November Speed Trap

I don’t suppose that the LEGO City would be a multi-part series of fictional writing with a contiguous story, but as chance will have it, and that’s likely really just totally coincidental, one could see some greater story threads going on in the November issue.

LEGO Magazine, City, November 2019, Cover

If you care to remember, last month’s edition was all about fast pizza delivery and now imagine if that guy took things a bit too far and got caught in a traffic control. Yupp, the young police officer lady with her laser speed gun would sure have to say a thing or two to him. It could in its own way make for a brilliant play scenario and I think it would be fantastic if the magazine took that approach more often, unintended as this may have been. It would definitely be more attractive than just seemingly randomly firing out figures from the different sub-series.

Of course the female officer matches up with the rest of the ones we’ve gotten in the last few months, so at this point you could have about three or four of them to open up your own little police station without actually ever having bought a set. The buildable pieces don’t live up to that, though, and it seems we’re getting fewer and fewer with every issue. regrettably the various LEGO magazines are really becoming more minifigure packs with some extras than the other way around.

If donuts are your thing, then the comic is absolutely right for you as it’s built around the big sign from the Donut Shop Opening (60233) getting stolen. Funny enough I would in fact love to own the set for those special pieces since I have an idea floating in my head where such a large donut might come in handy. It’s just a bit on the expensive side only for that… Anyway, I digress. The rest of the magazine is okay and in particular the puzzles are a bit more demanding again this time, so those little brain teasers should give your kids something to do for a while on a bad weather fall afternoon.

Speedy October Pizza

Full disclosure: I don’t particularly like pizza. This likely has a lot to do with my general dislike for anything with cheese and my disdain for “ordering-in”, but suffice it to say that the occasions where I have been eating a slice are few and far between. That’s why a good chunk of the appeal of the October issue of the LEGO City magazine may be lost on me, so bear with me if I just don’t “get” what it’s all about as apparently the whole things is built exactly around these subjects this time.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2019, Cover

The included model struck me as odd at first, as such a sport bike would barely make sense for a regular delivery service. Within the context of the magazine’s comic it begins to fall into place, though. In any case, not having had such a particular type of motorcycle in my collection yet I’m not going to complain. The only thing that is very obvious are the large empty areas on the windshield/ aerodynamic covers. They really beg for a print, but I guess that was too much to hope for on a freebie.

Funny enough I have even less reason to be miffed because my little bag actually contained two of the black support frames. It’s certainly puzzling to see, considering how large a part this is. You would only expect this on smaller items. On the other hand, having to request replacement parts from LEGO‘s service on what seems every second set I buy lately it’s not that surprising, after all. Something is seriously awry with their sorting and packaging.

The minifigure is quite generic and if you have a spare hair piece somewhere to replace the helmet, you can easily integrate it in every scenario in your little city. Beyond that there’s only the printed tile with the rather uninspired generic “Pizza” print and two white 2 x 2 jumper plates to create a small stack of delivery boxes. You know what would have been cool? If they had included said tile with an exclusive print like e.g. the “City Pizza” logo from their xtra (853129) signage sticker set. that would have been ace and made this a coveted item.

The comic itself, barring my brain being unattuned this kind of eating habits and everything that goes with them, seems okay and is nicely drawn. It just doesn’t really click with me. The posters, despite being CG-based are also acceptable this time around. All things considered this is a pretty solid issue.

Space September

As a science fiction fan of sorts and a nerd with a general interest in exotic scientific subjects like quantum physics, astral dynamics and so on of course I love myself some space-y stuff even in LEGO form. This month’s issue of the LEGO City magazine caters just for that.

LEGO Magazine, City, September 2019, Cover

The content is derived from the current space exploration theme. Unfortunately for my taste it’s a bit too simplified with many large and specific parts and kind of crude looking models, so my interest in buying some of those sets is a bit limited to say the least. That’s why I’m all the more pleased to get some of the stuff that is contained in those sets on the cheap, in a manner of speaking, by ways of the mag.

Most notably that covers the new 2019 geode-type piece, i.e. a rock with a crystalline transparent mineral inside. I have to say it really looks nice and interesting when the light refracts through the sharp edges and facets when the rock is backlit. The magazine comes with the Dark Orange and Trans Light Blue version with some other combinations being found only in the commercial sets for the time being. The second piece of mention is the printed 1×1 round tile for the robot face which due to its generic look should find some creative uses.

The minifigure is just the generic astronaut and unlike the cover image may make you think, it neither comes with a special face or an alternate hair piece so you could present it with the helmet off. It’s adequate for basic play scenarios, but not much more than that. Similarly the comics and games this time around can’t disguise that they are more of a marketing pitch for the new sets than really deep content. Therefore the real value of this issue will genuinely depend on whether you are into any of this space stuff and can overlook the shortcomings or are a regular buyer, anyway.

Summer Police

It’s probably fair to say that the current LEGO City lineup is perhaps a bit boring and inevitably this also adds little variety to the respective magazines. Alternating between fire rescue, police and soon the flood of space-themed sets this month we get another cop figure.

LEGO Magazine, City, August 2019, Cover

Not all is lost, though, as actually the mag is once again pretty good. It seems that every three months or so a certain team is working on the publication that has a better feel for what users may want than the other teams that produce the less interesting stuff in the interceding months. That being the case, I had quite a bit of fun with the comic in a Duck-Tales-esque style (you know, with over-the-top dumb robbers and all that), a good selection of games that provide at least a bit of challenge and decent enough poster artwork.

The little police vehicle at first looked a bit *meh* when I saw it in last month’s “next issue” preview, but it’s actually better than anticipated. It’s just photographed in a weird manner and presented out of scale next to the minifigure. The cool thing – if you wanna call it that – is that it uses the single piece chassis also used e.g. on the various Friends karts, so it’s actually a bit larger than the usual constructs from 2 x 4 plates and the like.

Had they included a few more pieces, this could build into a nice police beach quad/ buggy or something similar. As it is it feels a bit flat and you are left to whatever extra pieces you may have in your repository to spice it up. At least there’s already the printed slope piece for the hood to get you started. Call me weird, but for me also the wheel hubs have value – they’re nothing special, but just like that I got them in Light Bluish Grey when before I only had them in Flat Silver. It always helps to have options.

Overall this is one of the better City mags this year and definitely worth its money. In fact the relatively robust model might even make for a nice little item for your children to play on the beach during your summer holiday…

July Dive

It’s some of the hottest days of the year with a heatwave ravaging Europe and everyone is looking for ways to cool their heads. Naturally amongst those could be taking a dive in a lake or climbing up mountain glaciers, so it seems fitting that the LEGO City magazine this month caters for this in a way.

LEGO Magazine, City, July 2019, Cover

The icy cold is taken care of by a promotional comic marketing the Snow Groomer (60222) set and the watery parts are brought home with equally matching comics and of course the included minifigure and buildable pieces.

The latter are a bit lackluster with the figure featuring only the simplest of prints and the parts consisting of small pieces. I’m not saying that a Dark Tan cropped corner plate and a Reddish Brown 1 x 1 hollow round stud (as found e.g. in current Harry Potter sets) can’t be useful, but once again the limited selection furthers the impression that LEGO and Blue Ocean are trying to cut corners to keep the cost as low as possible. At that rate, one day you’ll be glad if you get a single 4 x 1 brick… They could at least have done the crab in a different color to provide a better incentive.

The rest of the mag is the usual mix, though incomprehensibly to me they have reverted to those awful CG-based posters instead of the more attractive hand-drawn ones. I like that they include more puzzles and more challenging ones at that lately, though. Keeps the kids busy for longer and provides at least a bit of a challenge for the grown-ups as well…

Fiery Strawberry Jam

Due to the changed release cycle, the LEGO Friends and City magazines came out today on the same day, so I’m taking the opportunity to review them all at once.

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2019, Cover

Once again built around this year’s firefighters theme, the City mag comes with a little helicopter thingy and a female minifigure. The model is rudimentary, to say the least and its originality ends at creatively using a carriage drawbar as an aft beam. The rest is kept to the bare minimum and thus not particularly detailed. They could at least have thrown in a wedge piece for the front hood! The current themes being so simplified unfortunately also trickles down to the comics and given the flimsy nature of the model it doesn’t make for interesting visuals. Overall this isn’t really that great.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, June 2019, Cover

The Friends mag only coming out every other month now here in Germany one would think they make a bit more of an effort and at least pick the best parts from the skipped issues and included them in place of less attractive content, but it appears there’s no hope in sight. At least the comic is okay this time around. They still use those awful CG figures for the posters, though, so there’s that.

The model of the waffle stand isn’t anything extraordinary, but as a little surprise contains a printed round 2 x 2 grille tile that can be used fantastically on technical models and seems to not have been used on models in quite some time. This alone could be worth buying this magazine. The colors on the cover are misleading, BTW. The 2 x 1 plates appear to be Medium Azure, but are actually Dark Cyan. Someone must have mistweaked the colors when preparing the photo for print production…

Coral, Corals, Amusement, Space

The rumour mill had of course already been busy and some thumbnail resolution leaked images had popped up here and there already, but this week we finally got some official, full size images for us to inspect and dissect every pixel of the new Architecture, City, Creator 3in1, Friends, Harry Potter and even Duplo sets from LEGO.

But first things first: For many people the most important news is that LEGO finally came to their senses and will no longer limit specific seasonal or exclusive sets to regional markets. The negative backlash about the Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner (80101) and the Dragon Dance (80102) sets, the The LEGO Movie 2 Brickheadz and most recently the Darth Vader Bust (75227) really seems to have gotten under their skin. Since those sets were already in short supply in their intended markets and outsiders leaching some of them exacerbated the situation further and  left many people frustrated there. Perfectly understandable, as even I would have wanted a Dragon Dance set. It just looks cool. Anyway, expanding production of such releases globally should avoid some of that craziness and guarantee better access to the products in question.

Moving on to the new releases, first let’s quickly get the for me least relevant series out of the way. I never was much of a Harry Potter fan and in fact nowadays I think there’s so much wrong with those books and movies, it would warrant its own article to explain it all, but regardless of my personal dislike for the subject matter you have to admit that for those who love this stuff the sets will be amazing. Lots of minifigures, a consistent design philosophy and they even thought of making the Hogwarts Clock Tower (75948) match up with last year’s Hogwarts Great Hall (75954) and Whomping Willow (75953) building segments. Perhaps some people’s dream of one day having the complete castle made from modular components in this style and scale might still come true, after all?

In the Architecture series we will get the Trafalgar Square (21045) and the Empire State Building (21046). They look okay if you are into this stuff, but neither model is a must-have for me. The Empire State Building in fact turned out as I had feared and is a mass of Tan grille tiles plugged onto a solid core, so this will be extremely daunting to assemble and a test of patience. I suppose the achievement will be having assembled it without having an angry outburst from the repetitive build more than actually having it on your table as a show piece.

I have no kids of my own and I’m past the age of playing with certain toys (despite trying to keep my inner child alive), but I have to say when I’m strolling through the aisles of a toy shop I’m always tempted to pick up random bits and pieces because they are just so adorable and cute and have to restrain myself very hard. Duplo sets with animals always have been part of that crowd and the feeling of wanting to own some of them already is coming back just looking at the new sets. now if only they would bring back that crazy shark from a few years ago I might actually be compelled to buy a submarine set… 😉

Speaking of cute, colorful things, of course Friends is my go-to series. As hinted in my article on the new Coral color, the ocean animal rescue themed sets for the second half of the year are full of elements in this color, so you should easily get to a point where you have a healthy base supply of pieces to work with. As if that weren’t enough, we also get a ton of new pieces like baby sea animals, the coral plant element and the complimentary mini sea creatures. The latter are likely a separate standardized bag similar to the garage tools or cutlery that are included easily in many sets and hopefully soon will also be available also in colors than Coral. You know, Yellow Butterfly Fish, White or Tan clam shells and Dark Orange octopi make totally sense to me. We’ll see.

The amusement park sets on the other hand are mostly not my thing, though they, too, are based around oceanic themes. My problem here is that they too much feel like the similar sets we had three years ago, the Heartlake Swimming Pool (41313) or even the current Heartlake City Resort (41347). Not necessarily in the sense that they are redundant or identical, but that it would not be impossible to build large parts of the new stuff from sets you may already own, give or take a few specific parts. This becomes even more of a pickle as the Creator 3in1 series also caters for this with the Carousel (31095). Too many options! This can really burn a hole in your purse. Perhaps they should have coordinated this better or consolidated it into a overaching crossover them in both series.

More commonalities in Friends and 3in1 come by ways of two buildings – the Heartlake City Restaurant (41379) and the Townhouse with Pet Shop and Café (31097). Both are highly welcome, as you can never really have enough houses in your little city and in recent time we haven’t seen that many halfway fully formed buildings in most series. You’re likely going to need at least two sets of each to make them halfway compatible with the Modular Buildings, regardless, but something is better than nothing. That’s even more the case for the Friends restaurant, as it is chocka full with interesting new parts and its Southern European architecture style has been rarely seen. It’s really unusual and quite unique to the point of not looking like a Friends set at all if it weren’t for some parts in Lavender that give it away.

Finally let’s talk about City. By now you might have guessed it already, but yes there’s a bit of an amusement park theme going on here as well. Nothing major with just a figure pack and some little doo-dads, but should you indeed decide to go full batty and want to build a giant park with all the sets mentioned already, this will be useful. The rest is pretty mundane with the continuation of the fire patrol theme and more generic sets, but I couldn’t help but notice the huge donut and think it’s awesome. Really too bad it’s included in a more expensive set that otherwise doesn’t have anything that would interest me.

On the matter of things that interest me – I’m of course a science fiction and astral science nerd on some level, yet the City Space Port sets leave me completely emotionless. Except perhaps for the large rocket set it all looks completely boring to me. It seems that their cooperation with NASA resulted in trying to be too factually exact and of course everything had to be white and gold for thermal insulation and reflecting radiation. Also it looks like they just ticked subjects off some list and kept the designs to a bare minimum. I mean by all accounts at least that space station could have been a lot larger and more complex and those shuttles a lot more detailed. It’s disappointing.

In any case, no matter what there are some interesting sets lined up and even buying the ones I consider essential or even mandatory will be quite a chase, so there is little to complain. This wave of new sets overall is pretty good and in addition there are already some sets on the market I haven’t caught up with yet, making for plenty of entries on my ever-growing wishlist…