Wednesday 26 January 2011


Ever wondered what 4287 LEGO pieces would look like if you threw them into 3 crates ? Well wonder no more and instead fix your gaze on the picture below, click to enlarge, and enjoy all the LEGO goodness.

4287 Pieces of LEGO.....
So in case you hadn't figured it out already, I finally got around to unboxing and starting to build Set 10214 Tower Bridge a few nights ago. Given it's size, there were a few things to consider prior to embarking upon the build, such as "Where will I be able to display it ?" and "Is there enough clear space on my desk to accommodate it during building ?" but eventually the urge to build overcame all sensible objections so I got down to it.
With a set this size, at least some rudimentary sorting prior to the build itself is essential to ensure that finding pieces doesn't become an intolerable chore, and as usual all small pieces (2 x 2 studs or less) were consigned to one clear crate, plates bigger than 2 x 2 studs to another, and everything else to a third, as you can see in the first picture above. Tan pieces predictably dominate the mix, together with a nice sprinking of Medium Blue, and also a fair bit of Medium Bluish Grey, Dark Bluish Grey, and White. The 556 Tan Cheese Slopes that this set includes deserve special mention, partly because this is the first set to ever include Tan Cheese Slopes at all, and secondly because of the sheer number of them. Yes, 556 - you did read that right.

The set comes with 3 decidedly slim instruction booklets (pictured above); this lack of bulk is largely explained by the degree of repetition in the build. All 3 booklets were unfortunately creased and bent to some extent having been lying awkwardly in the box. This is an all too common problem, and is not merely cosmetic - I found myself having to frequently flatten out Booklet 1 in particular as the corner kept curling up and I couldn't see some of the instructions. Not a hugely big deal, of course, but irritating nonetheless, and I would have hoped that the LEGO company would have found a satisfactory way of dealing with this common issue by now.

So what of the build itself ? Well, you start off by building the centre section of the bridge (pictures above) which opens like the real thing, and then move on to the two huge predominantly tan towers (work in progress pictures below).

A tower takes shape (step 27, first instruction booklet....)
Step 51 - end of Booklet 1
The picture immediately above corresponds to the end of the first instruction booklet, which is as far as I've got so far. So as you can see, I still have a long way to go. It's been a pleasant build, not too taxing and with lots of nice little details and interesting build techniques to hold the attention. I love the use of Technic pulley wheels for the corners of the towers, for instance, and all those tan cheese slopes are put to good use smoothing off the corners and making the structure look authentic, although the inevitable repetition that this involves is a little tedious.

I'll post again when I've made more progress, but so far so good - I'm enjoying the build, and it's already clear that the finished model is going to be awesome !

Tower Bridge review Part 2 -->

Friday 21 January 2011

Space !

I've always had a thing for LEGO Space sets. One of my very favourite sets as a kid was 928 Space Cruiser and Moonbase, and through the ages I've always been drawn to space-themed sets, be they one of the many Space Shuttles that LEGO have produced, the excellent if short-lived Discovery theme from 2003, and of course the Star Wars theme which I collect obsessively.

Set 928 - a big part of my love affair with LEGO Space....
I was therefore delighted to see that later this year, according to a NASA press release, LEGO will be giving us 4 "NASA-inspired sets" in the City theme, each of which will contain "NASA-inspired education materials". Images of these 4 sets have been circulating for some time, and now that they've been made available for pre-order by Amazon in the UK I thought it was about time I took a closer look.

As a massive fan of the real-life Space Shuttle, I really have to start my round-up with a look at the 2011 version. You can see a picture of Set 3367 Space Shuttle below :

First impressions are mixed. For sheer accuracy and resemblance to the real thing it looks pretty good, but this is in large part due to the use of a large, one-piece, custom-made cockpit section. I've made my views on such large pieces known very clearly in the past - I hate them and wish we could go back to brick-built alternatives (even at the expense of realism) - but it's the way the LEGO company are going at present as evidenced by the majority of aircraft and train sets over the past few years, so we're stuck with them. Otherwise the set looks OK, with opening bay doors, a satellite, a mechanical arm to manoeuvre the payload, and a cool astronaut minifig. Amazon is quoting a piece count of 217 and a pre-order price of £26.99 which is, to be honest, less than I was expecting.

The largest of the 2011 Space sets with 494 pieces is Set 3368 Rocket Station (picture above). It's somewhat reminiscent of a couple of older Space sets (Set 1682 Space Shuttle Launch, which I've previously written about, and Set 6339 Shuttle Launch Pad) in that it features a large red gantry. The big difference is obviously the huge rocket on the launch pad, in contrast to the Space Shuttles of old. In fact, I was surprised that the only older set I could think of featuring a large rocket on a launch pad with a gantry was Set 358 Rocket Base from 1973, which is still one of my all-time favourites, and was the subject of a previous blog entry. So we're well overdue another one ! Looking closely at the picture of the 2011 set, it also seems to suffer somewhat from "large piece syndrome", both with respect to the rocket and the launch gantry, but I do like the overall look of it anyway. It's showing as available for pre-order at Amazon at a price of £49.99 and is due for release on March 1st of this year.

Any excuse for a pic of Set 358 Rocket Base - inspiration for 2011's Rocket Station ?

The other 2011 City Space sets are Set 3366 Satellite Launch Platform and Set 3365 Space Moon Buggy. Pictures of these smaller sets, which are currently available for pre-order at Amazon at £13.99 and £3.99 respectively, can be found below :

So the verdict ? Well, on the basis of what I've seen so far, LEGO Space 2011 is shaping up to be OK. Admittedly not awe inspiring, but not bad either. That being said, even if all these sets had been utter dogs I'd probably have gone out and bought the lot of them anyway. I'm a total sucker for LEGO Space and will probably remain so until I'm pushing up daisies. Less than £100 for all 4 sets combined seems reasonable, and I have no doubt I'll be picking these up come March.

Saturday 15 January 2011

The Other Brickmaster

I've ranted in the past about the Brickmaster Club in the U.S., which is a great way for folks over there to get exclusive sets which the rest of us can't readily lay our hands on (I'm still hoping, incidentally, that someone will be able to get me a Brickmaster Slave 1 set, hint hint.....). Soon I'll complain no more, however, as the Brickmaster Club will thankfully die later this year, to be replaced by something else that the rest of us will apparently be able to participate in. Hallelujah !

The name will live on, however, as the Brickmaster name has also been applied to a series of books published by Dorling Kindersley. These books basically consist of a number of sets of hard-back bound instructions for a number of different models, together with a compartment filled with all the pieces you need to build them and a couple of minifigures. I've picked up a few of these Brickmaster books, each of which are allied to a specific LEGO theme, over the past year or two. Three of the four books I've got - Castle, Pirates and Atlantis - contain around 140 pieces each, while the Star Wars book weighs in at around 240 pieces. All contain 2 themed minifigs.

Predictably, my main focus has been on the Star Wars book. It comes with Clone Trooper and Battle Droid minifigs plus instructions to build 8 different models (although only 2 can be constructed at any one time). The minifigs (below) are far from 'exclusive', having appeared in a multitude of sets previously, but they're welcome all the same.

The 2 'main' models, which are featured on the front of the book, are a Separatist Armoured Assault Tank (AAT) and a Republic Nu-class Attack Shuttle. I have to say that they're both pretty good, particularly the AAT which I think looks great. You can see pics of them both below (click to enlarge). The turret of the AAT rotates, the wings of the Republic Shuttle pivot upwards, and both are eminently swooshable....

Republic Attack Shuttle (stand not included)
Armoured Assault Tank (AAT)
The whole package, consisting of the models, minifigs and bound instructions, can be seen in the picture below.

The book also includes instructions to build 6 alternative models including a Varied Terrain Speeder, an All Terrain Reconnaissance Transport (AT-RT), an S-Wing Speeder Bike and a Mobile Missile Platform. The print quality of the instructions is high, and each model comes with a brief backstory, tech specs, top tips ("Organise your LEGO pieces in order of size to make them easier to find") and "Did you know?" trivia such as "The battle droids' shape is based on the skeleton of the Neimoidian species from the planet Neimoidia" (I never knew that !). I have to say that the whole package is well thought out and superbly put together. And then there's the price - it cost me a mere £11.27 from with free delivery - an absolute bargain. At the time of writing it's still available from Amazon for £12.34, which is still a steal, to be honest.

I've not yet tackled Brickmaster Pirates, Castle and Atlantis but they look to be up to the same standards as Brickmaster Star Wars, so fans of those themes can buy with confidence. In fact, this might be a good opportunity to acknowledge the high quality LEGO-related publications produced by publisher Dorling Kindersley - as well as the Brickmaster books, amongst other things DK are responsible for the excellent "LEGO Star Wars - the Visual Dictionary" and the even better "The Lego Book", both of which are superb and I can highly recommend.

Monday 10 January 2011

Back to the Future

Looking through the recent LEGO releases, one item particularly caught my eye - set number 10155 Maersk Container Ship. As some of you will know, this set is a re-release of Set 10152 Maersk Sealand Container Ship from 2004. Set 10152 was itself re-released under the same set number in 2005 and 2006, and was originally produced as a promotional item for the Maersk shipping company before subsequently being available for a limited period through LEGO shop@home.

I have to admit that I went through a period of being a bit obsessed with Set 10152. When I was a boy I often used to build huge LEGO ships over 100 studs long, and the design of the bow (the front of the ship) on the Maersk Sealand reminds me a lot of the way that I used to build the front of my old ships, albeit updated to use inverted slope pieces which weren't available to me in the dim and distant past. I also love the colour scheme. The blue used in this set is unique to Maersk promotional sets and called, appropriately enough, Maersk Blue, and I really like it, which is a bit of a shame as it's rare as hen's teeth..... I'm also very partial to the Dark Red colour which forms the lower part of the hull.

A whole crate full of Maersk Blue - hmmmm !
To cut a long story short, my obsession with this set meant that I ended up buying not one but two of the original sets at inflated prices on eBay. You can find pictures of this superb set and a brief review at Eurobricks.

LEGO is no stranger to re-issuing sets, having even re-released a number of classic old sets such as Set 4558 Metroliner (below) with different set numbers under the 'Legends' banner between 2001 and 2004. I'm aware that some people are unhappy about this, presumably because they bought up a number of the older sets with the aim of holding on to them and selling at a huge profit at a later date. While I can see their point of view, I don't subscribe to it. For me, it's better to spread the love and let more people experience these great sets for themselves.

The LEGO company has a rich and glorious back catalogue of classic sets. I think it'd be great if they'd offer us the chance to vote on an annual basis for a set we'd like them to resurrect and re-issue. I realise that there are some obvious logistical challenges, not least the fact that some pieces and colours may now be out of production and might therefore not be currently available, but the company got round this in the past for the Legends re-releases (presumably via substitution of pieces or colours) so they should be able to figure it out. I don't see it happening, to be honest, but we can dream.... I'd be interested to know what sets people would vote for - leave a comment if you have any suggestions - but surely classic sets like 928 Space Cruiser and Moonbase (1979) and 7191 Ultimate Collectors Series X-Wing Fighter (2000) would get a fair few votes. I'd probably vote for Set 3274 LEGO Dragon myself, but I suspect I might be the only one....

Take care out there.

PS. If any folks over in the U.S. would be willing to send me one or two of the recently released Brickmaster Slave 1 mini sets then please get in touch.

Tuesday 4 January 2011


So what a Christmas that was.... One day I was opening presents with my family and enjoying Christmas dinner and bad TV like the rest of the U.K., the next I was banished to my bed with a high fever and feeling like death warmed up. And in bed I stayed until yesterday, believe it or not, when I finally took my first faltering steps back into the real world. Seasonal flu, swine flu, man flu - call it what you want but it certainly wasn't to be trifled with. I lost a whole week, and I'm now trying to figure out how to make it up to my long-suffering family, while catching up on LEGO-related happenings during my absence...

First thing to mention is Christmas LEGO. Honestly, while I love rattling parcels under the tree as much as anyone, I have to admit to not making it very easy for my loved ones by buying up pretty much all the LEGO I can find over the course of the year, which really doesn't leave much for them. And yet despite that they still managed to surprise me with a couple of cool LEGO-related items.

Firstly, I was delighted to receive a LEGO Star Wars Black Hole Stormtrooper Maquette (pic above). I've previously blogged about one of these maquettes - Boba Fett - and it was great to add another to the collection. These guys are really hard to find - only 500 of the Black Hole Stormtroopers were ever made - so kudos to the wife for finding one. Number 88 out of 500, to be precise. Just please don't ever tell me how much it cost..... My folks also managed to find me something LEGO-related that I didn't already have. OK, so unfortunately my new LEGO radio didn't require construction, but cool nonetheless.

What to buy the LEGO fan who has everything.....?
Next I really need to make mention of the "Official LEGO Sale" which the LEGO company were kind enough to e-mail me about on Christmas day. On the face of it, an excellent sale - more than 250 items at 50% off, so it should have been a massive cause for celebration. The reality was anything but, however - a real let-down. By the time the e-mail arrived, most of the 250-ish 'sale items' were already 'out of stock' or 'call to check availability'. I had already discovered that the sale was live the day before as I tend to check the LEGO 'sales and deals' page very regularly, and even then there was little of interest available, most of the items having sold out. Most suspiciously, there were a number of items such as the Grand Carousel and Green Grocer listed as 'sold out' sale items which had already been sold out through LEGO direct for weeks. So hard to see how they could have ever been available as sale items then, hmm....?
10185 Green Grocer - a steal at £49.99 if any had actually been available at that price....
For premium priced products like LEGO there's really little more frustrating than seeing fantastic discounts which you can't get access to even if you get to the sales right when they start - you feel like you're being conned. So sorry, LEGO - massive PR own-goal there. Some of the online forums were similarly scathing about this sale non-event, so LEGO really didn't do themselves any favours this time. I'm sure a few people got a bargain, and well done if that was you, but the majority just wasted their time browsing the sold out stock.

Something which emerged during my period of horizontal inaction was widespread availability of the new 2011 LEGO sets via LEGO shop@home. As well as the beautiful and much anticipated Diagon Alley set which can now be obtained direct from LEGO or from LEGO brand stores, there are a couple of new themes ('Ninjago' and the Adventurers-styled 'Pharaoh's Quest') and the latest slew of Star Wars, City and Creator sets, amongst others. I quite like the look of sets 3661 Bank and Money Transfer, 7327 Scorpion Pyramid, 9349 Fairytale and Historic Minifigure Set and 5766 Log Cabin (pics below - click to enlarge).
7327 Scorpion Pyramid

3661 Bank and Money Transfer

9349 Fairytale and Historic Minifigure Set
5766 Log Cabin

I have to confess to being a bit more excited by some of the sets due to launch later this year, however. The upcoming 'Pirates of the Carribean' theme looks intriguing, some of the rumoured Summer 2011 Star Wars sets are much more my cup of tea than the January 2011 wave, and I can't wait for the promised City Space sets (I never could resist a LEGO Space Shuttle).

OK - time for a lie down. I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year !