Wednesday 31 December 2014

The Gimme LEGO Awards 2014

Yes - it's that time again! Welcome to the 2014 Gimme LEGO Awards and my annual trawl through the good, the bad and the ugly of the year viewed through LEGO spectacles. This is the fourth year I've presented the awards and as ever my selections are entirely subjective so please feel free to leave a comment if you violently disagree (or indeed agree...) with any of my selections. So here we go....

1. Best Theme

Last year's winner : Creator, including Creator Expert

2014 winner : The LEGO Movie

Yeah, I know - surprising, eh? I don't mind admitting that I winced when the LEGO Movie was annnounced - I feared that it'd be a car crash. I was similarly sniffy about the prospect of a raft of lazy tie-in sets which I assumed would target starry-eyed juveniles fresh out of the movie theatre and offer little in the way of originality or creativity. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Not only did the movie turn out to be a whole lot better than I had feared, but so far as the LEGO Movie sets themselves were concerned the lazy tie-ins for the most part failed to materialise and what we got instead was surprisingly good in the main.

The eye-catching flagship of the theme (both literally and metaphorically) was obviously Set 70810 Metalbeard's Sea Cow, but the reason that the LEGO Movie wins Best Theme this year isn't just about a couple of stand-out sets, it's instead a reflection of the number and diversity of quality sets at a variety of different price points. The roster of interesting and creative offerings starts at pocket money prices, and there's something worth having at pretty much every price point thereafter I reckon, including the likes of Set 70803 Cloud Cuckoo Palace, Set 70808 Super Cycle Chase, and of course Set 70816 Benny's Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP! which turned out to be one of the most talked-about sets of the year.

Unfortunately, the LEGO Movie set line up for 2015 is looking distinctly thin right now, with only three small sets on the horizon at time of writing; with the LEGO Movie sequel not due until 2017 this isn't altogether surprising. Let's just hope that LEGO is already preparing to impress us with another stellar line-up of tie-in sets in 2017.

Honourable mention : LEGO Ideas. From its humble origins as LEGO Cuusoo and the release of the Japan-only Set 21100 Shinkai 6500 Submarine, LEGO's crowd sourcing platform really exploded into the public consciousness over the past couple of years with the hugely successful Minecraft and Back to the Future DeLorean releases. I reckon that 2014 was the strongest year yet, with highlights including Pete Reid's Exo-Suit and Brent Waller's Ghostbusters Ecto-1, although I thought that all four 2014 LEGO Ideas releases had their merits. With Tom Poulsom's Birds project set to hit the shelves in early January, LEGO Ideas looks set to continue to be a source of diverse and at times quirky products, and long may that continue.

Honourable mention #2 : Mixels. Written off by some as just another cartoon tie-in, the Mixels have turned out to be a bona fide phenomenon. Some excellent creature designs, a nice selection of parts, and very competitive pricing have ensured that they've flown off the shelves from day one, and they seem to have captured the imaginations of younger builders and AFOLs alike. Although you have to wonder how long LEGO can continue to pump out new Mixel tribes with their own unique identities, people have been saying that about the Collectable Minifigures for years now and still they keep coming. Providing LEGO can keep the quality of designs high and the prices low there's no reason why the Mixels can't carry their success on into 2015.

2. Most Disappointing Theme

Last year's 'winner': Super Heroes

2014 'winner': Not awarded

You know what? There actually isn't a standout candidate this year in my opinion, so fair's fair - I'm not awarding the 'prize'. That having been said, there are undoubtedly a few themes whose 2014 report card might conceivably read "Could do better".... Last year's 'winner' was the Super Heroes theme, and if I'm honest there were still too many mediocre DC and Marvel Super Heroes sets released this year; that having been said, the theme was dragged up to a respectable level overall by a few genuinely decent offerings such as the excellent Set 76023 The Tumbler and the better-than-expected Guardians of the Galaxy sets. Elsewhere, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offerings were a bit of a mash-mash, a situation not helped by the mixture of cartoon and movie sets in the line-up, but again the theme was saved by a few worthy efforts, particularly the Batcave-like Set 79117 Turtle Lair Invasion. Finally, LEGO's saturation of the market with what felt like a million Legends of Chima sets was neither subtle nor it seems particularly successful; even so, some of the Chima sets were pretty good - imaginative, well-designed and fun to build - so credit where credit's due.

3. The "Medieval Market Village" award for Best Non-Licensed Set

Last year's winner : Set 10232 Palace Cinema

2014 winner : Set 10243 Parisian Restaurant

Ho hum - another year, another Modular Building taking the non-licensed plaudits. Honestly, there's a danger that this category will end up having to be renamed 'The "Modular Building" award for Best Non-Licensed Set' at this rate. But what can you do? After all, while LEGO continue to release beautiful sets like the Parisian Restaurant I'm hardly going to just ignore them in order to give other sets a chance, am I? Let's therefore just sit back and rejoice at yet another wonderful addition to the Modular Building range.

What struck me first when I saw the pre-release publicity shots of the set was the colour scheme. The Modulars have frequently championed less common colours and the Parisian Restaurant is no exception with its predominantly olive green and dark blue colour scheme. This choice isn't just a gift for builders looking to bolster their stocks of elements in these colours either - I think the combination looks lovely. The next thing that struck me was just how much is crammed into the model - this isn't just a static display piece, it's a vibrant, detailed scene which captures an astonishing level of detail both inside and out. Honestly, every time I look at it my eyes are drawn to something different.

A characteristic feature of the Modular Buildings is their ingenious use of elements, often in the pursuit of architectural detail. Once again the Parisian Restaurant doesn't disappoint, as evidenced by the the sea shell and croissants on the roof (above) or any number of other lovely little touches worked into the design. To sum up, I think it's a beautiful model that's fun to build, packed with interesting elements and rare colours, overflowing with detail, and a tutorial in advanced and ingenious building techniques to boot. At £132.99 / US$159.99 / €149.99 for 2,469 pieces it's even reasonably priced. Stunning.

Honourable Mention : Set 31021 Furry Creatures. OK, so this Creator 3-in-1 set was never realistically going to win the award, not against the Parisian Restaurant or even other stand-out non-licensed offerings such as Set 10244 Fairground Mixer or Set 21109 Exo-Suit. But few 2014 sets have this much personality or indeed the ability to make me smile like this one does - the startled-looking mouse alone never fails to crack me up. This has been a good year for cartoon-styled sets, with seasonal offerings such as Set 40090 Halloween Bat and Set 40092 Reindeer nicely complementing the Creator 3-in-1 animal sets. Set 31031 Rainforest Animals looks set to continue the trend in 2015, and I for one can't wait for more.

Other contenders: Set 21009 Exo-Suit, Set 10244 Fairground Mixer.

4. Best Licensed Set

Last year's winner : Set 10236 Ewok Village

2014 winner: Set 70810 Metalbeard's Sea Cow

Similar to last year this was a fiercely contested category with a lot of outstanding licensed contenders vying for the prize. Ultimately, however, the decision wasn't too hard, with one set rising above its peers to claim the win. I built and reviewed the Sea Cow back in June and thought then that it was pretty much nailed on for the Best Licensed Set award; while the appearance of the Tumbler in November at least made a contest of it, the Sea Cow still gets my vote.

Prior to sitting down and writing this, I spent a few moments re-examining the Sea Cow model which is still built and on display in my house. I then took a quick look back at the review I wrote 6 months ago. The review is pretty gushing, using words like "spectacular", "remarkable" and "stunning", but I can confirm that those words ring as true now as they did then - the Sea Cow is a special set and deserves all the plaudits that I can throw at it.

The first thing you notice is just how huge it is - more than half a metre tall and around 60 cm long. What's remarkable is that seemingly every bit of space inside and out is crammed with little details - in the review I likened it to the kind of attention to detail that'd you'd generally only find lavished on the modular buildings. It's also incredibly quirky, the Steampunk-inspired fusion of olde worlde galleon with more modern machinery and weapons making for an at-times bizarre spectacle. And yet despite this the finished model just works, unlike some previous left-field experiments that I could mention (Time Cruisers I'm looking at you....).

Another thing worth highlighting is just how much fun it is to build; there's an almost organic feel to some sections and the build is never dull. There's an interesting selection of elements used, including a few which are unique to the set, and a number of interesting building techniques are showcased - construction of the sails using Technic panels is ingenious, as is the use of minifigure whips for ornamental detailing, to provide just a couple of examples.

While summing up my thoughts on Set 10236 Ewok Village which was my Best Licensed Set in the 2013 Gimme LEGO Awards, I made the point that such sets are a reminder that the LEGO company are still willing to take commercial risks in order to give their fans incredible products. This is doubly true for the Sea Cow which doesn't even have the Star Wars juggernaut behind it. For what it's worth, I'd rate the Sea Cow ahead of the Ewok Village - it's that good.

Honourable Mention : Set 76023 The Tumbler 

Rumours of a UCS Tumbler were doing the rounds for a while before the set was finally announced; I have to admit that I didn't give the rumours much credence which shows how much I know.... When The Tumbler did eventually appear in November it didn't disappoint - it's huge, incredibly detailed and immediately recognisable. Interestingly, the set seems to have caught the eye of people who I wouldn't necessarily credit with being LEGO fans - a couple of friends of mine have bought it despite having not built a LEGO model for years, and the set has received extensive media coverage well beyond the usual LEGO-friendly media. Spectacular.

Other contenders : Set 70816 Benny's Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP!, Set 21108 Ghostbusters Ecto-1, Set 71006 The Simpsons House, Set 75059 Sandcrawler.

5. The "Phantom Menace" Award for Most Disappointing Set

Last year's winner : Set 76008 Iron Man vs. The Mandarin: Ultimate Showdown

2014 winner: Set 76014 Spider-Trike vs. Electro

Oh no - not again.... Having served up the 'winner' and the runner up in this category last year, the Super Heroes theme has somehow managed to achieve an ignominious double by grabbing the worst set award for the second year running - for shame!

You know, I get that minifigures are big business, and that for (presumably) licensing reasons LEGO can't release the minifigures on their own. I also appreciate that the set designers didn't have much budget left to play with after the cost of the minifigures had been accounted for. But a Spider-Trike? Really?! It's not even cool looking - it almost seems as if LEGO have gone for the "designed by a 5-year old" look in order to be consistent with the 5-12 age rating on the front of the box. Lest anyone forget, Spiderman can negotiate whole city blocks in moments by spinning webs and swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper. And yet he gets a Spider-Trike. That's just rubbish, and if you can't see why then I despair.

(Dis)honourable mentions: Set 21107 The End and Set 21117 Ender Dragon. Just to be clear, I don't have an issue with Minecraft - I played it for a couple of weeks in the name of research and quite enjoyed it, and I'm perfectly happy to encourage my youngster's enthusiasm for it. I also liked most of the Minecraft microscale sets, and I've bought a few of the minifigure-scale Minecraft sets as Christmas presents. Be assured, therefore, that my scorn for Set 21107 The End isn't ideological, just a reflection of the fact that I think it looks a bit rubbish. And Set 21117 Ender Dragon looks even worse, a rare misstep in what is otherwise a decent first wave of minifigure scale Minecraft sets.

6. Best Minifigure

Last year's winner : Tonto

2014 winner : Itchy and Scratchy

Perhaps the most subjective judgement of all, the 'Best Minifigure' award is increasingly hard to judge because the quality of LEGO's minifigures has become simply extraordinary over the past few years. Consequently, the choice is increasingly driven by more intangible factors rather than any objective measure. With all that in mind I'm going for a joint award this year, and Itchy and Scratchy get the nod. Although I do think they look great, they didn't win because they're particularly detailed - there are a host of other 2014 minifigures which feature more intricate and beautiful printing - nor indeed because they're an outstanding likeness of the subject matter. They basically win because my heart filled with joy the moment I liberated them from their foil packs, spied their mischievous expressions and set them loose on each other, and I still grin every time I see them.

Honourable Mention : Green Classic Spaceman. For me, one of the best stories of 2014 was the success of Pete Reid's Exo-Suit on LEGO Ideas, Mark Stafford's sympathetically designed retail version of the model, and the enormous buzz that surrounded the launch of the set. While the Exo-Suit itself came out really well, the icing on the cake was the inclusion of a pair of never-previously-seen green Classic Spacemen - fan service simply doesn't come any better than that.

Other contenders : Collectable Minifigures Series 12 Piggy Guy, The LEGO Movie Benny

7. The "Better than Expected" Award

Last year's winner : The Lone Ranger theme

2014 winner : The LEGO Movie

Given all my comments earlier on in this post, I guess that the recipient of this award is no surprise to anybody; while it might have been nice to try and spread the awards around a bit more, any other choice in this category would have been absurd.

    Similar to the Lone Ranger theme last year, my expectations for the LEGO Movie itself, not to mention the sets based on the movie, were pretty low. To say that what we ultimately got was a pleasant surprise is therefore a gross understatement; it speaks volumes that I'm disappointed that as previously stated we're only getting three small LEGO Movie sets among the first wave of 2015 releases.

    Honourable Mention : LEGO Star Wars Microfighters sets. These pocket-money sets featuring chibi-style renditions of iconic Star Wars vehicles complete with a minifigure looked faintly ridiculous in the publicity shots. The minifigures were absurdly oversized for the models, and it felt a bit like another cynical attempt to shoe-horn minifigures into unsuitable sets. Except that when I took the plunge, built and reviewed one of them (you can find the review here) I couldn't help but like it.... Clearly I wasn't alone as a second wave of Microfighters sets are incoming for 2015, and I'll likely be getting them.

    Honourable Mention #2 : Guardians of the Galaxy sets.  Given the extent to which the Marvel and DC Super Heroes sets have blotted their copybook over the past couple of years I was fully expecting the Guardians of the Galaxy sets to follow the tried and trusted formula of rubbish models used as an excuse to release a bunch of minifigures to a ravenous fanbase. What we actually got was nothing of the sort, though - all three retail sets were decent, particularly the largest of them which I reviewed here. A nice reminder that LEGO can still design worthwhile System scale Super Heroes sets as well as just excellent minifigures.

    8. Most Welcome LEGO-Related Announcement

    Last year's winner : Peter Reid's Exo Suit to be the next Cuusoo Set

    2014 Winner : UCS Slave 1 incoming

    LEGO have been drip-feeding us with Star Wars UCS sets since 1999, generally a couple per year. Up until now, however, there's been a massive Slave 1-shaped hole in the UCS line-up; given the iconic nature of the ship, not to mention the perfectly manageable scale and technical feasibility of the design task, the lack of a Slave 1 has been a baffling and frustrating omission. Until now, that is - the wrong will soon be righted with the imminent arrival of a UCS version of Boba Fett's Slave 1. What's more, I've been lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-release copy of the set (review here) and I'm delighted to report that it's superb. So any chance of a UCS A-wing next, or even an AT-AT....? :-)  

    Honourable mention : Birds to be made into a LEGO Ideas set. Granted LEGO Ideas has spawned a number of desirable sets to date, but I know I'm not alone in bemoaning the preponderance of licensed creations on the platform. I'm all for LEGO versions of some classic I.P's, but not to the exclusion of everything else; it's almost as if a generation of builders has lost the ability to come up with their own original ideas. It was therefore gratifying when Tom Poulsom's Birds project hit 10,000 votes on LEGO Ideas and got the greenlight for production. The resulting set, which will be available in early January 2015, consists of three beautifully-designed models of birds, and there isn't a licensed I.P. in sight. More original concepts like Birds and the Exo-Suit please, LEGO.

    Honourable mention #2: Jurassic World sets announced. I love dinosaurs, and I love LEGO dinosaur sets. I can't get enough of them. Imagine my joy, therefore, at the announcement that LEGO have signed up to create sets based upon the upcoming Jurassic World movie. Hopefully LEGO will also go back in time and give us some Jurassic Park sets while they're about it.... LEGO Jurassic World sets will hit the stores in May 2015, with the movie arriving in theatres in June.

    9. Gimme LEGO Reader's Choice Award

    Last year's winner: Set 10236 Ewok Village

    2014 winner: you tell me....

    Now it's your turn. At the top of the page on the right of the screen you'll see a list of what I consider to be eleven of the best sets of 2014. Please vote for your favourite; if your pick isn't on the list then select 'None of the above' and leave a comment or send me a message via the contact button above the list letting me know which set you think should win the prize. Cast your votes - one person, one vote - and at midnight on 15th January the poll will close and we'll have our winner.... If you're on a smartphone or similar and can't see the poll then click "view web version" at the bottom of the page in order to see the nominations and cast your vote.

    *Update* Voting has now closed and you can see the results here.

    Previous Gimme LEGO Awards : 20132012, 2011

    Sunday 21 December 2014

    Christmas Surprise

    So it's Christmas and therefore once again time for the Brickish Association Christmas party. Displaced from our customary LEGOLAND Windsor venue by renovation work at the LEGOLAND Hotel we were nevertheless able to continue the annual Brickish party tradition thanks to the organisational skills of James Camplin and the flexibility of LEGOLAND Senior Designer and Chief Model Maker Guy Bagley, so thanks guys for your hard work! Party activities included the opportunity to build the suitably festive Miniland scale figure below, and you can find a brief account of the event here.

    Despite all the on-site building work we were still able to spend some time at LEGOLAND Windsor during the event, and in addition to a tour of the Model Shop and a stroll through Star Wars Miniland (which, it appears, has had a few upgrades since my previous visit) we got to visit the Big Shop. With LEGOLAND owned by Merlin rather than LEGO these days, the Big Shop isn't a bona fide LEGO brand store, although it does carry many of the LEGO Exclusives not generally available outside LEGO's own stores.

    Christmas party organiser James had managed to negotiate a discount at the shop for Brickish members attending the event so we piled through the doors with particular enthusiasm. I was able to find the two sets on my hit list, one of which was Set 75045 Republic AV-7 Anti-Vehicle Cannon which completed my 2014 Star Wars collection, but I didn't have plans to pick up anything else. As it happens, however, a couple of things did catch my eye....

    Firstly, I was surprised to find Set 40034 Christmas Train (above, courtesy of my youngster who built it earlier today) for sale in the shop.  According to Brickset this 82-piece Seasonal polybag was only available at retail for about a month back in late 2012 and it hasn't to my knowledge been seen anywhere since. I therefore wasn't expecting to see a load of them available for purchase, and couldn't resist picking up an extra.

    The other unexpected find was Set 30197 Snowman (above). This polybag contains 60 pieces and is part of the 2014 Creator line-up. I'd never seen this set before and hadn't even seen any reports of UK availability so again it was a welcome discovery. While smaller than this year's more widely-available Set 40093 Snowman, it's still cute and well worth picking up if you can find it; there were still a bunch left in the shop yesterday afternoon so you might want to drop in if you're local.

    I'm currently compiling my 2014 Gimme LEGO Awards; if I can finish the Awards posting in time then I'll publish it before Christmas, so keep 'em peeled just in case.... In the more likely event that my Awards posting appears between Christmas and New Year, however, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all Gimme LEGO readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Monday 1 December 2014

    Dino Crisis

    As I've previously mentioned, in addition to my stewardship of Gimme LEGO I also write for Blocks Magazine. I'm pleased to report that Blocks editor Mark Guest has generously granted me permission to post some of my Blocks reviews and other articles on Gimme LEGO after an appropriate delay so that folks without access to Blocks can read them. I'll aim to publish content pretty much as it originally appeared in Blocks, with the exception that I'll add hyperlinks as appropriate. First up is my review of Set 5975 T-Rex Transport which was published in Blocks Issue 1 - enjoy!


    Given the recent flurry of internet rumours regarding the possible release of LEGO sets based on ‘that’ popular dinosaur movie franchise (I’m sure you can figure it out !) I thought I’d go back in time and dig up a long-retired LEGO dinosaur set from the archives to see how it measures up by modern standards.

    LEGO have been producing sets featuring dinosaurs for decades now, both in standard LEGO and DUPLO form; the set I’m focusing on here, Set 5975 T-Rex Transport, was released in 2000 as part of the Dino Island subtheme of the Adventurers theme and contains 321 pieces.


    For some LEGO fans minifigures are the main reason to buy a set, and this set contains five of them which you can see in the accompanying photo. None are unique to the set, although slightly scary-looking lone female Alexis Sanister (second from the right in the picture) only ever appeared in one other set. According to Brickipedia, Alexis is the sister of theme villain Baron Von Barron (far left) who has a hook in place of his left hand. Fellow pith-helmeted Dr. Charles Lightning (far right) is a scientist and sports a bowtie and braces. Front and centre is theme hero and intrepid adventurer Johnny Thunder. He’s an ‘Adventurers’ theme regular – this ‘desert’ version of the minifigure appears in 21 sets, and alternative versions can be found in a host of other sets. Finally we have Mike, longtime companion to Johnny Thunder and Charles Lightning. He appears in a total of 5 sets. None of the minifigures have backprinted heads or torsos.


    This set was released in the days before LEGO moved to its current colour palette of browns and greys and therefore contains ‘old’ brown, light grey and dark grey elements. Apart from the dinosaurs themselves which we’ll get to in a moment, the set doesn’t contain many rare or unusual elements, although there are a few of interest. The front of the ship is made up of large, specialised 8 x 10 x 1 bow bricks in light grey and white; the light grey bow bricks are unique to this set, and the white ones only appear in this set and one other. Further notable elements include a couple of red 8 x 16 bricks (this element hasn’t appeared in any colour since 2009) and a 26-stud long light grey trailer base.

    Dinosaurs !

    For me the most interesting aspect of this set is the three dinosaurs it contains. The dark grey triceratops is unique to the set, while the large T-Rex appears in this set and two others; both of these bad boys are made up of 5 separate elements and feature moveable fore- and hind limbs and tail plus a hinged upper jaw. The cute green baby T-Rex has appeared in a total of 9 sets, the last of which was released in 2006; the baby T-Rex has also appeared as recently as 2009 in metallic gold as part of the Agents theme. While undoubtedly far less realistic and detailed than the dinosaurs which grace LEGO’s later Dino 2010 and Dino themes, they still have a rough charm.

    The Build

    The set comprises three main components, the first of which is a ship. This is, to be honest, pretty basic but at 48 studs in length it’s certainly sizeable and more than capable of accommodating the triceratops with ease. Despite the lack of detail, the ship at least comes equipped with accessories for the minifigures to use – tools such as a spade and a pickaxe, and also weapons including rifles and a pistol. The ship’s wheel turns and the ladders hanging from the sides of the bridge can be raised and lowered but that’s about it so far as moving parts are concerned.

    Next to be built is an articulated vehicle which is designed to carry the big T-Rex. I hesitate to call this quirky vehicle a truck since the tractor unit looks more like a vintage car, and it certainly doesn’t look capable of hauling a fully-grown T-Rex, but let’s not get too hung up about such details…. With the restraining bar at the top removed the sides of the trailer can be easily popped out of their clips to provide easy access to the flatbed, and the trailer pivots where it attaches to the tractor unit.   

    Last up is a small car which it appears is used by the baddies to get about. It has the same odd vintage aesthetic as the truck and comes complete with a side-mounted rifle and a crate containing dynamite (or at least a 1 x 2 tile printed with a dynamite design….)

    The Verdict

    Collectively, while the various components of the set come together to make a decent play experience, it’s not really a set that you’d build and display. If like me you’re a fan of LEGO’s dinosaur sets, however, it’s a worthwhile purchase for the dinosaurs alone if nothing else, particularly the triceratops which is unique to the set.

    I bought my used, boxed and complete copy of the set on eBay around five years ago for a little under £30 including shipping; at time of writing there aren’t any examples for sale on eBay, but you can pick up a boxed example on Bricklink for just under £50 plus shipping.

    You can see all my T-Rex Transport set pictures here, including some not included in the review.

    Friday 21 November 2014

    And the winners are....

    Well done to those of you who entered the recent Gimme LEGO competition to win a copy of the Guardians of the Galaxy Milano Spaceship Rescue set and correctly identified Vin Diesel as the actor who voiced Groot in the movie.

    The names of all those who answered correctly were placed into a bowl and I asked my glamorous assistant (i.e. the missus) to close her eyes and draw out two winners, each of whom receives a copy of the set.

    The winners are Danny Mills from Swindon and Bolly Olufon from Birmingham - congratulations! I'll be in touch to get your postal addresses and send the sets out to you.

    Thanks to everybody who took the time to enter, and thanks once again to Argos for providing me with a copy of this LEGO Super Heroes set to review plus a couple of extra copies to give away as competition prizes; you can encourage them to provide Gimme LEGO with more sets for you to win by checking out their full LEGO selection here....

    Tuesday 4 November 2014


    I've given the LEGO Super Heroes theme a bit of a kicking over the past year, truth be told. After starting 2013 so well with the excellent Arkham Asylum remake things rapidly went downhill, to the extent that come the end of 2013, LEGO Super Heroes scored an ignominious double, picking up my gongs for "Most disappointing theme" and "Most disappointing set" at the 2013 Gimme LEGO awards. While not terrible, the LEGO DC and Marvel Super Heroes offerings at the start of 2014 had also failed to excite me, so it's fair to say that I'm not exactly the theme's greatest advocate at the moment.

    It was against this unsympathetic backdrop that I was recently asked whether I'd be interested in doing a LEGO Super Heroes set review on Gimme LEGO. Having established that the offer was genuine, my immediate reaction was to say "no thanks" but after a quick look through the Super Heroes offerings for the second half of the year my eye was drawn to Set 76021 The Milano Spaceship Rescue and I decided to take the plunge and request a review copy of the set. I'd not seen the related Guardians of the Galaxy movie at that point so I quickly arranged a visit to my local cinema to check it out before the set arrived; having reviewed a couple of LEGO Movie sets at the end of 2013 prior to seeing the actual movie itself, and having been confused as hell as a result, I vowed not to fall into the same trap again if possible....

    The front of the box (above - click to enlarge) is colourful and eye-catching, featuring the eponymous Milano superimposed on an indigo starfield. The Milano's crew, not all of whom appear in this set, peer out from the top right of the box, while the minifigures which are contained within the set can be seen in the bottom left corner. The back of the box (below - click to enlarge) highlights play features of the set and showcases a battle between the forces of good and evil, or at least their minifigure incarnations.

    The box is secured by way of a couple of tape seals on each end flap; cutting the seals reveals six numbered bags of elements, two instruction booklets, a comic book and a sticker sheet. Harking back to the bad old days, the instruction booklets and sticker sheet aren't sealed inside a cardboard-backed bag as is customary nowadays for sets of this size; as a consequence, the sticker sheet (below) was creased. The are 12 stickers in total, helpfully numbered to make sure you attach them in the right places.

    You can see the cover of the first instruction booklet below. The cover art is pretty much identical to the front of the box apart from the removal of the set name and age rating and the addition of an icon denoting the booklet number. It's 62 pages from cover to cover and consists entirely of building instructions, apart from advertising for a product survey on the back cover.

    The second instruction booklet is slightly longer than the first at 68 pages; in addition to building instructions it contains an overview of some of the set's play features, a 2-page inventory of parts, and advertising for the LEGO Club, the LEGO Marvel Superheroes game and the three Guardians of the Galaxy sets released to date (picture below).

    In addition to the two instruction booklets the box contains a comic book. This is much smaller than the instruction booklets, both in terms of footprint and length, weighing in at 12 pages in total. The first 7 pages contain a Guardians of the Galaxy comic strip featuring the full Milano crew and a cast of baddies (below).

    Flip the comic book over and you'll find a 5-page X-Men story featuring Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Magneto and The Sentinel (cover below). My assumption is that this back-to-back Guardians of the Galaxy/X-Men comic book also appears in Set 76022 X-Men vs. The Sentinel.

    Those with an interest in less common elements will have a ball with this set - it's overflowing with them. When I give a rundown of uncommon parts appearing in a set I generally focus in on elements appearing in ten sets or less, but in this case there were so many meeting that criterion that I had to lower my cut-off to 5 sets or less so I could fit them all into the photograph below (click to enlarge). The blue 8 x 8 plate with cut corner is unique to the set as are a number of the flat silver elements including the 1 x 12 hinge plate with angled side extensions and all four fairings (Technic panels). The trans-light blue curved 10 x 6 x 2 windscreen is also a new arrival. The bright light orange webbed 6 x 6 dish, 1 x 1 tile and 4 x 9 wedge plate have only appeared in this set and one other, as has the small pearl dark gray blaster, while a number of elements including the blue 2 x 2 wedge slope, dark bley 4 x 4 fractured wedge, medium dark flesh 2 x 1 slope, metallic silver Technic ball joint, black 7L hose and large pearl dark gray blaster can be found in just two sets in addition to this one. All other elements in the photograph have appeared in either 4 or 5 sets in total. Both types of pearl dark gray blasters in the picture below are exclusive to the Guardians of the Galaxy sets at present.

    The set contains 5 minifigures. My immediate reaction on seeing Star-Lord (below) a.k.a. Peter Quill was that he almost has an Iron Man thing going on by virtue of his mask, colour scheme and jet boots, although he obviously doesn't wear a metal all-body suit. This version is unique to the set, although it shares the mask and head with the other Star-Lord variant found in Set 76019 Starblaster Showdown.

    You can see Star-Lord below without his mask. In addition to the mask he's supplied with the medium dark flesh hair you can see below; this is so far exclusive to the two versions of the Star-Lord minifigure, which is also the case for his stubbly head print. His dark red torso, which features silver side buttons and a gold badge print, is unique to this minifigure, while his printed legs are the same as those found in two other minifigures appearing in this set as we'll see shortly.

    Star-Lord's torso features a detailed back-print which you can see below, along with his alternate expression, described as "Angry Clenched Teeth Pattern" by Bricklink.

    Green-skinned Gamora (below), who according to Wikipedia is the adopted daughter of the supervillain Thanos and the last of her species, is exclusive to this set. Her torso, head and hair are exclusive to this minifigure although she has the same printed legs as Star-Lord. The minifigure design incorporates Gamora's facial scarring and purple hair extensions from the movie, although I must say that the minifigure version looks rather more affable than her on-screen persona....

    Her alternate expression, which you can see in the picture below, is I think much more representative of her fierce on-screen demeanour. Her torso is backprinted with a variation of the design which adorns the back of Star-Lord's torso.

    The final member of Star-Lord's crew to feature in this set is Drax, otherwise known as Arthur Douglas. A cursory look on the internet for more information about this guy revealed one of the more bizarre character backstories that I've encountered - attacked and killed by Thanos while driving with his family, Arthur's spirit was apparently captured and placed in a powerful new body, and Drax the Destroyer was born....

    Drax is exclusive to the set, and his tattooed, back-printed torso and head are predictably unique to this minifigure. Interestingly, his arms are also printed with a tattoo pattern complementary to that on his torso and head. Drax has the same printed legs as Star-Lord and Gamora.

    Kree fanatic and bad guy Ronan the Accuser (below) is exclusive to this set. His hood, which comes complete with shoulder pads, is a new mould and hasn't appeared elsewhere to date, and his torso, head and printed legs are similarly unique to this minifigure, although his plain black cape is of a standard design and is widely available elsewhere.

    Ronan's alternate expression and torso back-print can be seen below; Bricklink describes the dark red slashes on the front and back of his torso as wounds, but the slashes appear to be on top of his armour rather than cut through it so I suspect it's someone else's blood rather than Ronan's....

    The final minifigure in the set is a Sakaaran (below). In the Guardians of the Galaxy movie the Sakaarans are Ronan's foot soldiers, and their first appearance is right at the start of the film. This minifigure can be found in all three Guardians of the Galaxy sets. The Sakaaran's legs and hood are unremarkable and appear as a constituent part of many other minifigures, but the torso and head are unique to this figure. Bricklink describes the detailed torso print as "Silver Exoskeleton and Dark Red Claw Scratch Marks Pattern", while the sinister head features a skull-like print with silver eyes and insectoid mandibles.

    The intricate printing on the back of the torso and head can be seen in the picture below. I'm not entirely clear what the reverse head-print is supposed to represent; depending on which internet source you choose to believe it's either a mask made of shell-like material or or an exoskeleton with eye pattern, so take your pick.

    Once the minifigures have been assembled it's time to build Ronan's Necrocraft. This somewhat bizarre-looking conveyance has a 2x2-stud platform at the front (below) which is occupied by Ronan in many of the publicity shots. The Necrocraft features an opening cockpit large enough to accommodate Ronan if he gets tired of standing at the front and a pair of adjustable wings. There's also a trans-red spring-loaded missile on either side of the cockpit.

    You can see the back of the Necrocraft below. You're unfortunately supposed to attach stickers either side of the cockpit windscreen. I say "unfortunately" as I always struggle to neatly apply stickers to curved surfaces and this was no exception; the stakes are even higher here as the curved surface in question is transparent, so if you don't nail it first time and need to peel the sticker off and reapply it you run the risk of leaving an unsightly residue on the windscreen.

    Finally it's time to build the Milano itself. Stage 1 (below - click to enlarge) involves construction of the interior of the Milano's cockpit and fuselage, complete with instrument panel and passenger seating; notably, there's more seating than there are crew members in this set, so if you decide to buy the other Guardians of the Galaxy sets then the Milano is ready to accommodate Rocket Raccoon at least. A pair of moveable stud shooters are attached either side of the cockpit, with a couple of fixed weapons below.

    During Stage 2 of the build (below) additional interior detail is added such as a fire extinguisher and the pilot's chair complete with headrest. Also, a Technic frame is constructed around the cockpit and fuselage to which body panels and wings will shortly be attached, while at the back a central main engine is constructed, flanked by what appear to be a couple of thrusters; these can be rotated by up to 180 degrees if desired so the thrusters point upwards.

    Not visible in the picture above is Star-Lord's cassette tape deck (below). This is attached to one of the interior walls of the fuselage via a couple of Technic pins. Those of you who are yet to catch the movie may be wondering why on earth this archaic piece of technology is specifically called out in the build, but trust me - it plays a memorable role in proceedings.

    Stage 3 of the Milano build (picture below - click to enlarge) involves construction of one of the front body panels and one of the wings. The wings are large and complex, featuring an array of flat silver wing extensions most of which can be angled and repositioned to some extent; these are adorned by some fairly large stickers which should be attached with particular care as they're very prominent and have the potential to be a real eyesore if they're not positioned straight.

    The penultimate stage of the Milano build is basically a mirror of Stage 3, involving construction of the remaining front body panel and wing. With both front body panels in place the bird-like appearance of the front of the ship becomes evident, complete with a 'beak' made up of bright light orange 3 x 2 wedge plates, and flat silver 3 x 3 inverted dish 'eyes'.

    We're on the home straight now. The cockpit windscreen is attached, the fuselage roof is constructed, additional detail is added to the wing tips, and we're done (picture below - click to enlarge). The cockpit windscreen doesn't open as such; instead, the whole roof section complete with windscreen lifts off in one piece. It's a slightly clunky arrangement, although understandable given that the inside of the ship with its seating and interior detail is one of the set's play-features. The roof section features the light bley 5 x 6 hexagonal flag, which gains a sticker along the way, and flat silver 1 x 12 hinge plates with angled side extensions that I highlighted earlier when discussing parts of interest. These can be angled upwards if desired in the manner of flaps or air brakes.

    The finished build is a reasonable approximation of the Milano (Guardians of the Galaxy screengrab below); the designer has done a fair job of capturing the overall shape, colour scheme and key features such as the complex wings. At around 45 cm from wing-tip to wing-tip the model is actually wider than it is long. From the perspective of 'realism' the fuselage is perhaps bulkier than it should be, a consequence of LEGO's desire to provide the ship with a useable interior.

    You can get a better look at the rear of the ship below (click to enlarge), notably the main engine, moveable thrusters and complex wing-tip arrangement. Bare black Technic beams are exposed at the back of the wings which is a bit untidy, but otherwise the back looks OK.

    If you look at the model from above (picture below - click to enlarge) you can better inspect the efforts made to reproduce the Milano's colour scheme, principally the bright light orange pattern; you'll also see the lime green roundel if you look closely at the screengrab above. There's a little hint of Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit from above, although obviously not with respect to the colour scheme....

    There's an unexpected level of detail on the underside of the model (below - click to enlarge). LEGO often neglects this aspect of their models, so the attention to detail here is particularly welcome. Details include a number of trans orange-tipped missiles, of which the two missiles flanking the fuselage halfway back are of the flick-fire variety. I assume that the two large circular structures, each of which has a bright light orange webbed 6 x 6 dish at its base, are large vertical thrusters. The rounded lower aspect of the fuselage provides something to grab hold of if you decide to swoosh the model; having done this more than a few times since I built it I can vouch for the model's stability - it's surprisingly robust.

    You can see all the different elements of the set below (click to enlarge) including the five minifigures with their respective weapons and accessories. Of particular note, Ronan carries the silver orb - a powerful ancient artifact containing an infinity stone - in his right hand and his Cosmi-Rod in his left, while Star-Lord is holding his Hadron Enforcer space blaster.

    Set 76021 Milano Spaceship Rescue contains 665 pieces and retails for £69.99/US$74.99. I don't generally get too excited about minifigs but I'm quite impressed with the quality, attention to detail and selection here. Some will no doubt complain about the absence of Rocket Raccoon and Groot but it's understandable that LEGO wouldn't want to include all the key characters in just one set. The build was enjoyable, with the obvious caveat that there's some repetition due to the ship's symmetry. Overall, from an AFOL perspective I don't think the end result is too bad given that it's primarily intended to be a play-set, although to be honest I probably won't keep it built and on display for long. Even so, I reckon that this set, along with the likes of the stunning Ultimate Collector Series Tumbler, marks a welcome improvement in LEGO's Super Heroes offerings; it's a safe bet that the theme won't be winning my "Most disappointing theme" award again this year.

    Many thanks to Argos for providing this LEGO Super Heroes set for me to review; you can browse the full range of LEGO at Argos here, and in case you weren't aware there's a 3-for-2 promotion on toys starting at Argos tomorrow (Wednesday 5th November) so get in there quick and reserve some sets.... In addition to the review set, Argos have also generously provided Gimme LEGO with two additional copies of this set to give away to readers - a rather nice prize considering that the set retails for seventy quid. To be in with a chance of winning a set, please e-mail the answer to the question below plus your contact details and location to me at; I'll draw two names out of a hat, and they'll get the sets. The question is as follows:

    Who played Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie?

    Entry is limited to UK-based folks only on this occasion due to the size of the set and the cost of sending overseas. Only one entry per person, and the decision of the judge (that's me) is final. Entrants must agree to their names being announced on Gimme LEGO if they win. Closing date is midnight GMT on Tuesday 18th of November. Good luck!