…or a four-reindeer open sleigh, rather. Yupp, it’s that time of year again where we need to talk about Christmas and prepare for it. Personally I’ve never been much into seasonal decorating and my flat is too small to go all in on it, anyway, but my mom certainly loves to dig out all her precious wood-carved figures, reflective baubles, lights, nutcrackers and all that. From time to time, though, even I can’t resist buying that super-cute polar bear or snowman and ever since taking up LEGO as a hobby it also sometimes is nice to combine these things and have something to build with a seasonal spirit. Santa’s Sleigh (40499) is exactly that.
Pricing and Contents
The main reason I even got this set was that it appealed more to me than this year’s official Christmas village set the Santa’s Visit (10293) house. It’s not bad at all, just a bit too ordinary for my taste and I may rather pick it up next year with a bit of discount once it becomes available more widely just like I did with the Winter Village Station (10259). Of course there will be lots of people who in contrast to myself have less restricted funds and they will simply buy both sets (or even multiple boxes of each) and eat their heart out going crazy with this. Sleighs with eight reindeer are an easy modification and I’ve also already seen MOCs/ MODs merging two of the houses into a bigger one.
The sleigh set itself comes with “only” 343 pieces and costs 36.99 Euro officially. Since it is exclusive to LEGO stores (or their online shop, respectively) there’s no real debate about discounts or any of that. Either you want it and pay or you don’t. However, I’ve observed that people ask crazy prices way above that on Bricklink or marketplaces like Facebook groups and I would warn against that. Unless you really, really have no other option, try to pick it up at your regional LEGO retail store. Even if it may frequently be sold out online, those physical stores often have sufficient supply.
As for the general pricing considerations you in particular have to keep in mind that this comes with four large-ish animals made from two different materials. On their Bricks & Pieces page LEGO themselves are asking 5.85 Euro per reindeer currently. Even if the manufacturing cost may be more like 2 Euro, those four animals still could represent one-third of the overall value of all elements. This makes their inclusion a good value, even more so once you consider that some people have spent a small fortune on buying extra reindeer when last year it was first included in the Elf Club House (10275). I couldn’t help but gloat the tiniest bit about this perhaps not being the best investment they ever made…
The rest of the set is okay, but just normal stuff you could scrape together from other sets with one exception – the curved hinge panel used in the front of the carriage is an exclusive item and has been recolored Red for the first time. Other than that I was particularly disappointed that not more effort was spent on including some unique gift items, but more on that further down.
So is the price a good deal, after all? That’s a definite “Maybe?!” At the end of the day, despite the points I raised, this feels more like it should have cost around 30 Euro. At the same time the price isn’t so much out of whack it would be ridiculous and considering that you always pay a premium on these store exclusives, it’s really not that bad.
Minifigure and Extras
As you would imagine from a set called Santa’s Sleigh the old man himself is included. There have been several versions of him over the years, of course, but this is actually the first time he got real black boots thanks to the legs being dual molded. The other interesting fact is that they opted for a very old face print from 2013, but it’s surprisingly fitting. There’s a printed tile with a “Nice List” and if you try hard enough you can read the names, but overall this feels a bit lackluster. The fake 3D paper scroll effect just doesn’t work that well and a more conventional tabular list might have been more appealing. That or a custom part for the scroll…
As mentioned earlier, the presents leave a few things to be desired as well. there’s a batch of buildable packets, but for instance there’s not a single round one or for that matter an “original” one using a new part that has come out in the last two years. A repurposed Toad cap from the Super Mario series with a custom bow print on it could have been amazing. On that note, they didn’t even include any of the old 2 x 2 tiles/ inverted with such prints, which really is a bit lame
The minifigure accessory based gifts don’t fare much better as the clearly are just pieced together from existing overflow stock. I could so go for a Dark Red guitar or some blue skis with some snowflakes printed on. Even the teddy bear could have benefited from a new design or color combination. Point in case: To me it’s those little details that breathe the love and while this set sells like hot cakes, anyway, would have made it even more desirable.
The model is built in the order I present it here, meaning you indeed build the carriage first and then attach the reindeer and their bridles to the finished main vehicle. That’s a welcome deviation from many other sets, where you are asked to assemble minifigures and accessories first and then they float around while you’re dealing with the main item.
The pieces for the sleigh are distributed across two bags, making for two main build segments, respectively. There’s no specific exotic pattern here. You really build from the bottom up, beginning with the plates at the base and then work your way to the top. Most of the curved elements and gold decorations are in the second bag while the first step really focuses on building a solid chassis and box. A few things are a bit finicky since they are built “with air”, i.e. with open areas underneath and studs only left and right. This can make placing the plates and bricks that bridge those areas a bit of an exercise when things are not aligned 100 percent, but it’s nothing you couldn’t manage.
The stowage area consists of an open cargo bed in the top and a slide-in drawer trunk, the latter of which is perfectly flush in its closed position and thus hidden pretty well. not much actual space in it, though, and the carrot and pretzel you’re supposed to put in there are pretty much it or else the drawer can get blocked.
The upper deck has a few extra hollows due to using a few panels and that lofty building style I already mentioned. There’s no real technical reason for it and they could just as well have used regular bricks, so it’s merely a measure to reduce parts count and cost. I find that it doesn’t necessarily help since stuff can get jammed and lost in these crevices when you fill up the cargo area with the gift. The same goes for the floor not being tiled over. Getting a ski stick that’s stuck between two rows of studs out of there is fiddly if you don’t want to just turn over the entire sleigh.
As mentioned prominently already and as is visible in the images there are four reindeer. All of them are identical, so if you were hoping for a red-nosed Rudolph those hopes are crushed. It would have been a bit too tacky and obvious, anyway, at least for my taste. The downside to that is of course that everything looks even more static, but developing different prints or even including differently colored creatures would no doubt have been unrealistic and very cost-prohibitive. Therefore the most viable option to add some interest might be to modify and accessorize the “saddle” area and the tow bars like substituting the plain red elements for Dark Red and Dark Green ones and adding a few Pearl Gold 1 x 1 here and there. If you have some spare reindeer you could also try an asymmetrical formation or even without that quite generally re-rigging the tow setup.
It’s not particularly excitement-inducing to say something is solid, but this set really is in that category. It does a lot of things right and while certainly several things could have been improved or done differently, none of those little things are annoying or make you feel that something is really missing. It would just have been nice if LEGO had stepped up their plate and put a more love in some of the details to make it something truly outstanding.
If you’re feeling even a tiny bit festive or want to get in the mood I would recommend you try this set. It makes for a relaxing evening build and unlike some other Christmas stuff that LEGO has churned out this one doesn’t look too kitschy and will integrate well with more conventional seasonal decorations. The only real showstopper could be that by the time you read this it will already be very hard to find.