Horned Killer – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, July 2022

Outside it’s hot like on Tatooine, so it is oddly fitting that this month’s issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine also sort of touches upon this iconic location, if only tangentially in a very “think around five corners” sense. After all Darth Maul only was there rather briefly. ­čśë

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, Cover

The first comic once more brings up the question of whether Vader doesn’t have anything better to do all day than coming up with weird ideas and pestering his underlings. I mean, if I was the second most powerful person in The Empire I’d sure know a lot of better ways to spend my time than trying to build something as impossible as an AT-ST and TIE Fighter hybrid…

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, Comic

The second comic inevitable loops back to Darth Maul and his adventures ever since they brought him back for The Mandalorian to get entangled in some encounters with the eponymous guy and his brethren. That and of course his presence is teased left and right in other recent Star Wars series just as well, at least from what I can gather.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, Comic

I haven’t spotted anything noteworthy in the activities section as the few puzzles and quizzes are just very ordinary standard fare. the posters are okay. I elected to show the back side for its graphical clarity and it actually looks quite good in reality, even though the colors are too bright and technically “wrong”. The front poster could be just as good, had they made an effort to clean it up and do a pit of overpainting on top of the “crusty paint” Photoshop filter cascade. Since they haven’t, it’s a bit of a missed opportunity.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, ExtraThe “that evil guy” minifigure seems to be exactly the same as in the Duel on Mandalore (75310) set, one of those with barely any substantive parts to speak of and clearly designed to mostly sell the Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano minifigures to collectors. Therefore this is a good opportunity to just get the red devil if you don’t want to shell out the full money. By LEGO standards the print quality is actually quite good this time, as, despite slightly darkening on the black background, the Red is bright enough. That is something that cannot be taken for granted, unfortunately. So you’re getting some pretty decent value this time around.

Overall this is an okay issue, but if you have no interest in the minifigure it will be of limited value. The rest of the content isn’t worth much and regrettably doesn’t even make for a good distraction while sizzling in the sun…

Probing the Snow? – LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306)

I had hoped that this little beauty would arrive a bit earlier so I could have written my article on it last week instead of the one I actually did, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. The package got stuck in the warehouse and due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances suffered further delays when it was supposed to be delivered. So only now can I tell you about he LEGO Star Wars Imperial Probe Droid (75306).

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Box

Pricing and Contents

The set is part of LEGO‘s new line of collectible items. People have attributed it to fit in the various helmets/ masks/ cowls series found in Star Wars and Super Heroes, but that’s not really an official designation nor is there such a series explicitly named in such a manner. It’s more implied by similarities in building style, identical design solutions and techniques, number of pieces, packaging and price point. Even then this set is by all means an outlier simply because of its different structure and appearance.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Overview, Front

The set officially retails for 70 Euro for 683 pieces, which is quite a chunk of change, especially once you consider that many parts are really just small 1 x 1 or 1 x 2 elements. It really shows that LEGO are betting on fans being willing to pay almost any price. It would not have hurt if they shaved off 10 Euro right from the start, be that just to bring it in line with the usual 60 Euro for the helmets. That in and of itself is of course still a hefty price tag, but let’s save this discussion for another time. However, in contrast to the helmets this model has much more volume and visible details, so at least you feel like you are getting a better deal in contrast to the other sets where many elements are used invisibly inside and are only shimmed over with relatively few other parts for the outward appearance.

Effectively I got this set for 48 Euro, which at the time of writing was/ is the best price, equaling around 33 percent discount. I actually sat down at 6 PM for an Internet-based live flash sale for the first time ever in my life on May the 4th to snatch up a copy. It’s an oddly exciting, but also exhausting and potentially frustrating way to buy stuff, because ultimately you never know if it really worked until you get the final confirmation and the goods are shipped. I had a bad gut feeling for a few days after that (in addition, but totally unrelated to my pre-existing intestinal issues caused by my chronic illness) and really only began to relax when the post mistress handed me over my parcel after all that kerfuffle.

The set has only been released in March and so far is proving to be very popular, so you should not expect any notable discounts beyond that until quite some time later this year. It will take a while before everyone who wanted is gets this set and LEGO‘s ongoing supply issues taper off. On average you can expect to pay around 55 Euro for this set, which is still not a great price-to-value ratio, but acceptable within the crazy world of LEGO Star Wars. Further discounts may of course be possible during special promos, but you should not expect too much.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Overview, Back

From a different perspective one of the questions I can’t get out of my head is of course whether they could have added more content to justify the price and pretty obviously the answer to that would be a resounding “Yes!”. I mean there’s a rather elaborate snow bank already, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that in place of the plaque it just as well could hold a Tauntaun and/ or Luke and Han minifigures in their winter-y Hoth garments.

There hasn’t been a (molded) Tauntaun in years and even under worst conditions a lot of people would have rejoiced to get one with only minor refinements like a print perhaps. Ideally they would have done a new mold, admittedly, and I’m sure this alone would have amped up hype around this set to crazy levels. LEGO could of sold stacks of this set on that alone.

The Snow Bank

One of the pleasant surprises in this set is the stand. Unlike the helmets’ conventional plinth-like construction it is modeled after a snow bank as already mentioned a few times. It gently slopes from one side to the other. Because of its width it also doubles as a holder for the info plaque. As usual I did not use any stickers, so mine is blank, but I would not consider this an issue. The truth is that I would just leave of the large tile completely and also replace the ratcheted hinge plates it is affixed to, with the real point being that the assembly causes a bit of tension in the base and thus the right hand side bends slightly upwards. This reduces overall stability and simply does not look good.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Plaque

The snow bank consists of around 100 elements, including a considerable number of 1 x 4 slopes and several rounded/ wedge slopes to shape the mound and also give the appearance of a wind-blown pile of snow with its incline indicating the direction. Personally I feel that the whole thing could┬á have been a bit larger and more parts covered with smooth elements, but of course it’s always easy to ask for more.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Snow Bank, Front Left View

Still, one of the problems can’t be denied and that’s that the plaque gets in the way of the droid arms and vice versa. It should definitely be offset more to the left and leave a sufficient gap so the arms don’t touch it, no matter what position. To me this seems like an unnecessary shortcoming and oversight and I would extend the construction and insert some more elements. While at it I would also add another layer of plates or even bricks underneath the main “ice shelf”. Not only would this help to counter any potential bending issues, but also add more weight which is always helpful for stability.

An interesting detail is the mounting hole for the droid’s pole, which is actually not a plug connection, but really only an insert with the walls surrounding it ensuring it doesn’t topple over.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Snow Bank, Plug Hole

The Probe Droid

Interestingly enough, the droid barely makes an appearance in the Star Wars universe, yet it is one of those iconic designs that you immediately recognize. It can only be seen briefly in The Empire Strikes Back and even less in The Phantom Menace. Beyond that it seems to be in some games as a floating target that can be sliced with the light saber or shot at, but I don’t know much about that, since my gamer days are long over.

There are of course limitation to re-creating such a complex shape with LEGO, but overall this is a successful rendition of the original. It credibly replicates the multi-eyed spider/ insect look for the head and the dangly arms. From a distance it indeed conveys this feeling of a heavy medusa/ jellyfish┬á and looks the part. However, truth be told I think this model would have benefited from being built at an even larger scale. I haven’t mentioned this in a long time, but yes, this is a perfect example of where my 150% rule would apply.

The arms could and should be longer and would still look more elegant and slim and the head could have more details and better approximations of some curves. Most importantly this would also have fixed the single most critical issue I have with this model: The central ring/ body. It is a bit too thick here and the gaps a bit too wide. Increasing the overall radius and inserting more slopes would have mitigated this problem. It would also improve the model in that it would be harder to see some of the colored pieces on the inside. Those are used for spacial orientation and distinguishing the different sides. Substituting them for consistently grey parts would be easy, though.

Admittedly, when talking about a larger scale we are almost talking UCS levels here and the parts count might easily have increased by 200 or 300 pieces, bringing the price up further. Therefore take this as my personal opinion, not so much a general flaw with the model. I just don’t know. That’s likely one of those compromises you have to live with on a commercial set…

The robotic arms/ tentacles do the trick from afar, but technically are still way too crude once you get up close. It really matters from which angle you are looking at the model or for that matter how everything is posed. Some positions look interesting, others not so much and a commonly shared issue is that just misaligning a single element like one of the prongs of a claw can make a huge difference. Again, the amount of detail is limited by the scale and in addition I found the actual building process a bit tedious and challenging. You have to be extra careful to align things or else things will look like crap.

This also goes for the elements from  the Super Heroes weapons pack which are extensively used in this set to get some effects that otherwise would be nearly impossible like changing angles or attaching symmetrical elements from both sides. one would hope that they used this more often even in regular sets, as it really allows some interesting stuff.

The drone’s head is mounted on a turntable and can rotate a full 360 degrees just like the original so it can point its sensors and sensor arrays in every direction (though funny enough one of them gets easily taken down by Han Solo). Since I bought the model only after the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery (10283) came out, I was immediately reminded that this droid, too, could have made excellent use of the new “pancake” pieces, the 3 x 3 quarter dishes above the cockpit. Mega Construx has had them for years and they really solve so many problems with smooth, gently curved rounded surfaces. It’s about time LEGO finally have them as well.

Parts Galore!

As you well know, obsessing about new and rare parts is a bit of a thing for me, and this model scratches that itch just as well. Aside from the already mentioned weapons pack in Pearl Dark Grey this model provides a plethora of Dark Bluish Grey and Black parts for your pleasure. This is of course out of sheer necessity because everything safe for some structural parts on the inside is pretty much visible. I’m pretty certain LEGO would have loved to throw a colorful mess of their surplus parts stock at us if only there was a way. Well, let’s be grateful for small things and not least because of this set we now get this robot head cone and the rounded corner brick in a new color.


Concluding Thoughts

Overall this is a pretty nice model once it’s finished. getting there is another story, as the build process drags on quite a bit. you have to invest the time to align and orient some elements so they look correct and you also mustn’t underestimate how time-consuming assembly of the arms and other tiny bits is. The result is rewarding and makes up for this trial in patience, though. This is pretty much as good as it gets and until LEGO may come out with a reissue of this set in a few years which uses newer parts this sets an example of what’s possible. The level of detail is really astounding.

That said, there are a few caveats. It’s perfectly clear that this is a display model and therefore some things are a bit flimsy. I in particular really don’t like how loosely the arms dangle around. They don’t fall off or anything, it’s just hard to get them in a stable position that looks nice. There’s also a slight imbalance due to the uneven weight distribution, causing the model to tilt to the side depending on the arm configuration. These are all tiny details that need to be handled carefully or you genuinely fix them with some re-engineering of certain areas.

On the whole, though, I would recommend this model despite it’s high price to anyone who like me likes “visible functions” and technical-looking models with exposed hydraulics,┬á pneumatics and all sorts of nuts and bolts.

The Not-AAT – LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank [AAT] (75283)

My love-hate relationship with LEGO Star Wars is really getting weirder with every set I buy as I’m realizing that despite new stuff being added e.g. based on the The Mandalorian series I realize I care less and less. I totally blame this on the sets becoming less attractive in terms of construction and how they ultimately look while prices reaching crazy levels. That is at least in the lower price tiers I move around.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Box

The Armored Assault Tank [AAT] (75283) is one such case, unfortunately. The version, or more specifically color variant in this set, can be briefly seen in the Revenge of the Sith Kashyyyk attack sequence in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment and I’m pretty sure it also appears in The Clone Wars and other later materials based on the prequels. The more regular ocre-/ tan-colored version is of course more prominent, be that the final battle in The Phantom Menace or other such occasions. However, despite all this there is surprisingly little information on the vehicle, except for one thing that is certain:

AAT mini Mk. IV e or what?

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Overview

The elephant in the room is of course that this has nothing to do with a “real” AAT as actually present in the movies and series – not by any stretch of the imagination. If at all, this would qualify as a heavily redesigned next version, a smaller side version or simply a newly constructed vehicle based on the same principles. The irony here is that in fact I quite like it to some degree, as the larger turret and less ellipsoid overall appearance give it its own unique and distinct look, but it just bears zero resemblance to the original vehicles. It might still have looked cool next to its bigger brothers, though.

The Minifigures

One of the reasons I got over myself and bought the set are – drumroll – for this rare occasion the minifigures. As you know from other posts I don’t proactively collect them, but if I stumble upon one that I like and may want to use later, I keep them around.

Of course the main appeal here is Ahsoka. she had been done a couple of times in the past, but I feel that this is the first time ever her specific appearance with in particular her striped hood has been captured correctly. Can’t help it, but the figure just is extremely nice. Predictably, its popularity can only grow now that the character has appeared in The Mandalorian and a dedicated Ahsoka series has been announced for Disney+ as well. I’m pretty sure we’ll see lots of different versions from here on, but this is a good basis, no matter what.

In addition to Ahsoka herself we also get her personal bodyguard/ companion clone trooper for the first time, making this even more desirable. I’ve seen people on Facebook buying the set just for that and prices on Bricklink are also pretty crazy already. Finally there are two more Kashyyk droids, which are also kind of rare and fetch a good price. Earlier this year I sold some to someone intent on building a diorama with entire squadrons of them and apparently he had swept clean a lot of the market from the more affordable resellers already. So for all intents and purposes, it could be pretty easy to re-finance the whole set if you find people interested in the figures that you could sell them to.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Minifigures

Parts Cornucopia

In my world figures are nice, but parts that expand my portfolio are better, so let’s have a look at that as well. As you may guess from the sub-headline, the set doesn’t fare badly in this department. Many of the pieces, while not necessarily exclusive to this set, are relatively rare and either appear for the first time at all, have not been available in a long time or only in a handful of sets or are included in more significant numbers than previously in other sets. The individual parts are:

As always the point for me is to get as many of those pieces in one place instead of having to scrape them together from Bricklink or other sources at even greater cost and in that regard this set delivers. For me even more so since it has a few other parts that I didn’t have before like the curved wedges in Light Bluish Grey or the Dark Blue dishes. It’s all good stuff to have around just in case you may need it one day and you can’t go wrong with it.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Front Left View

The Price is still wrong

In light of the previous two chapters one might think that this is good value for money, but sadly it is not. For a bunch of pieces that essentially would fit into the volume of a slightly enlarged Rubik’s Cube, meaning a very small model that without its protruding gun barrels is 15 cm long, 15 cm wide and 15 cm tall, LEGO want you to pony up 40 Euro. That’s a big “No, Sir!” on my part and I can only once more conclude that they are pulling the prices for their sets out of their asses or throwing the dice in a drinking game. It’s just not worth that and seems ridiculous.

So once more I was biding my time until the set was closer to what I wanted it to be. At around 27 Euro I took the plunge, though I would have preferred for it to drop below the 25 Euro threshold. However, in the craziness that the year 2020 that seemed unlikely, given that there are genuine supply problems with LEGO vs. an extraordinarily high demand and so I didn’t put it off too long in order to not lose the advantage. Still, let me make it clear that I think that 25 Euro is actually the “real” price I would like to see this being sold for. Aside from a few larger parts and the minifigures there’s just not enough volume to justify more.

Deceitful Appearances

The reason why the model lacks volume and by extension thus can never be even close to an accurate representation of the real thing quickly becomes apparent when you swivel around it and view it from different angles. What looks okay from the front such as the big curved armored hull quickly falls apart when viewed from its rear side. It lacks all the transitional areas and worst of all exposes the raw underlying construction. This continues throughout the mid section of the turret, which similarly only looks good from the front, but when viewed from behind just looks like they ran out of pieces to cover it up.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Aft Left View

Worse, still, this section is not accessible from the rear because due to the small size of the model they had to use the space for a double-width window frame that acts as the support for the top section.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Aft Right View

As hinted earlier, the turret is way to big, most notably simply too wide. However, you have to give the designers some props for at least trying. The problem here is that on the real thing this is a very complicated shape with complex curvatures situated very far aft on the vehicle. In fact from a “real” military standpoint this probably would not make a lick of sense on an actual tank with it tipping over every time the turret is rotated off-center or from the recoil when it fires a charge. It’s one of those fictional things that would easily be defeated by actual physics.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Front Right View

Anyway, for all intents and purposes the turret should not be any wider than the extended handle it’s situated on and I feel that this is a typical case where the LEGO side of things got too much in the way. I think they were too bent on making the cannon movable and then ran into trouble getting enough stability in there, so they had to make things bigger. See what happened here?

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Left View with elevated Gun

The gun can be elevated and swiveled around 180 degrees, but as I mentioned that probably isn’t realistic to begin with and in the movies I haven’t seen the tanks fire anything but directly forward. It’s a nice play feature for the kids at least, but really not much more than that. On some level that also extends to “those other guns”, which are actually range finders and small lasers for self defense. they look rather crude on the model and the ugly black color doesn’t help. At least I’m glad they didn’t eliminate all antennas because, as you know, all the droids are remotely connected to their control ships in orbit. The silver rapier sticks out a bit too much, though.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Left Top View with elevated Gun

Adding to the play value is the ability to at least place the two droids that come with the set in the interior. Not in the technically correct positions, but let’s be grateful for small things.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Interior Details


Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately this set fits the recent pattern of overpriced Star Wars sets whose value is primarily driven by the minifigures included while the models at best are adequate, but not great renditions of the originals they represent. This scheme becomes even more devious when figures are scattered across different sets. That is thankfully not the case here at least with no other specific The Clone Wars sets being available and requiring you to take out the purse just to get some company for Ahsoka, but this doesn’t make the situation any less unfulfilling.

As I already wrote, the tank itself is just fine. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the Star Wars universe and even on it’s strict LEGO merits merely comes across as an uninspired run-off-the-mill job more than anything the designers put much effort in. It’s what in the media and graphics design industry we would call an “intern job” hacked together on a lazy afternoon, or in this case a recycled design from a few years ago that wasn’t correct then and isn’t correct now despite minor modifications and updates thanks to new parts.

The irony here is of course that I can neither advise pro or against the set, as it has its merits. Some will love the minifigs, others like me may see this as a good chance to rake in some interesting pieces and all the combinations inbetween. The only thing you really need to wipe from you mind is that the model has anything to do with a Star Wars AAT and in that regard it’s a complete fail.

April Infiltration

A certain virus is infiltrating the world and the Sith are to blame for it! No, of course I’m just kidding around. It’s true, though, the April issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine comes with a mini model of the Sith Infiltrator spacecraft, if minus a Darth Maul figure.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2020, Cover

Though barely even visible in The Phantom Menace, the ship has become somewhat notorious and a fan favorite on its own. Once you actually do your research the shape is immediately recognizable even though personally I think LEGO has not been very successful in capturing it in one of their many attempts, neither in big sets nor as a Microfighter. As far as that goes, this version is kind of okay, but without the name printed on the front page it would be hard to discern what it is supposed to be. I’m not going to complain about a “free” goodie, but it definitely lacks volume in the aft section.

On the bright side, and for me the highlight of this little package, it comes with the new 3×3 dome piece introduced with the The LEGO Movie 2 sets last year, specifically the Unikitty & Friends set (70822). The grey version so far has only been used in the Trafalgar Square (21045) set in the Architecture line, so this is extremely valuable if you are a MOC builder and may warrant a purchase of the magazine for that reason alone. It may just take a bit to hunt it down given the current situation out there.

I’m certainly past the core demographic age, but the comics are quite appealing. The main comic ties into the failed Solo film and thus feels a bit like recycling content that they had produced for it and didn’t want to throw away, however, I must admit. The posters are okay and the games/ puzzles can occupy your time for a few minutes. In a time where many people are stuck at home for weeks on end one should be thankful for small diversions.