Friday, May 12, 2017

A Look Back: 1992 LEGO Magazine (Featuring Town!)

Back in 1992, LEGO didn't have the CITY theme that we know today.  Instead, LEGO had the Town theme (with one of the big differences between the two themes being the scale).  Most CITY vehicles are at least six studs wide while most Town vehicles were only four studs wide.  Even so, with a little modification you can make the old Town sets work fine within today's modern CITY layout.

Of course, back in 1992 we didn't know about LEGO's future plans.  Instead, all we had to go off of was their super sweet magazine showing off the sets that were currently available for sale.

Like the first few pages of the magazine, LEGO introduces the theme with a short little blurb (in this case, basically laying out the various subthemes for the year including Nautica, RSQ911, Flight, and Race).

As a kid, I remember looking longingly at the Launch & Load Seaport.  I always loved boats and I though that set looked awesome.  I also was interested in the Pier Police set a lot since I owned the Coastal Cutter (which was another police boat).  It's strange to think that the only "bad guys" set here is the Dark Shark - a far cry from today's CITY line-up which features tons of cops and robbers!

On the next page, we get some of the "regular" town sets including the Suf 'N Sail Camper set which my brother owned when we were kids.  When I flipped to this page as I was preparing this post, it was amazing that I still remember looking at that image of the Octan trucker heading up the pine-tree-lined hill.  A cool image for sure - and probably a big reason why I love LEGO trees so much today!

The next page of the magazine features Flight and RSQ 911.

On the flight side, the biggest, baddest set there is the Airport Shuttle.  I imagine every LEGO fan that's ever been alive has wanted that set at some point in their lifetime.  I know I sure did!  I also wanted the International Airport set - so many base plates in that one!   The only set on this page that I actually did own (and still own to this day) is the Space Shuttle set.  That set was always a favorite of mine - one of the true treasures of my childhood (and the set design looks just as good today as it did 25 years ago if you ask me).  My brother owned both the little Rescue Runabout (I think?) and the Flame Chaser helicopter.  I am also fairly certain that we both thought the color scheme of the Trauma Team set was hideous (it's one of the few sets in the magazine that I distinctly remember not wanting).

Finally, we end with the Race subtheme.

I didn't own any of these sets (though I did almost buy the Checkered Flag 500 set off of eBay a few months ago...kind of sorry I didn't now that I see the images again)!  My brother had both the Mag Racer and the Mud Runner - but if I had my choice of the smaller vehicles I would have gone with the overly patriotic Screaming Patriot set for sure!

That's it for the Town subtheme, though the next page of the magazine features sets that I consider going with Town (Boats and Trains to be precise).  If you enjoyed this look back, I encourage you to also check out the Castle section of the magazine and the Space/Pirates section.

Friday, May 5, 2017

REVIEW: LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 17 (Complete Checklist)

LEGO officially released Series 17 of their popular Collectible Minifigure line on May 1, 2017.  Like most series prior, Series 17 features 16 different minifigures (of varying degrees of difficulty to find) in the checklist.  However, this time around LEGO chose to make one of its figures a mystery figure (for reasons that I still don't understand).  We'll get to the mystery figure soon, but for now, here's a look at the packaging for Series 17.

As you can see, it's a bright blue - a color that makes the minifigures seem to "pop" when sitting on a store shelf (which is a good thing)!

Like with every other series, each blind bag features a single minifigure and a leaflet showing off all the figures in the series (again, with the exception of the "mystery figure" who is shrouded in black on the leaflet).

Now that the series is officially released, it's safe to report that the mystery figure is the "Highwayman."

Here are the rarities for the various figures (numbers are based on a case of packs - i.e. 60 packs and from what I could gather online.  I don't have the budget to buy a full box for myself!).

Rare:  (3 per box):  
Pro Surfer
Gourmet Chef
Butterfly Girl
Rocket Boy
Dance Instructor
Elf Maiden

Uncommon (4 per box):
Hot Dog Vendor
Roman Gladiator
Battle Dwarf
Retro Space Hero

Common (5 per box):
Circus Strongman
Corn Cob Man

It's interesting to note that the mystery figure is actually one of the most common figures in the set.  You'll also notice that there are a lot more "rare" figures than there are common figures - that will make collecting the full set all that much more challenging!

Let's take a look at each figure in more detail - going in the order that the figures are listed on the leaflet.

Note:  I will add in more images as I acquire the various minifigures*!

*I actually bought 12 packs at the store today but six of them ended up being duplicates...Not great, but that's ok.  If I manage to get the remaining figures soon I'll update this post accordingly.  Until then, enjoy my review as it is!

Note #2:  After three trips to the store, I located the entire Series 17 set - all figures now have a corresponding image!  For what it is worth, the Battle Dwarf was the final figure that I had to locate.

1.  Pro Surfer (Rare)

Series 17 starts off a bit slow with a surfer - a figure idea that we've seen in previous collectible minifigure series.  I do like the surfer's "shark" board quite a bit - but I don't get the feeling that another surfer was necessary.  In fact, given that LEGO includes surfers in its regular CITY offerings, this figure seems like it's taking up valuable space in the Series while offering little to no value.  At least the figure is one of the rare ones which should limit the number of extra surfboards that you'll end up with if you buy blind packs *ahem* blindly.

2.  Circus Strongman  (Common)

The Circus Strongman looks like a combination of a weightlifter and Fred Flintstone.  It's interesting to see LEGO continue to use the circus theme in its collectible minifigure line - are there even circuses around anymore that people can go watch?  Unfortunately for collectors, the Strongman is a common figure with no real useful accessories.

3.  Gourmet Chef  (Rare)

While I may not be enamored with the first two figures in the series, the Gourmet Chef is an instant winner for me.  I love her hat/hair piece and her strawberry pie - but the real prize for me is her whisk accessory (and her chef's torso).  The Gourmet Chef is one figure from Series 17 that I won't be disappointed by if I end up with multiple copies - she'll fit right into my custom city in any number of possible locations.

4.  Corn Cob Man  (Common)

LEGO has recognized that people love costumed minifigures - and so almost without fail every Collectible Series has at least one figure in costume.  For Series 17, the Corn Cob Man gets the costume treatment - and what a treat he is!  With a great corn cob costume (and bushy mustache), he certainly looks the part of a midwestern farmer trying to drum up business for his roadside stand.  I don't know that I need a lot of copies of this figure, but I'm still glad he's considered a common since I am guessing he'll prove to be one of the most popular figures from the series.

5.  Veterinarian  (Rare)

As a dog person, I love the Veterinarian minifigure a lot.  The scrubs printing is top notch, and while I sort of wish the name tag didn't have a paw print on it (so that the figure could double as a doctor or nurse in a hospital setting), I still think the figure is great.  The included rabbit is a nice touch as well.
6.  Hot Dog Vendor  (Uncommon)

The Hot Dog Vendor is the perfect figure for people who have created custom sports stadiums.  After all, you can almost smell the popcorn in the air whenever you look at a vendor like this.  I'm also excited to see what people come up with to do with that tray piece - it's interesting enough that I'm guessing it'll be used in all sorts of unique ways in custom builds.  Finally, I should note that I love the drink accessory - it looks perfect (and I could use about 30 more of those in different colors)!

7.  Butterfly Girl  (Rare)

I have to admit, I don't completely understand the point of the Butterfly Girl.  With wings and "sparkles" all over her, I guess she's supposed to be a kid dressed for Halloween (or maybe a ballet recital)?  I have no idea...

8.  Roman Gladiator  (Uncommon)

I normally like the Roman themed figures a lot - but I have to be honest, this one doesn't interest me much.  I think it's because he's extremely plain with only a trident as an accessory.  This isn't the finest effort from LEGO.

9.  Connoisseur  (Uncommon)

Most collectors probably have enough bread pieces by now - but I for one can't ever turn down additional food items.  I also like the small french bulldog (?) that's included - something that will work with the veterinarian figure as well.  On the other hand, the Connoisseur himself isn't all that interesting - and unless you are clamoring for his accessories I don't think this figure will prove to be popular either.

10.  Battle Dwarf  (Uncommon)

The Battle Dwarf is certainly armed to the teeth with both a mini ax and a battle hammer.  His red mohawk completes his "no nonsense" look - and while the Dwarf isn't for me I do see the possible appeal in a character like this (I would have loved him when I was a kid for example)!  It should be noted that there is printing on his hammer which is a nice touch as well.

11.  Retro Space Hero  (Uncommon)

I always liked the classic Space sets from my childhood, but the Retro Space Hero predates even those sets in his appearance.  For my money, while he is a nice representative of cheesy space movies, I would have preferred something that would have fit in with the old Space Police / MTron / Blacktron sets of yore!

12.  Yuppie  (Uncommon)

The Yuppie has a phone accessory that's hilariously large (and true to the era I guess).  He looks a little bit like Elvis to me too for some reason...otherwise, there isn't much to say here.  He's a perfectly adequate figure.

13.  Rocket Boy  (Rare)

The third costumed character in the series (if you count both the Corn Cob Guy and the Butterfly Girl).  I actually like the Rocket Boy the best of the three - mostly because of his "classic space" hand drawn flag.  The rocket piece itself is also quite nice - I'm sure it'll show up again in custom Jetson's builds or something.

14.  Dance Instructor  (Rare)

The Dance Instructor got the "honor" of being the first figure that I opened up from Series 17.  I went ahead and simply grabbed a big handful of packs from my local big box store - I didn't do any pack feeling or searching.  Once I got my haul home, I grabbed a single pack to open up (again, without any feeling or searching) and I ended up with the Dance Instructor.

As for the figure itself, other than being the first that I got see in hand from the series, it's fairly unremarkable.  The biggest (literally) part of her is her hair piece.  In fact, the hair is definitely the highlight of this particular figure...although I admit it does scream "80s fitness" to me (that's not necessarily anything that I actually want screamed however)!  Her only accessory is a printed transparent blue 1x1 round brick that simply says H20 (i.e. water) on it.  I guess that print could be useful for a grocery store creation or something but I don't think custom builders were begging for a "water" bottle print.

15.  Elf Maiden  (Rare) 

While I don't care for the sloped dress pieces (I much prefer my minifigures to all have the standard leg pieces), I have to admit that the Elf Maiden is quite nice.  She would have found an instant home back in the day when I would spend hours playing with my Castle sets - and with a new shield design she would have been even more valuable to me then!

16. Highwayman  (Common)

And finally, we reach the end of the series with the last figure - the previously mysterious Highwayman.  While I have nothing against the figure, I simply don't understand what LEGO was trying to do by surrounding the figure with a shroud of mystery.  It's not like the figure is that special...and since he's common there isn't even the rare chase like there was for the Mr. Gold figure.  I don't get it...  I will say that I do like the figure's hat a lot - it's from the old classic Pirate set complete with the small hole for the feather plume).

And with that, we've completed our look at Series 17.

I have to admit, I don't think that Series 17 is nearly as strong as some of the previous series.  There are very few "must have" figures for me in this series, in fact, I think my list only consists of the:
Chef, Vet, Corn Cob Guy, Hot Dog Guy, Rocket Boy, and Elf Maiden.  Six out of sixteen isn't a good ratio for "must haves."  On the flip side, I generally don't care for the Surfer, Strongman, Butterfly Girl, Gladiator, Yuppie, or Fitness Instructor.  That's six figures that I find generally uninspiring (again, not a good ratio).

To be fair, not every series of Collectible Minifigures can top the previous - and while this series has more than its fair share of clunkers, there are still a number of nice figures available.  For me, I'd like to see LEGO return to the "odd CITY jobs" for it's regular minifigures (i.e more characters like judges and plumbers and less surfers please).

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Look Back: 1992 LEGO Magazine (Featuring Pirates and Space!)

A few days ago, I began going through this gem that I discovered from 1992.

That's the LEGO magazine that came (I think?) in large sets.  I deeply treasured that magazine back in the day - and as luck would have it, I kept it all these years.  I've already talked about my favorite theme (Castle) in the previous blog entry but today we get to take a look at my second favorite theme (from when I was a kid).

First though, we begin with my brother's favorite theme:  Pirates!

The Pirates theme has been popular for LEGO - so popular, in fact, that they seem to bring some sort of Pirates theme back every three or four years.  I believe there is a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie coming out soon(ish) so I imagine we'll see another round of Pirate movie sets soon(ish) as well!

However, despite the popularity of movie tie-in sets, I don't think anything Pirate line can beat the classic Pirates of the early 90s.  I must say that I love how LEGO included a bit of a "bio" on each of the factions - they did that for the Castle factions and now here for the two Pirate factions.  As a kid, I didn't own a lot of Pirate sets - but my brother did (including Raft Raiders and Buried Treasure).  I think he might have also owned Smuggler's Shanty but I could be wrong about that.  I also know he owned a big Pirate ship, though I don't recall if it was the one shown here.  As for myself, a couple of years ago I found Forbidden Island for a (relative) steal on eBay and so I bought it...that was the one set that always caught my eye as a kid.

On the next page, we get sets from the Imperial Guards.

Once again, my brother gets the glory here - I know for sure he had both the Broadside's Brig set and the Lagoon Lock-Up set.  He also had the small Bounty Boat.  As for me, I always thought Sabre Island looked cool (and it's one that I've had my eye on a few different times on eBay, but I've never pulled the trigger).  I'd also like to track down the Imperial Trading Post some day - a great looking set!

While I didn't own a lot of Pirate stuff, I did have a lot from the next theme:  Space.

As with the previous two themes, LEGO took time to explain the various factions in this theme as well.  I always loved the MTron (and later Ice Planet).

Looking at the sets on the next page, I only owned the Vector Detector (in fact, that is my lone MTron set that I own to this day).  That said, I did almost win the Multi Core Magnetizer on eBay a few weeks maybe someday I'll add to my MTron collection.  As for the Space Police, as a kid I only owned one little Space Police car (not shown here) but as an adult I have since bought Rebel Hunter (see my review here).  That's a pretty cool set - in fact, it's much nicer than it looks in the image on the page.

Finally, we turn the page to the last of the Space stuff:  Blacktron.

The Blacktron were definitely the "bad guys" of Space.  I remember getting the Allied Avenger as a kid (and loving it).  I think my brother had the Sub Orbital Guardian...neither of us had any of the big Space sets from this time unfortunately (the Alpha Centauri Outpost looks pretty cool).  Notice in the bottom corner of the page that there is a Space Mini Figures set.  I know my brother owned that as well.  I wish that LEGO did more things like that these days - for kids on a budget, that was a great way to add to our collection of figures without having to spend a lot of cash.

Finally, the Space section ends with the rest of the huge Blacktron diorama and then an advertisement for the Value Pack which includes a Blacktron vehicle, a small castle set, a pirate set, and an Octan race car.  As a kid, I always wanted that value set...but it never happened (in fact, I don't ever recall seeing it in a store).

That ends the Pirates and Space portion of the magazine, but there are still plenty of cool things remaining (including Town for which both my brother and I owned a few sets).  I'll have more from this magazine later on, so stay tuned!

PS:  If you happen upon this blog entry and you have some old LEGO that you no longer want.  Let me know, maybe we can work out some sort of deal!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

LEGO 40237: Easter Egg Hunt - REVIEW

Just in time for Easter 2017, I present my review of LEGO 40237:  Easter Egg Hunt.

This seasonal set contains 145 pieces and includes a pair of minifigures (and a white chicken).  The set retails for about $10.00 US.

As you can probably see from the back of the box, this year's Easter set has a definite "hide the egg" mentality about it.  In fact, the entire set is basically an Easter egg hunt.

Ripping open the box, we find three clear plastic bags with pieces (no numbering on the bags), an instruction manual, and a loose lime green base plate.

I can't help but immediately notice that two of the three mini builds will occur on dark green base plates while the third is on the lime green.  That seems really odd to me - I would have preferred all three builds with the same color "grass."

That said, I really shouldn't judge the set until I build it, so let's do so now.

One thing I like to do whenever I build a new set like this is to check out the new pieces.  While there are no true new pieces in this set, there were a few that were new-to-me.  Furthermore, the set itself proved to be full of good pieces, especially those masonry blocks!

Like most small LEGO sets, we begin this build by assembling the two minifigures.

For the Easter Egg hunt, we get a mother figure and a son figure.  The mother has a dual-sided face (the other side showing her wearing sunglasses) but the son's face is only "super happy."  I do like the mother's hair piece quite a bit...and it seems like a hair piece that I don't own many of yet (or possibly any?).

The Easter Egg Hunt is basically three small vignettes:  the first of which is a small vegetable garden (consisting of only carrots apparently).  I'm also not sure the mother knows how to pick don't pull it 90% out of the ground and then dig a hole around the entire thing to throw in your wheelbarrow.  Very strange.

In this vignette, the blue egg is actually hidden underneath the garden.

That one seems sort of tricky to find...especially when you consider how obvious the next two egg hiding spots are!  I will say that I like the blue egg itself quite a bit - I wish the other two included eggs were as vibrantly colored as this one (they aren't, instead we get a white egg and a grey egg).

The second vignette is the "main" one consisting of a mailbox and a couple of lights on the fence.  This is also the vignette that is built on the lime green plate as opposed to the (nicer looking) dark green plates.

I do like the flower garden here - the paving stones are a nice touch (as is getting four different colors for the flowers).  The egg is hidden inside the mailbox (though where else could it be, really)?

I should note here that the fence pieces (three in all in the set) are really nice.  I could use about 20 more of those!

Finally, we get the third and final vignette, the chicken coop!

This one is probably my favorite simply because of the included chicken!  No surprise here though, the egg itself is hidden inside the coop.

As a whole, LEGO 40237:  Easter Egg Hunt offers up a lot of great individual pieces.  However, the actual build itself is uninspiring (and no interesting techniques are used).  Having three small vignettes, rather than one large one, is also disappointing - as is the fact that one of the three base plates is a different shade of green.

For me, this is not a set that I'll keep together to display - not even seasonally.  However, it is also not a set that I regret fact, I'd happily acquire a second copy of the set given the chance (and a discount) simply because there are so many useful pieces here.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  5
Play Value:  6
Kid Value:  3
Adult Value:  6

Overall:  5

Overall, this set does have some play value (in that you can actually hide the eggs and then have the minifigure find them).  However, there are only three eggs included...and really, there are only three or four hiding spots (maybe you could turn the wheelbarrow upside down and hide one there).  For kids, I don't think this set would have much long-lasting value...and given that it is made up of three little builds, I can imagine that this set wouldn't survive intact for long either.  For adults, the main value is simply in the included pieces.  There is plenty here to to use in custom creations - and that alone is worth the price.

As for the extra pieces that are included, nothing to write home about though the flower pieces are certainly always useful.  I also can never get enough greenery of any type, so I'll happily add the "carrot top" to my extras bin.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Look Back: 1992 LEGO Magazine (Featuring Castle!)

One of my big goals this summer is to completely overhaul my custom LEGO City table - and in doing so, I'd like to incorporate some of my other sets that I have sitting around in boxes.  As part of my preparation work, I went through one of my boxes of LEGO and discovered a true gem:

A 1992 LEGO Magazine from my childhood.

As you can tell by the cover, this little magazine is well-worn by 9-year-old me thumbing through the pages day after day.  Heck, even the cover of the little magazine is great!  I miss LEGO doing fun little dioramas that this.  There's actually quite a bit to unpack in this simple image (including Pirates, Space Police, and a knight blocking a City train).  Good stuff, and certainly enough to capture my attention as a kid.

Flipping to the next page, we find Jack, the LEGO Maniac.

I think I would have made a good "LEGO Maniac."  I wonder how Jack got that job.  I actually don't recall seeing Jack before - my hunch is that 9-year-old me always skipped this page and went straight for the "good stuff."

Speaking of good stuff, this magazine starts right away with my favorite line of sets:  Castle.

I loved Castle back as a kid - and I still love Castle today.  In fact, I recently bought an old Castle set that I never owned as a kid (more on that later).  For now though, let's look at those factions and my thoughts on them from when I was a kid.

The Crusaders were more or less on their way out of LEGO's set rotation by the time I started playing with LEGO.  I know that I owned at least one Crusader figure, but I don't think I had any true Crusader sets.  On the other hand, the Black Knights were in full force in 1992 - just look at the various Black Knight sets featured on the page.  I actually owned multiple copies of the Sea Serpent and the Black Knight.  I always wanted the big castle (because what kid didn't?) but I also remember thinking that the Black Monarch's Ghost set was pretty cool looking.  Looking that the sets today, I notice that the Black Monarch's Ghost set actually has a peg sticking out of it - which makes me think it was designed to connect to other sets (the Knight's Stronghold perhaps)?

The other two factions of the era were actually the two that I liked best.  The Wolfpack were clearly the "bad guys" of the land - and they happened to have one of the biggest sets in my collection at the time.  Finally, the Forestmen were my all-time favorite...and while I didn't own many of their sets, I still love 'em!

Speaking of the Forestmen and Wolfpack, the next page of the magazine shows them in action.

I distinctly recall loving the Forestmen's Crossing set - another set that I never owned (and still don't) though I think I may rectify that someday soon.  I did own, however, the Wolfpack Tower - my biggest Castle set at the time (and the subject of hours and hours of fun for me as a kid)!  My brother owned the Wolfpack Renegades set - though neither of us owned any of the featured Forestmen stuff.

Moving on to page 5, we find more Castle goodies including sets labeled "Crusaders."

Out of the mix, I owned the Castle Mini Figures set (which is where my lone Crusaders figure came from).  I also always loved the peasant figure with the pitchfork.  For years and years, I owned exactly one pitchfork and it came from that little set!

I also have to point out, once again, how awesome the dioramas are.  There's so much that is interesting to look at (and drool over) in that picture (especially for a kid).  I was certainly fortunate to have owned a ghost (from the Wolfpack Tower set)...and that ghost certainly gets some prime real estate on the pages of this magazine!

I hope you enjoyed a look through the first portion of the magazine.  Next up, the Pirates - which I'll cover in a later post (the magazine includes a Pirate set that I always wanted and eventually tracked down not all that long ago)!  More on that in the near future!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Custom LEGO City: Preparing for a Huge Update!

Today is April 11, which means that the college year is rapidly winding down.  As it does, I'll have more time to use for my hobbies (and less time needed to spend on lesson planning, grading, etc.).  One of my major projects that I hope to complete this summer is to completely overhaul my custom LEGO City.

A couple of years ago, I bought four long tables and I figured that I'd probably never fill them up to capacity.  However, LEGO seems to have a way of multiplying around here and so, yes, I did end up filling the tables up.  That meant that I felt like I was justified in buying two more long tables...but in order to fit them into my "man cave" where my City resides, I'll need to completely reorganize everything.

As part of a "final farewell" to my old city, I thought I ought to take some photographs.  Who knows, hopefully some day I'll look back on the photos and think "how quaint, things are so much better now."

In the above photograph, the large empty space is where the rest of my amusement park used to reside.  You may recall that I already showed off a totally rebuilt "square" of the's another shot of the new park.

Not too bad, it's a mix of official LEGO "bits" and some of my own custom builds.  Nothing real fancy, but I was happy with the wonderland vibe that it gives off.  It's certainly colorful!

The other major installation in my custom city is a large construction area / train loading yard.  The construction portion includes a fairly large tunnel - and a passenger train (on metal tracks) that runs above the tunnel.

I am not 100% satisfied with my tunnel, but it gets the job done for now.  One of my two freight trains has lights installed - and the lights look pretty cool as the train goes through the tunnel.

About a year or so ago, I also built one more large "square" - that being my train station.  The base of the building is on street level - but passengers have to climb up to the second story in order to load onto the passenger train.

I love the idea of a two story station, but I'm not sure my train station is as good as it could possibly be (given my relatively small number of available pieces it's not bad though).  You probably can't tell from the photograph but there are a couple of small shops that flank the station - both custom built including a bookstore that I do still like quite a bit!

The rest of the city is basically LEGO sets that I've built but have not yet taken apart and modified for my own purposes (all in due time I hope).

And that concludes the quick tour through my old city.  I have a lot of work to do to remake the city into a better metropolis - but I am excited to get started (despite the daunting amount of work required to move everything carefully)!

Stay tuned to the blog for more updates.  I also have a TON of other content that I want to get posted here (including reviews, some new sets, and some old sets from my childhood)!  I hope to do a much better job of updating the blog moving forward - so thanks for visiting!