Sunday, June 16, 2019

My LEGO City: Finally Going to Build Some New Stuff!

It's been quite some time since I had the opportunity to work on my custom LEGO city but that's finally about to change!  You see, earlier this week I nabbed a set from eBay that was a set that I wanted ever since I saw it for sale. 

The set in question?

LEGO 2126:  LEGO Train Cars

I love the old LEGO 9V train system.  When I was a kid, my parents bought my brother and I one of the 9V cargo trains and a slew of metal track.  We had a blast with that set - probably more fun with the train than any other set either of us every owned.  I continue my love of metal tracks and 9V trains today (my brother has our original train but I bought myself the green 9V cargo train a year or two ago).  Now, I'm about to have a bunch more cars for my trains (I also have three of the newer Power Function trains that I eventually hope to convert to 9V train engines).

I'll have more on this gorgeous set once I get it built and assembled.  Of course, because it was an eBay purchase of a open (used) set I'll have to be careful to make certain everything is there.  Still, I can't wait to dig in and had to share a quick teaser here on the blog!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

REVIEW: LEGO 40311: LEGO Xtra - Traffic Lights

Somehow, the month of May came and went without me writing a single post here at Playing with Bricks.  Luckily, June is getting off to a much better start with a post early in the month!  I actually have quite a few different LEGO sets to build and review - it's more a matter of finding the time to actually sit down and build stuff!

Anyhow, today we take a look at yet another polybag from the LEGO Xtra line of sets:  LEGO 40311:  Traffic Lights.

This polybag officially contains 46 pieces plus a (very) small instruction sheet.  There are no printed pieces (and no stickers) in the set. 

Out of the 50 or so pieces (counting the extras), there are really only four things to build in the bag - all of which are traffic lights. 

The first two traffic lights are plain while the final two traffic lights share the exact same design but add on a "push to walk" button.  The simpler lights take 8 pieces to build while the slightly more detailed lights take 10 pieces.  That's 36 of the 46 official pieces right there.

The rest of the bag contains some random bits that seemingly have very little to do with traffic lights.

 You get a red wheelbarrow, a green trashcan, a broom, and then some trash to sweep up (banana, bottle, a bone, and a pair of leaves).  I find plenty of uses for wheelbarrows in my own city layout (though I do wish there were dark green wheelbarrows to go with all of the red ones that I own).  The other accessories are fine additions to virtually any LEGO City as well (even if they don't go with the traffic lights in any meaningful way).

Overall, I give the LEGO 40311:  LEGO Xtra - Traffic Lights set the following rating:
The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  1
Play Value:  1
Kid Value:  2
Adult Value:  6
Overall:  3

I have to be honest, this polybag was one that I knew I "needed" for my set but the included accessories didn't spark a lot of interest for me.  Sure, the pieces are all useful in their own way but there isn't anything overly special here to get excited about.  I think the street light Xtra polybag is a much better value - at least there the extra accessories were a little bit better themed (and certainly more interesting).  All that being said, there's a good chance I'll pick up a few more of the Traffic Light polybags simply to get a whole bunch of matching traffic lights for my custom city.  I haven't quite gotten to the point of all the fine-tune decorating of the city streets, but when I do I know I'll be happy to have a bunch of traffic lights pre-built and ready to go up in the city!

Monday, April 15, 2019

REVIEW: LEGO 40312: LEGO Xtra - Streetlamps

I haven't much time lately to devote to my LEGO City - and that includes building any new LEGO sets.  However, that doesn't mean my life has been completely devoid of LEGO goodness though since I recently bought a bunch of LEGO Xtra polybags to help me "scratch the building itch" when it occurs!

I've already gone over two of the bags in a full review (Sea Accessories and Bicycles).  I quite liked the Bicycles polybag and gave it a 7/10 in my review but the Sea Accessories pack didn't float my boat and only scored a 4/10.  Obviously, my first two forays into the land of LEGO Xtra elicited mixed reviews from me, so let's dip our toes back in the water and see if a third polybag can tilt the scales one way or the other.

For today's post, I'm going to look at LEGO 40312:  Streetlamps. 

The Streetlamps polybag comes with 34 pieces.  It also had a small instruction paper which wasn't present in either of the other two Xtra polybags that I looked at previously.  If nothing else, that probably tells you that there are more substantive builds in this set (and you've be correct).

Speaking of the builds, let's start with the set's name sake:  the streetlamps.

In the bag, you get pieces to build two large streetlamps and two smaller lights.  One of the large lights has a pair of street signs attached to it (but no stickers or printing on the tiles to indicate street names).  I like both large lights (though I wish the light poles were white and not black to better go with the modulars).  I don't necessarily love the smaller lights, though at least the parts for each light can be used in other ways within my collection.  I would also be remiss if I didn't point out the cute little hand lantern.  I'll definitely try and find a way to work that into my custom LEGO city at some point in the future!

The other portion of the bag could best be described as containing other things you'd find along the sidewalk besides streetlamps. 

Here, you can see you get a bench, a newspaper stand (with printed tile), a mailbox (but no letter to go in it), as well as a camera and a cellphone (another printed tile).  The set also comes with one single extra piece (the flat 1x1 trans clear stud).  Nothing in this portion of the polybag is amazing, but the cellphone piece is super useful (as is the mailbox).  I'm not sure who uses a lime green camera however!

The polybag comes with only two printed tiles, but as I already mentioned they are nice tiles.

I like the newspaper print, it's not one that I can recall seeing before - or at least not very often.  I also know that cell phone will be hot demand among my LEGO City denizens!

Overall, I give the LEGO 40312:  LEGO Xtra - Streetlamps set the following rating:
The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  2
Play Value:  1
Kid Value:  2
Adult Value:  8
Overall:  7

So far, each of the LEGO Xtra polybags that I've looked at has seemed to cater to a slightly different audience or purpose.  This particular polybag is definitely for the custom city creators out there.  There's virtually nothing in the bag that elicits reactions of "fun to play with" for a kid, but for adults there is very little wasted here.  Arguably, I'd eliminate the two small lights and put in a third large streetlight but otherwise pretty much everything can be plugged right into an existing custom LEGO city without much effort.  For that reason, I think overall that this is a great bag for adults (or older kids) but not a great choice for younger kids who are still interested in only the "play" aspect of LEGO.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

REVIEW: LEGO 40341: LEGO Xtra - Sea Accessories

About this time last month, I showed off the first of two recent LEGO Xtra Accessory packs that I bought.  Today, it's finally time to take a look at the second Xtra polybag:  LEGO 40341:  Sea Accessories.

Much like the Bicycles LEGO Xtra polybag, the Sea Accessories set is full of various items that could be used within your existing LEGO set-up.  I must admit that when I first saw this polybag, I wasn't nearly as interested in it because it looked like a "Pirate's Accessories" set at a time where LEGO isn't actually making Pirate sets.  I did end up grabbing one anyhow though, I guess curiosity got the best of me (well, that and I have an actually plan for a number of the pieces in the set as it turns out).

The packaging promises 24 pieces in the polybag which is actually three more pieces than the Bicycle pack that I looked at before.  However, judging the value of the two sets purely on the number of pieces would be misleading since this set has many more small pieces in it, more on that in a moment.

First though, let's look at the biggest piece of plastic - the shark!  In addition to the shark, this set also comes with a few other animals including a light blue fish, a clam, and a multicolored parrot which I adore.

The rest of the pack's contents can sort of be broken down into two sets:  Pirate accessories and City-folk accessories.  The City-folk accessories include three (?!) green flippers, one oar, and some small pieces to create a pair of brick-built harpoons and a single orange buoy.  Finally, you also get a lime green surfboard.

For the life of me, I can't quite figure out the ratios here.  Why three flippers but only one oar?  I like the surfboard just fine, but couldn't we have gotten the pieces to make two buoys rather than two harpoons?  Heck, I don't even like the harpoon build all that much - but at least the barrel is a useful piece I guess.

The last batch of pieces belong to Pirates - and like many LEGO fans, I can only hope that this is a subtle nod or tease that yes, LEGO will return to classic Pirate sets again soon!  The treasure chest is nice, as are the blue gems.  I'm someone that is old enough to remember the old LEGO chrome gold pieces with the different denominations (10, 20, 30, and 40).  However, I can see that those pieces are probably gone with history so getting some gems is I guess the next best thing.  I threw the binoculars in with the Pirate stuff though I guess you could just as easily argue it belonged with the City-folk accessories.  And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on the only printed* piece in the entire set - that lovely pirate map (which I really do like a lot)! 

*technically the eyes on the shark are also printed

You do get a few extra pieces which I included in the above photograph as well.  The white 1x1 round piece is one of the newer designs with the hole in the middle.  Otherwise, not much else to say about the extras.

Overall, I give the LEGO 40341:  LEGO Xtra - Sea Accessories set the following rating:
The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  5
Play Value:  3
Kid Value:  6
Adult Value:  2
Overall:  4

For kids, I think that this set is superior to the other LEGO Xtra set that I looked at.  At least here you get some animals which make for fun play.  The shark piece is particular nice and I remember loving having sharks for my oceans back when I played with LEGO as a kid!  On the other hand, I think this set is inferior to the other Xtra polybag when looked at from an adult perspective.  Unless you really want to build your own Pirate or maritime LEGO layout/theme, there isn't all that much here that will be useful to you.  All that said, I do enjoy that LEGO is putting accessory packs back out - and these two are definitely not the last two that I'll buy (spoiler alert, I've acquired a couple of other Xtra packs that I'll have to show off and review in the near future)!  For now though, I think I might just go try and find a spot to put that lovely shark in my LEGO city display!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

REVIEW: LEGO 40313: LEGO Xtra - Bicycles

This past Saturday, I found myself in a mall with an official LEGO store.  Of course, I couldn't resist the urge to go shopping in the story and while there I bought a bunch of stuff (the biggest being the new LEGO Garage modular building).  However, while the big purchase might be the star of the show, today I wanted to show off one of my small purchases.  A polybag of what is essentially spare pieces.  LEGO 40313:  Bicycles from the LEGO Xtra line.

Right off the top, let me say that I love the idea of accessory packs for an affordable price.  The LEGO Xtra polybags are $3.99 each which isn't cheap but it's also not terribly expensive.  Even better, you know exactly what you are getting based on the picture on the packaging (which is great for kids).

For this little set, you end up with 21 pieces all loosely themed around Bicycles (plus a skateboard).  In total, you get two red bicycles, a lime green skateboard, 2 riding helmets, 1 baseball cap, two yellow fence pieces to be used as bike racks presumably, plus a few assorted accessories.  For me, the star of the show is actually those assorted accessories.  Included there is a new (to me) umbrella piece which I love.

You also get a printed pizza box, a printed letter, a backpack, and a yellow basket piece.

All told, this is a fun little bag of accessories which is exactly what the LEGO Xtra line is going for.  While I understand that some will be disappointed not to get any minifigures, that isn't what the Xtra line is for.  So long as you realize exactly what you are buying (this being important for both parents and kids), the assorted accessories can make any child's (or adult's) LEGO collection that much more fun and interesting.

Overall, I give the LEGO 40313:  LEGO Xtra - Bicycles set the following rating:
The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  4
Play Value:  2
Kid Value:  5
Adult Value:  5
Overall:  7

My overall rating of 7 may seem a little odd given that I spoke highly of the set during the written review and yet scored it below a 7 on every single review point.  However, a set is not always the sum of the individual review components.  In my case, I wanted this particular polybag because I wanted to get my hands on the new umbrella piece.  I also had an immediate use for the pizza box, the helmets, and the backpack piece.  I have my own custom LEGO city so I can make use of the bicycles as well. 

And that's the key.

Does the set actually contain parts or pieces that interest you?  If so, you'll find the value of the set to be higher than 5.  If you don't need or want the individual components of the polybag, then your value score will be lower than 5.  Strictly speaking, with only 21 parts for $3.99 this isn't a great deal in terms of price per part...but you do get some larger, more intricate pieces (two bicycles) and a couple of printed components so again, value is strictly in the eyes of the beholder for this little accessory pack. 

For me, it's a winner.  So much so that I actually bought a second one of these.  I also grabbed one of the other Xtra packs just for something to compare this one too...but that other pack doesn't quite have the same level of useful pieces for me (at least not at this moment).  It'll be fun to compare and contrast the two sets at some point down the road.  Stay tuned to the blog for that - and while you are here, feel free to check out many of my earlier reviews!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Another LEGO Minifigure Swap!

Last year, I wondered if the Swapfig website that I use for most of my LEGO minifigure trading was going to be closing down for good.  Happily, at least as of this February, the site is still up and running.  That's great news since it means that I might yet be able to rid myself of my duplicate minifigures and replace them with figures that I need from the various sets that I'm still working on.

As luck would have it, this past month I was able to do just that.  I turned an unwanted, duplicate figure into something I needed.  Not just anything, a minifigure from way back in Series 2.

That's the vampire and he was one of about nine (now eight) minifigs that I needed from Series 2 (which only has 16 minifigures in it in total I might add).  I'm always pleased to be able to nab an older figure given that they are kind of tough to come by these days!

Series 2 of the Collectible Minifigure line is definitely one of my least favorite series (which is probably why I haven't traded for many from this series yet).  In my opinion, there aren't a lot of stand out characters.  Even worse, many of the figures have since appeared in other collectible minifigure series which makes their older versions less desirable (at least to me).  At least the vampire has a cool cape piece and nice torso printing.  The white hands a nice touch as well.

Here's the rest of Series 2 if you are curious what the full thing looks like:

For the record, I'm still missing half of them including:

  • Spartan
  • Surfer
  • Pop Star
  • Mime Artist
  • Lifeguard
  • Jungle Explorer
  • Ringmaster
  • Pharaoh

The Pharoah is still a "must acquire" minifigure for me as I love Egyptian lore.  The Spartan is the other one that I definitely want to get at some point as I also love Greek lore.  The remaining minifigures that I need are simply kind of boring.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I won't turn them down in a trade but I'm also not going crazy trying to acquire them all at the moment.  After all, there are still a ton of minifigures I need from across the entire collectible line-up, I definitely have to pick and choose which ones to target!

Monday, February 11, 2019

REVIEW: LEGO 70841: Benny's Space Squad

When I first heard about the LEGO Movie 2 coming out, I admit that I was excited.  In fact, I don't know what I was more excited for - the movie itself or the many tie-in LEGO sets that would be released alongside the movie.

Unfortunately for me, now that the first wave of tLM2 sets have been released, I've found most of the sets to be lackluster.  Other than the giant Apocalypsburg set which seems cool but way too pricey for a novelty set, the rest of the LEGO Movie 2 sets didn't strike a chord with me.  That is, except for one.

The one set that was an instant "must buy" as soon as I first saw images of it was LEGO 70841:  Benny's Space Squad.

I loved Benny in the original LEGO Movie - and I loved classic space as a kid - so getting a brand new "classic" space pack (complete with a new color astronaut) was too much to pass up.  I may not have bought any other sets from the movie line (at least so far) but I did buy this one the moment I saw it for sale, so let's take a closer look!

Benny's Space Squad is a set that is first and foremost about the four included astronauts so let's start with them.  According to the box packaging, the astronauts are all named.  You have Benny in blue (of course) and then three other astronauts with classic smiley faces including Kenny (yellow), Lenny (pink), and Jenny (white).

According to LEGO lore, each colored astronaut is supposed to represent a specific job or career.  The white space men were explorers, the yellow were scientists, the red were pilots, the blue were soldiers or security personnel, and the black were spies.  Pink was not an original color for classic spacemen and so there is no official (or unofficial) job title.  Based on the wrench accessory, I'm going to guess that the pink spacemen are mechanics or repairmen of some type.

The set isn't only the four minigures though they are undoubtedly the star of the show!

In fact, for a $9.99 set with four minifigures, getting 68 total pieces seems like a pretty darn good value.  That becomes even more palatable when you realize that you get to build three different objects with those 68 pieces!

The set comes with a small 29 page manual and a two clear plastic bags (unnumbered).  I am happy to report that there are exactly zero stickers (the only print in the set is the classic space logo on a blue slope piece). 

The build begins with the four minifigures.  Three of the four astronauts have the classic smiley face while Benny gets his trademarked giant grin face.  It should be noted that Benny's face is dual-sided with the other side showing a much more timid, maybe even scared Benny.  Otherwise, all four astronauts are basically the same - each gets color coordinating legs, torsos, helmets, and air packs along with a single accessory.  Benny's helmet gets the signature "cracked" chin strap but the other three astronauts all get pristine helmets.  There are no visors to be found in this set.

Once the astronaut crew is assembled, it's time to work on the first two small builds.  On the left in the above picture you can see the very simple (but effective) robot while on the right you get a small (but also effective) moon rover of sorts.  One nice thing about the rover is that it has seating for two despite its small size!

The final build in the set is a very, very small spaceship for Benny to zoom around in.  There isn't a lot to say here except that I do love the inclusion of the printed slope piece and I love the old school "chair" piece used.  Simply seeing that piece instantly brought me back to my childhood.  I do think that the spaceship should have had one green light and one red light rather than the two red lights but that is sort of nitpicking. 

In the end, this is an amazing classic space starter set. 

From what I've read online, this set seems to be garnering instant praise from all sorts of people.  Part of that is undoubtedly the perceived value of the set (4 minifigures plus the three small builds for $9.99) but if you break it down into the price per part this set actually falls behind many others (only 68 pieces though you do end up with a few extras pieces as shown above). 

I also think part of the allure of this set is that many people that are around my age actually yearn for classic space.  I can't be the only one out there who really has no interest in Star Wars (or the inflated Star Wars pricing on LEGO) but would love a return to the supremely awesome original space factions (M-Tron and Ice Planet, I'm looking at you)!

If my review of Benny's Space Squad wasn't clear by now, this one gets an instant "must buy" rating for me.  It's so good, in fact, that I hope to get at least one more copy of this set to put aside for my 9-month-old when he gets older.  I want to be able to introduce him to some of daddy's favorite themes and there's no guarantee that LEGO will ever return to the space stuff that I grew up loving.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  10
Play Value:  10
Kid Value:  10
Adult Value:  10 (or 2 if you don't care about classic space)
Overall:  10