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Brick Breakdown: LEGO City Alarm

(Written by William)

In this Brick Breakdown series I’m reviewing official LEGO sets but with a bit of a twist. Instead of just writing a general review I focus on unusual and clever building-techniques LEGO designers used in the set. This way we can all learn new building ideas to use in our own LEGO creations, or at least get some inspiration to look at LEGO elements in a different way.

LEGO Micro Building in LEGO Games

In this article I will show you the interesting building-techniques used in one of the LEGO Games sets, the #3865 LEGO City Alarm. Besides being fun games, many of the LEGO Games sets use micro-building techniques that are worth taking a look at. Building in small scale is not a new thing in the LEGO universe. In fact, it has been used very successfully in things like the miniature Star Wars sets. But today let’s look at LEGO City Alarm and see what kind of subtle building- techniques it provides.


Normally LEGO micro-scale building provides a miniaturization process. You would hopefully pick up a LEGO micro-scale build and be able to make a pretty good guess as to what it is supposed to be. In LEGO City Alarm, there is a subtly different approach.

LEGO Micro Building in LEGO Games City Alarm

It is working off the assumption that you will be looking at the models as buildings. Therefore detailing becomes less of an issue. This is where micro turns into microscopic. In this scale, it is more important to have a base representation of the model rather than something that is clearly distinguished.

For this reason, you would only need to focus on a single aspect of design. In this case, shape is the key factor. This allows you to tell one building is different from another aside from the use of color. 


But LEGO went one step further in designing LEGO City Alarm. Having shaped buildings is nice, but you want to point at a place and say, “That’s a …” So with the use of a single LEGO element – in most cases – LEGO gives an identity to many of the buildings through impression building.

A coffee-mug represents a coffee-shop. An envelope tells you that you are looking at a post office. Bars on a building form a prison. In other cases, a piece like a slope is added to capture an architectural design of the building.

LEGO Micro Building in LEGO City Alarm

The idea is that you will have some association with the LEGO pieces used. For instance, a pizza is a food item found in pizzerias. You do not see it and think shoe-store – or let’s hope you don’t. The trick in using this technique is to know what you are building and then associate it with a single LEGO element. This way the LEGO piece tells the story for you. The part that trips most builders up is that they try to over-think a piece’s use in smaller scales.

LEGO builders are used to creating exactly what they envision. This makes it difficult to use an impressionistic approach since it usually involves a large garish design that sticks out like a sore thumb with Christmas lights on it. The important thing to keep in mind is that it has its place just like in LEGO City Alarm. 


In most cases, building on LEGO micro-scale is not necessary. However, it can pop up if say the minifigures need a scale-model in their own world. Base representations also become useful as layout demos or even game-pieces in your own LEGO game.

As for impression building, it has a much bigger role then you may realize in LEGO modeling. Many times, it is impossible to have the proper amount of space in a design. Each time that happens, it is often better to simply create the impression that something is there than ignoring its absence. It is also important to know that creating an impression does not always have to be large. Many times having one of something can stand in for a whole lot more.

LEGO Games Available Now

I hope I helped you look at LEGO sets from a bit different angle. Instead of just building them according to the instructions and try to finish as fast as possible, it is a good idea to pause at times and study the building-techniques used. This will make you appreciate LEGO sets even more and ultimately become a better free-builder. Looking at things with fresh eyes and thinking outside the box often leads to new discoveries.

What new LEGO building-techniques have you learned recently that you were excited about? Or did you discover a clever way to use a LEGO piece on your own? If you own any of the LEGO Game sets, did you notice any unique techniques? Feel free to share in the comment section below. Would love to hear about your own discoveries!

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Ok, I have some lego stuff to share with you guys. First: I had a second dream that I got the golden minifigure from series 10! second: I was looking at my 100+ Ninjago playing cards and it made me sad how we are not talking about ninjago a lot…and so many people have forgotten ninjago 🙁

    • admin March 14, 2013, 10:54 AM

      Two dreams? that’s definitely a sign! 😀

      As far as Ninjago, I’m sure we will be talking about it again soon. Jay Vincent already conformed that he is working on the music for the new episodes. He says to expect more Nindroids, action and more flutes. Also, The Fold (the band that produced the Ninjago theme song) is working on a new song. The new Ninjago episodes could very well start back by the end of this year. 😉

    • ninja of awesomeness March 14, 2013, 12:40 PM

      i don’t think anyone has forgotten ninjago (i haven’t!) i think there is nothing to talk about at the moment on that subject! random thing i want to point out (maybe someday they will make lego universe again! i really hope so! i was about to buy the membership!) another thing about lego universe (i’m glad people got over that on the messege boards on http://www.lego.com

  • ninjanut March 14, 2013, 10:40 AM

    Interesting I noticed all those good micro elements, and i really like the helicopter!

    • ninja of awesomeness March 14, 2013, 12:36 PM

      yeah, the helicopter is pretty awesome! (insane!) i want a food item like the pizza!

      • Legoman640 March 15, 2013, 7:40 PM

        Yea so do I!

      • Chi Wolf March 19, 2013, 4:12 PM

        I have one!

    • Will March 20, 2013, 11:14 PM

      It’s not often that you see micro builds for City put out by LEGO. Although I will admit, my personal favorite City micro builds are the exclusive Mini Modular set. It may not have the elements like the pizza, dollar bill or envelope, but man, are they detailed in their design. They’re even cooler when you have the full scale modular building to compare it to.

  • wow, You get a lor of $100 in that game! 😀

    • Will March 20, 2013, 11:15 PM

      It’s the perfect set to pick up if you’re ever planning to build a LEGO heist. 😉

  • lot*

  • robin hood March 14, 2013, 1:27 PM

    i got a lego heroica set a year ago and it was relly cool

    • Will March 20, 2013, 11:17 PM

      Many of the Heroica line build on the same scale that City Alarm does. I personally like the bridge design and the various trees that Heroica uses. Also it was neat to see the window frames being used as doors. All in all, it’s a good set to compare City Alarm to.

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