2-22-2020-R2-D2

It again feels like I was writing my review just yesterday, but it’s true – another month has passed already and here we are with the March issue of the German LEGO Star Wars magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2020, Cover

This edition comes with an R2-D2 droid minifigure. This hasn’t been included for the first time, but since it’s been like two years when it was featured last, enough people will have missed out to appreciate it reappearing. There’s definitely at least one guy out there that might want to have this droid sans crooked printing. Yes, I’m of course talking about Mr. Jang of Jangbricks fame on YouTube. how he always seems to end up with misprinted versions is indeed quite baffling.

In addition to the main figure there’s some pieces to build an imperial mouse droid, so that’s a nice little addition. Next month’s issue is supposed to include a Sith Infiltrator and judging from the preview image this could be a cool thing and yield some nice parts for the collection.

The rest of the magazine follows the usual pattern and where the games and puzzles are concerned the Star Wars version of these magazines at least offers some challenge and isn’t just a five minute affair. The main comic with Darth Vader partaking in a pod race of all things first had me confused, but ultimately is pretty much resolved as you may expect. Still, it’s a nice funny spin on a bit of lore and Vader/ Anakin‘s history.

One thing particularly worth noting are the posters, which use a somewhat abstract linocut/ woodcut style. That makes them almost “living room ready” like professional commercial posters. If the colors were tweaked a bit and were more intense and the paper was of better quality, I’d be tempted to actually put up the Boba Fett/ Slave 1 one. So overall this is one of the better editions of this magazine series and you should definitely check it out!

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…

B-Grade A-Wing – Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248)

Of course some of the sets for the latest Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker had been out since late October, but only now that the movie is out things are actually making sense in terms of how realistically the models represent the vehicles and how they fit into the story. One of them is the Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248).

LEGO Star Wars, Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248), Box

As I wrote in my short review of the film, this is one of the fighter craft you barely get to see. It’s only visible for a few moments in the Rebel‘s jungle hideout in the run-up to the big final battle with some protagonists chatting in front of it. There are a few glimpses of alternate A-Wing fighters in different liveries, but overall we don’t get to see them that much. Then again this is of course true for most other ships as well that were only stuffed into the movie as fan bait for one last appearance.

Initially I didn’t have plans to buy the set. I was a bit torn on my inside since I had my eyes on the nice Dark Green parts, the canopy is of a type I don’t have yet in my collection and even the fins are new to me, but overall it just didn’t appeal to me as a must-have item. The actual vehicle is simplistic in structure and design and so naturally the LEGO version of it would not make for the most exciting model, either. Therefore I rather spontaneously picked it up when it was on sale in a drugstore.

To me 20 Euro still feels a bit too much, but it’s definitely better than the 30 Euro LEGO envision. It’s definitely not worth that and the price once more feels artificially inflated by licensing requirements, which may not necessarily be LEGO‘s fault but rather to blame on Disney then. Even as a die-hard fan you should see to it that you get it at the lowest possible retail price. There’s simply not enough content there that would justify it costing more than 20 Euro.

LEGO Star Wars, Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248), Overview

Why keep I bickering on about the price again already you may ask? Well, by its nature an A-Wing is flat as a flounder, meaning any representation in brick pieces will mostly be an affair of plugging together a bunch of slopes and making them look nice. There is not much volume there, which can easily be verified both from above and the bottom. The main fuselage of the model is literally not higher/ thicker than three bricks in most areas. In fact the bottom featuring any extra plates is merely a concession to stability requirements, not so much that they may have wanted.

Because of the flatness everything is built around a large cockpit tub piece. I get why they used this approach, but to me as someone who is more interested in getting universally reusable parts rather than large solid mold ones with limited versatility and flexibility that’s not very attractive. Conversely, it already eliminates quite a bit of the fun in building when you would have been busy for those fifteen minutes longer building your own cockpit frame structure from more regular parts.

LEGO Star Wars, Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248), Bottom View

Limited options as the shape may offer, it’s captured nicely by the designers. From certain angles it almost looks real. Given that this isn’t the first A-Wing ever I would take this kinda for granted, though, cynical as it may seem. There’s only so many ways to skin a cat and eventually even less experienced builders would arrive at similar construction methods, given enough times and of course all pieces being available. An experienced LEGO-employed designer should not have any difficulty at all with this.

LEGO Star Wars, Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248), Front Left View

In light of not much actual official information being available by ways e.g. of a specific “The Art of Star Wars” book for the latest movie and no way to re-watch it on Blu-Ray or DVD, the details are hard to verify and you have to rely on what you can find in the depths of the internet. Except for absence of the usual “lumps & bumps” (antenna blades and hoods, hinge covers etc.) everything seems to be represented.

LEGO Star Wars, Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248), Cockpit Interior

Things can be made to look a bit more detailed with some stickers, but as you well know I never use them, anyway. That’s why the cockpit canopy also looks a bit weird (aside from the fact that it is not 100% the correct shape to begin with). I really wish LEGO would always print those parts. I really can’t imagine anyone having fun applying thin sticker strips on a transparent part. The risk of messing it up and ruining the look is just too great.

LEGO Star Wars, Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248), Front Right View

While for the most part the fuselage is okay, everything really falls apart at the engine section, in particular the aft parts. This is supposed to look very much like the long gondolas on a Y-Wing with only a constrictor ring at the end, but here it just looks plain wrong. Those disk wheels really cannot be the answer, can they? Despite having produced tons of round parts, wheel hubs and different mudguard arches there is not a single piece in LEGO‘s repository that could actually be used to represent a thin ring in this scale as would be required.

LEGO Star Wars, Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248), Aft Right View

Similarly, the many visible Technic parts rub me the wrong way. The landing skids are just as bad as the engine and even the guns just don’t feel right, even more so since they are attached with only a single pin in a way they can easily be brought out of alignment.

LEGO Star Wars, Resistance A-Wing Starfighter (75248), Aft View

So where does this leave us? Given, how insignificant the fighter is in the movie and how limited its representation in LEGO parts, this is one of the sets that simply didn’t need to exist. It has limited value as a play set and next to other, more imposing Star Wars vehicles will also look quite boring in a collection. It doesn’t offer up much of a challenge that would stimulate your senses as a brick fan while building, either, since even that is kind of dull.

Therefore my conclusion is that this would only be truly worthwile for the most ardent fans of the movie or on the other hand if you can literally get it dirt cheap to keep your kids busy for half an hour. Most others can simply ignore this/ pass on it without missing much.

 

Looking back in…?

…Frustration? Anger? Bliss? All of them? End-of-Year summaries are a difficult thing and where LEGO is concerned, I sure have a bag of mixed feelings. So how was this year? Good? Bad? Terrible? Awesome? The answer is likely: “All of the above.”, so let me explain.

Personally I’m not that unhappy within the restrictions that I have to work within, anyway, meaning smaller, not too expensive sets. There indeed have been a number of good sets like my favorite Deep Sea Creatures (31088), a couple of excellent LEGO Friends sets that for once forewent the kitsch in favor of more palatable realism, a few surprising Star Wars models and even some of the The LEGO Movie 2 stuff was quite good. I also got a bit into Harry Potter and the new Hidden Side series also was surprisingly good.

On the other hand there has been a lot of frustratingly bad stuff in the same series I mentioned just as well. On top of that LEGO keep screwing around with Ideas by “improving” the sets in the opposite direction and over-optimizing them and this year has ruined Technic for me for good. Aside from the big and expensive showy models there is not much left there that would pique my interest. The smaller models are often just an embarrassment with their flimsy engineering. If that wasn’t enough, there’s that thing with a still barely functioning Control+/ PoweredUp system that gets stuffed into boxes with no rhyme or reason and makes models unnecessarily expensive for very limited return value.

On that note and on a more generic level I feel that the rift between relatively costly sets and the lower end is also growing. There’s definitely a dichotomy between pretty well-executed, large but expensive sets and many relatively lackluster packages in other price ranges. In addition it seems that LEGO are just trying too hard too see what they can get away with. There’s no way around it: Many sets feel unjustly overpriced and if it wasn’t for the magic powers of a free market regulating itself, i.e. discounts being available, this would be one heck of an expensive hobby/ special interest.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem LEGO haven’t learned that lesson yet and as the first previews for 2020 indicate, we’re in for another round of sets where you wonder how they even arrived at some of the rather ridiculous prices. That in itself could be considered a statement and what bugs me about the whole matter that they just don’t seem to care. In fact a lot of this customer squeezing has a somewhat desperate undertone and one can’t help but feel that things aren’t as rosy as the company will have you believe. Now it’s of course pure speculation, but there are some signs that things didn’t go their way this year.

First, of course The LEGO Movie 2 was an epic fail. In Hollywood movie terms it was a bomb and didn’t break even, which in turn of course affected sales of the sets associated with the film. A second wave was only rolled out reluctantly in August and just before Christmas all the remaining sets were shoved out in a sale with crazy discounts. That and just at the same time Warner Bros. not extending their deal and the development shifting over to Universal. Cynically one could say that a tainted property was dumped at a different outlet in the hopes of producing tons of cheap movies.

Another big bummer also right in time for the end of the year is of course the acquisition of Bricklink. This also fits the pattern of a company perhaps not doing so great trying to control the market. No matter what, it’s just bad for the AFOL community at large and repercussions are already felt only a few weeks after the announcements with major changes to sales policies affecting what can be found on there.

All things considered this may not have been an outright terrible year, but some of what has happened just feels unsavory and a few things have been set in motion that just don’t feel right. So far it also doesn’t seem that we will be off to a good start in 2020 and that is just as much reason for concern. There will still be plenty to buy and to cover on this very blog and I’m more than certain that just like this year we will get some more announcements every now and then, but overall excitement on my end is limited for the time being…

Snow Dino!

The Christmas holidays have jumbled up the release schedule of the various LEGO magazines quite a bit, so the next few weeks will be a bit of a race to keep up with those costly trips to the newsstand until the cycle is in sync again.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2020, Cover

The Star Wars mag comes with a rather unspectacular Snowspeeder model. Not that there would be anything wrong with Snowspeeder, it’s just that it doesn’t have that much to offer in terms of interesting details in the first place and shrinking it down won’t improve upon this, understandably. Most annoyingly the model looks very stumpy with no provision having been made for the short rectangular aft area and everything having been chopped off immediately behind the wedge section. For a freebie it’s okay, but it just would have been nice to get a more accurate model.

Since the price has gone up again and is now at 4.99 Euro, a bonus extra has been thrown in to console users and to preempt a larger uproar. Depending on which packaging you manage to get you either get a Snow Trooper or a young Luke Skywalker with blond hair minifigure. That’s okay for the time being, but regardless, asking so much for a few printed pages and some lightweight extras is pushing it…

The content of the pages is the usual mix of an acceptable comic, some very limited games and the usual adverts for other publications from Blue Ocean. The poster provides a facepalm moment in that it depicts the UCS Snowspeeder (75144) set from last year that you can no longer buy. Kinda stupid to whet people’s appetites and then leave them disappointed, should they decide to investigate the details.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, January 2020, Cover

The LEGO Jurassic World magazine was a bit of a surprise release. There had of course been rumours and even confirmed info that there would be new issues coming out for 2020, but no actual dates were ever mentioned. If you remember, I wasn’t necessarily that satisfied with the older ones as were likely many other buyers (they basically always appeared to be dumps of surplus Owen figures and such), but it seems this is headed in a new direction and more effort is made to make them attractive. Let’s see how long that will last.

The first mag in the new series comes with a nice little T. Rex model, which with its 65 pieces even provides some longer-lasting building fun than the usual models lumped together from half that number of parts. The result is indeed reminiscent of the large T. Rex from set 75936, which I now thankfully had an opportunity to build, in terms of colors and also features some very useful parts like 1×1 brackets or the 1×2 curved slope wedges in Black that are also used for the toes on the giant version. After assembly it really looks the part and in a way is cute. My only small gripe is that there are a few too many black and dark grey parts that would have benefited from having been done in one of the brown colors as well.

A stand-out item this time is the poster with the T. Rex breaking through the wall, which is really something I could see myself actually putting up somewhere. The framing could be a bit better with a bit more visible wall, but let’s be thankful for small things. The comic is okay and funny enough there are more puzzles than in the Star Wars mag to be found here. It’s just odd how inconsistent this is at times. The best part for me is the preview of the next issue hinting at an equally complex Triceratops model, so there is definitely something to look forward to.

The German version here also comes with a free album and a sample pack for the new collectible stickers, but I can’t tell you much on that, being that aside from the free extras no actual stickers were sold at my news agent’s yet. I’ll probably just give the album to one of the neighbors kids and drip-feed them the leftover stickers I surely will get more of when buying other LEGO magazines…

Risen or Fallen?

Since it’s kinda relevant to LEGO, even if only tangentially, I figured I’ll sneak in my review of the latest Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker here. I won’t obsess about the sets too much, as the involvement of the various vehicles is rather minor, after all, but more on that later.

Going into the movie I did not have a particularly predetermined opinion. Of course I already had read and watched some written and video reviews and knew how potentially unsatisfying it could be, but suffice it to say the movie is not nearly as bad as those negative reviews make it sound in my opinion. Sure, it’s not without issues and has a lot of lapses in logic even by Star Wars standards with all its canon-vs. non-canon mess created when Disney took over and declared a lot of the old lore no longer valid, but it’s still enjoyable and, which I guess is important, structured well enough so even a casual fan like me can follow the story.

There’s no denying that the film is overstuffed, which contributes a lot to the inconsistencies and jumps. Now it would be unfair to totally bash Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi, as it sure has a few good moments, but the fact of the matter remains that it didn’t do much to progress the overall story arc and was to busy turning everything on its head when it didn’t need to. Had it not squandered so much valuable time with pointless story points, it most definitely would have been easier to tie up everything in episode IX without it feeling rushed.

Personally I was a bit miffed by the many, many unnecessary small cameos and guest appearances, too. It seemed everybody & their mum wanted to get one last moment on screen for bragging rights or was brought in as fan service, yet very few of those moments carried much meaning, either. It didn’t help that they also introduced several new characters that had to get their due as well. Arguably some of them were planted as seeds for spin-off movies to explore their past or send them on their own adventures, but still… It felt unnecessary.

The overall story isn’t anywhere as dramatic as the trailers made everyone think and Disney once more have proven that they are the masters of deceptive trailers, with many of the shots used in the trailers not being what you may have thought or more or less being pretty unimportant in the film itself. That goes for instance for the Knights of Ren who ultimately act as just another hunting party chasing the heroes, the much touted Sith Troopers, who are barely actually seen in the film but just as well applies to the secret fleet. The final battle is not even close as impressive or innovative as e.g. some stuff in Rogue One.

Probably owing to the overall forced nature of the script, the acting is quite terrible at times. Much was made of Palpatine‘s return, but to be honest, his appearances feel like extracts from some cheap B-movie. It’s just so over the top, at least I could never take it seriously. Similarly, a lot of dialog felt like it had been ripped from a textbook on what not to do in writing school. Some of it was extremely cheesy and the less Poe Dameron we get, the better. I’m sure it’s not Oscar Isaac‘s fault, but this is as one-dimensional as it gets. At least the interactions between Kylo Ren and Rey were pretty good. I even liked the idea of them actually physically sharing the world when communicating through the force.

The comedic elements felt a bit out of place. I didn’t mind Babu Frik, but the “hairdryer on a wheel”, D-O, really didn’t have to fill the “yet another cutesy robot” niche. Him having of course important info on where to find Palpatine‘s secret hideout was a bit too convenient. Likewise, the whole plot with C3-PO built around the same premise of deciphering Sith glyphs didn’t make too much sense. It also seemed to me they didn’t quite know what to do with BB-8 as well this time.

Visually the movie is of course pretty impressive, but these days with even Open Source 3D programs like Blender offering an unprecedented level of realism one can take that pretty much for granted, even more so on a 200 million dollar budget.My favorites include the ocean simulation on the planet where the Death Star crashed, which made me almost seasick, as well as some other environmental stuff. The space battles left me pretty underwhelmed and just felt too static. You know, those Star Destroyers lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery was perhaps not that believable, after all.

On that note: Of the vehicles you can buy as LEGO sets only a handful get notable screen time those being Kylo Ren‘s TIE Fighter, Poe Dameron‘s X-Wing and of course the Millennium Falcon. Most others have “blink and you’ll miss it” moments, are disguised and/ or can only be partially seen for the majority of the time or like the new Sith TIE Fighter with the triangular panels only appear as background filler. That makes it at times nearly impossible to judge the validity of LEGO‘s representation of these items and you’ll likely have to wait for one of those tie-in art books to come out.

So what’s the verdict? As much as the movie is riddled with flaws and shortcomings I still enjoyed it. However, there can be no denying that it could have been so much better. My biggest gripe is that JJ Abrams seems to indeed have been focused too much on pleasing a certain type of fans and it shows how things have been bent into place. It’s just too obvious that many characters didn’t need to be there and it’s equally apparent how some of the new characters along with open-ended story threads for existing ones were planted for future movies.

After all, most of the actors are quite young and there’s nothing speaking against another Rey-centered trilogy ten years down the line, as much as Disney may proclaim they have no plans for it currently. Mark my words – they’ll do it because passing up such an opportunity to make more cash would be stupid. Who knows, by that time we probably all have dissected The Rise of Skywalker and watched it a million times and the speculation game will start all over again…

Not so hyper-active, but still…

As the year quickly nears its end, I figured I better start summing up my activities that so far have slipped under the radar and not been mentioned here for reasons such as obeying deadlines, working out details behind the scenes and not prematurely publishing stuff. All of that is now out of the way and I can share what little activities I have done.

Of course my output pales in comparison to others. I have no issues admitting that. Too many other things going on like making myself unpopular with posting way too much on blogs and forums (not just LEGO-related), dealing with my health issues and way too many other hobbies/ interests. However, occasionally I find myself particularly enticed and highly motivated to get my lazy ass up when there is stuff to win, not least because when there is sets to be had that under regular circumstances would be hard for me to buy due to limited finances. My Ornithoraptor entry for the respective LEGO Ideas contest didn’t go anywhere, but I don’t give up that quickly, so let’s see how I fared elsewhere.

2019 Contest Entry "Beyond the Brick Merchandise Graphic Design"

Early in the summer I participated in the Beyond the Brick merchandise design contest. Since they didn’t stipulate any specific rules of course this could be interpreted in a million ways and as someone who built plastic model planes in his youth and always admired the box art I thought I’d try to do something that might evoke a similar vibe with a “plane” zooming by a brick “mountain” peeking out of the clouds. I spent a few afternoons on this in Adobe Illustrator, but of course it’s merely a first draft. Looking at it now even I realize what’s wrong with it and definitely would approach it differently for a final design.

2019 Contest Entry "Star Wars"

Oddly enough somehow people seem to think that everybody has time during summer and so quickly after that design challenge the publishers of the LEGO Star Wars magazine, Blue Ocean, which of course you are familiar with when reading this blog regularly, launched a celebratory competition to honor their 50th issue. The only requirement was to build your favorite Star Wars scene with the grand prize being an UCS Millenium Falcon (75192). That sounds cool on paper, but the result was a major kick in the balls, to be honest.

To say that the contest was an utter debacle would be putting it mildly. After pre-selecting ten entries user were supposed to rate the ultimate winner on Facebook and that caused an uproar of outrage. The reason why is pretty straightforward: The people in charge seemed too busy to keep up the pretense that their magazine would only be read by kids of a certain age and so they picked a bunch of builds that matched that demographic. I have no problem with that, but this was an open contest and by all means the best model should have won, regardless of age. Worse still, many users commenting reported from their own kids, nices, grand children etc. that they had seen way better builds from them.

The end of the story? After all the negative backlash nobody ever since  heard again of the contest. I’m sure they were planning on drumming this up big in the magazine itself as well as other channels, but it really turned into a PR disaster that I’m sure everyone just wants to forget this embarrassment. I’m not even sure if any of the group of ten actually ever were picked as a winner and received their prize. I can only hope they learned their lesson and next time come up with clearer rules or multiple tiers/ categories to avoid such a mess.

2019 Contest Entry "(E)Island Holiday"

Finally, and to end this on a positive note, I did succeed in a contest and even made it to the number one spot with my “(E)Island Holiday”. That’s of course a bit of German/ English word play and would translate to “Ice- (Is-)land Holiday” in a very crude fashion. Again this was once more in the midst of the summer and there were no restrictions, so for me at least it was quite a challenge to even get it finished while struggling with the heat wave and sweating like an ox.

I didn’t particularly expect to win, but the idea of a toppled-over ice cone had been in my head for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to turn it into a model. Only after the first reactions began to praise it for it’s originality, I got a little nervous and began to hope for more. In the end it’s of course just another summer-y beach scene like so many other submissions, but I suppose that little twist makes all the difference. In any case, I’m glad it worked out…

 

Not quite real – Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242) from Star Wars – Resistance

As this blog shows, I’m certainly not the biggest of Star Wars fans and on the few occasions when I decide to buy such a set, I usually choose the safe option with stuff I know and like within my limited understanding of the series’ lore and canon. That’s why getting the Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242) was a bit of a surprise even for me, probably due to this having been a rather spontaneous buying decision simply because the set was on discount.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Box

That in and of itself is a bit of a statement, as I genuinely don’t think this set merits the full asking price of 50 Euro. Make no mistake – once assembled the model is actually quite large, yet at the same time it feels very light in terms of the sheer volume of pieces you get. The point here is that if it wasn’t for the very elongated wings there would be very little to see. This in my view is one of the more general design flaws with pretty much any TIE fighter variant – endlessly building the large wings/ cooling panels and then attaching them to the tiniest of fuselages consisting mainly of the cockpit – but let’s not get distracted by this too much. Anyway, if you get this set for around 35 Euro that’s a more realistic price.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Overview

I don’t know much about Star Wars – Resistance, the animated series this is based on. Ever since the Clone Wars these animated series have declined in quality and it simply puts me off too much. However, one can’t deny that they have spawned a lot of interesting characters vehicles, locations and so on, so it happens that this set actually contains the one version of Poe Dameron that I do like. That’s how it should be – in his red pilot jumper looking gruff and ready for action. The other figure is of course the ace pilot himself, which seems a rather coveted minifigure due to the unique helmet.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Figures

Let’s address the one big elephant in the room – the hugely incorrect shaping and structure of the actual body/ fuselage. I may not know much about Resistance, but that much is clear: Just from looking at video snippets and still images available on the Internet it’s painfully obvious that they got it completely wrong. It looks like they were working of concept sketches and then tried to figure out how all those pencil strokes translate to struts, wings and exhaust nozzles.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Aft Left View

Essentially the model’s construction is completely backwards from how it is in the series. Instead of the “dagger blades” in the front protruding from a massive body with the shorter aft wing sections being integral, everything is more or less just plugged on. Similarly, the white regulator pistons are just there for looks, but make functionally no sense whatsoever. The point here isn’t even that it wouldn’t have been possible to do it differently, given that the construction already makes quite some use of SNOT building techniques. It just seems to me that the designer wasn’t able to think this through from an engineering standpoint.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Aft Right View

The other area that suffers, but for a different reason, is the windshield/ canopy/ cockpit glass dome. The problem here is that LEGO cheapened out and just re-used the standard TIE-Fighter windshield/ Imperial Throne Room window part for the umpteenth time. I understand that this may be a question of keeping the cost manageable on a set that just may not be that popular, after all, but even then I can’t feel that this is one of the rare cases where I would rather have an actual bulbous dome piece (even without prints or stickers) rather than something that feels like it has been used way too often in the last decade.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Cockpit Area Closed

The cockpit interior is okay for what you can achieve at this scale, but of course feels crammed. It’s another area where choosing different pieces for the actual canopy roof (e.g. the curved hinge panel) combined with a genuine dome piece would have done a lot and allowed to squeeze in yet another part to serve as the steering column for instance.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Cockpit Area Open

The one thing that mitigates and softens all my complaints and niggles is the fact that strictly on its own and without regarding the Star Wars context the model still looks quite imposing. The elongated wing blades with their pointy tips make it look very fierce and aggressive. For me it is also very reminiscent of some engineering diagnostics tools and alien artifacts found in many of the Star Trek TV series and movies. They often used these two-pronged (tuning) fork designs as a basis for devices that detect obscure sub-atomic quantum vibrations or as daggers of other species.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Front Right View

Once you build it you also realize that the model turns out way larger than either the box art (and the somewhat small box itself) or any photos suggest. The plain black/ white/ gray color scheme is misleading and cheating the eye quite a bit and I suppose even my photos can’t convey this convincingly. It’s about 40 centimeters and lucky for us it’s also quite stable and robust once you have finished it. It doesn’t always feel that way during the build while you’re plugging together those thin wings, but once everything is in place and mutually connected it holds together surprisingly well.

Naturally some care is still advised as is some attention when handling it. Those pointy ends sure could be dangerous to a smaller kid who struggles handling such a model with its small hands. You wouldn’t want all the drama when they stick it in the eyes by accident. Also too much flexing around of the long, bendy parts will still make snap them of and drag smaller parts along. That’s even more the case since for once LEGO had the good sense of replicating the majority of the war paint pattern with buildable elements rather than relying on square miles of stickers. You wouldn’t want those tiles to fly around your room like after a catapult launch.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Front Left View

The underside feels a bit barren. The model sits very flat on the table, so for a static display this is not much of an issue, but somehow I still feel that there would have been room to add a few more details. Especially the fuselage pod likely could have used some more inverted slopes to create some gentle transitions for the wings and by doing so also cover up the ratcheted hinges used to attach everything.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Bottom View

In summary this is actually an interesting model. You just have to completely lobotomize yourself and get the thought out of your head that this has anything to do with Star Wars. It more or less hasn’t – that is, beyond the basic concept shared with all TIE-Fighters. Taken as a standalone effort this could be a nice generic competitive racing space vehicle or an equally generic fighter interceptor. If you’re thinking along those lines, it may be a worthwile investment. Otherwise it’s likely only for die-hard Star Wars fans that collect everything or are hooked by the underlying TV series…

Holy Night, Silencer Night!

Cheap headline puns aside, the December issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine has arrived surprisingly quickly. Feels like I was writing about the November one just the other day.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2019, Cover

Thematically it matches the previous mag in that we get more variation on the TIE fighters, this time by ways of Kylo Ren‘s TIE Silencer as seen in that scene in The Last Jedi where he’s hesitant whether or not to blast the bridge with his mother Leia on it to bits and then it happen’s anyway, leading to that notorious Mary Poppins moment later on. The model isn’t anything special and sadly I can’t help but feel that it is once more an example with the designers to “optimize” more and more, using less and less pieces. Given the recent price increase not a satisfying trend.

At least they make good use of the mobile radio piece for once. Being a regular buyer of LEGO Friends stuff I already have a ton of those since basically every set dealing with nature exploration and pet rescue missions has them, so I couldn’t say I have much need for adding four more, but it’s okay. Just beware what you are getting and how it my clog up your storage.

For an end-of-year/ Christmas issue the mag is pretty forgettable unfortunately. The posters are terrible and there’s not too many activity bits. I guess you’ll have to find other ways of distracting your kids while decorating the tree or baking cookies. The comics are okay, though the one with the Ewoks feels oddly off-canon and out of place. Younger readers might not even know who these furries are.

Not the best issue and the preview for the January one doesn’t hold much promise, either, but of course I will get it, regardless.

November TIE-Up

Nobody likes price hikes, so the November issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine now costing 4.20 Euro instead of the previous 3.99 was not a pleasant surprise at the newsstand. As long as there is some good value attached that 5 percent increase would acceptable, though, so let’s see if that does add up.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2019, Cover

For me this is determined primarily by the parts included in the mini build and I have to say it’s pretty good this time around. There of course have been any number of small scale TIE Fighters already and one would think that this subject has been done to death, but the one included with the mag surprises with yet another novel approach. That is in particular how the large cooling panels (a.k.a. wings) are attached inverted by ways of the new T-style brackets. Logically then on a symmetrical model you get two of those. To somewhat cover up the now exposed undersides of the plates you also get four inverted tiles and it never hurts to have those, either, be it just to make your model undersides scratch-proof to prevent damage while the are standing on your table. all nice stuff to have from a builder’s perspective.

The comics don’t tie in with a specific story line from the movies and thus function independently, with clear references to The Force Awakens and The Empire Strike Back, however. They’re both drawn in the new, more dynamic style and here’s hoping that this will be the new norm. The posters are also pretty good and I’m almost tempted to put up the first order pilots one just for giggles. If you care remember there is a commercial, quite similar poster out there and it could be funny to have them side by side. The games and puzzles feel a bit light in this issue. I admittedly have no idea how long a simplistic dice-based strategy game with only a handful of planets to conquer can keep your kids distracted, though…