Vacuum-formed baseplates have been in use in LEGO products for generations, including specialised plates with missing studs and printing to mimic roads and pavements. But in January this year, the company decided it was time to pave over that longstanding legacy.
In their place came 60304 Road Plates, a brand new system of brick-built roads that’s also popped up in other LEGO CITY sets including 60292 Town Center and 60306 Shopping Street. As far as the LEGO Group is concerned, this is the future of city layouts – and with good reason.
“The LEGO CITY buildings are built on regular plates which are not easily compatible with the vacuum-formed plates,” the company’s Element Design and CITY teams told New Elementary. “On top of this, it has always been a challenge that you could not build across a vacuum plate and a normal plate.”
However, those aren’t the only reasons baseplates have been slowly but surely phased out of most LEGO sets over the past few years. According to the same teams, it’s also a result of the company’s move towards more environmentally-friendly packaging, as decreasing box sizes meant the huge 32×32 baseplates could only be included in the largest sets.
“The new road plates offer greater opportunity and more flexibility for layout and scaling of a cityscape,” the CITY and Element Design teams explained. “Considerations that led to the final format were proportions and playability in the context of LEGO CITY models, but also versatility and scalability within the LEGO System.”
We’ve already seen some of that versatility in the reconfigurable 60304 Road Plates, but the new elements will go one step further in this summer’s sets, which recolour them to portray sand and water.