellers. In retrospect, I think I could have saved a lot if I started buying the certain piece I wanted online instead of getting the same set multiple times from the malls. 

Based from experience, there are actually five (5) things to consider when you start army building:

1. Funds
Yes, folks. Moolah. If you're on a very tight budget like me, then we can't afford to splurge on our armies all the time. Lego is our hobby but it definitely shouldn't be our priority when it comes to budgeting. Savings, expenses and army building should be the order of our priorities all the time. 

2. Fig Design 
Before you start buying and splurging, I suggest that you first think of the overall design of a single unit of your army. The Lego Certified Store's Build a Minifig (BAM) wall requires you to choose a head, torso, leg and accessory for your figure. You could use the same exercise to design your army's "uniform". In a way, this would help you determine what kind of army you will be building. From what I've seen from local AFOLs, there are armies made up of mascots, knights, space marines, etc. Some have the entirely same pieces while others have units having individual designs.

My mini-BAM tray. I keep the torso and legs in another container.

3. The Head Count
Once you've completed your fig design, you have to finalize how many units you need. Setting this goal will help you set your budget and prevent overspending. Most of the time, this is a finite number. Most of the time.

4. The Hunt
This is probably the most exciting and challenging part of army building. However, this could result to a frustrating experience if you don't play your cards right. You have to have the patience to restrain yourself since you're working on a budget. At the same time, you have to have the right amount of aggressiveness to buy a set or piece that's about to be retired or go out of stock. It really is like a real hunt where you need to rely on both your instincts and experiences when you go after your prey. Rawr! 

5. Storage
Keeping bricks and figs has always been a problem for Lego fans. For army builders, there are plenty of storage solutions that are available at local supermarkets and furniture/homewares stores. I've seen several AFOLs use zip locks and storage trays for their figs. For my armies, I use 9x3 trays to prevent figs from getting scratches or dents when I move my stash around.

My 9 x 3 storage trays. 
My other mini-BAM tray. Perfect for costume parties and going incognito.

There you have it, folks. Army building is just one aspect of collecting Lego. Personally, I find it satisfying when I see figs lined up as if they are preparing for an epic battle. Right now, I'm focusing on a space-themed build to coincide with the ship MOC project that I plan to start on someday. Someday. But for now, I'm thinking of factions...

I hope y'all enjoyed this post. If you're a fellow army builder and would like to share your build or some tips and ideas, feel free to post them on the comments section. I'd be more than happy to see them armies. Happy Sunday, everyone!


  1. Wow....gastos! i know how you feel though...don't collect Lego's but I collect my fave character figure! Right now they are in one big suitcase that's already full!

  2. Personally I go through numbers 3-2-1-4-5 in that order.

    If it's a typical fig army, 50 units is a good number to start with. It can be more or less depending on the final scene in mind but that's a feasible goal.

    Fig design then plays an important role as you may either start with an actual fig or would have to hoard parts from other sets... Or even custom elements from Brickforge and the like.

    As you now have the number of units and the design, check for the initial cost. Make some alternatives if you need to (ditching dragon swords for normal golden swords for example).

    You could also have a leader fig, a small number of elite figs / generals, a few vehicles / mechs / seige machines to break up the monotony... It also adds character to the army.

    Lastly.... Patience. Tama ka nga, for me it'll be almost half a year since I've started mine. The parts are very hard to come by, especially here in the Philippines, and even in Bricklink. Just keep your eyes open and always have a set budget for your army whenever such an elusive fig / element comes your way.

    Personally, army building for me is but a side project for all the aforementioned reasons, given our setting. Making an army per say takes alot of planning and dedication if you're planning to hoard. Hahahahaa!

    Nice take on the topic btw. More power to you. :3

    I hope that my musings helped somewhat. :)

    1. Wow! Thanks for the insightful comment, Aaron! Are you a PhLUG/PinoyLUG member as well? I'm really glad we share the same interest in army building! Armies are really amazing and it's very hard to stop building/enhancing one especially when you see them minifigs standing tall together. What kind of army are you building?