Review: Forest Tractor (60181)

The Forest Tractor holds a lot of nostalgic value for me. My dad works in the forestry industry, and when I was little, I used to go on business trips with him into the woods to see machines similar to this LEGO® set in action. So, when I found out about this set, it joined my wish list pretty quickly. Now that I have had a chance to acquire and build it, let’s have a look at how it fares.

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Forest Tractor box art.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: Forest Tractor
SET #: 60181
THEME: City
COST: $24.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 174
MINIFIGURES: 1
RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2017

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Forest Tractor (60181)

SUMMARY REVIEW: 86%

VALUE: 80% (Good value per brick, and decent build time for the price.)
BUILD: 90% (Fun little build with a realistic design.)
MINIFIGURES: 92% (One nicely designed Minifig, good brick:fig.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 80% (Fun set for play or display, but the cab is annoying.)

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Forest Tractor sawhorse and chainsaw.

REVIEW

VALUE: 80%
The Forest Tractor set has a price tag $24.99 in Canada, and comes with 174 parts. This means that each brick in the kit costs $0.14. Based on all of the sets that I have purchased over the last few years, that is actually right on the average. City theme sets tends to be a bad value, so in that regard, the Forest Tractor is pretty good. I give it 4/5 (80%).

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Cut a tree, plant one in its place.

In the past, I have discussed the build time in the “entertainment” section of the review. However, I have decided to move that part of the review up here, since I am still talking about value. The Forest Tractor took me 32 minutes to build. At $24.99, each minute of that build time cost me $0.78. Again, that is pretty good, but not excellent. So, this set gets 4/5 in this category as well. Averaging these two scores gives the Forest Tractor an overall value score of 80%.

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There is a chain hitch on the back of the Forest Tractor to help you haul logs.

BUILD: 90%
The Forest Tractor is a great little build. I like the overall look. You get to build a couple of tree trunks, a sawhorse, a Minifigure-sized chainsaw, and the tractor itself. I give this design 9/10 (90%) based on my rating scale.

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The crane arm has multiple points of articulation.

What I like about the Forest Tractor:

  • The tractor looks realistic with an exhaust outlet, a bumper, and heavy duty tires for rough terrain.
  • The crane arm has multiple points of articulation to simulate real movement.
  • There are ladders built into the side for Minifigs to climb into the cab.
  • There is a chain hitch built on the back to drag logs along.
  • The cab has a steering wheel on one side, and crane controls on the other (which is a nice touch of realism).
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I really like the ladders built into the sides of the Forest Tractor.

What I don’t like about the Forest Tractor:

  • There are no doors into the cab, you have to disassemble the whole roof to get a Minifigure inside.
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You have to disassemble the whole cab to get a Minifigure seated inside.

MINIFIGURES: 92%
The Forest Tractor comes with one Minifigure. He is nicely designed with a hardhat and noise canceling earmuffs. His torso also has an orange work vest painted on, which is double-sided. I like the reflective safety strips on it. The face printing is not new, and legs are plain blue. In terms of accessories, you get a tree, a shovel, and a chainsaw. I give this character 15/15 for design (100%).

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Forest worker Minifigure front view.

One Minifigure in a kit containing 174 pieces translates into a brick-to-Minifigure ratio of 174:1. That is not bad, and I give it 4.2/5 (84%). Averaging the design and ratio scores gives the Forest Tractor an overall Minifigure grade of 92%.

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Forest worker Minifigure rear view.

ENTERTAINMENT: 80%
The Forest Tractor is a fun set. As a little boy, I loved playing with trucks, so this would have fit the bill well. As an adult, it is a realistic design that will add a nice touch to my LEGO® world. I will be keeping this set built, but I wish the cab was designed a little differently for easier access to get a Minifigure inside. I will give the Forest Tractor 4/5 (80%) for entertainment.

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Forest Tractor (60181)

OVERALL: 86%

The Forest Tractor brings back a lot of fun memories from my childhood. But, it is also a nicely designed set that I think will be fun for kids to play with. The set also comes at a good value in terms of both cost/brick and build-time. My only real issue with it is that the cab is poorly designed. You have to disassemble the whole thing in order to get a Minifigure to fit inside. Overall, I think this is a good buy, even at full price. What do you think about the Forest Tractor? Feel free to leave your comments in the space below.

Until next time,

-Tom

p.s. 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), FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.

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Review – Arctic Mobile Exploration Base [60195]

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.

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LEGO Arctic Mobile Exploration Base box art.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: Arctic Mobile Exploration Base
SET #: 60195
THEME: City
COST: $149.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 786
MINIFIGURES: 6
OF INTEREST: Mammoth & Snow-bike
RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2018

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All the builds in the AMEB can be joined into one long caravan.

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.)

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The Arctic Mobile Exploration Base comes with tools for breaking up ice.

REVIEW

VALUE: 60%
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.

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The Arctic Mobile Exploration Base comes complete with a snow bike,

BUILD: 90%
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).

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That is one remarkably well preserved mammoth.

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.

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The Arctic Mobile Exploration Base cargo sled.

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.

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The Arctic Mobile Exploration Base saw vehicle.

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.

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The Arctic Mobile Exploration Base lab.

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%).

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The Arctic Mobile Exploration Base crane vehicle.

MINIFIGURES: 88%
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%.

ENTERTAINMENT: 60%
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.

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The awesome mammoth figurine.

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%.

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An interior view of the crane vehicle’s cab.

OVERALL: 75%

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.

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Mountain/glacier climbing Minifigure included in the Arctic Mobile Exploration Base set.

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), FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.

Until next time,

-Tom

Want to buy this set?

Using the affiliate links below to buy the Arctic Mobile Exploration Base will earn me a little commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to manage some of the costs associated with running this blog, and keeps all content at True North Bricks free. Thanks for your support!

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Review – The LEGO® Brand Store (40305)

What LEGO® city would be complete without a LEGO® Brand Store? Luckily, there have been a few of them released over the years. A little one came as part of the Train Station (60050) a couple of years ago. Then we got another one along with City Square (60097 – click here to read my review). Finally, there was the Iconic VIP Set (40178 – click here to read about it) in 2017. Towards the end of 2018, the actual LEGO® Store began to sell an exclusive, new variant which is what we will look at today.

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LEGO® Brand Store box art.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: The LEGO® Brand Store
SET #: 40305
THEME: LEGO® Store exclusive
COST: $29.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 362
MINIFIGURES: 2
RELEASE DATE: November 23, 2018

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Front view of the LEGO® Brand Store set.

SUMMARY REVIEW: 91%

VALUE: 100% (It is hard to beat $0.08 per brick.)
BUILD: 85% (Nice design, except for the pop-out wall segments.)
MINIFIGURES:
87% (Generic figs, but fun accessories, and good brick:fig.)
ENTERTAINMENT:
90% (Great build time value, and a fun set.)

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Rear view of the LEGO® Brand Store set.

REVIEW

VALUE: 100%
With 362 pieces and a price tag of $29.99 in Canada, you are looking at a cost of $0.08 per brick. My average (based on all the sets that I have reviewed over the last few years) is about $0.14 per brick. So, The LEGO® Brand Store is actually an excellent value. I give it a full 5/5 (100%) in terms of value.

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The LEGO® Brand Store is designed similarly to the Creator Modular Modern Home, with interchangeable parts.

BUILD: 85%
The build for this set is very reminiscent of the Modular Modern Home (click here to read more about it), which is not necessarily a good thing. I was not a fan of the “modular” design of that building. It consisted of modular, main structures that had pop-in details (like doors and windows). The end product was not too structurally sound. This LEGO® Brand Store set suffers from the same issue, though perhaps to a lesser degree than the Modular Modern Home. In this set, the door, side windows, and pick-a-brick wall are interchangeable. Otherwise, the modular design of the floors and roof are quite nice.

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The LEGO® Brand Store set is nicely detailed, both inside and out.

I do love the details included in The LEGO® Brand Store. You get two floors of store (though no stairs to reach the second floor). There are plenty of LEGO® set boxes to stock the shelves (created by placing stickers on regular bricks). Like previous incarnations of the LEGO® Store, you also get a pick-and-build wall behind the cash register (though this one does not have a sign like the Iconic VIP Set did). There is also an ATM on the side of building, but sadly neither it nor the cash register have keyboards. My favorite detail is the Build-A-Mini tower, which looks more like the real thing than the one that came in City Square.

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An ATM can be found outside of the LEGO® Brand Store.

The outside of the building is also nicely designed for a lower price point set. I like the white and yellow color scheme, and the awnings over the windows. You get a LEGO® sticker for the sign above the door as well. There is some good use of textured bricks to avoid monotony in the exterior design, and the fringe of the roof has some fun detailing. One of the more interesting bits of the exterior design is the LEGO® brick pattern build onto the roof itself.

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The roof of the LEGO® Brand Store has a 2×4 brick pattern built onto it.

In the end, the only thing that I really don’t like about this set is the pop-out wall segments, and it loses a full mark there. A few minor details could have been improved as well, like stairs and a keyboard for both the cash register and ATM. Those are more nit-picky than anything else, so I will only take half a mark off for all of them collectively. This set has a lot to offer, and I am quite pleased with the overall design. It earns 8.5/10 (85%) for its build score.

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A partial view of the first floor of the LEGO® Brand Store.

MINIFIGURES: 87%
There are two Minifigures included with The LEGO® Brand Store. Sadly, neither one of them is a LEGO® Store employee, and one of them is a stumpy child figurine. The characters that you do get are also pretty generic with no new printing. The kid comes with hat, the adult with light brown “Superman” hair. Neither one has a double sided face, or any leg printing. But, both have front and back printed torsos. Based on their designs alone, I would give them a low 18/30 (60%). However, you do get some accessories. You get two printed screen tiles, two mini-Minifigures, a shield, and you also get 10 Minifig sized “boxes” of LEGO® (even though they are just stickers on bricks). I don’t normally count stickers on bricks as accessories… but I like these ones. I’ll give each of them half a point for that reason. The accessories bring the Minifigure design score up to 28/30 (93%).

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A front view of the Minifigures included with The LEGO® Brand Store.

Two Minifigures in a kit containing 362 pieces translates into a brick-to-Minifigure ratio of 181-to-1. That is good as far as I am concerned, and I would rate it at 4/5 (80%). Averaging the ratio score and the design score leads to an overall Minifigure grade of 87%.

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A rear view of the Minifigures included with The LEGO® Brand Store.

ENTERTAINMENT: 90%
The LEGO® Brand Store took me 55 minutes to build. At $29.99, that means that each minute cost me $0.55. My average cost per minute at the time of this writing is $0.85. So, I am quite happy with the time I got out of this set, and think it is a pretty good value in terms of build time. It gets a full 5/5 for that (100%).

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Another angle of the first floor with the pick-and-build wall visible.

Now, for the million dollar question. Do I like this set enough to keep it built in my city? Yes, I do. But, I will still modify it. While building The LEGO® Brand Store, I began to envision an amalgamation of all of the various LEGO® Stores that I have, along with the Minifigure Factory freebie (click here to read about that set). So, I think I will overhaul the MOC that I already have in my city (click here to have a look at what is currently there). Even if I didn’t feel that inspiration, I would have to modify this set since it has an open back design. So, for that reason, it gets 4/5 (80%) for my enjoyment of it. Averaging that with the build-time value score earns The LEGO® Brand Store and overall entertainment grade of 90%.

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The build-a-mini tower in The LEGO® Brand Store.

OVERALL: 91%

In summary, The LEGO® Brand Store is a solid purchase, even at full price. As I am writing this, the set is a little hard to come by in Canada. I actually got mine from the States. But, if you can find one, I do recommend it. You get an excellent value both in terms of the cost per brick, and the amount of build time that you get out of it. There are many fun details, and overall, it looks pretty good. My complaints about it are mostly small, and mainly that I don’t like the interchangeable wall elements.

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Another angle of the second floor of The LEGO® Brand Store.

Have you managed to get your hands on this The LEGO® Brand Store set? If so, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section 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), FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.

Until next time,

-Tom

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It doesn’t hurt to go in and “just look”, right? (Famous last words)

 

Review: The LEGO® Book – New Edition

I recently finished reading the new edition of The LEGO® Book, and thought that I would take a moment to share my thoughts on it. I’ll start off by stating that this is yet another DK book, so there is a fair amount of overlap with previous LEGO® books. However, there is a concerted effort to include as many themes as possible, and a fair amount of history too.

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Front cover of The LEGO® Book.

I have not read the first edition of this book, so I can’t compare the changes that have been made. However, I can say that I found this book to be an enjoyable read that contained a lot of fun facts. The LEGO® Book does not jump into the same amount of detail about any given theme as, say, a DK visual dictionary would, but it gives the highlights. I found the content to be similar to A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman (click here to read my review), only in this edition you get the picture heavy layouts that DK books are known for.

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Back cover of The LEGO® Book.

Like previous DK books that I have reviewed, this book made a sort of haphazard attempt to be current at the time of its release. It was released on October 2, 2018. The book does contain many references to LEGO® sets and happenings throughout 2018, but leaves other key developments out. An example would be the book’s discussion of the arctic City sub-theme. It mentions the sets that were released in 2014, but makes no mention of the theme’s revival during the publication year. Those sets were released months before this book was. I also noticed a few errors, like the fact that the bear figurine is listed only as a 2018 addition. Perhaps they were referring specifically to the black bear variant, but the same mold has been seen in the past as a brown bear and a polar bear, neither of which is mentioned in the book.

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A spread showing how LEGO® bricks are made.

I did rather like the spreads in this book. Generally speaking, DK does a good job with the layout of their LEGO® books. The same is true for this edition. But, this book also switched up the page orientation from portrait to landscape in the Pirates section, which I thought was neat. I would have liked to have seen more sections flipped like that, just to mix things up.

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One of the flipped Pirates spreads that mixes up the visuals in the book a little.

Finally, this book also comes with a freebie. While most books of this nature include a Minifigure, this one comes with an exclusive LEGO® brick. It is a standard 2×4, but one side of it is printed to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the brick. It is a change from the usual, but they could have still stuck with a Minifigure since it was also the 40th anniversary of the Minifigure. Or better yet, include both to warrant all that extra cardboard packaging in the cover… I will still probably find a neat way to showcase this brick in my LEGO® city though.

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The packaging for the exclusive LEGO® brick is a little much, but you still get a lot of actual book with this edition too.

Overall, The LEGO® Book is a fun read, but it is not mind blowing information that you can’t find in numerous other sources, or on the internet. I am still waiting for that defining LEGO® book. I like the commemorative brick, but it would have been cooler to get a Minifigure too. It makes a nice coffee table book though.

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Each theme has a “sets to remember” spread like this that I found quite nostalgic.

Have you read The LEGO® Book? Feel free to share your thoughts on it in the comments 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), FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.

Until next time,

-Tom

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The exclusive, commemorative, printed 2×4 brick included with The LEGO Book.

Review – Ninjago City Docks (70657)

Ninjago City is one of my all time favorite LEGO® sets (click here to read my review). It may even be at the top of the list. So, when I heard that an extension was being released, I was over the moon. I could hardly contain my excitement when Ninjago City Docks finally came out. However, just as I do with all big ticket sets, I waited for a double VIP points event before I picked one up. Then, there was the usual work induced delay in actually building it. But, now it has been built, and I am ready to share my thoughts on it. Does it live up to its predecessor?

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Ninjago City Docks box art.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: Ninjago City Docks
SET #: 70657
THEME: Ninjago Movie
COST: $269.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 3553
MINIFIGURES: 13
OF INTEREST: 1 baby figure
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2018

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Ninjago City Docks

SUMMARY REVIEW: 90%

VALUE: 100% (Excellent value at $0.08 per brick.)
BUILD: 85% (Some more detail in places would be nice, but generally well designed.)
MINIFIGURES: 80% (Nice designs, loads of accessories, but low brick:fig.)
ENTERTAINMENT:
95% (Not as awe-inspiring as Ninjago City, but fun all the same.)

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Ninjago City Docks

REVIEW

VALUE: 100%
Ninjago City Docks comes with 3553 pieces. It costs $269.99 in Canada. At that price, you are paying $0.08 per brick. That is an excellent value, and earns a full 5/5 (100%). Like most other sets in this price bracket, you are essentially buying LEGO® in bulk. The price may seem high overall, but in the end you get a lot of product for it.

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Ninjago City Docks

BUILD: 85%
There is a lot going on in Ninjago City Docks. Is it as much as Ninjago City? No, sadly not. But, it is a really great set all the same. There is not much that I don’t like about it. However, it doesn’t leave me with the same sense of awe as Ninjago City did. I think I would have liked this set more if it had been designed more compactly, and higher, like Ninjago City. I really liked the three layers of city built one on top of the other. Ninjago City Docks is really mostly just the ground, old level. There is a partial street, or second, level, but the third tier is missing entirely.

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Ninjago City and Ninjago City Docks joined.

Another point of contention that I have with Ninjago City Docks is the grocery store on the base level. The outside looks awesome with the fruit stand, and the rotisserie turkey (that actually turns). However, the inside of the shop is completely empty except for a cleaver. There is so much detail in all of the other shops and homes, why not here? It is actually a fairly large space to leave devoid of anything.

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Ninjago City and Ninjago City Docks joined.

Other than the aforementioned points, there isn’t anything that I don’t like about Ninjago City Docks. It clicks into place perfectly next to Ninjago City, and adds a grocery store, map store, sculptor’s shop, tea shop, arcade, small dojo, and an apartment. The arcade lines up with the comic book shop in Ninjago City, and has a soda vending machine outside. Shoving a printed money tile into the vending machine causes a can to roll out. I love that it actually works. There is also a lot of new signage, and one of the billboards comes with interchangeable ads.

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There is a functioning soda machine outside of the arcade on the street level of Ninjago City Docks.

There are several really interesting build techniques that have been employed in Ninjago City Docks. You get the aforementioned soda machine, but the arcade also features some gaming machines inside. The tea shop has some nice shelving and drawer builds, and you get those neat sliding doors seen in Ninjago City. What I like most about this set is the Asian inspired look of the buildings. The roofs in particular are built using some interesting techniques that I plan to employ again in my own future MOCs. There is also the fun added touch of many of the buildings having wall mounted air conditioning units.

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Ninjago City Docks grocery store front.

Overall, the build for this set is quite nice. It really bothers me that the grocery store interior was left empty, so it does lose a mark for that. I also wish the height of this set and been made to match its predecessor, but that is a lesser concern and I will only take off half a mark there. The buildings look really nice, and use some novel building techniques, especially where the roofs are concerned. I give Ninjago City Docks 8.5/10 (85%) as its build score.

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The Ninjago City Docks arcade.

MINIFIGURES: 80%
There are 13 characters included in Ninjago City Docks, and they are fairly well detailed. Each one comes with a hairpiece, hat, or helmet. They all feature front and back printed torsos. Nine of them have front printing on their legs, and six have a double sided face. One of them is sadly a stumpy-legged child… but one out of 13 is not terrible in that regard. Using my rating system for Minifigure design, I would give these characters 143 out of a total possible 195 marks (15 points per Minifigure). That earns a design score of 73%. However, there are SO MANY accessories included in this set from household items, to weapons, to printed tiles, and food. I stopped counting when I hit 60. The plethora of accessories brings the design score up to an easy 100%.

With 13 Minifigures and an overall brick count of 3553, you are looking at a brick-to-fig ratio of 273:1. That is passable in my opinion. Usually when you get a big set, the lower price per brick coincides with a lower brick-to-fig ratio as well. So, to get 13 Minifigures in a set this size is actually pretty good when compared with, say, the Creator Expert modulars. All the same, when you compare that ratio to a smaller piece count in a Super Heroes set, for example, the ratio is not that great. I rate Ninjago City Docks at 3/5 (60%) for its brick-to-fig ratio.

If you average the design and ratio scores for the characters included in Ninjago City Docks, you get a solid Minifigure grade of 80%. I very much like the look of these Minifigs, and the low brick-to-fig ratio was not unexpected.

ENTERTAINMENT: 95%
Ninjago City Docks took me exactly 10 hours to build (600 minutes). With a price tag of $269.99, each minute of build time set me back $0.45. My current average cost per minute of build time is $0.85, so this is WAY below that. Large sets tend to give you a good value in terms of build time, and Ninjago City Docks was no exception. It gets a full 5/5 for build time value.

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Ninjago City Docks sculptor’s shop.

Do I like this set? Yes, I do, and I would even go so far as to say that I love it. But, do I love it as much as Ninjago City? No, like I said earlier, the same sense of awe is just not there. I will leave this set built pretty much as is in my city. I think I will move the dock back a little though. I would prefer if it touched right up against the sidewalk in front of the grocery store, rather than having a channel of water in between. But, that is a personal preference, and the dock still looks nice as is. I will only give Ninjago City Docks 4.5/5 (90%) though, for those reasons.

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Ninjago City Docks dojo.

You get a great build time and a really fun set in Ninjago City Docks. Averaging the build time score with the enjoyment score yields and overall entertainment grade of 95%. Looking at this set from a play perspective, I think that kids would have a lot of fun with it too. It is a nice display piece, but I can imagine a much younger version of myself chomping at the bit to play with this and all its little features. Combine it with Ninjago City, and you are looking at even more fun.

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Lloyd prowls the nicely designed rooftops as the Green Ninja.

OVERALL: 90%

Even though it clocks in at $270 in Canada, Ninjago City Docks is a great value in terms of both bricks, build time, and play time. From an AFOL perspective, it is a nice display piece, and I had days of fun photographing it (with probably more days yet to come). As a set, it is not as inspiring as Ninjago City that came before it, and it also suffers from a low brick-to-fig ratio (though that is not uncommon in large sets). You do get 13 nicely design characters though. I do recommend this set, even at full price (though lately I have seen a number of sales for as much as 30% off).

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The fishing boat build included in Ninjago City Docks.

How do you feel about Ninjago City Docks? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments 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), FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.

Until next time,

-Tom

January 2019 Haul

It feels like it was just over a week ago that I posted my last haul article… oh wait a minute, it was… I had originally planned to wait until later in January to make another LEGO® purchase. However, this week the LEGO® Store surprised me with a unique freebie. Apparently the LEGO® Group has now opened its 100th store in North America, and to celebrate, they released a commemorative Minifigure. I had some gift cards from Christmas to spend, so I figured why not? In addition to that, I have an update on the Build-a-Mini tower for you, some other freebie info, and my haul!

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My January 2019 LEGO® Haul.

To begin with, you needed to spend $50 in store to get yourself the commemorative Minifigure. So, I spent a while contemplating just what I should get. It was a hard decision. I ended up picking up Indoraptor Rampage at Lockwood Estate (75930). I have wanted this set for a while because I love dinosaurs, the Jurassic Park franchise, and I can see loads of MOC possibilities with this set. Plus, like I said, I had some gift cards. So, I had the option of going with a more extravagant set this time around. You all seem to like Jurassic World content as well. For the last few weeks, my Jurassic World posts have been getting some major hits. So, I’ll have more of those articles and coloring pages heading your way soon.

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Indoraptor Rampage at Lockwood Estate

The second set you see in the image above is actually not part of my purchased haul, but I did get it this month. I caught up with a good friend who gave it to me as a belated Christmas present. So, since it missed the Christmas haul post, it gets a mention here. I am actually pretty excited to put this one together. One of my favorite Batman story lines in recent years has been The Court of Owls. This set, Batman: The Attack of the Talons, is based on that (Talons were assassins for the Court of Owls in the comics).

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Batman: Attack of the Talons

I also check the Build-a-Mini tower every time I go to the LEGO® Store, just to see if there are new pieces. As luck would have it, this time there was. There were some leftovers from Christmas (you could build Mrs. Claus, there was an elf hat with elf ears, and Santa hats too). But, those were out of season, so I didn’t go for them. There were other unique parts that are worth mentioning though. As many of you know, if you are patient and willing to collect odds and ends from the Build-a-Mini tower, you can eventually put together pretty good facsimiles of Minifigures from a retired series. This time around, I saw the pants and hair for the Karate Master from series two. I didn’t get those though. But, I did pick up the following:

  • the red mohawk from the Battle Dwarf seen in series 17
  • a different color variant of the backpack worn by the Hiker in series 16
  • the panda mask from series 12
  • the saw from the Construction Worker in series 13
  • the bulldog from series 17
  • torso from the Thespian in series 8
  • torso from the Motorcycle Mechanic in series 10
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Front view of the Build-a-Mini figurines that I put together.

As I mentioned with the backpack before, it is not unheard of to get different color variations of parts seen in sets or from the Minifigure series. I was particularly intrigued on this trip to find a blond version of Barbara Gordon’s hair from the LEGO® Batman Movie. Until now, that piece was uniquely seen in those sets (to the best of my knowledge). There was also two different options of two-toned legs sporting the pants and boots looks (I picked up one version). Two of my characters were made to have an oriental style of dress to go with the MOC I recently started. The third was built to have a punk look.

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Rear view of the Build-a-Mini figurines that I put together.

And now, on to the pièce de résistance… the commemorative Minifigure. This is actually a two part freebie. First, you get the Minifigure. It comes in a Comic Con-esque blister pack with a golden card insert. The Minifigure is actually a variant of the polybag that was given away at the LEGO® Store in 2013. However, this time, he comes with a front and back printed torso, and a printed 2×4 brick. The other part of the freebie is a golden poster.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, any purchase at the LEGO® Store got you a LEGO® Movie 2 double-sided poster. My LEGO® Store was even kind enough to give me TWO of these posters, so I can display both sides simultaneously!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and feel free to share any thoughts in the comments space below. More of you have been reaching out in recent weeks, and I have genuinely enjoyed the interactions (meeting new LEGO® fans was one of the reasons I started True North Bricks, after all).

Until next time,

-Tom

p.s. 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), FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.

Review – Diagon Alley (40289)

Back in November, the LEGO® Store was giving away a micro-build of Diagon Alley along with qualifying purchases. My wife did much of her Christmas shopping for me on Black Friday, and this freebie came along with it. I actually got my hands on the set on Christmas. So, while this review may be a little late for many of you to actually get this set, I suppose it is better late than never.

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Diagon Alley box art.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: Diagon Alley
SET #: 40289
THEME: Harry Potter
COST: Free with qualifying purchases
BRICK COUNT: 374
MINIFIGURES: 2
RELEASE DATE: November 9, 2018

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Diagon Alley box contents.

SUMMARY REVIEW: 73%

VALUE: 100% (It was free…)
BUILD: 50% (I am not a fan of this micro-build style.)
MINIFIGURES:
70% (One really nice Minifig, bad brick:fig.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 70% (Good build time, but you can’t play with it.)

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The exterior of Gringotts Wizarding Bank

REVIEW

VALUE: 100%
It is hard to beat a free set… so I will give Diagon Alley a 5/5 (100%) in this category. The set was advertised as having a value of about $24.99 in Canada. So at that price, you would have been looking at $0.07 per brick, which is still an excellent value.

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The interior of Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

BUILD: 50%
I am going to be honest right from the start here… I don’t like this micro Diagon Alley. I will discuss my feelings about these micro-builds more in the “Entertainment” section. But, in terms of the build, I find it only marginally looks like the actual buildings from the film. I am also not a fan of the varying scale seen through the set. The exterior is mostly built at one scale, but the interiors of Gringotts and Weasleys’ appear to be at another. I think it would have been a better approach to just seal off the buildings, and not provide interiors for any of them. There was also nothing in terms of interesting building techniques with this set.

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Ollivander’s

I do like the new printed tiles that were included for the cobble stone streets. I have not see those before, and it would be worth getting multiples of this set just for those. There is also a new light pink… could you call it sandy pink? I don’t know if this color comes more frequently in the Friends theme or something, but you really only get a few 1x1s in this set, so nothing substantial to build with. I’ll take off three points for the weird scaling, the marginal resemblance, and the lack of interesting build techniques. But, I will add two for the new bricks. Based on my rating scale, that lands Diagon Alley 5/10 (50%).

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Flourish & Blotts and Quality Quidditch Supplies

MINIFIGURES: 70%
Diagon Alley comes with one, exclusive Minifigure: Mr. Ollivander. For hardcore Potter fans, that is probably the main draw of this set. I am by no means a huge Harry Potter fan, but I did enjoy the books, and I have been collecting the Minifigure series. So, for me, this set was really just a way to get a another Minifigure. I love my Minifigs, especially free ones. Ollivander is a nicely designed one too. He comes with a hairpiece that I didn’t already have, as well as a double sided face. While he has a front and back printed torso, his legs are plain grey. He already has 11/15 (73%) just based on that. However, the set also comes with a number of accessories (most of which are incorporated into the build). You get two wands, two paint brushes, two mini-Minifigure statues, a top hat, a Minifigure head (with double sided face), and two black colored sausages. Those easily being the design score up to 15/15 (100%).

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Front view of Mr. Ollivander

With 374 bricks, you have a fairly-easy-to-calculate brick-to-Minifig ratio of 374-to-1. That is not so great, and earns 2/5 (40%). Averaging that with the design score gives an overall Minifigure rating of 70%.

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Rear view of Mr. Ollivander

ENTERTAINMENT: 70%
This set took me 63 minutes to build. It was free, and I can’t complain about getting about an hour of complimentary build time. So, Diagon Alley gets 100% for value there. If this set had been purchased for the aforementioned $24.99, then each minute would have cost $0.40, which is still really good.

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Exterior of Weazleys’ Wizard Wheezes

I already mentioned that I don’t really like this set. This is the first micro-scale set that I have gotten and built. After building it, I don’t really see the point to having this. You can’t play with it, and it doesn’t really look an awful lot like the actual movie set, or what I imagined Diagon Alley looking like in the books. It would sit on my shelf collecting dust. This set was built and disassembled all in one day in my house. All the parts will be re-purposed. It does come with those interesting cobble stone printed tiles though, so I will give it 2/5 (40%) for enjoyment. Averaging that with the build time value score gives an overall entertainment rating of 70%.

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The interior of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.

OVERALL: 73%

As a freebie, Diagon Alley is worth it for the bricks, but mostly for the Minifigure of Mr. Ollivander. If it had not been free, it still would have been a good value set. But, I would not have paid for it. I am not impressed with the look of the micro-build. I also feel it serves little purpose since it is only a display piece with no play value. You can’t even put Ollivander in it for show because he is not the same scale as the set. I’m happy it was free. Do you have thoughts to share on the Diagon Alley freebie? Feel free to share them in the comments space below.

Until next time,

-Tom

p.s. 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), FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for regular updates.