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)!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

REVIEW: LEGO 40320: Plants Made from Plants

It's been awhile since I've opened up any new LEGO to review (or old LEGO for that matter)!  However, I did make a purchase a month or two ago mostly because I wanted to get my hands on the "freebie" giveaway set:  LEGO 40320:  Plants Made from Plants.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a sucker for LEGO greenery - as a kid I always wanted to buy the classic trees and flowers pack (but I never did find it in a store near me).  Flash forward a couple of decades and I finally got the chance to get my own version of a plants pack - and as an added bonus, this time around the plants are made from plastic using sugarcane. 

LEGO claims that they will switch over to using all sustainable materials in core products and packaging by the year 2030 and this plant pack represents their first step in that direction. 

Enough of the packaging though, let's get into the box itself.  Now, I will admit that part of me cringed when ripping open this box (I imagine it will be a fairly good one to "tuck away" for a rainy day) but I'm not one for leaving my LEGO unopened.  Plus, this was my chance to finally get my own plants pack!

Inside the box, we find a pair of paper pamphlets and two plastic bags of pieces.  I'll get to the pieces in a second, but first the pamphlets.

For whatever reason, my box contained two pamphlets but they are exactly the same.  I imagine that I simply got "lucky" and scored two pieces of paper.  The pamphlet itself tells a quick story about LEGO's sustainability project and goals but otherwise is fairly nondescript. 

I should note that the nice tree you see in the image cannot be built with the pieces in the box.  In fact, only the lime green small branches are even included in the box (which is a shame)!  I keep most things LEGO related but I didn't find either pamphlet worth holding on to.  That's fine of course since it's the pieces that make or break the set so let's take a look at what you get.

Like I said earlier, there are two plastic bags in the box.  With only 29 pieces in total, neither bag holds a lot but I do think the overall mix was decent.  In the first bag, you get 4 of the aforementioned lime green small branches plus 16 of the three-leaf pieces.

In the second bag, you get a pair of small pine trees, three of the bushes, and 4 small palm branches.  I can never seem to get enough of the trees and bushes (in particular) so I'm obviously happy with this haul.  In fact, getting 29 plant pieces for free (with purchase) is a rather good deal in my book.  The box itself "lists" for about $5 which probably isn't all that much more than what it would cost you to get the pieces from a site like Brinklink (after shipping).

Overall, while I wouldn't necessarily buy a ton of these boxes, I am happy to have acquired one for my collection.  The new plant-based plastic seems to be virtually indistinguishable from the old ABS plastic plants - so much so that I'm going to simply dump these plant pieces in with all of my others.  That along makes me believe that LEGO will probably make good on their sustainability initiative!

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  1
Play Value:  1
Kid Value:  2
Adult Value:  3
Overall:  2

In the end, this is sort of a tough set to review.  The price per part is a bit high (if you consider this as a $5 set) and there isn't really anything much that you can actually build with the included parts (no stems, sticks, or other pieces are included).  For kids, the play value is virtually nonexistent - there's nothing to actually do here.  I also think the kid value is definitely in the eye of the beholder (myself as a kid, I would have loved this box but I don't think most kids would feel that way).  For adults, the novelty is the fact that the pieces are made from actual plants...but in the end you can't really tell (which is the point) but it maeks for a slightly overpriced box of plant bits.  Even worse, the most common element (the three-leaf plants) seem to show up on the LEGO pick-a-brick wall fairly often...and you get can get a TON of them in a single cup for a lot less cost-per-part if you are so inclined.

That leaves me in a weird spot where the individual grades for the set are all rather low (as is the overall grade) and yet I personally still like the set (such as it is).  I can't recommend buying it, but for a freebie set from LEGO we could definitely have done much worse!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Real LEGO for $0.30. Thank You TJMaxx

For those that read my blog but don't know, my wife and I had our first child this May (which should explain my relative absence from the blog since that time).  In fact, I haven't had much time (or money) to do a whole lot with LEGO...but now that my little guy is starting to sleep just a bit better, I'm hoping to be able to carve out a few minutes here and there to devote to my many hobbies, LEGO included.

Today's post is a bit different in that I wanted to share a cheap LEGO find that I landed at TJMaxx. Now, I actually hate going into TJMaxx (it's like a giant yard sale).  Sure, there are bargains to be had...but usually only for items that you normally would never buy. 

And yes, I fell for TJMaxx's tricks.

You see, I bought three packs of LEGO Nexo Knights Nexo Powers blind bags.  This purchase was made despite me owning exactly zero Nexo Knights sets.  Why would I buy them then? 

Well, they were 30 cents each. 

I don't know what is in each pack, but thirty cents for 10 official LEGO pieces was a good enough deal for me to take a gamble.  And so, let's dig in!

Pack 1:

Inside the main blind bag, you get a small clear plastic bag plus a "base" piece that's surprisingly large.  After opening up the plastic bag, I have to admit that I'm quite pleased with my purchase already!

The gray side clips and blue 2x2 tile are both super useful pieces.  The trans orange bumper piece isn't as useful for me, but it's a rather unique piece within my collection so I'll take it.  The real star of the show, however, is the printed shield tiles!

I bought the pack knowing from the cover that you would get shields, but I was expecting them to be stickered pieces (yuck)!  Instead, all the shields are printed - and they are quite nice.  I am already thinking of possible places within my custom LEGO city where I can incorporate some of the pieces.  The green medical looking shield, in particular, may end up in my custom hospital if I can figure out how to make the colors work!

The pack also came with a checklist of sorts for all of the different printed shield options that are out there.  By my count, there are 35 of them.  I have no idea if some are rarer than others (and frankly, I don't care given that I'm unlikely to find cheap packs of this stuff again). 

That said, with two more blind packs remaining I'd love to get the following:
1 desired shield already acquired, cool!

So.  How did I make out?  Let's rip into the next pack now.

Pack 2:

Well, the good news is that I got another one of the ones I wanted - that blue LEGO piece shield is pretty sweet.  I can probably find a use for the green welding mask as well as the white chain piece.  The piranha plant shield and the cheese wedge shield will take some more creativity however!

Pack 3:

Pack 3 was fairly close in contents to Pack 1 - but the two "new" shields were both ones that I wanted (I didn't circle the bow/arrow shield in my image above but I do like it) so I'll still consider this a solid win!

I mean, for 90 cents total this was a lot of fun even if I don't understand NEXO Knights stuff at all.  I look forward to fitting some of these tiles into my layout and custom builds - a fun challenge for sure (and more printed pieces are always appreciated in the city)!

Monday, May 21, 2018

REVIEW: LEGO Collectible Minifigures - SERIES 18 (Part 4)

I'm back with the fourth (and final) part of my review of the LEGO Series 18 Collectible Minifigures.  It took a bit of doing to track down the last few minifigs, but now that I have them all let's take a look.

Dragon Suit Guy

This was actually the last minifigure that I needed to find.  I made the mistake when feeling for packs thinking that I needed the Cat Costume Girl so I bought a second of that instead (this is why I should write things down and not go off of memory when in the store).  No worries though as the Dragon Suit Guy is pretty easy to find (both in terms of numbers, there are four in each case but also in terms of feeling the package). 

I do like his head piece quite a bit (and you assemble it a bit with the black horns).  The Dragon Suit Guy is one of the minifigs with multiple faces as well - a happy one and an angry one (perfect for the costumed character I'd say).

Party Clown

From what I read prior to the release of the Series 18 figures, it seemed like a lot of people were super excited for the Party Clown.  That excitement was dampened a bit when it came out that there were only three Party Clowns per case (putting him in the rare tier of figures) but I think he should be one of the rarer ones.  For one, he isn't an "army building" type of character.  Second of all, he is pretty cool - but probably not nearly so interesting to kids as some of the other figures.

The clown comes with two of my favorite accessories of the entire line - the balloon dogs.  I don't particularly care for the long orange "tail" of his jacket but otherwise this figure is pretty awesome.  Feeling for it isn't too bad, you can either try for the balloon animals or go my route and simply feel for the hat.  Just make sure it's not too long (or else you might be feeling one of the larger costume pieces in the series).

Cactus Girl

The final minifigure from the rare category with only three in a case is the Cactus Girl.   She sports a rather humorous cactus outfit with movable cactus limbs for arms. 

The Cactus Girl also features a secondary face.  In her case, it sort of looks like she got pricked by her own needles!  I found the Cactus Girl to be super easy to feel for (honestly, this entire series of figures is one of the easiest to feel for since I'v been buying blind packs).  For her, just look for a long slender body/costume piece and make sure it has bumps on it (otherwise you have the fireworks guy in your hand). 

Police Officer

When LEGO announced that the Police Officer would super rare, I immediately had flashbacks to the Mr. Gold figure which I never found (and probably will never own).  Happily for me, while rare, the Police Officer is still easy enough to find at one-per-case. 

Frankly, this is exactly the sort of character that LEGO should make rare (that is, assuming that they actually need to make any character super rare).  The Police Officer definitely isn't designed to appeal to kids (look at just about any current City set for a more interesting police figure).  Instead, it's designed to appeal directly to adult collectors...and so having it be rare isn't the worst thing in the world.  In fact, as a kid I'd be disappointed getting this minifigure as compared to just about any other figure in the set!  As an adult, I love the vintage LEGO "set" the figure holds in the printed piece but otherwise there isn't much here besides mental nostalgia for the olden days.

That's it for Series 18!  Now that I've located and reviewed the final four figures, let's rank the full series.
  1. Dragon Suit Guy
  2. Flower Pot Girl
  3. Cowboy Costume Guy
  4. Unicorn Guy
  5. Elephant Girl
  6. Cactus Girl
  7. Party Clown
  8. Birthday Party Boy
  9. Birthday Party Girl
  10. Race Car Guy
  11. Birthday Cake Guy
  12. LEGO Brick Suit Girl
  13. LEGO Brick Suit Guy
  14. Police Officer
  15. Cat Costume Girl
  16. Spider Suit Boy
  17. Firework Guy
That does it for Series 18.  By and large, I think this series has a lot of good figures (not a lot of great ones, however).  Luckily, it also doesn't have many "duds" in my mind.  In fact, other than the Firework Guy, I have something good to say about pretty much every other minifigure - and even the Firework Guy isn't awful.  On the flip side, you could easily shuffle the order of my top seven figures and I wouldn't complain as I think they are all great in their own ways!  Overall, I'm definitely happy with the series though I do hope that LEGO returns to an even more traditional series for #19.  The themed series can be fun but too many of them can be overkill (or simply boring if the theme itself doesn't appeal to you).

Now it is your chance.  What is your favorite minifigure in the series?  Do you agree with my rankings?  Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, May 14, 2018

REVIEW: LEGO Collectible Minifigures - SERIES 18 (Part 3)

Welcome back to my continuing review of the LEGO Collectible Minifigure Series 18.  Previously, I looked at nine of the figures from the set.  Today, I'm back with the contents of my next round of purchases  Actually, truth be told this is about half of my next round of purchases because I thought I felt my way to all of the remaining figures that I needed.  Unfortunately, I found out when I got home and opened the packs up that I was incorrect...but more on that in my next post.

For today, we get to look at some of the easier minifigures to feel for - but just because they are relatively easy to find doesn't mean they aren't wonderful, right?!

Birthday Party Girl

The birthday party girl (and boy) each come with a balloon and a present.  It should be noted that the balloon is a single piece (that is, it comes assembled and is not designed to be taken apart).  The balloon is super easy to feel for (look for a ball shape with a stick attached and you have either the Birthday Party Girl or Boy.  How to tell which is which?

For the birthday party girl, she comes with a present that holds a pair of 1x1 round food tiles (a cookie and a doughnut).  Once you've located the balloon in the blind bag, shake the tiny bits to the bottom corner and feel them.  If they are round bits, you have the Birthday Girl.

Birthday Party Boy

On the other hand, if you have the square 1x1 tiles, then you've found the Birthday Boy!  Like the Birthday Girl, the boy comes with a balloon (in orange rather than purple) and a different (printed) present box.

Inside the boy's present is a pair of 1x1 square tiles that are meant to represent the first Collectible Minifigure Series that LEGO produced.  That's a kind of cool little Easter egg to throw in, I approve.

Both the Birthday Girl and Boy are going to be tough to find in a searched box because they are each seeded 3 per case.  Even worse, if someone is trying to get both but they don't double-check the 1x1 tiles they may end up buying multiple copies of the same gender figure which would eliminate the chances for someone else to get that minifig.  Still, if you can find an unmolested box you should have no trouble picking out either birthday kid.

Firework Guy

When I first saw images of Series 18, I was sort of excited for the Firework Guy.  He seemed like a cool costumed character that would be quite charming.  Unfortunately, there's something about him that makes him seem sort of unfinished compared to most of the other figures in the set.  He doesn't get any accessories...and I think the biggest omission is that his fireworks suit doesn't have a fuse of any type. 

I also have to remark on his unfortunate printing on his pants.  Once you remove the firework costume, he looks downright silly (or worse) with an explosion printed on his crotch.  Not the finest look, that's for sure.

The one bright side to this figure is that he's more common than the Birthday Kids (he's seeded 4 copies per case).  He's also fairly easy to find, just make sure he doesn't have "spiky arms" because then you are holding the Cactus Girl instead (see the final part of my review of the Series 18 to get my thoughts on her).

Elephant Girl

Finally, we get to the last figure for today's post:  the Elephant Girl.  The Elephant girl comes with two faces (which is great) including one where she looks very upset at the nearby mouse.  Speaking of the mouse, that little critter is actually the star of this minifigure.  It's a new animal mold by LEGO and it's much better looking than the more common rat figure that LEGO has used for a long time now.

The Elephant girl is seeded 3 per case making her another one of the trickier ones to locate by chance.  I found feeling for her head piece to be the easiest route but I imagine others would do better feeling for her ruffled skirt (since that's a piece that has been used before).  Either way, she's worth locating as I think she's quite charming.

Now for the tough part, let's rank the four new figures in with the rest of the previously ranked minifigs from the series.  Here's my list so far with four figures remaining to look at...

  1. Flower Pot Girl
  2. Cowboy Costume Guy
  3. Unicorn Guy
  4. Elephant Girl
  5. Birthday Party Boy
  6. Birthday Party Girl
  7. Race Car Guy
  8. Birthday Cake Guy
  9. LEGO Brick Suit Girl
  10. LEGO Brick Suit Guy
  11. Cat Costume Girl
  12. Spider Suit Boy
  13. Firework Guy

As you can see, the Firework Guy is now at the bottom of the rankings.  His costume piece is probably useful for some sort of MOC by by and large he is a dull minifigure.  I ranked the Birthday Party Boy two spots ahead of the similar Birthday Party Girl because of the contents of their gifts.  The printed Series 1 packs are pretty cool while the food pieces in the girl's package aren't anything new or special.  Still, you can't really go wrong with any of the top eight or so minifigs on the list!