Getting Small with Nanoblocks!

May 02, 2014 4:37 am

With LEGO bricks, there are quite a few other construction sets that are available at toy stores. Some are direct competitors, like MEGA BLOKS and KRE-O, but others are not quite LEGO. One of the brands that is sorta like LEGO is the nanoblock brand, which is sold in the US by The Ohio Art Company. I was sent a couple of sets to review, so here goes…

crab and shack

The sets I were sent were the Sydney Opera House and Fiddler Crab. The Opera House is one of the Sites to See theme sets and with over 430 parts, retails for 26.99 USD. It’s a moderately difficult set, rating a 4 on the nanoblock difficulty scale. The Fiddler Crab is one of the Mini + sets with over 150 parts and retails for $13.49 USD. This one is not as hard to build, but still ranks a 4 out of 5 on the nanoblock difficulty scale.

The Sydney Opera House

box art

Box art, with parts in the window (which are in a separate bag and used in the model, so don't forget them!)

I’ll start with the large set first, the Sydney Opera House. The set comes in a group of 7 bags and three baseplates. The instructions are on one sheet of paper, printed on one side. Because of the size of the parts and number of steps, the diagrams are a combination of overhead projections and orthographic diagrams that can be a little unclear. The builder has to be careful, as removing an incorrectly placed part can be done with a little difficulty if they are the larger bricks. Smaller parts will need tweezers or needlenose pliers to remove them from other parts.

set contents

The complete set. The instructions are a flyer. A nice touch would have been an informational poster on the back of the instructions.

The building is pretty straightforward, with the build being pretty easy until the opera house roofs are built and attached. Building them was easy, and attaching them to the main model was pushing the roof to a ball joint on the main building. This requires a little finesse, as the roof assemblies are not very solid. 

With all of the comments above, you would think that I am pretty dismissive of the set, however, that isn’t true. What Nanoblocks shortcomings are are made up in their size. It’s amazing to see what can be done in such a smaller scale in building. The Opera House is not large at all, but is evocative of its unique design. Also, Nanoblock building is mostly stacking - which is traditional LEGO building style. There is some clever building that is done in this set to make the roofs angle, but everything else is simple building. The addition of a couple of boats alongside the buildings give a nice sense of scale, and the entire set can easily become a cubicle decoration because of its diminutive size. There’s a lot of leftover parts too.

set pic

The completed set

set front

The completed set front.

set with leftovers

The completed set with leftover parts.

set with pencil

And if you are wondering about size, that's a mechanical pencil for scale. The set is small.

Fiddler Crab

fiddler crab

The Fiddler Crab set is a polybag. A resealable one, too!

The complete set

Here's the contents.

The second set is about half the parts count of the Opera House but is pretty large completed. It has four bags of parts and a couple of baseplates. This particular set’s issues are in its instructions, which are unclear in some parts. Whereas the Opera House is a straight stacking model, this one uses rounded bricks to rotate bricks to build the legs and claws of the crab out. This is a really nice unexpected effect, but it also makes the legs delicate until the grab is secured on his base. This can be somewhat frustrating as the legs will want bend and fall off while placing on the base. Adding the claws is also a small challenge…most adult fingers are a bit big for this.


Here's the completed crab. The legs are held by single-stud connections. Nanoblocks have no inner tubes, so studs can slip, which is good and bad.

back detail

Here's a back view - nice detail work.

The end result, though, is pretty neat as a build. For a straight brick build, it does look like a crab. Since it’s a Mini+ set, it’s packaging bag is resealable, so you can put the completed model in for storage (you’ll have to remove the crab from the base). The parts won’t fall out of the zip lock bag, so you won’t lose parts.

Overall, the nanoblock sets are a nice group of building sets to play with - the retail prices are a little high (especially on the larger sets), but you can find the more common sets at reasonable prices at Toys R Us and

Also, right now, nanoblocks is sponsoring the Build It Your Way Competition - Between February 16 and September 1, 2014 you can upload a photo of your model and submit it in either of two categories: Under 500 parts and Over 500 parts. Designs must be original - no licenses or third-party designs! Enter your model at Good Luck!

And finally, BrickJournal is giving away a Sydney Opera House and Fiddler Crab set - use them to make an entry, or just build and display the sets - send an e-mail to, title line: I WANT TO BUILD SMALL! A winner will be drawn on May 14! Good Luck!


And with the two sets besides each other, only one thing can happen.....





And with that, Joe's chances to review another Nanoblocks set drops to zero.