Saturday, December 26, 2015

LEGO Collectible Minifigures: Series 14 - A Two Pack Christmas Surprise Rip!

Right before Christmas, I received a gift in the mail from Duff, one of my baseball card blog friends.

 Included with the Christmas card was a pair of unopened LEGO Series 14 Collectible Minifigures.

Now, this was an exciting gift for me because I have yet to open any of the Series 14 figures.  In fact, before I show off which figures I got, let's take a look at the entire checklist for Series 14.

Looking at the checklist, there are a few figures that I'd definitely like to track down including the guy dressed up as a carnivorous plant, the gargoyle, and the two ghostly figures.  I'd also like the trick-or-treater and the big foot figure.

So how did I do with my two packs?  Let's find out!

Pack #1:

Woo!  The first pack that I opened contained the Gargoyle.  In a series full of monsters, the Gargoyle is one of the few figures that could potentially find itself used in a custom City set-up (perhaps as a decoration on some gothic-themed building).  I particularly like the wing piece on this figure, very cool!  I actually wouldn't mind getting at least one more Gargoyle figure...because if I ever were to build a custom building there's a very good chance I'll want at least a pair of Gargoyles to flank the entrance!

Pack #2:

Sweet!  The second pack contained Big Square Foot.  LEGO had fun with this figure naming him Square Foot and giving him a camera to capture his movements (or is the Square Foot finally about to capture rare footage of the yellow minifigure)?!  Either way, it's a fun addition and he'll pair nicely with my Yeti figure from a previous minifigure series.

I'm really pumped that both packs provided me with a figure that I really wanted.  Heck, since I didn't have any figures I'd have been happy with any of them...but to get two of the six most wanted figures from the set?  That's pretty darn cool - and a great Christmas present!

Thanks Duff!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

LEGO 31014: Power Digger - REVIEW

Judging from my blog stats, people generally only seem interested in reviews of large LEGO sets.  On the one hand, I can certainly understand that because the large sets are much more of a financial investment (and the risk/reward is higher given the high cost of the set).  However, I would also wager that more small LEGO sets get sold every year as compared to large why not try and hold the small sets to the same standards as the large ones (keeping the lower cost in mind)?

Today, we go to one of the very smallest sets that you can buy - LEGO 31014:  Power Digger.  The set contains a mere 64 pieces but it does include instructions for three different models which is impressive given the small piece count.

As I mentioned already, the set is one of the 3 in 1 LEGO Creator sets - and amazingly, LEGO managed to make three distinct vehicles using only the 64 pieces included in the set (and in two of the the three cases, substantially fewer than the 64 pieces)!

Based on my ranking, let's start with the least impressive of the three builds:  The Bulldozer.

The Bulldozer isn't a bad build, but it looks too much like some type of farm equipment rather than an actual construction vehicle that you'd see on working on highways.  I also think of bulldozers as having treads rather than tires which obviously wasn't going to be possible with a set of this size.

While the bulldozer may have been a disappointment (and notice all the unused pieces), the next two builds are much better.  Continuing with the worst-to-best ranking, the Dump Truck places right in the middle of the three builds.

Unlike the bulldozer, the dump truck actually looks pretty close to its real-life counterpart.  You can even actually use the truck to dump out stuff held in the back (though admitted the back of the truck won't actually hold more than a stud or two worth of LEGO bricks)!  I also think the dump truck is a bit squatty looking - though with the rather poor selection of leftover pieces I'm not sure that the LEGO designers could have done much better.

That leads us to our final build, and yes, I saved the best for last!  The Power Digger.

Since the set is called Power Digger, it's really no surprise that this is the star of the set.  The truck definitely looks the part - the main part of the truck even spins around 360 degrees and the digger arm is articulated in three different spots.  The only downside to this build is that the scoop of the digger doesn't actually hold anything - it's a flat plate.  Even so, for a build this small that can be overlooked.

I give the LEGO designers a lot of credit for packing three completely different builds into a set with under 70 pieces.  Each of the three trucks is instantly recognizable and I'd say that two of the builds are actually really nice.  In fact, I could see picking up a second set #31014 so that I could have both the power digger and the dump truck working together!

So how does the set fare overall?  Well, let's take a look:

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  5
Play Value:  5
Kid Value:  7
Adult Value:  3
Overall:  5

While I did like two of the three builds quite a bit, the set suffers from a lack of play ability for young collectors and a lack of interesting or new pieces for adult collectors.  For the young collectors, this set would have benefited from about four 1x1 round brown pieces to serve as dirt for the trucks to push around, dig up, and haul away.  I don't think four round studs would have added much (if anything) to the cost but it definitely would have made for a lot more play value.  As it stands now, you either get a digger with nothing to dig or a dump truck with nothing to haul.

For adults, I think the set mostly suffers for its size.  It's much too small to fit into any LEGO CITY style layout and yet it's much too big to work for any microbuilds.  I will say that I had fun building all three models but with such a small piece count it's hard for that to affect the bottom line much (since any one model takes less than two minutes or so to put together)!  In the end, I gave the set a rather low score of 5 but I'm still impressed by the pure variety of the three builds given the limited number of pieces.  There's certainly no harm in buying this set as an impulse purchase...and it definitely makes a fine addition to any LEGO gift you might give someone (which is how I ended up with this set thanks to my brother)!

Pull out a few extra "dirt" pieces from your own collection to use with your trucks while you play and you've got yourself a winner of a mini set!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

REVIEW: LEGO 850617: LEGO City Police Accessory Set - REVIEW

Last month, I had a birthday and with that came a large assortment of LEGO sets.  One of the sets that I was given was set 850617:  LEGO City Police Accessory Set.  This is a simple set (34 pieces) that's basically a collection of four minifigures, a dog, and some accessories.

The question is, how does the set stack up for someone who owns quite a bit of City stuff already?  The four minifigures are all quite nice - I especially like that one of the four officers is a female since female minifigs are a bit rarer.  However, it should be noted that all four minifigures have the exact same torso (and legs) pieces so really the only difference is the face, the headpiece (hair or helmet), and the accessories.

Speaking of accessories, you get quite a few including two megaphones, 2 walkie talkies, 2 pairs of handcuffs, a pair of binoculars, 2 flashlights, and a metal detector.  The metal detector is an odd choice but I suppose it provides something rather unique to this set.  You also get a dog (with a dog bone) and a small, one-piece barrier for official police work.

For me, I'd say this is a solid set to pick up if you need to expand your police force.  The four figures all have a bit of a SWAT team vibe to them, perhaps it is the dark helmets with visors that really hammer that feeling home.  The one thing that I didn't like is that the minifigures all felt cheaper than those you'd get in a "regular" set.  The hair pieces in particular seemed extra loose fitting...something to keep in mind if you are thinking of buying this set for small children I guess.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  5
Play Value: 5
Kid Value:  7
Adult Value:  4
Overall:  5

I would be remiss if I didn't note that you don't actually get anything in this set for the police officers to do.  There are no criminals (or even innocent townsfolk to interrogate for fun).  I think had one of the two helmeted officers been a criminal instead that this set would have had much more play value.  As it is, it's a solid set to bolster your police department but that's pretty much it.  I like though since one of my other birthday presents was a new police station!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

LEGO 40123: Thanksgiving Feast - REVIEW

It seemed appropriate to me to review LEGO 40123:  Thanksgiving Feast on Thanksgiving Day (at least here in the United States)!  This set contains 158 pieces and two minifigures.

The minifigures are both grey-haired, presumable a pair of grandparents.  The set itself is a small vignette that contains a kitchen scene (complete with a serving cart on wheels).  It's not the most exciting play set - but if you think of it as a parts pack it's a really nice set.

You see, you get a full turkey, a pie, a red apple, and a pumpkin piece (all of which are nice and quite valuable).  You also get a green bottle as well as a couple of clear glasses.  However, the big surprise to me was the backside of the model.

LEGO actually decorated the backside as well - complete with a nice creeping plant and a pitchfork!

So is the model worth the purchase?

For me, the answer is yes.  You get enough unique pieces (and useful pieces) that you could theoretically take the set down and piece it out.  Of course, I find it to be a cute enough set that I'll probably be leaving my set in tact and putting it on display every November.

My complaints for the set are very minor - mostly the fact that the red apple is huge (and doesn't connect to anything in the bowl so it falls out almost every time I move the model around).  I also don't like the clear 1x1x2 round brick that LEGO used to hold the turkey on the cart.  That, too, falls off a lot.  And while the pie looks good underneath the cart, it's easy to miss that part of the dinner when someone (non-LEGO fan) looks at the model which is too bad.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  5
Play Value:  5
Kid Value:  9
Adult Value:  10
Overall:  10

This isn't a set designed for play (though the cart does have wheels and you get a pitchfork so you can use your imagination a bit).  It is, however, pretty much perfect for what it is designed for which is to be a charming holiday decoration.  I give my wholehearted recommendation for the set as long as you realize its a decorative set and not a play set!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

So This is Happening...

My wife bought me four tables for my man cave for Christmas.  Then she got excited and had me open them up in mid-November.  And now?

Yep, I have my own LEGO table.  I'm still messing around with the general set-up but suffice to say that I'll now have a lot more fodder for this blog (and hopefully I'll have some of my own creations to show off eventually as well)!

Merry Christmas indeed!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My First Experience with the Pick-a-Brick Wall!

I went to my first actual LEGO store a couple of weeks ago which was exciting for me.  I picked up a number of sets (including the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine which I already reviewed on the blog).  I also wanted to experience the joy of the Pick-a-Brick wall firsthand, so yes, I bought myself a big 'ol cup of LEGO bricks.

If memory serves, I think the cup was somewhere around $16 or so.  I know that I didn't do an optimal job packing the cup with bricks (you can fit a lot more in if you take the time to actually stack the bricks together).  I didn't do that - I just dumped stuff in until I ran out of room.

I'm such a novice, huh?!

Anyhow, the real question is:  What did I manage to fit into my cup?

To start, a whole bunch of 2x4 bricks.  47 bricks in total including 12 red, 16 tan, 10 light blue, and 9 green.  It was probably a rookie move to grab so many basic bricks - I could have acquired those in one of the prepacked Classic branded box sets at my local Wal-Mart.  I am happy with the green and tan bricks though - I have very few of them!

I also went pretty have with various sized plates including 9 2x6 brown plates, 8 4x4 green plates, 4 4x6 yellow plates, and 7 4x6 blue plates.  That's a total of 28 fairly large plates.

Next, I tried to "fill in" some of the spaces in the cup with a bunch of smaller stuff from the wall.  Included in that bundle was a ton of 1x2 purple pieces (36 in total), some 1x2 white jumpers (15), some white 1x2 cheese slopes (13), some 1x4 white plates (11), some 2x2 white slopes (13 - 2 of which had printing on them).  I also picked up 3 axle pieces and 5 of the black side pieces (which I don't know their "official" name).

So far, not so bad - but there's more!

The next batch consists of 20 tan pieces with side studs, a single 2x4 green plate (wish I had picked up more of these), and 46 1x1 round bright green studs.  I also picked up 7 flower stems though somehow I neglected to grab any flower pieces!!  The best of the entire wall (in my opinion) was the final two pieces - the three piece plants and the white picket fences.  I picked up 12 of the fences and 41 of the plants.

All told, I managed to grab 298 pieces for about $16.  That comes out to a bit over 5 cents per piece which is certainly better than most "packaged" LEGO sets.  Of course, those numbers are a bit inflated since I had so many of the 1x1 round studs...  

I guess the real value in the Pick-a-Brick wall is that you get to pick exactly what you want.  The downside is that the wall is most definitely limited (I know that I wished there was a greater selection of parts type in a single color of MOCs).  Even so, I had a lot of fun at the wall - and yes, I'd do it again given the chance (especially for more plant pieces)!

Friday, October 16, 2015

LEGO 75902: The Mystery Machine - REVIEW (Scooby-Doo!)

When LEGO announced that they would be releasing a bunch of Scooby-Doo related sets, I immediately dismissed the idea as something that wouldn't interest me.  Sure,  I was a kid of the late 80s / early 90s and I watched plenty of Scooby-Doo reruns on TV but I didn't think I'd have much interest in the actual LEGO sets twenty-five years later.

In a word, I was very much WRONG!

Obviously LEGO knows how to market to my generation!

I was actually at my first official LEGO store when I decided to take the plunge and purchase set 75902:  The Mystery Machine.  It ended up being a wise decision, as you'll see!

First, the bad part.  The Mystery Machine set has an obnoxious number of stickers (and I hate stickers)!

In fact, the set has 301 pieces and a whopping 23 different stickers!  That is the worst piece to sticker ratio that I'm aware of.  I will say that the stickers do add a lot to the finished model though - you need them in order to capture the true look of the Mystery Machine!

Eight stickers on each side of the van should be a sign of just how many stickers get used in this model, though as I said, the stickers are a necessary evil here as look how great that van looks when stickered up!

Amazingly, the model actually does have some printed pieces including the flower hubcaps.  The newspaper is also a printed piece (and cleverly references the spooky tree that is also included in the set).

The set comes with three minifigures (Shaggy, Fred, and Zombie), plus a Scooby figure.

Both Shaggy and Fred have alternate faces while the zombie had two buttons on the back of his head which alludes to the fact that the zombie is nothing more than a man in a mask.  I think that's a great little touch which fits in with the Scooby-Doo theme perfectly.  Those meddling kids!
It should be noted that the Fred minifigure is unique to this set.  If you want the whole gang, you have to buy the Mystery Machine set.  Of course, if you want the whole gang you should want the Mystery Machine as well since the vehicle was essentially another member of the squad in the cartoons.

Speaking of the zombie, you get a haunted tree that the zombie is controlling (both the arms are movable).  The back of the tree shows how the zombie controls the beast...and somehow I guess the crystal powers the contraption?  I'm assuming that the tree and zombie were actually featured in a specific episode of Scooby-Doo but it's not an episode that I can remember all these years later.

Moving back to the Mystery Machine, I was actually surprised by the fact that Machine opens up in the back to reveal a whole slew of equipment.

The gang has a camera and a flashlight for solving mysteries.  You also get a big 'ol sandwich for Scooby and Shaggy to fight over.  There is also a small sink and oven in the van (which seems a bit unsafe).  Finally, there is a variety of computer stuff including radar and an old-fashioned video tape for recording things.

And for those that care about this sort of thing, there are a handful of extra pieces as well.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  8
Play Value:  8
Kid Value:  9
Adult Value:  6
Overall:  9

The Mystery Machine is definitely a set where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (I give the set a 9 overall despite none of the individual rankings being a 9 or higher).  The actual parts used in the Mystery Machine don't offer a lot (especially when you consider how many of those parts are plastered with stickers).  However, the finished model is a perfect representation of the cartoon's source material - and it looks instantly recognizable when sitting on a shelf!  For kids, I would say the play value of all the Scooby-Doo set is quite high since you get both heroes and villains (though I think the tree and zombie combo is one of the lamer villains in the set).  For adults, the set is all about notalgia.  If you are my age and watched Scooby-Doo, buy the set.  If you never watched the show and/or have no connection to the source material, well, your $30 can probably be better spent elsewhere.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Scooby Doo Mystery Machine LEGO Set Has So. Many. Stickers.

I had the opportunity for the first time in my life to visit an actual honest-to-goodness LEGO store recently.  While there, one of the things that I picked up was the Mystery Machine (set #75902).  Before I built it, I was struck by one thing....the overwhelming number of stickers used in the set.

That's an amazing amount of stickers for a $30 set.  In fact, it's almost one sticker per dollar (23 stickers in total).  Even more amazing, there are actual printed pieces in the set as well - 4 small hubcaps, one front piece, the newspaper, and the classic video tape piece.

I'll eventually get my full review of the set up here Playing With Bricks - but for now I couldn't help but comment on the staggering number of stickers in the set!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Super Mario Maker: Three of My Levels to Try!

Although this is a LEGO themed blog, I also want to use this space to showcase some of my other related hobbies and games.  One such game that is taking up a lot of my free time right now is Super Mario Maker for the WiiU.  Since that is a game that relies on building (Mario levels in this case), it still fits in with my "playing with bricks" theme of the blog!

Anyhow, I have created a bunch of levels - and I thought it'd be fun to showcase a couple of those (complete with the course ID in case you want to try them).

My first course to show off is called Secret Sunny Stroll with course ID 948F-0000-005A-CB1D.

This level is a Super Mario World themed level complete with .  As of 9/26, people had awarded this course a grand total of two stars (boo) with only 1 clear in 58 attempts.  I don't actually think this level is nearly as hard as those totals would suggest however!

When I made the Secret Sunny Stroll level, I wanted to have a course with multiple paths to the finish.  Immediately upon starting the level, you are faced with a choice - do you go up or down.  I'm not a fan of courses where one choice automatically kills you - so in my level you can successfully complete the level going in either direction!

Once you choose a route, you'll be "gated" into that route so that you can't backtrack (so choose wisely)!  Of course, if you die you can always start over and try the alternate route.  Either way, this course will eventually lead you to an airship - and then back to the finish after a tussle with a number of bad guys!  Lots of fun platforming with some minor puzzle elements should make for a pretty fun level.

My second course for today's post is called Secret Caverns with course ID 1401-0000-0022-00C6.

This level is a Super Mario Bros U style underground course.  This has been one of my more popular levels - 21 clears in 199 attempts which is good for a 10.55% clear rate (fairly high).

And finally, a level I called Five Boss Fire Brawl with course ID 8F24-0000-005F-4CCA.

I always enjoyed "boss battle" levels in games when I was a kid - so this level is an homage to that spirit.  There are, as you can guess, five boss battles to complete in this level.  As of the time I wrote this post, this course has been cleared once in 26 attempts (good for a 3.84% clear rate).  I find this course pretty fun to play - you get to battle Bowser (of course) but also some bad guys in clown cards, some Magikoopas, and even a room full of pipes of never ending turtles an spinys (use the turtle shells to your advantage).

The bomb and little tunnel on the right serve as the gate to the next boss battle.  You need to stay alive long enough for the bombs to clear the way for you!  You can also see that this room is boss battle #4 - I like using coins to label things sometimes!

If you try any of my levels, please let me know what you think of them!  And, if you have created some of your own levels - let me know about them in the comments.  Feel free to leave your course ID (and a brief description of your level) and I'll try it out!

Monday, September 7, 2015

LEGO 21020: Trevi Fountain - REVIEW

Last week, I teased my newest purchase - the LEGO 21020 Trevi Fountain set.  I bought the set because I have had the good fortune of actually seeing Trevi Fountain in person and so I thought it's be a fun addition to my collection.

Before I begin the review, I must be honest.  Until seeing the Trevi Fountain set, I had very little interest in the LEGO Architecture line.  The entire line seemed to be mostly devoid of color - and building in micro scale has never appealed to me.  That said, I decided to give the Trevi Fountain set a try since the set does have at least a little color (thanks to the water of the fountain) and I was able to get the set for about half of what it costs in retail thanks to eBay.

As I feared, the vast majority of the set was indeed plain white (or plain grey) bricks - but there was enough blue to keep things somewhat interesting.  Also that orange thing is the brick separator.  I'm getting quite a collection of those little tools!

Moving on to the actual build, you begin by placing the lone printed piece in the set (the one that says Trevi Fountain) and then continue to build the outside frame.  I was happy that the nameplate was printed and not a sticker!  The blue 1x1 bricks in the back are actually only going to be visible from the back of the model (which you'll see in a bit).

The next step is to place all the trans blue "water" pieces.  As you can see, there is a LOT of water to place...and in a few steps there will be even more water for the fountain portion!

By this point in the build, the water is mostly complete (save for a couple of trans blue bricks on some of the not-yet-built rock structures.  You can see the waterfall of the fountain is also built - and so is the back of the structure.  Notice that LEGO did use one big piece (the hollow back white wall piece) in the set.  The main statue of the fountain will actually sit in front of that hollowed out spot which gives the model a nice sense of depth when all is said and done.

At this point, the model is almost totally done - only the detailing on the roof remains to be completed.  You can see a lot of jumper tiles - the roof actually uses jumpers on jumpers which results in something that looks good but ends up being not nearly as sturdy as the average LEGO set.

And finally, 731 pieces later we get the completed model!  It's a nice looking structure that I think does a good job at mimicking the source material (especially given the small scale of the model).  The two horse statues in the fountain area both look nice but are extremely fragile.  I think I knocked each one off at least once during the taking of this photograph!

From the back, you can see that there isn't actually much to see with the model.  The trans blue pieces allow some light to pass through the model to the front but otherwise it's pretty dull back there.  That's ok though as the real Trevi Fountain has a full building "behind" it - something that wouldn't really make sense to build in the same LEGO set unless you were trying to recreate all of Rome!

The extra pieces in the set are minimal - basically your usual 1x1 tiles (square and round) plus the brick separator.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  1
Play Value:  1
Kid Value:  2
Adult Value:  5
Overall:  8

In the case of the Trevi Fountain set, it's safe to say that the whole is worth way more than the sum of the parts.  There are very few rare or unique pieces in the set - and those that are (the all white shield for instance) are totally boring and wouldn't have a lot of uses outside something like this set anyhow.  There is virtually no play value in the set so I wouldn't recommend buying this set for a child unless that kid has some sort of fascination with fountains...or Rome.  For adults, I wouldn't recommend this set at full retail price - the majority of the pieces are really small so the price-per-piece idea isn't a good gauge.  Instead, if you can get this set on sale, go for it - it does look quite nice when it's complete.  If not, you could probably use Brick Link or even eBay and create your own Trevi Fountain and save some money along the way!

I still gave the set an 8 overall because it does a great job of doing what it is supposed to be doing.  It's a pretty good replica of Trevi Fountain in LEGO form - and yes, the lack of color is boring but it's true to the source material (which is the important part).

One more note - if you do ever find yourself in Rome and at the Trevi Fountain make sure you are aware of pickpockets.  The area around the fountain is PACKED with people (it's a very small square to stand in) and pickpockets have the run of the place.  I was with a tour group and we had one lady who did get pickpocketed!

Monday, August 31, 2015

A New Line of LEGO for My Collection!

Once in awhile, I fall victim to an impulse buy - and today's latest LEGO set for my collection is definitely one such purchase!

That's right - I bought my first ever LEGO Architecture set.  I actually bought this psuedo-used off of an eBay seller.  The seller said that the box was opened but all the pieces were factory sealed.  You can tell from the above picture that the box has seen better days...but since I prefer to actually open my LEGO sets and build them, I didn't mind getting a busted box if it meant saving a healthy chunk of change on the set itself!

I was a bit apprehensive that everything would be there - but when the box arrived I was pleasantly surprised - not only was everything present (at least I think so) but the manual itself was in pretty good shape.

Speaking of the manual, did you know that the Trevi Fountain manual is super thick?!  Seriously, look at this:

That's a massive manual.  And it's really nice too - there's the usual step-by-step instructions but there are also a bunch of high quality photographs of the subject at hand, namely the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy!

I plan to build this set in the very near future - and when I do I'll be sure to have my actual review.  I simply couldn't wait to take some photos of the box/manual since it just arrived in the mail this week!

And if you are wondering why I made this impulse buy - let's just say I was pining for a return to Italy!  My wife and I visited Italy a few years ago (here's a couple of our photos of Trevi Fountain).

Italy was a wonderful place - albeit crowded!  I would return in a heartbeat if I could...but for now, I'll have to reminisce by building a LEGO replica of one of Italy's most famous cites (now if only there were a LEGO Colosseum to build)!