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I recently picked up a copy of the LEGO ideas book, and been inspired. As a novice builder, I've noticed that almost every model makes use of tiles to provide a finished look, which seems like a great idea.

Accordingly, I'm interested in buying some tiles in bulk for assorted building projects, but I'm overwhelmed by the options. Bricklink has many kinds of tile. What would be a good starting set of tile pieces to aim for, and roughly how many? And what's the difference between tiles with and without grooves? Is the groove on the bottom? Is one piece much more useful than the other? Argh! So many options! Can anyone recommend a sensible way to proceed?

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All modern LEGO sets now use the groove ones. The without ones haven't been sen new for a long while. –  ACarter Aug 21 '12 at 20:27
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2 Answers 2

Looks like there are really two different questions here. Allow me to address the question regarding grooves on the tiles:

What's the difference between tiles with and without grooves?

Basically, on tiles without grooves, the vertical edges run continuously straight from top to bottom. On tiles with grooves, there is a small lip at the bottom of the tile just large enough for a fingernail or a separator tool.

A visual comparison between the 1 x 2 tile without groove (red) and the 1 x 2 tile with groove (grey) shows the continuous vertical sides vs. the lip that forms the 'groove':

Without groove With groove

Is the groove on the bottom?

Yes, it runs all the way around the bottom of the tile.

Is one piece much more useful than the other?

The difference is mainly in the ease of removing the tiles once attached to another Lego element. As I mentioned above, the groove leaves enough space to prise the tile away from whatever other LEGO element it is attached to. In the case of the 2 x 2 Tile without groove that you reference in the question, according to bricklink, it was discontinued in 1978 after the 2 x 2 Tile with groove appeared in 1973, so I would guess that LEGO considered the 'with groove' to be a better design.

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LEGO definitely favors the "with groove" option as it's easier to remove. Since they aim their toys at kids, they wanted to remove the frustration linked with the difficulty to remove non-groove tiles. All new tiles have grooves, so when buying some, you can pretty much forget about non-grooved ones unless you've a very good reason to (completing an old collector set for example). By the way, even "jumper plates" are grooved now. –  Joubarc Aug 18 '12 at 6:00
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Whilst I can't answer specifics on types and quantities, look out for sets that include a reasonable umber of tiled pieces. The modular buildings all include a fair number and range, as do the Minecraft series of kits. Our local Lego store (Watford, UK) had a whole cup of 1x1 tiles all in a dark colour that someone had put to one side, but they weren't 'on the wall' when I looked.

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Note that the Minecraft sets are predominantly 1x1 tiles, which may limit their usefulness. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jul 7 at 21:25
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