Classico Rosso – LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906)

Childhood memories are of course treacherous, but I had a bit of a déjà-vu when the 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906) set in the Speed Champions line. It really looked and felt extremely familiar, though I couldn’t tell you from where. Could have been a slot racer car at my cousins’, could have been one of those coveted Matchbox cars we traded on the school yard with other kids who had Western relatives (growing up in Eastern Germany without such relationships was clearly a disadvantage). Anyway, despite me being rather uninformed about all things relating to cars old and new, this struck a chord with me and brought back some memories, false as they may be.

LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906), Box

Contents and Pricing

As a standalone Speed Champions set this one falls into the standard 20 Euro price category. For 261 pieces that certainly would be okay in the LEGO realm, but of course you have to make concession to the fact that the majority of the elements are just 1 x 1, 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 items. That being the case, discounts are welcome and as of now you can get this offering for around 14 Euro at a number of outlets like I did. That improves the value perception, though in the end this car still turns out quite small-ish even compared to some others in the series. This is mostly owing to its “open” structure and shape gobbling up a lot of small parts during construction without contributing much to the mass and volume of the vehicle.

LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906), Overview

The Car

As a racing car from the 1970s the 512 M has a very distinct look with the square-ish wedge-like appearance being a design trope shared by many cars of that era. This makes it quite hard to translate into a brick-built model, since a lot of stuff has to be attached at specific angles. This is to a large extent resolved by building the model sideways in both directions rather from the bottom up. As a result, there’s a ton of – shall we say – interesting techniques used to connect all manner of studs, holes and bar elements. This is not only rather confusing at times, but also requires careful execution as everything needs to be aligned quite well so the later steps actually work. Inevitably it also means that the model isn’t always the most stable, as some areas are pretty hollowed out to make things work and some sub-assemblies only are attached by two studs. Once everything comes together it works, but halfway through one sometimes wonders if it will turn out correctly.

A real weak spot that is clearly the canopy. The shape is legitimately wrong and makes it look like the satellite housing at tip of a rocket. I know I bring up this topic every time and complain way too much just as I understand that LEGO just can’t do a new canopy for every car, but I feel that in this case even the equally wrong piece e.g. from the McLaren Senna (75892) would have looked better. The whole matter isn’t helped bei the once more extremely poor print quality, either. The opacity is severely lacking and the Red color just looks completely different from the rest of the model. Really not great.

The aft section is basically one big spoiler wing to provide enough downward push to keep the car on the track and has a lot of overhang, pretty much completely hiding the exhausts and rear lights. They can really only be seen from a very low position.

LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906), Aft ViewI also have a problem with the two white winglets. On the real vehicle those are attached on thin struts emanating from the red areas and form kind of an airflow tunnel/ channel. I’m full aware that this would be near impossible to re-create properly with LEGO in this scale, but having transparent grip bars doesn’t sell the illusion, either, even more so since there are still white clip pieces underneath. So instead of trying to cheat it would have been more consequent to make those grip elements also White and just call it what it is. In its current form it just looks floaty and not in a good way – as if the two tiles for the wings don’t really belong there.

LEGO Speed Champions, 1970 Ferrari 512 M (76906), CockpitRacing cockpits, especially on cars not derived from serial automobiles and built entirely custom from scratch, are always a sparse affair and this is no different. Through the tinted glass and the large covered areas you wouldn’t see much while it’s closed, anyway. Again, though, due to the type of windshield element they went for, the proportions aren’t necessarily exact. You can definitely see the driver inside on real photos sit in the front section before the painted areas, not deeply buried in the rear part.


Concluding Thoughts

This set is quite a bit of a mixed bag. the shortcomings of what you can do with LEGO definitely show here and the finished article doesn’t look particularly realistic. Within the Speed Champions series it’s still rather unique, however, so the inaccuracies won’t deter collectors one way or the other. For me the building process was rather insightful and educational, but if you just want a quick model for your showcase, this could try your patience due to the many small parts and slow progression.

The finished model is acceptable and represents the original well enough from a distance, but once you delve into the details it becomes a bit unsatisfying. A wrong cockpit shape and the quality issues with the prints all leave their mark. The latter is even noticeable on the 1 x 1 plates with the Ferrari logo on one of the sides. Some of them look rather munched. It’s good that LEGO at least had the smarts to include all Red 1 x 1 plates in this set as printed ones (to avoid confusion, apparently) and you can pick out the ones with the best printing.

Overall this is perhaps not for everyone and you have to know what you’re getting into. This is neither the most realistic model nor the most relaxing build in this series and your enjoyment will really depend on how you can get over these sometimes not so small annoyances.

Explorer-ing… The Deep (again) – LEGO Explorer Magazine, June 2022

The wait for the latest LEGO Explorer felt extremely long and the last week I wasn’t even sure if I hadn’t missed the date and it would come out at all. But here it finally is the June 2022 issue, so let’s have a look at it.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Cover

This edition once again focuses on exploring the depths of the oceans, which is a bit of a repeat already, since one of the first issues already had this as a subject. Not terrible, since this is a broad topic that could fill volumes and volumes of books and in turn have me nerd out about it, but regardless it illustrates to me how the publishers are just meandering about with no real long-term concept. Similar to the issue from way back then we get a rather random selection of deep sea animals like octopuses, starfish and various fish species.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Info Page

There’s a dedicated section on coral reefs, but that, too, in and of itself kind of reiterates my point: They could have done a whole mag about just that. I’m sure kids would have fun learning about different coral types and getting a buildable sea anemone as an extra…

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Info Page

As written in the previews reviews, I have no issues with the comic’s graphical style, it just lacks in substance and feels out of place. That also goes for the various puzzles, quizzes, coloring page and other activities, which feel too much like filler where more interesting editorial pages could have been instead.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Comic

The poster is more or less just a shameless advertisement for the expensive Ocean Exploration Ship (60266) set, which isn’t even available anymore. This feels like just another pointless exercise by the editors “just because they can” and doesn’t even make sense as a marketing gag.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Poster

The extra is a small submarine. Well, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be, but it mostly looks like a barrel. Of course the biggest issue is using a flat dish instead of a proper bubble canopy, but if you still have it floating around, you could try the one from the alien UFO a few issues ago at least or another 4 x 4 dome piece from your collection. It would also have been wonderful if the mid section would have been built from two of these cylinder pieces instead of just a turntable brick. It would have extended the length and made it look less stubby. Then again, though, I guess LEGO producing pieces in a new color just for a magazine freebie is too much to hope for…

Unfortunately this is just another rather mediocre issue and things just aren’t looking well for this magazine. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year they announce the cancellation of the whole shebang due to insufficient sales. Cause and effect, you know…

Space Walk in Yellow – LEGO City Magazine, June 2022

Allow me to make a sigh of relief: *phew*. After the last three LEGO City magazines have been extremely underwhelming, to put it mildly, this one seems to turn things around. Let’s hope this will turn into a trend and there will be more good issues this year. For now let’s focus on the June 2022 edition and see what it holds for us.

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2022, Cover

The whole mag is based on space exploration and so is the comic. Even the story, despite being rather wacky, has a certain charm for me as a sci-fi nerd. Who hasn’t dreamed of flying out there and exploring planets? Of course it’s heavily promoting this year’s space exploration sets, but since they are based on realistic NASA concepts I really don’t mind. All of this could come true in the not too distant future even if by then I’m likely an old man in a retirement home. 🙂 The comic is drawn well and there’s even a small coloring section derived from it. Unfortunately it’s not a full double-spread and really tiny or else even I might have been tempted to take out my Copic markers and give it a whirl.

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2022, Comic

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2022, Comic

Spending a calming evening filling in lines might also have given us a better poster. This part is the weak link in this issue. The reverse side I chose to depict here is okay-ish, but the front is just another Photoshop hack job based on LEGO‘s own promotional photos. Basically the epitome of laziness as if shooting some extra pics based on an assembled model or rendering some alternate 3D views was too much to ask.

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2022, ExtraThe undisputed highlight is the extra. Not only do you get a minifigure in the new Bright Light Yellow spacesuit design, but also a small satellite. Even that is kind of accurate if you think about the many current efforts to build communications networks such as Starlink with miniaturized satellites – and lots of them at that. It’s not that special in terms of sophistication, of course, but just nice. The printed solar panel can be used in a multitude of ways and is nice to have, too.

Overall this is a pretty good issue and I’m really pleased. It has a positive vibe and tingles my nerd genes. It’s only regrettable that they didn’t go far enough and slipped up on the coloring page and poster…

Shrunk Slave 1 – LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett’s Starship (75312)

In this consumerist world we live in I’m usually not bending over backwards to catch special promotions on those “special” days made up by the industry trying to sell you stuff, but then again I enjoy getting a good discount as much as the next guy and not just because of my budget constraints. The very least one can do is keep an eye peeled and hope to make a good catch. I got sort of half-lucky with Boba Fett’s Starship (75312) on this year’s May the 4th event, so let’s see how things turned out.

LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett's Starship (75312), Box

Pricing and Contents

I’ve had this set on my wishlist for a while, but regrettably it never entered a price range that I found acceptable. After all, I’m not a die-hard Star Wars fan who would pay anything and it really comes down to how much I like a certain vehicle from the show and how affordable it is.

The crux of course is that of course Boba Fett’s Spaceship or Slave 1 as it was known in the good old days (and I’ll keep calling it that because I honestly think it’s kinda stupid that they are trying to be overly correct here and avoiding the word slave entirely even if it doesn’t bear any relationship to current day politics) has always been a popular ship due to its unique and distinct appearance. Because it basically sold itself and everybody wanted it, anyway, retailers could ask for relatively high prices. That and of course the The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett series have boosted that demand even further. In fact this really thwarted my plans to purchase the 20th Anniversary Edition Slave 1 (75243) because it was equally coveted by fans the world all over and prices never dropped to a level I would consider sensible (me missing out on a few special promotions I just didn’t catch notwithstanding). Arguably a case of bad timing, even if just coincidental.

LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett's Starship (75312), Overview

With all that in mind I was actually glad I was able to obtain this package for 35 Euro down from a recommended price of 50 Euro. As mentioned already I consider myself only half-lucky because there was a slightly better price that day at only 32 Euro. I was just going back and forth way too long and my inner struggle prevented me from clicking that button. Come back an hour later and the price was higher again already. You really can’t flinch with Amazon‘s fluctuating prices and them adapting to competitor’s pricing almost in realtime.

Was it worth it? The answer may not surprise you: While I’m okay with those 35 Euro, I still feel the set is seriously overpriced. The model turns out tiny and one really has a hard time believing it actually uses the 593 pieces as advertised. From the exterior it feels more like there are only 250 elements, with the real point once again being that many other parts used are 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 items hidden underneath what’s actually visible. Not just that, but also many of the bits constituting the surface and the underside structure are equally small. With only a few exceptions you barely build any volume and just don’t get this satisfaction of working on what should be a relatively bulky model and making notable progress with each building step.

That being said, I can’t help but feel that this is a 30 Euro model, after all, even if you perhaps had to throw on a 5 Euro premium because it’s licensed Star Wars. The original 50 Euro are simply beyond any reason and LEGO just exploit the fans’ hunger for these products. If worse came to worse I’d really not have bothered and simply foregone buying it at all. It’s just not worth it.

The Minifigures

With the vessel being more or less exclusively inhabited by a single occupant it’s only natural that there wouldn’t be too many minifigures bar the occasional person hitching a ride when an opportunity presents itself. That is of course not counting the poor people travelling as frozen Carbonite blocks below decks. Not having seen the series due to not having a Disney+ subscription I have no idea if and when Boba Fett and Din Djarin (The Mandalorian) cross paths, I only know that it happens eventually.

The Mando figure is just the standard version with the cape you find in several other sets. Boba was an exclusive new version for this set when it came out last year but has since made a second appearance in Boba Fett’s Throne Room (75326). It’s considerably different from older versions not just because it uses a black torso as the base, but being ignorant of the actual story I can’t tell you much about the specific whys and hows. That said, both figures are overall pretty nice with lavish prints and certainly have some collector value as well.

The Model

The actual model is based on the simpler design of the Slave 1 from the ill-fated and ill-conceived Betrayal at Cloud City (75222) in the now deceased Master Builder Series. Back then I found the whole concept of a play-oriented yet expensive set in the vein of a dumbed-down and simplified UCS series more than a bit perplexing (or more to the point just another of those LEGO brain farts where you wonder what they were smoking when approving this), but the way this vehicle was built struck me as efficient and desirable as a separate affordable set. Of course things often take a while and I’d almost given up hope of ever seeing this come to fruition, but alas here we are. even better, they really took the time to refine and enhance the concept, including using a few newer and different parts. That way they also made sure that the one in the Cloud City retains its exclusivity and people who bought this expensive mess aren’t too upset.

An iconic shape such as this is of course immediately recognizable in any form and that is pretty much the case here as well. However, and this seems to be a general rule with this ship, the smaller the scale the less compact it looks. Where the original version in the movies was pretty smooth and the various surfaces blended, the smaller models tend to look more separated, not just because of the limitations of brick-built designs. This is also apparent here with the “handle” (upper hull) feeling plugged on to the bottom rather than transitioning elegantly. In particular the front section and the housings for the wing mechanisms feel a bit too small and not voluminous enough. It’s not the end of the world, but worth mentioning.

The tail/ aft boom overall appears just a bit too short and could have benefited from being extended one or two rows of studs. It’s not that the proportions aren’t correct or LEGO somehow got it wrong, it’s more a visual thing where the “scale effect” makes it look a bit too stubby. This is also owing to the overall small size that makes it look more like a toy than the imposing ship it otherwise is. Let’s not forget, that it just has around 24 studs overall length, not even fully covering a 32 x 32 base plate.

There are a handful of functional details like the cargo ramp under which you could actually place the “Carbonite” block as represented by a 1 x 2 x 6 brick and of course you can open the cockpit to place Boba inside, but neither does offer much details beyond that. The wings use a similar approach as their counterparts on the larger variants of this spacecraft, meaning they’re built from a bunch of balanced out round corner plates and wedge plates attached to a Technic axle so they swivel automatically and stay horizontal in every position. To represent the slightly rusty mechanism LEGO even produced this piece in Dark Orange exclusively for this set.

The singular side build in this set is a little push tractor/ servicing vehicle with a ladder and it also doubles as a stand to present the model in a upright position. I was hugely skeptical about this solution, mostly because the tractor is very lightweight but much to my surprise this works quite decently. Of course you still should not try to intentionally tip over the model, but it’s more than serviceable for presentation on the shelf and easy to handle for kids as well. It does not use any pins or such and rather just some simple slide-in trickery so you basically can’t do anything wrong. Also note the „Carbonite“ block – without stickers, of course.

The upright position looks a bit odd, mostly because it exposes the hollowness of the interior unfavorably. In this position also even the slightest misalignment of the guns, which are rather flimsily constructed from black light saber hilts and some other pieces, immediately becomes noticeable. You should be careful with them, anyway, as they use a less than ideal way of being attached. Instead of a proper axle or bar they’re plugged onto this “hook” style plate‘s bar element. While it kind of works it’s one of those things that I would try to avoid and look for other solutions.

The undersides have some nice texture and even some pieces to emulate thruster outlets, but once you look at it, you also see the most annoying problem of this whole set: The various small plates and how everything is pieced together. This isn’t so much of an issue once it’s finished, but it really tries your patience during assembly. There’s basically only a single layer of plates and the bricks for the shaping are almost immediately on top, however often in such a fashion that they often only connect by two or even single studs. I found this a massive source of frustration that only gets better once you have finished the red socket.

One final thing: The set is apparently (also) aimed at children and to that effect it has a handle based on an L-shaped Technic liftarm so the model can be swooshed around and held easily without risking breaking anything off when grabbing it elsewhere. The caveat here is that the handle tends to get stuck in the recess on occasion and is difficult to push out even when tipping on the opposite end as intended. You may want to have an eye on that and show your children how to do it right or else they may constantly bug you about it. If you are not interested in this functionality you could just leave it out and shim over the hole, but this would require some major changes (using larger/ different plates to close the gaps) early on in the construction process.


Concluding Thoughts

The model isn’t bad by any means and in an odd way quite appealing. It hits the right balance between looking realistic enough, but also being playable. Still, the out-of-this-world pricing is really what puts me off. LEGO seem bent on deterring a certain part of their customers while raking in the big bucks from the other half of the Star Wars fan crowd with UCS sets and all that and that is on some level sad. Sets like this one clearly prove that the designers have the will and abilities to produce more than acceptable models, it just always seems they’re being sidelined by overriding managerial decisions in favor of squeezing out every last penny from customers.

This dichotomy also makes it hard to really recommend this set from the bottom of my heart. As already written, if there wouldn’t have been a good price I’d just passed on this. You can bet that due to the popularity there will be another Slave 1 in the not too distant future and it might even be an updated re-issue of the UCS version from 2015 or at least something more in line with the 20th anniversary version which will be more attractive to serious collectors and adults. You can save your money for the day when they come out. Completists on the other hand will no doubt want to add this to their line-up no matter what and it should also work well for children.

For me as so often it likely will end up being a short journey where soon enough I’ll dismantle the model and scalp the parts, of which it has quite a few unique ones and that’s just fine. At the same time I can think of other ways to spend those 35 Euro and unfortunate as it is, this set also has not done anything to change my mind about LEGO Star Wars being one big scam, so this will likely be my only such review for quite a while again until the next good opportunity may arise come Amazon‘s Prime Day in November

Double V – LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (76910)

I still mostly suck at distinguishing even the most basic cars and I certainly don’t go out of my way to keep up with motor sports news, either, but occasionally I find myself getting reeled in when zapping through TV channels and so I had a “I know that guy (car)!” moment when LEGO announced the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (76910) set earlier that year because just a while ago I indeed had stumbled upon some such races’ live broadcasts. Could have been Le Mans, could have been something else. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter beyond the fact that I always have the Speed Champion sets on my list as an affordable way to get my LEGO fix and enjoy their clever building techniques. Let’s see what this double entry in the series holds for us.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Vantage GT3 (76910), Box

Contents and Pricing

While this doesn’t always hold true, the typical reasoning of such a dual set would have to be that it represents just two standalone sets packed into a single box. Luckily, this formula works here and at 40 Euro suggested retail price indeed you get two of what would otherwise be 20 Euro each. The part count matches likewise. Based on an average 250 to 270 pieces in most sets that would have to be around 540-ish and the actual 592 in the package feel almost generous. You have to make concession to the fact that there’s an awful lot of 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 elements, though.

Since the set is freely available you can bet on some discounts and typically should be able to buy this around the 30 Euro mark. Occasionally you may get it for even less. I’ve already seen it go for 27 Euro. Interestingly, and I only realized this now, single sets tend to be discounted even more, often down to 12 or 13 Euro from their original 20 Euro. LEGO pricing is really weird and gets more confusing the more you think about it! In any case, I guess what I’m trying to say is that this set is not anything out of the ordinary in that regard and thus a “safe” purchase, should you feel so inclined.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Vantage GT3 (76910), Overview

The Valkyrie

The Valkyrie is another of those over-designed, over-powered hypercars and the racing version takes this craziness even further. That being a fact of life, I can’t avoid repeating what I said abut the Elva and Evija even if it bores people: LEGO bricks are not necessarily the best medium to render these complex curves and sharp edges and that shows again here. At least until the day they come out with more specialized elements this will always be an apparent shortcoming, as much as they may try to work around it with clever building techniques that use existing elements with different orientations to disguise these issues. A very obvious candidate is the ridge at the top represented with a dual hinge construction where some curved tiles and plates with large radii would be needed. Too bad they don’t exist (yet)!

That said, the building techniques used are still quite impressive. A good chunk of your time (and pieces) is spent building a custom very long chassis, as this is really a very long-stretched vehicle. In turn it therefore looks narrower when viewed in isolation. If you will, it feels more like the older 6 stud wide Speed Champions if you were to scale them up proportionally to the new 8 stud format. Build directions change a lot with the main premise being that you essentially assemble some sort of core using SNOT techniques onto which a relatively thin top and bottom “plate” tacked on. This is at times rather confusing and things only fall into place in the last third of the construction process when you begin to understand why you used some bricks with sideway studs early in the build.

Parts usage is similarly innovative with a standout example being the red propeller blade used for the air divide/ ridge. Aside from this piece there’s a few recolors of existing elements like the pointed 2 x 4 plates in Lime Green. The new 2 x 3 wedge slopes mentioned in the Evija review also make an appearance again and this time not just the ones with with the printed-on headlights. There’s a second, plain set used on the sides in the aft section. As far as printed pieces go, in addition to these slopes there’s the main windscreen with the Valkyrie branding and some custom hub caps for the wheels. The latter should also prove popular as yet another type of grating or fan blade element for custom builds.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Vantage GT3 (76910), Valkyrie, Aft ViewAs usual I haven’t applied any stickers, but I think the model looks okay without them. Most of these only have minor labeling that would not be missed. At least this particular version does not have any extra sponsor logos and such and thus even the real thing looks rather plain, but also elegant.

The cockpit does not have too many details, but is an adequate representation for what you can see through the tinted glass. Removing the canopy also further exposes the way the sides are constructed and in my personal opinion it’s simply better with the glass on top.

The Vantage

The Vantage is apparently based around a more traditional off-the-production-line car design, though I guess in the high-price segment of Aston Martin this doesn’t really mean that much. In these circles there’s usually only a few tiers between “absolutely crazy” and “slightly less crazy”, if you get my meaning. At prices around 130000 Euro and a gigazillion customization options even the regular model is anything but your daily work commute vehicle.

The racing version takes this even further with its additional spoilers and the huge air flow intakes/ outlets on the front hood. On the model those look like deep trenches whereas in actuality they are a bit flatter and more structured. I feel that LEGO could have better represented this with some simple 1 x 2 curved slopes in Dark Bluish Grey and Black instead of the complex and convoluted construction based on flat tiles they chose. One can’t help but think that those steep cheese slopes would cause terrible vortices and slow down the car massively. It is really counter to what they are supposed to do and how I understand these things are meant to work.

The rest of the model is a mundane “been there, done that” affair with many of the techniques being overly familiar from other models like the Toyota GR Supra and the Ferrari F8. Nothing wrong with that, just not too exciting, either. In light of that you can also imagine that this is built with more conventional techniques as it naturally doesn’t need to do anything fancy.

LEGO Speed Champions, Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro and Vantage GT3 (76910), Vantage, Aft View

Quite some pieces go into representing the continuous strip lighting in the aft section. It’s a laudable effort, but since it still ends up being way too thick it seems like a bit of a waste. Ironically this is one of those things where I think a sticker on a simpler solid surface would have worked better. I have similar sentiments about the grille and the weird usage of spike/ horn elements for the outline. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for keeping elements unspoiled by stickers (or for that matter prints even) to keep them universally reusable and add them to my collection, but sometimes this can’t be avoided and would be advantageous in the interest of more elegant building as is the case here.

The cockpit is again a very barebones representation. I’d argue that in fact it is even a bit too simple, as judging from images it looks quite dense. Perhaps a few more details on the headrests and console would have helped to make this more convincing.


Concluding Thoughts

This double pack ain’t bad, but once more proves a point: The switch to 8 stud wide construction has gotten the Speed Champions designers in a bit of a bind. The larger format has allowed them to add ever more details, but at the same time exposes the limitations to that process because LEGO just does not have enough of the “right” elements to implement some of those details. Unlike in the 6 stud era you simply cannot pass off some simplifications as intentional abstractions.

I also feel that the designers are a victim of their own ambition and perhaps tend to pick the wrong subjects. Fancy “dream cars” may be easily marketable, but when built from LEGO elements ultimately will always come up short and not look as “real” even next to a cheap 5 Euro die-cast model or e.g. to a COBI car where they invested in some custom parts. I don’t think I’m even asking the impossible as small things would go a long way. For instance am I the only one thinking that this wedge piece should long have had a nicely curved and rounded pendant, given how regularly it is used in Speed Champions?

These ponderings aside, this package is mostly okay. The Valkyrie doesn’t really click, but the Vantage is an adequate representation of the real thing within the confines of brick building. If you don’t care for looks and just want to spend some quality time exploring interesting building techniques then absolutely, just go for it! Especially if you get this for a reduced price there’s some fun to be had and there are many worse LEGO sets to spend your money on.

Kashyyyk Tusken – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, May 2022

Dunno, but lately I’ve become less and less enthused about LEGO Star Wars. The models are becoming more and more expensive, yet oddly also more lackluster (not counting UCS, of course). That’s why I’m glad at least the comic magazine stays in an affordable realm and at least every now and then manages to pull off a pleasant surprise. Let’s see if the May 2022 issue can brighten our day!

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, May 2022, Cover

Say what you will, but jungle-based comics are always automatically at least fifty percent cooler than others just for their visual density intrinsically created by all that greenery. As a graphics guy I can also appreciate how the illustrators and colorists have to put in a lot more work here, so props for that as well. The story of Yoda going through some droid invasion hijinx is okay in that it could totally have happened without breaking the overall consistency of the lore. My only complaint would be that everything is a bit too green. Mixing in some more colorful blossoms and/ or shifting a few of the plant colors towards more turquoise/ cyanide greens would have been nice.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, May 2022, Comic

The secondary comic, which of course hints at the extra (no, it’s not The Manadalorian) is a bit odd. The Bantha is a bit too cute-ified and those plumped up lips just look strange. You know, like a harmless looking giant worm that’s gonna suck you up, anyway. Other than that it’s just fine.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, May 2022, Comic

The posters feature General Grievous and Anakin, respectively. Not nearly as well done as the one with Ahsoka in the last issue, but acceptable. Mostly it’s just that those non-descript dark backgrounds overwhelm the details and swallow too much of the texture. Lighter and friendlier colors would definitely be preferable.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, May 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, May 2022, ExtraThe extra this time is a Tusken Raider minifigure. It’s been in a number of sets over the last two years and technically is nothing special nor ist it particularly valuable (and having masses of them on the market by way of this magazine will make prices on Bricklink drop even more) , but at least the unique head piece makes it different enough from your standard Stormtrooper, Obi-Wan, Anakin or the many other standard figures that have been included in the mag over and over again. In fact I think they could have made it stand out by including a coat and perhaps a different weapon/ utensil instead of the staff…

All in all this issue isn’t turning anything on its head or makes you drool, but it feels strangely soothing in its slightly boring normal-ness. That sometimes can be a good thing. So if you need a bit of anti-excitement in these crazy times, this edition would at least do that.

Air Boat Chase – LEGO Jurassic World Magazine, May 2022

With so many bad news hammering in on us every day those little moments when you go to the newsagent’s and pick up your favorite print publication(s) have become even more valuable. I always look forward to the LEGO Jurassic World magazine as even when it’s “bad” it gives me that bit of joy. there’s always something to brighten my day, be it the extra or a comic panel that I particularly enjoy. So let’s see whether the May 2022 edition can help us to put on a smile or grin.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, May 2022, Cover

The comic this time is one of those fifty-situations. It’s somewhere between those “infinite sky in a rectangle” variants and my preferred more dynamic panels with varying shapes. Especially the first few pages feel a bit dreary and it only gets better near the end. Somehow you always see when they just struggle with filling the background with all that greenery or other textured details.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, May 2022, Comic

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, May 2022, Comic

The poster once again supports my theory from the last issue about them simply having run out of content and the new stuff not being ready yet, so we get yet another uninspired and poorly executed Photoshop composite. I even chose the backside because the front featuring a T-Rex at night with glowing eyes looks even more ridiculous.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, May 2022, Poster

The extra is one of them small air boats as you find them in Florida and other flat water/ swamp regions all across the globe. It’s also in the comic as part of the chase story. It’s a bit too short and should really have at least two more studs in length, be it just to convey that it doesn’t flip over at every turn for being to short and square-ish, but otherwise it’s a nice and efficient little build. Had they paired it with a more interesting minifigure and not just the five millionth Owen it could have been pretty awesome.

As said in the introduction, I usually enjoy this mag even with shortcomings and this issue meets these criteria just as well. It’s a fun good time and a quick excursion to the newsstand to pick it up is certainly not a bad idea…

Purple Fantasy – LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125)

In these dark times we can all use a little dose of cute every now and then and so it wasn’t much of a stretch to commit to the Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125). I was immediately won over when first images started making the rounds and aside from having to wait a short while for prices to drop I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Box

Contents and Pricing

The Creator 3in1 series is all over the place in terms of pricing with some very unattractive and boring sets sometimes being ridiculously overpriced, some equally costly fan service sets like the Medieval Castle (31120) and good, but too expensive sets like the Majestic Tiger (31129) or even worse the Caravan Family Holiday (31108). At the same time there thankfully are enough sets that are surprisingly affordable and good. I’m happy to report that this falls in the latter category and I would even go so far as to call it excellent value for money.

At 15 Euro for 175 pieces this just feels right on so many levels and with the usual discounts pushing that to a mere 10 Euro or even less there’s really not much of an excuse here to at least try this – that is if you can get behind or at least don’t mind the bonkers color scheme. Anyway, I certainly wouldn’t have been able and willing to buy three of these packages and present them here in one swoop if somehow I felt that it wouldn’t be worth it. Now of course there’s always the caveat of what’s in the box vs. actual parts usage on the model, but you’ll find out more on that where it’s relevant for each individual build. For now suffice it to say that it’s okay.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Overview, All three Models

The Owl

The hero model of this package is of course the owl prominently featured on the box art with her little hedgehog buddy and a book. As you would expect, this very much uses all the parts with no extra bits being left over besides the usual spares.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Owl, Overview

The hedgehog is a surprisingly cute little fella despite his extremely simple build. The only thing that left me unhappy is the fact that it has an open back with the rock slopes and teeth elements pretty much being an outline around a hollow area. While not a deal breaker it would just have been nice to have an extra plate and slope to fill that area.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Owl, BookThe book is a simple affair, but reasonably represents a storybook in landscape format. That’s also where the only stickers in this set would come in if you wanted to use them. That in itself is unusual and noteworthy, as 3in1 sets typically don’t have stickers.

 

 

The owl itself is a fabulous little creature and has all the right features that make those creatures so distinct and adorable. The building techniques are not particularly advanced and e.g. the head being based on a cube rotated to one of its edges is borrowed from the Buildable Hedwig (75979), but who would argue over that if it “just works”? in fact I might even have preferred if the head was fixed and not mounted on a turntable. Not that I mind too much, but it kinda turns a bit too easily and you have to re-align it every time you touch the model.

A notable effort was made to texture the surface with a mix of exposed studs, differently shaped tiles and in places multiple smaller elements in favor over larger and smoother solid pieces. This is exactly what for me makes the distinction between a good LEGO model and an average one where it’s “tiled over to death” or too many studs exposed. The balance here seems just right and serves the purpose. However, there’s a minor downside to this as well. In particular the many standalone “feathers” need to be meticulously aligned to look good and similar to the head it’s easy to wack them out.

Though you can bend around the wings and the protruding feathers, there’s not much real poseability here. Only a handful arrangements look good and there is no way to e.g. do something interesting with the feet or put the owl into a take-off pose with the upper body turned forward.

The Squirrel

The second model is the little squirrel. This is sort of a 2D-ish build that mostly exploits how the various curved slopes and rounded plates create a silhouette when viewed from the side. On the other hand it looks pretty dead directly from the front, in particular since the eyes cannot be seen straight on.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Squirrel, Overview

A weak point is the tail. While the yellow wedge pieces sufficiently represent the bushiness and volume of the tail, the curvature could be better. Unfortunately LEGO did not include any extra/ alternate pieces to that effect. Even just adding a second ball joint piece in the middle and flaring it out with some wedge plates might have provided a better transition, not to speak of even more sophisticated methods using arches and curved slopes.

As you would expect, there is a good number of pieces that aren’t used, but overall I think it isn’t as dramatic as e.g. the Majestic Tiger (31129) ‘s build for the Red Panda with its many leftovers. The only thing that has me a bit stumped is that the Dark Purple 3 x 3 corner brick is not used again. It’s exclusive for this set and so they really only included it for the owl. Not that I’m complaining, but this is quite unusual in this series. Not too long ago when this piece didn’t exist yet they would have settled on other, more generic elements to fill this gap.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Squirrel, Leftover Pieces

The Deer and Bunny

The third model is easily the weakest and allows you to build a deer (or fawn depending on your interpretation) and a bunny.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Deer and Bunny, Overview

The bunny/ rabbit feels a bit forced, to be honest. It’s like they sat down in a staff meeting and their team leader told them to come up with anything at all so they don’t have even more unused parts. That isn’t to say that the idea behind it isn’t savvy, but without a few more elements, in particular some curved slopes, it doesn’t look that convincing.

The deer looks cute in a very strange way, but actually reminds me more of a scrawny baby donkey. The head is too large and the body too stubby as well while the legs despite their already spindly appearance are still too short. This would also be my biggest gripe here. Since the ball joints aren’t in the main colors and in a way visually “disappear”, everything looks even more skinny than it would otherwise.

The parts usage is on a similar level as the squirrel with teh major difference being that simply other items constitute the leftovers.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Deer and Bunny, Leftover Pieces


Concluding Thoughts

The Creator 3in1 series is shaping up pretty nicely for this release cycle. The tiger was awesome and this set is almost as great, but in a different way. It’s just fun to build and look at the creatures with the only real bummer being that the purple and yellow colors won’t be to everyone’s liking. It would be an interesting exercise to build the models in “natural” colors like Dark Tan, Medium Nougat and Dark Orange, but for the time being there would be serious limitations since not all elements used in this set even exist in one of those colors. That’s really regrettable.

In spite of this I would wholeheartedly recommend this set to literally everyone & their mom. Even if you prefer more serious subject matter like cars or Star Wars, this could be a pleasant diversion. The build is quick and easy and the creatures look good on the shelf. Who could resist an adorable squirrel looking at you from your book shelf or kitchen cabinet? 😉 It’s definitely worth getting at least one of those sets even if you don’t max out at three as I did.

Cats & Vets – LEGO Friends Magazine, May 2022

While it fails to provide anything revolutionary, the LEGO Friends magazine keeps chugging along and still manages to tickle my feet every now and then. I wasn’t super excited for the May issue, but I knew it would at least be tolerable based on the preview in the last edition, so lets see what we’ve ended up with.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, May 2022, Cover

One thing I knew would make this bearable was the cat subject and the comic already is full of the little felines. The title of it, “Cat-astrophe” at this point is just lame word play, as this has really been overdone to death, but that’s just a minor thing. The overall style of the comics is still rather weird, but at least the story is relatable this time and not completely wacko. Some of the characters and scenes clearly point to the current sets as well with the pet clinic and houseboat for instance.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, May 2022, Comic

LEGO Magazine, Friends, May 2022, Comic

The coloring pages by now are an established standard, so that’s just fine. If they didn’t try so hard to always squeeze in all the girls it might be even better. Who doesn’t like coloring cats and kittens? 😉 There’s two smaller coloring sections on other pages as well. Oddly enough, even the puzzles scattered throughout this time aren’t all that terrible. Overall there’s good content here that could keep your kids distracted for a good while.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, May 2022, Coloring Page

The posters repeat bits of the comics and match the overall topic quite well. I also found myself wanting those crazy-looking mice decoys in some form, be that as a LEGO piece or as a plushy or felt animal. They look kind of cute and interesting.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, May 2022, Poster

The extra is another examination table, of which we had several versions already over the years, even more so if you count the various pet grooming stations as well. The build therefore is quite similar to what we got before with some slight variations. One of those is actually using a solid 4 x 6 plate instead of scattering the individual assemblies onto several bricks or smaller plates. I got one of those Lavender plates with the not so great Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), but it’s not so widely used in sets. If you want one in a straightforward way this might be a good option. An interesting tidbit is the use of an actual Light Bluish Grey door on the container which is unusual for Friends in particular, but also in a more general sense. Those grey doors are surprisingly rarely used in sets.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, May 2022, Extra

Overall I’m surprised at myself how much I enjoyed this issue. It goes to show that a consistent motto and story thread have value and thinking about these things and not just throwing together random stuff pays off. I’d definitely recommend this one, especially if you have a soft spot in your heart for cats, of course.

Paper Creeper – LEGO Minecraft Magazine, May 2022

The LEGO Minecraft magazine definitely is not the most attractive one in terms of design, which can easily be proven with the May 2022 issue’s cover. i could barely believe that such a distasteful abomination left the print shop. *yikes*

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2022, Cover

As I’ve written the last few times already, the comic is more of an acquired taste than an actual thing of beauty. Somehow it just doesn’t click with me and most panels just look ugly or even creepy. Maybe if you’re steeped in the lore of the game you can overlook these things and get something out of it, so I’ll leave it at that.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2022, Comic

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2022, Comic

The poster is another hack job from the subterranean floor at the Blue Ocean headquarters where someone is chained to a desk in the cellar and it looks bad in more way than I can count. Not quite as terrible as the last one, but still pretty awful. Not was Photoshop was invented for!

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2022, Poster

A small interesting bonus is a paper cut & fold creeper on the back cover. It comes in two flavors thanks to a double-sided print – in regular form and charged with blue lightning. It’s not a full creeper model, though, just a cube you glue together. I’m always for this kind of activities stuff. It’s much more preferable than those nonsensical and way too trivial puzzles inside the mag.

The extra is quite substantial with a minifigure and two animals, the latter being an ocelot and a sheep. These are always desirable for their heads and Bricklink suggests that in fact the yellow guy as seen here has otherwise only been in one set. The Alex minifigure is nothing to write home about but I’ll gladly take another silver fish and a brown whip for my collection. You never know when you might need another vine on a wall or tree…

Granted, I’m a victim of my own ignorance when it comes to Minecraft, but somehow this magazine just doesn’t light my fire. Except for the extra I’m not getting much out of it and even from an abstract graphics design standpoint it turns me off. Maybe you feel differently, but overall I don’t think you would be missing much not buying this issue.