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

Sunday, January 27, 2019

My Custom LEGO City: A Complete Overhaul

Over my Christmas break (and with the help of my brother), I completely ripped up, tore apart, and reassembled my custom LEGO city.  That meant completely clearing off six tables, plus four boards that I used to provide extra height. 

Prior to the tear down, here's a look at the old city.

In the end, I opted to go with an "O" shape rather than the sort of "T" shape that I used before.  I believe the "O" shape will allow me to have easier access to all parts of the city! 

I hope to show off more of the city in the future...and hopefully next time I'll even have more of the little stuff put up (most of my minifigs, signs, etc. aren't placed yet).

For now though, I'll be happy with what I have.  It feels good to get the city back to a place where I'm happy with how it looks.

I will have more on the city whenever I actually do enough to warrant another post!  I do have some pretty big plans though so hopefully another update will come sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

REVIEW: LEGO 30382: Jurassic World Baby Velociraptor Playpen

I'm a huge fan of both dinosaurs and LEGO - so when LEGO said they were going to produce another round of Jurassic Park sets full of dinosaurs I was excited.  Unfortunately, many of the Jurassic World sets ended up being quite expensive for the amount of parts you got, but if you weren't after the biggest and baddest dinosaurs there are still some quality options.

If you really don't want the biggest and baddest dinosaurs, then perhaps LEGO 30382:  Jurassic World Baby Velociraptor is just the ticket. 

The Velociraptor playpen set is a low budget polybag set with a fairly robust 48 pieces.  While there are no minifigures included in the set, you do get an awfully adorable baby velociraptor which seems like a fine trade. 

The set itself consists of a single small build which is supposed to be a "playpen" according to the set name. However, I wouldn't call this a pen of any sort (play or otherwise) since there is no fully enclosed area to be found anywhere in the build.

Instead, I would definitely treat the polybag as more of a parts set than anything else.  You do get a number of useful parts including the baby dinosaur, a pair of bones, and two of the relatively new leaf pieces.  You also get a chicken leg and a few pieces in the lovely dark blue that I like so much.  All in all, it's a solid little set - and for the money you can't go wrong if you like dinosaurs. 

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

The polybag set is hard to judge objectively for two reasons.  First, the set doesn't have any minifigures, nor does it have a second baby dinosaur.  That means it's hard to have a lot to "play" with the set - I mean, other than making the baby dino eat a bone and drink some water there isn't much here.  The other reason that this set is hard to judge is that it is clearly designed for people who simply want more dinosaurs at an affordable price point.  Sure, there may not be a lot that this actually does but look, you get a baby velociraptor! 

If the baby dino is a draw to you, then this set is probably at least a 7 in terms of value and overall score.  However, I'm guessing that a lot of people will pass this set by given that you don't get a minifigure of any type in it nor do you get a proper pen of any sort (at least not if you simply build the set as instructed).

As for me, I love dinosaurs and I actually grabbed two of this set the other day with that thoughts that I might be able to combine them into a single, more proper "pen."  I'll have to see if I can make that work sometime soon.  For now though, I'll simply enjoy this little build for what it is: simple, cheap, and fun for dino lovers.

Monday, December 3, 2018

REVIEW: LEGO 40263: Christmas Town Square

The LEGO 40263:  Christmas Town Square was a special seasonal LEGO set released in 2017.  I managed to grab myself a copy of the set, but then promptly packed it away with the rest of my winter village only for me to rediscover the (unopened) box this year when I pulled my winter sets back out of storage.  That was certainly a fun surprise seeing as I had completely forgotten about purchasing the set.

For an original retail price of $9.99 USD, you got a 179 piece set complete with three different minifigures (two kids, one boy and one girl, with the stumpy legs and one adult female figure).  I love the various sweater / sweatshirt torso prints in the set, all of them are perfect for a wintery scene.  The legs have no printing on them but they are fine (other than perhaps the white legs - isn't wearing white after Labor Day a big no-no)?

The adult figure has alternate facial expression for those that are interested in such things. 

Personally, I don't find the majority of the alternate faces to be particularly interesting - though I could see if you liked to role play with your figures or perhaps create stop motion videos that having lots of different facial expression options would be appreciated.  For me, I generally pick one face and keep the figure with that particular expression for whatever scene it is that I'm creating.  Maybe back when I was a kid I would have switched faces more often (especially in the instances of happy / panic options or happy / mad options for villains).

Moving on to the build itself, it's no surprise that the 179 piece build went by quickly.  However, that isn't to say that it wasn't a fun or interesting build.  I'll start with the main attraction of the set:  the town Christmas tree.

I have to admit that LEGO creators are clearly very talented, it seems every holiday season they come up with one or two new ways to build up a brick Christmas tree.  This little set had a fairly simple build for the tree (a lot of plate stacking) but things get connected with a minor SNOT technique which gave an end result of a tree that is much sturdier than it might appear to be.

I should mention that I particularly like the golden gate pieces and the many masonry brick pieces that make up the fencing for the tree.  The two little wreaths are a nice holiday touch as well.

While I definitely liked the Christmas tree part of the set, the other little build-able options weren't quite up to the same high-quality levels.

There are three small little bits to build that I guess are meant to "flesh out" the remainder of the town square.  Of the three, I think one is good, one is barely okay, and the last is quite poor.  I'll let you see if you can figure out which is which first...

For me, the light pole / mailbox is the clear winner here.  The design is elegant, looks Christmas-y with the include wreath, and generally makes sense for a Christmas Town Square.  Also, you can't go wrong with getting more mailbox pieces in general - and the little letter "sign" is a nice touch!

On the other hand, I think the little snowman build is particularly bad.  I hate the 1x3 white plate that is supposed to represent the snowman's arms.  Who builds arms out of snow for a snowman?  At the very least, that should have been a brown plate to better indicate sticks for arms.  I don't mind getting another LEGO top hat from the mini build, but otherwise this was a waste of nine pieces in the set. 

In between the good and bad is the little baked goods stand.  For a small set with a limited piece count, the stand is adequate.  I like the pair of included cupcakes and the pretzel sign at the top of the stand lets you know what is supposedly for sale there.  Of course, there is no cash register (or money pieces) in the set..not is there even a place for the worker to stand behind the stand, at least not on the included 4x4 plate.  That said, the red and green awning plus the tiny green plant piece as decoration helps to make the stand passable.

That leaves us with one final build - and it's a small sled filled with gifts.

Normally, I wouldn't make a big deal out a small build like this, but I'd be remiss in this review if I didn't point out that for some reason, the blue box with the green top actually has a gift inside of it.

It's a small gold flat round plate, perhaps meant to represent a coin?  I'm not sure - and you have to get that coin positioned just right in order to close the box back up.  It's a weird little inclusion - but kind of a fun surprise when building the set so I'm not mad about it!

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  4
Play Value:  3
Kid Value:  4
Adult Value:  10
Overall:  8

In the end, I found this set to be a joy to build and display, despite a couple of the smaller components having their own issues.  The snowman build is entirely forgettable (though you can sort of place the various white plates together to make a slightly larger, slightly more cohesive scene if you want).  The sled is perfectly fine and the Christmas Tree and fence is quite lovely.  For a cost of only $10 USD and three nice minifigures along with 179 total pieces, the value is definitely there for adult collectors.  For me, this isn't a display set - but it is a great Winter Village parts pack.  I'll be for sure using the mailbox bit somewhere within my own village as well as the Christmas tree.  The snowman and baked goods stand do have some useful pieces at least (including the pretzel itself) so all isn't lost there either.  While I don't think this is the funnest possible set for a kid to play with, I still would recommend it for anyone (kid or adult) who enjoys the Winter Village line of sets.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Last (?) of the Swapfig Trades

Last week, I wrote about the first of two LEGO minifigure trades that I completed on the Swapfig site back in April of this year.  Today, it's time to look at the second trade I made. 

Before I get to the new acquisitions, I must say that it appears that the Swapfig site may be on its last legs.  They've had a ton of site stability issues over the past several months - and I guess that (along with other things) led to a mass exodus of users.  Last week, I tried to see what sort of trades I might be able to do in order to rid myself of my extra figures and I found there to be very few choices for me.  I'm hopeful that the site is able to revive itself (the owners seem to be on the fence about continuing) but no matter what happens, I can at least be thankful that the site allowed me to do a number of trades (11 in total to date) which had the net effect of drastically improving my overall Collectible Minifigure collection!

Now, let's turn our attention to my latest (and final) trade from the site to date.  Just like with the other April trade I made, this one was all about Series 3 and 4 (both series of which I am now only missing two figures each from).

From Series 3, I tracked down a pair of figures including the awesome Elf figure.  Back in the days of my childhood, I loved playing with Castle sets - so that Elf would have been right at home in my make believe fights between good and evil! 

From Series 4, I managed to get three more figures including the awesome gnome figure. 

That does it for LEGO related mail day posts to date.  Hopefully I'll have more trade posts in my future here!

I'm so happy to (finally) be back to blogging on a semi-regular basis AND to get my desk cleared off of the bubble envelopes!  Hopefully, this won't be the last post you see from me here at Playing with Bricks this year!  I'm super excited to get back to building my own custom creations - and I'd like to continue reviewing/showcasing some older sets, especially those from around the time of my childhood.  Lots of big plans for the blog, so stay tuned!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Back to Collecting Minifigures!

It has been quite some time since I've posted on the blog here - and that's mostly because I've been busy trying to get caught up on my baseball card blog Nachos Grande.  Well, that and the little baby that my wife and I welcomed to the world in May of this year. 

Luckily, I think my wife and I now have a better handle on being parents...and I know I've gotten my baseball blog back in order, and so now it's time to try and revive Playing with Bricks, my LEGO-centric blog.

While I haven't been blogging here much, I have been slowly accumulating more LEGO (and even building some LEGO stuff).  For now though, I thought I ought to get caught up on trade packages (a familiar refrain from my baseball card blog lately)! 

Today's package is one of a couple of Swapfig trades that I did back in April of this year (right before the baby arrived in fact)!  For this trade, I managed to acquire a pair of minifigures from the third Collectible Minifigure Series.

I actually owned the Indian Chief once before but gave my first copy of the minifig to my brother for his set-up.  I'm glad to have reaquired a copy for myself now!  With these two figures under my control, I'm down to needing only two more before I can close out Series 3.  Those missing figures are:
Series 3 (need 2/16):Hula Dancer
Samurai Warrior
The second half of the trade consisted of three figures from the next series (Series 4).

Thanks to the three minifigs above, I am down to only needing two more figures from Series 4 as well. 
Series 4 (need 2/16):Musketeer
Overall, I would say that my favorite figure is the Indian Chief, followed fairly closely by the Evil Alien dude.  The three figures from Series 4 were rather mundane in my mind, but as a collector I still feel the need to track them all down!

Speaking of tracking them all down, if you happen to have any unwanted minifigs, be sure to check out my want list as I am always open to trading (or you can find me on Swapfig if you prefer)!