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).
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.
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.
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.
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 have been a bit larger and more parts covered with smooth elements, but of course it’s always easy to ask for more.
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.
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 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.
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.
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, pneumatics and all sorts of nuts and bolts.