Explorer-ing… Mighty Machines – LEGO Explorer Magazine, February 2023

While it seems that the apocalypse has been cancelled for the LEGO Explorer magazine in the sense that it hasn’t been send to the pasture for good, something is fishy in Denmark in the quite literal sense. Imagine that: The next issue is scheduled for end of March! They are seriously stretching the publication cycle as a cost saving measure. This means we’ll effectively only be getting six issues this year, if at all. It must really be selling poorly or paper has gotten super expensive… Anyway, let’s move on and see what we have here.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2023, Cover

This issue is about “mighty machines”, which in the world of a child of course simply means they are big/ bigger than others. As it is, we therefore only get a rather generic and loose selection of a few specialized vehicles, ships, machines and so on. It’s way too broad to really dig into the specifics of one of them, which is always what massively diminishes the value of these editorial pages. I’m sure that even if you don’t nerd out completely, a detailed view at a tunnel drilling machine or one of those super size mining excavators would be more than enough to fill one magazine.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2023, Info Page

The comic takes a spin on the agricultural theme introduced in City last year and looks oddly familiar, especially after having built the Farmer’s Market Van (60345) with its strip of field.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2023, Comic

The poster depicts a bunch of super cars/ hyper cars. It’s not necessarily my favorite subject, but at least it looks reasonably tasteful and fits the “mighty” topic on some level.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2023, Poster

The extra is the small blue tractor seen in the comic. It’s more of a lawnmower tractor rather than a real one for real field work, but serviceable. I intentionally mounted the main wheels the other way around, as tractors usually have hollow wheel hubs with the nuts visible, not spoked ones. The designer of the model and/ or the comic artist got this wrong.

All things considered, this is a rather hum-ho edition and I’m afraid if things don’t improve, they will never get out of their slump and won’t convince more people to buy the mag. It’s okay for what it is, but they really need to improve. The only consolation this time was that the thing came with two polybags as apparently they have tons of those from unsold previous issues. I got another skull, but yours may contain a different model. It’s not completely “free”, though. They ramped up the price by an extra euro for that.

All I see is Rainbows! – LEGO City Magazine, July 2021

The weather has been much more regular this year with more rain making for a fresh, flowery spring and wouldn’t you know it, the grass is growing rapidly everywhere just as well. Everybody is dusting off their lawnmower tractors and since most of them can also be fitted with other utility attachments such as sweeper brushes this makes for an interesting story hook in the LEGO City magazine for July 2021.

LEGO Magazine, City, July 2021, Cover

This little twist gets another twist with the comic being based around some mysterious rainbow-colored mass, identified as ice, flooding the city and needing to be cleared out. Not only are people encouraged to eat as much as they can, but this also requires some technical assistance with the mentioned little tractor. Not the most credible story, but there you go.

The more interesting thing is the actual rainbow theme itself. With June also being (LGBTIQ+) pride month, this is either the weirdest cosmic coincidence in the universe or the boldest prank someone pulled on his editor in chief under his very nose. It’s of course not that relevant for the kids and one shouldn’t get carried away with too wild theories, but as a gay person myself I just had to giggle and had to mention it here.

The whole thing is repeated on the poster and I was half expecting the protagonist to wave a rainbow flag. On the bright side, they feature a wheelchair-bound character and inclusion and integration of special needs people is just as important a societal issue, so props for that. One would hope that things like that become more frequent in the LEGO world as some kind of “new normal”.

LEGO Magazine, City, July 2021, Poster

Unfortunately the little tractor makes for a rather lackluster buildable extra, as really nobody went out of their way here in a very obvious fashion. This is as basic as they come. The model is way too stubby, meaning too flat and too short and feels more like a DIY conversion of a small pushable lawnmower (such as they use them for those weird fun racing contests) than a genuine utility tractor for serious work.

If it wasn’t for the rainbow theme that really gave me some kick and put a broad grin on my face this would be an utterly forgettable issue. It really hasn’t anything extraordinary to offer and doesn’t even try to do something special. You know, they could have thrown in a bunch or random 1 x 2 plates in all those rainbow colors or even as transparent versions for the tractor to clean up at least. You’re really not missing anything if you decide to skip over this issue…

(Not so) Little Red Tractor – LEGO City, Tractor (60284)

As you may have recognized already, I rarely do buy LEGO City sets for apparent reasons like the age demographic they target vs. complexity and overall usefulness of parts and similar. However, every now and then something comes along that tingles my taste buds or intrigues me and that’s how I ended up with this year’s Tractor (60284) edition.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Box

Some form of tractor is basically always part of each year’s line-up, but this particular small/ mid-size red tractor type hasn’t been done in a while with the most recent references that would be at least somewhat similar and that I could dig up going back to 2009 and 2011, respectively.

Pricing and Contents

Let me get the first thing out of the way: Though I’m very critical of LEGO‘s overblown pricing, this can’t be applied here. As much as I may want to find something to complain or niggle about, I really can’t. True, I’m hedging my bets on the usual discounts, but even at full price this is good value. There are only 143 pieces, but many of them are quite large. The tires and bucket alone contribute notably to the initial cost and then there’s three clear pieces, some large arches and a few other goodies. If you will: It’s one of the few cases where one can see where the money went.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Overview

That said, of course there’s no harm in trying to get this set as cheaply as possible. I got mine for 15 Euro, which is already five Euro off the suggested retail price of 20 Euro. I would predict that during a promotion e.g. for the upcoming Easter holidays it may get closer to 12 Euro, but you shouldn’t expect more and it’s really not necessary to get too miserly about this.

Minifigures and Extras

The set comes with two minifigures which are actually quite nice. The young dad and his daughter (?) both wear dungarees in different colors, which is a common practical attire for farmers and gardeners. The prints are not super fancy, but provide enough detail to sell the story. There are some minor alignment issues with the prints and legs, something which is particularly obvious with the white torso of the girl peeking out under the blue, but overall it is within acceptable tolerances. The faces and hair styles are standard types you probably already have seen several times, but they work well here

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Minifigures

The white rabbit is a bit of an oddity. I’m not complaining that it is included at all, given that it is still a somewhat rare little creature not found in many sets. It’s just that it feels a bit out of place, with my point here being that other than the girl’s play pet it doesn’t exactly make much sense. Assuming the farmer were into rabbit breeding there would have to be more to form at least a small huddle. If it was supposed to be a wild rabbit disturbed by the tractor or lured in by the carrots it would have to be a different color, obviously. The latter would of course have been something also useful on the domesticated variants. Imagine having a Reddish Brown, Tan, Dark Tan or Black rabbit or one with colored patches printed on! Maybe it’s time for LEGO to do such a set? In any case, I’m a bit foggy on the reasoning here.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Extras

In addition to the figures there’s a crate with some fruit and vegetables, those being a red apple, the already mentioned carrots and a pumpkin. Seasonally that puts the set into late fall, which is the only time all these are actually available at the same time. That’s another of those little weird inconsistencies once you start to think about it. The corrugated cardboard (?) boxes are based on a new piece, so without further ado let’s have a look at them.

New Parts

In addition to the overall good value one thing that attracted me to this set were a few new LEGO pieces that only have seen the light of the in the first 2021 sets. It’s not so much that I felt I would miss something as I’m pretty sure we’ll see them used quite a bit in a widespread manner soon enough, but my curiosity got the better of me and I grabbed the opportunity to check them out and add them to my parts stock by buying this set.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), New Parts

To me the most useful addition is the ribbed modified brick. Yes, naturally it’s structured sides will come in handy on buildings and technical stuff to mimic all sorts of cooling rips, chiseled bricks and so on. However, one thing this element might become more popular for is, that it gives you a simple way to substitute two 2 x 2 plates that have to be layered. Depending on how often a model uses such stacks this can greatly help to avoid some tedious building and more importantly also minimize tension in the model, which with many plates on top of each other can be considerable.

The other item of interest is the brick with the pin hole. The conventional 1 x 2 version has of course existed for forever, but now with another row of studs on a vertically centered plate extension it should be easier to integrate this in builds where you don’t want to get things too bulky just because you would need to lock the brick into place. Finally there’s the new upright 2 x 6 bracket introduced last year. There were two of them in White in the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444) and having at least one in Black now might come in handy, too.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), New Parts

The large tires are another novelty from this year and are otherwise only found in the LEGO Technic Jeep Wrangler (42122). The interesting thing about them is of course that in an interesting departure from LEGO‘s “Keep it simple!” approach with the tire treads being symmetrical and usable in all positions and orientations, this one has directional treads and you need to pay attention when mounting them on their rims as well as on the axles. The narrower, smaller tires don’t fall into that category, but for me are also a “first”, since they have only been used in some older sets I never bought. The most recent appears to be a Nexo Knights one from 2017, actually.

The excavator bucket is an improved version of an older model with two notable areas of enhancements: a) there’s a slightly raised ridge in the middle to strengthen the material and prevent breakage from too much stress and b) the ratcheted hinge having brought up to the new standard introduced late last year that changes the snapping behavior and angles to be more reliable, especially when using it as a static connection element.

The Tractor

The main build is of course the tractor. For a City set it ends up a pretty sizable affair at around 20 cm length plus 5 cm more for the bucket in the front. It’s almost just a tad too big to match the scale of other items in the series.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Front Left View

The construction process is pretty simple and straightforward as essentially you are building a two studs wide central block with a bunch of protrusions left and right. That’s why they had to use some of the new pieces to allow it to be so narrow. The build also uses an eclectic selection of other elements to similar effect, though personally I feel that they could have made it a little less messy in terms of colors used. When you have the same 1 x 2 x 2 brick with studs on the side in two different colors it just feels unnecessary, even if the ones in Tan are covered up and thus invisible. I guess it’s one of those things where some LEGO manager is mandating this use to evenly deplete their stockpile of parts.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Aft Left View

I have similar feelings about the mounting arm for the bucket, though I’m fully aware that some Technic parts like the axles only come in certain colors. It’s better to have uniform Light Bluish Grey than an even more messy mix of with Red and Black, I suppose. I don’t have an idea how this could have been improved, but the question of whether this could have been built differently undeniably still lingers in my mind. Might be worth a shot rummaging through my parts and seeing if I can find some exotic piece I haven’t thought of that would be perfect here.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Aft Right View

The rear end has multiple provisions for attaching towable gear, either with a ball joint/ axle hinge, a pin or a clip and any number of combinations of those, but as we all know LEGO do not offer separate kits of plows, sowing rigs, harvesters or even simple trailers, so you have to come up with something yourself. It might have been nice that they at least included a small open trailer as an example for people who aren’t that much into custom building. that may also have taken care of my earlier point with the rabbits. Doesn’t a portable rabbit hutch sound fantastic?

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Right View

From the side you can also see what is perhaps the one slightly more serious issue with the way the model is built – even though there is a sufficient gap between the glass pieces, there’s no realistic way to get a minifigure in there without removing the roof due to the large arches blocking access a bit too much. Not the end of the world, but a bit unfortunate since this all to often means you also inadvertently snap off other pieces. I really prefer proper “doors” where I just can slide in a minifig if I so desire.

LEGO City, Tractor (60284), Front View

The front looks a bit bland for my taste and could have done with some extra spot lights which many tractors have. I think I also would have preferred the front “weight” piece to not be a Technic axle holder. That could still be useful if you want to attach different equipment, but I think most people would prefer a winch for more play value.

Concluding Thoughts

At the end I still found some small things to bemoan, didn’t I? Still, I stand by what I said at the beginning: This is one of those rare LEGO sets that you can be perfectly happy with. The price is just right, it looks “real”, has some nice play value regardless and offers some potential for expanding it with custom equipment without too much of a fuss. There just could have been a bit more, which perhaps is the point: Even I wouldn’t have scoffed at a 25 Euro price point if there had been some extra rabbits, a few more crates and a small thing to attach to the tractor’s rear. Still, no matter what, you could do worse and this set is highly recommended if you even have a remote interest into the agricultural/ farming theme or are just looking for a robust playable vehicle for your little one.

April Lawnmower

It only seems like yesterday, but February is a short month, after all and with the LEGO City magazine now being published every month, here we are again already talking about the April issue.

LEGO Magazine, City, April 2019, Cover

Lawnmowing season isn’t in effect yet since it’s still too early for that here, but as I wrote last month, I was looking forward to this due to the little tractor being included. Of course you shouldn’t expect something marvelous – it’s by no accounts as fully formed as it possibly could have been and you can see where corners were cut with the bulk of the value being in the wheels and undercarriage parts. I for one wish they had at least included some bricks and curved slopes to form the typical snout.

The magazine itself is built around a football/ soccer theme with the comics and games taking a play at this, but for me that’s a complete miss. I simply don’t care much for this particular sport. I guess it’s okay, though, as clearly at least here in Europe, it’s the most popular pastime of many people and they have clubs even for toddlers. I suppose this shows how weird I am. *giggle* Anyway, I’m sure the target demographic gets its value out of it…

Little green Frog – 60181

I don’t usually do LEGO City, but how could I resist this particular little kit? Like it or not, it is way too reminiscent to the 42054 Claas Xerion in the Technic line for anyone at the LEGO headquarters to not lose some sleep because of that. You know, licensing and copyright stuff, possibly.

Lego 60181, Box

Having built the big version, the similarities are striking, though of course anyone would be hard-pressed to prove which Claas tractor model it is actually supposed to represent exactly. Personally I can’t wait to build the big version a second time (with the inevitable improvments and changes) and see both models side by side.

Lego 60181, Overview

While the overall stability is okay, I guess, it seems to me that the cockpit glazing is too easy to accidentally snap off, especially the front part. It would probably have been a good idea to add two of those little curved bits that have those overlapping stairs to add a bit more fixation.

Lego 60181, Left

In my opinion the actual play value is a bit limited. Other than just rolling it around on the floor there’ isn’t much you can do with this model, as the crane unit is also rather fragile and a pain in the rear to open the claws. Arguably, though, the version on the Technic model isn’t that great, either. At least here it looks elegant.

Lego 60181, Front

Though I may be dreaming, I think what really would have helped here is a bit more focus on the tree. I can’t quite figure what you would do with the small “Christmas tree” while on the other hand there’s already a considerable number of cylindrical elements for the stem segments of a chopped down tree. It’s ironic that they didn’t opt for the ribbed version, or I could have created a real long tree trunk with the additional parts from the Technic set. I’m almost tempted to just order more plant parts from Bricklink and build my own little pine/ fir.

Lego 60181, Rear

Naturally, this may be a one-off and I may never add another City model to my collection, but for what it is, this is not the worst model I’ve seen in this kid-oriented series. It’s almost too realistic to fit amongst the other kits there, but clearly I’m not the ultimatte authority on that.