Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking Back on 2017 and Forward to 2018!

For me, the year 2017 was full of ups and downs.  The biggest high was definitely learning that my wife and I are expecting our first child (due in May 2018).  The biggest low came about a week ago when I learned that my cholesterol was out-of-the-park high and that I'd have to do some serious diet/exercise changes.  As someone who loves good food, that news was especially painful!

In terms of my LEGO hobby, 2017 was definitely basically all good news.  I finally made some serious progress on putting together my custom city.  I also started updating my YouTube channel with some more LEGO content including this look at my custom city from October.

Even better, I did some serious custom LEGO work this year which I was quite pleased with.  I don't fancy myself a particularly creative person, but darn it if I don't try once in a while!  This year, I combined a pair of official LEGO Spiderman sets to build a large, suspension bridge (complete with crooks' hideout).  I also built a custom LEGO grocery store / apartment in the same size and scale as the official LEGO Modular buildings. 

Looking forward to 2018, I have a few projects in mind.  First, I need to figure out how to raise up those modular buildings that you see in the video above.  Right now, I have them sitting on pieces of plywood but since that video was created the plywood has warped terribly!  I'm not exactly sure why, maybe the humidity in the man cave (i.e. basement)?  Anyhow, I need to figure something out there.  Once I get that under control, I'll probably have to revisit my suspension bridge again and raise the pillars up a few bricks higher so that the upper train can run "level" throughout the entire layout. 

Sticking with the custom city layout, I'd like to add another custom building or two to the mix.  Probably at least one residential building and another shop (I'm thinking a pizza place, maybe a pizza place / ice cream shop)?  Finally, I started building another wooden shelf for my minifigure collection and I'd like to finish that once the weather warms up a bit (my shop is in my unheated garage so working in the winter is basically out of the question).

As 2018 unfolds, I do hope to continue with updates here at Playing With Bricks.  I definitely get more traffic via my LEGO videos on YouTube as compared to my written work here, but that's ok.  I enjoy the blog just as much (if not more) so I don't see myself abandoning ship quite yet.  I hope all of my readers and visitors have a happy, healthy 2018 - and please keep checking back here for more goodies as the year progresses!

Happy 2018 everyone!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Custom LEGO Winter Village: 2017 Edition

One of my favorite new traditions at Christmas time is to assemble my LEGO Winter Village scene.  Each year LEGO releases a large Winter Village set - and sometimes some smaller sets as well - and I like to take those, along with some of my own custom builds - and combine them into a large Winter Village scene.

This year's attempt at a Winter Village features a working train, plenty of shops, and an entire large town square complete with ice skating rink, Christmas tree stand, and a singing band of firefighters.  For a complete look at my set up, check out the video that I've embedded below.

I have a couple of other smaller winter sets that I have already tucked away for next year's Winter Village.  I also need to track down the official Train Station set from this year's Winter Village theme.  Of course, if I do so then I'll have to either 1) find a new place in the house to put my Winter Village or 2) remove a large building from the set-up to make room for the station.  Either way, it's a dilemma for next year.  This year's set-up is done and is plenty festive for me!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Birthday Presents: Blind Packs!

My birthday was last week and I must say, I hit the LEGO jackpot this year.  My biggest gift was the brand new Carousal set (which is amazing).  However, I also got a few smaller items including a pair of minifigure packs from the LEGO Ninjago Movie series.

I don't actually have any interest in the Ninjago line in general (I didn't see the movie) but I have bought a couple of the Ninjago Movie sets.  I also bought the Sushi chef minifigure already (from Bricklink) because I wanted that figure for my custom grocery store.  Thus, as long as neither of my two birthday packs held the Sushi Guy, this would be a win for me.

Looking at the checklist, I have to say there are a lot of really weird figures to find.  In fact, I would wager that I wouldn't have much use for well over half of the figures (though some of them have some nice accessories which I could use).  Still, I won't ever complain about getting free LEGO figures...and there are a few figures which I'd definitely like to acquire some day even if I don't go for the entire set.  For example, #s 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 18 could all be worked into my custom LEGO City.  I'm also interested in the head piece for #12, 13, 20, and also 14 I think.  So yeah, there are plenty of good figures available.

So what'd I get?

Pack 1:

I believe the main bad guy is Garmadon (or something like that) and I think this is his most evil version (I'm only guessing based on the fact that he's pretty much all black here).  I'll be honest in that this figure was probably one of, if not the, least wanted figures by me in the entire set.  I don't see much use for him in my custom city - though that spear point piece is certainly unique to my collection (and I could probably do something neat with it at some point).

How about the second pack?

Pack 2:

That's more like it.  This guy is definitely going to be worked into my custom City.  Probably he'll be somewhere taking a selfie where he really shouldn't be...maybe an alligator or something will be sneaking up on him.  No matter, this figure is quite nice - and that scarf piece is a great new addition for my collection as well.

The second blind pack saved the day here - but since both packs were gifts I truly can't complain at all.  In fact, I had a blast ripping the two packs (and assembling the minifigs). 

Monday, November 13, 2017

REVIEW: LEGO 40262 - LEGO Christmas Train Ride

One of the best parts of the holiday season for me is the annual release of LEGO's Winter Village sets.  This year, in addition to the Train Station for the Winter Village, LEGO released a pair of small ($10) sets that serve as a nice compliment to any Winter Village display.  I was enamored enough by both of the small sets that I purchased them...and today, I had the great fun of opening up and building the first one:  LEGO 40262 - LEGO Christmas Train Ride.

For a $10 set, you actually get quite a bit including a small train, two small stands, a light pole, a tree, and a picnic table.  In addition, you get three minifigures:  a conductor, a coffee barista, and a young girl.  All told, the set contains 169 pieces including a tree piece so it's a decent value for your money no matter how you slice it.

Looking at each part individually, we have to start with the set's namesake:  the train.

The train consists of two cars and a locomotive.  The two train cars are built exactly the same - and yes, if you were to buy another version of the set you could easily make the train four cars long instead of only two.  Still, for its size, the train is quite nice.  I particularly like the use of the pearl gold accent pieces on the train - it adds a bit of a holiday feel to the entire set!  My only complaint about the ticket booth is that the yellow tiles that LEGO used for tickets are simply plain tiles.  No printing or any other way to really see that those are tickets.  Heck, I think a 1x1 yellow tile would have been a better choice (the 1x2 tile ticket seems huge in relation to the size of the train)!

Next, the coffee stand and picnic table.

I love the torso that the coffee stand worker is sporting, it's a print that I don't think I can get enough of (maybe some day I'll make my own proper coffee shop store)!  The picnic table isn't very exciting (and it's much too large for the scale of the rest of the bits of the set).  The little stand is quite lovely though...and yes, you do get two red mugs (one for the "sign" and one for a customer).

Finally, the street light and tree.

Quite honestly, I think I like the little street light build the best of all!  I suppose this could be a bus/train stop (so that the small set goes with this year's larger Winter Village set) but it works just fine on its own as well.  The small pine tree is always appreciated - you can't have too many pine trees in a Winter Village display!

All told, for $10 I'm quite satisfied by the set.  You get three minifigures, a smattering of nice pieces in useful colors, and some quality small a tree.  I don't know what you can expect out of such a small set!  I will say that while I have no plans to keep the set completely in tact as it is, I am quite happy to add the various bits to my collection - and even better, to this year's Winter Village display that I need to start working on soon!

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

Trains are always fun - and while this set doesn't offer a load of play value, for it's price there is quite a bit here for kids to mess around with.  For adults, you can't really beat the set for the money...  If only LEGO had included printed 1x1 ticket tiles instead, this might have been a perfect small set.

Monday, November 6, 2017


This past October, if you spent enough money on LEGO at the LEGO Store (or online), you got a free set called the LEGO VIP set. 

For a free set, you actually get quite a bit - two minifigures (one monochromatic) and 205 pieces to go with those figures.  For my thoughts on the set, please check out my video review!

Monday, October 30, 2017

More Custom LEGO: Custom Train Car #2 (Octan Oil Tanker)

About a week ago, I showed off my first custom LEGO train car for my city.  That car was actually built a long time ago (probably well over two years ago now).  However, thanks to a fairly recent eBay purchase of another LEGO train, I've gone back to focus on my trains, and more specifically, adding more train cars to my trains.

For my next train car, I did get to use a little bit more sophisticated building techniques.  In fact, one of my techniques might even be considered "illegal" by LEGO standards, though perhaps not.  I guess I'll let you decide as you watch the video and I show you how I did it.

It feels good to have my train gain in length - and in variety of cargo cars!  Hopefully, as I continue to play around with different LEGO techniques (and grow my piece collection) I'll continue to evolve into a better and better LEGO designer.  However, I'm not mad or disappointed with what I've managed to accomplish today, at least for now.

I have a lot of other ideas and plans for my city...the hardest part is finding the time to actually work on it.  Still, I think it's fairly safe to say that I'll have more updates soon - including, hopefully, major improvements to the amusement park area of the city.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

More Custom LEGO: Custom Train Car #1 (Christmas Tree Hauler)

I haven't had a lot of time to devote to LEGO lately, but I did manage to squeeze in a bit of time to make a couple of videos.  Today's video highlights my first attempt at a custom LEGO train car for my city.  It's not the prettiest car in the world, but I think it still holds up alright as compared to my newer creations.

I didn't do anything fancy in building the first train car, pretty much anyone can reproduce what I did by watching the short video I would think.  Immediately after filming the above video, I started working on my next custom train car - the oil tank car that I mentioned in the video.  My next blog update should include a look at what I came up with for the second custom train car.  Until then, thanks for reading (and watching my videos)!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Expanding My Minifigure Collection!

I recently completed a trade with Colbey who agreed to send me six different minifigures in exchange for a whole lot of baseball cards (one of my other hobbies).  Now that we have both received our end of the trade, let's take a look at the new LEGO to join my collection.

First up, the prize of the package (for me):  A Series 1 Minifigure of the Nurse.  Thanks to Colbey, I now own four different figures from the first series (I wasn't collecting LEGO back when the first four series were released).  Tracking down the remaining figures will be difficult (because of how long ago they were released) but I'm hopeful I can keep making slow, but steady, progress.  Colbey also sent me a figure from Series 9:  the Battle Mech.  I'm much closer to completing Series 9 - in fact, now that I have the Battle Mech I'm only missing 4 more figures.

And from Series 14, Colbey sent me two figures I needed:  the Banshee and the Plant Monster.  Back when Series 14 was announced (and the figures shown off), I wasn't interested in the Halloween theme and so I decided at the time that I'd ignore the set.  However, the completionist in me got bothered by that decision later on, and so now I'm once again working on a set that was released quite a while ago.  Unlike Series 1 (which was very popular), I don't get the feeling that Series 14 is all that popular which should make tracking down the final four figures that I still need not terrible difficult.

Unfortunately for me, Colbey made a couple of mistakes on a few figures he sent my way.  He said he had the Series 3 Space Villain (which I needed) but instead sent me Space Alien (also from Series 3, but I already owned a copy).  He also said he has the Series 9 Waiter for me (which I need) but instead sent the Series 11 Diner Waitress (which I already owned).  Both mistakes were honest, and since the real prize of the package for me was the Series 1 figure, I'm still perfectly happy with the trade overall.  In this case, I've simply added the Diner Waitress and the Space Alien to my "have for trade" list on Swapfig...hopefully before too long I'll be able to turn each them into a minifigure that I still need!

Thanks again for the swap, Colbey!  And, as always, if anyone else out there wants to trade leave me a comment and we can hopefully work something out.  If you want to see what I have available for trade, check me out on Swapfig.

Monday, October 2, 2017

REVIEW: Build My City Accessory Set (LEGO 40170)

Not all that long ago, I found myself in my local* LEGO brand store and happened to spot the LEGO 40170:  Build My City Accessory Set.  I had never seen the set before, so I added it to my pile of purchases without giving it a lot of thought (or a careful review).

*local being over 2 hours away

Now though, it's time to take a more careful look at this 100 piece set that retails for $9.99.  Is it worth the ten spot or should you save your money for something else?  

Since I always offer up numerical scores, let's do that here as well (not done in the video):

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  2
Play Value:  4
Kid Value:  5
Adult Value:  4
Overall:  4
The extras included in the set.

This is a tough set to score in the sense that it is clearly marketed as an accessory set.  With no included minifigures, it's tough to say that this set is fun in any meaningful way.  There is a frog, some water elements, and plants so I guess you could play with that if this were the only set you owned.  The value in the set is clearly for those who already own other LEGO City sets.  Even with that in mind, I think LEGO could have done a better job of including more value in the set.  I'm not mad that I bought the set, but I don't think I'll be looking to add another copy of this set to my collection.  I do, however, want to encourage LEGO to keep making City accessory packs every so often - as a kid I used to love these (and while this one isn't the best in my eyes, I know that LEGO can do other similar sets that I'll love).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Two More Collectible Minifigures Join My Collection

Not all that long ago, I showed off some new LEGO Collectible Minifigures that I bought on Bricklink.  Today, I return with a couple more new figures, but this time from a trade over at SwapFig.

First up, from Series 13:  Disco Diva.

The Disco Diva is the second-to-last figure that I needed from Series 13.  Now all that stands between me and a complete Series 13 is the Egyptian Warrior.  That figure isn't particularly rare so hopefully I'll be able to acquire it before long and, in the process, cross of Series 13 from my want list forever!

The other figure that I traded for was Gail the Construction Worker from the LEGO Movie Collectible Minifigure Series.

Much like Series 13, I'm rapidly closing in on this set as well (in fact, I am now only missing two figures:  William Shakespeare and Martha Staplebot).  The LEGO Movie figures are bit tougher to find (at least it seems that way) but I'm still optimistic that I'll finish off the set sooner rather than later.

That does it for the SwapFig trade.  I definitely like how easy SwapFig makes trading.  The only downside to the site is that it is still quite small in terms of active users.  I find it difficult to find willing trade partners that match up with both my wants and my haves.  Still, when it works, it works well - and this trade is an example of the site working well for me.

Curious what other figures I still need?  Check out my full want list here.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Improving the Blog (and Whittling Down My Want List)

Over the past couple of months, I have made some nice gains in terms of my LEGO Collectible Minifigure want list.  And for all my readers, I have also (I hope) made some nice gains in terms of my blog post presentation from here on out.

Before I get to some of the newest LEGO Collectible minifigures to join my collection, I want to show off something else:

That's my new "light box" which should allow me to take much better photographs of my LEGO figures (and sets).  I am looking forward to doing more reviews (and hopefully better reviews) now that I have the nice set-up.  It is my hope that I will be able to make my blog a bit more professional looking (in terms of blog posts) thanks to the new camera set-up.

Since I did just get the light box, I figured that it was high time to practice with it...and what better way to practice than by showing off three new collectible minifigures?!

I landed all three of the figures from a single Bricklinks order.  Two of the minifigs are from the Series 14 set which consisted of the Halloween costumes and other related minifigs.

When I first saw Series 14's sell sheet, I decided that I wasn't going to chase after the set.  However, a couple of years later I felt the urge to try and complete ALL of the "regular issue" Collectible Minifigure sets of which the monsters fell into.  Thus, I've been diligently tracking down the various figures from the series ever since...and now I can cross two more off of my want list.

First up, the Monster Scientist.

The Monster Scientist was one of the few figures from Series 14 that I originally thought I may eventually track down (the others being the Plant Monster, the Gargoyle, and the Skeleton Guy).  What I didn't realize about the Monster Scientist figure was that his "head" piece is actually more like a weird hat...and underneath the oversized head is a rather normal looking old man!

The other figure from Series 14 that I bought was the Wacky Witch.

This figure is perfectly nice, but LEGO had already released a witch in a different series (which I own) and so I didn't feel the need to have another witch in my collection.  However, any completionist will tell you that since this is a different figure from a different set, I needed to eventually own this one too!

I do like getting the black cat figure, even if I'm not a cat guy seeing as how I'm mildly allergic to cats.

The final minifigure that I bought from the Bricklink seller was probably the most boring figure (and yet, most exciting purchase).  The figure in question is the Jewel Thief from Series 15.

Now, I have way more robbers (and cops) from the basic City sets than I know what to do with...and so I most definitely did not need yet another robber in a collectible minifigure set.  In fact, I was so uninterested in this figure that I never bothered to track it down...and only when I got down to needing just this figure did I buy it.  That's right, the Jewel Thief was the last figure I needed to complete Series 15 (which is super exciting).

By my count, I have now completed ?? sets.  Those include:  Series 5, 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, along with the Disney series and the LEGO Batman Movie series.  Of the remaining series, six of them are down to me needing four or fewer minifigures before they too will be complete.

I'm definitely pleased with my progress...and with my new light box!  I hope to have even more LEGO related content on the blog soon (and hopefully some more minifigures as well)!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Building a Brand New (and Much Improved) Custom LEGO City

Last week, I decided it would be a good idea to completely tear down my old LEGO City and redo the entire thing.  I bought a couple more tables, completely redid the overall layout, and started laying the train track down.'s still very much a work in progress, but at least I've made good progress!  I hope to have more updates to share before too long.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Custom LEGO MOC: Suspension Train Bridge & Crook's Hideout

Throughout this past summer, I kept busy with a whole bunch of LEGO-related projects.  I built myself a new wooden display case for my LEGO Batman collection and I built a new, custom Grocery Store for my rapidly growing LEGO City.  I also had the chance to visit an official LEGO store and, while there, picked up a bunch of pieces plus some sets (none of which I've built yet however)!

In addition to all of that, I also found myself at my local Wal*Mart a few weeks ago when the big box store put a whole lot of LEGO sets on clearance.  For me, the only set of interest was the Spiderman Bridge Battle set - and I was able to grab two copies for under $60 total!  That was clearly the "steal" of the summer in terms of LEGO value...and once I had two bridge sets in my possession I simply knew I had to make a proper suspension bridge.  Three Bricklink orders later (so much for the "steal" of a deal), I had my completed bridge.

If you'd like to see the bridge in a bit more detail, I made a quick video showing off the major parts of the structure.  

My next order of business ought to be to finally get around to rearranging my LEGO City (with the goal of adding in the two tables I bought though fitting everything into the available space may prove to be overly difficult).  Hopefully I'll have more progress to show off before much longer!

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, 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 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, 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.