Hello! I mentioned in the LOM that I would be traveling up north (relative to my home in beautiful, too-hot Kansas) to Minnesota for the weekend and a few days on either side. Surprisingly... well, not always surprisingly... there is Lego even up here!
About this creation
Day 4: PaB Bragging
Since I'm holed up in the hotel this morning with some sort of bug, I decided to take the opportunity to post the last of my photo stock. Hopefully I'll find some more news or information for tomorrow.
Let me start with a description of the Mall of America Pick-a-Brick wall and what I learned from the staff there. The wall is half again the size of the one in Kansas City (at least the one in the mall there - I haven't visited the one in the Discovery Center, actually) and its selection was much more promising. I was told that the walls are usually resupplied two or three times a week (although that doesn't mean that the selection changes), but there are shortages at every store at the moment. That didn't stop me from filling a cup to capacity, however.
They had some tire, wheel and axle bins as usual, and I decided to see what I could do with the rubber, which fits nicely into the lid without falling out when you try to put it on the cup.
Parts that I passed over included some green 1x2 and 1x3 bricks and what appeared to be fins, slopes, propellers and other airplane components.
Finally, these are the parts that I did buy:
~ 8 "left" 6x3 light-grey angle plates
~ 8 "right" 6x3 light-grey angle plates
~ 8 "right" 4x2 black angle plates
~ 8 4x2 black angle plates... facing... the... same... way...
~ 147 trans-clear 1x1 plates
~ 8 pairs of those hinge pieces
~ 239 light-trans-blue 1x1 rounded plates
~ 1 black 2x2 axle - how did that get in there?
~ 101 black 1x1 bricks with studs on all sides - I'll never lack for these again
~ 14 green bamboo-leaf elements
~ 19 small black tires
~ 237 trans-clear cheese slopes
Day 3: Review of 70400 Forest Ambush
Here I go. trying to imitate the Brickset reviewers with a detailed breakdown of the set and all its contents. The packaging is a nice yellow with the current Castle logo in the upper right-hand corner, and the contents fit nicely into the box without being crammed The top face (not show here) depicts a figure for size-comparison... oh, and the recommended age range is 5-12.
Ah, the rattle sounds delicious. As for why I'm wearing a glove, well, that's your everyday case of Internet paranoia. I can't have Brick really finding out who I am, can I?
The 90 parts come in two separate bags, which, as I said, are a good fit for the box while maintaining that shake-ability we all love so much.
As with many small sets, the small set of instructions is folded double and thus doubly hard to keep open. What I like about it, though, is the helpful comic that teaches the value of sorting... because 90 bricks from two little bags are far too much to keep track of otherwise, right?
Those knights must get tired, wheeling their little rickshaws full of gold across enemy terrain. There is at least one of these in every Castle line and the design is always about the same. However, for the sake of you readers as well as my own amusement, I will give this a worthy break-down.
The chest on the back is held on by two jumper plates, allowing to to be removed with no difficulty. Also, the jumper plates keep it from interfering with whatever accessories one might choose to put on the back, be they axes, swords, shields or a spear with one of the baddie's heads stuck on top. The only drawback I can see with the four clips is that they can't hold every weapon, of which there are seven: a flail, two swords, an axe, a spear, a flag and a shield for each army. It seems to me that a kid playing with this set, having vanquished the villainous Dragons (or those stuck-up Lions, as the case may be) would want to give the victors the cart and all of the weapons as spoils of victory. Oh, well, I guess even with one soldier using a hand to pull, two minifigures are still able to grasp the other three.
Finally, *all* of the treasure (six 1x1 round gold tiles, three gemstones of varying color and a goblet) can be fit into the chest. Considering extra pieces, however, this can be annoying. If you try to put in the seventh gold "coin", good luck. There is also an extra gold stud from the cart chassis (why they decided to put those in to begin with is half a mystery to me - I guess TLG has a set group of parts produced in large numbers for each line and a designer grabbed the two 1x1s as a nearby, colorful space-filler). Am I the only one, or does anyone else like to be able to stow extra parts somewhere safely? In this case, you can build the set with its useful container-on-wheels, and you still have two parts left to roll around and get lost. Okay, I DO have the set's box, but it still irks me.
This is another straightforward, functional build containing a falling tree and a flick-missile. Surprisingly (or maybe not), both features work. I tried the flick missile and nearly lost it behind a refrigerator. Unfortunately, the connections between the functional parts and the base are both high-friction - the missile takes a good, hard blow or a priming action, and it's best to hold onto the base while pushing the tree down. If I were to change one... well, two... aspects of this set, I would change the missile piece for one of those three-stud-long technic pins with a stud at the end and the black two-cylinder hinge for the tree for a low-friction, grey one. Those alterations would greatly improve play, in my opinion.
The other side has some nice uses, too - it can store both flick missiles in clips and provide some cover for your dragon knights before they leap out to slaughter the hapless Mythr... er, "good" knights. If you're wondering why the knights don't see the wooden palisade topped with... grey stone, I think... you're forgetting what a large part imagination plays in making a set work and what a large part illustrated backgrounds and attractive animations play for TLG's marketing department.
At last I can write about the key feature of the set - the minifigures. No two of them have exactly the same armor design, giving a selection of troop types. More importantly, these troops come at a prime value.
This set costs $11.99, or, in the practical world, $12. It also comes with four superb, shiny minifigures with interesting faces and armor printing on two sides. This is by far the best deal you can find on Castle minifigures these days. Even if there were medieval CMFs out right now, $12 would still buy four of them... but those don't come with all of these parts on the side. Lego also released two Castle battle packs recently, consisting of five different figures from either army and something like a barrel, rat or torch to go with them. However, these 5-packs cost $20 ($19.99 on the tag) - that's $4 per figure, again without the tree and cart, compared to $3 per figure from this set. Since I only need common foot-soldiers for the LOM, this is by far the best option available for me.
Are there better deals than this? Strictly speaking, yes. Compared to certain sources of minifigures, $3 per capita is a rip-off. A couple years ago I bought the Kingdoms chess set at the Kansas City store for $50. With 28 minifigures in the set, that came out to about $1.79 per person with a free chessboard and some spare accessories in the bargain. The only downside of buying a chess set like this is that they are made in China - and, to be blunt and perfectly honest, the figures are inferior to European makes for several reasons - slightly-streaky prints on some of the shields, faintly-transparent plastic and some smudgy printing on the queen's dress - but the parts are all still very passable on the whole and I would buy another in a heartbeat if they made one for the current line. Unfortunately, the Kingdoms chess set was taken out of the Lego stores a few weeks ago, and we all know how secondhand prices can inflate.
In the picture above you can see the extra parts - a sprout, a pair of gold 1x1s with and without studs, a Technic cylinder and both a sword and an axe-blade that were not mentioned in the instructions. In my opinion, this collection is a real bonus (aside from the cylinder).
Oh, and these are the other extras that came in thanks to a factory goof-up - when I said that the bags fit in tightly, I wasn't kidding... but you know that I'm kidding here, right? These are actually my favorite parts in the set, the ones that make it worth the $12. Foliage is always nice, especially those smaller leaves, and the quality of the torsos is excellent. As I said, the extra weapons are very nice, as are the normal ones.
The absolute high-point for me, however, has to be the heads. We've all seen the clean-shaven, smiley boy - he's been around at least since the previous series entitled "Castle," so we can ignore him. His friend's face is a bit more useful - for those of you who use yellow skin-tones, this handsome fellow is the generally-accepted approximation of Toa Infernum's notorious LOM antihero, Rego Arian.
Interestingly enough, the two "villains" of the set are the ones to receive dual-sided heads. Sideburns has a respectable scowl on one side and a lovable leer on the other, perfect for a corrupt captain-of-the-guard or treacherous first mate in my mind. He is well and truly passed, however, by gap-tooth, who is the spitting image of a hillbilly or other confused bumpkin.
I've been waiting for this part!
Box, instructions and packaging - 2.5/5
While there are no serious issues here, the hardest part of building the model by far is keeping the instructions from folding up.
Building experience - 2/5
See above comment - wrangling paper took most of the time, and the rest was studs-up and multicolored.
Playability - 3.5/5
I can see my younger self happily spending an hour exploring the combinations of this set alone, then spending much longer using it in conjunction with the rest of his Lego collection. Some parts could be improved, but it's a sturdy, manageable set with a few possible plot developments.
Value for Money - 4.5/5
Honestly, this is a really good buy. With chess sets out of the stores, there is no better army-builder in the genre. Plus, the set comes with some good parts. I'll be sure to assimilate it quickly when I get back to Kansas.
Day 1: The Minneapolis Lego Store
This was the weather in Minneapolis the day I arrived. Fortunately, I like snow, grey skies and moderately-cold spring days of thirty-six degrees Fahrenheit, so I was happy. To be fair, though, it was only a flurry - the dotted windows of the STSS building of Minneapolis University that I was touring with an architect add to the effect.
Changing the subject, I flew for the first time in my life on the trip - that was exciting, and I will probably soon abandon Lego for a career as a pilot, but, (predilections aside), you're here for the bricks.
As some of you may know, the Twin Cities are home to the Mall of America, which in turn is home to a Lego store. Unlike the one I normally visit in Kansas City, this one is topped with huge statues. You can see the giant mech and the red sign behind that atrocious Nickelodeon theme-park they have there.
The pictures are bad, yes - I was too pumped for the PaB wall to take the time to get all of my shots in focus.
This picture is for Alex - feel like making some mosaics on this scale?
Whereas the KC store regularly features work from a local club, this one only had a single fan MOC on display, albeit a good one. This was designed by Jason Jensen (whom I assume to be a local builder), and, although I personally do not build classic-style houses, this scene was full of excellent details that I have never seen elsewhere.
Unless I meet some FOLs at Carleton College in Northfield to feature or lose wifi access, I'll post my set review tomorrow night - I'm going to add to this page every day of the trip, if I can. Until then, ciao, or, as they say it up here, goodbye!
Nice Pick-A-Brick haul! And a great review, too! Though, on Bricklink, I was able to get eleven soldiers from each side for $35ish, but I also know that not everyone uses Bricklink, which may be your case. :)
I wish my store had the 1x1 round trans-light blue plates... you should have picked up some more of the clear 1x1 plates, I think. I wish I had picked up as many of those 1x1 bricks with studs on all sides as you had...
Interesting piece choices, looks like your store has a very similar selection to mine. Although if I were you, I would have gotten more of the clear plates and less of the other water parts; the clear square plates usually produce the best water techniques. Sadly they're the only water piece (other than trans dark blue 1x1 rounds) that I don't have in bulk :/
Quoting Nanoc H
I was just there a few weeks ago! THe giant buildings are cool but i felt like when i went there where to many "friends" pieces in the PaB wall
People seem to buy strange parts, anyway. It always surprises me when I see someone use some of those purple 1x2 tiles they were offering for a while - they aren't the easiest parts to use without some thought, but impulse buying leads to new techniques that facilitate all of those large numbers of strange parts.