Snow Dino!

The Christmas holidays have jumbled up the release schedule of the various LEGO magazines quite a bit, so the next few weeks will be a bit of a race to keep up with those costly trips to the newsstand until the cycle is in sync again.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2020, Cover

The Star Wars mag comes with a rather unspectacular Snowspeeder model. Not that there would be anything wrong with Snowspeeder, it’s just that it doesn’t have that much to offer in terms of interesting details in the first place and shrinking it down won’t improve upon this, understandably. Most annoyingly the model looks very stumpy with no provision having been made for the short rectangular aft area and everything having been chopped off immediately behind the wedge section. For a freebie it’s okay, but it just would have been nice to get a more accurate model.

Since the price has gone up again and is now at 4.99 Euro, a bonus extra has been thrown in to console users and to preempt a larger uproar. Depending on which packaging you manage to get you either get a Snow Trooper or a young Luke Skywalker with blond hair minifigure. That’s okay for the time being, but regardless, asking so much for a few printed pages and some lightweight extras is pushing it…

The content of the pages is the usual mix of an acceptable comic, some very limited games and the usual adverts for other publications from Blue Ocean. The poster provides a facepalm moment in that it depicts the UCS Snowspeeder (75144) set from last year that you can no longer buy. Kinda stupid to whet people’s appetites and then leave them disappointed, should they decide to investigate the details.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, January 2020, Cover

The LEGO Jurassic World magazine was a bit of a surprise release. There had of course been rumours and even confirmed info that there would be new issues coming out for 2020, but no actual dates were ever mentioned. If you remember, I wasn’t necessarily that satisfied with the older ones as were likely many other buyers (they basically always appeared to be dumps of surplus Owen figures and such), but it seems this is headed in a new direction and more effort is made to make them attractive. Let’s see how long that will last.

The first mag in the new series comes with a nice little T. Rex model, which with its 65 pieces even provides some longer-lasting building fun than the usual models lumped together from half that number of parts. The result is indeed reminiscent of the large T. Rex from set 75936, which I now thankfully had an opportunity to build, in terms of colors and also features some very useful parts like 1×1 brackets or the 1×2 curved slope wedges in Black that are also used for the toes on the giant version. After assembly it really looks the part and in a way is cute. My only small gripe is that there are a few too many black and dark grey parts that would have benefited from having been done in one of the brown colors as well.

A stand-out item this time is the poster with the T. Rex breaking through the wall, which is really something I could see myself actually putting up somewhere. The framing could be a bit better with a bit more visible wall, but let’s be thankful for small things. The comic is okay and funny enough there are more puzzles than in the Star Wars mag to be found here. It’s just odd how inconsistent this is at times. The best part for me is the preview of the next issue hinting at an equally complex Triceratops model, so there is definitely something to look forward to.

The German version here also comes with a free album and a sample pack for the new collectible stickers, but I can’t tell you much on that, being that aside from the free extras no actual stickers were sold at my news agent’s yet. I’ll probably just give the album to one of the neighbors kids and drip-feed them the leftover stickers I surely will get more of when buying other LEGO magazines…

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

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

LEGO Brickheadz, Christmas Sets Family Shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January Christmas

It’s only the end of November, but the latest LEGO Friends magazine is apparently even ahead beyond December and already refers to January. Despite that slightly crooked calendar logic it can’t evade the Christmas craze, of course, and is themed accordingly.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, January 2019, Cover

There aren’t really any surprises in this one, so I’ll keep it brief. The LEGO bricks are for a Christmas tree and a rather simplistic sled, which won’t stand any comparison to the skidoo in the City mag. If you have been a loyal buyer of LEGO Christmas calendars those past years and/ or the magazines, you basically know the drill already and your parts boxes likely are already overflowing with those green angled slopes. Same for the puppy and the present box – you probably have them somewhere already. Really nothing new here.

The rest of the magazine is forgettable as always from the ugly “uncanny valley” CG-rendered posters and inserts to the poorly drawn comic. One can’t help but feel that the publication and the Friends them as a whole seem to have run their course and are due for a major overhaul. New story lines and characters are desperately needed and it seems some of that could happen when the new 2019 sets arrive, pictures of which incidentally have been released just in time with the magazine.

From what I’ve seen they are certainly better than this year’s botched kart racing theme, but you shouldn’t expect revolutionary things. Most stuff has been done one way or the other and for me the most important aspect of some sets remains the fact that you get some parts in new color variations. In that regard of course Friends is a cornucopia for creating funky, vibrant MOCs.