Snow Dino!

The Christmas holidays have jumbled up the release schedule of the various LEGO magazines quite a bit, so the next few weeks will be a bit of a race to keep up with those costly trips to the newsstand until the cycle is in sync again.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2020, Cover

The Star Wars mag comes with a rather unspectacular Snowspeeder model. Not that there would be anything wrong with Snowspeeder, it’s just that it doesn’t have that much to offer in terms of interesting details in the first place and shrinking it down won’t improve upon this, understandably. Most annoyingly the model looks very stumpy with no provision having been made for the short rectangular aft area and everything having been chopped off immediately behind the wedge section. For a freebie it’s okay, but it just would have been nice to get a more accurate model.

Since the price has gone up again and is now at 4.99 Euro, a bonus extra has been thrown in to console users and to preempt a larger uproar. Depending on which packaging you manage to get you either get a Snow Trooper or a young Luke Skywalker with blond hair minifigure. That’s okay for the time being, but regardless, asking so much for a few printed pages and some lightweight extras is pushing it…

The content of the pages is the usual mix of an acceptable comic, some very limited games and the usual adverts for other publications from Blue Ocean. The poster provides a facepalm moment in that it depicts the UCS Snowspeeder (75144) set from last year that you can no longer buy. Kinda stupid to whet people’s appetites and then leave them disappointed, should they decide to investigate the details.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, January 2020, Cover

The LEGO Jurassic World magazine was a bit of a surprise release. There had of course been rumours and even confirmed info that there would be new issues coming out for 2020, but no actual dates were ever mentioned. If you remember, I wasn’t necessarily that satisfied with the older ones as were likely many other buyers (they basically always appeared to be dumps of surplus Owen figures and such), but it seems this is headed in a new direction and more effort is made to make them attractive. Let’s see how long that will last.

The first mag in the new series comes with a nice little T. Rex model, which with its 65 pieces even provides some longer-lasting building fun than the usual models lumped together from half that number of parts. The result is indeed reminiscent of the large T. Rex from set 75936, which I now thankfully had an opportunity to build, in terms of colors and also features some very useful parts like 1×1 brackets or the 1×2 curved slope wedges in Black that are also used for the toes on the giant version. After assembly it really looks the part and in a way is cute. My only small gripe is that there are a few too many black and dark grey parts that would have benefited from having been done in one of the brown colors as well.

A stand-out item this time is the poster with the T. Rex breaking through the wall, which is really something I could see myself actually putting up somewhere. The framing could be a bit better with a bit more visible wall, but let’s be thankful for small things. The comic is okay and funny enough there are more puzzles than in the Star Wars mag to be found here. It’s just odd how inconsistent this is at times. The best part for me is the preview of the next issue hinting at an equally complex Triceratops model, so there is definitely something to look forward to.

The German version here also comes with a free album and a sample pack for the new collectible stickers, but I can’t tell you much on that, being that aside from the free extras no actual stickers were sold at my news agent’s yet. I’ll probably just give the album to one of the neighbors kids and drip-feed them the leftover stickers I surely will get more of when buying other LEGO magazines…

July Dive

It’s some of the hottest days of the year with a heatwave ravaging Europe and everyone is looking for ways to cool their heads. Naturally amongst those could be taking a dive in a lake or climbing up mountain glaciers, so it seems fitting that the LEGO City magazine this month caters for this in a way.

LEGO Magazine, City, July 2019, Cover

The icy cold is taken care of by a promotional comic marketing the Snow Groomer (60222) set and the watery parts are brought home with equally matching comics and of course the included minifigure and buildable pieces.

The latter are a bit lackluster with the figure featuring only the simplest of prints and the parts consisting of small pieces. I’m not saying that a Dark Tan cropped corner plate and a Reddish Brown 1 x 1 hollow round stud (as found e.g. in current Harry Potter sets) can’t be useful, but once again the limited selection furthers the impression that LEGO and Blue Ocean are trying to cut corners to keep the cost as low as possible. At that rate, one day you’ll be glad if you get a single 4 x 1 brick… They could at least have done the crab in a different color to provide a better incentive.

The rest of the mag is the usual mix, though incomprehensibly to me they have reverted to those awful CG-based posters instead of the more attractive hand-drawn ones. I like that they include more puzzles and more challenging ones at that lately, though. Keeps the kids busy for longer and provides at least a bit of a challenge for the grown-ups as well…

Ramp or House? – Modular Winter Lodge (31080)

As written in the previous article already, the run-up towards Christmas offers some good opportunities to stock up on LEGO sets on a budget and in particular to get some sets that you wouldn’t consider otherwise. That can be stuff that doesn’t cover a subject you’re usually interested in, sets with oddities and quirks that you think won’t be enjoyable, ones that are simply too far down your wishlist to ever make you actually buy them or models that haven’t sold that well all year. The Modular Winter Lodge (31080) could be considered one such item, mainly because of its seasonal theme.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Box

I never seriously noticed it before it popped up in that grocery store flyer, which I mostly blame on the fact that there are barely any snowy winters in the area where I live, I don’t do any winter sports and therefore my attention span for these kinds of sets probably only ever lasting a few days in January when there’s actually occasionally snowflakes falling in these parts. If you live elsewhere, that might be totally different, of course.

At an original price of around 30 Euros the set wouldn’t have been unaffordable to begin with, but of course cheaper is always better, so I gladly took advantage of it only costing me 22 Euros when I took the plunge. The set is being retired, but you might still be able to find it in sufficient quantity. Those bad sales figures may have decided its fate, but a side effect of this usually is that retailers still are sitting on lots of surplus leftovers and you will be able to get it for a similarly good price even now.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Overview

The model itself in fact isn’t that bad at all. It’s modeled after one of those hillside lodges that follow the contours of whatever mountain they are built on and some of which indeed can be used as ramps. That naturally dictates the overall shape, but in relation to the size and the number of parts this isn’t that bad. Compared to other sets this feels reasonably large and accessible due to the asymmetry kind of enforcing the need to have larger, open rooms. This certainly is beneficial to the overall play value.

Speaking of which – the minifigures and extra bits are okay, but really nothing to write home about. I for instance totally don’t understand why those snowboards/ surfboards/ skateboards always have to be Lime Green. If they at least varied the color every now and then it might be more compelling. The same could be said for the skis. Would including a second pair i na different color really have been that much to ask? i feel that this would hugely help to sell those sets, both literally and figuratively speaking.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Front

One of the more important aspects that ultimately made me commit to this set is the selection of parts and in which colors they come. In that regard the set is superb. First there’s a decent helping of white slopes and even a white 8×8 plate, which brings me closer to actually building some nice iceberg/ ice cave if I ever should intend to do so. Similarly, the brown parts sure will be handy for that project that one specific still rattles around in my skull and that hopefully I might finally get started this year (New Year’s resolutions, you know! 😉 )

The tan windows, the grey bricks and the Dark Bluish Grey plates are also universally usable, so there’s lots to love. You even get a total of five antenna poles – one in black, the rest in grey – plus some flags, which makes this a very good set to source parts for your own projects. Did I mention that the ski poles for the figures are in gold? Now imagine how nice the will look on a church or castle roof…

The only items that stand out like an eyesore are the Dark Purple plates and perhaps the Medium Azure door. It might have been better to use Medium Flesh or something like that for both situations. Finally there’s a hidden little gem by ways of 2×1 Dark Brown plates being used on the undersides of the little outside table. Those are quite rare and expensive to buy on Bricklink, so I’ll gladly take each and everyone I can get my hands own “for free”.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Back

Building the set should not pose any difficulty, though the lower “box” will be very unstable for quite a while until you add the long beams on top. This is because you are basically just building separate columns to leave room for the modular inserts. Therefore there’s no contiguous layer of bricks anywhere nor can you rely on the window frames contributing to the stability of your walls. That’s why I’m not friends with this technique as I already explained way back then with the LEGO Store (40305). On a geek level it’s a nice engineering feat, but it’s simply impractical when you handle the models or want to play with them.

Given the structure of the building it also doesn’t really contribute much. If you truly wanted to change the arrangement, you’d also have to touch other parts and shuffle them around, so there seems no point. It feels like the designers were just showing off when they could have used conventional building techniques. This impression is furthered by the fact that the secondary models also would require major reworking and don’t benefit from this modular approach. If you get my drift: It would make sense if you just would swap out the inserts, but not if you basically need to rebuild the whole thing, anyway. Whether you ever bother to do so is another question.

The alternate models are okay, but only use a fraction of the parts and don’t look particularly exciting, either. In my thinking they also only make sense in terms of storytelling if you buy two or three sets. Somehow you always need a bigger building as the homebase, not just the small ice track gate house or the alpine emergency hut. Having a second set at hand would also help to make the bob sleigh in the second model a bit more attractive and consistent by swapping out some parts. Had they included a separate set of slopes in a different color (and ultimately a few extra parts to flesh it out) this could have been a highlight of the set.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Modules

In summary this is a lovely set, but you need to have a certain mindset. The subject is simply too specific. In essence it really only works now during winter season and I’m pretty sure most people would just ignore it the rest of the year. There are also some unnecessary shortcomings/ design flaws where LEGO didn’t go the full mile and the potential has been squandered. Now that I think about it, how about a second bob sled for a little competition? You see, it’s those small things. Still, I absolutely feel I got my money’s worth due to the excellent selection of parts and that’s good enough for me. Your mileage may vary, though.