15 December 2020

LEGO® CITY Review & MOCs: 60304 Road Plates

Caz Mockett (aka BlockHeadUK) returns today to review LEGO® CITY 60304 Road Plates, which premieres the replacement for printed 32x32 baseplates that have graced city sets for over 40 years. Coming in 2021, it is priced £17.99 / $19.99 / 19.99€. Buying this set? Consider using our affiliate links: UK LEGO Shop | USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop, for other countries 'Change Region'. New Elementary may get a commission. The products in this article were provided free by LEGO; the author's opinions are not biased by this.

After months of rumour and speculation, the new LEGO® CITY Road Plate system has been finally unveiled. This review will examine the new elements in set 60304 and how they can be integrated with an existing City layout, either using regular baseplates or a modular system such as MILS.


In 2 future articles I will also look at the interesting elements in 4 other sets in this 2021 City release: 60290 Skate Park and 60291 Family House, 60292 Town Centre and 60306 Shopping Street.

New & rare parts in 60304 Road Plates


We do not know the names for some of these new elements yet, so I have used something descriptive to refer to them here:

  • 4 x Brick Modified 16 x 16 x ⅔ with Cutouts in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray  (6325635 | 69958) - at least one is included in each of the new City sets released in January 2021 which I referred to in the introduction
  • 1 x Brick Modified 8 x 16 x ⅔ with Cutouts and Crosswalk printing, in Dark Bluish Gray (6238358 | 71772) - this appears in 2 more the new City sets, Town Centre and Shopping Street, while another unprinted version appears in Family House
  • 6 x Slope Curved 5 x 8 x ⅔ Without Studs in Dark Bluish Gray (6325420 | 71771), included in all sets which contain the new road plates (5 so far)
  • 10 x Tile 2 x 4 with Groove in Dark Bluish Gray with White Stripe (6329624) - used for the centre of road lane markings, which also appear in the Skate Park, Town Centre and Shopping Street sets
  • 2 x Plate 1 x 2 in Glow in Dark White (6331687 | 3023) - previously this colour has only been available in plate form as a 1x1 round - and is also included in the Shopping Street set
  • 4 x Slope 33° 2 x 4 Double in Bright Yellow/ Yellow (6334233 | 3299) is a rare returning colour for this mould, not seen since the 1995-1997 Freestyle theme, and was only in 6 sets previously. It is used as speed bumps here and in the Shopping Street release

Looking more closely at the large road plates, they are the equivalent of 2 plates thick, with a shiny surface much like a regular 2x4 tile rather than the slightly rough matt surface of existing 6x6 tiles. Each of the 2x4 cutouts in the middle of the plates can accommodate a 2x4 plate or tile. There are holes between the studs in these cutouts, so that anything you attach to the fully-enclosed areas can be removed easily by pushing them from the underside. The instructions for each set even suggest which element provided in the set is suitable for poking them out (remember these are aimed at the 5+ age group).

Talking of the undersides, they are quite interesting in their own right.


The great textures and patterns found here inspired me to create something of my own which made use of them, shown later in the article.


On the left is the new slope piece, used as ramps at the end of each road plate. Closer inspection shows that it is pretty much identical to the familiar part seen on the right - Slope Curved 5 x 8 x ⅔ (15625) - but without the four studs on the tab at the highest point of the slope. The undersides are identical.

The build

This set is aimed at the 5+ age bracket, so as expected, the steps involved to put together the road system are quite straightforward. The instructions suggest three different layouts for the four large plates and one smaller crosswalk - and of course you can also add the ancillary trees, road signs and street lights in whichever combination you wish.

Ideas for customising the Road Plates

The inclusion of the printed tiles for lane markings will give you a consistent look and feel to your layouts. Below are some suggestions for customising the plates to give your city a bit more character.


You could start by adding a 1x2 grille tile to one of the side cutouts to simulate a road-level drain. If your road is intended to be in a quiet suburban area rather than a busy high street, you could add a strip of 2x plates with some flowers as the central reservation/median strip - here I added two 2x4 plates in dark grey to where the road marking tiles would normally sit, and then connected four 2x4 plates in bright green on top. These 7-wide lanes will be fine for the smaller range of LEGO vehicles but if your city has more real estate, and uses 8-wide vehicles, you could add a road plate to each side of the centre divide to give a wider boulevard feel: 


If you would like to branch out into a dual carriageway for your city, here are a few more ideas to separate the two directions of traffic flow.


And if you have a lot of room for your layout, they even provide the option for a full 6-lane highway.

Integrating the new road plates with your existing Modular Buildings


I know that many AFOLs have been concerned that the arrival of these road plates might mean that they are no longer compatible with their existing Modular buildings, which are built on the thinner baseplates. Given that these modulars currently have their pavements/sidewalks sitting 1 tile above the flat surface of the existing road plates, let’s see how we can achieve this with the new 2-plate-thick road plates, with minimal disruption.


It’s actually very easy indeed - place the new road plates directly onto the table, and then add 1 layer of plate underneath your modular, which is still sitting on its baseplate. This works out because the height of a baseplate sitting directly on top of bare studs is exactly the same as the thickness of a plate without counting its studs. 


If you are already using a MILS-like system for your layout (usually consisting of a foundation of baseplate + brick + plate sandwich) then there is good news for you too.


In fact, using the new road plates may actually save you many parts - since you will need far fewer bricks for the middle of the sandwich, and can then place the new road plate directly on top to form the road surface, without the need for the top plate layer of the sandwich. For the areas where you want to locate your Modular buildings, add the usual plate layer on top of the bricks and then place the modular directly on top of these bare studs. 

Original build inspired by 60304 Road Plates

As I mentioned earlier in the article, I was inspired by the shapes and textures of the road plates’ undersides, which reminded me of industrial architecture.


I’ve had these two spaceship MOCs in Classic Space colours built for some time, and I have wanted to make some sort of hangar for them for a while, but I was shying away from starting due to the number of bricks it was going to require, and the overall weight it would end up being.

Taking the road plates and ramps from all five of the City sets I was sent to review, plus plenty of parts from my own collection, I was able to produce Hangar Bays 3 & 4, the perfect place for my Rainbow Space Crew to hang out, do some maintenance on the ships and prepare them for their next mission. Benny seems delighted (as usual).


I was particularly pleased with how well the undersides of the road plates worked for the walls of the construction. Greebling onto anti-studs does not leave you with as many element options as studs, but I’m happy with the level of detail I was able to achieve. I’m sure these parts will be popular with other space fans who will find even more ingenious ways to use them for interstellar infrastructure, as well as their more conventional use case as roads.

Conclusion

This set will retail for £17.99 / $19.99 / 19.99€ which I feel is a reasonable value for money, given that you are getting 5 large elements in the box. I think they will be a good idea for City enthusiasts who have limited space, as they will only take up 16 studs of real estate to establish a road, without wasting a further 12 studs on sidewalks which are unavoidably present with the older road plate system. But they are also flexible enough to give the option of much wider multi-lane highways, and being able to add custom lane dividers will mean more unique options for the look of your city. The lack of a curved corner element is a valid criticism at present, but perhaps a printed part to fill this gap will be produced in the future (purely speculation at this point).

It is going to be a big investment to switch over a whole city layout to the new system, but in doing so, you can claw back some valuable table space for buildings and other features, while the new system is still compatible with the Modular buildings and MILS plates widely owned and used by AFOLs. They also offer MOCing potential for ideas which are not their intended purpose. For the KFOL market, I believe these new road plates will provide a more stable and flexible play experience and are far less likely to get bent or snapped when they are cleared into the toybox in a hurry.

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22 comments:

  1. Great review! Love these parts! Even just for using a minimum amount of pieces for making floors. I was wondering if you have some pictures of some cars (city, speed champions - new and old) on these baseplates so we can see how well they fit into the system.

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  2. Very good review!

    When you mentioned using wider lanes for 8-wide vehicles, keep in mind that you don't necessarily even need to extend the road surface by a "full" road plate in all cases. In fact, the tiled design makes it easy to use standard tiles to extend the width of the road by one or two plates of width, simply by adding additional tiles to the borders. Of course, using full road plates might still be preferable if you're basing your setup around modulars since the standard road units here match up well to the 32-wide curbs of most modular buildings.

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  3. Hmm, as this is a Classic Space build, the white lane stripes bother me.

    The original Space roadplates had some yellow outlines, it would usually look a bit subdued on older plates, not sure if bright yellow tiles would look a bit garish...

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    1. It doesn't bother me quite so much since this is a MOC of an indoor hangar/docking area, rather than a landing pad or launch pad on the lunar surface like other Classic Space MOCs depicted. Plus, I think the darker shade of gray separates this more from existing Classic Space colors than the white lines do. It wouldn't be to come up with a symbolic reason for using yellow lines for launch or landing areas and white ones elsewhere — off the top of my head, yellow lines could present more of a "caution" signal to keep your distance when ships are arriving or departing so you're safe from fiery rocket exhaust.

      On that note, I also find it a little weird sometimes to think about how the Classic Space baseplates always portrayed the planet's surface as gray, even though the box art of sets without baseplates always portrayed it as a sandy yellowish color.

      I think about this discrepancy a lot when trying to envision what a modernized version of Classic Space might look like — gray is more authentic to how we'd typically think about a "real" lunar surface, but yellow would more accurately match the more stylized/fantastical colors used for the theme's moonbases, ships, and spacesuits, not to mention the color of the lunar surface as portrayed on the actual Classic Space logo!

      Obviously, if you went with a yellowish or beige lunar surface, that would not be very conducive to yellow landing pad markings, although I suppose you could always portray landing pads as a place where the moon dust has been cleared away or paved over. It's all neat stuff to think about!

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  4. These would be really useful for anyone building a Lego city, obviously not me because I’m Fabuland obsessed! Smashing review Caz!

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    1. Before reading this comment, I actually never thought about this, but what do you think roads in Fabuland would look like? I don't think any sets include them, and the box art mostly just shows vehicles on the same beige or yellowish-green ground surface as other sets. And given that Fabuland was so much before my time, I'm not sure if roads were ever depicted in the animated episodes released on videotape or the storybooks that were included in place of a more traditional instruction manual.

      Given the theme's vibrant color palettes and bucolic visual language, I kind of feel like roads in Fabuland would probably be made of materials like dirt, brick, or clay rather than concrete or asphalt, and probably more colorful than those materials would be IRL. So maybe a light yellow like on the boxes might actually be most suitable for Fabuland roadways. It'd certainly contrast nicely with the green baseplates!

      Thinking about this, I also can't help feeling reminded of the pinkish plasticine roads in the early seasons of Bob the Builder, and the light blue or lavender roads in various adaptations of Richard Scarry's Busytown series. Back when Fabuland actually came out, these sorts of pastel colors would've been hard to come by, but thanks to LEGO Friends they'd probably be common enough today to use in layouts if you so chose!

      If you have any Fabuland layouts, I'd love to see what they look like!

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    2. I have mostly imagined Fabuland as some country town with more of pathways of varying width than actual roads... If you look at the instruction booklets it'd appear that Fabuland mostly had sandbased country roads.

      Although I also found an officially sanctioned image of Fabuland in a city landscape...

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/ff/Fabuland_-_Legolandparken%2C_Danmark.jpg

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  5. Thank you so much for this review! I'd been looking forward to seeing a review like this so I could get a better sense of just how the connection points on the underside are arranged, as well as how multi-lane highways or other custom layouts would look in practice (rather than just in theory).

    I am SO EXCITED about these new roads, and that's in spite of rarely buying LEGO City sets, not having any sort of permanent layout, and having gone more than a decade without buying road baseplates. Honestly, I've been hoping to see a more customization-friendly road system like this for nearly a decade at this point, particularly since 2012 or so when 8x16 and 16x16 baseplates started to show up in place of larger baseplates as the foundation for a lot of sets.

    Honestly, a lot of the compatibility concerns that people raise about traditional baseplates just further reinforce to me how much less limiting this new road system (and plate- and tile-based foundations in general) really are. After all, it would be no trouble at all to use baseplates interchangeably with these roads (or entirely custom roads) if it weren't for their irregular half-plate thickness, part-specific road width and markings, and lack of underside connections.

    These road segments also present all kinds of possibilities that might've been much more awkward with traditional baseplates: inclined roads; bridges/overpasses; sewers and subway tunnels; traffic islands and median strips; roads with cracked or broken surfaces; roads with more or wider lanes than the standard; roadside ditches; bike lanes; curbside parking spaces; and alleyways/driveways/railway level crossings that are flush with the rest of the road surface.

    It will also be very easy to use these as a modernized equivalent for the old 16 x 16 x 2 1/3 road platform bricks that used to be so widely used for train stations and seaports, or even for stylish driveways like in the classic https://brickset.com/sets/6416-1/Poolside-Paradise (which added a lot of elegance to the sets that used them, but were a pain in the butt to try to line up with roads).

    And truth be told, I'm even delighted about the way that these road segments match up with 8-stud and 16-stud widths that match so many plates, bricks, tiles, and finished models. After all, one of my big frustrations with the curbs of the road baseplates of the past decade is that the width of the resulting city blocks would be an awkward "32x+12" where "x" is the number of straight road plates between intersections.

    In the future, I can imagine lots of ways for LEGO to continue to expand on this system: for instance, curve modules that allow for curves at smaller angles than 90 degrees (like LEGO train tracks have always offered), slope modules that offer a simpler way of creating gentle changes in grade than flat segments and hinges would allow for, segments with integrated at-grade tramways, molded or brick-built segments with a manhole opening, or printed elements tailored to alternate uses like airport runways, parking lots, or racetracks.

    All in all, it's a super inspiring and versatile system that has inspired me more than any other sets in YEARS to get back into designing and planning city layouts!

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    1. Amen brother, no need for a reply from me now, I feel exactly the same

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    2. I have some plastic bags full of old roadplates from earlier generations, but I don't feel I really have the time and space to set up a city somewhere, anyway... However, it's one reason for me not to adapt to a new system and buying a lot of barely compatible parts...

      Then, it would be interesting to see how this system would be applied for things like curves and bridges, anyhow...

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    3. I would take your old roadplates if you are eager to get rid of them!
      I am trying to make an angle road -- and I think triangle tiles for an outer edge is the way to go. But again, they seem very expensive.

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  6. Although I build with regular baseplates and old-style road plates (and will be grabbing more road baseplates if I spot any stores around me that still have stock) I do like these new sets and will probably grab as many of the new City buildings as budget allows.

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  7. Hmm, and I JUST built a roadway for my Christmas Village setup...

    I actually have an existing road that is tiles on top of plates on top of base plate. Instead of making a transition from that to base plate, I could use this new road system to have a street at the same height. And it's much easier to have side streets or driveways at whatever location you want. I sense a re-work next year...

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  8. What annoys me is that these roads are the same width as the 1978 ones, that were intended for 4-wide vehicles. Now City vehicles are 6-wide, end even 8-wide with the wheels sticking out, it's a non-sense to have so narrow roads, especially for kids that don't have possibility to enlarge their roads systematically.
    -Evans

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    1. At least this system is easy to convert to double lane width, although that could complicate curving even further.

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    2. All those young kids, driving those extra-wide vehicles… it's terrifying.

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  9. One thing that particularly excites me about these new road plates is the direct compatibility with Duplo bricks. As with the 2/3 thickness sparsely-studded plates used in many Juniors sets, I expect that the underside corners will connect directly to Duplo studs, which will simplify elevating roads over Duplo filler.

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    1. Wow, that hadn't even occurred to me! Though the positioning for Duplo bricks is probably limited slightly by the notches, 2x2 Duplo bricks would still be able to use at the corners and the center of each edge, presumably, which would be plenty for support I think.

      I wonder if that's an intentional aspect of their design? It wouldn't surprise me if it were on the earlier Juniors bases at least, considering their role as a "transitional" system for kids growing out of Duplo.

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  10. Great article, thank you!
    It confirms the first positive impressions I had about these new meta parts. They are perfect for large spaceports, hangars, landing zones. And a great addition to the MILS layouts.

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  11. This is good set to make a very wide airport runway. Less gray plates needed. I always wanted lego to offer very wide plate for wide runway since their airplane getting wider and bigger

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  12. My buildings are all built straight on baseplates of different sizes. I don't see how this can work for me, without raising every building -- which isn't happening! I also have too much invested in regular roadplates of different vintages.
    I would think there will now be an additional huge demand for dark grey tiles. I also hope they keep the old roadplates.
    Why can't one use 16x16 baseplates with plates and then tiles on top?

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