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LEGO Designer Insights: 21337 Table Football’s smaller scale, diverse minifigures and more

Yesterday, LEGO unveiled the final LEGO Ideas set of 2022 – 21337 Table Football, which will be released on 1 November 2022.

The 2,339-piece set packs an incredible amount of diverse minifigure options, but conversations about the set have been dominated by the set’s relatively high pricetag (US$249.99 / AU$379.99) and most contentious of all was the decision to scale down the size of the LEGO Foosball Table from the 11-a-side that fan designer Donat originally intended.

21337 Table Football will be available on 1 November 2022, and I hope to share my full review before launch. See below for regional pricing and links

At RLFM Days 2022, we were first shown off 21337 Table Football, which also included a short presentation by the LEGO Ideas Design Team, and I also got to have another sit down interview to talk about the LEGO Foosball Table in more detail.

To help illustrate some of the design thinking, and why specific design changes were made, here’s some snippets from the team that we shared.

Participants:

  • Hasan Jensen, Engagement Manager, LEGO Ideas
  • Monica Pedersen, Senior Marketing Manager, LEGO Ideas
  • Antica Bracanov, LEGO Designer
  • Jordan Scott, Design Manager, LEGO Ideas
  • Samuel Johnson, outgoing LEGO Ideas Design Manager

The most tested LEGO set of all time

Sam: This set is probably the most tested LEGO set of all time. We’ve been through some really high highs, very deep low and at some point we were close to cancelling it.

We really wanted to give this set to the world at this specific time of year, where football is the biggest it’s ever been (a reference to the upcoming World Cup in Qatar).

We tested this a lot and we found out that when you play foosball, it’s not the most relaxed game in the world. We invited hundreds of people from our office to come and play the game, we even had tournaments. They ended up wrecking the models we built. We built maybe six, seven, eight of them and they all got completely destroyed, so this is what remained.


Sam: We have a heat-testing space which allows us to find weaknesses in the set – as you can see with this prototype, it says heat-tested and you can already see parts of it cracking here. We didn’t want someone celebrating and sending the table flying and for it to break in half.

We also did machine testing, where we subject it to the same motion over and over again with robots. We’ve done absolutely every test that LEGO has in-house, we’ve done it on this table.

Sam: We found out that cross axles which are standard for LEGO were bending a lot, and actually breaking and snapping at some point because this isn’t what they were designed for – they’re designed to be on wheels. So we did a lot more testing on what next, like what could we do to strengthen the walls to stop this, and we ended up moving problems around.

Sam: We also had problems with minifigures flying up in people’s faces, which is why they’re connected the way they are.

This has been a really intense process – we’ve had every designer in the Adults team working on this to help us get to where we are today.

We even tried with beams! Antica even created this genius way to rotate square beams and we were like “that’s the one!” but it ultimately created other issues.

Antica: When we tried the axle version, it would just bend, so we ended just trying to lock things to stay put. Something new always came up.

LEGO Foosball Table in action

Unfortunately, the audio was corrupted in this short video, but here’s a look at how the LEGO Foosball Table works in a quick game I had with Antica. It was also a VERY orange room, hence the shade of the video!

Sam: We really tried a lot to give you what you voted for, exactly 1:1. What we did from there is that we decided that we wanted to keep the fun, we wanted to keep the game intense, and make it possible to be a bit crazy, so we made it at this smaller scale. We also wanted to give you the diversity that was offered in the original submission, and make it possible for you to build your own 11-a-side football team without having to buy all these sets.

Antica: One of the issues that we encountered with the larger models was the size of the ball. This is the biggest LEGO ball that we had, and we found that some of the minifigures could sometimes not reach the ball and there were some dead zones. Everytime we’d solve one obstacle, we would hit another one.

Monica: We probably could’ve made it work with some new elements, but then we would launch in 2025.

The most diverse minifigure selection

Sam: We wanted to offer everyone the opportunity to see themselves in one of these characters so you can mix and match the characters however you want. Maybe you find a crazy hairstyle, or maybe you’re a bit more conservative. You can really build yourself, your family, or whoever you can think of

It was a fine line making that decision, but the messaging behind this set is that football is for everyone, and our team wanting to give that to fans, so you can see yourself on the pitch.

When you look at football today, it’s very diverse, and everyone has their own style, so we wanted to give that back. We did try, with just plain red and blue, and it looked really normal.

We wanted to add a new layer to this that has never been done in a LEGO set before, and we were working with the LEGO Global Brand team who have been a big help for us to guide our decisions with this set, and how we should follow through.

Jordan: Our brand team has an agenda to drive diversity and inclusion, and when we worked with them, we learned that they were also planning to create a Foosball Table when this was in the works, so instead of developing two sets, we brought both forces together and found this was the perfect opportunity to show diversity and inclusion.

The journey towards the final design

Antica: I truly think that this is the best version that we could’ve made. We had so many different people involved from so many departments, designers, Quality, Testing, you name it.

The process of development was challenging and difficult but it was also very rewarding to end up here because all the issues that we had were resolved in the end.

We really value quality and if something is not working and if a model isn’t up to our standards and values, we sometimes have to make hard decisions.

With the bigger model, there were so many challenges, and every time we would solve one thing, something else would go wrong. For example, just the rods and the holders, if we had brought them closer together that would solve the problem of the ball getting stuck in dead space, then the minifigures would hit each other.

If you brought the rods higher up, the minifigures can’t reach the ball. If they were lower down, they’d scratch the surface.

There were so many of these tiny tweaks, like moving things one plate down lower would solve a lot of things but then you create new issues and it just seemed like if we had stayed at that bigger scale, we wouldn’t have been able to solve that.

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16 responses to “LEGO Designer Insights: 21337 Table Football’s smaller scale, diverse minifigures and more”

  1. Jimmy says:

    I’m actually excited for this. I really like the ideas marble maze, and having another play set that actually functions is awesome!

    Interesting to hear about all the challenges in making it work, it would have been very very cool to get a new stronger technic axle part.

  2. L.M. says:

    With all the backlash this set has gotten from how much they had to rework it, I do wonder what the reactions would have been if they had decided to cancel it. “We know you all voted for this set to win the contest, and we promised to release it, but it’s not happening anymore” might not have gone over any better PR wise.

  3. GURVINDER SINGH GANDU says:

    This is blackface lego!

    • Jonathan says:

      That’s Vitiligo, not blackface.

      From Wikipedia: Vitiligo is a disorder that causes the skin to lose its color. Specific causes are unknown but studies suggest a link to immune system changes. The only sign of vitiligo is the presence of pale patchy areas of depigmented skin which tend to occur on the extremities.

    • Jay says:

      Maybe when you grow up and mature, you’ll learn a thing or two about skin conditions. Try Wikipedia.

  4. DJWG says:

    It does seem both pricey and relatively small, but if you’re doing any custom builds or minifigure dioramas it seems like a must-buy set for the sheer variety of miniatures and hairs.

  5. Hunter says:

    This looks so tiny that it wouldn’t be fun to play. It also looks a bit silly with only 5 figures per team and 3 of them goalies. The price is far too high. Diversity is grand but won’t sell anything. Neat idea, poor execution.

  6. Reader says:

    I fully respect the limitations the designers had to work around. I appreciate the diversity in the minifigures; it’s a great step towards making everyone, no matter who they are, equal.

    But it doesn’t really change that a cursory check on Amazon yielded a full-size, wooden foosball table for half the cost of the Lego set. Given its cost, the set is not something you’re going to impulse buy as a small gift. It doesn’t feel like the set will do well. 🙁

    • Alex B says:

      Yeah, and you can tell that they know it as well. The interview is very much “this is the reason this set ended up the compromised way it did”. They are still proud of how they solved these problems, and they should be, but outside of this context the set doesn’t really make sense.

    • Jay says:

      Yeah, that’s the biggest thing. That said, it’s meant to be a “table” foosball set and the entire appeal like with all these “household objects made of LEGO” sets is that you’re building it out of LEGO bricks.

  7. Simon says:

    This looks like a lovely set. Personally the original idea doesn’t look very robust while this does.
    Unfortunately that price tag is too high for me on this one.

    • Chris says:

      Having a lifelong interest in football and having Lego as a kid and again in the last five years, having bought Ideas sets, this is a set that should appeal to me. It doesn’t, it seems football and Lego just don’t go together just like Movies and Football. However, if lego did one of their football stadia creations, but this time re-creating the old Highbury or Selhurst Park I would buy it, but how many people would be interested? not enough for lego’s sale targets I presume, so l should go back to building my own stadiums which I did as a 12-year-old building out of lego track sleepers.

    • Jay says:

      Yeah, the original was submitted as a digital design and not an actual model, hence why they discovered that the axles wouldn’t quite work in this case.

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