Shrunk Slave 1 – LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett’s Starship (75312)

In this consumerist world we live in I’m usually not bending over backwards to catch special promotions on those “special” days made up by the industry trying to sell you stuff, but then again I enjoy getting a good discount as much as the next guy and not just because of my budget constraints. The very least one can do is keep an eye peeled and hope to make a good catch. I got sort of half-lucky with Boba Fett’s Starship (75312) on this year’s May the 4th event, so let’s see how things turned out.

LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett's Starship (75312), Box

Pricing and Contents

I’ve had this set on my wishlist for a while, but regrettably it never entered a price range that I found acceptable. After all, I’m not a die-hard Star Wars fan who would pay anything and it really comes down to how much I like a certain vehicle from the show and how affordable it is.

The crux of course is that of course Boba Fett’s Spaceship or Slave 1 as it was known in the good old days (and I’ll keep calling it that because I honestly think it’s kinda stupid that they are trying to be overly correct here and avoiding the word slave entirely even if it doesn’t bear any relationship to current day politics) has always been a popular ship due to its unique and distinct appearance. Because it basically sold itself and everybody wanted it, anyway, retailers could ask for relatively high prices. That and of course the The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett series have boosted that demand even further. In fact this really thwarted my plans to purchase the 20th Anniversary Edition Slave 1 (75243) because it was equally coveted by fans the world all over and prices never dropped to a level I would consider sensible (me missing out on a few special promotions I just didn’t catch notwithstanding). Arguably a case of bad timing, even if just coincidental.

LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett's Starship (75312), Overview

With all that in mind I was actually glad I was able to obtain this package for 35 Euro down from a recommended price of 50 Euro. As mentioned already I consider myself only half-lucky because there was a slightly better price that day at only 32 Euro. I was just going back and forth way too long and my inner struggle prevented me from clicking that button. Come back an hour later and the price was higher again already. You really can’t flinch with Amazon‘s fluctuating prices and them adapting to competitor’s pricing almost in realtime.

Was it worth it? The answer may not surprise you: While I’m okay with those 35 Euro, I still feel the set is seriously overpriced. The model turns out tiny and one really has a hard time believing it actually uses the 593 pieces as advertised. From the exterior it feels more like there are only 250 elements, with the real point once again being that many other parts used are 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 items hidden underneath what’s actually visible. Not just that, but also many of the bits constituting the surface and the underside structure are equally small. With only a few exceptions you barely build any volume and just don’t get this satisfaction of working on what should be a relatively bulky model and making notable progress with each building step.

That being said, I can’t help but feel that this is a 30 Euro model, after all, even if you perhaps had to throw on a 5 Euro premium because it’s licensed Star Wars. The original 50 Euro are simply beyond any reason and LEGO just exploit the fans’ hunger for these products. If worse came to worse I’d really not have bothered and simply foregone buying it at all. It’s just not worth it.

The Minifigures

With the vessel being more or less exclusively inhabited by a single occupant it’s only natural that there wouldn’t be too many minifigures bar the occasional person hitching a ride when an opportunity presents itself. That is of course not counting the poor people travelling as frozen Carbonite blocks below decks. Not having seen the series due to not having a Disney+ subscription I have no idea if and when Boba Fett and Din Djarin (The Mandalorian) cross paths, I only know that it happens eventually.

The Mando figure is just the standard version with the cape you find in several other sets. Boba was an exclusive new version for this set when it came out last year but has since made a second appearance in Boba Fett’s Throne Room (75326). It’s considerably different from older versions not just because it uses a black torso as the base, but being ignorant of the actual story I can’t tell you much about the specific whys and hows. That said, both figures are overall pretty nice with lavish prints and certainly have some collector value as well.

The Model

The actual model is based on the simpler design of the Slave 1 from the ill-fated and ill-conceived Betrayal at Cloud City (75222) in the now deceased Master Builder Series. Back then I found the whole concept of a play-oriented yet expensive set in the vein of a dumbed-down and simplified UCS series more than a bit perplexing (or more to the point just another of those LEGO brain farts where you wonder what they were smoking when approving this), but the way this vehicle was built struck me as efficient and desirable as a separate affordable set. Of course things often take a while and I’d almost given up hope of ever seeing this come to fruition, but alas here we are. even better, they really took the time to refine and enhance the concept, including using a few newer and different parts. That way they also made sure that the one in the Cloud City retains its exclusivity and people who bought this expensive mess aren’t too upset.

An iconic shape such as this is of course immediately recognizable in any form and that is pretty much the case here as well. However, and this seems to be a general rule with this ship, the smaller the scale the less compact it looks. Where the original version in the movies was pretty smooth and the various surfaces blended, the smaller models tend to look more separated, not just because of the limitations of brick-built designs. This is also apparent here with the “handle” (upper hull) feeling plugged on to the bottom rather than transitioning elegantly. In particular the front section and the housings for the wing mechanisms feel a bit too small and not voluminous enough. It’s not the end of the world, but worth mentioning.

The tail/ aft boom overall appears just a bit too short and could have benefited from being extended one or two rows of studs. It’s not that the proportions aren’t correct or LEGO somehow got it wrong, it’s more a visual thing where the “scale effect” makes it look a bit too stubby. This is also owing to the overall small size that makes it look more like a toy than the imposing ship it otherwise is. Let’s not forget, that it just has around 24 studs overall length, not even fully covering a 32 x 32 base plate.

There are a handful of functional details like the cargo ramp under which you could actually place the “Carbonite” block as represented by a 1 x 2 x 6 brick and of course you can open the cockpit to place Boba inside, but neither does offer much details beyond that. The wings use a similar approach as their counterparts on the larger variants of this spacecraft, meaning they’re built from a bunch of balanced out round corner plates and wedge plates attached to a Technic axle so they swivel automatically and stay horizontal in every position. To represent the slightly rusty mechanism LEGO even produced this piece in Dark Orange exclusively for this set.

The singular side build in this set is a little push tractor/ servicing vehicle with a ladder and it also doubles as a stand to present the model in a upright position. I was hugely skeptical about this solution, mostly because the tractor is very lightweight but much to my surprise this works quite decently. Of course you still should not try to intentionally tip over the model, but it’s more than serviceable for presentation on the shelf and easy to handle for kids as well. It does not use any pins or such and rather just some simple slide-in trickery so you basically can’t do anything wrong. Also note the „Carbonite“ block – without stickers, of course.

The upright position looks a bit odd, mostly because it exposes the hollowness of the interior unfavorably. In this position also even the slightest misalignment of the guns, which are rather flimsily constructed from black light saber hilts and some other pieces, immediately becomes noticeable. You should be careful with them, anyway, as they use a less than ideal way of being attached. Instead of a proper axle or bar they’re plugged onto this “hook” style plate‘s bar element. While it kind of works it’s one of those things that I would try to avoid and look for other solutions.

The undersides have some nice texture and even some pieces to emulate thruster outlets, but once you look at it, you also see the most annoying problem of this whole set: The various small plates and how everything is pieced together. This isn’t so much of an issue once it’s finished, but it really tries your patience during assembly. There’s basically only a single layer of plates and the bricks for the shaping are almost immediately on top, however often in such a fashion that they often only connect by two or even single studs. I found this a massive source of frustration that only gets better once you have finished the red socket.

One final thing: The set is apparently (also) aimed at children and to that effect it has a handle based on an L-shaped Technic liftarm so the model can be swooshed around and held easily without risking breaking anything off when grabbing it elsewhere. The caveat here is that the handle tends to get stuck in the recess on occasion and is difficult to push out even when tipping on the opposite end as intended. You may want to have an eye on that and show your children how to do it right or else they may constantly bug you about it. If you are not interested in this functionality you could just leave it out and shim over the hole, but this would require some major changes (using larger/ different plates to close the gaps) early on in the construction process.

Concluding Thoughts

The model isn’t bad by any means and in an odd way quite appealing. It hits the right balance between looking realistic enough, but also being playable. Still, the out-of-this-world pricing is really what puts me off. LEGO seem bent on deterring a certain part of their customers while raking in the big bucks from the other half of the Star Wars fan crowd with UCS sets and all that and that is on some level sad. Sets like this one clearly prove that the designers have the will and abilities to produce more than acceptable models, it just always seems they’re being sidelined by overriding managerial decisions in favor of squeezing out every last penny from customers.

This dichotomy also makes it hard to really recommend this set from the bottom of my heart. As already written, if there wouldn’t have been a good price I’d just passed on this. You can bet that due to the popularity there will be another Slave 1 in the not too distant future and it might even be an updated re-issue of the UCS version from 2015 or at least something more in line with the 20th anniversary version which will be more attractive to serious collectors and adults. You can save your money for the day when they come out. Completists on the other hand will no doubt want to add this to their line-up no matter what and it should also work well for children.

For me as so often it likely will end up being a short journey where soon enough I’ll dismantle the model and scalp the parts, of which it has quite a few unique ones and that’s just fine. At the same time I can think of other ways to spend those 35 Euro and unfortunate as it is, this set also has not done anything to change my mind about LEGO Star Wars being one big scam, so this will likely be my only such review for quite a while again until the next good opportunity may arise come Amazon‘s Prime Day in November

Probing the Snow? – LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306)

I had hoped that this little beauty would arrive a bit earlier so I could have written my article on it last week instead of the one I actually did, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. The package got stuck in the warehouse and due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances suffered further delays when it was supposed to be delivered. So only now can I tell you about he LEGO Star Wars Imperial Probe Droid (75306).

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Box

Pricing and Contents

The set is part of LEGO‘s new line of collectible items. People have attributed it to fit in the various helmets/ masks/ cowls series found in Star Wars and Super Heroes, but that’s not really an official designation nor is there such a series explicitly named in such a manner. It’s more implied by similarities in building style, identical design solutions and techniques, number of pieces, packaging and price point. Even then this set is by all means an outlier simply because of its different structure and appearance.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Overview, Front

The set officially retails for 70 Euro for 683 pieces, which is quite a chunk of change, especially once you consider that many parts are really just small 1 x 1 or 1 x 2 elements. It really shows that LEGO are betting on fans being willing to pay almost any price. It would not have hurt if they shaved off 10 Euro right from the start, be that just to bring it in line with the usual 60 Euro for the helmets. That in and of itself is of course still a hefty price tag, but let’s save this discussion for another time. However, in contrast to the helmets this model has much more volume and visible details, so at least you feel like you are getting a better deal in contrast to the other sets where many elements are used invisibly inside and are only shimmed over with relatively few other parts for the outward appearance.

Effectively I got this set for 48 Euro, which at the time of writing was/ is the best price, equaling around 33 percent discount. I actually sat down at 6 PM for an Internet-based live flash sale for the first time ever in my life on May the 4th to snatch up a copy. It’s an oddly exciting, but also exhausting and potentially frustrating way to buy stuff, because ultimately you never know if it really worked until you get the final confirmation and the goods are shipped. I had a bad gut feeling for a few days after that (in addition, but totally unrelated to my pre-existing intestinal issues caused by my chronic illness) and really only began to relax when the post mistress handed me over my parcel after all that kerfuffle.

The set has only been released in March and so far is proving to be very popular, so you should not expect any notable discounts beyond that until quite some time later this year. It will take a while before everyone who wanted is gets this set and LEGO‘s ongoing supply issues taper off. On average you can expect to pay around 55 Euro for this set, which is still not a great price-to-value ratio, but acceptable within the crazy world of LEGO Star Wars. Further discounts may of course be possible during special promos, but you should not expect too much.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Overview, Back

From a different perspective one of the questions I can’t get out of my head is of course whether they could have added more content to justify the price and pretty obviously the answer to that would be a resounding “Yes!”. I mean there’s a rather elaborate snow bank already, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that in place of the plaque it just as well could hold a Tauntaun and/ or Luke and Han minifigures in their winter-y Hoth garments.

There hasn’t been a (molded) Tauntaun in years and even under worst conditions a lot of people would have rejoiced to get one with only minor refinements like a print perhaps. Ideally they would have done a new mold, admittedly, and I’m sure this alone would have amped up hype around this set to crazy levels. LEGO could of sold stacks of this set on that alone.

The Snow Bank

One of the pleasant surprises in this set is the stand. Unlike the helmets’ conventional plinth-like construction it is modeled after a snow bank as already mentioned a few times. It gently slopes from one side to the other. Because of its width it also doubles as a holder for the info plaque. As usual I did not use any stickers, so mine is blank, but I would not consider this an issue. The truth is that I would just leave of the large tile completely and also replace the ratcheted hinge plates it is affixed to, with the real point being that the assembly causes a bit of tension in the base and thus the right hand side bends slightly upwards. This reduces overall stability and simply does not look good.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Plaque

The snow bank consists of around 100 elements, including a considerable number of 1 x 4 slopes and several rounded/ wedge slopes to shape the mound and also give the appearance of a wind-blown pile of snow with its incline indicating the direction. Personally I feel that the whole thing could  have been a bit larger and more parts covered with smooth elements, but of course it’s always easy to ask for more.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Snow Bank, Front Left View

Still, one of the problems can’t be denied and that’s that the plaque gets in the way of the droid arms and vice versa. It should definitely be offset more to the left and leave a sufficient gap so the arms don’t touch it, no matter what position. To me this seems like an unnecessary shortcoming and oversight and I would extend the construction and insert some more elements. While at it I would also add another layer of plates or even bricks underneath the main “ice shelf”. Not only would this help to counter any potential bending issues, but also add more weight which is always helpful for stability.

An interesting detail is the mounting hole for the droid’s pole, which is actually not a plug connection, but really only an insert with the walls surrounding it ensuring it doesn’t topple over.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Snow Bank, Plug Hole

The Probe Droid

Interestingly enough, the droid barely makes an appearance in the Star Wars universe, yet it is one of those iconic designs that you immediately recognize. It can only be seen briefly in The Empire Strikes Back and even less in The Phantom Menace. Beyond that it seems to be in some games as a floating target that can be sliced with the light saber or shot at, but I don’t know much about that, since my gamer days are long over.

There are of course limitation to re-creating such a complex shape with LEGO, but overall this is a successful rendition of the original. It credibly replicates the multi-eyed spider/ insect look for the head and the dangly arms. From a distance it indeed conveys this feeling of a heavy medusa/ jellyfish  and looks the part. However, truth be told I think this model would have benefited from being built at an even larger scale. I haven’t mentioned this in a long time, but yes, this is a perfect example of where my 150% rule would apply.

The arms could and should be longer and would still look more elegant and slim and the head could have more details and better approximations of some curves. Most importantly this would also have fixed the single most critical issue I have with this model: The central ring/ body. It is a bit too thick here and the gaps a bit too wide. Increasing the overall radius and inserting more slopes would have mitigated this problem. It would also improve the model in that it would be harder to see some of the colored pieces on the inside. Those are used for spacial orientation and distinguishing the different sides. Substituting them for consistently grey parts would be easy, though.

Admittedly, when talking about a larger scale we are almost talking UCS levels here and the parts count might easily have increased by 200 or 300 pieces, bringing the price up further. Therefore take this as my personal opinion, not so much a general flaw with the model. I just don’t know. That’s likely one of those compromises you have to live with on a commercial set…

The robotic arms/ tentacles do the trick from afar, but technically are still way too crude once you get up close. It really matters from which angle you are looking at the model or for that matter how everything is posed. Some positions look interesting, others not so much and a commonly shared issue is that just misaligning a single element like one of the prongs of a claw can make a huge difference. Again, the amount of detail is limited by the scale and in addition I found the actual building process a bit tedious and challenging. You have to be extra careful to align things or else things will look like crap.

This also goes for the elements from  the Super Heroes weapons pack which are extensively used in this set to get some effects that otherwise would be nearly impossible like changing angles or attaching symmetrical elements from both sides. one would hope that they used this more often even in regular sets, as it really allows some interesting stuff.

The drone’s head is mounted on a turntable and can rotate a full 360 degrees just like the original so it can point its sensors and sensor arrays in every direction (though funny enough one of them gets easily taken down by Han Solo). Since I bought the model only after the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery (10283) came out, I was immediately reminded that this droid, too, could have made excellent use of the new “pancake” pieces, the 3 x 3 quarter dishes above the cockpit. Mega Construx has had them for years and they really solve so many problems with smooth, gently curved rounded surfaces. It’s about time LEGO finally have them as well.

Parts Galore!

As you well know, obsessing about new and rare parts is a bit of a thing for me, and this model scratches that itch just as well. Aside from the already mentioned weapons pack in Pearl Dark Grey this model provides a plethora of Dark Bluish Grey and Black parts for your pleasure. This is of course out of sheer necessity because everything safe for some structural parts on the inside is pretty much visible. I’m pretty certain LEGO would have loved to throw a colorful mess of their surplus parts stock at us if only there was a way. Well, let’s be grateful for small things and not least because of this set we now get this robot head cone and the rounded corner brick in a new color.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall this is a pretty nice model once it’s finished. getting there is another story, as the build process drags on quite a bit. you have to invest the time to align and orient some elements so they look correct and you also mustn’t underestimate how time-consuming assembly of the arms and other tiny bits is. The result is rewarding and makes up for this trial in patience, though. This is pretty much as good as it gets and until LEGO may come out with a reissue of this set in a few years which uses newer parts this sets an example of what’s possible. The level of detail is really astounding.

That said, there are a few caveats. It’s perfectly clear that this is a display model and therefore some things are a bit flimsy. I in particular really don’t like how loosely the arms dangle around. They don’t fall off or anything, it’s just hard to get them in a stable position that looks nice. There’s also a slight imbalance due to the uneven weight distribution, causing the model to tilt to the side depending on the arm configuration. These are all tiny details that need to be handled carefully or you genuinely fix them with some re-engineering of certain areas.

On the whole, though, I would recommend this model despite it’s high price to anyone who like me likes “visible functions” and technical-looking models with exposed hydraulics,  pneumatics and all sorts of nuts and bolts.

A Grey Travesty – LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous’s Starfighter (75286)

Last week was May the Fourth day, meaning “Let’s sell you some Star Wars stuff” day. Aside from that one time I got this TIE Fighter for cheap, I usually don’t go too crazy about it and under the circumstances it would be extremely difficult to properly “celebrate”, anyway. However, I figured it would be a fitting excuse to talk about General Grievous’s Starfighter (75286). I got this model back last year and the photos also have been catching dust on my harddrive for a while, but somehow I never got around to create a review. In a way that’s now saving my bacon while I wait for some other stuff to arrive.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Box

Pricing and Contents

There’s no way around it, so let’s get to the real problem with this set right away: It is expensive as hell for no good reason. I didn’t mince words when I called it a travesty in the headline because it really feels like like an exaggerated bad version of reality. Point in case: LEGO are asking you to shell out a whopping 80 Euro for a 490 pieces model. Crazy prices are nothing new, but it’s one thing to consider those 5 Euro on a Disney set and accept them with grinding teeth vs. paying what amounts to a 170 % price of what a set should cost even by LEGO‘s own established metrics of around 10 Cent per part, give or take balancing out a few things for larger and smaller parts. Despite nobody being happy about it and the mechanics not always working in practice, it’s still a valid basic guideline. So what has happened here?

It doesn’t take mind-reading abilities to figure out what you may be thinking and whatever is your first thought on the matter is probably just as right. Yes, it’s all this Star Wars licensing nonsense and someone somewhere trying to skim the cream off the top. Now of course nobody knows the exact details of those licensing deals, but it is all too clear that there is something very specific going on here. Either someone thought Grievous would be particularly valuable to fans and they could easily be coerced into buying this set at any price or they need to pay residuals to a designer who no longer is on their regular payroll. To me these are to the two most likely reason, but naturally it could be anything. In any case, it smells of unabashed corporate greed.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Overview

Thankfully, not all hope is lost, Obi-Wan Kenobi, since there’s always the self-regulating powers of the market even if there are apparent limits on how much discount you can get on a model for which your favorite retailer already pays a steep wholesale price. I got my package for 57 Euro back then and recently I’ve seen the price drop to 42 Euro in a crazy promotion. This means that you can get the model at a decent price, but likely only if you barely sleep and scour Amazon and other sites at crazy times. That said, you should probably settle on somewhere between 54 and 60 Euro as the “best” price, which is still somewhat expensive for a model of this ilk.

The Minifigures

As mentioned in the previous chapter, a big contributing factor to the insanity of the pricing are the minifigures. General Grievous is a pretty obvious candidate here, even though at least he has been in two other sets in this white version at least, as much as everyone and their mum may criticize it as being the wrong color (as indeed in the movie his armor is a color similar to Tan).

That’s not the end of it, though, as the unnamed Airborne Clone Trooper is exclusive to this set. As you would imagine, that makes him a highly coveted commodity not just for people who would want to build a diorama of the Battle of Utapau. I could barely believe my eyes when I saw that one of those figures goes for up to 30 Euro on Bricklink even now that the set is still is available. Utter madness!

Finally there’s of course Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, as he’s the one commandeering the vessel after Grievous‘ demise. Compared to the others, he’s almost too mundane. Anyway, all figures are done well enough and the detailed prints on the clone trooper alone are quite amazing. Only the white areas on Grievous‘ robot arms are way to transparent, which given the price of this set is a notable lapse in quality. I almost feel that in this case it would have been smarter to not print those elements at all if they can’t manage to get a proper opaque white on the Dark Bluish Grey pieces.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Minifigures

The Jet

Naturally at the heart of the set is General Grievous’s Starfighter itself. But wait? Does it actually belong to Grievous. To me the simple answer is that of course it doesn’t. For one, in the The Revenge of the Sith movie it is ever only flown by Obi-Wan as he secretly makes his way out after his presumed dead. The second reason I doubt it actually belongs to Grievous is the disconnect between the droid army’s other vessels’ design and this one. So its attribution is merely based on the evil robot leader potentially having it used once coincidentally.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Front Left View

What little info I could dig up in a quick web search seems to confirm this, as more or less his appears to be just another iteration of typical Utapaun fighters. In fact overall it more or less feels like one of the designs they used for the Naboo fighters based on 1950s car designs as explained by Doug Chiang himself on one of the bonus DVDs (can’t remember which one). It may have been one of those leftover designs too good to throw away and they repurposed it to serve as the Belbullab-22 Fighter, which apparently is its technical designation.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Aft Left View

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Front Right View

The model is a remake of the older set 8095 and therefore inevitably shares some commonalities with it. I never had the older version, but apparently the cockpit canopy is the same and the overall design of the central section is quite similar. However, the engine gondolas have been changed completely and along with them the wing sections. Additionally, the fuselage has also been given a workover especially in the aft section. A lot of this comes down to the availability of new parts and techniques. While this does not always mean that reissues of older sets are necessarily better, I think here it pays of in spades.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Top Left View

Of particular note are the various 2 x 8 curved slopes that with their gentle curvature help to capture the complex surface of the original vehicle. This is further aided by the 1 x 2 wedge slopes used in several places. Understandably there are still limitations, but it makes for a fair approximation in many places.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Top Aft View

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Front Right Top View

One thing I definitely don’t agree on is the use of the stud shooters for the guns. Not only is their placement wrong (they should be much further out and closer to the gondolas), but also is their appearance just completely iffy. According to my limited research they are actually retractable gun pods with aerodynamic covers. On the older model they made at least an attempted to mimic this with some 1 x 1 cones. in hindsight with what I know now I would likely simply leave them off if I were to build the model again.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Aft Right View

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Aft Left View, Engines

Despite the overall elegance of the model, the rear support strut/ control fin remains a bit of a weak spot in terms of appearance. As so often, the blue pin holding it doesn’t look good and in its down position the housing into which it retracts is an open chasm. The attachment point appears correct, but at least the hollow area is not according to pictures of the real thing. This is rather regrettable as clearly there is ample room inside that would have allowed to flesh this out with more curved slopes to close at least some of the gaps. This is yet another area where I would invest some time to come up with a different design for a permanent display model.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Right Storage Bay

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Storage Bay Detail

The vehicle is naturally dominated by its large gondolas/ engine nacelles. Those would make for an insane thrust-to-weight ratio if this were real and the fighter could likely easily outrun and outmaneuver a lot of other crafts, including more nimble smaller fighters. The building process for those nacelles is rather involved, to say the least. Even with quite a bit of experience at building LEGO it was somewhat convoluted and took me longer than I had expected. This is not least of all due to the compartments on the sides that can be opened thanks to a sliding mechanism. This is a nice touch and certainly cleverly executed, but since there is technically nothing in the set to put in there it feels a bit unnecessary and self-indulgent. It complicates the construction process and turns what otherwise would be a simple affair into a bit of an exercise.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Top Front View

Despite the model looking pretty solid and decent from several angles, it becomes apparent from other angles that there is a lot of optical trickery going on. The area that stands out the most here is the front section of the engines and the transition to the underside. I’m fully aware that there is no perfect wedge or slope piece that they just could have slotted in, but maybe at least they could have filled in some of the gaps with more plates. Just sayin’…

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Front View

How much the design relies on cheating your eyes also becomes clear when you turn the model on its head. It’s pretty barren and similar to my previous point it might not have hurt to slip in a few plates or inverted slopes here and there even if thankfully none of this mess can be seen in the regular pose. On that note: The single arrow shooter in the middle is just weird and yet another element I’d simply not use next time.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Bottom View

One final note on the cockpit: People have been criticizing it heavily for the incorrect shape of the canopy, using the Dark Tan slide rails and the Black slide bricks, but realistically one can only complain about the latter. Yes, it’s just lazy that LEGO didn’t produce this part in Dark Bluish Grey. The slide rails can be easily explained away as being some leather padding and for the canopy the rationalization has to be that unlike Mega Construx or Cobi LEGO simply don’t do new molds these days unless they can re-use it for other sets as well. So for what it’s worth, while it may not be perfectly correct, it is probably as good a representation of the genuine article as we are ever going to get.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Cockpit Detail

Concluding Thoughts

Sadly, this is one of those sets where one feels a strong urge to drive to the LEGO headquarters, demand to speak to the CEO and slap him in the face for allowing such dumb things to happen in his company. This set could have been a hit if it wasn’t for the outrageous price. The construction is solid, the build is challenging, but manageable and the result looks very acceptable. At something like 45 Euro it would likely even have attracted some non-Star-Wars builders just for the aesthetics and enjoyment of building cool vehicles.

In its current form, however, it will never reach this status and only be remembered as one of the most shameful attempts by LEGO to gouge its loyal customers. Sure, there will be enough people who still buy it and I bet you that next year when it goes end-of-line there will be a race to pick up the last packages with massive clearance discounts, but overall the demographic for this set is certainly limited. It’s in a very specific niche and LEGO really can only blame themselves for ruining it.

With a more acceptable price this could have been a sales hit, but as it is, its good sides in no way compensate for the aggravation of feeling scalped out of your money. So for what it’s worth, think long and hard before committing to a purchase. If you have the slightest doubt in your mind, just stay away. This essentially is really only for hardcore fans or people who plan on selling off the minifigs to refinance the rest.

Not quite real – Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242) from Star Wars – Resistance

As this blog shows, I’m certainly not the biggest of Star Wars fans and on the few occasions when I decide to buy such a set, I usually choose the safe option with stuff I know and like within my limited understanding of the series’ lore and canon. That’s why getting the Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242) was a bit of a surprise even for me, probably due to this having been a rather spontaneous buying decision simply because the set was on discount.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Box

That in and of itself is a bit of a statement, as I genuinely don’t think this set merits the full asking price of 50 Euro. Make no mistake – once assembled the model is actually quite large, yet at the same time it feels very light in terms of the sheer volume of pieces you get. The point here is that if it wasn’t for the very elongated wings there would be very little to see. This in my view is one of the more general design flaws with pretty much any TIE fighter variant – endlessly building the large wings/ cooling panels and then attaching them to the tiniest of fuselages consisting mainly of the cockpit – but let’s not get distracted by this too much. Anyway, if you get this set for around 35 Euro that’s a more realistic price.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Overview

I don’t know much about Star Wars – Resistance, the animated series this is based on. Ever since the Clone Wars these animated series have declined in quality and it simply puts me off too much. However, one can’t deny that they have spawned a lot of interesting characters vehicles, locations and so on, so it happens that this set actually contains the one version of Poe Dameron that I do like. That’s how it should be – in his red pilot jumper looking gruff and ready for action. The other figure is of course the ace pilot himself, which seems a rather coveted minifigure due to the unique helmet.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Figures

Let’s address the one big elephant in the room – the hugely incorrect shaping and structure of the actual body/ fuselage. I may not know much about Resistance, but that much is clear: Just from looking at video snippets and still images available on the Internet it’s painfully obvious that they got it completely wrong. It looks like they were working of concept sketches and then tried to figure out how all those pencil strokes translate to struts, wings and exhaust nozzles.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Aft Left View

Essentially the model’s construction is completely backwards from how it is in the series. Instead of the “dagger blades” in the front protruding from a massive body with the shorter aft wing sections being integral, everything is more or less just plugged on. Similarly, the white regulator pistons are just there for looks, but make functionally no sense whatsoever. The point here isn’t even that it wouldn’t have been possible to do it differently, given that the construction already makes quite some use of SNOT building techniques. It just seems to me that the designer wasn’t able to think this through from an engineering standpoint.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Aft Right View

The other area that suffers, but for a different reason, is the windshield/ canopy/ cockpit glass dome. The problem here is that LEGO cheapened out and just re-used the standard TIE-Fighter windshield/ Imperial Throne Room window part for the umpteenth time. I understand that this may be a question of keeping the cost manageable on a set that just may not be that popular, after all, but even then I can’t feel that this is one of the rare cases where I would rather have an actual bulbous dome piece (even without prints or stickers) rather than something that feels like it has been used way too often in the last decade.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Cockpit Area Closed

The cockpit interior is okay for what you can achieve at this scale, but of course feels crammed. It’s another area where choosing different pieces for the actual canopy roof (e.g. the curved hinge panel) combined with a genuine dome piece would have done a lot and allowed to squeeze in yet another part to serve as the steering column for instance.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Cockpit Area Open

The one thing that mitigates and softens all my complaints and niggles is the fact that strictly on its own and without regarding the Star Wars context the model still looks quite imposing. The elongated wing blades with their pointy tips make it look very fierce and aggressive. For me it is also very reminiscent of some engineering diagnostics tools and alien artifacts found in many of the Star Trek TV series and movies. They often used these two-pronged (tuning) fork designs as a basis for devices that detect obscure sub-atomic quantum vibrations or as daggers of other species.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Front Right View

Once you build it you also realize that the model turns out way larger than either the box art (and the somewhat small box itself) or any photos suggest. The plain black/ white/ gray color scheme is misleading and cheating the eye quite a bit and I suppose even my photos can’t convey this convincingly. It’s about 40 centimeters and lucky for us it’s also quite stable and robust once you have finished it. It doesn’t always feel that way during the build while you’re plugging together those thin wings, but once everything is in place and mutually connected it holds together surprisingly well.

Naturally some care is still advised as is some attention when handling it. Those pointy ends sure could be dangerous to a smaller kid who struggles handling such a model with its small hands. You wouldn’t want all the drama when they stick it in the eyes by accident. Also too much flexing around of the long, bendy parts will still make snap them of and drag smaller parts along. That’s even more the case since for once LEGO had the good sense of replicating the majority of the war paint pattern with buildable elements rather than relying on square miles of stickers. You wouldn’t want those tiles to fly around your room like after a catapult launch.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Front Left View

The underside feels a bit barren. The model sits very flat on the table, so for a static display this is not much of an issue, but somehow I still feel that there would have been room to add a few more details. Especially the fuselage pod likely could have used some more inverted slopes to create some gentle transitions for the wings and by doing so also cover up the ratcheted hinges used to attach everything.

LEGO Star Wars, Black Ace TIE-Interceptor (75242), Bottom View

In summary this is actually an interesting model. You just have to completely lobotomize yourself and get the thought out of your head that this has anything to do with Star Wars. It more or less hasn’t – that is, beyond the basic concept shared with all TIE-Fighters. Taken as a standalone effort this could be a nice generic competitive racing space vehicle or an equally generic fighter interceptor. If you’re thinking along those lines, it may be a worthwile investment. Otherwise it’s likely only for die-hard Star Wars fans that collect everything or are hooked by the underlying TV series…