Monthly Archives: March 2012

Lego Minecraft Building Tips

The official Lego Minecraft set looks really good and does a great job at capturing the feel of a Minecraft environment. However having looked at various pictures of the set, I realised that apart from the couple of custom pieces with faces printed on them, we had the majority of the pieces for the set already. So we just went ahead and made some scenes ourselves.

Combined with its apparently small size, this doesn’t give us a great deal of incentive to pay the rather steep asking price (£29.99 in the UK) for the sets. I’d prefer to just buy any additional pieces we need from Bricklink. For example to get the look right, you need a lot of 1×1 tiles.

I’ve written here before about creating custom Lego sets, so I thought I’d share some notes and pointers on creating your own Lego Minecraft creations.

Notes on Scale

Lego bricks aren’t square blocks, so you can’t simply equate one brick to one block in Minecraft. Minifigs also don’t have the blocky feel of Minecraft mobs.

As you can see from the pictures of the sets and as noted in this wired piece, the designers of the official set have instead opted to make it a smaller “microscale” set.

Microscale building allows the creation of some incredibly detailed models by scaling down the model. This gives a closer fit to Minecraft, but means that you’re typically building with the smallest lego pieces — 1×1 plates, tiles, blocks, etc — rather than the larger bricks.

By the way, I’m not sure of which nomenclature your family uses, but I’ll try and stick to the catalog names here, to make the pieces easier to find in Bricklink if you do decide to purchase some extra pieces.

At microscale a single Minecraft block is roughly equivalent to a 1×1 brick with a 1×1 plate or tile on top.

3 Lego plates stacked together is the same height as 1 Lego brick which gives you a way to make slopes, hills, etc.

At microscale you either need to make your own minifigs and animals or use some of the microscale minifigs that come with Lego Heroica or the other recent Lego board games.

Colours

Minecraft doesn’t use a huge colour palette so its easy to map the various blocks to an appropriate Lego colour.

Here’s a run-down of some of the useful colours:

Colour ID Usage
White 1 Snow, Wool
Light Bluish Gray 86 Clay
Light Gray 9 Cobblestone
Dark Gray 10 Cobblestone
Black 11 Obsidian, Coal
Red 5 Lava
Brown 8 Dirt or Wood
Tan 2 Sand or Sandstone
Green 6 Grass or Leaves
Lime (or Bright Green) 34 (or 36) Leaves
Blue 7 Water
Trans-clear 12 Glass
Trans-red 17 Lava
Trans-Light blue 15 Water, Diamond, or Ice

Those are the colours that I’ve picked out from the official set, plus some additions of my own. Clearly there are many more colours you can use to create other types of blocks. For example there are lots of different colours of Wool which map over well.

If you browse the Lego colour list you can also find some chrome, pearl, metallic and speckled colours that could also be mixed in to add more detail.

The main limitation in recreating all of the Minecraft blocks is the lack of detailing on the blocks themselves. But if you sandwich a 1×1 red plate between two 1×1 light gray plates then you have a reasonable attempt at a Red Stone Ore block. Use the same technique to simulate other Ore blocks.

I’m a little surprised there isn’t a greater variety of colours and block types included with the official set. Perhaps there are more pieces than are visible in the published images. But this is all the more reason to have a go at creating something yourself.

Suggested Part List

In general you’ll want a mixture of Bricks, Plates and Tiles.

Bricks are used to build up the underlying terrain, including caverns, mountains, etc. You’ll therefore mostly want these in Light and Dark Grey.

Plates are used to build up the layers of the model to add detail. Larger plates can be used as the basis of the model, particularly if you’re aiming for a modular design similar to the official set.

Tiles are the flat pieces that don’t have any studs on top. These are used to “finish” off the model and give a nice smooth terrain.

Generally speaking you’ll want to have smaller versions of each of these types, e.g. 1×1 or 1×2, as these give more of a Minecraft feel to the design. But you can easily substitute larger pieces. We used some larger blue tiles for building some sea when we ran out of smaller pieces.

Here is a complete suggested parts list which is based partly on inspecting the pictures of the official Minecraft set plus some additions of my own. You can use this as a shopping list if you want to buy some pieces from Bricklink.

That might seem like a long list but a lot of these are basic Lego pieces that come with a lot of models. Depending on the size or complexity of the model you want to make you might want some larger plates, bricks or tiles, or additional pieces such as corners.

Buying Parts

To buy pieces from Bricklink, click through to the catalog entry and then select a colour. You can then see “Lots for Sale” for all the available colours, as well as a Price Guide. If you register with the site then you can build up a wishlist of parts.

I’ve typically found that I need to place orders with several vendors to assemble all the parts I need. Most vendors seem happy to accept even fairly small orders.

Microfigs

The official minecraft microfig pieces are easy to recreate, minus the custom decals:

Steve:

  • Plate 1×1, Black (1)
  • Brick 1×1, Blue (1)
  • Plate 1×12, Tan (2)
  • Tile 1×1, Brown (1)

Creeper:

For our attempt at the Creeper we substituted a 1×1 Brick For a Black 1×1 plate sandwiched between 2 Green 1×1 plates.  You can see that, plus an attempt at a cow and a skeleton in this photo.

If you want to make a Chicken then these pieces make good beaks.

Unfortunately, according to Bricklink, there aren’t any small plates, bricks or tiles in any shade of pink, which means no Pigs! Cheer yourself up by making one out of paper instead.

Modular Building

All lego sets are modular: you can tear them down and create whatever you want. But there are a number of ways in which you can make sections of a larger build modular, allowing you to recombine larger sections into new configurations. There are two techniques used in the official Lego set: Modular Landscape and Modular Surface.

As you can see from the pictures the official set consists of 4 separate landscape pieces. These make up a Modular Landscape because they can be fixed together in several different configurations. This is achieved by building each section of the landscape on top of a separate 6×6 plate, with no overlapping bricks. Immediately on top of those base plates you can add in 4 Technic Brick 1×2 with Axle Holes. By adding in some axles you end up with a simple way to fix the landscape sections together along any of their sides. With a little thought to how you build the surface components you can create some nicely reconfigurable scenes.

What about Modular Surface features? If you look closely at this picture in the Wired gallery you can see that the landscape sections themselves can be broken down to give access to the caverns underneath the surface. This is done by building the surface features on a brown 6×6 plate which is then stuck onto the underlying rock section.

To make the surface easy to remove the rock section has been “capped off” using a number of tiles (Tile 1×3, Tile 1×4, Tile 1×6) so that most of the studs are covered. By adding a Plate, Modified 1×4 with 2 Studs you end up with a couple of studs that crown off the base rock section. These studs provide enough “clutch power” to hold the model together but still give easy access to other sections without requiring a lot of fiddling around: plates can be very hard to pull apart.

Summary

Hopefully that’s given some food for thought about how to approach building some of your own Lego Minecraft creations. With a good working set of parts in the necessary colours you can create some great models.

I’ve not priced up a complete working set but with the larger, rarer pieces costing a most a few pence at Bricklink, it should be possible to assemble what you need cheaper than buying the full official set.

Even if you decide to go ahead and buy the official set, buying more parts and using the same modular building techniques will let you create some useful customizations.

Happy building.

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