Veggie Wagon – LEGO City, Farmer’s Market Van (60345)

I don’t put up reviews of LEGO City sets that often, but that doesn’t mean I’m not buying any at all or don’t like them. Most of the time it’s just that I buy small, cheap stuff that is not worth turning into an article unless there is a specific reason like when I elaborated on the new Neon Yellow color. Apparently this must also be the case for the Farmer’s Market Van (60345) then, don’t you think? As a certain Juno Birch would say: Yes, that’s happening! 🙂 So let’s look at what we have here.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Box

Pricing and Contents

This package is part of this year’s farm-centric line-up that also includes the Chicken Henhouse (60344), Grocery Store (60347) and then Barn & Farm Animals (60346). Apparently it’s been ages since LEGO had such sets in their portfolio, so it was about time and these sets have generally been welcomed. However, there’s a an ugly dark cloud in this scenario: Except for the 10 Euro chicken pen (which I also got in the meantime, by the way), these sets are prohibitively expensive. The store has a MSRP of 60 Euro for only 404 pieces and at 50 Euro for 230 pieces the farm house doesn’t fare much better despite containing many desirable molded animals.

By comparison this makes the van the cheapest in the whole sub-series with 30 Euro for 310 elements. This pricing logic doesn’t make any sense on any level even if you figure in factors like large pieces or 4+ sets always being more expensive. It doesn’t make this little truck a steal, but by and large the most cost-efficient of the series. That’s even more true once you factor in the discounts. I got mine for still relatively expensive 24 Euro, but as of now you can find offerings for around 21 Euro.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Overview

As you can see in the photo there are many smaller parts, so there’s ultimately not that much “volume of stuff”. That does not only extend to the field/ plot of land but also the car itself, which is quite hollow (not in a bad way, though). Point in case: While the models look good, you don’t have much in your hands in terms of pieces once you break them down again. The pile really isn’t that big. That’s why aside from my usual very cost-aware attitude I feel that 25 Euro is really more in line with what you get and any additional discounts sweeten the deal further.

The Minifigures

The set comes with three minifigures, which isn’t bad for such a small and affordable offering. The figures themselves don’t look anything special, but interestingly the girl with the blue hair has not only said hairpiece in Blue for the first time but also a new and unique torso print. Inevitably, the “farmer guy” called Horace also had to have a custom print with an imaginary logo on his dungarees. If you look hard enough you can see a slight color mismatch to the Lime Green leg piece. regrettably this seems to be more the norm than the exception with LEGO‘s prints these days. Also included in the set is the small rabbit, for the first time in Light Bluish Grey when before it was only available in White. A nice expansion of the color if you ever plan on building your own little brick farm.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Figures

The Field

One of the main attractions in this set is undeniably the field with the green stalks on it. There’s so much new to find here and that alone could make it worthwhile. The use of green minifigure candle elements is not new and has been seen in the Spring Lantern Festival (80107) where it was used to emulate bamboo stalks. However, this has been heavily expanded upon here. The most obvious addition is the new branch element that fits into this system and onto which then more stuff can be added. In this set this includes Red horns for peppers, Dark Purple bubbles/ ice cream scoops as berries (first seen as wine grapes in the Heartlake City Restaurant [41379]) and the new dual molded corn cob piece. The stalks are fixated in Bright Green round jumper plates that were only introduced in this color earlier this year (see Antonios Magical Door [43200] for instance). Finally, we also get a Medium Nougat barrel, yet another recent recolor.

The field is built from two structurally identical segments that can be connected with pin bricks, so in theory you could expand this if you buy multiple packages. In such a case one would likely also consolidate the plant stalks into sensible groups. Personally I would have preferred the set contained more of these pieces from the outset and one could build at least a second row or ideally a fully decked out square plot with up to sixteen plants. That would also have sensibly allowed to throw in a wheel barrow for harvesting and perhaps more rabbits and some chickens sneaking through the greenery and “pull out” carrots as indicated by the little slightly hidden mechanism that flips over to reveal the carrot in place of the former stalk. For me a massive expansion of the field would have been one of the few occasions where I then also would have accepted having to pay more simply for the fact that those plant elements can be used to such great advantage elsewhere. With that in mind I also hope that the branch element will soon enough come out in other colors so we can start building nice trees or branching water pipes.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Field, CratesThere’s a small add-on by ways of some crates mounted on swivel hinges. This segment connects to the field in a similar fashion thanks to Technic bricks providing the necessary pin holes. Unfortunately LEGO are cheapening out again, as clearly there is plenty of room left to fill the boxes. This would have been yet another good opportunity to sneak in a few extra corn cobs, but they reserved that little trick for the expensive supermarket. A third apple, Lime Green bananas or a Tan/ Bright Light Yellow pumpkin might have been other ideas that would have made this more interesting.

The Van

The transport vehicle is pretty much a “Seen them once, seen them all.” thing. This for me includes the Surfer Van (31079) for instance, but I could just as well point to others I have either reviewed here on this blog or built, including of course from other series like Friends or Creator 3in1. that’s not meant to put blame on anyone, as after all there’s only so many ways to skin a cat, but I really yearn for some variety. Just doing the mudgard pieces in an unusual color like Yellowish Green would totally make my day, considering that the majority of them are still one of the greys, White or Black. LEGO are oddly conservative in this matter and reserve other colors mostly for police vehicles and fire trucks, give or take the occasional exception from the rule.

For what it represents the car is not bad, just a tad mundane and boring. As I mentioned earlier, the build is pretty spacious with a lot of room on the inside and this shows during the assembly. All the side walls stand openly nearly until the end when you add the top plates and wedges, which makes them fragile and has you believe something is wrong because there are larger gaps left until adding the force of the plates pulls everything together.

The build is not completely symmetrical and uses a few different techniques to accommodate a hinged sidewall on the right hand side of the van and a sliding window on the left side. To me this seems a bit of an odd choice as it’s more likely that this would have an flap swinging upward and doubling as a protective roof when selling goods at the weekly groceries market. Slide windows are more appropriate for food trucks, after all.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Car, Interior, Right ViewThe interior is sparse, to put it mildly and slightly disappointing. There would have been plenty of opportunity to spruce it up like again adding a (small) create with corn cobs or other fruit, a small glass door fridge with soda cans in it and so on. It’s also unfortunate that you cannot easily remove the roof due to how everything is built and held in place by it. Mind you, it’s not that you cannot access the inside, it’s just not as easy and efficient. This also applies to the small deck behind the rear doors. You know what it is supposed to represent, it’s just not that terribly useful in light of the absence of something to put there.

The door itself is made from the 6 x 6 window frame introduced a while ago and the new 3 x 6 door elements that came out this year for easily creating double-winged doors. I’ve blathered on about the novelty and use cases for the elements of the field, but there’s a few more hidden gems in this set. More specifically the big carrot uses two significant elements: One is the 3 x 3 cone, which only once has been done in Orange so far in a Nexo Knights set and next to it there is its companion 3 x 3 dome. Those large chunky pieces are not what you would use everyday, but it’s nice to know they exist and are available just in case you may need them.


Concluding Thoughts

This set certainly doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but is what people call a solid effort on LEGO‘s part. Most importantly it reintroduces a theme that has long been underrepresented or even totally absent from the City series and this should help to familiarize and popularize the subject with younger audiences who hadn’t seen it before. For adults there’s of course the rich harvest (cheap pun alert!) of new and unique elements that could make it worthwhile. In conjunction with a straightforward assembly and the result looking nice this is a relaxing and fun experience. My only gripe really is that there could have been more agricultural stuff and by that I mean a lot more of the veggies and a larger field to “grow” them on.

Purple Fantasy – LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125)

In these dark times we can all use a little dose of cute every now and then and so it wasn’t much of a stretch to commit to the Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125). I was immediately won over when first images started making the rounds and aside from having to wait a short while for prices to drop I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Box

Contents and Pricing

The Creator 3in1 series is all over the place in terms of pricing with some very unattractive and boring sets sometimes being ridiculously overpriced, some equally costly fan service sets like the Medieval Castle (31120) and good, but too expensive sets like the Majestic Tiger (31129) or even worse the Caravan Family Holiday (31108). At the same time there thankfully are enough sets that are surprisingly affordable and good. I’m happy to report that this falls in the latter category and I would even go so far as to call it excellent value for money.

At 15 Euro for 175 pieces this just feels right on so many levels and with the usual discounts pushing that to a mere 10 Euro or even less there’s really not much of an excuse here to at least try this – that is if you can get behind or at least don’t mind the bonkers color scheme. Anyway, I certainly wouldn’t have been able and willing to buy three of these packages and present them here in one swoop if somehow I felt that it wouldn’t be worth it. Now of course there’s always the caveat of what’s in the box vs. actual parts usage on the model, but you’ll find out more on that where it’s relevant for each individual build. For now suffice it to say that it’s okay.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Overview, All three Models

The Owl

The hero model of this package is of course the owl prominently featured on the box art with her little hedgehog buddy and a book. As you would expect, this very much uses all the parts with no extra bits being left over besides the usual spares.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Owl, Overview

The hedgehog is a surprisingly cute little fella despite his extremely simple build. The only thing that left me unhappy is the fact that it has an open back with the rock slopes and teeth elements pretty much being an outline around a hollow area. While not a deal breaker it would just have been nice to have an extra plate and slope to fill that area.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Owl, BookThe book is a simple affair, but reasonably represents a storybook in landscape format. That’s also where the only stickers in this set would come in if you wanted to use them. That in itself is unusual and noteworthy, as 3in1 sets typically don’t have stickers.

 

 

The owl itself is a fabulous little creature and has all the right features that make those creatures so distinct and adorable. The building techniques are not particularly advanced and e.g. the head being based on a cube rotated to one of its edges is borrowed from the Buildable Hedwig (75979), but who would argue over that if it “just works”? in fact I might even have preferred if the head was fixed and not mounted on a turntable. Not that I mind too much, but it kinda turns a bit too easily and you have to re-align it every time you touch the model.

A notable effort was made to texture the surface with a mix of exposed studs, differently shaped tiles and in places multiple smaller elements in favor over larger and smoother solid pieces. This is exactly what for me makes the distinction between a good LEGO model and an average one where it’s “tiled over to death” or too many studs exposed. The balance here seems just right and serves the purpose. However, there’s a minor downside to this as well. In particular the many standalone “feathers” need to be meticulously aligned to look good and similar to the head it’s easy to wack them out.

Though you can bend around the wings and the protruding feathers, there’s not much real poseability here. Only a handful arrangements look good and there is no way to e.g. do something interesting with the feet or put the owl into a take-off pose with the upper body turned forward.

The Squirrel

The second model is the little squirrel. This is sort of a 2D-ish build that mostly exploits how the various curved slopes and rounded plates create a silhouette when viewed from the side. On the other hand it looks pretty dead directly from the front, in particular since the eyes cannot be seen straight on.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Squirrel, Overview

A weak point is the tail. While the yellow wedge pieces sufficiently represent the bushiness and volume of the tail, the curvature could be better. Unfortunately LEGO did not include any extra/ alternate pieces to that effect. Even just adding a second ball joint piece in the middle and flaring it out with some wedge plates might have provided a better transition, not to speak of even more sophisticated methods using arches and curved slopes.

As you would expect, there is a good number of pieces that aren’t used, but overall I think it isn’t as dramatic as e.g. the Majestic Tiger (31129) ‘s build for the Red Panda with its many leftovers. The only thing that has me a bit stumped is that the Dark Purple 3 x 3 corner brick is not used again. It’s exclusive for this set and so they really only included it for the owl. Not that I’m complaining, but this is quite unusual in this series. Not too long ago when this piece didn’t exist yet they would have settled on other, more generic elements to fill this gap.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Squirrel, Leftover Pieces

The Deer and Bunny

The third model is easily the weakest and allows you to build a deer (or fawn depending on your interpretation) and a bunny.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Deer and Bunny, Overview

The bunny/ rabbit feels a bit forced, to be honest. It’s like they sat down in a staff meeting and their team leader told them to come up with anything at all so they don’t have even more unused parts. That isn’t to say that the idea behind it isn’t savvy, but without a few more elements, in particular some curved slopes, it doesn’t look that convincing.

The deer looks cute in a very strange way, but actually reminds me more of a scrawny baby donkey. The head is too large and the body too stubby as well while the legs despite their already spindly appearance are still too short. This would also be my biggest gripe here. Since the ball joints aren’t in the main colors and in a way visually “disappear”, everything looks even more skinny than it would otherwise.

The parts usage is on a similar level as the squirrel with teh major difference being that simply other items constitute the leftovers.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Deer and Bunny, Leftover Pieces


Concluding Thoughts

The Creator 3in1 series is shaping up pretty nicely for this release cycle. The tiger was awesome and this set is almost as great, but in a different way. It’s just fun to build and look at the creatures with the only real bummer being that the purple and yellow colors won’t be to everyone’s liking. It would be an interesting exercise to build the models in “natural” colors like Dark Tan, Medium Nougat and Dark Orange, but for the time being there would be serious limitations since not all elements used in this set even exist in one of those colors. That’s really regrettable.

In spite of this I would wholeheartedly recommend this set to literally everyone & their mom. Even if you prefer more serious subject matter like cars or Star Wars, this could be a pleasant diversion. The build is quick and easy and the creatures look good on the shelf. Who could resist an adorable squirrel looking at you from your book shelf or kitchen cabinet? 😉 It’s definitely worth getting at least one of those sets even if you don’t max out at three as I did.

Rabbit Invasion – LEGO Friends Magazine, March 2022

The date when Mr. Easter Bunny will be visiting is still a ways off, but his next of kin are already here thanks to the March 2022 edition of the LEGO Friends magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2022, Cover

Rabbits are of course pretty cute – most smaller breeds, anyway. Even I can’t escape their quirky charm whenever I’m at a small petting zoo or visiting relatives. On the other hand, they are pesky little buggers and notoriously prone to falling ill with all sorts of weird infections, so keeping them is not as easy as it sounds and as this magazine makes it look. You might need to be prepared for that if your kid falls in love with the idea and keeps pestering you about it. 😉

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2022, Comic

As always the comic is so-so, with the best moments/ best panels being the ones where the girls don’t annoy the heck out of everyone by being in view like someone tried to zoom in on their teenage girl pimples, a.k.a. puberty acne. Otherwise it’s just the usual combination of cheap soap opera level writing, the girls seemingly wearing the same clothes everyday and some harebrained stuff going on in Heartlake City. Funny enough the car shown in the comic bears quite a bit of similarity to the recent Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), though in reality it would be even smaller than that.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2022, Comic

Thankfully there’s loads of other pages such as this info page on a few rabbit varieties, several coloring bits and a few quizzes/ puzzles, of course. This makes the whole thing tolerable, as clearly the comic alone doesn’t hold a candle to provide enough interest.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2022, Info

The poster with the two baby rabbits snuggling up to each other is also quite okay, while the back side has just yet another umpteenth group shot of the girl gang.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2022, Poster

The extra is a small enclosure for the rabbit such as you would likely have at home if you were to have such a small critter. It even has a small drinking spout. The colors are interesting, since the flap element used for the slide is in Bright Light Blue, a rare variant. There’s also a single 1 x 2 plate in that same color. I guess we’re just lucky that LEGO came out with a few sets using those pieces last year and we can profit off surplus stock here. Something similar could be said for the rabbit droppings, which are Dark Brown, not the more common Reddish Brown. Again we have to thank the ART sets for them being available at all in this color. The yellow corrugated bricks mimicking the hay/ straw are also nice. I only have a few from other sets and every bit helps to expand my parts stock, obviously.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2022, Extra

The general shortcomings of this publication notwithstanding, this issue is one of the better ones. It isn’t as atrociously “teenage fantasy” as some others and there’s enough content aside from the comic to warrant a purchase. There are even a few unique pieces, which make me a happy camper.

Got some Hunny? – LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326)

My brother and I are and have been super fans of Disney‘s Winnie the Pooh. As to how and why it happened is in itself strange, given that we grew up in a former Eastern block country and only both got to watch this stuff when we were teenagers, but I guess somehow we took a liking to this quirky, peaceful and naive world. Even today we buy all kinds of paraphernalia such as calendars or the occasional toy figure, we regularly watch the Halloween and Christmas specials on DVD and poke fun at each other with quotes and cues from the animated series on our birthday greeting cards. All that considered, it seemed inevitable that one day the LEGO Ideas Winnie the Pooh (21326) would find its way into our homes and thanks to our shared obsession it was also a sharing of costs, making this much more attainable for me, despite breaking my usual 50 Euro ceiling for any given set.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Box

Artsy Instructions

As a LEGO Ideas project this is of course based on the design of someone who may just be as crazy about the little yellow bear as I am and to transport that feeling the instruction booklet has received some extra love by including some custom graphical artwork. The style is more in line with the original A. A. Milne versions, though depicting the Disney characters. On the initial release for LEGO VIP members you could also get some limited edition art prints in the same style, but with the protagonists being minifigure-ized. They go now for insane prices and I almost regret not having ordered this on the first day, but of course it’s easy to say this in hindsight.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Artwork

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Artwork

Pricing and Contents

The set comes in a nice easy to open lid box as they are common for Ideas and Architecture sets, so you can keep it around for later without destroying anything. To my surprise the box was quite a bit smaller than I had anticipated, but at least it meant that carrying it home with public transport after picking it up at the LEGO store was easier. 😉 Of course on some level the smallness of the packaging is logical with many elements in the set being 1 x 1, 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 despite the overall model building into a reasonable size.

At the heart of such a specially-themed license set based on a popular property of course there are the minifigures of which there are five. That is more or less okay as an average value, but I personally feel that there could have been at least two more. Let’s face it, half of the ideological and real monetary value are the figures. It wouldn’t even be that hard to come up with candidates, as outside the original canonical characters there have been a few notable extras over time.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Overview

This set is available from LEGO directly and a few select partners, but in the latter case apparently in somewhat limited numbers. So far this seems to have prevented anyone from granting notable discounts and it costs 100 euro very much everywhere. Hence currently there can be no real discussion over discounts since there simply aren’t any and the only real question is whether those 1265 pieces are worth the price to you.

As a fan I’m biased on the matter and even without my brother chipping in and sharing the financial burden I might have bought it eventually. More realistically, though, this definitely feels like a 85 Euro set or even just 80 Euro. I simply struggle to rationalize the higher price with so many small standard parts being used.

The Minifigures

As already written, the minifigures represent the original cast of characters with Pooh himself, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit and Eyeore. Out of necessity they all have at least completely new molds for the heads with Eyeore having gotten a whole mold for his body. While I think it’s the best way to represent the eternally depressed monkey it has the disadvantage of only allowing a static pose. The head is also molded integrally, so there would not be an opportunity to substitute it for one on the rare occasions he actually has a happy smile.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Minifigures

Of the other figures, Tigger and Rabbit are the better ones. regrettably something is off with Piglet and Pooh, even though I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think Pooh‘s eyebrows are simply a bit misplaced and the top edge too sharp while for Piglet the head is just a tad too round. It should be more elongated and skinny. The fearful little pink guy is of course also the one who suffers most from being represented with a minifigure, even one with the shortest leg.

Point in case: Piglet is many times smaller than the others and also overall more like a slinky rag doll rather than a “fat” plushy. It would have been nice had they included a second version more to scale based on the child minidolls introduced last year in Friends and Disney sets. This might have been a fun experiment, but again, it should have been a redundant figure in addition to the minifigure, not to replace it.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Minifigures

As renditions of characters from an an animated series or comic book there aren’t hat many extra details, molded or printed, but the ones that are there are perfectly fine. The prints are crisp and have sufficient opacity (at least in my set) and a few elements like Eyeore‘s mane are even dual-molded. The complementary add-ons like Piglet‘s scarf or that notorious red balloon are created from standard elements otherwise readily available in LEGO‘s portfolio

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Minifigures

The House

Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends more or less live in houses the represent hollowed out caverns inside and under trees or underground. However, neither of these abodes are ever fully fleshed out in the animated series or any of the accompanying materials that I know. It’s all made up on the go according to the specific needs of an episode or story. That leaves lots of room for interpretation and the way LEGO and by extension the original fan designer chose to design this set is only one of many possibilities.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Front Right View

The layout they went for is based on a Disney interpretation of the original Milne version, where the doorway is formed by two trees that have grown together and behind them a bit of a rough, wood-shingled roof can be seen. That is pretty much as far as it gets “canonical” in this context. Everything else was added or introduced later. on top of it of course to even make it viable to turn this into a LEGO model the tree had to be trimmed down massively or else it would easily have taken another 1000 pieces just to recreate its appearance.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Front Left View

For the tree itself the designers went to some lengths to make it look asymmetrical and organic, but ultimately this is really just limited to the front facade and the disguise quickly falls apart once you move on to the back where owing to the actual house everything is perfectly mirrored. this is no doubt a concession to stability requirements and again not wanting to add yet another ton of parts for building an extra foundation so the building could possibly have been made to look more embedded in the ground and placed at an angle.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Aft Left View

The symmetry is broken up ever so slightly by using different color patterns and arranging a few exterior details differently. Contrary to what you may think the roof is also not the most tedious section of this build, despite the many small slopes used for the shingles. In fact this goes together pretty easily after you have struggled to get the underlying construction right, which in my opinion is much more of a pain because your build it integrally with the tree section to which it is attached directly with hinges. This complicates aligning things and snapping them into place.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Aft Right View

Aside from the main tree house there’s only one small side build, which is a sign post directing you toward Pooh‘s house. As usual I didn’t use any of the stickers, but at least you can place one of the four custom printed honeypots on it.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Way Sign

Speaking of prints, the only other special element exclusive to this set is the Mr. Sanderz name tile, Pooh‘s in-story secret name (which nobody ever calls him, anyway). The front area before his door also alludes to his “Thoughtful Spot” with the tree log he’s sitting on and the small fire used to grill marshmallows. As you can see, on the model this also has been used to add enough studs and jumper plates so you could place all of the minifigures here to pose for a group photo, as I probably should have done for the sake of this article. 😉

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Front View, Door

The green mounds on either side use some interesting sideways building and feature a considerable number of those 2 x 2 x 1 corner slopes to create the illusion. Quite generally this set uses a lot of interesting building methods and to that effect also some exclusive parts like the two Medium Nougat curved 2 x 2 tubes, some Reddish Brown curved slopes or the grey variant of the 1 x 1 flower stud in invisible places. The roof also features the largest number of Dark Orange 1 x 2 slopes found in any set so far.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Rear View

As mentioned earlier, the roof is not the most annoying part of this set, but rather the lower section of the tree and the transition to the house. To some extent this can be seen from the outside already, especially on the right side where you might get an idea of how tricky it can be to build arches upon arches.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Right View

the tree itself uses a ton of them in Medium Nougat, complemented by Dark Tan elements for shaping and covering up the rather involved SNOT construction underneath. It’s pretty ingenious in that it manages to construct the angled side faces in a very crammed space. I found this step rather challenging, as due to the lack of room there are many 1 x1 elements and the slightest misalignments will come back later to haunt you when you need to plug the individual chunks onto the studs. You should definitely take your time for this.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Tree, Rear View

The leaf canopy is built up from multiple identical sub-assemblies that use freshly recolored Reddish Brown clips and matching 1 x 1 round hinge plates/ studs. To add volume and density, leaves are mounted onto the coral element introduced two years ago in LEGO Friends, this time in an also exclusive to this set recolor in Bright Green.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Tree, Top

Hidden among the leaves are two bee hives, with the little stingers having been represented as printed tiles. For my taste there could have been a lot more with different designs (including facing in the opposite direction), as Pooh being chased by bees while hunting for his beloved Hunny is of course a running gag throughout the series.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Tree, Bee Hive

The interior is easily the weakest part of the set. It’s terribly crammed and most disappointing for me it does not have the oversized arm chair seen in many pictures and episodes when pooh is slumped in it and dozes off. I guess given the limited space it’s okay, but I really would have loved to see this iconic piece of furniture be represented better. Similarly, the bed should also be much more oversize, though admittedly they at least an interesting building technique using the minifigure candle element in Dark Blue.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Interior

Looking at the details, you can see that the roof indeed is just clipped on to some hinge elements after you finished it, making it indeed less of a chore than you may have thought. On the other hand these interior shots also reveal many more of those pesky arches, many of which stand free for a long time and make your life that more difficult.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Interior, Left SideLEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Interior, Right Side

Finally, the door is a custom build, which is nice not only because it looks more proper from the exterior but also opens up. Without opening the rear, though, it has almost no practical value as there’s not enough light coming through and you still see squat of the insides. You realyl have to make up your mind how you want to present the model.

LEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Interior, Door closedLEGO Ideas, Winnie the Pooh (21326), Interior, Door open


Concluding Thoughts

As a fan of the little yellow bear and his friends of course I’m a happy camper, but even I have to concede that this is perhaps not the most fun set to build. Some things just drag on forever, not least of all because you repeat a few steps over and over again e.g. for the leaf canopy or while building the tree trunk. In addition, the model is difficult to handle – both during the build and after finishing it. I would have much preferred if things were a little more modular and there was some way to plug the individual sections together based on pin connections.

In a similar vein, though on the opposite end, the tree is also problematic. Those leave clusters are built on the limits of what single-stud or single-clip connections, respectively, can hold and will come off easily and frequently when handling the model. This will become an issue latest when you need to dust it off after a while of having it on your shelf. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this model is rather delicate in many ways and can be annoying to handle.

Based on my experiences I would not recommend this if you are just looking to pass time. There are better LEGO sets that are more pleasing to build and  also offer playable features, which this one is simply not meant for. It’s by all means a collectible model with some quirks that can cause aggravation and frustration. You may overlook and forgive them with a happy smile as a fan, but for an average customer there are better ways to enjoy their LEGO addiction.

Cube-ism – LEGO Friends, Various Cubes (41662 through 41666)

Heartlake City is a weird little town as is the LEGO Friends universe at large and so over the years there certainly have been a number of rather odd sets and products been associated with the series. Sometimes one doesn’t mind and they are halfway okay and useful like the heart boxes two years ago, other times one can only wonder what substances they must be inhaling in Billund to even come up with this stuff. One of those anomalies are the LEGO Friends cubes that have been around since last year.

I never had much interest in the first two series from the outset. to me it was always clear that this would be just a cheap way for LEGO to cash in with a minimum of effort. Sure, they had to produce the boxes and manufacture those colored animals, but outside that everything just appeared like recycling surplus parts readily at hand in the factory, and not the most attractive ones at that. Even the girls’ dress prints were the standard versions found in the respective wild life/ sea rescue sets at the time. Other than really wanting a Dark Azure llama or teddy bear there was really no good reason to get one of those cubes. I didn’t even like the odd color combinations with the Trans Blue/ Trans Purple lids, sometimes with glitter even.

All that changed ever so slightly with this year’s edition, that finally seemed to add some genuine value to the series and improved upon several aspects. So I added them to my list of things to check out and got four of them. I did not purchase Emma’s Dalmatian Cube (41663) yet, because it is actually the most bland one (which is a bit ironic, given that Emma is still my favorite girl), but I might do so at some point just for the sake of being complete with this series.

Price and Contents

Of course despite my “getting over it” the price to actual value rating for these sets is still terrible. With the suggested retail price locked at 10 Euro, you can’t really put it another way. That’s a lot of dough for two large box pieces, a minidoll and a handful of regular LEGO pieces. Therefore naturally the advice has to be to get them as cheap as you possibly can. In the past prices would dip down to around 5 Euro for the older series’ cubes, but due to the insane demand in the pandemic you should feel lucky if you get them for 7 Euro. That is unless you’re feeling really adventurous and want to wait for that clearance sale early next year with the potential risk of not being able to get everything you want then.

The packaging is the pretentious “bag” type. also used on the already mentioned heart boxes and also quite common for some Ninjago stuff like the various small Spinjitzu play sets. This means that apart from the actual cube there is a lot of empty space in there. Typically there’s one of the bags with the larger pieces stuffed in the tip, but overall still a lot of room for nothing. My impression is that they really could have packaged more nicely into one of the Brickheadz-sized boxes and retailers would likely have been the happier for them not gobbling up so much unusable shelf space.

A little bit of Decoration

A notable difference compared to the previous editions is the introduction of exterior decorations for the cubes. This was a big contributing factor to my decision to have a look at those sets. Granted, I don’t really care much for the cloth pieces, but if you know me, the new bracket elements used on the cat’s and pug’s ears inevitably caught my attention. This goes even further on the cat with the two 2 x 3 curved slopes in bright Pink, a piece otherwise so far only found on the ill-fated Overwatch D.Va & Reinhardt (75978) set. So yes, my obsession about specific pieces kicked in and drove me further toward a purchase.

LEGO Friends, Various Cubes (41662-41666)

Soul Mates – The Girls and their Pets

As I wrote earlier, I never had much interest in the surprise animals in the earlier series’ boxes. The concept of taking an existing mold and recoloring it just for the sake of coercing people to buy multiple such sets to collect them all is still extremely foreign to me and, given the cost, really also a bit unfair in my opinion. Okay, people do crazy stuff all the time and you need not look far when you see how some people spend a small fortune on minifigures, but to me it’s just weird. Aside from my financial restrictions maybe I’m just thinking too practically about these matters to be ensnared by any such collectibles stuff.

LEGO Friends, Various Cubes (41662-41666)

The animals are what the names of the boxes imply, with the only real novelty being that the pug, the cat and also Emma‘s Dalmatian are the new pup/ cub baby versions for 2021. Only the flamingo and bunny represent adult versions. The flamboyant bird is pretty much the only creature where this color stuff makes at least a lick of sense in that it looks credible and can be used rather universally. It’s as a matter of fact one of the few items from the previous series (with the seahorse being the other exception perhaps) that I wouldn’t mind having all versions of. Anyway, I got lucky on the first try and got the conventional version in Dark Pink, which is fine with me. As you can see, the other animals take some getting used to in these odd colors no matter how cute they look otherwise.

The most notable thing however this time around aren’t even the pets, but rather the girls themselves. Someone at LEGO must have realized that in order to compel people to buy this expensive stuff you have to give them something unique to make it worth their while and lo and behold, all of the girls have custom shirt designs reflecting their association with their animal! Of course that doesn’t preclude that those same prints may be reused later in regular sets as well, but for the time being you only can find them here. don’t get me wrong – I have limited use in my life for normal minfigures and even less for minidolls, but for a kid there could be some value here if they e.g. play with their vet clinic or similar. A distraught Mia having her injured pet checked out and arriving on the scene in a matching shirt has its value.

Olivia’s Flamingo Cube (41662)

The individual cubes are pretty much what you would expect – serviceable play scenes with a minimalist approach to the details. However, this series has netted us some unique items that also should be useful in the long term.

The first of those is funny enough the minifigure head with the watermelon print. This will make many people happy who are looking to spice up their grocery stores, organic café or garden. It’s really one of those little items that makes you wonder why it took so long, considering that we had the matching printed quarter tile for forever already. Another nice addition is the yellow leaf element after they were introduced in the Modular Buildings Bookstore (10270). And finally of course the pink frog, but as you may already know you can easily get heaps of them by just buying the Bonsai Tree (10281). A nice touch, but as I wrote in my various frog-related articles such as this review I’m still waiting for that Strawberry Dart Frog. 😉

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flamingo Cube (41662), Interior

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flamingo Cube (41662), Builds

Mia’s Pug Cube (41664)

The pug cube is easily the most mundane of the ones I bought. If it wasn’t for the ears and thus the brackets they are built with I likely would have skipped over them. There’s a bit of a crossover with the pug costume figure from the current Collectible Minifigures Series 21 with the Dark Turquoise bone chewing toy being present. I guess this connection could be incentive for some minifig collectors to buy this set as well.

LEGO Friends, Mia's Pug Cube (41664), Interior

LEGO Friends, Mia's Pug Cube (41664), Builds

Stephanie’s Cat Cube (41665)

The cat cube is again all about the ears and the brackets, but some additional value is easily found in the blue bird. They are still surprisingly scarce, only being included in a handful of sets. Would be good if LEGO really used them more often and also produced them in different colors so one could enliven your models. It’s almost tragic that you can buy expensive Modular Buildings, but for the life of it can’t have a flock of sparrows populating them. The other thing of value, and this is going to sound extremely crazy is – *drumroll* – the small white feather/ quill. You can look it up on Bricklink, but apparently these small minifigure head accessories fetch a high price as apparently they are in demand for restoration of old pirate-ish minifigures or Harry Potter stuff, among other things.

LEGO Friends, Stephanie's Cat Cube (41665), Interior

LEGO Friends, Stephanie's Cat Cube (41665), Builds

Andrea’s Bunny Cube (41666)

The bunny cube again has one of them yellow leaves along with two orange ones and some nice Dark Brown (!) elements. In addition, there’s also a recolored Red BB-8 droid head/ dome as a mushroom, a new variant for this year. As far as I know this can only be found in the Heartlake City Park (41447) otherwise.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Bunny Cube (41666), Interior

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Bunny Cube (41666), Builds

The Bracket Mystery

I’ve mentioned it a number of times, but indeed LEGO introduced a new bracket type element just for these sets to be able to create the ears on some of the cubes. For now they only come in Bright Pink and Bright Light Orange, which limits their usefulness for more generic projects right out of the gate, but beyond that there is also the lingering question of whether you would ever need them?! I have thought about this quite a bit and while I won’t claim to have considered everything, I can’t quite see where this would fit.

Point in case: In regular models without the challenge of having to build over a curved brick you would just use the regular perpendicular brackets and only use the curved pieces left and right of this. So far there really seems no advantage in using this piece other than using this as an option to create specific patterns or loosely attach stuff as I was pondering elsewhere already. We should find out soon if there are sets that put this to use and then perhaps things will click with me. For the time being it’s just a bit of fun doodling around. At least to those who were interested in this: Yes, it really fits of the arched bricks and not just on the cubes as the image sufficiently illustrates (I hope).

LEGO Friends, Stephanie's Cat Cube (41665), New Bracket


Concluding Thoughts

Make no mistake – while this year’s edition of these cubes is considerably better than the brainless efforts of the past, this is still not something I would consider in any way essential. It’s nice that they are investing a bit more into the series, but overall the concept strikes me as too limited to really go anywhere. This is typical fare you may want to bring along as a small gift for birthdays or buy for your child on a holiday when you are in a generous spending mood, but as “serious” LEGO this is simply missing too much.

It’s extremely likely that you can always find a 10 Euro City or Creator set that offers far more building fun and play value, not to speak of competitors’ offerings, which ultimately may be the crux of this product. It doesn’t feel that much like a brick-based toy, yet at the same time it would also be pretty poor choice to take on a trip to a sandy beach for instance. It’s stuck between those two sides and if the collecting aspect for the colored animals doesn’t even matter to you, it has very little going for it.

(Not so) Little Red Tractor – LEGO City, Tractor (60284)

As you may have recognized already, I rarely do buy LEGO City sets for apparent reasons like the age demographic they target vs. complexity and overall usefulness of parts and similar. However, every now and then something comes along that tingles my taste buds or intrigues me and that’s how I ended up with this year’s Tractor (60284) edition.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Box

Some form of tractor is basically always part of each year’s line-up, but this particular small/ mid-size red tractor type hasn’t been done in a while with the most recent references that would be at least somewhat similar and that I could dig up going back to 2009 and 2011, respectively.

Pricing and Contents

Let me get the first thing out of the way: Though I’m very critical of LEGO‘s overblown pricing, this can’t be applied here. As much as I may want to find something to complain or niggle about, I really can’t. True, I’m hedging my bets on the usual discounts, but even at full price this is good value. There are only 143 pieces, but many of them are quite large. The tires and bucket alone contribute notably to the initial cost and then there’s three clear pieces, some large arches and a few other goodies. If you will: It’s one of the few cases where one can see where the money went.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Overview

That said, of course there’s no harm in trying to get this set as cheaply as possible. I got mine for 15 Euro, which is already five Euro off the suggested retail price of 20 Euro. I would predict that during a promotion e.g. for the upcoming Easter holidays it may get closer to 12 Euro, but you shouldn’t expect more and it’s really not necessary to get too miserly about this.

Minifigures and Extras

The set comes with two minifigures which are actually quite nice. The young dad and his daughter (?) both wear dungarees in different colors, which is a common practical attire for farmers and gardeners. The prints are not super fancy, but provide enough detail to sell the story. There are some minor alignment issues with the prints and legs, something which is particularly obvious with the white torso of the girl peeking out under the blue, but overall it is within acceptable tolerances. The faces and hair styles are standard types you probably already have seen several times, but they work well here

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Minifigures

The white rabbit is a bit of an oddity. I’m not complaining that it is included at all, given that it is still a somewhat rare little creature not found in many sets. It’s just that it feels a bit out of place, with my point here being that other than the girl’s play pet it doesn’t exactly make much sense. Assuming the farmer were into rabbit breeding there would have to be more to form at least a small huddle. If it was supposed to be a wild rabbit disturbed by the tractor or lured in by the carrots it would have to be a different color, obviously. The latter would of course have been something also useful on the domesticated variants. Imagine having a Reddish Brown, Tan, Dark Tan or Black rabbit or one with colored patches printed on! Maybe it’s time for LEGO to do such a set? In any case, I’m a bit foggy on the reasoning here.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Extras

In addition to the figures there’s a crate with some fruit and vegetables, those being a red apple, the already mentioned carrots and a pumpkin. Seasonally that puts the set into late fall, which is the only time all these are actually available at the same time. That’s another of those little weird inconsistencies once you start to think about it. The corrugated cardboard (?) boxes are based on a new piece, so without further ado let’s have a look at them.

New Parts

In addition to the overall good value one thing that attracted me to this set were a few new LEGO pieces that only have seen the light of the in the first 2021 sets. It’s not so much that I felt I would miss something as I’m pretty sure we’ll see them used quite a bit in a widespread manner soon enough, but my curiosity got the better of me and I grabbed the opportunity to check them out and add them to my parts stock by buying this set.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), New Parts

To me the most useful addition is the ribbed modified brick. Yes, naturally it’s structured sides will come in handy on buildings and technical stuff to mimic all sorts of cooling rips, chiseled bricks and so on. However, one thing this element might become more popular for is, that it gives you a simple way to substitute two 2 x 2 plates that have to be layered. Depending on how often a model uses such stacks this can greatly help to avoid some tedious building and more importantly also minimize tension in the model, which with many plates on top of each other can be considerable.

The other item of interest is the brick with the pin hole. The conventional 1 x 2 version has of course existed for forever, but now with another row of studs on a vertically centered plate extension it should be easier to integrate this in builds where you don’t want to get things too bulky just because you would need to lock the brick into place. Finally there’s the new upright 2 x 6 bracket introduced last year. There were two of them in White in the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444) and having at least one in Black now might come in handy, too.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), New Parts

The large tires are another novelty from this year and are otherwise only found in the LEGO Technic Jeep Wrangler (42122). The interesting thing about them is of course that in an interesting departure from LEGO‘s “Keep it simple!” approach with the tire treads being symmetrical and usable in all positions and orientations, this one has directional treads and you need to pay attention when mounting them on their rims as well as on the axles. The narrower, smaller tires don’t fall into that category, but for me are also a “first”, since they have only been used in some older sets I never bought. The most recent appears to be a Nexo Knights one from 2017, actually.

The excavator bucket is an improved version of an older model with two notable areas of enhancements: a) there’s a slightly raised ridge in the middle to strengthen the material and prevent breakage from too much stress and b) the ratcheted hinge having brought up to the new standard introduced late last year that changes the snapping behavior and angles to be more reliable, especially when using it as a static connection element.

The Tractor

The main build is of course the tractor. For a City set it ends up a pretty sizable affair at around 20 cm length plus 5 cm more for the bucket in the front. It’s almost just a tad too big to match the scale of other items in the series.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Front Left View

The construction process is pretty simple and straightforward as essentially you are building a two studs wide central block with a bunch of protrusions left and right. That’s why they had to use some of the new pieces to allow it to be so narrow. The build also uses an eclectic selection of other elements to similar effect, though personally I feel that they could have made it a little less messy in terms of colors used. When you have the same 1 x 2 x 2 brick with studs on the side in two different colors it just feels unnecessary, even if the ones in Tan are covered up and thus invisible. I guess it’s one of those things where some LEGO manager is mandating this use to evenly deplete their stockpile of parts.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Aft Left View

I have similar feelings about the mounting arm for the bucket, though I’m fully aware that some Technic parts like the axles only come in certain colors. It’s better to have uniform Light Bluish Grey than an even more messy mix of with Red and Black, I suppose. I don’t have an idea how this could have been improved, but the question of whether this could have been built differently undeniably still lingers in my mind. Might be worth a shot rummaging through my parts and seeing if I can find some exotic piece I haven’t thought of that would be perfect here.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Aft Right View

The rear end has multiple provisions for attaching towable gear, either with a ball joint/ axle hinge, a pin or a clip and any number of combinations of those, but as we all know LEGO do not offer separate kits of plows, sowing rigs, harvesters or even simple trailers, so you have to come up with something yourself. It might have been nice that they at least included a small open trailer as an example for people who aren’t that much into custom building. that may also have taken care of my earlier point with the rabbits. Doesn’t a portable rabbit hutch sound fantastic?

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Right View

From the side you can also see what is perhaps the one slightly more serious issue with the way the model is built – even though there is a sufficient gap between the glass pieces, there’s no realistic way to get a minifigure in there without removing the roof due to the large arches blocking access a bit too much. Not the end of the world, but a bit unfortunate since this all to often means you also inadvertently snap off other pieces. I really prefer proper “doors” where I just can slide in a minifig if I so desire.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Front View

The front looks a bit bland for my taste and could have done with some extra spot lights which many tractors have. I think I also would have preferred the front “weight” piece to not be a Technic axle holder. That could still be useful if you want to attach different equipment, but I think most people would prefer a winch for more play value.


Concluding Thoughts

At the end I still found some small things to bemoan, didn’t I? Still, I stand by what I said at the beginning: This is one of those rare LEGO sets that you can be perfectly happy with. The price is just right, it looks “real”, has some nice play value regardless and offers some potential for expanding it with custom equipment without too much of a fuss. There just could have been a bit more, which perhaps is the point: Even I wouldn’t have scoffed at a 25 Euro price point if there had been some extra rabbits, a few more crates and a small thing to attach to the tractor’s rear. Still, no matter what, you could do worse and this set is highly recommended if you even have a remote interest into the agricultural/ farming theme or are just looking for a robust playable vehicle for your little one.

September Rabbit Escape!

In these weird times it is even more regrettable that the LEGO Friends magazine only comes out every other month here in Germany, so it feels like a small eternity since when the last one arrived end of June now that the September issue is here.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Cover

This one weirdly enough is centered around the literal “rabbit out of your hat” theme, with cylinders and rabbits being front and center everywhere such as a quiz on rabbits, the comic and even one of the posters. That doesn’t change the fact that the Friends magazine is seriously falling behind in graphical fidelity compared to the other magazines. Next to those it really looks like it’s from the 1990s.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Rabbits Quiz

On a positive note, in addition to the now standard coloring page in the mag they also make good use of the back cover and include a cut & glue template for a magical cylinder. This certainly adds some value in the activities department and could make for a lovely afternoon with your little ones.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Back Page LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Buildable Extra

The buildable extra represents a small magician stage also appearing in the comic. It’s nothing too fancy, but done well enough. Interestingly, while I figured the 1 x 2 x 2 slopes in Dark Purple would have been abundantly used in Friends sets, this isn’t actually the case. They are currently only part of two official sets, with all other uses dating much further back. They are not exactly rare, though, but it’s nice to get them this way without much ado. You never know when you might need them.

Despite the unusual subject, this feels like an acceptable issue and offers good enough value overall with the cutout cylinder taking the cake. Perhaps that’s even worth an excursion to the crafts shop to pick up some glittery stuff and build a bigger version and a magic wand from a wooden spoon to boot…