Review: Brick Fanatics magazine

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Earlier this month we mentioned that our friends over at Brick Fanatics were launching a new LEGO magazine to complement their website.

Issue one is now out and I've had a chance to read it. Does it fill a gap in the market or is it just more of the same? Find out after the break.


The magazine is the brainchild of Rob Paton who was editor of Blocks magazine and whose company Tiro Media owns BrickFanatics.com.

However, things get slightly confusing as you delve deeper: Graham Hancock is both deputy editor of Blocks magazine, a major contributor to this one and also the main man at BrickFanatics.com. Other people appear to be writing for both magazines and the website as well. That's not a problem, just an observation. I know both Rob and Graham well and know they are both passionate about all things LEGO, and for Rob in particular this magazine is a labour of love for which he has great plans.

So, bottom line, it's a totally separate magazine to Blocks but many of the current and former staff on that title write for or work on this one!

One thing that's immediately apparent when you receive it is that it's A5 which, for our American readers who may not be familiar with ISO paper sizes, means it's 8.3" by 5.8". I suspect it's this size to keep paper and distribution costs down. Its 80 pages are printed on a fairly thin paper stock but it's perfectly adequate. However, it does have the feel of those local advertising periodicals that you probably get poked through your letter box from time to time.

Inside, the articles are pretty much what you'd expect to find in any LEGO magazine: news, features and reviews.

The news section does not attempt to report on up-to-the-minute stories, because the website does that better, but instead goes into more depth on the more significant topics such as, in this issue, Forma and plants from plants.

The reviews section tries to do things a little differently, for example, by including an interview with designer Justin Ramsden in the review of 71043 Hogwarts Castle. The photography in this section is certainly much better than that in other LEGO magazines reviews.

A number of guests have contributed articles including Kevin Hinkle, who worked for LEGO until recently, and AFOL builder Jme Wheeler. All are interesting, but are too short and left me wanting more.

Elsewhere, there's an interesting mix of articles on old sets, improving sets, instructions for small models and so on. You'll find a scan of the contents page below.

Overall, I found myself reading more of this than Blocks; in fact I think I read it from cover to cover. However, many of the articles felt a bit insubstantial and I would have liked them to have been much longer. The page size has probably had a part to play in this.

I felt that the articles are pitched at a more mature and 'hardcore' AFOL audience than Blocks, which caters more for the casual fan and families nowadays, but they are by no means impenetrable.

So, it's a promising start and as I said above, Rob has big plans for it, so perhaps we'll see it increasing in size and thickness in the future. After all, from acorns do mighty oaks grow. I look forward to seeing where he takes it.

You can buy a subscription at https://www.brickfanatics.com/magazine/. If you do so, you may well feel a little 'short changed' when you receive this first issue but I firmly believe you'll be backing a winner that will get better and better.


View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr


Thanks to Rob for sending me a copy for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

 

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14 comments on this article

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By in United States,

Sounds pretty good! Thanks for the review.

Also, what is a “causal fan”? ;-)

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By in Serbia,

I'm sorry, but with the editorial staff AGAIN coming from Blocks, this looks to me like another Bricks disaster waiting to happen. Also, is there a market for multiple AFOL-targeted magazines? I don't think so...

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By in Belgium,

How to kill Blocks in one easy move. Get all the staff to write for another magazine, thus diluting the market further. Are they actually stupid or just naïve?

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By in Canada,

I find the cost of these magazines insane. If they dropped the price, I am sure more people would buy subscriptions thereby making up for the shortfall in revenue. In economics it is called price elasticity of demand.....could be worth a study for the bean counters in charge of pricing.

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By in United Kingdom,

@Sammael, this has nothing to do with Bricks magazine and none of the staff working on this one worked for that title.

Of course people are wary if they got burnt by the Bricks fiasco but as this is a completely separate company it's like comparing a subscription to National Geographic to one with Hello! magazine.

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By in United Kingdom,

@Huw, I may be remembering this wrong, but wasn't it mainly Blocks staff that left to form Bricks mag? It think this is what @Sammael is referring to above rather than suggesting its just Bricks with a new name.

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By in United Kingdom,

“Of course people are wary if they got burnt by the Bricks fiasco but as this is a completely separate company it's like comparing a subscription to National Geographic to one with Hello! magazine.”

Not really. Both Nat Geo and Hello are still being published and they cover completely different subject matter. As one who was affected by Bricks I too am wary of another magazine apparently covering much the same ground as an existing mag, and using some of the same writers. It would have to be radically different from the word go to capture my interest and I’m afraid that it hasn’t. The small size and low quality paper don’t excite me either so it’s a pass.

Good luck with it though.

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By in Serbia,

@Huw - I didn't imply it was the same people as Bricks, just the *exact same approach*: editor who works for magazine A starts his own magazine B to cover the exact same subject matter and pulls staff away from magazine A.

BTW, I very much doubt Blocks would allow one of their own editors to produce a competing magazine without repercussions - I'd be amazed if they didn't have a contractual clause to prevent this.

I am not a Blocks subscriber as the whole Bricks fiasco has turned me sour on LEGO magazines for the foreseeable future, so I have no stake in this matter. I realize you are probably friends with the editor, and I applaud the objective look at the magazine in this article.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ I'm friends with everyone, Bricks, Blocks, Brick Fanatics... you name it :)

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By in United States,

Looks interesting to me... but also not something I could see myself buying. Thanks for the review, though, because I was curious when you first announced it ^^

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By in United Kingdom,

Looks interesting. Can you buy it in stores like WHS?

I like my LEGO mags in good condition and if it comes by post, it certainly won't be that.

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By in United Kingdom,

Even if it isn't the same people involved it doesn't seem unreasonable that people would view the background to this magazine as very similar to how Bricks materialised from Blocks.

Not least because if memory serves this website very much championed Bricks and it's main players who jumped ship from Blocks. A situation which appears to be echoed above.

And we all know how that turned out.

To me an A5 publication printed on cheap paper seems more like a fanzine than a serious magazine. Perhaps instead of just selling it online they could stand outside Lego shops and sell it out of a box, recreating the glory days of football fanzines in the 80s. Though at £5 a copy (which the review kept quiet about) it is definitely priced more like a magazine.

I think despite the positive ending to the review, it's the question it asks at the start that is more relevant as it shows there really isn't a gap in the market that needs filling. Blocks covers the casual/younger Lego fan as they can pick up a copy on the High Street and the more hardcore AFOL will always turn to the more up to date websites.

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By in United Kingdom,

I was certainly curious when I heard about this new magazine so I decided to give it a go and buy the first issue to compare it to Blocks. I pretty much agree with everything in this review. I understand that this is a preview edition of the magazine of sorts so I can understand why it feels a bit cheap with the binding and the quality of the paper stock. However if you overlook all of that it’s is actually full of interesting articles, some of which are similar to Blocks I will admit but there is definitely a lot more content and not so many adverts (I’m guessing there will be adverts in new editions). Overall I was happy that I purchased it but do hope they consider making the magazine a little bit bigger in size and out of a thicker paper stock.

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By in United Kingdom,

I agree with the comments that the articles in the new mag seem a little bit too short - it feels more like a sampler than a full on read. I don't think it'll be different enough to warrant an additional subscription on top of Blocks. And while the content in Blocks can be more or less interesting (to me) depending on what the focus is that month, I still enjoy reading it each month - and that's on top of all the time I spend on LEGO related websites as well, like now when I should be working.

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