Explorer-ing… The Solar System – LEGO Explorer Magazine, December 2021

As a Sci-Fi nerd of course I love all sorts of space stuff, be that re-watching the same documentaries over and over or delving into my favorite series, so the latest issue of the LEGO Explorer magazine is right up my alley.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2021, Cover

The mag centers on some info relating to our own solar system and its planets as well as on their exploration and research. Of course from my point of view it’s rather basic as I could literally chew peoples’ ears off talking about this stuff for hours, but for the intended target demographic of kids at a certain age it is perfectly sufficient.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2021, Info Page

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2021, Info Page

Inbetween there’s a few quiz pages and the drawing page depicted below. That’s all fine and dandy, but rather than drawing UFOs it might have been more interesting to add some coloring pages (including perhaps the insides of the cover) and build a mobile with the Earth, Sun and Moon at least.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2021, Drawing Page

The poster shows the International Space Station (ISS). They inevitably couldn’t help themselves and had to sneak in the eponymous LEGO Ideas set (21321), but I guess that’s okay in this case. There aren’t really that many full shots of the actual entire station for practical reasons, anyway.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2021, Poster

The extra made me smile. The little alien with its ponytail is just too funny. Like this humorous take on the whole subject. It would have been even better, had they actually included a custom printed minifigure head or a 2 x 2 dome piece. Either way, it’s cute enough and there’s a bunch of useful pieces.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2021, Extra

Not necessarily the most exciting edition of this mag to me personally for the reasons explained, but overall done well enough to warrant a purchase. It’s not as higgledy-piggledy as some other issues and that’s also a good thing. You don’t have to overload these mags with content. A stringent, focused effort with a limited subject is much more digestible.

Explorer-ing Space – LEGO Explorer Magazine, December 2020

As I’ve written a bunch of times on this blog, I’m very much a Sci-Fi and space nerd of sorts. That’s why the December issue of the LEGO Explorer magazine should be right up my alley, right? Let’s see!

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2020, Cover

The magazine title is more or less a complete misnomer. It’s pretty much all about the Apollo 11 mission, so more appropriately it should be titled something along the lines of the first moon landing instead of “Adventures in Space”. That’s quite misleading as not even other LEGO sets such as the International Space Station ISS (21321) or for that matter the various City sets get mentioned much. It’s all about the Saturn V (21309) rocket that just got a second lease of life due to popular demand (new set number 92176) and the Apollo Lunar Lander (10266) plus a few bits and bobs to do with NASA.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2020, Poster

The central poster is okay stylistically, but like the rest of the magazine light on actual info. The over-reliance on photos of LEGO models and images from the archives you have seen a million times doesn’t necessarily make this more interesting. I’m also missing a bit of geek stuff like statistics about the moon or some comparisons of the lift forces required. Maybe I’m misjudging the target demographic, but I feel this would have spiced up things quite a bit. At least the quiz is pretty decent, though.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2020, Quiz

The miniature model of the lunar lander looks somewhat weird, mostly due to that radar dish on the bar on the top looking like a trumpet. They probably should have used a hinge or something like that instead. Otherwise the model is reasonable, if not very realistic. The highlight of course are the golden dishes. I have a few of them already from some Friends sets, but if you don’t, then here’s your chance to grab four of them. On a side note, the Flame Yellowish Orange 3 x 3 plate is also rather unique, as apparently so far it has only been used in a Brickheadz set. Who knows? One of those days it might come in handy. On the back cover there’s even a bit of printed landscape that actually looks more like Mars than the Moon for you to place your model in for that scenic feel.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2020, Extra LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, December 2020, Extra

All things considered, this is a bit of a weak issue, especially after last month’s awesome frog edition. The topic would have lent itself for so much more, but has been limited in scope way too much for my taste. The parts are good and useful, but otherwise there’s not much here to keep me distracted even for five minutes, unfortunately.

Explorer-ing the New

There’s definitely no shortage on LEGO magazines, but at the same time one can never have enough. Personally I had always hoped for something more scientifically oriented and not just tie-ins to existing product lines, so maybe there’s a chance to get my wish fulfilled with the new LEGO Explorer?

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2020, Cover

Unlike the other magazines this one is not published by Blue Ocean, but rather something really fresh and independent from Egmont publishing, a company who more than just coincidentally has its origin in Denmark just like LEGO themselves. The differences become readily apparent once you hold the magazine in your hands in terms of subject matter, layout or even the paper used. This comes in handy for the door hanger you can create from the back cover, which is made from slightly heavier print stock.

The publication purports to be based around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and thus covers a wide variety of subjects with the emphasis of this first issue being robotics. As a Sci-Fi nerd and someone who had a strong interest in physics, astronomy, construction and many other things ever since his earliest childhood (I think I got my first construction kit at the age of three) that’s pretty much my territory. However, this is of course at the level of eight-year-old school kids, so there’s not much for adults to learn here, at least not for me.

There are some puzzles and the magazine cites realworld examples for its models by ways of including reference photos of machines, animals and so on. Unfortunately it reeks too obviously of commercial stock photos you can license for a few bucks from respective sites, so not much effort went into that part.

Similarly the LEGO product placement is a bit too “in your face” with several models being presented from commercial sets, supposed interviews with official LEGO designers (which is kind of pointless, as average people have no way of verifying any of it, even if it’s legit) and even the central poster being the robot from LEGO Boost (17101). They seriously need to dial it back.

On the other hand there are no genuine building tips as in explaining some of the more obscure things about LEGO parts usage or how to apply some basic physical principles to your models, which is weird and wasted potential, given the alleged direct connection to the designers. This also shows in the included pieces that allow to build the robot depicted on the front page, which looks pretty naff overall.

For the time being, as much as I would want it to be a different conclusion, this is not the magazine I was hoping for. They need to seriously step up their game with better models, better explanations and more emphasis on really having educational value. It’s early and they need to find their footing still, so I’m gonna watch this for a while at least, but if it doesn’t improve, I’m not going to hang on to it forever.

Space September

As a science fiction fan of sorts and a nerd with a general interest in exotic scientific subjects like quantum physics, astral dynamics and so on of course I love myself some space-y stuff even in LEGO form. This month’s issue of the LEGO City magazine caters just for that.

LEGO Magazine, City, September 2019, Cover

The content is derived from the current space exploration theme. Unfortunately for my taste it’s a bit too simplified with many large and specific parts and kind of crude looking models, so my interest in buying some of those sets is a bit limited to say the least. That’s why I’m all the more pleased to get some of the stuff that is contained in those sets on the cheap, in a manner of speaking, by ways of the mag.

Most notably that covers the new 2019 geode-type piece, i.e. a rock with a crystalline transparent mineral inside. I have to say it really looks nice and interesting when the light refracts through the sharp edges and facets when the rock is backlit. The magazine comes with the Dark Orange and Trans Light Blue version with some other combinations being found only in the commercial sets for the time being. The second piece of mention is the printed 1×1 round tile for the robot face which due to its generic look should find some creative uses.

The minifigure is just the generic astronaut and unlike the cover image may make you think, it neither comes with a special face or an alternate hair piece so you could present it with the helmet off. It’s adequate for basic play scenarios, but not much more than that. Similarly the comics and games this time around can’t disguise that they are more of a marketing pitch for the new sets than really deep content. Therefore the real value of this issue will genuinely depend on whether you are into any of this space stuff and can overlook the shortcomings or are a regular buyer, anyway.

Starry November

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a bit of a Sci-Fi nerd, which as a fan of not just Star Trek almost inevitably means that you also turn into a bit of a geek on astronomy, cosmology, quantum physics and other obscure stuff average people may not care about. That’s why I was both a bit excited and skeptical at the same time about the November issue of the LEGO Friends magazine. Sadly, it didn’t fail to disappoint. The whole mag is a story of a missed opportunity to bring some education to the masses.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, November 2018, Cover

The model parts, grandiosely called Olivia’s Observatory, aren’t really that great. It’s like they couldn’t decide what to include and then settled for a minimum solution that seems to cover all bases. I feel the answer to doing it a lot better would have been to either

  • include parts to build a larger telescope or
  • include a larger plate and enough stars to arrange them in actual star sign patterns.

You could then have explained how the telescope works or encouraged the kids to re-create the stellar formations and try to find them in the sky.

This would have meant they would have had to include some kind of poster and instructions for that stuff, and this unfortunately isn’t the case at all, so the mag fails a second time. In fact there is barely any mention of this astronomy stuff except for a few simple games on two pages. Instead we get the umpteenth variation on those terrible posters with those awful CG girl faces that nobody really likes.

Overall this is a pretty bad issue and unless your little ones really insist on their monthly dose of the comics you can simply skip it this time.