Wednesday, August 16, 2017

August 2017: Visiting the Pick-a-Brick Wall Once Again!

About a week or so ago, I made my third ever (!) trip to an official LEGO store.  As with my other two visits, one of the biggest draws to the true LEGO stores is the Pick-a-Brick wall.  Since it's fun (for me at least) to keep track of what I find and buy from the wall, I figured I should show off my cup's worth of bricks as I did the last two times.

To recap, my first visit to an official LEGO store was back in 2015.  At that time, I made a rather rookie mistake of putting a bunch of the 2x4 bricks in my cup (they are both large and overly easy to come by via Classic sets).  Still, I was happy with my haul then because I also landed a lot of bamboo plants and fence pieces (both of which I had precious few of at the time).  I ended up with 298 pieces the first time.

In February 2017, I made my second visit to an official LEGO store (the first one was in Maryland, my other two visits were both in Rochester, NY), I did a bit better with my cup - at least in terms of the number of pieces I fit in it!  In the end, I had a cup with 596 pieces in it which included 6 large white panels and a bunch of sand green stuff.

Now here we are in August 2017 and I have made my third trip to an official LEGO store.  Let's take a look at what I was able to score in my cup this time around...and we shall see if I did any better than either of my first two visits.

First, it should be noted that I went to the same store as I did in February and much to my dismay, a lot of the piece selection was exactly the same.  On the bright side, I had actually used up quite a few of the pieces that I bought the last time around, so it wasn't all bad but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was hoping for a larger variety in choices.

As I did last time, I landed a whole bunch of sand green pieces (because I can never have enough sand green).  Specifically, I grabbed 55 1x2 plates, 25 1x1 bricks with studs on two sides, and 4 standard 1x1 bricks that were mixed in the the side-studded bricks.  That wasn't nearly as many sand green bricks as I grabbed last time around but it is still a decent haul.

Some of the other pieces that didn't change from last time were the 1x1 gray bricks with a single stud on the side.  I took 41 of those as well as 37 of the green 1x1 bricks with a stud on the side.

Continuing the "repeats," I ended up making 11 "complete" turntables as well as grabbing another 38 of the white "frames" for use in various MOC projects (such as perhaps a stained glass window).

As I looked through the various options on the wall, I couldn't help but grab a few more pieces that I already took the first time I visited the store.  That included 19 of the white angled brackets (those are super useful for MOC building I've found).  I also took 32 of the white 1x2 bricks (because you can't really ever have enough of those) and 38 of the 1x2 inverted white slope pieces (also a piece that I seem to run out of quite quickly).

And finally, finishing off the "repeats," I threw another 28 of the green 1x2 modified plates in my cup.  That did it for pieces that were identical since the last time I visited the Rochester, NY store (at least in terms of the pieces I grabbed on both trips).  To go with the green modified plates, I also added in 12 of the 2x6 plates.

The Pick-a-Brick wall actually had a lot of 2x6 plates in different colors.  Besides the green ones, I also nabbed 9 of the tan 2x6 plates and 10 of the brown 2x6 plates.  I finished off my "large" plates with 12 of the always useful 4x4 gray plates.

By this point, my cup was getting fairly full - but I still had room for some more so I grabbed a bunch of the black pieces on the wall including 14 1x2 plates, 8 of the 1x2 plates with handle, 8 of the 2x2  curved slope pieces, and 29 of the 1x2 cheese slopes.  I figured those pieces, while not overly "special" were all useful to have more of on hand.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photograph of the black pieces individually but you can see them in the big photograph at the bottom of the post.

Speaking of useful pieces, I also went after some of the 2x2 plates available including 30 of the white ones and 8 of the lime green ones.  There were also a bunch of brown chair pieces available so fit 12 of them in my cup.

And finally, to finish off the cup I put in 5 of the ball joint "pairs" of pieces, plus 29 of the printed tiles, 89 of the pink flat tiles, and 28 of the bamboo plants.  After all, you can never have enough greenery in a custom city (or so I believe at least).

Phew!  That was a LOT of sorting...

So, how'd I do?  In the end, my cup held a total of 636 pieces.  That's more pieces than I had on either of my first two visits to the LEGO store...BUT I didn't grab any large pieces this time around (the largest being the 2x6 plates).  Overall, I think I ended up with a satisfactory haul, even if it wasn't full of super exciting pieces.

The only question I have now is how often does LEGO change up their Pick-a-Brick wall in their stores?  I think I'm probably good on most of the pieces on the Rochester wall for quite some time now...I need more variety next time!

Friday, August 11, 2017

REVIEW: LEGO 60150: Pizza Van

The LEGO 60150:  Pizza Van set comes with 249 pieces including a pair of minifigures, a scooter, a small picnic table, and (of course), a pizza van.

With a suggested retail price of $19.99 US (though you can find it for less at the moment on Amazon.com), this seems like a good deal on the surface.

However, is this one a pizza that's cooked correctly or will our order get messed up?  Only one way to find out - let's build it, and review it!

Like most City builds, the set is broken down into numbered bags for ease of construction.  In the case of the 249 piece set, you get two numbered bags, plus a sheet of stickers.  I must say upfront that while I usually hate stickers, the stickers in this set actually add quite a bit to the overall aesthetic of the set and so I'd definitely recommend applying them.

Bag #1 contains pieces for the two minifigures, the two small builds (scooter and table) as well as the pieces for the bottom of the pizza van.  The pizza itself is a printed piece (as is the wonderful "piece" of pizza that you can see sitting on the picnic table.  The set comes with an extra slice of pizza, a piece that I know will be useful in all sorts of custom builds that I may do down the road.  Unfortunately, the City Pizza box on the back of the scooter is done via a white tile and a sticker (though if you have to have stickers, applying them to a 2x2 tile is probably the easiest possible piece to stick a sticker onto).

The second bag contains the remaining pieces in the set - basically the upper portion of the pizza van as there is nothing else to build in the set.


The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  8
Play Value:  8
Kid Value:  8
Adult Value:  8
Overall:  8

Quite honestly, it's hard to go wrong with the Pizza Van set.  You get two minifigures (including a nice "chef" print for the van worker).  You also get a scooter and a picnic table to complement your "scene."  The pizza van itself looks quite good, the dark red with the yellow is striking without being distracting.  The stickers add a touch of realism to the van while maintaining the classic City "feel."  Where the set loses some points is on the interior of the pizza van.  Not because it's isn't detailed, in fact, it is - there is a microwave oven, ketchup and mustard dispensers (the van also serves french fries), and even a can of soda (with a printed "tab" piece for the top of the can).  The problem is, the top of the van doesn't come off (it's designed to be on at all times).  Your only option is to flip up the two window flaps and then try and manipulate the figures within the van.  For my adult fingers, this wasn't the easiest task in the world.

All that said, the pizza van itself is well designed - and frankly, I believe this set packs a lot of value into a relatively cheap set.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes pizza, food trucks, or fun (but not difficult) builds.  Certainly a great impulse buy if nothing else.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My First Kickstarter...

Like many of you, I was well aware of the website called Kickstarter.  As someone who likes to play board games, I know of plenty of games that got their start on the website.  However, while I did play attention to the site at times, I never actually contributed anything (or "backed" any project in Kickstarter terms).  That is, I never did until this month.

You see, I finally found a Kickstarter idea that I thought was cool enough and different enough to be worth backing.  And that idea is actually LEGO related, rather than board game related.  


That's right, lights without wires.  Pretty cool, huh?

As my loyal readers know, I am working on my own custom LEGO city - and I think having some wireless lights within the city will definitely make things that much more amazing.  The kickstarter project itself is now fully funded which means it should be a go.  According to the page, the actual lights will be shipped out sometime in December of this year, just in time for my Winter Village set-up if all goes well!  
Image taken from the i-Brix Kickstarter page.

I'm hoping that this Kickstarter experience is a good one - and perhaps if it is I'll consider more projects on the website in the future.  For now though, all I can do is sit back and wait for my lights to arrive before I can start playing around with them to see what all exactly I will be able to do with them.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Custom LEGO MOC: Grocery Store w/ Upstairs Bachelor Pad!

Over the past year or so, I have started to dabble in building custom buildings (and other things) for my growing LEGO City.  I'm definitely not the world's best LEGO creator (at least not yet) but I am getting to the point where I'm happy with the finished outcomes.  Case in point?  My latest creation is a custom LEGO grocery store with an upstairs apartment.  This was my first attempt at creating a building that would "fit in" with the official LEGO Modular buildings.  Eventually, my LEGO city will be populated by all of the modulars that I own...but I wanted to add in a bunch of my own buildings as well.  The grocery store is the first such building that I've built that stands a chance to be nestled among some of the LEGO Company's finest creations.

In order to get a better sense of the building, I put together a short video tour.   Enjoy!

As for the future:  Right now I have about three more weeks of summer vacation before I head back to work.  It is my hope to maybe get one more large building built.  I'm not sure if that will be possible or not (it will probably depend on whether or not I have to place another Bricklink order).  Otherwise, I still hope to redo my current LEGO City layout and add in the extra tables that I bought late last year.  I also have a few more sets to build that I would like to do a review for, including at least one or two of the new(ish) City sets...one of which I plan to immediately take a part a raid for pieces for my next big building idea!

So much to do, so little time.  Stay tuned for more, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Monday, July 24, 2017

My Custom LEGO City: The Amusement Park (I Need a Name)

Here's another quick video update of my custom LEGO city.

This time, I'm simply showing off my 32x32 square that I built for my amusement park complex.  Unfortunately, I don't yet have a good name for my theme park, perhaps you have some ideas?

Soon (hopefully within the next month), I will completely redo my custom LEGO city.  I have a two more large tables to incorporate into the space which should allow me to expand the city quite nicely.  I'll have more on that as soon as I am able!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

LEGO 71040 - Disney Castle - REVIEW

Let's get this out of the way first:  I'm an adult male who never was much into Disney movies as a kid (or as an adult).  In fact, other than Aladdin, I can't think of any animated Disney movies that I wanted to watch multiple times as a youngster.  I start with that to say that I am probably not LEGO's desired target audience for the LEGO 71040: Disney Castle set.  And yet, it must be said, I love the set!

The set itself is huge - both in terms of number of pieces (4,080) and in terms of actual width and height (29" high and about 19" wide).  The set is easily the largest set that I've ever assembled!  Heck, even the single included instruction manual is huge (490 pages).

The Disney Castle set is full of great features and hidden nods to many classic animated Disney movies.  The view from the front of the castle is mostly what you'd see if you went to Disney World in Florida...but from the back, the Castle has an open back (much like a dollhouse) with a variety of rooms - each of which is dedicated to a particular Disney movie.  In addition, there is a large foyer/ballroom on the bottom floor complete with a pair of statues (that don't count as minifigures in the official sense but they are in fact minifigs).

Even on the bottom floor you can find some nods to classic movies (including the aforementioned favorite of mine:  Aladdin).  

I definitely appreciated the chandelier build.  In fact, the set is loaded with lots of little builds like that with interesting techniques or pieces (in this case, you use a ship's steering wheel as the base of the light fixture).

Moving to the upper floors of the castle, you can probably make out a whole lot of neat nods to various movies/fairy tales including the rose from Beauty and the Beast.  In the Cinderella room, the masonry bricks definitely add a nice touch of color (and texture) to what would otherwise be a kind of dull kitchen scene.

There are lots of secrets tucked away in the castle!

How about that bed?!  Definitely an ornate piece of furniture, and it fits within one of the castle spires perfectly.

The largest tower holds the magic mirror (and poison apple).  

The castle even holds one more secret that you wouldn't ever find just by looking.  If you lift that blue roof section up, you'll find one more "nod to Disney" inside.

That's a glass slipper and a book of fairy tales.  Both of those are actually hidden from view underneath the one tower section.  It was a fun surprise to find when building the set!

From the outside of the castle, there are a couple more movie references including an archery range from the movie Brave (I think, or maybe Mulan?)  I don't know.  There are a bunch of cookies there too...so, whatever movie had archery and cookies in it.  See, I'm no Disney expert!

And finally, at the very bottom of the base of the castle on the outside wall, there is one last tiny nod to a Disney movie.  I believe this would be the Princess and the Frog, right?

The Disney Castle set comes with a total of five Disney figures.  You get Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Tinkerbell (shown in an earlier photo, sort of).  You also get the two gray guards/statue figures but I guess those don't officially count towards the minifigure count of the set.  Truth be told, the biggest weakness of the set is probably the minifigure selection - especially since all the figures (except Tinkerbell) were part of the recent Disney Collectible Minifigure line (even though the outfits here are different).  I would have liked a bit more variety in the figures but that feels like nitpicking at this point in time.

There's Tinkerbell!
Sticker sheet and all the extra pieces.

As whole, the Disney Castle set was a lot of fun to put together.  For such a large set, there wasn't a lot of repetitive building (especially since the backside of the castle isn't symmetric at all).  The worst part of the build was applying the stone decals on the facade - there were 12 total stone stickers (plus 5 other easier-to-apply stickers) in the set.  I think for the cost of the set, LEGO could have made everything printed.  It should be noted that the clock piece and the ornately designed white wall piece are both printed.  You can see the stone stickers at the bottom right corner of the above photograph.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  5
Play Value:  3
Kid Value:  4
Adult Value:  10
Overall:  10

Obviously my "overall" rating is not an average of the preceding scores.  For me, the set deserves a perfect 10 for what it is:  a massive set geared towards the adult collector.  There are tons of neat micro builds throughout the process and the end result is a display piece that looks equally good from the front as it does the back.  This is most definitely not much of a play set (though if I had the set as a kid I'm sure I would make the castle the center of whatever battles I was making up).  The selection of minifigures isn't great, but if you bought into the Disney Collectible line then you have lots of choices to fill up the castle.  Despite the sets massive cost, it's worth every penny!  Go get it before LEGO stops making it, that's my advice.

Friday, July 14, 2017

My Custom LEGO City: A Video Update!

With summer vacation upon me, I've been doing a bit more with my various hobbies.  One of those hobbies (and the reason for the the blog's existence) is LEGO.  For today, I have done a video tour of my LEGO table as it stands prior to demolition.  That's right, one of my summer goals is to completely redo my LEGO table (I bought two new large tables so that I'll have more space for even more LEGO soon)!  However, before demolishing the current set-up, I wanted a video to capture all the memories.



 I also snapped a couple of photographs for those that don't like to watch videos.


For the first, you can get a good view of my custom LEGO Hospital.  In the background you can see the large fire station.  If you look even further in the background, you might be able to make out my custom LEGO tunnel as well.
Moving to a different section of the city, here you can see my custom LEGO Ice Cream shop (nestled between a number of official LEGO kits).

The above shot is more of an overheard shot of what the least developed part of my city looks like.  I clearly need more blue base plates in order to make a better ocean/beach area.
And finally, a close up look at my custom LEGO train station complete with a bookstore and a couple of different places to get food and snacks.  I envision this plate becoming the center of town eventually (and yes, I'll eventually tile the entire base plate but it's not done yet).  I think I'll probably end up redoing the train station at some point as well, but for now it'll do.

That's a quick tour of the old city.  I hope that I am able to do another tour before too long of my new city (complete with two new tables).