A newcomers guide to BrickCon 2019
While BrickCon is celebrating it’s 18th year, I attended the four-day convention for the first time. In this article, we’ll explore my favorite talks, games, and MOC’s from the show.
BrickCon is an annual convention put on by Adult Fans of LEGO – also known as AFOL’s. There is lots to see and do, especially if you attend the full four-day convention. I was able to attend the full conference for the first time this year, and am excited to give you a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes—maybe you will decide to join us next year!
What is BrickCon?
BrickCon is broken up into two events. The convention is a four-day event targeting adult builders which is full of games, talks, trading sessions, and networking opportunities. It also gives you the opportunity to register in advance and show off your LEGO models! By contrast, the public exhibition is just two days, and gives the general public an opportunity to see all of the amazing LEGO creations, an area to build LEGO models using parts which are provided by the show, and purchase merchandise from several vendors. The public exhibition is appropriate for all ages, unlike the convention which is targeted at adult fans of LEGO (AFOL’s).
The full convention began Thursday October 3rd and ended Sunday October 6th, starting early every morning and ending late in the evenings. Tickets cost $65 (or up to $120 when purchased day-of-show.) As in previous years, this year’s conference was held in the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, providing a large viewing space for all of the models that the builders had built. This hall is also where the games are played, bringing a lot of energy to everyone in the room. The talks are held in the adjacent building, the Cornish Playhouse, a beautiful venue with modern architecture that is located right in the heart of the Cornish College of the Arts.
Just Build It
Thoughts before attending BrickCon 2019
Attending BrickCon 2017 helped rekindle my LEGO passion. Having been in the dark ages for nearly a decade prior, I stumbled across BrickCon in 2017 and have been buying and building LEGO ever since, allowing my creativity to run free. I also attended BrickCon in 2018, but again only during the public exhibition. I was not looking forward to the long lines and chaos I experienced at the public exhibiton, which I was able to bypass by attending the full convention.
Having written for Brick Architect for about a year now, I’ve expand my sphere of LEGO knowledge and relationships beyond being a casual fan of LEGO, but I wasn’t prepared for what BrickCon would entail. Having signed up for far too many talks and games, I was excited to see what the next few days would have in store for me.
The best way to share my experience as a newcomer attending BrickCon is to share my experiences and learnings. I’ve organized my experiences by day, to give you a better sense of the number of activities going on. Hopefully living vicariously through my experiences will inspire you to attend next year!
I met up with Tom before the “surprise game”. It turned out to be a team blind build, where one player can see all the pieces and the instructions, which they need to describe to the second player who needs to assemble the model without being able to see their hands or the parts. Each team was given two sealed polybags, so each player hand a chance to try each role. I had to build #30042 Atlantis Mini Sub based on Tom’s directions, and Tom had to build #7221 Robots based on my directions.
Since we were sitting on opposite sides of the table, we settled on commands like “away from the bathroom” and “towards you” rather than left or right, since our perspectices were reversed. Despite a few mistakes early on, we managed 6th place out of 37 teams, which felt like a good start to the competitive events! (We both got to take the sets home, the first of many free LEGO sets that we received at BrickCon.)
Setting up LEGO models
By coming early, we were able to see how each builder assembled large models using modular sections they built at home to create amazing MOC’s. The first model that caught my eye was Sarah von Innerebner’s recreation of the library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The contrasting white and gold, along with the brightly colored books adorning the walls made it beautiful to behold.
Another standout that I noticed on the first day was a recreation of Howl’s Moving Castle from the 2004 Miyazaki anime film, a beautifully lit Tron Light Cycle scene, and the beginning of a massive Jurassic Park scene.
While we toured the floor, Andrew Becraft (of The Brothers Brick) held “BrickCon 101” over the loudspeakers, explaining everything newcomers need to know. I was fortunate enough that Tom introduced me to many of the people he knows, but don’t worry, you will meet people quickly even if you don’t know anyone.
That evening, we attended the Opening Ceremony. I was surprised that so many people traveled from all over the globe to attend BrickCon. I already knew that BrickCon was a large show, but recognizing that so many builders had to travel with these large LEGO creations made them even more impressive than they already were. One of the common themes at BrickCon is free LEGO. During the opening ceremony, random members of the audience were picked to receive some awesome LEGO sets, ranging from more modest LEGO IDEAS sets all the way to the largest sets in the Creator Expert series.
After a busy first day, we had a chance to meet even more people at the Meet and Greet dinner in the tent adjacent to the Exhibition Hall. There was definitely a buzz of energy in the room… I attended the conference with no expectations, but in the first day alone I met so many great people and had a lot of fun.
On Friday, the show got a lot more intense… With events and talks happening all day, I had a busy schedule ahead of me!
Waking up nice and early I had my first event, the One-Handed Build. In this game, participants had to assemble Friends #41348 Service and Care Truck using only one hand. This was surprisingly easier than expected, however any relaxation I normally get from building LEGO dissipated as I got competitive. I did not expect to do well in this competition, but to my surprise I placed 6th place (the same position we got in the surprise game.)
The next game was the Individual Speed Build. Having done reasonably well in the previous games, I decided to try my luck and do better in this game. I had to build Star Wars #75214 Anakin’s Jedi Starfighter as quickly as I could. After sixteen frantic minutes I finally finished building the set, not realizing that I was the first to finish! After the judges inspected the model, i got first place since there weren’t any penalties for incorrectly placed parts. Since I was in the top 20 across both heats, I qualified for the finals. (Despite winning my heat, I learned that the fastes time in the other heat was a whopping six minutes faster.
In the Finals, I had to build Overwatch #75972 Dorado Showdown. I went into the round with an advantage because I had built this set a few weeks prior to BrickCon. Unfortunately, I made a grave mistake early on requiring me to take apart and rebuild a portion of the set, costing me about a minute. Ominously for the third game now I ended up 6th place. Even though I did not take first place, I earned a “Speed Build Top 20 BrickCon 2019” Brick as a prize.
My final game of the day was Master Build, a difficult game that would put my creative building abilities to a test. Surrounded by the impressive builds in the room, I did not think I would make it to the finals. My hopes raise when we learned that the theme was “Architecture”, although we had to build it using just the 174 pieces in Creator #31058 Mighty Dinosaurs—this seemed like an impossible task! I built a nanoscale fantasy village with multiple small huts, a tower and a perimeter fence. After the allotted 45 minutes passed, I placed my model next to the others. I was blown away by the creativity and outside-the-box thinking that helped some of the models stand out next to mine. This is hardly a surprise; BrickCon attracts simply the best builders. I did not make it to the finals, but learned a lot from the experience and plan to practice this challenge at home for next year.
Astrid Mueller from The LEGO Group gave the first talk of the day about The LEGO House – Home of the Brick. Having been fortunate enough to visit the museum in 2018, a lot of the material was redundant to me, but it fun to see the enthusiasm in the room as Astrid covered the various rooms and attractions throughout the LEGO House. I had not realized how much press the opening of this museum generated, and that it is rated amongst the best museums in the world and lauded for its architectural ingenuity upon opening.
There was also a roundtable for members of The LEGO Ambassador’s Network (LAN). It was organized by Kevin Thomas, ambassador of SEALUG (Seattle’s Lego User Group) and Sara Skahill, Associate Engagement Manager at the LEGO Group. The meeting focused on ways to make better use of the program, and ways that The LEGO Group could make the program more useful. I was surprised to see members from Canada, Washington, Oregon and Texas together in one place. There were also LUGs focused on specific topics: LEGO Railroad Clubs, and the LEGO Women’s group. It was great and refreshing to hear a diverse set of perspectives brought to the table. (Brick Architect participates in the LAN program as a Recognized LEGO Fan Media site.)
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Keynote Ceremony with Jason Allemann
The final event of the day was the Keynote Ceremony. They started with another prize raffle; I did not win anything but already received way too many sets from the games throughout the day.
BrickCon 2019’s keynote speaker was Jason Allemann of JK Brickworks, two-time LEGO IDEAS winner and awesome LEGO designer. Jason is known for his LEGO IDEAS sets #21315 Pop-Up Book and #21305 Maze but is also the creator of many kinetic sculptures. As the keynote speaker Jason designed the BrickCon 2019 convention set, a set I unfortunately was not able to pick up. His most famous kinetic sculpture is his amazing model of Sisyphus pushing a boulder. A set that has been built by many collectors.
Jason talked about his LEGO journey, going into detail about how as an adult LEGO fan he closely chronicled his wife’s exploration into LEGO as a medium of art and learnt from her fresh perspectives. As the talk progressed Jason explored the incremental journey that he embarks upon whenever he builds a new set, highlighting that every final model he creates has many prototypes before he finally gets it right. It was great to see his creative thought process in action as he shared how he built his Sisyphus model bit by bit.
Following the keynote was “Friends and Family Night”, when attendees can escort their guests through the show and chat with the designers in a more intimate setting. I appreciated having one last opportunity to walk around the exhibition floor before the hall opened to the public the following morning; a fitting end to a very busy day.
Saturday was the last day that I was able to attend BrickCon, so I wanted to make the most of the day. Upon entering, I was greeted with a familiar sight: Hordes of people. The hall was packed to the brim with people of all ages coming to marvel at the amazing LEGO models. As I had already seen all of the displays, I took one quick refresher loop around the hall before heading to my first event of the day.
The first event I participated in was titled Super Quiz and was hosted by Chris Malloy, Senior Editor at The Brothers Brick. Despite having decent knowledge about LEGO this quiz was extremely difficult and tested a lot of trivia about sets that were from before I was born. This challenging quiz was fun to take though as it made me want to search up the answers after it was done to see what the answers were.
I decided to attend my first LEGO parts swap event to meet people and to trade for some more useful parts. I received a bunch of cool pieces and figures in my goody bag and through the games I played, so I was able trade with others. (I liked how BrickCon gives every attendee five small bags with a large amount of a single uncommon LEGO element to encourage us to trade pieces with others.) I receive some highly desirable pieces, so through a series of trades I went home with many more pieces than I started with. I also traded some duplicate minifigures from home for additional parts I wanted. The vibe was very collaborative, and it was great to see more people get together and have fun.
The first talk I attended was held by Piet Niederhausen and was titled Storytelling in LEGO. Often MOCs are good because of their originality, part usage or scale, but what separates a good MOC from a great MOC is the story it tells. From setting and character all the way to plot and point of view, this talk covered all aspects surrounding how a great story can be told with any media, but with a focus on LEGO. In this talk Piet covered a variety of examples from simple to complex and collectively we told a story as a group. Due to the nature of BrickCon having lots of great builders attending the conference we were fortunate to have some of the builders whose sets were talked about in the presentation in the room so they too spoke about the stories that they tell with LEGO.
The next talk by Josh Wedin explored Breathing Life into your Minifigs. Where the previous talk covered settings and big picture stories, this talk focused on how to pose minifigures and accessories to breathe life into your models. Josh talked about placement of minifigures all the way to selection of the right figure for the right scene. By attending this talk I really learnt how a good MOC can stand out and become a great MOC just through minifigure placement alone. Not only was this workshop very theoretical but Josh applied a hands-on approach by encouraging us to bring our own minifigures so we can implement what we learnt in real time.
It was sad to see my BrickCon 2019 experience coming to a close. It was great to walk away from the event with some new friends, and a bunch of new parts that will let me build some cool new models (including some rare parts that I wouldn’t have been able to obtain easily otherwise.)