For a while now I'd been thinking about producing a set that expanded on the Forestmen's theme.
In a dull meeting at work I started jotting down ideas, since the Forestmen already had a Camouflaged Outpost and a River Fortress those were areas to stay away from. I was drawn to the idea of a mountain fortress, perhaps utilising a raised baseplate so that the Forestmen could have a counterpart for King's Mountain Fortress.
Mountains, to me that means bridges, connections from one side to the other. A bridge drops into the middle of my first sketch, so we need raised areas either side. A raised baseplate no-longer feels like it will work, so I sketch in a couple of BURPS, one side I decide should be a cave. Then it dawns on me, I've just reinvented 6417 Temple Of Mt Everest in castle guise!
Obviously an oriental style temple doesn't make much sense in a Medieval European setting but the structure remains valid: play features in a mountainous setting are the obvious trap-doors, hidden caves and tilting bridges. Retaining those said play-features the Temple was replaced with a wooden shack and black tree supporting a lookout.
On returning to a computer a I fire up LDD and grab the instructions from Peeron because it's easier than digging out my paper copy. With minimal colour substitutions the first dozen steps build up the mountainside and bridge and I embark on building out the top. I hack away at it for about an hour but in then end I'm just not happy with it, nothing wants to fit right, the nice details in my paper sketches just don't come true. Eventually I put it to one side and abandon the attempt.
Some weeks later I'm commuting into work on the train and have 40minutes to kill. Out comes the laptop and I decide to revist the Forestmen concept again. Starting from scratch and without the instructions I build the mountain up from memory. It's a close approximation but not exactly like Temple Of Mt Everest and that seems to have made all the difference, everything seems to fit just a little bit better. I rotate the trapdoor, utilise two pallisade walls for the shack, a turret piece to form the semblance of a balcony and a shallow slope for the roof. Much better, all the details that I'd sketch on paper are now present in the design.
Compared with the inspiration set I've only used about 2/3rds of the bricks, understandable when you consider that the source also includes a bi-place. I could include a cart but I'm running out of ideas for carts having included several in previous sets. My initial design had included two 80's style trees on the baseplate to try and make it look a little less bare, I took the decision to replace one of the standard trees with a brick built "black" tree similar to the one present on the mountain itself. In turn this allowed me to "hide" a ladder up to the bridge behind the tree trunk. A quick rebuild was needed to make sure that the bridge could still spin without catching the tree or leaves and finally I had something I was happy with.
One last tweak... The upper tree has a lookout, why couldn't the lower tree? I never get around to it before committing myself to ABS
Minifig choice, 3 Forestmen. There isn't really much choice with 80's Forestmen figs, maybe change the head for one with a beard or moustache, change the colours of the arms. Replace one minifig for a friendly Peasant. All of them suitably armed with bows and a couple of swords to hand just in case. In the cave itself a couple of barrels and a chest with jewels form the Mountain Stash that the Forestmen are protecting.
Storyline - The forestmen are defending their stash. I suppose the question is from who? There are no "opposition" minifigs to defend from. Perhaps an oversight on my part, although I'm following the lead of Camouflaged Outpost which doesn't have any opponents, although a quick check of Brickset shows the River Fortress with one lone opponent. Maybe a fifth minifig is needed.
Buildability - Nothing complex, all standard brick on brick construction. However on buidling I realised that there were some minor issues and some minor improvements could be made.
The principle deviation from the LDD design was the lack of a 1x10 Technic Brick in Dark Grey so a Light Gray piece was substituted, thankfully this doesn't impact on the overall appearance because the piece is located around the back. A more prominent ommission is a trapdoor frame in light gray, although that will (would by the time you read this) be rectified through a bricklink purchase since the piece exists; I just didn't have it in stock.
Some last minute substitutions and rearrangements of bricks in the main tree allow it to hold itself together better by interconnecting the 1x5x4 arches more appropriately. An additional 1x6 plate was added beneath the lookout to provide more support to that otherwise parts of it would have been balancing on just a single line of studs. I feel that there's more that I can do to support the lookout, for three more bricks I can provide some inverted slopes that support things even further. This line of logic is leading me to question whether the tree as a whole is capable of taking minifigs being played with in the treetop without coming unstuck from the plates on the mountain top.
The solution is to run a black 1x10 technic brick down the back of the tree to provide additional support. It's clunky but it will hold, LDD doesn't have some of the older technic plates (the ones with the teeth at the end) which might provide a less intrusive alternative. Flat technic plates only went up to 2x8 (at least that's true in LDD) so I can't use one of them without resorting to layered plates and that becomes just as clunky as the techic brick itself.
The modifications made during the build have probably cost another 10 bricks. The LDD view below illustrates the technic support.
Playability - Lots of play features on this one. Hidden ladders, rotating bridges, trapdoors and sliding cave entrances. The more I think about it the more two opponents are required because they will be the ones running into all of the traps. Good accessibility, it's easy enough to get the men into the cave on the open two sides, the shack is similarly accessible from it's two open sides.
The sliding access to the cave.
The collapsing bridge.
The trapdoor within the mountain-top hut.
Consistentcy - BURPs and turrent pieces are slightly anachronistic, they are early 90's pieces rather than late 80's however I don't think that they look out of place. The black tree design is consistent with the tree's in the rest of the Forestmen's range, brown only came to prominence in the much later Dark Forest range. It's seen here pictured with 6054 Forestmen's Hideout
Cost - At 196 bricks it's going to be slightly less than the cost of the inspiration set Temple Of Mt Everest.
Much happier with the second attempt. The BURPs, LURPs and pallisade panels and bridge provide lots of bulk and height whilst leaving plenty of bricks spare for the trees to have an interesting design, even if said design did cause me some grief and rework during the build phase. Coupled with lots of play features I think this is one of the better sets that I've put together. It will work as a standalone set in it's own right and there's plenty of scope for play inspiration.