TENTE: Differences with LEGO® and overview

TENTE: Differences with LEGO® and overview

TENTE was the king of the construction toys in the Spanish homes during the 70s and 80s. Those of us in Generation X grew up playing with TENTE boats or Roblocks years before getting our hands on LEGO® bricks.

But was TENTE really as good as LEGO®? We are going to analyze what differentiates TENTE from the Danish brand, its history, why it ended up disappearing, and what TENTE is like today after its resurgence in 2021 thanks to the work of a group of loyal followers.

A brief history of TENTE

TENTE logo

TENTE, known as the Spanish LEGO, is a construction toy brand that was created in 1972 in Barcelona by EXIN, a major manufacturer that had the rights to Madelman and Scalextric, among other toys that were sweeping the Spanish market. 

TENTE quickly caught on among a young audience because it was a very versatile and imaginative toy, which allowed countless variations in constructions, and because it was priced competitively compared to LEGO®, which paid high customs duties before Spain joined the European Community.

Heart made of TENTE bricks. Photo credit: iUNITS.

LEGO®, for its part, entered the Spanish market a couple of years later, in 1974, and sued TENTE in Israel (a country with a good reputation in intellectual property issues) alledging that TENTE's construction pieces were a copy of LEGO® bricks.

They wanted to establish jurisprudence, but the case turned against them: the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that brick toys were already invented before the appearance of LEGO®, and that TENTE's interlocking system was sufficiently different from that of LEGO® . LEGO® did not sue TENTE again in any other country. David defeated Goliath.

TENTE experienced its golden years in the 70s and 80s, expanding to other countries such as the US (distributed by Hasbro), Mexico and Japan with great success. However, in the 90s, EXIN went into crisis, like LEGO® and many others, due to the oil crisis and the rise of video game consoles. EXIN sold the patent to BORRÁS, but in the end, TENTE stopped manufacturing in 2004.

In 2021, a group of fans, iUNITS, in alliance with EDUCA-BORRÁS relaunched TENTE in the Spanish market.

Interlocking system

Ladrillos TENTE y LEGO

TENTE bricks compared to LEGO bricks. Photo credit: Tenteca.

TENTE bricks are the same size as LEGO® bricks, but their interlocking system is very different. The new TENTE bricks have some pieces that are compatible with LEGO® pieces but the original pieces are not.

TENTE bricks have a hole in the studs that allows pieces to fit together in various ways. The TENTE studs have a diameter of 6 mm, which is larger than those of LEGO®, the hole measures 2 mm, and the studs are 2 mm apart from each other. In addition, the upper studs have a circular ridge and the "TENTE" branding in relief. SNOT pieces do not have this ridge.

The bottom part of the brick is also very different from that of LEGO®. It is made up of 2 mm cylinders. These are always double the number of the studs, that is, a brick with 4 studs will have 8 cylinders.

Combinations of TENTE pieces

156 possible combinations with 2 TENTE bricks. Photo credit: Tenteca.

These particularities in TENTE bricks allow many more fitting options than the LEGO® system, for example, two pieces can be fitted together in half positions. In fact, many of TENTE's fans have shared other ways of interlocking than the official ones. iUNITS continues with this philosophy of flexible construction options in new pieces, as stated by one of its promoters, José Luis Reguilón.


Both LEGO® and TENTE use ABS, a high-quality plastic that, due to its hardness and consistency, allows for a perfect fit. In addition, it is a durable material that maintains its properties and color over time. TENTE or LEGO® bricks from 50 years ago can still be used today.


Roblocks TENTE

TENTE Roblock series. Photo credit: VandalRandom.

LEGO® has more than 9,500 sets, with collections and series with very diverse themes: Botanical Collection, Architecture, City, DC, Avatar, Icons, etc. There are sets for both children and AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO®).

They also have many licenses such as Star Wars, Disney or Harry Potter that sell like hotcakes. Because of the "Clean Concept" requirement, there are some themes like military that LEGO® doesn't produce.


Helicopter trailer. Photo credit: Tenteca.

TENTE once launched many sets and expansion boxes, but the break between 2004-2021 has meant that the number of sets is much less than that of LEGO®. TENTE marketed various lines adapted to the Spanish market, with great success. There are wonderful ships from the Mar series, trucks from the Ruta series, Astro's galactic ships, or Roblocks, the Spanish version of Transformers.

The new sets that iUNITS is launching are along this same theme, aimed at longtime fans who will now be around 40-50 years old. In our opinion, it would be great to see other newer themes that are interesting to today's children and teenagers. We would also like to see TENTE expand its catalog to attract AFOLs, and not just rely on nostalgia.

Prices now and then

The first TENTE had a big advantage over LEGO® because they didn't have the extra cost of customs duties. Offering the same quality as LEGO®, their sets were much cheaper than those of the Danish brand in the Spanish market.

The average price of LEGO® today is around 10 cents per piece, and the new TENTE is between 10 and 30 cents per piece, with some large pieces that can cost €4.

TENTE today

Guardacostas Fénix TENTE iUNITS

TENTE by iUNITS has resurrected the brand with the idea of continuing the legacy of TENTE. They have been able to recover almost 500 old moulds of more than 350 pieces that were manufactured back in the day. Furthermore, with the new multipurpose pieces, TENTE's focus on creative free-play still shines through.

On their website there is a section to buy individual pieces and be able to make your own pack, and also another section where TENTE fans can upload their own designs, which once checked and screened by the iUNITS team are shared on the web. It is the same idea as LEGO® MOCs.

They currently have about 15 sets in circulation and the plan is to release a new set every month. We hope that TENTE continues to grow for many years to come, and it recovers its former glory.

If you are also a TENTE fan, share your favorite set or memory and how you think TENTE compares to LEGO®.

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TENTE era el juguete que caía cada año, junto a EXIN Castillos y ELECTRO L. Con mi primo hacíamos naves espaciales antes de que apareciese la serie ASTRO y nos montábamos nuestras películas de extraterrestres. Llegué a combinar TENTE con ELECTRO L, montando vehículos y poniéndoles luz.
La verdad es que si soy lo que soy hoy en día, Electrónico Industrial es gracias a estos juguetes.
Celebro que iUNITS haya rescatado a TENTE del pozo de los recuerdos, aunque nunca del olvido, y haya dado oportunidad a usuarios de desarrollar piezas nuevas, algo que creo no ha pasado nunca, que yo sepa…
Desde luego me quedo con TENTE. No hay lugar a dudas.

Carlos Fermín Turrado García

Tenía una locomotora de la serie Roblock, un par de barcos de guerra y un coche del espacio, me encantaría tener uno de nuevo

Oscar Romero

Yo de TENTE sobre todo tenía barcos y recuerdo un portaaviones q era espectacular.


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