With ten years under its belt, LEGO Ninjago is certainly that one big hit series every toy maker is hoping for and has become a staple of their product portfolio. The success is going so far that they introduced the Legacy sub-theme two years ago where modernized versions of older kits are re-issued to celebrate the memories and nostalgia. A good example for this is the Boulder Blaster (71736) from earlier this year.
The Tournament of Elements (71735) falls in that category as well, though more in a hypothetical sense as technically this is not a remake of a previous set, but rather a completely new one based on the central theme of season 4 of Ninjago. There are temple-like sets for this season that represent individual bits and scenarios, but not this exact one.
Contents and Pricing
The Ninjago sets are, with a few exceptions that feel hugely overpriced every now and then, usually very reasonably priced and thus rather affordable even on a shoe string budget. With a recommended price of 30 Euro for 283 this one fits the pattern nicely. At first glance the average price per piece is of course slightly above 10 Cent, but the saving grace here is that you get seven (!) minifigures that already make up a huge chunk of the value. The rest comes down to what the pieces are worth to you for building your own “real” temple or expanding another model. More on that later.
Despite the already not too crazy price I took my time and did not rush to buy it. I had it somewhere in the middle of my virtual “Sets I might consider buying one day” list, but this was not an urgent case of “must have” and more an optional “would be nice”. That’s why I only picked it up now for 20 Euro. To me this simply felt more adequate in relation to the overall contents.
Unusually for me, the minifigures were a big driver for this purchase. I’m still not a minifig collector and likely will never be, so they have to appeal to me with special features and a certain underlying charme. This is definitely the case for the for elemental masters with the guitar-playing Elvis-wannabee Jacob and and the stick-wielding “wild man” Bolobo taking the cake. Gravis is also not bad, be it just for the fact that turbans are extremely scarce and having this headgear piece alone would open up a few possibilities for customizing your little guys.
All of the minifigs also offer nice production value with some very complex and detailed prints, even the more ordinary Jay and Kai ones. this may not be up to the insane level some recent more exclusive Collectible Minifigures have reached, but is more than sufficient for characters bundled with buildable sets.
This being a tenth anniversary thing there is also another golden ninja, this time Lloyd. I guess if you really were a completionist and wanted to collect them all this would be a good thing, but by themselves I find that these don’t do much for me and chasing for them seems unnecessarily stressful. You’re probably better off just buying them as a complete lot from Bricklink.
The temple isn’t really much of a temple, but it’s more being alluded to by representing its balconies/ gallery as some sort of panoramic stand for the minifigures and some of the iconic accessories. Stylistically it captures the overall appearance and mood, but it seems that this isn’t rooted in any concrete details from the actual animated series. I never actually watched it, but what trailers and snippets you can find on the internet suggest that this is all much more elaborate and more detailed.
The build follows pretty much the same design pattern for each of the three panels and thus the whole process is rather repetitive and boring. By the time you build the third segment you don’t even need to look at the instructions any more. For what it’s supposed to represent this is serviceable, but really not more than that.
Sprinkled throughout are the various elements from the standard Ninjago weapons pack, only this time they are done in Bright Green for the first time after previously only being available in Pearl Gold, Flat Silver and oddly enough most often in Trans Neon green. The green of course is supposed to represent some form Jade. The more interesting aspect to this is that the pieces could come in handy to represent body parts of insects such as mandibles and wings or perhaps could even be used to add some plant-like stuff.
Unfortunately the temple does not have an actual yard or arena where the contestants could battle it out and that is easily my biggest gripe here. Given how the layout is built already it should have been easy enough to add some more plates, a bit of fencing and perhaps one or two stone benches as seating for the audiences.
On that same note, the back sides could have had preparation areas for the various protagonists or at least some random storage or other facilities like a toilet. I get that they may not have wanted to inflate the parts count unnecessarily, but c’mon! This simply feels a bit too lazy.
In the same vein I completely miss some relation to the actual elemental powers. In the trailers you can see the temple area being transformed into a lava pit and some stuff with water/ ice, so integrating a few of those things certainly would have been a good thing. Ideally each minifigure would even have its own separate little island demonstrating its individual powers where appropriate.
If you don’t warm up to the minifigures, then this set isn’t really for you. Around 70 percent of the ideological value just come from the characters while the building itself is nothing special. It fits with the underlying story and certainly your could turn it into something if you have another Ninjago temple floating around or a willing to buy this set multiple times and complement it with lots of extra parts from your collection, but on its own merits it’s one of the most basic LEGO builds I’ve seen in a while.
For me it had some minor extra value due to some of the pieces that I didn’t have in my portfolio yet like the modified plate with two studs in Dark Blue or even something as trivial as the ten Black 1 x 2 x 2 slopes, an otherwise common part, but outside that there is very little of value to be had here. At the end of the day they could likely have sold the figures in a different kind of package with even less buildable elements and it would have been just as good or bad.
For my taste there’s simply not enough here and all things considered it would have been preferable to have a “real” building even if the set then would have cost 50 Euro or something like that…