Review – Volcano Exploration Base 
Let me begin by saying that I am really excited about the Volcano Exploration Base from LEGO. It is not a new set, and was actually released in August 2016. I had initially planned not to buy it, despite my interest, due to budget reasons. But, I really love the science related sets. I was excited when Toys R Us had it for 50% off on Thanksgiving weekend in October. I went to three different stores trying to get one, but all stores were sold out. It was a major upset. I was super happy when my local Walmart was liquidating them for 48% off two weeks later. I have finally had the time to sit down and put the set together, so let’s take a more in depth look at it!
Name: Volcano Exploration Base
Set #: 60124
Cost: $149.99 CDN
Brick Count: 824
Release Date: August 1, 2016
Summary Review: 75%
VALUE: 70% (At full price, you pay $0.18 per brick.)
BUILD: 84% (Great set, but some small builds in it were wasted bricks.)
MINIFIGURES: 87% (Fun characters, and a good brick-to-fig ratio.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 60% (The build time cost is really high, but the set is a lot of fun.)
At full price, this set will set you back $149.99 in Canada. With 824 pieces, that means that each brick will cost $0.18. In terms of the current average price of a LEGO brick (based on all of the sets in the Holiday 2017 catalogue, click here to read more), that is a little on the high side, and earns a score of 3.5/5. $0.18 per brick is pretty much what you would expect to pay on average for a set in the City theme. In the latest catalogue, the average for City was $0.16 per brick, but in last summer’s catalogue (click here to read my review) it was up at $0.19. Luckily, I did not pay full price for this set. The sale at Walmart had this set going for $80.00. At that price, each brick costs $0.09, which is hard to beat, and earns 100%.
The Volcano Exploration base is made up of several builds. The first instruction manual is for assembly of a drone, a small pick-up buggy, and a rock storage site. The drone is probably the best part of this manual. It is overly large for a drone at Minifigure scale, but it is nicely designed all the same. The buggy is a waste of a bricks. It is really basic in design, and not that aesthetically pleasing. I feel like these bricks would have been better used to spruce up other builds in the set. I am neither here nor there about the rock storage site. It goes well with the rest of the set, but the bricks probably would have been better used elsewhere.
The second manual is for the mobile lab. This is the main research base for the Volcano Exploration team. It is composed of a truck and detachable trailer. The truck is nice. It has the appropriate grill work so that it could withstand some off-roading around a volcano. I really like that LEGO included opening cab doors. They sometimes forget that feature in City sets. There is also a crane on the back of the truck for lifting those glowing hot rocks that spew out of the volcano.
The trailer has a neat shape to it, and the sides swing open to reveal a mobile lab inside. On the exterior, you have some compressed gas canisters, which I thought was a great touch. The Minifigures come with oxygen tanks so that they don’t have to breathe the volcano fumes. Naturally, they need somewhere to fill them up. There is also a crowbar and a jackhammer attached to the sides of the trailer. My main dislike concerning the trailer is the roof. Because of the way that the walls swing up, there are large gaps on the roof. These gaps are made worse by an incomplete design that exposes the interior of the trailer. A little more work could have been done here rather than including that stupid little buggy from the first manual.
The interior of the trailer is a little empty. It has a seismograph, which I quite like, and a crystal stand. I am not sure if the stand is meant to be a microscope, a simple light, or digital scanner. Again, this is another area where there could have been more detail instead of the buggy or rock storage area. If you had the Arctic Base Camp (60036), the crystal examination equipment included there was much nicer, and not all that much more in terms of piece count. I think this trailer would have been better if only one side lifted up to expose the interior, and more of a work station was included with better equipment. Overall, I do like this build though.
The third manual is for assembly of the excavator. However, instead of a scoop, this excavator has been modified to carry a jackhammer at the end of its arm for smashing open volcanic rocks. I really like this build. Even though it is covered in volcano stickers, I will be keeping it built. It can be used by my Minifigure construction crew to tear up city streets just as easily as it can be used to break up rocks. The friction wheels hidden into the design work well on all surfaces, so the treads always rotate as you roll excavator along. I have a soft spot for these machines since my dad used to let me drive them when I was little and I would go with him to work. So, this might just be my favorite part of this set. The only downside to the excavator is that it does not have a cab door.
The final manual is for the volcano. It is made from those “big ugly rock pieces”, or BURPs as they are known in AFOL lingo. I don’t find them that ugly myself, and I think they work well here. I was actually impressed with this part of the set. My impression from the box art was that it would be smaller. But, it does give a Minifigure a rough climb. The transparent orange pieces that represent lava are really nice too. The play feature uses technic pieces to create a lever on the backside of the volcano. Pressing down on the lever causes the volcanic rocks to launch from the top. I am neither here nor there about the play feature, but overall, I really like the volcano.
In summary, I don’t like the buggy from the first instruction manual. I am also not crazy about the unfinished look of the trailer roof, and wish the interior of the lab had received more detail. My final minor complaint is the lack of an excavator door. But, otherwise, I really like most of this set. If I grade each manual as a separate build, then this set can earn a total of 40 points based on my rating scale. I don’t like 1/3 of the first manual, so it gets 6/10. The second manual (the mobile lab) is really fun, but loses two points for the roof and the lack of interior detail, giving it 8/10. The third manual (the excavator) is a really nice build, and I will only take off half a mark for the lack of a door because the rest of the design is great, giving it 9.5/10. I have no complaints about the actual volcano, and give it 10/10. Averaging out these scores lands the Volcano Exploration Base an overall build score of 84%.
There are six Minifigures included with the Volcano Exploration Base (four male and two female). This means that collectively they can earn a score of 90 using my rating system. All of these Minifigures are standard characters, meaning none of them have those stubby child legs. So, already they earn 36 points for being made up of nine standard parts each. None of them have double sided faces (-6 points), but all of them have a unique face print (+6 points). Each of them has either a helmet or a hat as well (+6 points).
The characters all come with volcano exploration team uniforms, except for the female scientist who mans the mobile lab. She wears a white lab coat. Each of the Minifigures also has detailed printing on both the front and back of their torsos, earning another 12 points. Three of the Minifigs come with plain blue legs. Another two come wearing printed green, cargo-like pants, and the final character has metallic pants with straps printed on (+3 points).
In terms of accessories, you get two oxygen tanks/masks, a hazmat-type-volcano-heat helmet, a metal detector, two rock picks, a camera, a jackhammer, a crowbar, five blue crystals, four transparent orange rocks, a coffee mug, and a walkie talkie (serves as the remote for the drone). That earns 19 more points (I did not count the hazmat helmet here because I already gave a point for it when I discussed helmets).
Overall, these Minifigures earn a design score of 76/90 (84%). I quite like these characters. I am especially fond of the female scientist and the guy in the hazmat suit. The female scientist has the same face and hair colour as the female scientist from the Space Starter Set (60077 – click here to read my review), and Spaceport (60080). Her clothing is even similar. I like that she has her brown ponytail sticking out from under her hardhat. It allows me to imagine her as some sort of biologist, studying extremophiles in harsh environments, trying to figure out how life might survive on alien worlds. The metallic volcano heat suit is just cool looking.
The other half of my Minifigure score comes from the brick-to-Minifigure ratio. With six Minifigs and 824 pieces, that means that you get one Minifigure for approximately every 137 bricks. That is a pretty good ratio, and earns 4.5/5 (90%). Averaging the design score and the ratio score give the Volcano Exploration Base an overall Minifigure rating of 87%.
This set took me two hours and four minutes to assemble. At the full price of $149.99, that means that each minute of build time would cost $1.21. That is pretty expensive in my books, and earns a terrible score of 1/5 (20%). That was one of the reasons why I decided not to buy this set initially. However, since I got it for $80.00, that brought the cost per minute down to $0.65, which is actually pretty good. It does not earn this set a perfect score, but it does get it 4.5/5 (90%).
Will I keep this set as is? No, not for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy this set. In terms of the downsides, there are not that many of them. But, I don’t have much use for a volcano exploration base right now. The truck’s parts will be re-purposed in my city. The excavator will remain as is, and join my road work crew. I plan to build a science center of some sort in the future, and it will have a geology department, so the scientists will eventually make their way there. I would like to build a mountain for my city one day, so the volcano pieces will find a use eventually, and who knows, maybe it will turn into a volcano instead of a mountain so that I can have all these great Minifigures doing some research. I will have a lot of fun photographing this set before I take it apart though. Despite re-purposing much of this set, I could see myself keeping it around if I had the space. So, I will still give it 5/5 (100%). Averaging this score with the build-time score gives this set 60% at full price, and 95% at the liquidation price that I paid.
Buying the Volcano Exploration base at full price, you are getting a really fun set. It is a little expensive in terms of the cost per brick, but most City sets are. It is also pricey in terms of the build time that you get, but the end product is so much fun that kids will probably get a lot of play time out of it (at least I would have, but I was always into science). The Minifigures that come in this set rock. I just wish that LEGO had put a little more detail into that trailer. If you can find the Volcano Exploration Base on liquidation, for close to 50% off, then the set is definitely worth picking up. At a price around $80.00, I rate this set at 92%, and certainly worth the purchase.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Until next time,