Ever since I bought those sets for The LEGO Ninjago Movie (e.g. the big shark sub, of course) I’m kind of in love with the Sand Blue color. I sometimes tend to think of it as “the better grey” and that notwithstanding, it is of course a nice complimentary color for many other colors, including greys and the various light blues. A single piece of this color thrown in as an off-color panel or the like can add a lot of interest to a model.
Unfortunately LEGO are not using this color nearly enough, so whenever it pops up in reasonable quantities in a set a purchase decision becomes a matter of much pondering on whether it would be worth it for expanding my parts stock. That’s why it took a while until I committed to the Fire Fang (70674) set from the LEGO Ninjago line of products.
As usual the decision was made easier when the price dropped below a certain critical point, which in this case means 30 Euro or less. The original asking price of 45 Euro isn’t that outrageous to begin with, but following my own logic of course the math has to add up. There are a few pieces with limited reusability in future projects and I also don’t exactly collect minifigures, so I at least have to feel like I’m not paying for these extraneous things.
Ninjago sets surprise me again and again with their wealth of contents and this one is no exception. In a time where many much more expensive Star Wars sets only have two minifigures getting four of them in a relatively affordable box in another series is almost something worth pointing out particularly. You also get the spinner and the main model along with some extras.
The figures for the evil-doers are interesting in that they follow the Egyptian style of a human body with a stylized animal head. For apparent reasons in a set with a giant serpent those would be snake-like, too. This is even more interesting due to the fact that these are dual-molded and if you place them right the internal transparencies catch the light in a way that gives the illusion of an actual glow. It’s unfortunately very difficult to capture on a photo, so you have to take my word for it.
The main baddie, called Aspheera, represents some sort of military commander that is riding the snake into battle. The two bronze/ copper colored guards can be used to hold the chains/ reigns or simply placed beside the head-honcho in a suitable formation. Interestingly the curvature of the serpent’s neck didn’t allow for the strap-on seat to be placed at the very top and at first this looks a bit awkward, but once you get used to it it actually looks pretty realistic. The seat even has provision to somewhat compensate for the incline by the seating area being built at an angle itself.
The chair or portable throne, if you will, is itself pretty basic and relies and tried and true clichées like you see them so often in films like the back made from swords or spears and of course those extra large battle banners. In the LEGO world this of course suffers a little from the flimsy single point attachments using hinges and I messed it up a couple of times even in those photos. The flag staffs’ horizontal bars also come of quite easily at the slightest touch, so if you let your kids play with this set you might want to leave them off for safety and not losing those parts.
The top-down and back views reveal the one thing that bothered me the most: The whole model looks kinda short and stumpy due to the tail only having three movable segments. Considering how long the tails on some of the dragons are (most notably this one) this is definitely odd. Point in case: It’s not quite an actual Cobra, neither really a Dragon Lizard (with those large collars) nor fully something like a Skink with very short legs. If there were more tail sections it might at least pass as a genuine snake of sorts, but this “neither here nor there” hybrid just feels incomplete. It’s even ironic that you can’t really put the tip of the tail in an up position to make use of the rattle mechanism (a bunch of 1 x 1 round tiles enclosed in the dishes).
My beloved Sand Blue pieces are used on the front/ underside/ belly. Most of them are slopes of different types but there’s also those flag elements. Don’t mind that I didn’t pay attention and some of them are completely whacked out and not aligned correctly. The construction of this S-shaped segment has some interesting build ideas, but ultimately still feels inadequate even if you spend time to e.g. position the black wings in an arced formation. Subdividing this into more segments would have allowed a better approximation of the overall curvature.
The way it’s build also feels useless since basically there is only this one pose. Several parts use hinges, but whenever you are trying to change the angles and positioning, they will give in to their own weight and snap back into the same position where they are stopped/ blocked by another part. I feel that this hasn’t really been thought through, even more so when you attach the printed foil pieces for the collar. There’s only so many ways to actually get them attached and once in place they will act like springs pulling everything into place.
On that note: As an adult builder I would have much preferred some more effort to blend the collar in, meaning there should be transitional concave regions built from transparent orange bricks to give the “flames” some volume. that might also have allowed for some different fixation of the foil pieces, which due to their tension tend to slip of the ball joint heads at the slightest touch. I would imagine that putting them back in place over and over again would even be frustrating for kids.
On a positive note, the model is more complex than I anticipated and it took longer to build than I had anticipated, which always helps with the perceived value. Nothing worse than a boring model lumped together using uninteresting basic building techniques, if you get my meaning. That is to say the model is better than I expected, but it’s not without shortcomings.
The most apparent problem is that it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be. For a display model it feels a bit undercooked and lacking in details, for a playable model there are not that many options because it’s basically a solid, static block. This is yet again one of those sets where buying two packages and doing a bunch of simple modifications could enhance the look and feel quite a bit by breaking up the segments into smaller sections, extending the tail and so on…