Brick Ranker Awards - Best Sets of 2023
30th November 2023
The end of 2023 is fast approaching, which means it's time for only one thing - to count down our favourite LEGO sets released this year.
LEGO released over 450 retail sets in 2023 (i.e. sets available to buy via LEGO or other retailers), and we've gone over all of them with a fine-tooth comb to arrive at the best 10.
10. The Orient Express
The Orient Express was one of the most controversial sets from this year because of its large deviation from the original LEGO Ideas submission. Many serious train fans were disappointed to see the French locomotive from the fan submission be scrapped and replaced with a less impressive and detailed locomotive that lacked historical accuracy. Because of the weight of the train, LEGO was also unable to incorporate motorisation.
There are areas of improvement however, the most significant being the carriage interiors that really bring the Orient Express to life. All the compromises cause quite a stir amongst the train community, but for non-train enthusiasts like us, this represents a great looking display set, which is why it made our top ten.
9. The Insect Collection
We’ve become big fans of LEGO’s botanical and nature-inspired sets. They’ve given us some exceptional display models and The Insect Collection is no exception. It features three vibrant and well-sized insects, complete with miniature habitats, that are enjoyable to build thanks to the clever use of some interesting parts.
8. Eldorado Fortress
The benchmark for a reimagining of a classic set is the Lion Knights’ Castle, which was our favourite set from last year. The Eldorado Fortress falls short in comparison, as it lacks the polished look achieved by the Lion Knights’ Castle. There are certain elements of the build that feel a bit dated, such as the foliage and surrounding walkway. However, overall it’s a fine tribute to a classic theme that offers lots of playability, which is why we like it. As people that grew up with the Pirates sets of the 1990s, we might be a bit biassed though.
7. Venator-class Republic Attack Cruiser
This year’s second UCS set was the Venator-class Republic Attack Cruiser. It’s a gigantic set, coming in at 5,374 pieces and 109 cm long and is flawlessly detailed throughout, with great accuracy to the source material. The set is very well constructed, so you can pick it up and carry it around without fear of parts breaking off. If you’re not a Star Wars fan, this will seem like another large grey ship, but if you are, it should be on your wishlist.
6. Avengers Tower
The Avengers Tower is an imposing set. At 90cm tall, it’s the tallest Marvel set so far, edging over the Daily Bugle. This makes it an eye-catching display piece and, thanks to its modular design, can be used to introduce some serious height into any LEGO city. It’s not the most inspiring build due to the endless repeating windows, but the finished model is worth the effort.
The set is most notable for its expansive minifigure selection - 31 in total - but this is also where it falls short in our opinion. Many are variants of characters we’ve had numerous other times, so there’s not much to get excited about, unless you’re completely new to LEGO Marvel. Overall, it’s a very impressive set, but one that could have been so much more appealing if they’d got the minifigures right.
Harry Potter fans have been waiting for a fully fleshed out Gringotts set for years. The set we got was more fleshed out than many people would have expected, as LEGO managed to somehow incorporate a dizzying subterranean level. From a technical perspective, the set is highly impressive.
The inclusion of above and below ground sections make this a very unique set, but in our opinion we would have preferred for LEGO to just focus on the main building and save us some of the expense, as the complete set is awkward to display. The set also falls down in the sticker department. There are fifty in total, which is way too many for a set with such a premium price tag. The Gringotts sign sticker is a particularly diabolical cost cutting measure that leads to a large gap between the two T’s, and ends up being an eyesore on the bank’s facade. However, despite these weaknesses, the inventiveness, originality and extensive functionality of the set earn it a place in our top ten.
4. NINJAGO City Markets
The City Markets was the fourth entry in the NINJAGO modular buildings range. It’s a subtheme that has set the bar extremely high in terms of design, playability, and shelf appeal. The City Markets fell slightly short of the standard of the previous three, but it’s still a fantastic set.
It’s an extremely fun set to build and play with, thanks to NINJAGO’s eclectic architectural styles, which leads to the inclusion of lots of interesting parts and unusual colour combinations. The cable car feels like it’s been squeezed in unnecessarily but it’s a nice new feature. It’s an eye-catching display piece and a must-buy if you have any of the other NINJAGO modulars.
3. Land Rover Classic Defender 90
I’m not a fan of Technic, but when I saw the 42110 Land Rover Defender I wanted it. It had a polished look not usually associated with the theme. However, when I found out we were getting a large-scale System Land Rover, my heart leapt. This one recreates a more vintage model but it looks just as slick as its modern Technic counterpart. The sand green colour scheme looks beautiful and has the added bonus of being true to life. Besides the excellent detailing, the Land Rover also has a very elaborate suspension system. It’s a set that offers good playability, while also giving us a sophisticated display model. In our opinion, it’s the best Creator Expert / Icon vehicle to date, and that’s saying something.
Decent LEGO planes are hard to come by, so Concorde was a welcome addition to the Icons lineup. It’s another highly detailed model with almost faultless accuracy to its source material. The set recreates the iconic droppable nose as realistically as possible and gives you multiple display options. The plane’s display stand is also a very elegant thing, which further adds to the incredible quality of the set. Being Brits, we would have liked to see the plane in its British Airways livery, but that’s our only criticism.
It feels like an age ago now since Rivendell was released, way back in March. A huge number of LEGO fans have been crying out for a reboot of the Lord of the Rings theme, ever since the end of it’s short life span in 2015. It’s therefore fair to say that this was the most anticipated set of the year.
The set didn’t disappoint, as it was incredibly detailed and captured the intricate Elven architecture remarkably well. The colours are also gorgeous, particularly the gradients used on the foliage. Although it’s a monster build, at over 6000 pieces, clever construction techniques keep the build interesting throughout. It’s a worthy winner of our “Best LEGO Set of 2023”.
If you liked this article, you might also want to check out our best minifigures of 2023.
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