November TIE-Up

Nobody likes price hikes, so the November issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine now costing 4.20 Euro instead of the previous 3.99 was not a pleasant surprise at the newsstand. As long as there is some good value attached that 5 percent increase would acceptable, though, so let’s see if that does add up.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2019, Cover

For me this is determined primarily by the parts included in the mini build and I have to say it’s pretty good this time around. There of course have been any number of small scale TIE Fighters already and one would think that this subject has been done to death, but the one included with the mag surprises with yet another novel approach. That is in particular how the large cooling panels (a.k.a. wings) are attached inverted by ways of the new T-style brackets. Logically then on a symmetrical model you get two of those. To somewhat cover up the now exposed undersides of the plates you also get four inverted tiles and it never hurts to have those, either, be it just to make your model undersides scratch-proof to prevent damage while the are standing on your table. all nice stuff to have from a builder’s perspective.

The comics don’t tie in with a specific story line from the movies and thus function independently, with clear references to The Force Awakens and The Empire Strike Back, however. They’re both drawn in the new, more dynamic style and here’s hoping that this will be the new norm. The posters are also pretty good and I’m almost tempted to put up the first order pilots one just for giggles. If you care remember there is a commercial, quite similar poster out there and it could be funny to have them side by side. The games and puzzles feel a bit light in this issue. I admittedly have no idea how long a simplistic dice-based strategy game with only a handful of planets to conquer can keep your kids distracted, though…

September Trooper

With the magic 50th issue in August, the race up to the next fifty is now on with the September edition of the LEGO Star Wars magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2019, Cover

To celebrate that anniversary, belated as it may be, someone figured it might be a good idea to include a Stormtrooper minifigure. People are clamoring for this all the time and this seems to be so much in demand, they likely could bundle another variant with every second issue without the subject ever being covered to the point of getting stale. In this instance it’s not the “cool one”, though, with it actually being a First Order version rather than one from the original first movies, which most aficionados still prefer.

Still, not a bad move if you have bought any of the sets for one of the movies in the last three or four years and want to bolster your troops. In fact I would predict that quite a few people will buy more than one copy of the mag. With those figures being in such high demand everywhere, prices on Bricklink are not necessarily cost-effective to build larger line-ups and in the end the math could add up, even if paying 4 Euro for a figure may seem steep at first.

The rest of the magazine once more is indicative of the meandering back and forth between “barely acceptable” to “okay” to “almost good” in terms of the quality of the comics, posters and puzzles, all very apparently depending on which team took responsibility for any given month. This one falls in the upper half of this range and therefore isn’t that bad. I always like it when in particular the puzzles are reasonably complex and not dumbed down as if only three-year-olds read the mag.

Failed Jump – 75178

While I’ll always be a mostly Technic LEGO guy, it gets boring at times, especially in light of the recent run of rather mediocre Technic sets. That’s why it’s nice to deviate and explore other branches from time to time for a bit of variety.

Now I’m a Star Wars fan as much as the next guy, but don’t consider myself one of those über-nerds. I appreciate the original movies, but never got fully hooked, just like I consider the prequel trilogy a guilty pleasure for some of its ideas and I even found myself watching Clone Wars and Rebels occasionally on TV. Still, none of that was ever so important to me that I couldn’t have lived without it. Only the recent movies under Disney‘s reign have invigorated my interest in Star Wars as a whole and while you could endlessly debate their Pros and Cons, you have to at least give props to that.

Inevitably of course LEGO always follows suit and churns out kits for every new movie or series to the point where the ideas are so paper-thin and repetitive, it gets in itself boring. That makes it difficult for occasional builders like me to find some good affordable models that are not based on just lumping together a ton of angled black or grey panels. For me being ever conscious about cost out of necessity it’s also an important point that the sets contain parts that could possibly be re-used for later projects and add something new to the collection.

In this case the many cylindrical parts, the fins and several silvery parts fitted the bill and thus I opted for the Jakku Quadjumper (75178) from The Force Awakens.

This particular spacecraft is of course barely seen in the movie itself – it only stands around in the background at Unkar Plutt‘s scrapyard and then is immediately is shot down as Finn and Rey try to reach it as a means of escape. This makes it difficult to judge who realistic it is, but some concept art seems to confirm that within the expected limitations it is a fair rendition. It of course makes almost no sense engineering-wise – those four engines would be real fuel-guzzlers, yet the ship is way too small to hold any notable quantities of propellant – but that’s a different matter entirely.

The set contains the aforementioned movie characters as minifigures plus some generic baddie only described as Unkar‘s henchman, a Stormtrooper and of course BB-8. I don’t have too much use for them, but who knows? If I wait long enough they might be worth a few pennies one of these days.

Construction of the model is pretty straightforward since you essentially build all sub-assemblies separately and then just plug them on to the central cabin part via simple pin connections that match the holes in the cylindrical parts. The center piece is intentionally scruffy looking with parts in multiple colors, but in my opinion it could have looked better had they opted to build the model at a larger scale. It’s also very crammed, furthering the impression that this thing could never actually fly.

The glass canopy and doors/ lids in the front and rear can be opened, though personally I don’t think it makes much sense in terms of realism nor am I friends with those ratcheted mini-hinges. Same as before – if it were larger it would have looked more believable. this theme also continues on the undercarriage, which is just an affair of flat bricks and tiles instead of at least being a bit on stilts/ hydraulic pistons.

My pet peeve is the ugly ball knob that drives a lever as a means of pushing off the upper two engines. Sort of an emergency jettison system, if you get the idea. It works okay, but isn’t particularly convincing. It probably should be spring-loaded and then you could use a simple tap release to have the parts jump away in a snazzy fashion. Yet another of those things that might be worth some re-engineering effort one day.

The engine nacelles are really just a bunch of different cylindrical parts stacked together and then capped off with the silver wheel hubs. The details are again attached via pins, micro-hinges and some SNOT converters, which is sufficient, but not very sturdy. You can even see this in part on the photos – just accidentally touching some parts will misalign them.

This being my first Star Wars-ian model, after all, I’m not as dissatisfied as it may sound, just not perfectly happy, either. This is a nice compact model that can be assembled, handled and stowed away easily, which my LEGO side likes a lot, I just don’t feel that my Star Wars side would see it the same way if I were a “pure” collector.

Most notably the scale is too small to really capture the proportions and allow for a more robust construction, which in turn also might have made for some increased play value by ways of a larger aft bay and cockpit. Not that it’s particularly critical, given that the spacecraft doesn’t even have any significant role in the movie. It’s just that one can’t help but feel that at least for enthusiasts that wanted a good replica of the genuine article it could have been approached differently…