The supply chain and overall availability issues that affect so many products during the pandemic also persist for LEGO, so it still takes forever until you can get your hands on some products at all or they are more widely available at reasonable prices. That’s why the Forest House (41679) from the LEGO Friends series only now found its way into my home now, almost two months after its May release in these parts.
Price and Contents
One of the reasons I did not rush to the store for this set on day one is of course the usual price consideration. With 326 pieces and a suggested price of 30 Euro the value of this set is not bad right out of the gate, but every bit of money saved helps, apparently. I got this for 23 Euro and would predict that eventually it will level off around the 20 Euro-ish mark.
No matter the price, as far as LEGO Friends sets go this is pretty good value. I certainly had a number of stinkers in my short time doing this, but you really can’t complain about this set. As you may already gather from the overview image you get quite a bit of bulk here. The tree house is sizable, there’s three minifigures and an animal plus an extra piece of river/ waterfall and a canoe. If every set for 20 Euro was that rich we’d live in a better world.
The selection of the minidolls in this set is a bit odd, to be honest, given that Mia and Ava (the kid) were already in the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444) earlier this year. Even if this would count as a spare time activity vs. their professional occupation it seems strange how the girls jump from activity to activity without much logic and a consistent story behind it. If this was a movie, you’d complain about the plot holes, if you get my meaning.
An interesting observation also is that the khaki shorts Mia wears at the café would be much more adequate here. A bit of body swap surgery might not be a bad idea if you have both sets/ figures, respectively. Similarly, a different dress color for Ava would have been nice. On the bright side we are getting Sand Blue pants by ways of Ann, which could come in handy as jeans/ worker pants for the few male characters in Heartlake City. Oh, and anyone notice the all three-letter names, anyway?
The figures are easily outdone by the single animal in this set, the raccoon. This is a new mold and for the time being can only be found in this set and the Forest Camper Van and Sailboat (41682) also associated with the forest excursion sub-theme. It’s just plain and simple cute and apparently also one of the motivations behind getting this set. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the inclusion of a second raccoon or a baby version of it, but I guess LEGO are going to wait with that to give us a reason to buy more sets next year. 😉
The Side Builds
There are two side builds, with one of them really being limited to plugging the round tile and the foot holder element into the canoe hull. The Magenta is a new color and expands the somewhat limited color options for this mold.
The other extra is a piece of river put together from a bunch of simple plates and bricks. Though the wild water rapids are hinted at, it cannot accommodate the full length of the kayak, so it’s not that useful for this. It will work wonderfully as a place to put the raccoon, however, with him having a sip from the clear water or washing his food in it. This little island also features one of the pine trees created from the new Bright Green versions of some elements specifically produced for this series.
The Tree House
The actual tree house isn’t really a forest tree house but rather a somewhat luxurious backyard tree house or lodge as you would build it in your garden. Most notably it includes several “luxury” extras such as the barbecue grill, the large couch and the gazebo-like structure that you likely would not have somewhere deep in the Alaskan woods or similar. Still, the overall design is not bad.
The frame construction also serves as a clever trick to provide extra stability to the whole model and prevent it from toppling over, something many “single pole” tree houses can be prone to if they get too top-heavy. Furthermore it also indirectly reinforces the connections of the plates used for the ground. In engineering terms, it’s more or less a box frame visually disguised. Clever as it may be there is one caveat here, though, as the build sequence isn’t always ideal.
One very critical thing is for instance the 2 x 4 brick used for the grill which according to the instructions will only be added rather near the end of the respective build for this exterior area. I would recommend you jump ahead a little and at least put the brick itself in place early to strengthen the connection of the plates underneath or else you may struggle with the green 6 x 6 round corner plate coming off again and again like it happened to me a number of times. Not a big issue, but one that could have been avoided by shuffling a few construction steps around.
The back of the model and thus the interior of the house loses a bit of fancy compared to the front. I’m not complaining about the shallow depth at only four studs – that was to be expected in this price range – but personally I’m missing at least one cool detail. For all intents and purposes it is very mundane and ordinary. Simple things as an (emergency) gasoline lamp hanging from the wall or a candle might have already enlivened it and then their could be all kinds of outdoor equipment like a butterfly net, a fishing rod and so on as well.
One thing I was pleased with is that the model uses “sensible” elements that are reusable well enough for my own projects. By that I mean that the designers have actually opted to give us as much to build as possible and foregone using those awful elongated 1 x 2 x 5 bricks and similar that you find in so many Friends sets. Instead indeed we have a good number of traditional 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks to build real walls.
This trend is also visible elsewhere with the arch elements being properly embedded in the walls, the number of big “shell” elements to shape the roundness of the tree trunk to an acceptable minimum and some smaller plates and tiles being pieced together to add some texture as opposed to using larger, more monolithic parts. I even like that they used colored windows to make it less monotone. It would just have been preferable if the window frames were Dark Green or something like that.
The greenery stuff is adequate, but could be a bit more dense in my opinion. This again hearkens back to this being more of a somewhat luxurious holiday cabin rather than an actual tree house where presumably you’d have quite some thicket coverage after not having been there for a while. that also makes the blue grapes look a bit out of place even if you interpret this as being bramble vines winding around the wood frame.
The tree trunk contains a small toilet, which is a little gag, but really not much more. Would people even go out of their way to build such a room or wouldn’t your camping loo or a separate outhouse make more sense? Again this space could probably have been used for storing some utilities just as well. The attic and roof are serviceable, but a bit barren. There’s a single grey tile on the outside on which you are supposed to put a solar panel sticker, but not even a matching light on the inside or a small radio which would certainly have made more sense than a perfume flask. It’s not really logical/ plausible and can only be explained away with the usual “It’s for kids, after all!”.
For the exterior of the roof it would have been nice if they included some 1 x 4 and 1 x 3 tiles with wood prints to make it look a bit more rugged and improvised as if it had been bashed together from used wood boards originally belonging to something else like a transport palette. just two or three of those on either side would have greatly helped to further this impression.
Parts a Plenty
On the subject of new, recolored and printed parts this set is a well of joy. Some of them are very visible in the photos and should require no further explanation. I also already mentioned the canoe and the parts for the pine trees:
The other parts are a little less visible because they are used on the tree trunk:
Personally I was once more stumped that the 2 x 2 Macaroni never had been done in this color in all those years. Goes to show that there is still room to surprise even for legacy elements. There’s also the Tile 1 x 3 in Bright Green, an item you likewise would think has existed in this color for forever already, but no, it’s pretty fresh in this color, though not exclusive and not limited to this set.
This is by all means a nice model and even in my world as a very critical reviewer this would score an 8.5 out of 10 at least, give or take a few minor niggles. There is very little to complain about. The set is full of new useful pieces and color variants, it is very affordable and to top it off comes with a completely new animal. This is basically the kind of set that just by buying it once will give you ideas on what you want to do with the bits from it and it gives a major boost to your parts stock. Could some things have been better? Sure, but for around 20 Euro you can’t really argue.
This is one of those little gems that regrettably have gotten so rare in the LEGO world. Where other (Friends) sets feel they are merely created to deplete overflow part supply or sell expensive extras like animals at ridiculous prices, this one gives the impression that some thought and love was poured into it to make it well-balanced and worth your money. I can highly recommend this set as it hits all the right notes from being very playable and robust to just looking nice.