Non-Float Boat with a Goat – The Goat Boat (76208)

The Vikings are easily one of those people who are the most misrepresented across all media. There seems to be an over-emphasis on their exploits as conquerors and warriors, and while some of their legendary ruthlessness and brutality cannot be denied, a lot of other things like their rich culture and craft skills all too often are swept to the side or only presented in those aforementioned contexts. One of those are there ship-building achievements and while I’m not a fan of the Vikings per se, the elegance of those water-based vessels can’t be denied. That’s ultimately what interested me most about The Goat Boat (76208), as in fact like so often the movie it is based on didn’t interest me too much and I haven’t seen it yet.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Box

Pricing and Contents

The film this set is based on, Thor: Love and Thunder, barely made a blip on the radar here in Germany with a measly box office of just shy above 5 Million Euro and quite generally this is not Marvel‘s best and most successful movie. It came and went without much fanfare and barely anyone even remembers it. That being the case, the one good thing that comes out of this is that the set can be had at good prices with retailers sitting on stockpile that just didn’t benefit from the movie. I got mine for 32 Euro, which isn’t bad for a 564 pieces set and 5 minifigures. The original asking price of 60 Euro is once more utterly ridiculous, though, and under no circumstances would I have bought it for that. While it’s nice and reasonably large, the boat isn’t worth that much in my opinion for reasons explained later.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Overview

Minifigures

The figures included in this package are of course Thor himself, his love interest turned substitute Mighty Thor Jane, some Valkyrie (no idea about her actual name), Korg and of course Gorr, the God Butcher. A few special items aside like Jane‘s helm, the figures feel very generic to the point where Gorr looks like just another zombie. Something just doesn’t click here, which isn’t necessarily the fault of the LEGO designers, but rather those odd armor designs of the film not translating that well to the scale. For lack of a better explanation, the prints to me just look noisy, not detailed and interesting. Real fans may disagree and appreciate them more, so I’ll just leave it at that.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), MinifiguresLEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Minifigures

The Goats

The goats towing the boat aren’t ordinary ones, but rather oversized beasts more alike to donkeys or smaller cattle. They are of course also “magical” creatures rooted in the mythology. The big bummer naturally is that they are built from bricks, not molded items. When the set was first announced it had everyone wondering whether at long last this would be the moment when LEGO brought back the highly coveted and super rare goat or at least a different new version of it. None of that materialized, unfortunately, so likely we will have to wait another eternity before one of those horned animals appears in either a shitty City set similar to this year’s massively overpriced animal farm or a super expensive collector set. The goats themselves are just fine for what they are and at least they have printed slopes for the faces, but at the same time things could of course have been better.

The Boat

As far as I can tell from the trailers and bits of info available the boat itself is mostly some sort of a shuttle/ sightseeing vehicle in New Asgard and a quick way of transportation for Thor, but does not have any significance beyond that. At least the scenes I know are rather tame/ lame. As such, it is almost too elaborate for this mundane usage even if thanks to Asgardian technology it is a flying boat.

The appearance is immediately recognizable as being derived from original Viking/ Norse designs, though perhaps more along the lines of a smaller boat operating along the coast lines, not one to cross large oceans with, since most definitely there wouldn’t fit more than ten or twelve people at most even under best conditions. There’s only eight shields on the sides, after all, and there wouldn’t be that many more people on board if they hadn’t their own weapons at hand.

The construction is interesting as in a way just like on the real boat you build around a central keel with elements attached using sideways techniques. This ensures that the boat stays flat like the original, but at the same time has walls which are credibly thin and don’t take away too much usable real estate from the deck. This is achieved with a bunch of curved wedge slopes and, most interestingly, curved panels mounted upside-down and then cross-connected with each other and the other elements to form a rigid wall. Definitely an interesting technique to keep at the back of your head.

The boat has the typical carved bow and stern reaching very far up. The shapes at the bow appear to be (sea) horses either spitting water or having their tongues out. admittedly in the shots and photos I could find from the movie they look much, much smaller, which could indicate that the LEGO model is based off earlier concept art that later was changed during production.

The small hut/ house is a pretty straightforward build with a few rows of bricks and the roof attached via some hinges and it would also work as a standalone building.

Unfortunately there isn’t much inside, so the ability to fully open it to me is more or less just a side effect of how it’s built or a lucky coincidence, not so much a play feature.

The deck offers plenty of space to put all your minifigures on it (and more), but looks very barren. I know it’s that way in the movie, but this is a point where LEGO should have deviated and added some extra details like a barrel or a rolled up rope lying around. it just looks so terribly boring otherwise.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Top View

A shot from the side once more accentuates the elegance, but also reinforces the “boringness”. This also exposes one big flaw/ shortcoming: If you don’t use stickers, it all looks like no-one’s home. the irony here is that even some round tiles with a generic wood pattern print (as if they were barrel covers for instance) would have made things a ton more interesting let alone we would have gotten some genuine different crests.

LEGO Super Heroes, The Goat Boat (76208), Side View


Concluding Thoughts

I’m not going to complain too much, because for what it is The Goat Boat (76208) is just fine, but it’s a bit dull, after all. I don’t even see this being particularly appealing to fans of the movie apart from the minifigures, as usual. On the other hand – there’s naturally “that other Viking ship” the Viking Ship and the Midgard Serpent (31132) in the Creator 3in1 series and the latest LEGO Ideas vote turned out that we might be getting a Viking village some time next year. So if you put one and one together, buying those two packages now while they are still available and relatively cheap may be a good idea of you plan to get the village set and want to create a little diorama around it or have a general interest in that stuff.

From Disco to Disco – LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708)

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a LEGO Friends set here and the multitude of reasons is still perhaps something I should one day lay out in a separate article. Suffice it to say that the price is a big factor, but also the overall boring-ness that has crept into the series and there just isn’t the appeal anymore except for the rare occasions like with this Roller Disco Arcade (41708).

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Box

Price and Contents

As mentioned above, prices are really becoming an issue with LEGO and it pains me to see this effect ripple down to Friends as well. It has always been on the more affordable side of the spectrum, but these days it sometimes feels you have to sell your house just to be able to afford some packages. Mind you, I don’t have anything against “adapting to the market” and compensating inflation and money devaluation, but LEGO are certainly taking this way beyond what’s necessary and are being greedy. Having multiple 100+ Euro sets in the Friends series just didn’t happen in the past, if you get my meaning.

With that in mind, this little crazily colored building isn’t even the worst offender. At 642 pieces for 60 Euro it is still priced reasonably, though I have this feeling that not too long ago it would have been marked as 50 Euro only. That’s why even with discounts you have to pay around 45 Euro most of the time. There were some crazy special sales where it was fired out for 35 or 37 Euro, but you can’t bet on those to be available when you may want to buy, of course. I bought mine for 43 Euro, but a good chunk of the cost was offset because someone had sent me an Amazon voucher shortly before and I only had to cover the remainder.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Overview

Figures and Extras

The set comes with only three minidolls, which is rather meager not only in relation to the overall size, but also the bustling free time activities hub this purports to be. You cannot even man each activity nor do you have any spectators. This should at least have had five figures. The minidolls themselves aren’t that special and can also be found in other sets. Jackson, the male, is apparently the token wheelchair guy and Evelyn the new girl with the blue hair. Andrea got a tied up new hairdo, which is about time. The old long hair was really getting long in the tooth.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), FiguresLEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Figures

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), ExtraThe only side build in this set is a small palm tree with a trash can in Coral parked under it. This is a new recolor that also can be found in a few other sets. Outside the Friends universe it’s not that useful, though.

 

The Building

I have no specific like for bowling alleys, arcades or roller skate discos, but somehow this thing pushes a few buttons with me. I couldn’t get that scene from La Boum out of my head where the kids sneak out of their homes to meet in the hottest roller disco in town. That and then the mere mention of disco triggers a whole slew of eponymous songs, be that Alcazar‘s “Crying at the Discotheque” or Whirlpool Productions“From Disco to Disco” as per the title of this article. This brings back so many memories from the time when I was a young lad pushing my bum across the dance floor. 😉

The other thing that immediately caught my attention is the mere flamboyance and exuberance of the design. It’s completely wacko, but in a good way. It brings back this slightly off-kilter style that I used to love about Friends, but which unfortunately seems to have been lost recently with so many sets being all too realistic to the point of being completely boring. I guess now those naysayers loathing Dark Pink finally got their way, but where does it say that it has to be this way?  As I’ve written a few times, the problem was never that Friends was so colorful, it was rather some unfortunate use of color combinations that looked uneducated and unsophisticated. So for what it’s worth, I’m glad that we got some of that back with this particular set.

The build process for this set is pretty straightforward with most pieces simply being stacked linearly on top of each other. There’s no fancy SNOT building or any of that here, only a few brackets and clips used to attach some decorations. You start out with the center section, the bowling lane, then the two side wings with the other areas which are attached via hinges. The result is a quite spacious building that’s very accessible and provides good visibility all round.

The downside to all that is that the stability and robustness of the whole thing isn’t that great. This begins with the plates at the base, where there is often only a single layer of other plates or tiles that holds together the multiple pieces. some areas stabilize a bit more after a while when you add some bricks and interior details, but overall this is not the best. This trend continues with the walls themselves. It’s nice that they are thin and elegant, but at the same time this once again comes at the cost of stability. A few 2 x 2 plates or some inset bricks to enforce the vertical structure would have been welcome and you could have disguised them as corner seats or similar. The wobbliness not only produces gaps in the walls but also extends to the “roof” where individual elements tend to loosen themselves a bit. The roof also feels incomplete with too many exposed studs. It would have been better if the overlap was actually three studs and a second row of rounded bricks or at least some tiles had been added to cap it off.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Open, Overview

An interesting nugget of information are the Trans Neon Green windows, which is actually the first time ever they are available in this color according to Bricklink. Once more one of those things where you would think that LEGO had run through all colors in the last 30 or 40 years already, but no. On the promotional photos they look Trans Yellow, which in a way that would have been even more useful. I feel the same about the tubes used on the outside which are “rigid hoses”. Once you’ve bent them into shape, it will be hard to get them straight again an d in the long run the tension might break of the clips. I’ve mentioned this already when reviewing the Luke Skywalker Helmet (75327). I’m definitely not a fan, but LEGO have used them in so many sets recently, we might just have to get used to it.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Open, Left Side

The roller skate part of the building comes with a small pedestal/ stage made up of two turntables with a microphone in the corner also hinting at its use as a karaoke/ music stage. as you can see everything looks rather crammed to the point where the turntables have gaps between them because there isn’t enough room to insert more of the plates with the inner rounding to cover the gears underneath. in order to do that, the building would have to have more length, or more exactly depth with at least another window (four studs wide) having to be inserted. It would have slightly whacked out the square-ish layout and rhythm of the colored columns vs. the windows, but would have been perfectly doable. It’s a somewhat odd decision and omission. The ramp on the door would of course also be way too steep for any wheelchair-bound person and there should perhaps be some longer gentle slope along the windows at least on the outside, which incidentally also might have helped with those pesky stabilization issues.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Open, Center

The center section has a bowling lane, which is actually even functional. You can take the pins from their studs and place them on the smooth surface, then topple them over with the red ball. The latter is the genuine “heavy” ball element LEGO unfortunately only drags out once every blue moon and that’s so coveted by people building GBCs, only for them to be disappointed and resorting to other alternatives. At the top of the gate you can see the two Technic arms forming a smartphone stand (also visible in other pictures). Unfortunately they were not recolored in a way that would look more graceful with this set, so they really, really stand out. Luckily they are easily accessible and only held by two pins, so you can easily remove them if you don’t ever want to use this functionality. 

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Open, Right Side

The arcade section is just fine, but of course doesn’t really look interesting without all the stickers for the screens and bling bling. The best part of it is the “dancing machine” in the middle, a genre which seems particularly popular in Asia.


Concluding Thoughts

This set has a lot of pros and cons at the same time. It’s good that it brings back a slightly more crazy version of the Friends universe, but there are many shortcomings in the mechanical/ architectural design. It feels a bit too flimsy for the size it has and while it can be handled well enough, it still requires a gentle touch. In addition a few of the details could have been refined and the whole thing made more plausible. What point is there in harping on including special needs people, when Jackson never actually could move around in the place? The lapses in internal logic cannot be overlooked.

The colors certainly aren’t for everyone and that is something you also have to acknowledge. Even I think there is something a bit off and that perhaps a more stringent color scheme with fewer colors might have been preferable. Especially the many dark colors feel kind of depressing at times and give the building an unfriendly, uninviting touch while on the other hand there’s a lot of overly bright accents with the Neon Yellow stripes or the Dark Pink roof. The middle ground is missing that would have toned down the contrast and acted as an intermediary.

All that said, this is still one of the better LEGO Friends sets and if you have similar feelings about those days rocking the dance floor or feel that simply the theme and design appeals to you, you should definitely get it.

Steamrolling into Autumn – LEGO City Magazine, October 2022

Blue Ocean really caught me on the wrong foot. Just when I was ready to ditch the LEGO City magazine for good, they start bundling them up with interesting extras that I can’t resist. So here we are again with the October 2022 issue and a very positive surprise.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, Cover

First things first, though. The comic is what it is – it’s certainly the most interesting across al those magazines in terms of how the visual style has evolved, but the stories really are for the 5+ generation and the flat jokes and repetitions just don’t land with me.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, Comic

The safety and security transgressions in this issue alone would make any building site’s supervisor hair stand on end. I also don’t quite get why we still have to put up with American style hard hats in for a European magazine. It seems like LEGO really need to fix this and create a new mold. It just seems weird, especially when they appear in mass like here.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, Comic

The posters are okay and at least have a sense of visual clarity and communicating their intent, not just being lumped together excuses. The frontal lighting on the one with the steamroller is a bit odd, though. Like they shot it in a studio and not on a construction site.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, PosterLEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, ExtraNow for the goodie, the steamroller itself in miniature form. I so friggin’ love it! When I saw it on last month’s preview page I had to giggle. This is just cool. It makes good use of the 3 x 3 cylinder piece that came out last year and even better, you get four of them without having to buy e.g. a Star Wars X-Wing or similar where they are used as part of jet engine exhausts or intakes. That alone is some decent value and overall the vehicle just looks cute and believable. If they had thrown in some of these discs to cover the ends it would have been perfect. I guess they just didn’t want to go through the trouble, as it would also have required 7L axles and some extra 2 x 2 plates to offset the side skirts holding them. Anyway, it’s still pretty good even without that. I just had so much fun crunching up some cookie crumbs on the coffee table! 🙂

Of course this edition wouldn’t be much without the extra and it’s the major selling point. If I as an old guy can have fun with it, then your kids can definitely have it, too. I seriously recommend this issue for that reason alone.

Enjoy the Silence(r) – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, October 2022

Time flies as fast as a TIE Fighter and so here we are again at it with the LEGO Star Wars magazine only four short weeks after the last one. This is because next weeks holiday weekend here in Germany is messing with the calendar and release schedule, so we’re getting the October issue almost one week earlier.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Cover

The comics are getting a bit concerning. Every second one of them is in some way ridiculing Darth Vader and Blue Ocean really need to stop it. It’s not that everything needs to be dead serious and strict to canon, but these “Vader is bored and messes up his surroundings” stories are really reaching a level of nonsense where it’s hard to enjoy them if you’re not a three year old.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Comic

The secondary comic follows in a similar vein and makes even Kylo Ren look bad and the empire once more like a congregation of morons.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Comic

The posters have a distinct 1970s early 1980s vibe with striped patterns, but don’t quite mange to pull it off. The back side with Obi Wan is a bit better than the front with Vader, though.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Poster

The extra is Kylo Ren‘s TIE Silencer from The Rise of Skywalker where it gets sliced to pieces by Rey. The model more or less follows the standard build pattern for these vessels we have seen so many times, but swaps out shorter panels for more elongated ones. Just like the Mandalorian Starfighter it uses the new 2 x 6 wedge plates, this time in Black of course, so if you don’t have any yet, here’s a good way to start adding some to your parts collection.

The extra once more saves the day, but otherwise this isn’t a great issue. There’s very little to gawk at and beyond the “I buy it every month, anyway.” There’s really not much to say about it. There’s just nothing standing out.

Explorer-ing… Dragons – LEGO Explorer Magazine, September 2022

There’s certainly no shortage of mythical creatures in the LEGO world, be that the good old Elves dragons, Ninjago dragons, Wizarding World creatures (Harry Potter et al)or even more generic variations on the theme in Creator 3in1 sets. Heck, they even opened up a new Mythica section in Legoland Windsor and the German Legoland is going to get one next year. They even have a dedicated promotional set for it with a winged lion (set 40556; if anyone knows a good way of getting one cheap hit me up). In light of this over-abundance of potential material, the latest edition of the LEGO Explorer magazine was an inevitability. In fact they could probably do another five issues to cover all of their own dragons alone. For now let’s see what we have here.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Cover

As usual we get a short editorial/ a few info pages roughly covering the most common mythical creatures. Well, at least the ones we all know rather superficially from them being talked about in documentaries on TV and in a very limited, uneducated typical European/ US American way. The old Babylonians would be upset about not even being mentioned and so would no doubt some South American, Asian and other cultures. At best it’s a course starter for kids, but not a complete meal by any stretch of the imagination.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Info Page

The comic follows suit and while I’m not getting much out of it, the depiction of “monster” minifigures, be that just the “guy in costume” variety almost makes me regret I started so late in LEGO and never collected minifigs. It’s really that you kind of develop a taste for it (at least the more interesting specimen from each series/ set) the more you’re exposed to it. I got the Centaur from the Collectible Minifigures Series 21 as a free gift when I bought something in the LEGO store last year, though. Go, figure! 😉

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Comic

As mentioned earlier, the poster could be filled with Ninjago dragons alone and that would in fact be true for every year even. I think in 2018 or so there were at one point nine dragons/ dragon-like creatures from two overlapping release cycles and if you count all the Elves dragons they, too would cover the entirety of this poster. Sneaking in the Komodo Dragon is an epic fail, though. The English name for this creature means nothing to Germans, where its correctly called a Waran (Varanus) based on its actual genus.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Poster

The extra unmistakably is modeled after the classic green LEGO dragon, variations of which are still prominently used in the promotional materials for the Legoland parks. The small model is done nicely enough, but does not offer any fancy building techniques and the only “special” parts are the pointed Red wedge plates used for the wings. In fact they make it look like a baby dragon whose wings haven’t fully unfolded yet.

The LEGO Explorer magazine really gives me an itch in places I cannot talk about. I always see the potential of what it could be, but most of the time we get those watered down articles that even as a kid would have bored me. You know, this could be a really fun STEM mag with a LEGO twist, but somehow it ends up being just another weird low brow effort. Well, at least the extras are good and for that I can recommend this issue. If nothing else, the little green dragon will give you ten minutes of good fun.

Silver Linings? – LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909)

I’m far from a car buff as you well know, but Formula 1 has a special place in my heart. It’s not that I was particularly interested to begin with, but in the early 1990s my brother couldn’t get enough of it and so I casually picked up a few things from his magazines and of course watching races on TV. That and of course the Michael Schumacher era began soon to be followed by Sebastian Vettel. That’s why even today I try to keep an eye on developments there, if only tangentially. Checking out the Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909) therefore was also a bit of a given, be it just to poke a bit of fun at my brother and have a discussion about the details of the model(s).

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), Box

Contents and Pricing

As a dual pack this set initially cost 40 Euro MSRP, but after LEGO‘s ridiculous recent price hike costs 45 Euro. The good news is that despite all this, this more or loss still equates to merely twice the price of single-item sets. Unlike e.g. with the Lamborghini Urus ST-X & Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO (76899) they didn’t throw a large premium on top. At the same time the less good news comes in that you won’t be able to shave much off those 40 Euro. As an exclusive set only available at LEGO stores and a handful select retailers there’s no wriggle room for large discounts.

However, effectively I got mine for 38 Euro, which in a funny way is even LEGO‘s fault. they appear to be producing this set in such low numbers that they’re constantly running out and it’s out of stock. I tried to pick it up directly in the Leipzig LEGO store on three separate occasions before I gave up and ordered it from one of those few alternate vendors that still had some packages. You should be prepared that it may take a moment before you can get your hand on this.

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), Overview

Sticker Madness

Another of those things I keep boring you with is of course my dislike for stickers/ decals and in this case it’s really, really bad. As we all know, the Mercedes Formula 1 cars aren’t called Silver Arrows for nothing and consequently this would have meant that LEGO had to produce a ton of pieces for this set in Flat Silver, which of course never happens. Instead they are trying to compensate this with “illusion painting” by means of printed adhesive foil and here once more the sheer number of sticker pieces is beyond belief. And the AMG Project One doesn’t do much better, since in reality it’s also another silver Mercedes. So ultimately you end up with two relatively large sticker sheets and what makes it even worse for me is that you right away can see how they’re even trying to cheat the surface curvature by using gradients on the F1 car’s spine.

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), Stickers

The Formula 1 W12 1

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), F1, Variants PiecesInevitably LEGO‘s heavy reliance on stickers is a two-edged sword and while not using them increases the re-usability value of the sets, but it also diminishes the aesthetic value. Often this can be overlooked, but with the Formula 1 car it really shows very painfully. It has none of the magic it should have and more or less just looks black. This also affects the minute differences between Hamilton‘s car and Bottas‘ version for which some extra pieces are included. Aside from the distinct Yellow camera bar the differentiation is lost without the stickers.

As such, only the Dark Turquoise and Dark Red elements will really stand out and add some flair. The Dark Red 1 x 4 modified plate is exclusive to this set and so are the little knobs used for the rear view mirrors. The wedge slopes have since appeared in more sets, but initially were also limited to this one. There’s a few unique printed parts like the wheel covers used to shim over the regular wheels and create the illusion of those specially marked tires to indicate their softness rating. I feel that this is a bit of a missed opportunity. While the Blue looks very harmonious and calm for a display model, in light of the overall lack of contrast I would have preferred Yellow or Red markings. In fact it would have been cool if they included at least one of those options as an alternative. Other printed pieces are the Mercedes star of course or the faux air intake above the cockpit.

The assembly of the car is simple enough, but make no mistake – this is overall rather fragile. Many elements literally only hang by a single stud or clip and handling requires a tender touch. The model should be held by the modified plates mimicking the chassis or the wheels, but other areas will immediately come off if you don’t have a tender touch. That’s almost like on the real thing except that it doesn’t require racing at 300+ kph or bumping into a wall for the front or rear wing to fly off.

The other apparent issue is the lack of smoothness. At this point I don’t consider it so much a general limitation of using LEGO bricks, but rather of the scale. Point in case: With introductions like the recent “jester shoe” arch it would be possible to create some of the subtle, yet complex curves, just not at this size. This also goes for the suspensions of the wheels, which of course aren’t big fat tubes on the real thing. Neither are spoilers and winglets big and chunky, but I guess there’s really no good way to translate all those paper-thin carbon fiber bits into bricks.

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), F1, CockpitThe cockpit is surprisingly adequate in its sparseness and even using the game pad once introduced for the Collectible Minifigures series for the steering wheel is fitting. However, since there is no sticker for it I feel that including the printed version from way back then might still have been better, even if it doesn’t represent the actual button layout. A point that has caused much discussion is the largely inaccurate depiction of the HALO device. Using a rigid tube is really not ideal and overall it looks way too bulky and too large. Short of creating a new piece I can’t think of a much better solution, though. All the swords/ blades or hotdogs that come to my mind are not curved enough to capture the shape.

The Project One

The second car in the package is apparently one I know even less about than the F1 one. That’s why it more or less looks like the many other (super) sports cars in the series. Indeed it also almost builds like the Aston Martin Vantage or the Corvette, give or take the necessary variations to accommodate each car’s specific details. In this case this in particular refers to the large fin blade in the aft section.

Otherwise the car is rather mundane and once more one can only bemoan that there are no genuine silver parts. This would make things look so much more interesting even without the stickers.

Similar to other cars in this year’s Speed champions line-up this one also uses the new 2 x 3 curved wedge slope and all the same these are also printed with the shapes for the headlights. The other printed parts are the AMG logo on the intake grille and of course the canopy piece. The latter lacks opacity, something which sadly has become an “expected” (or dreaded?) standard, even if it didn’t need to be this way if LEGO invested a bit more time and care.

LEGO Speed Champions, Mercedes AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909), AMG, CockpitThe cockpit is very plain again and shamelessly exploits the fact that a) those racing cars have very stripped down interiors in the first place and b) the dark tinted glass would further restrict visibility. Would be nice to have some bright red Recaro seats and support tubing from the inner frame shining through from time to time, though.


Concluding Thoughts

Despite my criticisms this is quite an okay set. LEGO (and by extension Mercedes AMG) had the good sense to not gouge their fans with excessive pricing inflated by licensing fees and that alone deserves some recognition. As someone who builds these models only for fun it would of course have been even better if the set were broadly available in retail and thus I could have gotten some discount, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

The Formula 1 car is clearly the weaker of the two due to the limitations of the system. This would probably make more sense as a Creator Expert/ Icons set in around 1/12th scale, but ironically then I might not be able to afford it. I guess I’m caught between a rock and a hard place on that. If you take the set at its face value it is definitely okay and will fit nicely into your collection of similar Speed Champions models.

This must be Underwater Love – LEGO Minecraft Magazine, September 2022

The LEGO Minecraft magazine really is a bit of a sleeper hit with some positive surprises in store for every issue. Of course that’s easy to say with being only on the market for a year and a meager six issues in, but compared to e.g. Hidden Side it feels so much varied and a lot less repetitive. Let’s have a look what the September 2022 issue has on offer.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, September 2022, Cover

This one is built around some underwater adventures, which is a subject I always like, given my general love for sea creatures. Even the puffer fish from The Guardian Battle (21180) make an appearance as do of course some of the temple ruins. There’s also a nice brick-built dolphin featured throughout, which would have made for a cool extra. Perhaps they’ll make it happen some day?

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, September 2022, Comic

The posters are rather generic with a “Wanted!” poster for a skeleton on the front and a scene with the Iron Giant from two issues ago on the back.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, September 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, September 2022, ExtraThe extra is made up of two minifigures, another version of Steve and a “Drowned” Zombie and there’s some pieces to build a small boat or float. Zombies are always nice to have should you decide to build your own swamp or temple scene or buy those sets and want to add some more action. The boat is done well enough, but overall I think the dolphin really would have been the better option here.

While it’s not a particularly surprising issue, this one is solid enough to provide some fun. With the dolphin in place of the boat it would of course have been awesome.

Poodle-tastic Care – LEGO Friends Magazine, September 2022

As you may have noticed, this blog isn’t as much about LEGO Friends as it used to be (I could go into all the details why, but maybe that’s for another time), but that doesn’t mean I’m not into it at all anymore and still follow developments in that theme just as I still read the magazines. So here we go with the September issue.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September 2022, Cover

One of the big topics in the series this year has been animal care with multiple sets and I reviewed the Pet Adoption Café (41699) and Pet Playground (41698) earlier this year. This months edition of the mag is all about that, too. The comic deals with some mayhem at the pet daycare center. The story is nothing to write home about, but the kids will buy it. It’s also an interesting observation that the more the comic veers away from slavishly rendering the characters in the style of the actual minifigures, the more tolerable it becomes. The protagonists looking more like regular people really does the whole thing good.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September 2022, Comic

Unlike the previous issues this one comes up short in the coloring department with only a partial page as opposed to the double spreads before. that seems a bit odd, as no doubt kids would love to color their favorite dog breed or kittens.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September 2022, Coloring Page

There’s an info page with a few rather generic photos, but it’s really not that specific on anything.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September 2022, Info Page

The poster is kind of okay, but I’d bet most people will prefer the back side featuring quadruple Labrador/ Golden Retriever puppies. 🙂

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September 2022, Poster

The extra is one of those “pet grooming” scenarios we’ve gotten a few times over the years featuring the standard brush, a small basin with a water tap and some accessories. The teeter board similar has been seen before just as well. The poodle is the version with the Dark Turquoise print for the collar that otherwise can only be found in two other sets, so at least that’s a simple way of getting it here.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September 2022, Extra

This issue is pretty mundane and even boring, so there’s no real urgency to buy it. It has very little to offer on all fronts. This becomes even more apparent after the pretty decent horse-themed previous issue.

Noodles in the Flesh – LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131)

I would love to deck out my flat with LEGO‘s Modular Buildings as much as the next guy, but sadly I have neither the money nor the storage space to keep them all around. Therefore I have to settle on smaller fish and make do with the building-themed sets in the Creator 3in1 range and other series, but even that is an exercise in itself for similar reasons. There’s just an over-abundance of options, yet models like the latest Sanctum Santorum (76218) are out of my class, either, due to their price. For now let’s have a look at the Downtown Noodle Shop (31131) therefore. 

LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131), Box

Contents and Pricing

Unfortunately even these smaller buildings don’t come cheap and so you’d have to invest at least 40 Euro MSRP. That is before the price increase as since this very September 1st you have to add 5 Euro more on top. The irrationality of LEGO‘s greed is a discussion for another time, but of course it sucks having to pay even more. For now this is obfuscated by many retailers still selling it for the old price minus their usual discounts, but after the transitional phase this no doubt this wear off and prices rise, regardless, once consumers have been conditioned to just accept it.

In theory paying 40 Euro for 569 pieces isn’t half bad, but as you can already see in the overview image this number also is made up by many smaller elements that are good to have to detail and enliven the scenery, but do not contribute much to the bulk/ volume of the model. Even the walls are actually to a good extent just 1 x 1 bricks to build support columns and frame the windows. Realistically, you only have around two thirds of “substance” with the rest being decorations. Of course this is not an unusual ratio and on some level even good compared to e.g. some City sets. However, the lofty impression is furthered by the overall very open structure and no real big parts giving the package some “weight”.

LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131), Overview

With that in mind, hunting for discounts can be really worthwhile. Typically you will be able to find this for around 34 Euro, representing 20 percent off. I got mine for 31 Euro and at some point an online retailer fired it out for 26 Euro. This really helps, especially if you buy multiple boxes to either build all three models from the instructions or simply create a bigger house.

The Figures

There are only two minifigures in this set, which is a little underwhelming, given the subject. You cannot even fill the little noodle stand completely, much less add some bustling activity in other areas. At the very least this should have had four figures and five would have been ideal. That way you could add a customer buying some Asian food, place a child near the bike buying some ice cream and so on. The minifigs themselves are just run-of-the-mill. You’ve seen the individual pieces used a million times and they get just remixed a bit like the lady having one of the new heads with the hearing aid printed on. In addition there’s a buildable dog, but as you well know I’d much prefer having a molded animal. After all, there’s enough different breeds available, it just seems LEGO are too hellbent on keeping Dachshund, French Bulldog et al exclusive to their Collectible Minifigures series and it takes so long for these to appear in mundane sets (usually as other color variants, no less).

The Bicycle

The bicycle, or more exactly tricycle frame is another variation on the small food cart as already seen e.g. in the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444). Looking back at this set the green wheels/ tires look just odd in conjunction with the white frame (they may have worked better if the frame was Lime Green or Bright Green), so I’m glad we get “ordinary” Black tires here. The ice cone is an interesting build, but feels too heavy and overall whoever would drive this bike would be very unsafe, given that he barely can see anything. 😉 This would likely work better on a classic roof on four poles.

The Building

Important preface: For this article I’m going to focus exclusively on the primary model, the noodle shop. The alternate builds, a bicycle shop and a small arcade struck me as stylistically too similar and/ or too small to be worth going through the trouble of rebuilding the one set I had at hand into the other variants. I may consider buying another one of these when there’s another good discount and maybe then I can give those secondary models a whirl. Now on to the good stuff.

A trend that as someone who never can have enough colors at hand certainly views positively is the fact that someone at LEGO must have realized that skin tones are actually “real” colors and could be used for regular pieces and not just minifigure components as well. This change came about around two years ago when they started doing the LEGO ART packages and had to recolor all those 1 x 1 round plates and studs, anyway, and shortly after that they released the buildable “huge minifigures” Harry Potter & Hermione Granger (76393), containing more flesh-colored pieces for the hands and face. From there it probably took on a life of its own and simply became a standard thing. I’m pretty sure, though, that there was some heated debate on the matter internally, given how long they refused or had not considered producing parts in skin colors.

To get to a point: One of the things that attracted me to this set was the use of Light Flesh/ Light Nougat pieces. I just didn’t have any in my collection yet (yes, that price thing again preventing me from buying costly sets) and wanted to check out how it would look in person. To boot, there were some other interesting elements in useful colors like more Olive Green bricks, the Dark Red slopes and the flat “arch” slopes in Dark Green and Bright Green. At least my nerd genes would be stimulated and I could live out my obsession in that department.

The build overall is pretty straightforward, but also somewhat delicate. This is due to the building being very open to begin with and consisting of a lot of individual one brick thick walls that are not interconnected. This means everything is very wobbly and only stabilizes once you cap it off with the plates for the next floor or other transversal elements. Until you do so, things are prone to being pushed out of alignment again or snap off entirely. You have to have a tender touch to not apply too much force. In the end everything works out, but a little care goes a long way. The assembly order can also be a bit frustrating as it jumps across the model. It’s kind of structured in slices instead just finishing off one corner so you find yourself adding something to the noodle stand only to then be asked to add an Olive Green brick on the other side. Flipping a few pages ahead in the instructions every now and then can help to make this more efficient by doing multiple steps at once.

The default layout for this building is a sort of “cheat” square layout for a corner building. This is technically plausible with the main facade facing the main street and the noodle stand being tucked away into a branching side street or alley. However, this also exposes what perhaps is this sets biggest shortcoming: the lack of height. You never really believe (at least I do) that someone could live there above the shop and those rooms are at best a small business office for the snack bar’s owner. It’s also visually odd since in particular the right-hand side of the building with the stairs and the door has no thickness and doesn’t even pretend there would be something else. It’s like where there is the hollow in the back there should be the actual building and everything we see are just additions that were constructed later. Anyway, I think having a third floor would have helped hugely to avoid this impression and made things more functional and believable.

The small insert with the vending machine is only loosely attached with some pins and once removed you can play around with different configurations for the house. Because the model is built with hinges, you can just close it up. This would also be a good option for storing it since it prevents the interior from getting too dusty. In this closed state the kitchen sink under the stairs is at the back of the noodle shop and likewise, the second floor gets more logical as the previously unconnected door now acts as the entry to the living room. The big downside is of course that you cannot get inside and visibility of the interior is seriously restricted as well.

The second possible arrangement is simply forming a straight line. This looks nice, but all the same exposes the identical problem as the initial layout – the lack of depth. This really screams “Buy me a second set to extend the rear!”, a recurring theme with this package. In this configuration you would also have to adjust the width of the sidewalk for the building to be integrated into an existing neighborhood.

Since the building itself already is made up of mostly small elements despite a relatively high piece count, the interior isn’t hyper-detailed, either. Not that this would be too much of an issue, given that there isn’t much space, but you can somehow feel that the designers struggled and had to sacrifice one for the other to stay on budget. Not meaning to propagate stereotypes, but certainly a real noodle shop would be more cluttered and also have some more utilities. There isn’t even a fryer or a fridge anywhere in sight.

Incomplete as it may be, the living room on the second floor feels cosy. Similarly, the tiny hallway reminded me of those small British hotels – crammed and a bit stuffy, but always a table with fresh flowers near the window. The roof ladder/ emergency ladder also fits.


Concluding Thoughts

While overall this model is just fine and really captures that feeling of early 20th century American urban/ suburban buildings as you would find them e.g. in San Francisco or some areas of New York, the flaws/ shortcomings can’t be overlooked. They really show without looking for them even if you may not be able to exactly pinpoint what bothers you at first.

For one, the all too apparent lack of height by not having a third floor is felt immediately. As can be seen in the photos the building looks very square. Other buildings like the Townhouse Toy Store (31105) from two years ago were effectively not much larger, but never felt as vertically compressed. Arguably the balance just isn’t there in strict architectural terms. The second issue is the overall feeling of incompleteness. The building comes across as an half-finished skeleton of what it could have been. The many open spaces contribute to this feeling as does the lack of some “interior” when the building is at a 90 degree angle or perfectly straight. Certainly some inserts on the inside similar to the one with the vending machine would have made a huge difference.

All that being the case, the path to happiness most definitely is buying multiple packages of this set, but then it really becomes a question of whether this is still cost-effective. Buying two is certainly feasible, but adding a third already gets you dangerously close to the price of actual Modular Buildings or something like the big Sanctum Santorum (76218). Likewise, you could then find alternatives in other series and bash something together from multiple Friends sets or similar. In that regard one might even call this noodle shop a failure. If you get my drift: When it’s easier to cobble together a larger building from other sets, then the point of buying a dedicated set to that effect is defeated.

Unfortunately this set doesn’t quite know what it wants to be and the conditions when a purchase pays off will be very specific. Regardless whether you use it standalone or want to integrate it into your existing LEGO city you will have to put in some extra work to make it look nice. Therefore my view is that it would have been better had this been a slightly more expensive, but also more complete set in the 60 Euro range with at least some of the issues fixed. in fact even if they had just duplicated the second floor and given it a different interior this would have improved things a lot.

Pyro Raptor Buggy – LEGO Jurassic World Magazine, September 2022

The summer heatwave having dissipated and more regular temperatures now being prevalent again certainly also makes that LEGO business more enjoyable just as it facilitates writing reviews. So here we are having a look at the Jurassic World magazine, September 2022 edition.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2022, Cover

The all too apparent differences between the various artists doing the comics’ drawings are still a bit funny to me and in a way also odd, so this month we’re back to one of those 50/50 illustrations, where some panels are reasonably detailed and look good, but a lot of the others don’t. Thematically we at least get to see a few dino species that haven’t been represented in their LEGO-fied form for a while. It’s been a moment since the Brachiosaurus made an appearance.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2022, Comic

The same goes for the Mosasaurus and the mere depiction in the comic makes me wonder if LEGO ever have any plans of doing sets with those creatures. Aside from the potentially insane price I could totally go for that. The aquatic side of prehistoric life has never been explored in this form, anyway, and doing so could actually inject some new life into the series as a whole, even in the movies themselves. Since Dominion was such a failure, though, I’m not sure if this will ever happen. We might have to settle for more half-baked content like this.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2022, Comic

The posters both feature a T-Rex, but are equally boring, regardless which side you display. At least there’s not too much visible poor photo editing.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, September 2022, ExtraAs hinted at last time the extra is the towing vehicle to the trailer that came with the previous issue. Stupid little me just forgot about the whole thing and then I disassembled the cart prematurely and buried the pieces in my boxes. Therefore I can’t show you the whole combination. Sorry about that! As predicted, the buggy/ quad is standard fare like we’ve seen it a ton of times, but the designer deserves at least some praise for custom-building the steering from multiple elements instead of relying on the existing molded element. Owen has one of those prodding sticks seen in the movies, but overall he remains not just a boring character in the films, but easily also one of the dullest and most repetitive minifigures.

If it wasn’t for the buggy connecting to the last issue and presenting it here, I’d probably have skipped this one. It just doesn’t offer much that would be interesting.