Review: LEGO 31203 World Map (Part 1)

LEGO 31203 World Map Australia

2021 has been a year of many surprises (some pleasant, some not) from LEGO, and 31203 World Map is definitely one of them.

It now holds the title of “biggest LEGO set” thanks to its 11,695 elements, famously knocking off the LEGO Colosseum from its perch, but I think the title isn’t really deserved as 99% of the set is made of 1×1 round tiles and studs. It is large, measuring over 1 metre across when complete but it’s more accurate to say that the LEGO World Map has the most elements in retail set.

This review will deviate slightly from my usual format, as I’m breaking it up into 2 parts, and in Part 1 I’ll go through my experience building it, and how I felt about the World Map’s proposition – not only as a LEGO Art set, but as a product aimed squarely at world travellers, and those consumed by wanderlust.

This LEGO World Map will cost US$249.99 / £229.99 / AU$399.99 and will be released on LEGO.com & LEGO Brand Stores on 1 June 2021, before a wider retail release from 1 August 2021 onwards.

See below for regional pricing and links:

Special thanks to LEGO for providing this review set.

LEGO 31203 World Map Box

Name: World Map
Set Number: 31203
Pieces: 11,695
Price: US$249.99 / AU$399.99 / £229 [USA] [AUS] [UK]
Exclusive to: LEGO Brand Retail Stores, LEGO.com
Theme: Art
Release Date: 1 June 2021

Let’s set the stage for this review, which will be useful if you’re reading this from the future in a post-Covid world where borders are re-opened and the spectre of a global pandemic no longer overshadows us as a species.

For many of us, we’ve had to endure months of lockdown and restricted movement. In Australia, we’ve been largely kept from leaving our island continent, and we’ve been in and out of various local lockdowns.

International travel is all but a forgotten memory, and my passport is languishing in a drawer somewhere, along with the disappointment of cancelled overseas travels, and prospect that international travel remains closed off for the foreseeable future.

LEGO 31203 World Map Sorting Tray Dots 2

This is a big set, that will probably take me over 10 hours to complete. I’ve been chipping away at the World Map for a few nights now. Given the size, and how the set is meant to be put together (hint: don’t rush through it), I’ve opted to take it slow and use the LEGO World Map as a form of relaxation and mindfullness.

It’s been a frantic few weeks for me – I’ve had many late nights working on delivering a massive project at work, which has been a constant form of pressure, anxiety and has sucked up a lot of my mental capacity, so when my laptop shuts at 9-ish PM at night and household chores are completed, I look forward to putting a few square plates together before rolling off to bed and starting my day all over again.

Here’s what the instructions for each board looks like – there are 10 primary elements made up of white studs, and 1 x 1 round tiles make up the colours.

LEGO 31203 World Map Sorting Tray Dots

The thousands of studs arrive in bags, so I used an old Dots tray to sort the colours out – of course you can use small glass bowls, or cups, but I felt like the Dots worked well here with the different-sized compartments for the that came in handy for the more common components.

LEGO 31203 World Map Work in Progress Plate
LEGO 31203 World Map Instructions

You’re in for a long build with this one, and depending on your preference, can be quite tedious. You do need to pay attention to the placement of the tiles as one misplaced tile can throw you off quite a bit.

Walking into the set, I was actually dreading the build as I had initially planned to speed-build and rush out a review in time for the reveal, however I quickly found that it was cumbersome and not enjoyable, which is why I’ve decided to take my time with the build which tremendously improved the entire experience.

LEGO 31203 World Map Instructions 2
LEGO 31203 World Map Instructions 4

I listen to podcasts when I build LEGO – I find audio programs very engaging and also relaxing when building with LEGO, and use the time to catch up on my favourite podcasts.

The LEGO World Map comes with its own soundtrack – about an hour-long podcast episode on travelling the world, featuring the following guests

  • Syazwani Baumgartner from the “Travel Muse Family” blog who shares her experience of visiting one of the most remote villages in the world.
  • Torbjørn C. Pedersen who was the first person in history to visit every country in one unbroken journey without flying.
  • Dane & Stacey, a New Zealand couple who run a travel YouTube channel called “Daneger & Stacey”, who speak about a trip to the Cook Islands.
  • Ernest White II who is anAmerican travel TV producer and host.
  • Fiorella Groves, a LEGO designer and travel lover.
Fiorella Groves

I highly recommend listening to the companion podcast (and wish it was longer!) and got quite emotional throughout.

I particularly enjoyed Design Manager, Fiorella Groves’ insights into the design of the World Map, and how they settled at a Bathymetric version from their initial design concept with more defined land-masses with borders.

Personal Story-time

Hearing these travel stories, especially those that have made travel their vocation made me yearn to travel once again, and the LEGO World Map has those that have travelled extensively, or have an interest in geography squarely in their sights.

Travel is an interesting topic, and can mean many things to many people, and all the stories in the podcast had a similar thread – that exploring different countries and cultures vastly made you a better person.

Travel is also a privilege, something that not many people get the opportunity of doing so, and building the world map made me reflect on my own history with exploring the globe.

I am not as well-travelled as I would have liked to be, although I have been fortunate to grow up in Malaysia, and now call Australia home.

Travel for me was a choice – starting a young family makes travel challenging for obvious reasons, and we had all these grand plans of seeing more of the world when my daughter was older, but those dreams have been put on hold thanks to the Pandemic.

While building the map, I really enjoyed reminiscing of countries I’ve travelled to

Shinjuku Gyoen Cherry Blossom 1

In another life (pre-having kids), I spent a lot of my overseas holidays in Japan. Me and my wife have a lifelong love of the country, and especially the food – so much so that I tried to start a travel blog documenting our first Japanese holiday in 2015, and all the amazing food that we had there.

That said, because of my focus on work and starting a family, travelling for leisure soon took a backseat, where any international holidays were reserved for heading back home to visit friends, or to attend overseas weddings of those close to us.

Thanks to coronavirus hindsight, I do wish that we had travelled and seen more of the world before borders were ultimately closed off to us, and building the World Map, and listening to these travel stories on the podcast was a nice way to live (and travel) vicariously, as well as dream about where we’d go to when we’re allowed to travel again. It’s probably Japan.

LEGO 31203 World Map Instructions 1

There are 40 boards in total, which you can tackle in any way, and the map is broken up loosely into 3 main sections – the Americas (AMS), Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) which are coincidentally The LEGO Group’s primary regions of business and how they divide their global footprint.

LEGO 31203 World Map Tiles
LEGO 31203 World Map South America

The build is fascinating – with each plate, the burst of colours are jumbled, and it’s not immediately apparent what you’re building – looking like a chaotic bowl of jelly beans at times.

White studs are slightly raised and are used to represent landmasses, whereas the oceans multicoloured tiles are based on bathymetry maps, that depict the submerged topography and physiographic features of ocean and sea bottoms.

LEGO 31203 World Map Progress So Far

A really enjoyable and fulfilling part of the build is when you start piecing the separate plates together, and suddenly, familiar land-masses and silhouettes begin to take shape.

It’s very satisfying to look at, and personally, I love the vibrant colours used in the oceans, and the stark white continents which contrast really nicely.

Here’s what I’ve completed so far – the Americas, and then I skipped straight to Asia Pacific (specifically Australia) as I wanted to build something a bit more closer to home.

LEGO 31203 World Map Australia

The studs for the landmasses also serve as a canvas for further customisation and personalisation.

Like any map, you can “pin” different cones across the landmasses, to mark where you’ve been to, or where you plan to go to once the world opens back up again.

I think this is where the World Map truly shines, and I already have plans of how I’m going to customise and personalise my World Map when it’s completed. I’m thinking minifigures, printed tiles from Dots, and maybe some LEGO animals that are endemic to specific continents or countries.

LEGO 31203 World Map Progress So Far

Until then, I don’t have a firm timeline of when I’ll finish the World Map, but I will enjoy and savour every bit of the build.

Like a massive puzzle, I think this is one of those experiences that you should drag out for as much as possible, and avoid rushing it as it can get quite tedious if you try to speedrun the LEGO World Map.

From what I’ve built so far – it’s really not for everyone, especially if you enjoy ingenious builds. Once complete, it’s a massive set to display on (if you have the wall space) but from the looks of it so far, will make an excellent piece of home decoration that will surely spark conversations and intrigue, especially if you have visitors over.

The full RRP of the set is a little pricey, and I fully expect these to be discounted quite deeply when they arrive at Australian retailers like Amazon. The going-rate for LEGO Art sets is about AU$99 (approx 50% off) so it would be realistic to expect similar discounting for this.

If you are in the market for some home decor, and want to spice up the walls in your home, the LEGO World Map should absolutely be on your wishlist.

If you love cartography and maps, the World Map should also be on your list, especially if you’re an avid traveller and want to personalise it to your own travels and adventures.

This has been a really unique experience personally, that I think transcends the actual LEGO elements used for the World Map. It’s taken me back to places I’ve visited, and in an age without international travel, makes for a potent reminder that I am part of a much bigger world, much of which I’ve not explored or discovered for myself.

Stay tuned for my final thoughts on the set in Part 2 of my review once I finish!

Thanks so much for reading!

What do you think of the LEGO World Map? Is this something that resonates with you and do you think you’ll find value in putting all 11 thousand elements together, or does this not appeal to you in any way?

To read my oither LEGO reviews, be sure to check out the Review Hub.

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Special thanks to LEGO for providing this set for review.

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