In a one-horse open Sleigh… – LEGO Santa’s Sleigh (40499)

…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.

LEGO, Santa's Sleigh (40499), Box

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…

LEGO, Santa's Sleigh (40499), Overview

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…

LEGO, Santa's Sleigh (40499), Minifigure

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 Sleigh

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.

LEGO, Santa's Sleigh (40499), Reindeers and Sleigh

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.

Team Reindeer

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.

Concluding Thoughts

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.

Christmas Double Double – Brickheadz Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274) and Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353)

Christmas is only four weeks away at this point and if you’re anything like my mum you’re perhaps also already decorating your home. Around here we like to keep things traditional with wood carved stuff from the Erzgebirge, glass baubles and similar, but who’s to say that putting up some LEGO couldn’t be part of the mix as well. The seasonally themed Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274) and Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353) Brickheadz cater for just that.

LEGO Brickheadz, Christmas Sets Family Shot

A family shot of the sets from two consecutive years shows that there is a bit of underlying deeper logic and the sets mix and match quite well. The only thing that is missing is of course a suitably sized sleigh model stuffed with gifts.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Box

Somehow I missed out on Mr. & Mrs. Claus last year, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that LEGO had re-issued the set this year. That’s always a good indication that the sets are in popular demand and sell well, in turn making good prospects for more sets of the same ilk in the future, whatever those might be.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Overview

In terms of construction there aren’t that many surprises or more or less none at all, with the two figures being essentially based on the v1 Brickheadz standard (I totally made that up, but it’s perhaps helpful for understanding some of the differences). This means that there aren’t any fancy building techniques involved and it follows the pattern of most others of these figures. If you have that drill worked out to a T, you could likely build Mr. Claus from your head and figure things out without even looking at the instructions, give or take a few specifics like the tip of the cap.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Back Right View

Mrs. Claus is slightly different in that she extensively uses curved slopes to make her look rounded. This naturally adds a bit of complication in that there are extra plates here and there to account for the step/ offset of the slopes. It would be more difficult to re-create without any guidance. It also makes her look adorable and cuddly and that’s why of the figures discussed in this article she’s my favorite. I really can’t fathom why I skipped over this set last year. Perhaps i just wasn’t able to make it to the LEGO store in time…

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Back Right View

This year’s Christmas set takes a slightly different approach and only contains one full-sized Brickheadz figure, but makes up for it by including two of the smaller elves.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Box LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Overview

Out of the three, the the reindeer itself is perhaps the least attractive. Don’t misunderstand me – it hits all the marks and looks okay, yet it doesn’t stand out particularly. In my view this is owed to its simple, mostly symmetrical construction. The model would clearly have benefited from a bit more variation, be that just a hint of its furriness by ways of using some angled slopes for bangs on the forehead.

I also wished they had come up with something a bit more impressive and elaborate for the antlers. The small ancillaries feel a bit out of place, too, in particular since they are not further contextualized by something else to go with them. Admittedly it doesn’t help that I didn’t apply the stickers to the way sign, but then again for all intents and purposes those should always be printed in a Brickheadz set.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Back Right View

The elves, tentatively called just Elf and Elfie use a new building style with just 3 studs wide/ deep main bodies and reduced height to make them appear smaller compared to the “adults”, of course. That puts them at around three-quarters size, which isn’t that much when you come to think of it, but sufficient to make them look different enough.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Back Right View

That said, the smaller size comes with a bit of a caveat that you must not underestimate. Since currently there are no dedicated 3 x 1 bricks with studs on the side in the LEGO portfolio, the models have to make do with 1 x 1 and 2 x 1 versions. In some cases that means that where they converge at the edges only one side can have studs and the other has a smooth surface. This in turn affects how the tiles and plates on the exterior can be fixated and here is where it gets a bit dicy.

You have to be extra careful to use the right SNOT bricks in the right places and keep an eye on their orientation or you may end up wondering forever, how the heck you are supposed to attach some parts without a stud looking at you. That is even more crucial insofar some of the tiles really rely on just hanging on to a single stud with their ability to move merely being restrained by the neighboring elements. It’s a bit delicate, but works surprisingly well if you don’t completely mess up this sort of alternating pattern of forces and counter forces.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Back Right View

On the whole both sets are worth their money, the simple fact notwithstanding that they are only available from LEGO directly, anyway, and thus any discussion about prices would be kinda pointless. If you’re on a budget, regardless, I’d go with Mr. & Mrs. Claus for the time being. not only might you regret not being able to purchase the set in the future, but overall it feels like you’re getting a better value.

The reindeer set on the other hand could have needed that extra little kick by including perhaps a bunch of buildable gift packages, the already mentioned sleigh, a food tray with some carrots and hay or whatever else. Just something to provide a little something that puts a satisfied grin on your face…