This is a review of JMBricklayer sets, which are a Lego alternative. They make quality brick sets that look and feel very like to the classic Lego. In this JMbricklayer review, I go through how it is to build one of their sets, the quality of bricks, and my overall experience with this kits.
Review Copy Disclosure
JMBricklayer sent me these sets for review. I have agreed to review their product, but I have promised JMBricklayer nothing more than that. No money has changed hands and JMBricklayer does not get to approve this article before it is published.
You can read more about our Review Copy Policy Here (TLDR: I take this stuff very seriously)
What is JMBricklayer?
JMBricklayer is a company that is passionate about bricks. They contacted me because they wanted me to review some of their brick sets. I initially said no, because I did not really think the content would fit well on my site. But then I thought about it some more: could there be a use case for bricks in miniature gaming?
So I looked over their site again. My first reaction was: holy frig, this is Lego. Like, it just looks like Lego. As I kid I loved Lego, specifically the “Technic Lego” as it was called. But my love for that got instantly deleted with the rise of miniature gaming. But looking over those sets, got me thinking about how much fun I had playing with those sets back in the day. So I thought “screw it, we can have a review about this stuff if I want us to have a review about it!”
So I told the people over at JMBbricklayer to feel free and send some review copies.
They sent me a dinosaur, a spaceman, and a trebuchet. The naming scheme they have is slightly weird. The box with the catapult is actually called “3 in 1 Medieval Weapon 30001” and the spaceman is “Spaceman 70109” and not the “Spaceman 70102”. What is up with the random numbers?
My questions for the review were:
- Can these sets rekindle my love for Lego building?
- Can it be used in any way for terrain or proxies in miniature gaming?
- Will it be easier or harder to assemble than miniatures?
- Can my kid help in the assembly and will they be fun to play with?
- And most importantly: how far can the trebuchet shoot?
Assembly: My thoughts while putting it together the JMBricklayer Lego Alternative
I was most excited about the catapult, so dived hard into that.
The first few pieces flew on, but it was not long before I had some trouble deciphering the manual. Now, I have seen some poor manuals in my time (even the best 3D printers have some crappy manuals) and this is not in any way that bad.
But I have some trouble with spatial elements and at times I made some mistakes because the manual was not super clear. They have gone with a red color to signal where things are going and on top of the orange, you can certainly miss it.
At times the logic of how the manual did things also changed slightly, which confused me a lot. Sometimes you get told a number for holes/pins and other times you do not. At other times the angle of the manual was in such a way that it was very difficult to see what hole a pin went into.
I had seen that JMBricklayer has an app, so I tried to install that. I know Lego has an incredibly helpful app, that really nails how to visualize putting Lego together. The App was not available in my country and after sideloading it, it did not really work anyway. It also looks to mainly be the same manual with no extra stuff (could be wrong here).
Looking through the other sets, it was clear that the catapult was an improved formula on the manual and the others are not better. On multiple occasions, I was counting holes and trying to be sure I had the right piece, because things did not fit well. Most of the time it was my mistake, but there were also some janky parts where things just fit together poorly. If I was a kid, I might have been super frustrated with this and yelled for help (I know I wanted to).
Another element of the instructions that was bad: on page 35 I realized that I was actually making 1 of 3 possible different configurations of this model, but it was never stated in the manual. Looking over the set it says 3 in 1 and not that you get 3 different models. Ohh well, my bad. But why not start the manual by explaining this?
The components come in multiple small bags with numbers on them. This is a great idea, but the execution is not working. It is never stated anywhere in the manual when you need to open a new bag. At first, I thought it would be clear when I needed to open a new bag, but at it seemed super random.
At times I had to open a bag for one component, and only use the rest of the components in the bag way later in the process. At one point I needed something from bag 3, but nothing yet from bag 2.
Now, it is entirely possible that I am just really bad at these sorts of things. But I hope that I am at least as competent as a small child (but who knows)
There are a lot of components and a lot of components that are extremely similar, but just a tiny bit different. As I kid I found it fun to find the correct part, but as an adult, it was more tedious than I had first imagined. Has my attention span gotten worse? At any rate, after having assembled the catapult I have decided to do the rest of the sets together with my kid as. I will get back an tell you how it went.
Because of the random layout of the bags and the poor manual, I found it took way too long to assemble each step. It could definitely have gone smoother. There was also a point where I was confident I did it like the manual said to do it, but it was extremely janky to get the pieces to fit together.
Having the kid along was fun. They quickly lost patience after a while, because they just wanted the catapult finished and ready to fire. But they did help me find some components and put them on. There is no age recommendation on the set, but before about 7+ years I doubt any kid would have fun tackling this alone (but it depends a lot on spatial knowledge and skills).
Quality of the bricks and components
I was insanely surprised that the quality of the bricks where this good. If someone handed me the bricks and told me to make a Lego set, I would not have guessed they were another brand. The bricks are rigid in the right way and I had no hesitation to let the kid play with them. No fear of breaking the bricks or cracking a rod. In the end, that is what it is all about. In my view, toys have to last a very long time to be worth it. I am confident that these can be handed to my grandchildren at some point.
From a collector’s perspective, it was cool that there were so many different parts. Actually, an insane amount of different bits and bobs. While that did make it harder to assemble, it will likely make it much more fun to build something costume from these sets.
Finished product and using it
The finished catapult was huge and looked really good. From the box and what images I had looked at I thought it would be really small, but it is hefty.
I like the look of the spikes and the overall design of colors was nice. I could not wait to fire it with the kid!
Sadly, it did not fire as far as I had wanted. The kid did not mind at all, it was just cool that it could fire. I tweaked the elestac band a little and made it more firm and it definitely helped a lot with flinging stuff further.
The firing mechanism was smooth, but getting it loaded again seems really janky. This is amplified by the construction of the wheels. The catapult really wants to roll around, so you have to hold it tightly in place while you load it with another hand. Not the best construction for playing with the actual thing for a small kid, but not a dealbreaker.
Overall, it made me want to assemble more kits as the finished thing was nice, but the process detracted somewhat from the experience.
So I had a few questions going into this. Let us see what the answers are to them:
- Can these sets rekindle my love for Lego building?:
Yes and no. I cannot wait to build this with the child when they get older, but building it myself was really not something for me anymore. This was clearly amplified by how much longer it took than I had expected, but it ended up being something I did not really want to do anymore. So bricks with kids are great, but as an adult without anyone to play with, not as fun as I had hoped.
- Can it be used in any way for terrain or proxies in miniature gaming?: I had hoped I could somehow incorporate it into miniature gaming, but I do not really think it works. There is the issue of scaling and then there is the issue of how much it clashes with the aesthetic of the miniatures. Sure, you could use a brick set for terrain for a while. But I think you would eventually want something that is made for miniatures. And with how 3D printing is exploding, you are likely better off getting yourself a 3D printer for terrain and printing some stuff.
- Will it be easier or harder to assemble than miniatures?: For me, I would much rather glue some miniatures together than assemble bricks. My guess is that I am just extremely bad at following the instructions, but yeah not for me.
- Can my kid help in the assembly and will they be fun to play with?: The finished catapult was extremely fun to play with. Having them help, not so much. But it is an age thing. Maybe 3.5 years or older and I think it would be a great project to build together.
- How far can the trebuchet shoot?: Sadly, not far. I still have in idea of how to tighten the mechanism to really throw something far, but we will see if it works.
What I really like about the JMBricklayer sets:
Bricks are great quality
Finished builds look great and works as intended
The price is very good
What I do not like about the JMBricklayer sets:
The manual could be organized better
The bag system did not work as intended
Some parts were janky to put together and the finished build had some design issues