In 2018, we saw a return to the arctic in the City theme. The last time LEGO® took us to the arctic was back in 2014. I only bought one of those sets, but I really loved it. So, I was happy to see the sub-theme revived. I also love the LEGO® science/exploration based sets. The 2014 sets focused on geology, and the discovery of crystals in the North. This time around, we are still looking at exploration, but instead of crystals, our intrepid Minifigures are going in search of the frozen remains of animals long extinct. I am even more psyched about that because zoology, paleontology, and phylogeography are all things that fascinate me. This sort of body-fossil hunting also actually happens in this day and age with the melting permafrost (though LEGO® has made it seem much more glamorous that it really is, I think). Let’s see if the Arctic Mobile Exploration Base (hereafter AMEB… I’m not writing that out once very paragraph) lives up to my expectations.
NAME: Arctic Mobile Exploration Base
SET #: 60195
COST: $149.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 786
OF INTEREST: Mammoth & Snow-bike
RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2018
SUMMARY REVIEW: 75%
VALUE: 60% (This will set you back $0.19/brick.)
BUILD: 90% (nicely designed except for a few nit-picky details.)
MINIFIGURES: 88% (Nice figs, good accessories, awesome mammoth.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 60% (Really bad build-time value, but super fun set.)
With 786 bricks and a price tag of $149.99 in Canada, you are looking at a cost per brick of $0.19. That is crazy expensive considering that my current average based on two years of sets is $0.14. High cost per brick is to be expected with City sets though. Even averages based even on the catalogs are high. I rate the AMEB set at 3/5 (60%) for value.
There are five individual builds that make up the AMEB set. The simplest is probably the chunk of ice that houses the mammoth body-fossil. The build does not completely cover the mammoth, so I guess they found this one jutting out of some melted permafrost. The build is a little flimsy, but it is meant to be. It has to come apart easily so that Minifigs can remove their frozen prize. If I had to pick one of the builds to be less impressed with, it would be this one. However, it is a necessary part of the set, and I think it has a lot of play value (which I will discuss more later).
The rest of the AMEB is all meant to be a series of interconnected vehicles. The smallest is a cargo sled that tacks onto the end of the caravan. Despite its simplicity, I really like that this build was included in the set. Of course a mobile arctic expedition is going to need extra supplies, and a sled to carry them. It is that touch of authenticity that I really like to see in my LEGO® sets. My only complaint about this build is that one set of skis has to be attached backwards (the design does allow for all skis to face the same way). The up-turned ends on both sets of skis should face the same direction, otherwise one set will always be snagging in real life… but perhaps I am trying to be too realistic. There are two crates to go on board that you can fill with accessories. Or just put the whole mammoth on once it has been excavated.
To help in breaking up the ice around the mammoth, you also have a mobile saw vehicle. In reality, this thing seems to lack the finesse that I would imagine that you need when extracting fossils… but, then again, I have never actually seen a mammoth carcass being excavated, so what do I know? The vehicle is fun all the same. The saw is attached to an arm that has two points of articulation in addition to an axle for the saw the spin on. Sadly, the vehicle falls prey to one of my LEGO® pet peeves… no doors into the cab. The roof lifts off to allow you to stick a Minifigure inside.
The “base” part of the set’s title comes to life with a little lab built on skis. The exterior is really nice looking, and has some interesting angles. The use of two levels of windows also gives it the appearance of being larger than it actually is. Sadly, the skis are set up similarly to the sled, meaning the front and back skis face in opposite directions. A door gives Minifigures access to the interior where you have a little lab bench. There is a bone on the examination table, and a mounted camera for documenting it. There is a wall mounted screen in the room as well, and the staple coffee maker. One thing I particularly like about this build is the bunk-style bed. You can access the space for play purposes through a hatch built into the roof.
The largest build in the AMEB set is the crane vehicle. It is pretty heavy duty, and meant to pull the whole caravan along. There is a really neat little worm and gear system at the base of the crane arm that allows you to raise and lower and arm, subsequently lifting or lowering anything attached to the crane’s hook. The interior of the cab also has a nice design, and is big enough for two Minifigures. Each has sitting space, one to drive, and the other to operate the crane (for which they included a console and levers). On the exterior, there are ladders built in on either side of the vehicle for Minifigures to climb in… but no doors. The doors are stickers meant to depict hatches, which are actually too small for a Minifigure anyway…
My list of complaints with the AMEB are few. It is a nicely designed set, and the end product looks nice. While I can’t imagine many real arctic research teams being able to afford equipment like this, it is pretty cool that science is so well funded in the fictional LEGO® universe. If I rated each of these builds as a little set, each one would lose one mark for a little detail or another (flimsy design, backwards skis, no doors). But, overall, I will still give the AMEB a conglomerate score of 9/10 (90%).
You get six Minifigures in the AMEB. Each of them comes with a head covering of some kind, but no hair pieces. None of them have double sided faces, and only one has any leg printing. But, all have front and back printed torsos. You also get one new piece in the form of a blue fur-lined hat with the flaps down. That is one of my favorite little things about this set. Based on my rating system, these Minifigures on their own would earn a score of 61/90 (68%). But, you get a load of accessories too. There are two ice picks, two mugs, two circular hand saws, one jack hammer, a radio, a bone, a camera, and a couple of pairs of snowshoes. You also get the two crates, the snow-bike, and, of course, the mammoth. All of that brings the score up to 77/90 (86%).
With six Minifigures and 786 pieces, you are looking at a brick-to-Minifigure ratio of 131-to-1. Already, that is really good. However, you also get the mammoth. Seriously, how many of you wanted this set just for the mammoth? I did. If we add the mammoth into the calculation, the ratio changes to 112:1, which earns a score of 90%. Averaging this ratio score with the Minifigure design score gives an overall Minifigure grade of 88%.
The AMEB took me two hours and thirteen minutes to build (133 minutes). At $149.99, that means that each minute of build time costs $1.13. My average cost per minute is currently $0.85 per minute, so this set is not a great value in terms of the amount of build time that you will get out of it. Sadly, it only gets 1/5 (20%) in that department.
In terms of enjoyment, I really like this set. As I mentioned earlier, I really like the science based sets. I particularly like the idea of searching for body-fossils that LEGO® has used this time around. I have already had a lot of photography time with this set, and I am anticipating more. I have have loads of fun ideas for pictures with this theme, and maybe some other creative projects that will make their way here to True North Bricks… I also see this set as being a lot of fun for play. I know I would have loved it growing up. Finding the mammoth, and playing through its excavation would have been a thrill for a younger me. The “base” idea was always important in my play when I was little. My characters always had to have a base of some sort. I probably won’t keep this set built forever due to space constraints, but I will keep it around for a while. I also think this is the type of set that will inspire future generations of scientists. It may not be super realistic, but it will open up the minds of kids to future possibilities through imagination and play. I will give it 5/5 (100%) for enjoyment. Averaging that with the build-time score gives and overall entertainment rating of 60%.
In general, you are getting a really nice set in the AMEB. I love the story behind the set, and I love the look of the set. I think this set will inspire young minds to delve deeper into science after playing through some adventures. Getting a mammoth figure is also amazing. Where the AMEB falls flat is value. You are paying A LOT for this kit at $149.99, and you don’t get a lot of bricks for that price, or a lot of initial build time. While I do recommend this set, I also recommend waiting for a sale. I think the price point for the AMEB should be about 20% less ($120). At that price, your cost per brick goes down to $0.15, and the build-time ends up being $0.90/minute. In the end, that changes the overall score to 80%. So, the AMEB is certainly worth picking up, but wait for a sale of 20% or more.
What are your feelings on the Arctic Mobile Exploration Base set? Feel free to leave a comment in the field below. Also, if you like the content at True North Bricks, I would love it if you followed me here on WordPress (click the “follow” option in the menu to your right), Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.
Until next time,
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