March Fire Drone

The predictable alternating cycle of Police – Fire Patrol – Some other current theme continues in this month’s LEGO City magazine (March edition) and guess what – we’re on step two of the loop, meaning that we get another firefighter.

LEGO Magazine, City, March 2020, Cover

It’s getting harder to muster up some enthusiasm, but on the bright side you could technically now have four different such figures from the last 1.5 years without having ever bought an actual set. Good for people who want to bolster their squad, kind of bad for LEGO when users can’t be bothered to purchase boxed sets and just wait it out with the magazines. I don’t have much interest in either and solely obsess about the actual buildable pieces, but that’s not getting much better, either. The drone build in this one is again pretty barebones and wouldn’t justify purchasing the mag more than once. The rest of the content is okay with two comics and a bunch of simple puzzles.

In other news I’ve joined a small LEGO Magazines group on Facebook, in case you’re interested. It’s also permanently linked from the sidebar on the right. I’ve already always posted my articles to my own news feed and now also include them there, so it should be a bit easier for you to keep up. That’s even more so as from what I’ve seen so far the German versions always seem to be among the front runners. Sometimes the same issue is published months later in other countries. Having some advance information might help you make a decision further down the line. I’ll try to keep my schedule of firing out my little reviews pretty close to the release date as much as I can, so perhaps check back regularly…

Today I’m a Princess! – Moana’s Boat (43170) and Aurora’s Royal Carriage (43173)

We all have our favorite animated Disney movies and while my most beloved ones have little to do with today’s modern takes on the subject nor in some way the more kitschy older ones I still enjoy even those for what they are when they run on TV or I can snatch them up on a cheap DVD/ Blu-Ray. That being the case I was, odd as it may sound, pleasantly surprised to see that there would be new Moana sets as well as a few others lined up for this year. Let’s begin with Moana’s Boat (43170)

LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Box

I have a funny relation to this movie. I loved the original trailer way back then (the one with the flashbacks also used in the film where she’s a toddler), but to this day never got around to actually sit through the movie from beginning to end. I know bits and bobs and some larger sections even, but not the whole story. That’s perhaps one of the reasons why I never had much interest in the original, way larger sets. It’s not that I feel I missed out on something special, but I always wanted the little pig named Pua in my collection. The new release makes this easy enough, with this being a 10 Euro set, often sold for 7 Euro.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Overview

Given the pricing of course one shouldn’t expect anything miraculous to be included. The buildable components are very simple and just enough to allow to re-play some scenes from the movie, but far from being super-realistic or proportionally accurate. naturally there’s Pua the pig which I was so keen on and then a Moana figure as well. Here in Germany she’s called Vaiana, by the way, due to some other pre-existing registered trademark having foiled Disney‘s marketing plans.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Island The small island has been reduced to the bare minimum, but to me is still enticing. Not only does it contain the triple leaves element in Lime Green as a new color for this year but also the “poop” swirl 1 x 1 round plate introduced with the Dog Sitter Collectible Minifigure last year, but this time in white. If you know my obsession with LEGO Friends and baking you know that this will make a perfect piece for Sundae swirls or any other similar cake decoration while here in this set of course it stands in as a shell housing.

 

LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Canoe, Front Left ViewThe boat/ canoe is an equally simplistic build, but is sufficient for the smallness of the overall set. I could be critical of the construction, but for the most part it will be just fine for kids. My only serious concern is the lack of an extra axle/ beam to support the auxiliary float, as indeed it’s only connected via the arched slopes. Similar to the island however there is a lot of value here if you are hunting for specific parts.LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Canoe, Front Right View 

 

First, there’s the two inverted curved slopes in Reddish Brown for the first time ever. Yes, one would think that such a mundane part had been done in this color a long time ago, but while I don’t always trust Bricklink 100 percent (they do get information wrong at times despite peer reviews), it seems true. Similarly, the bar used for the mast, an almost 30 year old mold, is premiering in a brown color in this set as well. And finally, there’s the new 2 x 2 x 1 container only introduced in 2019 (under the lid with the flower).

I almost struggle for words to describe how awesome it actually is that they crammed in so many “new” pieces into such a small and affordable set. Buying a second or third of these sets doesn’t seem like the worst idea, especially if the price drops even lower during some special promotion.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Royal Carriage (43173), Box

Moving on to Aurora’s Royal Carriage (43173) I can barely contain my excitement, either. Initially the only reason I so wanted this set is the owl. Yes, it may seemed stupid, but when i first saw pictures of this little critter and its dumb-founded look I laughed my bum off in the real LMFAO sense. Even now when I look at it I can’t help but grin and giggle. It pushes all my buttons.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Royal Carriage (43173), Overview

The little side build with the table feels a bit superfluous and doesn’t do much for me. it doesn’t even have a genuine candle and the least they could have done to make this more interesting is to include the new “dripping icing” 2 x 2 plate found in the just released baking-themed LEGO Friends sets. A real wedding cake would have been even better. Other than that the set is again overflowing with pieces in previously non-existent color variants. Those include the bracket used for the seat, the modified plate with a single clip, the slope and there’s also the three to two jumper plate and the stairstep bracket, both of which however were already introduced in these colors for The LEGO Movie 2 last year.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Royal Carriage (43173), Left View

There could be some debate on the modified tiles with the wall panel, though. New Elementary has a whole article on the subject, but I honestly think they are over-interpreting this and make things way too complicated. Point in case: The only reason why they all get different numbers is because LEGO counts them as special/ custom-produced one-off parts tied to specific sets or series. Other than that it’s presumably always the same coating that just looks different depending onto which base color it is applied. That’s in fact perhaps the most sensible theory to begin with. While nothing speaks against it, I don’t consider it likely that LEGO would try out a ton of different coatings. That would make things way to convoluted for mass production.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Royal Carriage (43173), Aft Right View

All things considered, I really like these two little sets. They offer great value for little money and just feel useful to me. I even almost like the minidolls. The ones used in Friends have definitely improved in terms of showing different prints and colors, but these two models show how further modifying them with different types of skirts and perhaps a different hair piece can further enhance them.

The models themselves are also robust enough to actually be played with by children. I accidentally dropped the storage box where I keep those things in during the photo shoot and aside from a few pieces that you would expect to come off such as the palm leave on Moana‘s island or some of the golden swirlies on the carriage nothing broke. It should be safe even for three-year-olds. If your kids are into any of the movies, you should definitely consider buying those sets.

Connecting the Dots

It’s that time of the year where there’s all those fancy toy trade shows, first in London, currently in Nuremberg and soon in Tokyo, and of course that’s ample opportunity for LEGO to give some new products a grand roll-out and drip-feed embargoed info to journalists and dealers on others.

LEGO Dots is in the first category and after lots guessing we now finally know what it is. Yes, comparisons to Clikits from fifteen years ago feel appropriate and that’s where I have a problem. Seeing that that other product didn’t last long and barely made an impression on anyone, I’m willing to bet that this will be history repeating itself and two years down the line it will more or less quietly disappear again. There are a few things that rub me the wrong way.

First, with this stuff LEGO more or less are competing with hundreds of similar products in what I like to call “trashy kids craft”. You know, things like Aquabeads, whatever is the latest variation on self-adhesive rhinestones or the long-forgotten loom silicone rings. There’s a new hot thing every half year and the shortness of the hype cycles is only outdone by songs on the radio. To me it just doesn’t feel like that this is a market they should even be in. It just isn’t very exclusive or high-profile, things which LEGO otherwise keeps touting.

Second, and perhaps an even bigger problem, is that the concept will likely wear out quickly. The number of patterns you can produce with a given number of pieces is ultimately finite. Well, technically it isn’t, but I don’t imagine the kids this is targeted at to go out of their way to go too crazy on this and change their bracelets, pen holders and so on every day, especially with something as finicky as those tiny 1×1 tiles. It gets tedious rather quickly.

Third, for me as a MOC builder having some of those elements in new colors is a nice thing and I’ll definitely buy a couple of sets for my parts stock, but how far can you take that? After a short while you’ll have so much of this stuff floating around, you just don’t know what to do with those buckets of pizza-corner tiles in colors you’ll never use. You may not even be able to sell them with profit because everyone will suffer the same issue. On the bright side of course this means that we likely won’t have to worry about supplies for the next decade.

As it stands, to me this seems a weird move, after all. I had a gut feeling right from the start that LEGO Dots might be a product of limited relevance to me, but somehow they managed to disappoint even my low expectations. I’ll take the pieces for what they are worth, yes, but overall my feeling remains that LEGO should better invest in other things than trying to come up with such ephemeral products just to cash in on an artificially created short-lived hype bubble…

Strike Out!

Going from not so exciting to pretty much *meh* the February issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine has arrived.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, February 2020, Cover

This feeling of dissatisfaction of course primarily stems from the rather inglorious model included this time, the value of which to me hovers somewhere around the zero mark. Don’t get me wrong, there have been simplistic models in the past, but at least they always contained some interesting and unique parts or at least ones in interesting “rare” or new colors. This TIE Striker is really as mundane as it gets and has been trimmed down extremely to the point of barely being recognizable. Ironically it would have been easy to fix/ improve the whole affair by using larger wedge plates for the wings/ radiator surfaces and bulking up the fuselage ever so slightly with some more plates.

The comic has some nice panels featuring Yoda that would make for great posters, but no such luck. Instead we’re treated to the usual poor CG stuff this time featuring Vader and Luke. the activities department is sparse, to say the least with only three simple games/ puzzles. On the bright side, the price has been corrected down back to 3.99 Euro, but you just feel that there are fewer pages. Also the next issue is looking a lot more attractive judging from the preview page, so there’s hope yet…

Color of the (K)Night – The Knight Bus (75957)

Don’t you love it when just hearing about a specific set gives you crazy ideas? Sure enough that’s the case for The Knight Bus (75957) from the LEGO Harry Potter series. Well, for me at least, anyway. So what could it be?

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Box

Contrary to what my recent frequent excursions in Harry Potter territory may suggest, I still don’t care much for the series and its lore as much. I just happen to like some of the models. That’s why The Knight Bus couldn’t be further from my mind, but then LEGO actually made it valuable by including the new 3 x 3 windows and in Dark Purple, no less. Seeing as I’m also quite into LEGO Friends and already had a bunch of of windows in different sizes and flamboyant colors, the more I thought about it the more it made sense that this might make for an interesting use in a building one of these days.

After that it merely became a matter of math and waiting for a good price. There’s 34 of those windows in the set and while I might never need all of them, I quickly figured out that buying this set as a whole would not be more expensive then ordering a bunch of the pieces individually from Bricklink and I’d get a few more parts on top. Of course this is entirely subjective and depends on how you might potentially re-use those items plus the price. For 26 Euro this was pretty much a no-brainer for me, but at the original MSRP of 40 Euro I’d think twice about it.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Overview

With the bulk of the contents being dedicated to the bus itself and of that a major fraction constituting the windows, there’s little else going on in the set. There’s inevitably yet another Harry figure, of course the conductor and the driver, an elderly chap. The latter to me is perhaps the most valuable, as its generic nature makes it perfect for using it in a Modular Building or City scenario as well. Interestingly enough that could also apply to the overall construction, as cunningly this is a 6 wide model that would fit on standard LEGO roads.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Front Left View

On the other hand the narrowness is perhaps also one of my main criticisms. I looked up pictures of the real thing and man, is it bulky and bullish even. Compared to that the model looks very lanky and excessively tall. That is to say the proportions are not captured that perfectly from that standpoint. Trimming off one level would still make for a dainty little double-decker bus in a small town in the 1950s or so, though.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Aft Left View

Aside from the novelty of the 3 x 3 window elements the construction is rather straightforward and does not provide any challenges nor shows off any cool advanced techniques. It literally is just like you and your kids would build it – a row of bricks as the basis and then a row of windows on top, secured with a bunch of other elements like strip-shaped plates.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Front Right View

I’m not particularly friends with the way the topmost front windows have been constructed This is one of the few places in the set where for once I think that using the more conventional existing wind shield elements would have done just fine, ideally of course with the frames already printed on. It seems odd that they were so fussy here with a hinge-based construction when likely nobody really would have complained about the simpler and still better-looking method.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Front View

A little bit of finesse has however still been added with the large opening side wall. This provides generous access to the interior. Not that it’s that essential. Unfortunately due to the scale chosen the play value remains very limited. The “rolling palace” feel found in the movie is barely present and even if the model were bigger, you wouldn’t really be able to enliven it that much with only three minifigures.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Right Side Open

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Right Side Open

Interestingly, a lot of emphasis has been put on modularity and openness, which to me seems a bit silly and unnecessary, given the limitations. I could have done without a removable bed in favor of a more detailed internal space. Even the reverse could be argued – the bus being kind of a camper van to just stow things away and then you pull out one piece of furniture or utilities like from a bottomless chest to decorate your scene. It feels neither here nor there and is overall unsatisfying.

 

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Top View with Roof removed

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Upper Level separated

All things considered, this is an okay model, but if it wasn’t for my super-secret plan regarding the use of the windows in a future project, I would have completely ignored it. The funny thing is that LEGO could bring out a two-level variant of this in another color and it would probably sell reasonably well, but as its stands, the Dark Purple otherwise is difficult to get accustomed and will limit the attractiveness for certain crowds.

I’d also guess that for Harry Potter fans this is equally not on top of many people’s lists as it doesn’t offer much play value nor a load of figures. That and of course again its color may just look odd on a shelf or in a showcase. In the end it’s an acquired taste in many ways and once the gags from the movie are stripped away there’s not much remaining other than a barren bus that could mean nothing to you if you haven’t seen the film…

January Jack (again)

Guess what? It’s January and Jack is back! Not that that’s a good thing and yes, before you ask, he’s also going to feature on the cover of the next issue according to the preview page. I’m really stumped by the unimaginativeness of the LEGO Hidden Side magazine designers in that regard.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, January 2020, Cover

The minifigure this time features El Fuego, which is sort of a good thing for me because it’s not redundant. I never could get myself to buy the Stunt Truck set (70421), at least not yet, so this is an easy way of getting the dude. Especially the helmet with the bullseye markings is a fun little addition that could be useful even if it’s only put up somewhere as decoration e.g. in a garage scene.

What I don’t get with these LEGO magazines are the CG-based posters. I mean this issue has several comic panels almost covering a full page and any of them would have made for a gorgeous poster. This seems such a waste, even more so since it’s apparent that some artists have been working hard for the past years creating all the graphics for Hidden Side. In my opinion this would have much more value instead of LEGO trying to force force the AR gimmick down everyone’s throat and thus every set and magazine being demoted to being just a tie-in to some ill-conceived bigger plan.

The activities section is adequate for the targeted slightly older kids and will keep them occupied for ten minutes, but on the whole the magazine feels terribly lightweight. I’ll keep on it for a few more issues, but if it doesn’t improve notably I think I’ll ditch it in the long run.

February White (K)Night

After last month’s brief intermezzo with some wood chopping it’s now back to police work (and next month firefighting) in the LEGO City magazine.

LEGO Magazine, City, February 2020, Cover

With the buildable parts once more we’re getting a superbike body. Thanks to this magazine and a Ninjago set I bought once I now have them in Black, Red and White. This almost makes me want to sit down and design some custom prints/ stickers, as sadly just like the pizza delivery version this is just unprinted. On such a large surface area it simply looks very plain and boring. If I ever were to e.g. build a motorcycle shop I’d definitely do something about this to make them look more attractive and even just a police patrol roaming the streets would benefit from some markings.

The rest of the magazine is just the usual stuff, though I was surprised to find a coloring picture on one page. Are we perhaps seeing a new trend, given that this was also the case in Friends recently? On a side note, the mag nicely illustrates why having named characters is not a good idea in the LEGO world. Duke DeTain? My ass! This kind of word play simply isn’t flying in German and the gag will be lost on many…