More Magic – LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202)

I certainly don’t go out of my way to be a completist when it comes to buying every set in a specific LEGO theme or sub-series of that theme nor do I have the money for it, anyway, but occasionally I do try to “catch them all”, as they say in Pokémon. With the Disney Encanto sets that is easy enough, as there effectively only are three – the “door” sets I showed you last week and now this little gem, The Madrigal House (43202).

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Box

Contents and Pricing

The set retails for 50 Euro, and yes since this review is still pretty close to the release to its initial release on December 1st, I paid way too much, meaning full price. During pre-Christmas season one has to keep one’s expectations low, anyway, as due to demand and limited availability discounts aren’t as massive as other times of the year. That and you inevitably always pay a premium on those licensed sets to begin with. Once this craziness is over you should expect this set to be available for around 35 Euro pretty steadily with occasional dips to 30 Euro or even lower.

Aside from the main building the set does not contain much else except the figures, which for me is a good thing. I really do not like LEGO wasting too much of the parts allocation on weird side builds and much prefer that every brick and plate goes into a more decked out main build. Others may have a different opinion on that, of course. That being the case I’m not too upset about having paid full price. Shaving off those 10 or 15 Euro would have been nice, but at least everything goes into a single model that feels decently “weighty” in terms of what you get. If it wasn’t for so many 1 x 1 pieces gobbling up a good part of the budget it could have offered even more value and been bigger.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Overview

Figures and Stickers

There are only three figures in this set with Abuela, the grandmother, and Mirabel being presented in minidoll format and Antonio as the youngest and smallest child appropriately being a micro doll. It might have been nice had there been two characters more, as my impression from the movie snippets I’ve seen is that this house is just bustling with activity. In particular one of the other male characters might have been interesting. and yes, undeniably I can only reinforce my point about the Capybara having deserved its own new mold instead of being a hamster in disguise.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Figures

The figure line-up also already illustrates one of the reasons why this set attracted me – a slew of elements in new colors and some exclusive prints. This is not least illustrated by the matriarch’s timepiece, Mirabel‘s accordion built from a Bright Green corrugated brick and some printed 1 x 2 tiles and then there’s the small 2 x 2 brick-sized container in Dark Turquoise for the first time as well.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Stickers

There’s a sizable sticker sheet and while none of the pieces are essential, it would have been nice to see at least one ore two of the more reusable patterns as an actual print like the gift packaging for the small box (no. 10) for instance.

The House

Naturally, the main attraction is the house itself and its over-the-top colorfulness certainly plays a big part. The structure of the building is not an exact replica of the movie version. Technically it can’t be, anyway, as the house due to its magical properties keeps changing and shifting around. So rather than trying the impossible, this tries to capture the overall feel and spirit more than specific details

The house is relatively compact, which is both a positive and negative. It’s a bit on the bad side as it doesn’t come anywhere close to representing the impressive size of the building in the film. The good thing about it is that the proportions are nice and unlike for many larger models where eight studs of depth would appear too shallow, here it just feels right. Could and should everything have been larger? I definitely think so, but overall this just feels right.

Delving into the details, there’s tons of interesting things to discover. The most apparent of these are the various roof elements, for which the 1 x 1 curved slope is introduced in Dark Red for good effect. This no doubt will become popular for all sorts of people building houses. A small annoyance is that most of the roof segments are attached with hinges, but not all of them have actual stops. this means that it’s easy to accidentally put them at a different angle and you often have to correct this for a consistent nice look.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Detail Door

One of the many new elements making a first appearance in the LEGO world is the new 3 x 3 quarter round tile, used to good effect as the arch on the door frame. It can also be found in the rainbow on the turn-able chimney in the images further up. The door, on the other hand, is one of the few real gripes I have with this set. It’s not the arch in fact, but rather the pillars. They are stacked up from three 1 x 1 x 1 bricks each, but have no further anchorage on the wall, which makes them very wiggly and flimsy. It’s simply not safe for kids to play. This is even more frustrating as there would have been ways to integrate extra brackets or build the frame entirely with studs-on-sides techniques directly on the wall with only minor changes.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Detail Escape HatchNot knowing the actual movie, the functionality of the escape hatch and the associated tilt-able bed on the inside eludes me, but I’m pretty sure it has some important role to play or else they wouldn’t have bothered with re-creating it.




The house follows a modular approach and thus each level can be separated and is built individually. The downside to that is that each of the blocks is in itself not the most stable until you actually cap it of with a layer of tiles. As you well know, this is one of my biggest frustrations with many Friends sets as well. If I had one free wish, I’d really ask LEGO to come up with a better solution to this dilemma. in the end, everything works, though and if you’re careful it is manageable to handle the modules without breaking them apart again.

The ground floor has some fake tiling with 2 x 2 jumper plates, providing ample space to place your figure in the kitchen area it’s supposed to represent. Otherwise there’s nothing all too fancy here. It really just is pretty much standard fare that only gets elevated by the unusual color choices.

This is pretty much continued on the first floor, only that it isn’t tiled over. I found the new watering can to be a nice addition (you will encounter it also in many Friends and City sets next year) and the couch has two of the new 1 x 2 inverted arch bricks only recently introduced on the Fender Stratocaster (21329) and giant Titanic (10294) in Reddish Brown.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Top Floor

The top floor/ tower is the smallest of the individual sections. Personally I’m very thrilled about the welcome resurfacing of Yellowish Green elements. After demise of the Elves series LEGO have barely ever used this color except for some small 1 x 1 elements or things like the eyes and teeth in the Hidden Side sets. Granted, it’s a very bright color that draws all the attention to itself, but I find it a shame that it’s not used more often.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a wonderful little set that puts many others to shame. It’s bright and cheerful and offers an interesting variety. There are some weaknesses in the construction, but those can be mostly overlooked in favor of how much fun this model is. Knowing the movie might be useful to contextualize some of the details, though then again knowing too much of the story might have resulted in a more critical view. Either way, I simply like it and can only recommend this set.

You’re not welcome? – LEGO Friends, Andrea’s Family House (41449)

Despite the general shortages in LEGO supply, sooner than I had anticipated an opportunity opened up to get Andrea’s Family House (41449). Yes, it was one of those unpredictable late Friday evening Amazon discounts that spontaneously made me make a purchase, but who’s complaining? I’ll take whatever I can under these circumstances.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Box

Price and Contents

I snatched up this set for around 52 Euro, which equates to a 25 percent discount. If things ever get a bit more normal I would expect it to go below the 50 Euro threshold, but not by much, given that it’s actually a pretty large set with enough meat on its bones to warrant its price. The suggested retail price of 70 Euro is perhaps stretching it a bit, but in this particular case I think anything below 60 Euro is actually more than reasonably fair.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Overview

You get around 800 pieces, many of them large ones, and five minidolls, some of which are also pretty good. More importantly, however, you have to figure in that this set is a treasure trove of uniquely new or recolored parts, some of which could be ample justification alone to get this set – assuming of course you have a liking for the colors and/ or a specific use case. So without further ado, lets have a look at them.

New Pieces Galore

It is clearly going to be the year of Dark Cyan for LEGO with many sets featuring the color prominently or more to the point new or existing elements as recolored items. This set is no exception with several items being included in this color for the first time. Most notably of those is funny enough the most trivial one – the 1 x 1 round brick. It still surprises me that this simple, versatile element still does not exist in every LEGO color out there (Light Aqua, anyone?). It should be a no-brainer to produce at least some test batches and sprinkle them in in sets, be it just as structural elements in invisible positions.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Parts

Another thing that LEGO seem to go a bit crazy about recently is their iridescent coatings introduced last year, so there’s a number of elements featuring this optical trickery here as well. From this crowd the Trans Dark Pink dome pieces stand out that indeed look like pink pearls. However, most people will likely be more drooling over the Satin Trans Black 2 x 2 window glass parts. So far those have only been found in the Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse Buildable Characters (43179) where they are used as film frames, quite successfully mimicking this shimmery color shift effect that actual chemical film indeed has when held at different angles against the light.

In addition to those items there is a number of others. Again the most important one will be the curved windows, a completely new mold for 2021. In the past these kinds of bay windows were occasionally emulated using old train window parts. This didn’t necessarily look bad, but was still often unsatisfying. So now that they are here at last it really becomes a question of “What took you so long, LEGO?” In the interest of making it easier to follow, here’s a short, incomplete list for you:

The above parts are further complemented by some more recolors in Magenta and Light Aqua, which are nice to have, but nowhere near as important or exciting. Would you really have been lost without a 10 x 6 plate in Magenta? I don’t think so, either. There would have been enough alternatives to piece things together or use a substitute in another color. Where things like those damned elongated 1 x 2 x 3 bricks and similar are included, I find myself wishing they’d just settle on the old way of doing things by stacking up conventional 1 x 2 x 1 bricks, anyway. I get that they are doing it for simplification (this is, after all, aimed at kids of a certain age), but this is one of those things where LEGO just doesn’t feel like LEGO to me.

The Figures

As mentioned further above, this set comes with five minidoll figures, which sadly enough qualifies as a rare event in the LEGO Friends world these days. That they are actually good to a level that even satisfies me is even rarer, so it’s definitely worth noting. Even if that weren’t the case, there is yet one more significant point about this: It’s the first time we ever actually get to see Andrea‘s family. That includes her younger sister Liz, her father (Or much older step brother?) Martin and her mother Donna.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Figures

The latter is easily my favorite of the lot and reminds me of Michelle Obama or a young Oprah. Even without those references she simply looks nice in her Yellowish Green dress which against the darker skin really pops. The same applies to LizBright Light Yellow dress as well, of course. As already noted, Martin leaves a bit of room for interpretation, since he’s somewhat too young-looking and too perfect for a dad fitting Andrea‘s age. It’s not as bad a fail as Marcel in the Heartlake Organic Café (41444), but still noticeable. Perhaps they really need to sit down and develop different head shapes to better accommodate older males.

Stephanie also stopped by, though she isn’t really worth mentioning, being that her figure doesn’t offer anything fresh or new and she’s just wearing one of her usual “Sporty Spice” outfits.

Sticker Overload

Before we move on to the actual build, one more thing. This set is without a doubt the one with the most stickers I’ve ever come across in the Friends universe. That’s why I had to include this in my review. The number and size of these stickers is insane and only outdone by bigger true premium sets like the Harry Potter Diagon Alley (75978) or various recent LEGO Technic sets plastered with renditions of sponsor signage and cheat elements like printed-on headlights.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Stickers

My point here specifically is that this is a set for kids and you can’t simplify the build with large panels on one hand while expecting them to apply large stickers correctly. This doesn’t compute in my tiny little brain even if I work up the understanding for the rationale behind this. Yes, stickers are cheaper and there’s a whole lot of other reasons, but when you have them to use to this extend, I feel something is wrong. In a funny way this in fact harks back to my point with the parts earlier on – LEGO should be about trying to build as many details as possible, not faking them.

On that note: I unfortunately ended up with the older versions of the few printed pieces in this set, so I have a “milk” brick that still has the cow, not the more neutral newer version that also appeases vegans and the same goes for the letter in the mailbox. No big deal, it just would have been nice to get the modernized examples.

The Pool

As usual, somehow LEGO can’t seem to go without those weird side builds that ultimately often are mostly useless and so this set has its own heart-shaped kids pool. Due to its super-simplified construction it’s neither here nor there, as they say, though. For a toddler basin it’s just not cute enough and for a deeper pool it at least would have had to have a second row of bricks to make it taller. This is, for all intents and purposes simply a forgettable non-effort on the designers’ part.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Pool

The House

The main component is of course the house, which is actually quite a sizable villa as it’s indeed built on a full 32 studs wide and 16 studs deep array of plates. For Friends buildings, which usually tend to be a lot narrower and more shallow that’s really not bad, even more so since the space is used quite efficiently with lots of stuff being built onto the available surface area. Not exactly on the same level of Modular Buildings, but not bad, no matter what.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), House, Front Right View

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), House, Front Left View

The building is divided into three (or four if you want to be super exact) visually distinct segments spread across two floors with the big garage and the tower-like rounded window front dominating and to some degree making the middle section appear narrower and less prominent. The top floor is then further divided into two separate modules, each containing two rooms, that can easily be removed to provide easier access to the facilities on the ground floor for play and exploration.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Modules, Front View  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Modules, Back View

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), House, Back Left View  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), House, Back Right View

On the right hand-side of the building there is a small overhang with a balcony/ roof terrace on top and some space underneath, which in summer you would probably use to put up a table and some chairs for barbecue. Otherwise it is perhaps a bit underused in this set, as clearly they could have put some details in there like a swing hanging from the ceiling or at least a little bench. Might also have been a good idea to put some bicycles there or a lawnmower. as it is there’s only the vines to talk about, which have some blue grapes even similar to the Heartlake City Restaurant (41379).

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Front Right View

The garage likewise feels a bit empty and underutilized despite the musical instruments being stored there and a tiny washing machine/ dry tumbler having been placed at the rear end. Something is simply missing and including at least a small scooter or something like that might have enlivened the scenery.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Front View of open Garage  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Back View of open Garage

The central doorway directly takes you into the kitchen area, which at least from my point of view is pretty unusual. Living areas tend to be structured differently here, with most people preferring to separate their functional rooms from the hallway. The kitchen also exposes the one big problem I have with this set as a whole to a T: The ugly, dark colors abound here with Dark Purple stool legs, Dark Turquoise table base and the surrounding Magenta from the walls and chairs’ backrests.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Front Left View

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Back Left View

On their own, each of the colors are okay when used in moderation, but I feel that for this model the designers went a bit nuts. Since they are very strong, dominant and contrast-y color, they are fighting for the spotlight and it makes the whole model unnecessarily noisy. This is then even further escalated once you add the Dark Blue for the roof into the mix. At least I have a mild psychological reaction to all of this and it feels kind of unfriendly, uninviting or even a bit depressing to me. At least one of the colors could easily have been eliminated (the Dark Purple, pretty obviously) and the others dialed down massively. There isn’t even a reason why the two arches used under the table would need to be in the teal color.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Back View of open Kitchen Area

The other thing about this is the simple question of “Where’s Andrea’s Yellow?”. Bar the bed covers, the pool’s edge and the hairbrush it is nowhere to be seen except for the flowers (and some of the stickers which I didn’t use). It would have made things a whole lot friendlier if it had been used e.g. on the Window blinds on the first floor instead of the Magenta or some of the decorative striping. Then they could have used the flower elements in nice Bright Light Pink without losing anything. Or perhaps even adding a tree or hedge? So many options!

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Front Right View  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Back Right View

The rooms on the upper level feel a bit more balanced in terms of colors, though their use is kind of hampered by the large panel-based walls inbetween. I would have preferred if the living room was just as large an open space as the kitchen below it. The bathroom is acceptable, but perhaps not really necessary. The same could be said about the nursery/ sleeping room with the bunk bed. Both rooms feel rather lackluster compared to other, more richly detailed things. and yes, there’s of course the balcony/ terrace which is just as empty. It’s like they either didn’t have any more budget left to at least add a sun chair or they were really ignoring it.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Front Left View  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Back Left View LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Back View of Bathroom

Concluding Thoughts

Despite the weaknesses I pointed out and my criticisms that is actually a pretty nice set. Light Aqua is one of my favorite LEGO colors, anyway, and this set delivers plenty of elements in this color fur future creative uses. The same can basically be said for the Dark Turquoise/ Dark Cyan elements as well, though to a slightly lesser extent. And well, then there’s the obvious point: The new curved window elements and the tinted dark glass inserts for the regular small windows alone could make this desirable if you’re into building houses. That is, of course, until LEGO lump them into every set in more colors and they cease to be something special.

The sticky point ultimately is, that some things feels like they stopped at the 90% mark and the model could have used some more refinement. The many empty areas are kind of baffling and could have easily been populated with some small details and no matter what, I still would have loved to see a more educated, more balanced use of color. Something simply feels off. And then there’s this sticker excess, too… Suffice it to see that this set could likely have been my personal “best ever LEGO Friends set”, but due to its shortcomings and quirks falls just shy of that. I would still recommend it, but with this experience in mind would do some things differently, were I to build it a second time.

Medium Azure Joy – Toy Shop Town House (31105)

At the beginning of my LEGO career only a few years ago I was deeply entrenched in Technic and didn’t care much for the traditional System based sets. Only when things took a turn for the worse and the Technic models began to get less interesting did I expand my horizon and it was at that time that with much regret I realized what I had missed out on.

In particular the buildings in the Creator 3in1 series (Bike Shop & Café [31026], Toy & Grocery Shop [31036], Corner Deli [31050] and Park Street Town House [31065]) piqued my interest and only through sheer luck was I able to pick up the last item during a clearance sale way back then. The others are still on my dream wishlist, but since prices have exploded for those sets, it will likely remain an an affordable pipe dream.

All that being the case, and finally getting near a point, I’m of course extremely happy that LEGO decided to pick up where they left off and include buildings again in the 3in1 series that had been missing so noticeably. Last year’s Pet Shop & Café (31097) perhaps wasn’t the greatest example, but the new Toy Shop Town House (31105) is pretty excellent.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Box

I’m not revealing any secrets by pointing out the brilliance of this little set, as it is actually quite apparent just by looking at the box art. It has exactly that lovely vibe that made the older sets so endearing and desirable. It’s oozing with charme, one could say. in addition to the main building the set comes with a little side build in the form of a kids’ rocket ride and two minifigures.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Overview

The figures are pretty much standard and represent a kid and a female toy store employee. Notice how I made a mess by not plugging in the kid’s legs tightly enough. The employee is interesting in that it uses the relatively rare yellow torso with the LEGO logo artwork on the back. Such figures are often only included in limited promotional sets, but even then not always, so if you ever wanted to build a genuine LEGO branded store as a model here’s your chance to get matching outfits for your mini people in a relatively straightforward and cost-efficient way that doesn’t involve buying overpriced collector’s items on Bricklink.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Minifigures, Front View LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Minifigures, Backside View

The rocket ride no doubt represents a reminiscence to the quite similar and only slightly larger Space Rocket Ride (40335) that was available as a Gift with Purchase (GWP) promotional item some time last year. Its rocking function even works thanks to a small crank mechanism. The only issue with it is that the model has no actual provision for nicely fixing it in place somewhere owing to the building being to small to permanently put it inside and at the same time the pavement not being fully extended. If you are thinking of integrating the building into your existing town you may have to create your own solution to that admittedly small problem.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Rocket Ride, Left View LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Rocket Ride, Right View

The main building itself just looks nice from pretty much every angle. this being a corner building with consistently butted-off side walls could indicate that the next building in this series might be one to go left and right of this to form an actual street layout.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Front Left View

Of particular note is of course the second floor due to its use of the Medium Azure color. This especially means that a few of the elements like for instance the 2×2 round brick become available in this color for the first time ever, which is always a bonus. It’s funny, though, that an element that basically existed since the dawn of LEGO time never was never produced in a specific color in 40 or so years.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Front Right View

In addition to the Medium Azure pieces the other interesting new entry in the parts department are the 3×3 windows in Tan. I still haven’t gotten around to starting my project with the Dark Purple versions from the Harry Potter Knight Bus set (75957), but it’s good to see that this wasn’t just a one-off and the part is proliferating across the portfolio in colors that will be more palatable to most users.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Back Right View

Other than that the build uses pretty much only standard parts as is typical for most Creator 3in1 sets. That being the case, the one thing I’m not happy with is the buildable bird. I know it’s tradition in the series, but in this case I really feel that for reasons of scale and overall cuteness this set would have benefited from the inclusion of a few of the small bird minifigure add-on. The model just screams to me that there should be a bunch of sparrows perched on the edges of the roof, before the main door and even on the balcony. doing the little birdy in a color like Medium Nougat or Dark Orange would then have provided even more incentive and made this super awesome.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Back Left View

While it’s not an actual Modular Building, of course the set borrows a bunch of building techniques and overall takes a similar approach. This is not only sensible in terms of building things step by step without having to worry too much about handling large chunks at once, but it also is the only way to be able to fully access the interior, especially on the ground floor.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Modules

Said bottom level features the eponymous toy shop from which the set derives its name and its stuffed wit ha few mini builds of assembled models and also comes with a number of printed tiles representing LEGO set packages. If it were up to me, they could have included even more of those to plaster the entire wall and give the impression of a seriously crammed, but cosy small toy shop like they still exist in many smaller cities.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Module, Ground Floor

The second floor contains a small bedroom and while it doesn’t introduce anything revolutionary, it benefits from the Medium Azure color and the small bay. One can almost see oneself snuggling up in the bed while looking out of the bay windows on a day with perhaps not such great weather.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Module, Second Floor

All things considered, this is an almost perfect set. There are a few minor structural issues that can be annoying during the build (that old thing of some walls being flimsy until you shim them over with plates at the top for instance), but it never gets in the way of your enjoyment. Many people seem to feel similarly and there’s already lots of larger builds based on two or more instances of this set. I’m eventually planning to do the same and might build something matching the size of a genuine Modular Building.

On that note of course we have to talk price. While I have no objections over the original 50 Euro retail price given the merits and quality of the set, by sheer volume it still doesn’t feel justified. After all, the building is still pretty tiny. Therefore to me the average 40 to 35 Euro street price feels a lot more realistic, even more so if you plan on buying more than one of these boxes. You can’t defeat the arithmetic and in a bad scenario this would then be more expensive than a genuine Modular Building while still having less pieces. It definitely won’t hurt to keep an eye out for sales and promotions…

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.