Bricklink gets busted, or does it?

After that robbery in the Dresden Green Vault was all the news yesterday (I do live in beautiful Saxony, after all), today another kind of shockwave ripples through LEGO communities all over the world. Yepp, LEGO just officially acquired Bricklink. First reactions are mostly negative, as this could have far-reaching repercussions for the secondary/ second-hand LEGO sets and pieces market. Of course it’s hard to predict how this will pan out, but here are some thoughts on this.

First let’s begin with the positive side – Bricklink could become LEGO‘s new Bricks & Pieces outlet. Anyone who has ever tried to order separate pieces from the online shop will no doubt have mixed feelings about it. My personal experiences are just bad. I basically gave up on it because it never seems to work and is overall just not worth the trouble. The basic drill usually goes something like that:

You spend forever sifting through seemingly random lists of parts since of course, unlike LEGO seem to think, nobody knows the design numbers by heart to be able to use the search function. This gets even worse if you jump across parts from different sets. In such a case the software may just go belly up if you are trying to order unavailable parts, sends you back to the shop’s start page and resets the entire shopping cart, so it’s empty and you have to start over from scratch. Even if you are lucky and none of this happens you could still be thwarted when the hand-over from the separate sub-shop to the big parent shop where your payment is actually handled doesn’t work. See the problem?

So with all that in mind, a new shop would be a godsend even if Bricklink itself is more or less pretty crooked and atrocious not just from a web design standpoint. It could be cool if LEGO officially supplied dealers on there with bulk shipments of parts, leading to better overall availability and perhaps better prices. The pertinent question, though, is “Will they or won’t they?” and that’s where things get dicy.

Just like some large sellers could benefit from such a move, others that have been chugging along with small shops or specialized in specific items might fall between the cracks and just give up. They may not be able to have competitive pricing, they may have to take down not officially endorsed stuff like custom parts that collides with LEGO‘s overarching policies, they may simply run out of supplies when LEGO has too much control over everything and their sometimes a bit shady supply chains collapse. Which is getting me to a point.

The thing that really gives me a tummy ache is the level of control this move give’s LEGO on the whole. While so far it seems they have no concrete plans to change too much on Bricklink right away, they could always do so at a whim and at a moments notice. They could enforce whatever rules they see fit and by sheer power of numbers dictate prices, product availability and a few other things. Again, at this point it’s all speculation and maybe because I got burned by some big corporations in my life I’m all to wary and paranoid about such matters, but it is a point of concern…

Revisionist Krakken

As happens so often when working on a project for too long you can’t see the forest for the trees, as they say, so a few minor issues crept into my octopus MOC instructions. Nothing major and by no means a deal breaker, just small oversights. I’m pretty sure I had all the best intentions of fixing them way back when, but then somehow forgot about them. Therefore I’ve now sat down again and got to it. I’ve edited the original post and updated all the links. The specific changes are as follows:

  • Fixed a bunch of spelling errors/ typos in the German version.
  • Changed the color of the 3L bar in the eyes to Black to correctly reflect availability (it doesn’t exist in Trans Neon Green and the one included in set 31088 is actually a 4L one)
  • Split up the 4 x 1 brick with sideways studs used at the top of the mantle into two 1 x 2 bricks because again it only exists in this form in Dark Blue. If you use other colors this will be irrelevant.
  • Fixed a DPI mismatch on the BOM pages that would make them appear larger than the other pages in non-DPI-aware PDF applications, e.g. in browsers.

For your convenience I’ve also created a MOC page on Rebrickable. This should make it simpler to sift through the parts inventory, compare it to parts you may already have (if you maintain your list on there) and provides a convenient way to order the missing pieces easily if necessary by pre-selecting them in Bricklink shops.

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.

“Weep for the future, Na’Toth!”

I’m always one to sneak in a quote from my favorite sci-fi series of all time, Babylon 5, but sadly the melancholic undertones and the literal meaning of that particular one ring all too true for LEGO‘s first half year line-up for 2020, it seems.

I shared a few thoughts on Hidden Side and Speed Champions already a few days ago and now that images of the sets for City, Creator 3in1, Friends, Ninjago, Star Wars and Technic have been released, I feel like I’m stuck in a “WTF?” loop. The blunt and short version would be that about 70% of the sets are garbage, 20% are kinda okay and there’s only about 10% of sets that I would consider reasonably good. As if that weren’t enough, the ratings aren’t even consistent with what you would likely think, knowing my preferences and tastes.

Personally I’m most disappointed by the Friends sets. Why? To me they feel like a definite step back. This year was quite good with the water rescue theme and an equally sea life inspired fun fair theme, including the occasional interesting crossover of both worlds. Most notably everything was a bit toned down to the point of being almost realistic in terms of colors used. There were sets like the Heartlake City Restaurant (41379) that took this so far they would almost qualify as Creator 3in1 or Expert Modular Buildings with only hints of the typical Friends-related colors giving them away.

Unfortunately it seems this will be no longer the case and it’s back to wacky color combinations, overall flamboyancy and gaudiness plus non-realistic construction of e.g. vehicles. Aside from a few new pieces and recolors there is little to find there that would attract me. I even almost broke into loud laughter at the ridiculousness of the new hair salon looking way too familiar for comfort. To say it would be a rip-off of the one from three years ago would be stretching the truth a bit too hard, but the similarities are to apparent to dismiss.

Ninjago this time around doesn’t do much for me. The new cyber space theme with all the neon transparent colors and overall sharp-edged, aggressive design looks a tad too much like Nexo Knights reloaded. That doesn’t mean I might not buy one or two of the smaller sets just to check them out and get a few extra parts, but I think I’ll mostly pass. The last two years I bought a few sets and I guess that will have to do for now until another Shuricopter or similar comes along to tingle my taste buds.

The same is no doubt going to happen to City – I will try to get the animals in some form, but overall it’s probably fair to say that I don’t care much for the umpteenth re-tread of the police and fire patrol topics. They may be unavoidable standards for every new generation of four-year-olds every year, but on the whole it’s getting a bit stale. I’m also flabbergasted by the insane pricing. I would have loved to have children in my life, but seeing this I’m almost glad I don’t have to put up with my little tykes pestering me over those expensive toys.

Star Wars in a weird and wonderful way this time around isn’t the worst of the lot. Okay, it’s still all very much “been there, done that” and “more of the same”, but I find it oddly palatable. The new Poe Dameron X-Wing in its orange/ white livery with the huge rounded intakes looks pretty imposing and attractive to my eyes. If you already have the current one and the black one before it than this will make a nice third one to add to your line-up.

The smaller, figure-centric sets look okay, too, and, which I find pretty important, are not priced outrageously like e.g. the notorious Snoke’s Throne Room (75216). My favorite set of them all, though, has to be the Microfighter one with the Bantha. Similar to this year’s one with the Dewback it ticks all the boxes with me and I can’t help it. I just have to have it. In fact chances are this is one of the few sets I might buy more than once. It’s just too cute!

In the Creator 3in1 series of course the new building stands out. It’s nice to see LEGO having revived this tradition and the new toy store looks tasteful enough. It just looks awfully small even compared to the pet shop from earlier this year, so I’m not sure if it’s actually worth 50 Euro. This may be a case for waiting for the right discount to come along. Other than that I have set my sights on the set with the Dark Red dragon, though in actuality somehow the alternate scorpion build is what fascinates me most. Beyond that what I said earlier applies – I may pick up some of the other packages if I feel like it, but have no immediate urgent plans.

finally let’s talk about the debacle that is Technic. Yupp, you heard me right. Once again I think they are totally ruining the series. Once you subtract the “big” models like the Liebherr excavator or the Land Rover, you are pretty much left with what can only qualify weak shadows of great sets like the Claas Xerion and similar from only three years ago. In this short time the series has really been run into the ground and now only exists down in the dumps. Even their lame attempt at being funny by creating a super mini version of the aforementioned Xerion somehow misfires. At least I didn’t get that satisfied grin when you hit the punch line in a joke…

Here’s the thing: If you are a complete newbie to the series you are going to love the smaller models. The beach buggy isn’t half bad and neither are the pull-back drag racer and racing truck. Even the stunt show combo thing will go down well with kids. I also like the idea of actually floating boat parts. Sure, they’re too large for your bathtub swim, but will be fun during the summer in the pool. However, after all those sets clearly aimed at the younger audiences there is this terrible, terrible gap of nothing.

Some would call it “Models that define what Technic is supposed to represent.”, but that is perhaps a bit too grandiose. Still, one can’t deny that something is missing and this feeling will not be alleviated by the yellow crane, which itself might leave some unsatisfied due to it’s somewhat simple construction. On the bright side at least it brings back the yellow no. 5/ 6 panels (among other parts) and I’m sure people will buy this set in masses just to repair/ rebuild/ rebrick older sets where this was used.

Still, none of that can cover up the fact that the set itself is not the most attractive. Given the circumstances, this sure wouldn’t lure me into LEGO these days. In fact most of these Technic sets represent what has deterred me from even picking up the hobby for ages – crude, unsophisticated and toy-ish looking models. I know I sound like an old grandpa harping on about the better days, but that’s just how I feel.

So where does all of that leave us? If I were to make it sound positive in a very sarcastic way I would say that I can save lots of money, at least in the price ranges that are attainable for me. That’s good because of course I’m always on a tight budget, but at the same time also just sad. You know, at the end of the day I sometimes don’t know what’s more frustrating about being into LEGO: Not having enough money to buy the sets you actually want or standing in the aisles and wondering what to buy because the available choices are bad. With this cycle I’m definitely going to experience the latter a lot once I have exhausted the “good” options…

 

The Krakken has risen!

Important Note: Download at the end of the article! / Wichtiger Hinweis: Download am Ende des Artikels!


At long last I managed to finish my free instructions for my octopus MOC. Yay! I’ve been a bit under the weather last week so it still took me one week longer than promised, but I hope now that it’s here everything is fine.

Octopus MOC, Pages, Preview I’ve written about some of the challenges in my last article on the matter already and despite all the bugs, quirks and flaws of the programs I used I hope I managed to cobble together something decent and tasteful. The preview of some random pages should give you an idea what to expect inside the PDFs without actually having to download the whole 16.4 megabytes. That should make it easier to make up your mind before burning valuable bandwidth and download quotas on mobile devices. On that note I also kept things as barebones as I possibly could within the limitations to keep file size down, so you may have to wait a bit e.g. for page thumbnails to be generated.

 

 

 

Octopus MOC, BOMs for all Variants, PreviewAs I have hinted at multiple times, this set of instructions contains some alternate build variants. This is meant to help you save a bit of money if you are not able or willing to procure a shed load of extra parts e.g. from Bricklink. Still, with the mantle and upper “cloak” section of the tentacles being integral to the whole construction and always using the same pieces, at the end of the day you may not be seeing that much of a difference. Of course you can do your own re-engineering to optimize this further and perhaps if you come up with more efficient alternate designs might be willing to share it. I’d sure be interested to learn how other people might approach this. For your convenience I have also created a Rebrickable page to check the parts for the main most complex build and order missing parts from there if you feel like it.

 

 

 

The instructions are 100 percent free, but if you like them and think I should get something in return I’d sure appreciate being able to tick off some items from my wishlist. Just get in touch! 🙂 Feel free to post links to this article on forums, blogs and wherever you may be roaming the Internet to drum up interest, but please keep the copyright intact and don’t mess with the PDF files themselves by doing things like repackaging the pages with your own branding and redistributing them under your own name.


To download the instructions click on the image or the link below it. On mobile devices it may be necessary to keep your finger pressed down a bit longer in order for a menu to appear that may offer options on where to store or open the files. On desktop computers you typically should also be able to use a right mouse click and selecting “Save link/ target as…” to pick a specific folder for saving. If necessary check your browser configuration’s default download options to avoid confusion and having to download over and over again.

Octopus MOC, Cover, English

Octopus MOC, Instructions, English


Zum Download der deutschen Version auf das Bild unten oder den Link darunter klicken. Auf Mobilgeräten kann es notwendig sein, den Finger länger gedrĂĽckt zu halten und entsprechende Option zum Speichern oder die Ăśbergabe an eine bestimmte App auszuwählen. Auf Desktopcomputern kann die Datei in der Regel auch mit Rechtsklick auf den Link und „Link/ Ziel speichern unter…“ direkt in einen bestimmten Ordner runtergeladen werden. um Verwirrung zu vermeiden und die Datei nicht immer wieder neu herunterzuladen, ĂĽberprĂĽft die Browsereinstellungen fĂĽr Downloads wenn nötig.

Oktopus MOC, Cover, Deutsch

Oktopus MOC, Anleitung, Deutsch

Hidden Ghosts, Visible Disappointment

It’s that time of year where we’re hit with news about soon-to-be-released new LEGO sets basically every day and while I don’t consider my little blog a news site and try not to flood it with the nonsensical trivialities of LEGO‘s marketing, I feel I need to say a few words on yesterday’s reveal of the first wave of 2020 Hidden Side sets (images and info here for instance) simply because I like the series it so much. That is, until now. And there’s the rub.

If you care to look at the images via the link or your very own favorite news page (they all have them, of course), you might feel a sense of being let down like I did. Compared to the first wave, the second outing sure feels underwhelming. It’s unimaginative, to say the least, and all too obviously some models have been stripped down to the bare minimum again, making their subject barely recognizable. The latter category is most notably presented by the Newbury Subway Station (70430). It’s tunnel and quay are literally just two-brick deep facades. The Lighthouse of Darkness (70431) doesn’t fare much better with it looking like a scaffolding structure with some panels shimmied on.

Finally there’s the so-called Ghost Fair (70432), which to me feels like a rehash of the all too similar Unikitty set from two years ago or for that matter any of the roller-coaster-ish sets, be that the Creator 3in1 pirate-themed version or the one in the Friends boardwalk fun fair. Point in case: They may be relatively large in terms of area they occupy, but without a wealth of extra parts to build additional attractions and landscapes around them the literally look like someone just dumped some old rusty railway tracks in the middle of nowhere. It’s one of those things where I tend to think “Why even bother if you’re not willing to go the full mile?”.

The rest is just as unimpressive. Given that we already have a pick-up truck by ways of El Fuego’s Stunt Truck (70421) there was no reason to already revisit the topic with Jack’s Beach Buggy (70428). Conversely, even now as I’m writing this, there’s still the air show plane from the Friends series available as is the Creator 3in1 stunt plane. Aside from specifics like color scheme and figures there is literally no good excuse for El Fuego’s Stunt Airplane (70429) to even exist at this point.

The only halfway original set it turns out will be the Hidden Side Portal (70427). Not so much because it would be extraordinary in design or construction, but it appears to introduce a new spin on the theme and possibly a new play mechanic for the associated game. All that said, of course I’m still going to get at least some of the sets to scavenge them for parts. After all, there are several unique re-colors for some pieces that weren’t available before. Still, I’m not going to jump at it and will take my time until I get a good price so the economics add up.

That’s also going to be true for the new Speed Champion sets (images here) as well, I’m afraid. For unfathomable reasons LEGO decided that it would be a good idea to bring out more dual sets featuring two cars at the same time and along with the switch from 6 studs wide to 8 studs making the models larger and requiring a few more pieces plus a general price hike this turns what should be good fodder for spontaneous casual into a genuine investment. I dare say that this isn’t a smart move and as some have pointed out it indeed feels like they are trying to dump unattractive secondary models on customers that only want that other hot one. We have to see how that works out…

Orange Space December

I’ve been too distracted with other things, not always quite in the way I intended, so activity around these parts has been a bit low and the December issue of the LEGO City magazine also kinda snuck up on me.

LEGO Magazine, City, December 2019, Cover

Space has apparently no bounds in the LEGO universe and that’s why we are getting another astronaut minifigure this month. thankfully it’s of the alternate type, meaning not the one with the white pressurized “space walk” suit but rather the orange planetary exploration/ space station daily overalls variety. Just the other day I bought the smallest shuttle from the current space series (Satellite Service Mission [60224] ) on a grocery store discount sale, so this figure makes for an interesting alternative occupant for the cockpit.

The rest of the parts is not worth writing home about, as the vehicle you are supposed to build from them is literally the most simplistic, most trimmed down version of a four-wheeled vehicle one could imagine. Not a great look by any stretch of the imagination and certainly nothing particularly space-themed, either. It’s really approaching a point of “Why even bother?”.

The rest of the magazine is pretty good on the other hand, consequently built around an imaginary “mission” and its planning/ preparation, which is reflected by the puzzles and even sort of a plan view of the big space station (Lunar Space Station [60227]) on one of the posters. If your kid is anything close to a space nerd like me it will have lots of fun.

The back cover also doubles as a cut-out buildable mobile with the solar system’s planets orbiting around the sun, so there’s definitely some educational value for astro-kids plus it should also be useful for sharpening manual skills just by assembling it for the lesser scientifically inclined. Overall this is a nice issue. I just wish it would be richer in the parts department.