Snake or Lizard? – Fire Fang (70674)

Ever since I bought those sets for The LEGO Ninjago Movie (e.g. the big shark sub, of course) I’m kind of in love with the Sand Blue color. I sometimes tend to think of it as “the better grey” and that notwithstanding, it is of course a nice complimentary color for many other colors, including greys and the various light blues. A single piece of this color thrown in as an off-color panel or the like can add a lot of interest to a model.

Unfortunately LEGO are not using this color nearly enough, so whenever it pops up in reasonable quantities in a set a purchase decision becomes a matter of much pondering on whether it would be worth it for expanding my parts stock. That’s why it took a while until I committed to the Fire Fang (70674) set from the LEGO Ninjago line of products.

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Box

As usual the decision was made easier when the price dropped below a certain critical point, which in this case means 30 Euro or less. The original asking price of 45 Euro isn’t that outrageous to begin with, but following my own logic of course the math has to add up. There are a few pieces with limited reusability in future projects and I also don’t exactly collect minifigures, so I at least have to feel like I’m not paying for these extraneous things.

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Overview

Ninjago sets surprise me again and again with their wealth of contents and this one is no exception. In a time where many much more expensive Star Wars sets only have two minifigures getting four of them in a relatively affordable box in another series is almost something worth pointing out particularly. You also get the spinner and the main model along with some extras.

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Figures

The figures for the evil-doers are interesting in that they follow the Egyptian style of a human body with a stylized animal head. For apparent reasons in a set with a giant serpent those would be snake-like, too. This is even more interesting due to the fact that these are dual-molded and if you place them right the internal transparencies catch the light in a way that gives the illusion of an actual glow. It’s unfortunately very difficult to capture on a photo, so you have to take my word for it.

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Rider

The main baddie, called Aspheera, represents some sort of military commander that is riding the snake into battle. The two bronze/ copper colored guards can be used to hold the chains/ reigns or simply placed beside the head-honcho in a suitable formation. Interestingly the curvature of the serpent’s neck didn’t allow for the strap-on seat to be placed at the very top and at first this looks a bit awkward, but once you get used to it it actually looks pretty realistic. The seat even has provision to somewhat compensate for the incline by the seating area being built at an angle itself.

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Top View

The chair or portable throne, if you will, is itself pretty basic and relies and tried and true clichées like you see them so often in films like the back made from swords or spears and of course those extra large battle banners. In the LEGO world this of course suffers a little from the flimsy single point attachments using hinges and I messed it up a couple of times even in those photos. The flag staffs’ horizontal bars also come of quite easily at the slightest touch, so if you let your kids play with this set you might want to leave them off for safety and not losing those parts.

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Back View

The top-down and back views reveal the one thing that bothered me the most: The whole model looks kinda short and stumpy due to the tail only having three movable segments. Considering how long the tails on some of the dragons are (most notably this one) this is definitely odd. Point in case: It’s not quite an actual Cobra, neither really a Dragon Lizard (with those large collars) nor fully something like a Skink with very short legs. If there were more tail sections it might at least pass as a genuine snake of sorts, but this “neither here nor there” hybrid just feels incomplete. It’s even ironic that you can’t really put the tip of the tail in an up position to make use of the rattle mechanism (a bunch of 1 x 1 round tiles enclosed in the dishes).

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Aft Right View

My beloved Sand Blue pieces are used on the front/ underside/ belly. Most of them are slopes of different types but there’s also those flag elements. Don’t mind that I didn’t pay attention and some of them are completely whacked out and not aligned correctly. The construction of this S-shaped segment has some interesting build ideas, but ultimately still feels inadequate even if you spend time to e.g. position the black wings in an arced formation. Subdividing this into more segments would have allowed a better approximation of the overall curvature.

The way it’s build also feels useless since basically there is only this one pose. Several parts use hinges, but whenever you are trying to change the angles and positioning, they will give in to their own weight and snap back into the same position where they are stopped/ blocked by another part. I feel that this hasn’t really been thought through, even more so when you attach the printed foil pieces for the collar. There’s only so many ways to actually get them attached and once in place they will act like springs pulling everything into place.

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Front Right View

On that note: As an adult builder I would have much preferred some more effort to blend the collar in, meaning there should be transitional concave regions built from transparent orange bricks to give the “flames” some volume. that might also have allowed for some different fixation of the foil pieces, which due to their tension tend to slip of the ball joint heads at the slightest touch. I would imagine that putting them back in place over and over again would even be frustrating for kids.

LEGO Ninjago, Fire Fang (70674), Mouth Open

On a positive note, the model is more complex than I anticipated and it took longer to build than I had anticipated, which always helps with the perceived value. Nothing worse than a boring model lumped together using uninteresting basic building techniques, if you get my meaning. That is to say the model is better than I expected, but it’s not without shortcomings.

The most apparent problem is that it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be. For a display model it feels a bit undercooked and lacking in details, for a playable model there are not that many options because it’s basically a solid, static block. This is yet again one of those sets where buying two packages and doing a bunch of simple modifications could enhance the look and feel quite a bit by breaking up the segments into smaller sections, extending the tail and so on…

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.

 

Pony Carriage? – Beauxbatons’ Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958)

As someone not particularly into Harry Potter it surprises even myself how many of the respective LEGO sets I have bought lately, so here we go again with another one that ties right into The Goblet of Fire and the Trimagic Tournament. Specifically it’s themed around those short few moments when the contestants from other schools arrive, so we get Beauxbatons’ Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958) to represent the eponymous French school of magic and sorcery.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Box

As a non-fan I don’t put too much emphasis on all the details and my buying decision is merely driven by whether I like the overall appearance of a model and/ or how I may re-use the parts later. In those regards the set ticks a few points on the list with lots of pieces in useful colors and the overall design of the carriage being a nice generic baroque-ish coach.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Overview

The most noteworthy part about the figures is perhaps Hagrid which is not contained in too many sets. Of course there’s also Madame Maxime and two of her students, though the latter is a bit like that old Stormtrooper problem in Star Wars – you never have enough of them and some versions of them are extremely rare. In order to re-create the actual scene from the movie you’d need a lot more Beauxbatons.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Figures

Before we move on, let me get the most disappointing thing about this set out of the way – the horses. For the life of it I can’t fathom what madness drove LEGO to include thirty years old horses in such an otherwise beautiful and elegant set. This completely ruins the overall impression. Not only are the horses kinda child-ish looking and blocky, but compared to the carriage they look like ponies and not like the mighty steeds you see in the film. It’s really ridiculous.

Creating a dedicated new mold may sound a tall order, but given that LEGO sometimes come out with new animal molds where and when you least expect them, this idea doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it may sound. One can only wonder why they didn’t do it. In fact looking through Bricklink I’m almost inclined to think that this would have been a wonderful opportunity to dust off those old Belville molds, give them a work-over and use those horses.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Horses

The second, but much less bothersome caveat is that the carriage is more a generic one that would fit the European Baroque and Renaissance eras instead of being in any way representative of what’s actually in the movie. Of course a fair argument would have to be that this could be a more than valid interpretation strictly based on the books and that’s just fine. However, where the film is concerned it doesn’t capture the “flying palace” feel that the carriage evokes in the few shots where it can actually be seen. You know, not unlike with the Tardis from Dr. Who – larger on the inside than on the outside.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Carriage, Aft Left View

The failure to communicate the actual “bigness” can mostly be attributed to the window arrangement. A quite conventional layout was chosen as opposed to the large tiled windows on the film prop that lead you to think this is more built like a tall (factory) hall with huge, multi-storied windows. Doing so would of course also have necessitated a larger chassis as well, so aside from the specific issue with the horses this also seems to me like they were trying to keep it at a specific smaller scale to also not have to worry about things like larger wheels and the pieces count reaching a level that would make it too expensive. All sensible measures, just not in line with what you get to see on screen.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Carriage, Aft Right View

All that said, the model is still pretty gorgeous once you move on and ignore all those issues. Due to our history of Germany once having been a patchwork of smaller countries and regions and the kings, counts and earls trying to outdo each other, there are a lot of these pomp-laden, mostly decorative and representative carriages still to be found in museums and I’ve seen quite a few of them. It’s all lots of gold on black or white accentuated with gem stones and other colors, including lots of red velvet for the seating to represent royalty.

I’ve not yet seen a specific one in light blue (that would likely have been more of a Prussian mail coach or something like that), but it’s not impossible that something like that may have existed. In that regard if you are into this sort of thing the model would be more than an adequate representation. Conversely it may be more than fitting as a basic design for English, French or Italian carriages of certain historic eras. The details would differ and there would be a lot of specific customization and decoration, but overall this is so good you may just want to download the instructions and give it a try to build from your own parts.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Carriage, Front Right View

The build process is quite enjoyable. A lot of it is of course building the left and right walls and while there are lots of repeating steps I found it never too tedious or boring. There are some interesting building techniques as well. Not particularly challenging and extraordinary, but well executed and used where it makes the most sense. One of my concerns for instance was that the “horns” might fall of easily, but they snap into place just fine and stay there unless you handle the model too roughly. There’s no denying that some of the parts require some extra care, though. The lamps and some of the other golden elements can easily be whacked out of alignment and need to be placed properly to look “nice” in the first place.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Carriage, Open, Overview

The interior is nothing to write home about, but sufficient to accommodate the three representatives of the school, i.e. Mme. Maxime and the two student girls. The idea with the entire wall lifting up deserves some accolades and they even went so far to outfit it with a cabinet. It’s crammed, but lively.

LEGO Harry Potter, Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts (75958), Carriage, Open, Top View

Once you dismiss the Harry Potter context and can do away with those awful horses you get a nice generalized carriage that can fit into many scenarios. However, it’s definitely not worth the 50 Euro LEGO are asking for. I may have been pulled in by the Bright Light Blue parts, many of which are available in this color for the first time in this set and I sure don’t mind getting a few nice golden and wood colored elements on top, but clearly even the 35 Euro you get this for with discounts still feels like a bit of a stretch, given the circumstances. Things would definitely look different if they had included more adequate animals, that’s for sure….

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…

Christmas Double Double – Brickheadz Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274) and Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353)

Christmas is only four weeks away at this point and if you’re anything like my mum you’re perhaps also already decorating your home. Around here we like to keep things traditional with wood carved stuff from the Erzgebirge, glass baubles and similar, but who’s to say that putting up some LEGO couldn’t be part of the mix as well. The seasonally themed Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274) and Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353) Brickheadz cater for just that.

LEGO Brickheadz, Christmas Sets Family Shot

A family shot of the sets from two consecutive years shows that there is a bit of underlying deeper logic and the sets mix and match quite well. The only thing that is missing is of course a suitably sized sleigh model stuffed with gifts.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Box

Somehow I missed out on Mr. & Mrs. Claus last year, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that LEGO had re-issued the set this year. That’s always a good indication that the sets are in popular demand and sell well, in turn making good prospects for more sets of the same ilk in the future, whatever those might be.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Overview

In terms of construction there aren’t that many surprises or more or less none at all, with the two figures being essentially based on the v1 Brickheadz standard (I totally made that up, but it’s perhaps helpful for understanding some of the differences). This means that there aren’t any fancy building techniques involved and it follows the pattern of most others of these figures. If you have that drill worked out to a T, you could likely build Mr. Claus from your head and figure things out without even looking at the instructions, give or take a few specifics like the tip of the cap.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Back Right View

Mrs. Claus is slightly different in that she extensively uses curved slopes to make her look rounded. This naturally adds a bit of complication in that there are extra plates here and there to account for the step/ offset of the slopes. It would be more difficult to re-create without any guidance. It also makes her look adorable and cuddly and that’s why of the figures discussed in this article she’s my favorite. I really can’t fathom why I skipped over this set last year. Perhaps i just wasn’t able to make it to the LEGO store in time…

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Back Right View

This year’s Christmas set takes a slightly different approach and only contains one full-sized Brickheadz figure, but makes up for it by including two of the smaller elves.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Box LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Overview

Out of the three, the the reindeer itself is perhaps the least attractive. Don’t misunderstand me – it hits all the marks and looks okay, yet it doesn’t stand out particularly. In my view this is owed to its simple, mostly symmetrical construction. The model would clearly have benefited from a bit more variation, be that just a hint of its furriness by ways of using some angled slopes for bangs on the forehead.

I also wished they had come up with something a bit more impressive and elaborate for the antlers. The small ancillaries feel a bit out of place, too, in particular since they are not further contextualized by something else to go with them. Admittedly it doesn’t help that I didn’t apply the stickers to the way sign, but then again for all intents and purposes those should always be printed in a Brickheadz set.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Back Right View

The elves, tentatively called just Elf and Elfie use a new building style with just 3 studs wide/ deep main bodies and reduced height to make them appear smaller compared to the “adults”, of course. That puts them at around three-quarters size, which isn’t that much when you come to think of it, but sufficient to make them look different enough.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Back Right View

That said, the smaller size comes with a bit of a caveat that you must not underestimate. Since currently there are no dedicated 3 x 1 bricks with studs on the side in the LEGO portfolio, the models have to make do with 1 x 1 and 2 x 1 versions. In some cases that means that where they converge at the edges only one side can have studs and the other has a smooth surface. This in turn affects how the tiles and plates on the exterior can be fixated and here is where it gets a bit dicy.

You have to be extra careful to use the right SNOT bricks in the right places and keep an eye on their orientation or you may end up wondering forever, how the heck you are supposed to attach some parts without a stud looking at you. That is even more crucial insofar some of the tiles really rely on just hanging on to a single stud with their ability to move merely being restrained by the neighboring elements. It’s a bit delicate, but works surprisingly well if you don’t completely mess up this sort of alternating pattern of forces and counter forces.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Back Right View

On the whole both sets are worth their money, the simple fact notwithstanding that they are only available from LEGO directly, anyway, and thus any discussion about prices would be kinda pointless. If you’re on a budget, regardless, I’d go with Mr. & Mrs. Claus for the time being. not only might you regret not being able to purchase the set in the future, but overall it feels like you’re getting a better value.

The reindeer set on the other hand could have needed that extra little kick by including perhaps a bunch of buildable gift packages, the already mentioned sleigh, a food tray with some carrots and hay or whatever else. Just something to provide a little something that puts a satisfied grin on your face…

Graveyard Double Shift – Graveyard Mystery (70420) and The Rise of Voldemort (75965)

With Halloween imminent, I figured it might be a good idea to focus on reviewing some spooky-themed sets by ways of being built around graveyards – or sections of them at least. This includes the Graveyard Mystery (70420) from Hidden Side and The Rise of Voldemort (75965) from the Harry Potter line of LEGO sets.

LEGO Hidden Side, Graveyard Mystery (70420), Box

As you know, I’m quite a fan of Hidden Side – the sets are done well enough and to boot also very affordable because LEGO are pushing them so aggressively and there are discounts at every corner. This makes it easy enough to add them to the menu even if you are on a budget. The Graveyard Mystery can be had for as little as 20 Euro, which to me seems just about the right price. The full 30 Euro feels a bit out of proportion for what amounts to a rather slim model, on the other hand, and I’m not sure if I had picked it up then.

LEGO Hidden Side, Graveyard Mystery (70420), Overview

The set comes with the standard Parker and Jack figures along with Spencer, the ghostly dog. On the other side of the spectrum there’s a skeleton and the groundskeeper/ gardener, the latter of which is essentially the only really interesting bit in that department as with his overalls and all he could also be interesting for other uses e.g. in a City play scene.

LEGO Hidden Side, Graveyard Mystery (70420), Overview, Everything Closed

Being designed with the Augmented Reality app intended to be used with these sets in mind, the graveyard/ cemetery is kind of a panoramic arrangement, so that most parts are visible all the time and the camera can capture the entire scene. The layout in and of itself however is more or less a towel strip walkway with a linear progression. You enter through the gate, pass by a bunch of graves and then arrive at the angry tree with the keeper’s little storage shed underneath.

LEGO Hidden Side, Graveyard Mystery (70420), Overview, Markers Exposed

Since I don’t have the app, I can’t enlighten you about the specific meanings of the colors in the game, but there sure are a lot once you open up the respective areas and expose the insides and undersides of some elements. In fact I believe even the big green slope on the central grave may have some bearing even with the lids still down. The problem is of course that without the fancies of a mobile device the play options are ultimately limited. You can barely hide a minifigure in the central grave and even placing someone inside the little shed is finnicky. Doing a hide & seek  and guessing in which grave someone is hiding would not pose much of a challenge.

LEGO Hidden Side, Graveyard Mystery (70420), Overview, Back Side

A stand-out piece is naturally the angry tree with its “face” and “arms” being clearly recognizable. From what I’ve seen of the game it doesn’t seem to do much, though, and is merely whipping around. That is presumably not really useful. the same could be said for the mechanism on the real model in a sense. While I can appreciate the facial expression changing and the arms going up it still feels gimmicky. This is once more a case where a static, more detailed and more refined tree would have been preferable over such a very limited action feature IMO.

LEGO Hidden Side, Graveyard Mystery (70420), Angry Tree, Front Side

On the bright side, the set is full of pieces in very usable “natural” colors ranging from the various browns and grays to Olive Green. Nice to see that LEGO still can do such sensible stuff without them going bonkers or some higher-up instructing a designer to include bricks in crazy colors only to clear out the left-overs from previous production runs of other sets. There are no particularly unique or rare parts in this set, however. Thus there would be little point in getting this set for anything but buildings or indeed landscaping and cemetery building.

LEGO Hidden Side, Graveyard Mystery (70420), Angry Tree, Back Side

A small shortcoming, if you want to call it that, is the unattractive back side. Even with the emphasis on the panoramic effect it wouldn’t have hurt to have a few details here or at least the floor plates extend beyond the graves’ rear edges. To me it really feels like they chopped it off a bit too harshly.

LEGO Hidden Side, Graveyard Mystery (70420), Gate

After my experiences with the Hidden Side side I kept having this weird idea running in my head that perhaps one day I might want to build a larger custom graveyard, perhaps with a small chapel and crypt, so naturally I stumbled upon The Rise of Voldemort from the Harry Potter movies.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Rise of Voldemort (75965), Box

The point is not so much that I would be a particular fan of the series – quite opposite, as now 15 years later I look at these films and wonder how I could ever have been so foolish to buy the DVDs – but regardless, they are not without merit in terms of production design and at least some of the less WTF?-ish story elements. I know, I seriously need to read the books one day for a fair comparison.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Rise of Voldemort (75965), Overview

Anyway, on of the key things that also made me consider this set is that when doing churches, graveyards and similar you have a need for some specific extras, that being large numbers of grey minifigure elements and decorative bits and bobs for the slabs/ grave stones. Lo and behold, this set comes with a fully formed angelic figure in Dark Bluish Grey, which of course is twisted into representing the Grim Reaper and there’s also a frog in that same color.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Rise of Voldemort (75965), Figures

What also made the decision to buy this set easier is the consistent color usage compared to the first set. This means that you can easily mix & match and expand the ground thanks to the Dark Tan being used in conjunction with the same contrast colors for other elements. Or in simple words: You can buy multiple sets of both models and need not worry that intermingling parts would result in odd color combinations.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Rise of Voldemort (75965), Grave Closed

The set represents that scene where Harry Potter gets accidentally transported to an alternate place during the Trimagic Tournament in The Goblet of Fire, to witness the resurrection of He who must not be named, so there are all the figures relevant present. Personally I don’t care that much for them and for my taste in the context of the set there are simply way too many minifigures. In a sense it feels overcrowded due to the smallness of the available play are vs. the number of figures. That’s in my view also the biggest shortcoming of this set.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Rise of Voldemort (75965), Grave Open

One of the side-effects of this lack of space is that it doesn’t really capture the mood of the scene. There is no sense of dread and feeling lost because everything is crammed together. This also isn’t helped by the simple construction with only a central part in the middle and the small side extensions clipped on with hinges. This inevitably limits the options for disguising some gaps and open areas, which painfully becomes obvious with the insides of the grave. It just looks extremely shallow and indeed a figure doesn’t even fit into it without the lid remaining ajar.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Rise of Voldemort (75965), Grave, Front Right View

LEGO Harry Potter, The Rise of Voldemort (75965), Grave, Back Right View

At the end of the day both sets have their flaws and issues, with the Hidden Side Graveyard Mystery at least offering a better value for money, however, due to being larger to begin with. I guess the ultimate test would really come once you actually start combining things, possibly based on multiple such sets, to build a more elaborate cemetery. The irony is of course once more that basically all the ingredients are already there, but LEGO trimmed away to many things in the interest of being “economical” to make either of the sets genuinely great. As a consolation, both sets are very affordable at least, so it would not be impossible to grab a bunch of them and make your dream project a reality, assuming you, too, have a thing for graveyards…

Halloween Double – Brickheadz Scarecrow (40352) and Ghost (40351)

Halloween isn’t that far off, so it seems fitting we should have a look at LEGO‘s seasonal Brickheadz sets on that subject for this year, those being the Scarecrow (40352) and the Ghost (40351), numbered as the 84th and 83rd entries in the series overall, respectively. Let me begin with the scarecrow.

LEGO Brickheadz, Scarecrow (40352), Box

Born from the myth that birds would get scared off by anything that looks remotely like a human inevitably the clichée of them being imbued with human characteristics or even getting re-animated had become a popular trope in books and movies, but rarely ever in my life have I actually genuinely seen such a puppet anywhere. On the assumption that this is probably true for most people, the subject leaves lots of room for interpretation and one of those classics is the Mid-Western US version with its blue jeans overalls and oversized felt hat. This is captured in the LEGO model.

LEGO Brickheadz, Scarecrow (40352), Front Left View

By now the Brickheadz clearly have surpassed their prime, so almost everyone of them follows the same building pattern more or less, with only minor deviations and tweaks done every now and then to accommodate some more specific requirements of a given figure. Here a novelty is presented with the arms actually being spread out from the body in a T-pose instead of being incorporated into the surface contours. This is achieved by some plates going through the body across the upper chest. On its own this would look kinda weird, but to some degree this is mitigated by the golden claws used to represent straw sticking out extending the range further. This is further backed up by some crossbar being hinted at.

LEGO Brickheadz, Scarecrow (40352), Front Right View

Somewhat surprisingly the little dude has a rather elaborate hairdo which in itself accounts for a good chunk of parts. In an odd way it even contradicts the rest of the model because it’s almost too realistic. Most people wouldn’t put up with the effort to make it look that real unless they are set dressers on movies. 😉 I guess, like me, they couldn’t think of a simple and efficient way to approximate a simple straw wig and decided to go the full mile. At least off hand I can’t quite think of a part from LEGO‘s portfolio that could be easily stacked in large arrays to form something with separately recognizable stems/ stalks similar to the claws used for the hands. Figuring into this, and by all means only a small complaint on my part is the absence of shoes then. You know, with something that human-like, I would imagine it could jump of its perch and stomp around in secret when nobody is looking.

LEGO Brickheadz, Scarecrow (40352), Back Right View

The small ancillary tabs sure add parts value and help to contextualize the model, but overall don’t feel essential. They’re okay, but I wouldn’t have missed them. It would have been a cool idea if they had decked this out with those three-fingered leaf elements, but in autumn-ish colors like Dark Orange, Yellow and Dark Red. I also sort of miss a big black bird like a raven, stereotypical as this may sound. In fact even a hoard of sparrows making fun of little scarecrow and sitting all over him would have added a bit of a fun twist to what otherwise amounts to a mostly mundane figure. It’s not bad, but nothing to go particularly crazy over, either. I had a completely different feeling about the next one, the Ghost.

LEGO Brickheadz, Ghost (40351), Box

Chasing for this set was actually a bit of a pain, as it was in short supply even in the LEGO online store. It was in fact released even earlier than the Scarecrow some time in September, but didn’t really show up in stores. that’s why I consider myself pretty lucky having been able to obtain it on that magical Friday when I picked up both these sets, after all. I really wanted this one right after I saw the first photos because they completely triggered my “Aww, how cute!” senses. The reason for that is of course that this is far from a genuinely scary ghost but rather a very stylized version such as you would find it in Pac Man or a spectre ripped from an illustrated children’s book. It’s all too obvious where the inspiration came from. 😉

LEGO Brickheadz, Ghost (40351), Front Left View

In terms of construction this follows a similar novel approach with a long plate going through the body to represent the arms. It wouldn’t have been necessary as the arms could be just as well represented with their drooping “sleeves” simply attached to the main body, but I guess this is just the designer thinking his idea is super cool and re-using it on multiple models. The rest of the model is kind of pretty simple with the emphasis on making it look sort of rotund/ round-ish and the edges of the imaginary cloth draping in a nice regular wave/ fringe pattern. As a result, the model is hugely symmetric both in the Left | Right plane as well as Front | Back. this is helpful when building (but also a bit tedious) since you only need to build the elements twice and then it doesn’t matter where you attach them. Apparently the face would be the exception here, which BTW you could get creative with by placing the eye elements differently or even using black round tiles from your spares box to good effect. There’s several possible facial expressions.

LEGO Brickheadz, Ghost (40351), Front Right View

I also found the extras extremely useful. The Jack-O-Lantern minifigure head element might come in handy for anything Halloween-related, of course, I didn’t have any of the long bones and there’s a bat and a spider. Even the barrel in Dark Bluish Grey will be useful as a jet exhaust one day. Lots to love here. The one thing I didn’t quite like is the somewhat odd coloring choices. On a good day Dark Blue and Sand Green are of course nice colors and one can never have enough pieces, but, and I guess that’s the point here, they don’t mix too well with Olive Green and Dark Green, at least not when it’s meant to be some mossy/ moldy/ swampy thing. I would have preferred a more consistent coloring.

LEGO Brickheadz, Ghost (40351), Back Right View

In summary both sets are okay, but I’d always prioritize the Ghost if I had only the money for one of the Brickheadz. The Scarecrow just doesn’t bring much new to the table and simply feels repetitive. It’s just the same ideas from different other figures combined and flavored a little with some minute new stuff. It sure does the trick if you’re only looking for a decorative item or indeed are a collector that has to own them all, but it doesn’t particularly tingle my nerves as a LEGO builder. The ghost on the other hand is just lots of fun on every level and adorable to look at, so I would recommend it every time…