Friday, July 31, 2020

Finally! Some New LEGO Minifigures for My Collection! (Series 20)

I finally found some new LEGO Series 20 Collectible Minifigures at my local Wal-Mart.  For months, I've been avoiding going into the physical building and instead relying on the mobile ordering from the app (with outdoor pickup).  However, I had to grab some stuff for a meal I was cooking later that day so there wasn't time for a mobile order and thus I found myself in the store.  And when one is in the store, one must check out the LEGO aisle, right?!

I can't speak for other Wal-Mart locations but my Wal-Mart was almost completely out of LEGO sets.  I don't think I've ever seen the shelves as empty as they were when I was in there.  One thing's for certain, you can easily pick out which sets the masses consider the "worst" when those are the only ones remaining on store shelves during a pandemic!  The one thing that wasn't empty though was the basket where they throw the polybags and minifigure packs.  

I grabbed myself seven packs figuring that the chances of most of them being needed was quite high since I didn't own any Series 20 at that point.  

So, the real question is:  How did I do with my random grabbing of packs?  

Answer:  Not bad at all.  I ended up with six new minifigures and only one duplicate.  I'll take that for a series that only has 16 total minifigs in it.

Looking at the set checklist, I think Series 20 is a solid set indeed.  I love the most of the minifigures and I like that there are a number of themes and ideas included (plus most of the figures have at least one unique or useful part or accessory).  

So, what did I end up with you ask?  

#4:  Tournament Knight

I am a huge, HUGE fan of the old castle sets.  The castle theme was one of my favorites as a kid and so any time LEGO introduces another retro castle minifig in their line of Collectible Minifigures you know I'm going to be all over it.  The Tournament Knight is one of the most common figures in the box (and he happens to be the one I pulled a duplicate of) but that's not a bad thing since many people might want to "army build" with the Knight.  His shield is the star of the show for me but I also love his bucket helmet design - and the return of the feather plume!

#5:  Pirate Girl

LEGO has been doing a much, much better job of including females in their sets and minifigure line-ups...and even more importantly, including women doing things that were once stereotypically considered male-centric.  The Pirate Girl is one such figure - she's a baddie with a sword and I approve!  Also, another feather plume!  The Pirate Girl is in the second tier of rarity within the box.

#6:  Space Fan

Another female figure and this one is even better than the last!  The Space Fan comes with a smorgusboard of fun accessories.  The rocket with the NASA printed brick is awesome but I equally love the 2x3 printed schematics for the rocket.  The Space Fan's shirt features a classic space ship from LEGO's past which makes it particularly awesome for people my age!  Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't also complement LEGO on the design of the Space Fan's hat/hair piece - love it, love it, love it.  The Space Fan is also in the second tier of rarity so she shouldn't be too hard to find for those of you who like her as much as I do!

#7:  Llama Costume Girl

LEGO likes to have costumed figures in the Collectible Minifigure line-up and for my money, this is probably the best of the three costumed figures in this particular series.  The only bad thing about the Llama Costume Girl is that she has a boring accessory - a simple carrot.  Otherwise, it's adorable (and though not so easy-to-find - the llama is in the least common rarity tier).

#10:  Martial Arts Boy

I've never been a huge fan (or practicer) of martial arts so this figure clearly wasn't made for me.  I like the accessory but otherwise this is one of my least favorite figures in the series.  The Martial Arts Boy comes 4 to a box putting him in the second rarity tier.

#13:  Green Brick Costume Guy

Following the footsteps of the Red Brick and Blue Brick costumed people from earlier Minifigure Series, the Green Brick Costume Guy is actually a bit better since he also has a printed tile accessory.  I'm sure people more creative than me will come up with all sorts of interesting uses for that #10 tile.  The Green Brick Costume Guy is another one of the middle tier rarity figures.

And that does it for the purchase.  Six out of seven bags were new figures which is good - and most of them fell in the middle tier of rarity.  I do hope to eventually finish this set since there are still a number of other minifigures that I want in it (Pinata Boy, Viking, Athlete, Drone Boy, Peapod Costume Girl, and Sea Rescuer for sure)!  I've updated my SwapFig account to show the newest additions to my collection so if you happen to be on there maybe we can work out some sort of trade!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Mars Research Shuttle - LEGO 60226 - REVIEW

  The LEGO 60226:  Mars Research Shuttle set is a LEGO City set with 273 pieces.  I picked this one up off of a Target online order during the pandemic mostly because my toddler has been really into space and space shuttles lately (more on that in a future post)!  

The box art for the set showcases the shuttle front and set (which makes sense) but I didn't even realize that the set also comes with a number of other space exploration accessories.  Speaking bluntly, I think LEGO's box design undersold this set!

Opening up the box, we find three instruction booklets along with three corresponding bags of pieces plus a sticker sheet.  The instructions were packed loosely in the box but as you can see from the above photo, my set at least didn't have any bending or damage to the instruction booklets.

Bag #1 is used to build the little moon rover plus the collection drone (as well as the female astronaut who is in full uniform).

A surprising feature to me was the little red "reader" that was attached to the drone.  If you hover the drone over the moon rock base, you can see a blue design.  I'm not exactly sure what the design is supposed to be...nor why a moon rock would have such a design but it's a fun enough play feature (and for older LEGO collectors such as myself it was a nice throwback to the Explorien line of space sets).

The second bag of pieces is used to simply build the bottom half of the space shuttle as well as the second (of two) minifigs - a male pilot.  

The shuttle gets finished off with the third and final bag of pieces.

I get that LEGO wants the City line to be easy enough to build for kids so I have no problem with the two numbered bags for the shuttle build.  My only issue is why are there two different instruction manuals for the build as well?  It's not like you could give manual #3 and bag #3 to a different child and have them build their own portion of the shuttle.  Maybe LEGO didn't want the manual to be too thick?  You can also see the used up sheet of stickers.  The amount of stickers felt "average" to me for this set and I'd say the majority of the stickers do add to the look of the finished model.  None of them were overly difficult to apply, even for someone like me who hates applying stickers!

Looking more closely at the shuttle itself, I love the fact that you can fit both included astronauts inside.  The front cockpit is for the pilot and he gets a nice looking, rather large blue chair to relax in.  

The second astronaut sits in the back of the shuttle (you need to open up the swinging cargo doors).  There's also room for the rock collection unit without making everything too cramped.  

In the end, this is a great little set though the suggested retail price of $39.99 is definitely more than I'd be comfortable spending.  I was able to get this set for about $31 which is still a bit high in price but definitely closer to a "fair" price (at least as far as LEGO pricing is concerned).  The shuttle is a nice finished model and having dedicated seating for two minifigures is much appreciated.  I actually like the moon rover a lot as well.  The only "miss" as far as I'm concerned is the drone, it doesn't add much play value and the red "reader" seems to have no real purpose.  That's too bad though since it's actually the drone that is advertised on the box as being inspired by NASA.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  10
Play Value:  10
Kid Value:  5
Adult Value:  4
Overall:  6

This is a tough set to review because if you ignore price then it's a lovely set.  You get a fun shuttle and an equally fun second vehicle plus a pair of minifigures and a few other odds and ends (drone, space rock).  On the other hand, a suggested retail price of basically $40 for only 273 pieces and two minifigures is a terrible deal.  If you can find this for closer to $30, I'd recommend it and give it an 8 overall but since I try to go by the suggested LEGO retail price, I have to knock the overall score down a few notches.


Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Calm Before the Storm? Custom LEGO Layout Update

With the warmer weather finally making its way to my area, I haven't been doing as much with my LEGO as I had during the cold winter months.  That all said, I do have a major project in the works for my custom LEGO City table so I figured now would be a good time to do a "before" post.  Hopefully I'll have an "after" post to show off prior to the end of 2020!

My current LEGO City layout consists of two levels.  At the back of the table, the upper level is all modular buildings while below it runs a bunch of train track.  The rest of the table is a big circle and all one level.

On the one side of the table, I have my amusement park complete with Ferris Wheel, Roller Coaster, Merry-Go-Round, and Mixer rides.  

On the other side of the table, I have more modular buildings (plus some of my own creations).  There's also a pair of distinct train tracks that circle the entire table.  The outer loop is the newer plastic track with Power Functions motors while the inner loop is the old metal 9V track.  I've got three Power Function trains and two 9V trains on the tracks but I can really only run one of each at the same time without worrying about one train crashing into another on the same loop!

My next project for my table is going to consist of me emptying the entire layout and redoing everything.  I bought a couple more boards so I'd like to have more of the table be two-tiered.  I also want to make a bit more space for the amusement park (I have a couple of non-motorized Creator rides that I'd like to include).  I also need to figure out where next year's new modular building will go...hard to believe that I'm already mostly out of space!  

I'm thinking that I need to start building my sets more upward rather than outward...plenty of vertical room yet in the room!  

Whenever I do get around to redoing my table layout, I'll be sure to post the final results here to the blog.  For now though, thanks for checking out what I've already done!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Last of the Series 19 LEGO Collectible Minifigures

I have to admit that I've gotten myself distracted with 1,000 other things and so my LEGO blog has kind of fallen off pace a bit.  In all actuality, I've been doing quite a bit with LEGO lately - especially given that the coronavirus is still mostly keeping me at home with my two-year-old son!  Unfortunately, despite all that I've done I haven't been good at documenting (or photographing) my work.  

It's not all doom and gloom on the blogging front though because I do have the last of the Series 19 LEGO Collectible Minifigures to show off and review.  Back at the end of March 2020, I showed off a bunch of the figures but now it's time to finally give the last six minifigs a chance to shine!

Without further delay, let's get to the figures!

First up, the Dog Sitter.

This lovely figure comes with a pair of dogs, a shovel, and yes...doggie poop.  As a dog lover, the Dog Sitter (or more like Dog Walker if you ask me) is one of my favorite minifigures in Series 19.  

Next, the Mountain Biker.

I have to admit, I was surprised when I saw the Mountain Biker on the checklist since the bike piece is so large (and incredibly easy to feel for and find in a blind pack).  In some ways, this figure feels bigger than it really is thanks to the Bike piece but ultimately you only get the bike as an accessory and nothing else so I guess it balances out.

Speaking of the bike, I love the blue color with the yellow wheels.  The combined helmet/hair piece is also very nice.  All things considered, this is another great figure from Series 19.

Moving along, we find the Bear Costume Guy.

I'm guessing this little fella is supposed to be some sort of homage to the Care Bears of years gone by?  I was never really into Care Bears as a kid and I can't say this figure does much for me now either.  I guess the rainbow (printed) tile could be useful for other builds but otherwise this one gets a nothing more than a *yawn* out of me.

The Bear Costume Guy isn't the only costumed character in the set as we also had the Pizza Guy (shown off in a previous post) and now the Fox Costume Girl.

The Fox Costume Girl comes with a sack and a chicken, perfect items for the classic fox in the hen house heist.  While I do like this figure quite a bit, it's worth mentioning that it took me forever to finally track this lady down.  She was the final minifig that I needed from the set and it's her that has caused me to delay my final post showing off all the minifigures from Series 19 until now!

The penultimate figure to show off is the Gardener.

The Gardener lady looks like a grandma and she comes complete with purple hair, a flamingo, and a couple of flower stems (but no flower pieces to go into the stems).  For me, this figure is definitely worthwhile simply for that adorable flamingo.

And we end our look at Series 19 with the Galactic Bounty Hunter.

This dude dressed in all black is another one of my favorites from Series 19.  I don't know his whole backstory but to me he reminds me a lot of a Blacktron character and I could see easily slotting him into some play stories with my old Blacktron sets.

Also worth noting with this figure is the trans-red piece with the wanted poster on it:  Wanted "built or broken" with the classic LEGO smiley face on the poster. 

And with that, we've finished off the Series 19 minifigures.  Of course, by now I imagine many people have moved onto Series 20 which has been released (I think?) but I haven't seen any in my neck of the woods (in no small part because I haven't ventured into my local Wal-Mart in weeks and that's the only local place I have to buy new LEGO).  

Truthfully, I haven't even looked at the checklist yet for Series 20 so I'll have to withhold my thoughts on the series until I do so.  For now, I'll be content to put the figures from Series 19 up on my display shelves!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Kitchen Mantle #06: There's a Jungle Out There!

My previous kitchen mantle set-up for my (now two-year-old!) son was an Easter village of sorts.  While that display was my wife's favorite of the mantle set-ups thus far, I don't think it was my son's favorite since there wasn't as much for him to play with (he didn't seem to care about the houses much at all).  With that in mind, I made sure the next set-up had lots and lots of play features and I'd say it was a roaring (pun intended) success!

That's right, I went with a full on jungle theme for him this time around.

While it's tough to capture the full mantle in a single photograph, hopefully you can see what I did there.

For the most part, the set-up consisted of official LEGO sets, nearly all of which were from the LEGO City Jungle subtheme that was released a few years ago.  I did sneak in one Ninjago Movie set that I had lying around, bonus points if you can find that.  

You may also have noticed a fairly large structure in the middle of the set-up.  That's my first true, large custom build that I've done for my son.  In this case, I built him a proper jungle temple using mostly pieces that I got from pick-a-brick walls over the years (plus I took apart the the waterfall portion of one of the jungle sets so that I could have that nice plastic printed piece).  

If I get the opportunity, I'll try to write another blog with much better close-up photos of my jungle temple.  I have to admit, for a fledgling custom LEGO builder like myself (with limited piece selection no less), I was quite proud of how it turned out!

As of the time of this post, the Jungle display is still up in the kitchen.  My son has taken to requesting specific vehicles to play with each evening (he varies in what he wants to use daily which is neat to see).  I do have plenty more ideas for future mantle displays, but this one might stay up longer than usual simply because my son has seemed to enjoy it so much!  That all being said, I'm personally excited for my next idea so who knows how long I'll be able to wait!  

I guess toddlers aren't the only ones with a lack of patience some times, haha.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Look Back: 1990 LEGO Magazine (Shop at Home - or lots of little sets I wish I had now!)

We've finally reached the end of the 1990 LEGO Magazine.  After going through all of the major themes of the time, we are left with only the Shop at Home portion of the magazine.  While that may not sound super exciting, in some ways it is actually the most interesting part of the magazine since only the final few pages have actual prices on them!

Let's begin with the first of the three Shop at Home pages:

The Builders Club looks like a rather awesome magazine - $7.95 got you four issues of the magazine, a free mini set, a birthday surprise, and the always mysterious "special offers."  This page also has a few building accessories for sale (though no prices).  I actually owned that LEGO Idea Book as a kid and then a year or two ago I found a copy of it on eBay which I bought for myself simply because I wanted my own copy of the book once again.  Maybe someday I'll show off some of my favorite builds from that book.

Moving on to the next page, we finally get our first taste of how expensive LEGO was back in 1990.

There is a lot to unpack here!  I actually own set #6103 (Castle Mini Figures) and my brother had #6703 (Space Mini Figures) as a kid.  I also already mentioned owning the Technic Power Pack (set #8700) but that was the extent to stuff I owned on this page.  My brother had a copy (or maybe two?) of set #6235 as well.  

Nowadays, I look at this page and I wish I could get 62 bricks for $4.50 in specific colors (in my case, I always seem to need more white and gray bricks).  I'd also buy about five or six copies of the Space Mini Figures and the Castle Mini Figures if I could.  Set #5171:  Decorative Bricks always had my interest as a kid...heck, I'd probably fork out the $3.25 right now if someone offered it to me!  One thing I never wanted on this page?  Those weird Technic action figures.  I thought they looked weird/terrible back when I was a kid and my feelings haven't changed 30 years later!

Finally, we end with the last page of the magazine:

Here we get the order form (unfortunately the prices were only good through March 31, 1991 so I can't try and order anything today).  On this page, I always wanted the Road Signs set but I never, ever saw it available for sale in a store back in the day.  The prices are interesting here because now you pay about $8 for a regular sized base plate (but only $4.50 in 1990) and $15 for the large gray (only $8.50 back then).  Road plates have also gone way up in price, a two pack costs about $15 now I think but you could get them for $6 back in 1990!  On the other hand, the Train Station set #7824 is actually a "bad deal" by current standards (10 cents per part is the usual calculation for a "fair" deal in LEGO).  

I hope all of you have enjoyed this (slow) journey through the 1990 LEGO Magazine.  I'm not sure if I still have any other old magazines from my childhood or not.  Maybe if I find another one I can do another series of posts like this in the future.  For now though, we say goodbye to the magazine and we can only wish that current day prices were lower on our favorite building brick toy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A Look Back: 1990 LEGO Magazine (Technic)

It's been a couple of weeks since I last showed off more of the 1990 LEGO Magazine.  

We are nearly done with this particular issue that I saved from my childhood but we still have one more major theme to take a look at:  Technic!

The Technic spread in this particular magazine doesn't seem to get the same sort of love and care that many of the other themes got.  For example, there are no super cool layouts or detailed scenes involving the models.  If I had to guess, I would say that LEGO was going for a slightly older audience here (even if the stated recommended ages are only 7-14).  As far as the models go, I actually owned set 8024 back in the day - it was one of three different Technic sets that I had.  Actually, set 8700 is also featured on this page (the Power Pack, one of my other three Technic sets).  The neat thing about those two sets together was that there were instructions in 8024 that used the motor from 8700.  The not-so-neat thing about that motor set is that it used a bunch of giant C batteries!

The other half of the featured Technic sets include some of the bigger models for the time period.  As a kid, I remember distinctly thinking that these sets were actually kind of ugly.  The Power Crane, in particular, is way too boxy looking to be of interest to me while the Auto Chassis is so bare bones that I never had much interest in that either.  The Forklift is probably the best looking of the four featured sets on the page but even that doesn't look great.  

I don't think I noticed this as a kid but looking at the magazine now I can't help but see how much the color red was used in Technic sets at the time!  There are a total of nine sets (counting the Power Pack) between the two pages.  Of those sets, five of them are predominantly red sets, three are predominantly yellow, and one (8832:  Roadster) is black.  Not a whole lot of color variety for Technic builders of the era!

I should also point out that the modern incarnation of Technic usually doesn't feature the classic LEGO studs.  That's a radical change from the old Technic sets (and truthfully, the modern approach means that the resulting Technic models have a much more sophisticated look to them).  In my eyes at least, the more modern sets look much more finished as compared to the old 1990 sets (especially that ugly Auto Chassis set)!

That does it for all of the major themes that LEGO had in 1990.  That said, we aren't quite through the entire magazine - there's still the "shop at home" section which features a bunch of cool little sets (and accessories).  Perhaps even more interesting, the "shop at home" section is the only part of the magazine that also has actual prices printed.  There are a couple of sets featured in the section that I owned as a kid but you'll have to wait until I scan and post the last few pages to find out what they were!