She’s that Girl – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, November 2022

I decided to take things easy last week with my birthday and all, so I’m a bit behind on my schedule and only present you with the latest LEGO Star Wars magazine today.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, Cover

The comic takes us underground into some crystal caves and as a result everything is very colorful. It’s always nice to see stories play out in such locations as opposed to the rather sterile imperial ships or the Death Star. The story arc itself is just another of those “Vader chasing someone and being a moron about it” things, though.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, Comic

The shorter secondary comic introduces us to Princess Leia as she tries to escape some admittedly cool looking bounty hunters on an abandoned imperial base.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, Comic

The posters are really nice this time. As you know i prefer a clean graphical style without too much “noise” and the “For Mandalore!” certainly delivers. it immediately reminded me of the poster for the The Rocketeer movie, both in terms of composition and that 1920s/ 1930s graphical style. That reverse poster mimics the style of some movie openings with scenes stenciled into the text, only of course this one uses comic panels.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2022, ExtraThe extra this month is a minifigure of Princess Leia and it’s actually a pretty good one because it’s rare. This version with the new skirt piece depicting her in her classic white dress from A new Hope so far only had been included in the ill-fated (because bad) Tantive IV (75244) and the current Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter (75301) I also reviewed here on this blog. Therefore the little lady has been an expensive investment if you wanted to buy it without getting any of those sets. Just buying this issue of the magazine will give it to you at much lower cost, even if the devaluation probably has Bricklink sellers grinding their teeth.

Already having owned the minifigure I could have skipped this issue easily, but of course this will be the main attraction for many readers. I still prefer buildable stuff and the next edition is going to give us a nice Imperial Star Destroyer once more, so I can live with that. Overall this is a decent issue that will be a nice bit of fun.

Stubby X-Wing? – LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter (75301)

I’ve always wanted a LEGO X-Wing, but like for so many others there were a few things getting in the way. I never could quite make up my mind which of the different models I preferred and than all too often the exorbitant prices got in the way. some of these circumstances have changed with the latest wave, so I finally took the plunge and got myself Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter (75301) even though there are still several caveats as you will see.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Box

The Non-Solution to a Problem

Before digging into the actual specifics of the set we have to address the elephant in the room – the reason why this model even exists in this particular form.

It used to be that LEGO Star Wars sets always were expensive, but still affordable within reasonable limits. That is notwithstanding that they still exploited the goodwill of the fans, but it wasn’t terrible, especially when the sets were good. In recent years this, however, has drastically changed for the worse. Not only have prices risen in general, but you’re getting less bang for the buck. The average price-per-part ratio these days regularly exceeds that magical 10 Cent a piece and in most sets you only get a minimum of the highly coveted minifigures. Now one could go on endlessly and speculate what aside from general inflation and rising manufacturing cost may be at play here, but certainly Disney and LEGO milking the cow is factoring in, too.

The downside of course is that this policy has made it much harder for many people to either buy this stuff at all or at least keep up with ever new releases. This realization must have dawned on the people in charge at LEGO as well at some point, and so they decided to act upon it and do a bit of course correction. As you might imagine, I don’t really agree on how they are trying to mitigate the issue or else I wouldn’t be writing this. There are inf act even some bullshit “designer videos” on YouTube trying to rationalize their decision, which riles me up even more. Point in case: The have the gall on blaming it on the customer as in “You all want detailed models, but you don’t want to pay enough.”

Now on an idealistic level I’m not even opposed to some of the changes as indeed it has become questionable why you should pay 100 Euro for something like Poe Dameron’s X-Wing Fighter (75273). However, their “solution” of reducing the complexity of the models and simplifying details does not fix the underlying problem at all. You still pay more than that magical average per part and get a lesser model for it. Which I guess is the point. One would instead assume they adjust their pricing or haggle out a new licensing deal to bring down external cost, if that really were the driving factor. That not being the case they chose to put all the burden on you as the buyer.

Pricing and Contents

Regardless of my overall gripes I’m always on the lookout to get my stuff as cheap as possible out of pure necessity, so let’s see how things look here. Officially the set retails for 50 Euro in these parts. That is okay-ish, all things considered, but my previous point is proven once again. Once you figure in the typical discounts from big outlets things are getting better. I picked up my set for 37 Euro and in fact was a bit upset at myself because two days later it was on Amazon for 34 Euro. That’s just my bad luck striking again! This brings things down to a sensible level.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Overview

Still, the model still does not look like it would even contain the number of parts to justify this lower price, which is the crux of it. For all intents and purposes it feels crude compared to most of its more detailed (but also more costly) predecessors. This is only slightly offset by the box containing four minifigures, something you have to be thankful for, I guess. It would not in any way have been surprising had there been only one or two minifigs.

The Minifigures

As you would expect from a set called Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter the eponymous hero is present in minifig form as is his trusted sidekick R2-D2. I have tons of Lukes in different versions, but this is actually my first pilot one, so I’m not complaining. Since all of these figures in flying gear appear to be different, they generally seem to fetch a good price with collectors. That also goes for the version of Leia with the skirt piece in this set, as so far this combination has only been seen in the Tantive IV (75244), a model that due to its undecidedness on whether to be a toy or a collectible didn’t appeal to many fans.

Finally there’s General Dodonna. I actually had to look him up, but it appears he’s only to be seen in a few shots leading up to the attack on the Death Star as a supporting character. Since it’s the first time he’s been translated into this format, he’s also reasonably valuable in case you want to sell the figs. The white hair is also nice (and not that common) and to boot he comes with one of the rarer Flat Silver blasters. With all that being the case, the value of the minifigures is considerable and if you share them with a collector that alone could help to partially refinance the purchase.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Minifigures

The X-Wing

By its nature as Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing of course the X-Wing is the classic T-65 model that has been done a million times already even in LEGO, so there would be plenty of room for comparison. Not owning any of the previous models I have to relay on photos, naturally, but the first thing that stands out is that the model looks and feels more compact than the others.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Front Left View

It’s technically not that much shorter than others, but I guess the lack of details in some areas just makes it look more stubby. You could even browse through the digital instructions and you would find that the front section uses the same building techniques as older versions, it just lacks all the extra slopes and tiles used for additional shaping and making things a bit more elegant. This trend continues throughout and is one area where they started saving on the parts count.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Aft Left View

It becomes particularly apparent on the wings, or more correctly the X-foils (since they have no aerodynamic lift, they aren’t exactly wings). On previous models these tended to be more detailed up with smaller tiles and plates to represent some of the stripes and insignia, whereas here this is left to your imagination or some large-ish stickers if you elect to use them. Interestingly, they again did not do anything to fix the wingspan, which would need to be noticeably wider. This has been bothering fans for forever. I think it is forgivable here, though, given that they aimed for simplification, but they really should get around to it one day.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Aft Right View

The engines fall into the “Let’s count number of ways we can creatively stack round elements.” category. It’s not really terrible, but one wishes they would come up with some more specific pieces for this after having tried all those round bricks, wheel hubs and barrels and settle on one style. On the bright side, they introduced a new piece for the front intakes, a 3 x 3 cylinder. While it’s nice to have a new element and it certainly will come in handy in the future, I feel it’s a step down from what they did in the 2018 X-Wing Starfighter (75218). This really begs for a printed tile to at least hint at the input lips and incidentally also make thinks look more deep.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Front Right View

Another victim of the “optimization” process is the cockpit. Granted, there wasn’t much going on in this section in the other versions as well, but one can’t help but feel that if they could save on even one more brick they would have done it just to prove a point.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Detail Cockpit

The tail section looks okay, though the attempt to mimic the purple-ish red glow of the engine blast looks feeblish. Similar to the front intakes I would have preferred if it was just a deeper dark hole. Or perhaps they could have done something to amp up the “glow” like inserting a white bar. dunno. It just doesn’t look hot, not even against sun light.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Detail Engines

Of course the X-foils can be spread and this is basically the area where the most savings have been implemented be using a completely different mechanism compared to older editions. On the positive side this may be the first time we actually get a mechanism that is able to fully close and at the same time allow for the thinnest possible wings. This not least of all also has to do with this new Technic brick (also see my review of the City Tractor (60284), where it was first introduced) allowing for some space-saving, yet stable construction and how it connects to the central hinge construction. This is particularly important after the much derided “only half a wing” implementation in Poe Dameron’s X-Wing Fighter (75273)

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Wings spread, Aft View

The downside to all of that is that now not only do the wings move, but the fuselage actually splits. Clever as the mechanism is, and I really have to say that as someone who did Technic for a while and also obsesses about mechanical engineering, it kind of ruins the look. The point here is of course that you have no way of attaching conventional bricks to shim over everything to disguise the internal stuff and it also makes the ship look like its twisting and warping in that area.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Wings spread, Front View

Interestingly, the whole thing does not use any rubber bands or blocking elements and the wings are solely held apart by the cumulative friction of the pins and liftarms in the compact block. It also is constructed in such a way that the wings move smoothly and symmetrically when you push the central nub on the top. On the other hand it’s not that strong that the wings would stay opened when you put down the model on its skids. Then the models own weight will take care of automatically closing the X-foils. That is more or less correct technically, but it would be nice if the user had full control. Would have made taking some of the photos a lot easier as well. 😉

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Detail Wing Mechanism

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Detail Wing Space

The mechanism is pretty much visible all around the circumference of the aft fuselage section, even from the underside. The interesting observation here is that it is basically all held together by long axles rather than bricks and the single long plate on the bottom is pretty much only one last element to counter rotational movements. Again, pretty smart, just not looking that good.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter (75301), Underside

Speaking of which… The wave emitters on the wingtips really annoyed me. They look okay, but where connecting stuff through axles succeeds on the wing fold mechanism it doesn’t really work here.This stuff rattles around a lot because the wheel hubs and connectors of course have pin holes, not axles holes and thus spin around happily. It’s really odd that LEGO haven’t come up with something better in all those years to avoid this. Perhaps it’s really time for a 8 L pin/ bar or something like that?

Concluding Thoughts

At the end of the day this is a somewhat odd product. I can’t quite see who it is supposed to appeal to. For more seriously minded Star Wars fans it simply lacks too many details that would make it worthwhile as a display piece to put on a shelf. As a toy for kids it would be serviceable and in fact the new wing section makes it very “swooshable” and playable while offering a lot of robustness, but then it would still be on the slightly expensive side. The old “Just buy your kid a Ninjago set!” would certainly apply as most of the models there offer more transformation features for play and you often get more figures.

Funny enough, however, the latter could still be considered the saving grace for this model as well, again more for the connoisseur rather than children. With four minifigures (or three if you count out the repetitive R2-D2) and each one of them being unique there is some decent value here. It’s just that the main sensation, the X-Wing, is not on that same level and its lackluster overall appearance leaves you unsatisfied. The most annoying thing for me is that this set simply does not rectify any of the actual issues with the Star Wars products. LEGO simply seem unwilling to fix construction problems and compromise on their cash cow.

If you have the money for it I would recommend you rather get one of the more expensive “big” X-Wing sets while they still can be found relatively easy even if they have their own flaws and quirks and then only consider this as a complementary addition to your collection later on. I feel there’s just too much left to be desired and unless you are a minifigure collector even at the lower price it doesn’t feel like money well spent. This odd empty feeling of “If only…” lingers on for a while and when you look at the model you always find new areas that feel incomplete or could be improved and then you begin to begrudge the absence of this and that extra piece that would have made things look so much nicer…

Tatooine Tag Team – Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228)

For me Star Wars at best remains a peripheral interest and most LEGO sets of that series therefore don’t interest me that much, but every now and then there comes one along that you just can’t pass on. The Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228) set, in the Microfighters sub-line no less is exactly that, so let’s explore the reasons.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Box

Apparently the Microfighters are limited by their scale, so the models are pretty hit & miss and their attractiveness depends hugely on the chosen subject and how well it can be represented with the limited number of parts available. Some of them are actually quite good, others not so much. This particular set falls most definitely in the first category, as it’s genuinely well-executed.

A strong argument to that effect can already be made since it’s a dual set. Those usually are a bit more generous in terms of parts allotment, so the models tend to look slightly more realistic to begin with. Here this is further helped by the choice of subjects – a small escape pod and an equally relatively small animal. Unlike sets where e.g. huge Star Destroyers are represented with only a bunch of elements and all the finer details are mostly left to your imagination, here you actually get something you can recognize and work with.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Overview

The minifigures in this set are not really that noteworthy except for the Stormtrooper. C3PO and R2D2 are just the plain garden variety you may have seen a hundred times over the years and which are and have been included in so many sets, magazines and books that you may already have a storage box full of them, assuming you bought other LEGO Star Wars stuff ever. The Stormtrooper/ Sandtrooper, aside from the fact that you can never have enough of them, stands out in that it uses the latest version of the helmet and has a unique print of sand/ dirt patterns, distinguishing it from other troopers.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Pod, Left View

The escape pod is – shall we say – a very loose and liberal interpretation of the genuine article from the Star Wars – A new Hope movie, but a far cry from an exact replica. The funny thing is, to me at least the much bigger-looking engine exhausts look way better than they would if this were a more realistic rendition. The front section on the other hand somehow just doesn’t feel right. As a minor I would have hoped they use a larger cone for the nose so it doesn’t look as stubby.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Pod, Aft View

The construction of the pod uses a conventional “rocket” style method where the round plates and other elements are simply stacked and then tilted on the side pretty much as you would expect. This keeps the overall build simple and quick, taking only a few minutes. The downside is that you basically have to completely create your own design from scratch for anything else. There’s just no built-in flexibility where you could do trivial things as just leaving off a brick to expand the available space the lady would just fall apart. The kids won’t mind, though. There are also a few parts highlights like the silver roller skates that should be useful.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Dewback, Left View

The highlight of the set and no doubt the main reason for many buyers is the Dewback that comes as a fully buildable figure instead of a solid custom mold. this provides an interesting challenge and extends the building fun. Additional incentive is provided by the many Sand Green parts, some of which haven’t been available in this color until last year (the wedge plate with cut corner) or not been re-released in a long time in this same color (the inverted slopes). Especially if you are into buildings, creating patinated roofs, sculptures and the like or just generally like to use this color this will be super useful. I also love the 3 x 2 jumper plates in Reddish Brown.

The one thing that is amiss with the Dewback is its size. It very much looks like a baby version of the creature. This isn’t so much an issue of the scale not hitting that magic minifigure threshold nor is it that the Sandtrooper would look excessively oversized in relation to the beast, it’s more a case of the whole thing just looking way too cute due to its compact proportions and large eyes. I genuinely think it therefore should have been about one-third larger to at least somewhat mitigate that perception. In particular the body should look more bulky and be longer while the small head is probably okay.

LEGO Star Wars, Escape Pod vs. Dewback (75228), Dewback, Right View

In its entirety the set is lovely, though. It’s fun to build and when you are done, you actually feel like you have something nice to play with or put on the shelf. Personally I would have preferred a bit of a different spin with the escape pod being half-buried in sand and a group of troopers standing around with two of the Dewbacks, which probably also would have made more sense story-wise (as in the movie the robots and the search party never meet). It might also have better justified the MSRP of around 20 Euro, as at least to me R2D2 and C3PO simply don’t count because they have been so over-used. More Sandtroopers would simply have been cooler and more useful. Luckily you can get this set for around 14 Euro in many online shops and that’s absolutely okay, so this is a definite recommendation.

Ninjago Luke

Due to the placement of the Christmas holidays on the calendar this year, this month’s LEGO magazines only rolled out with some delay, but now that the festive season is over will hit in short succession one after another.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2019, Cover

The January Star Wars mag comes with a Tatooine Luke Skywalker minifigure. Not that I would need one of those in my life, but for the more inclined collector of the Star Wars series this would be a simple way to obtain one of those to fancy up vignettes and dioramas without breaking the bank. You could even buy this multiple times and still save money in the process, considering that even the more basic Luke minifigures still seem to cost around three Euros at least on Bricklink (I’m no minifigure expert since I don’t collect them explicitly). The rest is pretty much standard fare, though at least the new style of the comics is much more appealing compared to older issues. Now if only LEGO actually had that golden 1×1 brick in their range… 😉

LEGO Magazine, Ninjago, January 2019, Cover

When I was browsing the newsstand the Ninjago magazine also piqued my interest this time around. Again not so much for the minifigure (though for me it at least solves the mystery of what Master Wu looked like when he was younger), but the fold & glue cutout figures brought back some fond memories when we used to build paper castles and the like at a very young age.

LEGO Magazine, Ninjago, January 2019, Extra

I spent an evening trying my hand at this, but it was more difficult than anticipated. The pages being so crammed full with add-on bits makes it difficult to navigate around with the scissors while at the same time the dark background makes it hard to discern the black outlines. It’s really a bit of an exercise to get clean lines. I also found the cardboard slightly too thick/ heavy, so folding things neatly and gluing them together is yet another matter of patience because this stuff has a mind of its own. Since it’s printed on glossy stock the ink on the fold lines also tends to “break” and show white cracks. You may need to have a black pen handy to darken them again.

LEGO Magazine, Ninjago, January 2019, Extra

In light of the aforementioned complications that could be challenging even for a ten-year-old, so you might need to get a second issue if something goes wrong. The idea is nice, though, and ramps up the value of the mag notably.