An Octopus will surface near you soon-ish – finally!

I know I have been promising this for way too long to have much credibility left, but trust me, it’s really going to happen. Yes, at long last the finish line on my free instructions for my Octopus MOC is in sight. After my last update in July I had hoped to finish it sooner (and I mean a lot sooner), but after it got off to a rocky start and what was supposed to be a quick two-month project already had turned into something else, there were some further setbacks, in light of which I then decided to take my time and figure things out and be as thorough as I can. Feel free to skip this boring part, but here are some reasons:

  • As I already wrote back then, I’m not a healthy man, so this summer’s extreme heat coupled with some temporarily escalating generic health issues turned me into a lazy slob. Yes, a pitiful excuse, but that’s just how things are.
  • My own drive for perfection got in the way. Being a graphics designer has the unwanted side-effect that one tends to think in very specific terms, meaning that page layouts have to be almost pixel-perfect and just look nice. That meant that I spent way too much time doodling around and trying to figure out how I could get LPub to do something at which it is notoriously bad. Speaking of which…
  • The aforementioned program is pretty obnoxious and just bug-ridden. I also filed a bunch of bug reports and improvement suggestions, but suffice it to say that the developers behind it appear not particularly focused on making it actually user-friendly or at least best in its class in the sense that as a minor it could possibly be the best of many pretty terrible options. Trust me, doing instructions can indeed be a long exercise in frustration in pretty much any of the programs available currently. Let’s leave it at that.
  • To somewhat mitigate those shortcomings, I had to spend lots of time developing workarounds. This means that my published file will be based on having multiple models in different states in the LPub file and on top of it it will be chopped together from multiple sources. I even spent good amounts of time copy & pasting things together in external text editors. At least that’s one of the few benefits of the text-based file format.
  • As if I wasn’t in enough trouble already, I also decided to design a set of custom icons to use in the instructions because – let’s face it – the default icons e.g. for model rotation look less than exciting. You will see and hopefully like my interpretations and additions.
  • Finally, amidst all of this I participated in a bunch of building contests in the hopes of winning some cool stuff. This naturally also consumed some time on my end because I literally spent entire evenings brooding over some minutia and conceptualizing the models in my head before actually assembling them. I might do a round-up post once the dust has settled on all that and I know in which places I qualified (or not).

On the bright side, all of this trouble has made me much more resilient and I learned a good share of new tricks along the way that may make things easier in the future. I also can say with confidence that now that I know what to do and which pitfalls to avoid there is a definitive ETA on the instructions so you can at least make the model and stocking parts for it part of your Christmas shopping list. Just give me another two weeks and I’m hopefully able to pull this together at last. Funny enough I just had another little setback with one of my hard drives crashing, but thankfully the files were not affected and thank the good lord I also do regular backups, so I can at least present a preview of the cover with my skin intact:

Octopus MOC, Cover, English

I need to fix the broken drive, naturally, but should be able to resume work quickly after that. Stay tuned for the pertinent announcement…

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…

No-Good Octopus – Funny Octopus Ride (41373)

Being a lover of oceanic sea life, LEGO sets themed around this subject are of course high on my list even if they are only tangentially related. That’s why the Funny Octopus Ride (41373) from this years alternate-ish boardwalk fun park series in LEGO Friends ended up on my table.

First Things first

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Box

To get the obvious out of the way before digging into the details, given the title I chose: No, this set isn’t good. So many things with it are so wrong in so many ways, that I’m going to sound like a negative Nancy all throughout this article. Of course it’s up to you to make up your own mind and draw your own conclusions, but perhaps consider this a sincere warning about what you may get yourself and your kids into.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Overview

I myself had been pondering whether to get this set on and off so many times. The pro argument to pursue a purchase was of course once again my desire to get some good parts for my stock and funny enough the set delivers on that front. there are a number of unique parts in the form of re-colored elements that didn’t exist before, there’s a lot of Dark Pink elements, some of which like the smooth pin connectors are also a first and of course then there’s the balloon shells which I wanted to add to my collection, being that I didn’t have one of the older Friends or Elves sets they were featured in in the past. I have vague plans for a model in my head that I might actually need them one day.

It also so happens that quite incidentally the set also contains the exact four rounded plates in White that I might need to rebuild the smaller promotional Gingerbread House (40139) from 2015. With the official Winter Village Gingerbread House (10267) available and me indeed considering buying it eventually, this seems almost inevitable. I also like the transparent tubes. They could be a great way of decking out a better Hidden Side ghost lab or something like that. And finally there’s that printed 1 x 1 popcorn brick. I never bought the small Popcorn Cart (30364) polybag even when I had a chance, so it’s good to catch up on that, too.

Engineering Degree Failure

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Front View complete

The actual construction of the model is super simple and ultimately that’s the biggest failure of the set. It’s really not pretty to look at and as someone who started out with Technic and through his 3D work has a working understanding of some of the finer points of mechanical engineering (at least that’s what I like to think) it just feels wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure, it’s for kids and the build needs to be straightforward and easy, but it still doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Point in case: Someone forgot that there is this little thing called friction and ultimately the whole “system” (in the physical/ engineering sense) is totally bogged down by it. No, unfortunately it’s not as easy as turning the knob at the top of the octopus’ mantle. I as an adult struggle to overcome the initial “stickiness” (static friction), my mom can’t do it easily and I don’t even want to imagine how a first grade school kid will have to make quite an effort to even get this going.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Front View separated

There are two main issues here: First there’s the Technic elements used on the arms themselves and by extension the internal axis inside and turntable below the balloon-y body. It’s all a case of the overall forces becoming to strong no matter how much you wiggle the bushes around to loosen up the connections and reduce tension just like there is no good way of dealing with a 10 units and 12 units long axle plugged together and sticking them into stacks of axle holes at the top and bottom. This, BTW, is yet another exercise that requires so much force that it may be beyond a kid’s capabilities. There’s just no way to get this perfectly balanced so everything moves lightly and without getting stuck.

The second and by far just as critical an issue is of course the corrugated hoses vs. the arms themselves. If you think about it for a second, what you are creating here is a ratcheted mechanism with four (!) “teeth” burrowing themselves in the crevices of the hoses. Even if they do so only superficially it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this adds up to considerable resistance. What’s worse is that even if you assume that part would work, there’s still this little problem with plastic sliding on plastic. Ironically the friction here is too insignificant to ensure that the connectors actually smoothly roll on the ridges of the hoses, and when they don’t, they just scrub along. After a while both the connectors and the tubes will get dull and show scratch marks. That much is certain.

Animal Pods or Pod Animals?

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Shark Pod What makes this so sad is that the passenger pods on the merry-go-round are actually quite neat they nicely illustrate that if the set wasn’t betrayed by its shoddy cheat mechanics it could have been something great. The shark is particularly nice and if you replace the foothold piece for the figures with a tile you could re-use it in many scenarios once separated from its mounting plate. It would even fit into the Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378) as a shark circling the ship wreck just as it might fit e.g. as decoration on the Pirates Theme Park Rollercoaster (31084). The highlight here is of course the little 1 x 1 modified hinge plate in Dark Blue, a new and thus still relatively rare and expensive re-color of this element.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Clam Shell Pod

The clam shell isn’t nearly as complex, but for what it is supposed to represent sufficient plus you get another load of the Bright Pink 1 x 1 heart tile.

 

 

 

 

 

On first sight the crab looked a bit weird to me until I realized what this was actually supposed to represent. Aside from the way too short “legs”, which really are only stumps, I guess the failure is the lollipops/ paddles not being in Yellow plus there being no claws. In a way this makes the whole thing look more like a bug.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Crab Pod  LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Crab Pod

The turtle is basically just another variant of the one in the Turtles Rescue Station (41376) and the poly bag variant mentioned in the article or for that matter even the Elves oneLEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Turtle PodDepending on how you interpret it, the basic ingredients are always the same as is the building style and whether one’s shell is Dark Azure and the other’s Reddish Brown ultimately makes little difference. in the end it’s probably down to there only being so many ways to skin a cat, i.e. building this model, if you want it to be at a specific size. Similar to the shark here at least another re-color of that little round hinge in regular Green making this worthwhile. A small complaint would have to be that they easily could have included angled 1 x 2 wedges (29119, 29120) to represent the flippers, given that they already have the 1 x 1 modified plates with the clip in Bright Green in place. This would not have interfered with the rest of the model and made it so much more “realistic”

Stranger in a strange Land

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Fluke PartIn yet another anecdote of LEGO‘s quality going down the drain these days, this time I actually had a completely wrong piece in my set, meaning an utter fluke that doesn’t even remotely resemble any item that the set actually uses. The part in question is a 2 x 4 curved slope part in Dark Orange from the Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control (60228) set in the City line of products where it is used on the large central booster sections.

The irony here is that this single piece gives me so many ideas, I almost wish they had mixed up an entire bag that contains all the eight slopes used in that other set. If you look at it long enough, you just can see how this would make a perfect padding for an ocre-ish colored leather sofa or padded seating bench in a restaurant, bus or train. With this yet again being a new re-color of this part for the first time exclusive to the set you can see how this would be valuable to a guy like me who’s always thinking about the next possible project.

and what was the part it was actually supposed to be? Of all things a Dark Bluish Grey 4 x 4 round plate used on the socket of the octopus mantle! See how neither the shape nor the color relate to one another? Those sorting cameras at the LEGO factory really must have had a bad day. Anyway, thankfully I had a few of those pieces in my stockpile and in fact the color doesn’t even matter because the parts are mostly invisible and any of them would do, but if I hadn’t, I couldn’t have finished the model that evening. It’s one thing if some small 1 x 1 tile is missing that you can add on later, but it’s a different thing when a critical structural part is missing from a bag.

No Fun in the Fun Park

While I’m certainly not a fan of entertainment parks and fun fairs, I can get behind the concept as a technical and artistic challenge in the LEGO world. In fact I have been tinkering with such mechanisms on and off and if I ever finish them, one day some pretty awesome contraptions might come of it. Yupp, it sounds like self-indulgent  boasting, but at the very least it’s going to be better than this. A lot (presumably). It shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to surpass the hacky cheat mechanics, if you allow me to put it that way.

Overall I don’t know how to sum up all my frustrations with this particular set. It’s neither a good example for overall design and aesthetics nor for engineering. It just falls short of even the lowest expectations and is for all intents and purposes quite terrible. Unless you have a specific use case like myself for scalping the parts and/ or are willing to put in some major work to improve the details, you are not doing your kids or yourself any favors. I paid 25 Euro during an Amazon flash sale for this, but at the end of the day this feels too much for such an awful set. Paying the full 40 Euro would be totally crazy.

didn’t want to look at this abomination for much longer and couldn’t disassemble the set fast enough to salvage the components while they still were pristine. That’s how bad it is. Clearly the mess with the missing/ wrong part did nothing to improve my mood, either. The only things that gave me some joy are the little pod creatures, but that’s just not enough, unfortunately.

Something good, something bad – Lady Liberty (40367) and Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847)

Today I’m going to roll two smaller sets into one review for practical reasons, both of which I bought somewhat spontaneously to sooth my nerves and pamper myself at the LEGO store in Leipzig when I was roaming the premises after an unpleasant doctor visit. That being the case and the sets therefore having been bought at full price no matter what I can at least spare you my usual ramblings on overall value vs. price.

Worst Set of the Year?

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Box

To get things out of the way, let’s start with what I basically consider the worst LEGO set of the year. Sadly, as a tie-in for The LEGO Movie 2 this should be at least some sort of fun, but  the Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847) is unfortunately so lackluster, you wonder why they ever bothered to bring it out.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Overview

I fully intended to buy this set for a number of reasons, but even though I didn’t expect it to be particularly elaborate or outstanding, I never would have thought it to be this underwhelming or even terrible. Point in case: It’s basically a parts and figure pack marketed as a full set where unfortunately nothing gels and the parts don’t make up for the lack of play or collector’s value.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Babies

First and foremost of course I like most likely 99% of people who buy this set had my eye on the baby figures. Oddly enough, though LEGO had the mold for quite a while now, it’s seriously underused and the figures only pop up once every blue moon in a handful of sets. As you would have guessed, this makes them highly coveted items that fetch good prices on Bricklink. The two little tykes represented in this set will do nothing to improve this situation, as this is the first time we actually get Bright Pink (baby pink) and Dark Cyan (teal) bodies and a lot of people will be desperately scavenge for matching heads sans “tattoos” to integrate the babies into their City landscapes or whatever. That said, the two kids certainly are appealing and would enliven many a scenery.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Island

Now for the ugly part. The rest of the set is pretty much a stinker. The sad, sad irony is that each component on its own would actually be useful, in particular the plant parts in new colors. It’s just that there aren’t enough of them to do anything serious with them and to boot, they have been slapped on to some piece of island that looks like it was a lowly intern’s morning task before lunch break. I’ts just *ugh*. I get what they were aiming for, but please, could we at least have gotten a real palm/ bush with three leaves or something like that? As it is, it’s nothing more than a frustrating glimpse into a happy, colorful dream world that could have been. Imagine how awesome it actually would look to see your babies stomping around on a larger meadow surrounded by those crazy colored plants!

On a whole this is an epic fail and nothing can justify buying the set other than really having the hots for the baby figures and being crazy enough to shell out the dosh. This really just strikes me as yet another misguided attempt to quickly cash in on the movie without making any effort whatsoever. Hell, even the Emmet and Lucy minifigures are the same boring ones found in pretty much every other set of this ilk.

Little green Cutie

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Box

On to more pleasant things, the bright spot on the horizon for me on this day was the Brickheadz Lady Liberty (40367). I was actually quite surprised to find it in the LEGO store, after all, given what I overheard last time. That and the fact that the set had long been out in other countries and sold out quickly. I had little hope to be able to catch it, but sometimes there is such a thing as lucky circumstance, I guess.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Front Left View

Over the years I have only bought a handful of Brickheadz overall and whenever I did, it usually boiled down to getting my hands on some of the special printed tiles or rare parts in unusual colors that these sets often contained. I’ve never been much of a collector and as a matter of fact the only such figure I kept around is Thanos, which somehow tickles my “Aww, he’s cute!” senses in all his Medium Lavender glory. He’s now going to get a permanent companion with this little green lady, as she’s cute, too, and I can’t find it in my heart to dismantle her for the parts.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Front Right View

There’s very little that I don’t like or that I think could be improved here. The model is cleverly done and even employs the “textile folds” technique using the cut-off wedge slopes also used on the larger Statue of Liberty (21042) in the Architecture series just as it borrows the same trick with the golden hair piece for the flames. Due to these details you end up with a reasonably complex build and a model with a well-structured surface that feels weighty and voluminous and not just like a tile-covered regular box like some other Brickheadz.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Back Right View

As for the things I would improve: First, the crown piece clearly could have benefited from including a disc/ dish piece to cover up the center like it’s done on the bigger version. In fact this could have looked even better here, as they could have used a 4 x 4 dish which is a little less steep in curvature/ less convex and would have blended in better. The other thing I would have done is made the figure taller. I know, they are all meant to be about the same height so they form a nice even line on the shelf, but this is one case where an exception could have been made. Adding e.g. two more rows of bricks at the bottom would have allowed for more details on the robes and looked more elegant. These are minor things, though, and a true collector might have different opinions on the matter.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Back Left View

In any case, this is one of the few Brickheadz that genuinely should appeal to everyone, be that occasional LEGO buyers, experienced builders looking for a satisfying diversion amidst other projects or the aforementioned collectors hunting down every set in this line of products. I certainly still have warm and fuzzy feelings as little Lady Liberty is looking at me from the shelf while I’m writing this article…

September Trooper

With the magic 50th issue in August, the race up to the next fifty is now on with the September edition of the LEGO Star Wars magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2019, Cover

To celebrate that anniversary, belated as it may be, someone figured it might be a good idea to include a Stormtrooper minifigure. People are clamoring for this all the time and this seems to be so much in demand, they likely could bundle another variant with every second issue without the subject ever being covered to the point of getting stale. In this instance it’s not the “cool one”, though, with it actually being a First Order version rather than one from the original first movies, which most aficionados still prefer.

Still, not a bad move if you have bought any of the sets for one of the movies in the last three or four years and want to bolster your troops. In fact I would predict that quite a few people will buy more than one copy of the mag. With those figures being in such high demand everywhere, prices on Bricklink are not necessarily cost-effective to build larger line-ups and in the end the math could add up, even if paying 4 Euro for a figure may seem steep at first.

The rest of the magazine once more is indicative of the meandering back and forth between “barely acceptable” to “okay” to “almost good” in terms of the quality of the comics, posters and puzzles, all very apparently depending on which team took responsibility for any given month. This one falls in the upper half of this range and therefore isn’t that bad. I always like it when in particular the puzzles are reasonably complex and not dumbed down as if only three-year-olds read the mag.

August B-Wing

Call me weird, but I was really hyped for this month’s LEGO Star Wars magazine already even a few weeks back when I merely saw the preview for the next issue in the July edition. What could it be that got me so excited?

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, August 2019, Cover

The answer of course is the B-Wing model, but the reason is even more specific than you may think. Looking at the photo I asked myself whether it could be true and it almost brought a tear to my eye when this became more and more clear, but yes, the set does indeed contain two pairs of the new 1 x 2 angled wedge slopes (29119, 29120) and in Light Bluish Grey, no less. For me that’s just plain awesome, being that lately I could have used this part a couple of times and was almost on the verge buying a lot on Bricklink. Not many, mind you, as the prices for these pieces are still relatively high, but a few to cover the most basic necessities every now and then sure would be nice. So here we are and ultimately the problem could be solved by buying the mag more than once.

That may sound stupid, but bear with me. Point in case: This is an excellent micro model with several valuable or at least useful parts. I wouldn’t have done it this way, if it only contained garbage. In addition to the slopes you get some 3 x 2 plates and also equally sized tiles, some droid head cones, hinges, wedge plates and even a Barraki eye, all in Light and Dark Bluish Grey plus a black double slope and tons of round 1 x 1 studs in different colors. This easily rivals some of the separately sold Microfighter sets in terms of parts count and complexity. If you will, the value isn’t so much in the individual pieces, but in everything combined into a nice wholesome model. For me here in Germany even the economics make sense, as buying the parts off Bricklink would cost at least just as much as the magazine. As you may gather from my long-winded hubbub I’m quite happy and satisfied.

The rest of the mag presents the usual 50/ 50 split of okay-ishly good and slightly terrible, meaning the comic and the mini puzzles are acceptable, but the posters are sort of ugly CGI stuff. For my taste it’s also a bit too obvious how the plug LEGO Star Wars sets on the centerfold that seem to be selling not that great. Talk about cheap marketing moves…. 😉 This issue also came with a pack of the series 2 collectible card game and an – ahem –  “limited” Darth Vader special card. There’s also a building competition marking the 50th issue next month and I’m almost tempted to cook something up just on the off chance I might actually win something…

At the blue Bayou – Riverside Houseboat (31093)

Rare as it may be, sometimes you just know you definitely will buy a set because it sets your heart on fire after you see the first image of it. That’s what happened exactly when the Riverside Houseboat (31093) was announced as a new release for this year late last year.

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Box

Oddly enough it took forever for the set to appear on store shelves and online stores here in Germany with first examples only becoming available in march I had to wait quite a bit for prices to drop to a level that I would consider sensible. I’m not opposed to paying the full 30 Euro for this set, because it’s really good, but every penny saved is a penny earned and in my little universe I have to be as cost-effective as I can possibly be. That said, the 23 Euro you can get it for from most outlets nowadays are definitely worth it, considering this is an almost 400 pieces set, small though as some of them may be.

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Overview

The appeal of the set becomes readily apparent when you see it. The boat itself is representative of those flatbed/ float style vehicles with a cabin on it that you can often find on slowly flowing rivers like the Mississippi, shallow lakes and swampy regions and for all intents and purposes hits every beat in conveying this feeling of just hanging out on it while watching the sunset as the boat drifts along slowly. You just wanna be there and have a good time.

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Animals

The idea of being at a bayou in the Mississippi Delta is supported by some lovely little side builds of a crocodile and a pelican. Both would be typical inhabitants of those regions. Personally I wouldn’t have minded the inclusion of one or two solid molded crocodile figures. They haven’t been in that many sets, after all and it wouldn’t hurt to have an easy way of getting them for your collection. The brick-build variant is just fine, though. Had they opted to make it even more refined and used some of those sexy new small wedges (29119, 29120) it could have been downright awesome.

If you are looking for a good presentation idea, you should also try to get your hand on the Pelican (30571) polybag set. As I’m writing this it’s even included as a free bonus gift if you buy stuff worth north of 35 Euro directly from LEGO. You can buy it separately for 4 Euro a pop from other outlets as well. Anyway, it’s pretty cool to have the larger pelican next to this as a quasi “zoomed in” more detailed view of the more abstract smaller version. In addition, even if you don’t that polybag is also worth every penny on its own merits. I had to giggle about the idea with the cabinet as the large lower sack to keep the fish in…

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Left View

A lot of the attractiveness of a set has to do with the choice of colors. I might have thought twice if this set came in some weird colors like is so often the case with Creator 3in1 sets, but lucky enough someone had the good sense to keep it natural and calm. It’s always good to have parts in Reddish Brown and Sand Green and the Medium Blue bricks feel like a nice bonus, as it’s a color that can be used just as universally in many situations. Additionally, the “boards” of the deck are covered with Dark Tan plates, which is also a nice wood-like color that one can never have enough of.

The only thing that bothers me a bit is the all too white roof. It might have been nice to assemble it from smaller curved slopes in different colors to get some variation. Naturally it would be dirty from rain and the engine smoke on the real thing, so a Light Bluish Grey assembly with a few differently colored “patches” would have been a better match, methinks. It’s debatable, of course. Clearly this is meant to be a play set first and foremost, no a super realistic collectible model.

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Right View

The overall construction is rather compact with a lot of bricks crammed into a relatively small space. The model is in fact somewhat on the heavy side and you wouldn’t expect it to have so much weight at first glance. Especially in the ship’s hull there are several extra bricks hidden underneath the plates that cover the deck. It’s not really necessary, but a good use for those pieces that are required for the secondary models and otherwise would just float around uselessly. In any case, it makes for a pretty sturdy model that will take some punishment when handling it without falling apart right away.

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Aft View

The house isn’t quite as robust, but for the given purpose adequate enough. As much as I like this set, this part also ended up frustrating me. It’s a prime showcase for LEGO‘s decline in quality. First, there was a missing part – of all things one of the Reddish Brown 2 x 1 bricks. Second, and you can still see this in the photos, several of the 4 x 1 Medium Blue bricks deviate considerably in color from their 2 x 1 plate and 2 x 1 brick counterparts.

I’m not saying it’s the end of the world, but considering that LEGO sell themselves as a premium toy manufacturer it’s not okay, either. It seems an inefficient use of my time and LEGO‘s money to have to contact them for replacement parts way too often. Those fancy padded envelopes with a few pieces a pop don’t come for free, you know. I’m really beginning to wonder how much money they “burn” when someone has to go through their warehouse and pack those little bags…

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Right Side Interior View

As you would expect, the interior is rather sparse, but again I feel that this helps to maintain this sense of a crammed, but cosy little boat where after a long evening of fishing until dark you curl up on the mattress in the corner of your wheelhouse and have the coffee maker within arm’s reach the next morning. Truth be told, there are a few things missing that you might want to have for safety and comfort, though, like a wireless, navigation charts and some safety vests at least.

The latter would be rather essential, given that the way the model is presented it would require you to climb around on the railings to get anywhere. That’s one of the disadvantages of such a compact model and they simply ran out of space to squeeze in another door or at least a little manhole to crawl through.

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Right Side Interior View without Roof

All that said, of course it would be perfectly possible to fix those shortcomings – if you so desire. One of the good things about this set is that it quite literally is almost 100% old-school LEGO with elements being merely stacked on top of each other and no complicated sideways building techniques or whatever involved. Make the hull wider? Easy – simply get a second set and insert more of the curved slopes and bricks before covering them with additional plates. Make it longer? The same. Want another door? Just insert the frame from that second set somewhere.

If you get my point: This would be a perfect set to get your feet moist in custom building, as it’s really easy to deduce what you need to do just by building it once and then using that experience to draw conclusions on what to do next. The good price-to-value ratio also makes it easy to at least ponder this possibility. I haven’t committed myself to this yet, admittedly, but I might at some point. This could then also be the chance to build the secondary models from spare parts while beefing up the houseboat and putting them side by side. The possibilities!

LEGO Creator, Riverside Houseboat (31093), Top View

Overall this is a super lovely model and it’s just fun to build and look at. It would even have been a good fit for Friends, City or Ninjago – with the typical stylistic changes – and that is far from the norm. It only further shows how well thought-out this is. If you are even remotely interested in such a scenario you definitely need to get this set. It’s also a great source to mine for parts on similarly themed “wooden” construction and buildings, so there’s definitely no harm buying it if you can.