The fifth set in a series of MOCs in which I'm trying to create MOC's that look as if they could have been part of the Lego castle product lineup from the late 80's.
About this creation
The Market By The Wall idea came about when building up a modern set one morning; there are no prizes but I'll leave you to guess which set it is, post in the comments if you think you know. As I was building it up I was thinking to myself "this could work as a medieval set".
Another of the hooks that drew me to the idea was that I have been playing around with ideas and mechanisms for creating sets that extend away from the castle wall rather than along it, ie. trying to get more into the middle of my castle compound rather than forever extending the wall to greater and greater lengths. I felt that this market idea had great potential for allowing this.
With the memory of the build fresh in my mind I brave the chilly January weather, board a tube train heading into London town, find myself a seat and power up LDD on the laptop.
I stay fairly true to my inspiration. A tower is built up from an 8x8 base which has the relevant technic bricks and pins to clip into an 80's castle wall. The external arch is "closed off" with a pair of brown round topped gates which can form another entrance into what is becoming a walled village rather than a castle. Extending away from the tower, perpendicular to the wall, are two arches on round pillars terminating in a set of stairs. Initially these were much "heavier" but a subsequent tweak turned them back into something less bulky, the intermediate point is shown below. Whilst putting this together I was also researching bricks since I would need a number of Brick, Arch 1x6x2 in dark grey, I was also looking for dark grey Brick, Round 2x2 but was quite surprised to see that these don't actually exist so whilst the design utilises dark grey columns the actual realisation has to use light grey. A second story to the the tower is built up with light grey arches and topped off with a black roof reminiscent of the Black Falcons fortress. Some torches and leaves add a bit of colour and texture to the build without adding complication.
The interesting part of the market design is actually creating the various stalls and props that make the market. What makes this interesting is the challenge of staying true to the late 80's roots and the minimal utensils and accessories that existed at that point in time. There were no apples, bannanas or cherries back in the 80's, it all has to come from brick and plate!
When designing these little props the other important question is "When to stop?" It would be very easy to go on adding props and little bits-n-bobs to the market, but all of this would add to the cost of the set. Rherefore a designer has to ask himself what's the minimum I can get away with to evoke the scene that I'm trying to depict? Once that question has been answered you can ask What can I add to take me to the price point that this set is targetting? I'm aiming for the £20 price point, which gives me a budget of about 230 bricks. Personally I think that having to build from brick and plate makes this slightly easier, there's not the temptation to just throw in another cherry or banana for the sake of it.
The first task was to check my references for inspiration, I trawled Brickset looking at all the sets between 1984 and 1991 hoping to find a City set that had a bit of a marketplace. Surprisingly there weren't any city food shops, lots of post-offices and garages but no food. The city sets tended to either used custom utensils like the simple 80's era spanner, spade and pickaxe or they used Tile 1x2 to represent things like letters and parcels. I did find one restaurant that used a barrel and tap on it's side and another used Tile, Round 2x2 as plates. So, I had very little historic precedent to refer back to.
Next I compiled a list of potential props and market items:
Upright barrels with stuff in, eg. weapons
Barrel on stand with tap
Paniers with 1x1 rounds in red and green to represent fruit
Round 2x2 plates in yellow to represent flat-breads
Bar 1x6 with open studs for spades, brooms, pick-axes, lances, axes, etc...
A Simple cart
Glasses, bottles, etc...
The weapons got me thinking about grindstones and a couple of bricks later I'd produced a small grindstone accompanied by a weapon rack and a barrel of swords.
A 2x6 table was decorated with bottles formed from cones with either 1x1 round plate tops or jewel stoppers. A couple of glasses finish it off.
A hand cart was another option, simply built, green 1x1 rounds were used for it's load. A panier with red 1x1 rounds represents fruit, orginally intended to hang of the above table it ended up hanging off the back of the cart when I built the set for real. Equally it could have gone on someones back.
A small stand is produced for a barrel with tap. Two mugs accompany the barrel.
I was aiming for 4 minifigs. A guard overlooking the market was a fairly obvious choice, he gets a spear. The remaining figures have already been shown above with their props. One male peasant to operate the grindstone, another to sell from either the table or the cart and a female figure to sell beer from the barrel. The final addition was a horse with paniers.
Final design in LDD, lxf file attached.
For a more detailed explanation of what I'm looking at in the Analysis please see my Maiden's Tower MOC and it's associated description.
Story: Not much really. It fits into the same category as 6067 Guarded Inn; there's no direct story it just adds to the castle.
Playability: There are no difficult areas to get minifigs into, indeed on this one most of the action happens away from the building. The props all sit neatly on the floor and I think that they have large enough bases so that they won't topple over, even on carpet.
Build-ability: Easy. There are no complex building techniques used, the wall itself being a standard build straight up from the baseplates. The only part of the design that might raise an eyebrow with the engineering department is that the slope 33 3x1 are held in place by friction with nothing below to lock them together. The props are no more complex than the sort that you'd find in something like 7952 Advent Calendar. The realisation of the building is shwon below, the full market scene is the headline image on this page.
Cost: 239 pieces including the minfigs, weapons and props. The nearest historical matches are 6067 Guarded Inn at 248 pieces and 6062 Battering Ram at 236 pieces. The modern equivalent would be 7188 King's Carriage Escape which at 286 pieces is slight above our current brickcount. Unsurprisingly the set that was my inspiration comes in at 258 pieces and is the £30 price bracket but it's a licensed set which adds a bit of a premium.
Consistency: I believe the overall design still fits with the 80's ambiance. The anachronisms are the use of modern Minifigs for the peasants, the actual props howevr stick true to the 80's aim. As usual the proof is how it looks when clipped into existing sets. The photo's below show the fairly sizeable domestic corner of my medieval world with the Market clipped in between 6067 Guarded Inn and 6040 Blacksmith Shop with my own Stables tucked in there as well. I think it all fits, but feel free to draw your own conclusion and post comment.
This set came together really quite quickly and was very enjoyable to design. Unlike some of my other designs there have been no redesigns but that could be attributed to the fact that it is a reimagining of an existing set which has already been through the development process in it's own right. The little props were a joy to put together and I'll have to try it again in future sets rather than concentrating solely on the buildings.
I always have worries when a set doesn't have a story associated with it. Unlike the licensed set that was my inspiration, this doesn't recreate key scenes from a movie therefore it doesn't have that pre-existing narrative to drive it. However, one of the greatest castle sets of all time 6067 Guarded Inn doesn't have a story behind it, therefore there is scope for none story driven sets and I feel that this Market By The Wall might stand up better than most.