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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Coloring Page – Mammoth

The mammoth is certainly one of my favorite figurines produced by the LEGO® Group. I love LEGO® animals, and science related sets. This one is from 60195, the Arctic Mobile Exploration Base. I reviewed it this past week (click here to read). You can click on the link below to download a printable copy of this coloring page (it will open in a new window). 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 weekly coloring pages. Happy coloring!

Click here to download the mammoth coloring page.

The coloring pages at True North Bricks are provided free of charge for printing and coloring. Feel free to share these images on social media (with the appropriate link back to True North Bricks), but please do not re-post them on other websites without my permission.

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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

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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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Minifigure Monday – Dream there was a window here…

Dream there was a window here…
(An original LEGO® inspired poem from True North Bricks)

Take a step outside your door, and walk down the street.
Contemplate what came before, underneath your feet.
Dream there was a window here, through your paradigm,
And today could disappear, for a look through time.
Flipping through the centuries, as you’d read a book.
All the planet’s memories, just for you to look.
What stood in this very spot, but ages ago?
Would you look, or would you not, would you want to know?

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This poem was inspired by the LEGO® Woolly Mammoth from the Arctic Mobile Exploration Base set.

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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 – City Advent Calendar 2018 [60201]

I get a LEGO® Advent Calendar pretty much every year. The holiday season would just not be the same without my little piece of LEGO® joy each day. Some years, I have even bought two (City and Star Wars). Much like last year, however, I skipped the Star Wars calendar this year. None of the Minifigures were appealing (where are the Christmas variants of characters that we used to get?). I like the City calendars because I get more townsfolk for my own city. But how does this year’s advent calendar measure up to those of years past?

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Box art for the 2018 City Advent Calendar.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: 2018 Advent Calendar
SET #: 60201
THEME: City
COST: $39.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 312
MINIFIGURES: 5.5
RELEASE DATE: September 2, 2018

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December 1, 2, and 3.

SUMMARY REVIEW: 74%

VALUE: 80% ($0.13 per brick at full price is okay.)
BUILD: 70% (Some fun builds, but a few re-hashed ideas and no consistency.)
MINIFIGURES: 90% (Not many Minifigs, but nice ones with loads of accessories.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 55% (Not much build time, and most of the builds are not keepers.)

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December 4, 5, and 6 (in reverse order).

REVIEW

VALUE: 80%
With 312 pieces, and a price tag of $39.99 in Canada, this advent calendar will cost you $0.13 per brick. As it stands, my average cost per brick based on all of the sets that I have bought over the last two years is $0.14. So, buying this advent calendar at full price, you are actually getting a decent value. It is a touch below the average, which is good, and I would rate it at 4/5 (80%). For the last couple of weeks, this advent calendar has been available for as much as 50% off at some retailers, so if you waited until after December 1, you might have gotten a deal as good as $0.06/brick.

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December 7, 8, and 9.

BUILD: 70%
As usual, the 2018 advent calendar is all about little builds. There are a few staples each year. You pretty much always get variants of a lamp post, a train, a Christmas tree, and some sort of food/drink stand. Each year, some of the builds are also designed to look like micro versions of LEGO® sets from the past year. This year, we are looking at Minifigure scale versions of the Passenger Train and Ambulance Helicopter. There is something reminiscent of the volcano exploration excavator as well, but in the mining theme colors.

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December 10, 11, and 12.

The builds that you get this year are:

  1. Space Shuttle
  2. Boy Minifigure (with coins)
  3. Race Car
  4. Husky (with plate and chicken leg)
  5. Sled
  6. Snowman (with mug)
  7. Woman Minifigure (with shovel)
  8. Drone
  9. Lamp post
  10. Soccer nets and ball
  11. Passenger Train
  12. Ice cream dispenser
  13. Girl Minifigure (with ice cream cone)
  14. Gift boxes and stocking
  15. Christmas tree
  16. Cupcake stand
  17. Pastry chef Minifigure
  18. Toy car
  19. Remote controlled cars
  20. Mining excavator
  21. Candy cane clock post
  22. Toy robot
  23. Ambulance Helicopter
  24. Santa Claus Minifigure
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December 13, 14, and 15.

In terms of the builds, I am neither here nor there about most of them. I would like to see the LEGO® advent calendars take a different route. Firstly, there are not enough Minifigures, but I will return to that idea in the “Minifigures” section of this review. In terms of the other stuff you get, most of it is kind of crappy. I would like to see something more along the lines of the “x-tra” polybags with a Christmas twist. I want more actual accessories to spruce up my city in the City Advent Calendar. Give us actual lamp posts. Give us actual street signs or traffic lights decked out for the holidays. Even better would be a more of a consistent approach to what is included. For example, why can’t all of the builds come together to make an actual set? Like a hot chocolate stand with machines, cups, pastry stands, signage, etc.

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December 16, 17, 18.

I did like some of the builds include this year. My favorite was by far the toy robot from December 22. It was a little reminiscent of Sweep from Ninjago City. I liked the design for the moving legs and arms. The wind-up key on the back was also a nice touch. The ice cream machine from December 12 is next on my list, followed by the token Christmas tree from December 15. This year’s snowman, from December 6, was a nice step up from the variants we have seen in previous years, but I will come back to that again later. Finally, the token snack stand of the year was fun. They made it look like a rolling cart, which was an interesting change from previous years.

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December 19, 20, and 21.

Overall, I was pleased with a few of the builds, but this set loses a mark for its lack of awe-value. It also loses one for the inconsistent nature of the builds. One could argue that they are consistently themed as “Christmas presents”, but again, I want something that comes together as a set in the end. An infusion of new ideas wouldn’t hurt either. We don’t need toy trains, rockets, and cars every year. I give this year’s City advent calendar 7/10 (70%).

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December 22, 23, and 24.

MINIFIGURES: 90%
For the last few years, the number of Minifigures included in the Advent Calendar has been dropping. In 2016, we got seven plus a husky. In 2017, we got six with no animals. This year, the husky is back, but we are down to five Minifigures. I said it last year, and I will say it again, I want more Minifigures, not less. In my mind, this advent calendar should border on being a Christmas people pack, but we keep losing a Minifigure each year. The snowman included in this set is half of a Minifigure though. It comes with a blank white head and torso, a top hat, a red scarf, and a red mug. However, instead of legs, you get a brick. I like it more than previous brick-built snowmen we have seen, but it is not a full Minifigure. So, will say this year’s advent calendar came with five and a half Minifigures. With 312 bricks, you are looking at a brick-to-Minifig ratio of 57:1. That is worse than last year’s (41:1), but still better than the vast majority of actual sets. So, for the second year running, I will give the advent calendar a 5/5 (100%) for its ratio score.

In terms of design, I will leave the snowman out, since he is not complete and is meant to be blank white. Looking at the other five characters, you get three full-sized Minifigures and two gimpy ape-children (which lose marks right from get-go). All come with some form of hair or hat, as well as front and back printed torsos. None feature any leg printing or double-sided faces. You do get some nice accessories in the form of 2 printed coins, 4 printed pastries, a printed clock, two cherries (to act as holly), two trophy mini-Minifigs, a shovel, a cup, a husky, a plate, and chicken leg. Based on my rating scale, these Minifigures earn a design score of 59/75 (79%). Averaging that out with the ratio score gives the advent calendar an overall Minifigure grade of 90%.

On a related note, I noticed that this year, there were no themed Minifigures included in the calendar. In past years, we have seen volcano and jungle explorers, firemen, police, and coast guard characters. I was a little bummed to not get any miners or paramedics this year with the resurgence of mining and hospital/ambulance sets.

ENTERTAINMENT: 55%
Like last year, I did not actually time how long it took me to put together each of the little builds in this calendar. I’ll go with the same assumption that it was about two minutes per build, for a total of 24 builds, which comes out to 48 minutes of assembly time. At $39.99, that comes out to $0.83 per minute, which is pretty bad. This year’s advent calendar earns 2.5/5 (50%) for build-time value.

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My favorite build from the 2018 City advent calendar.

This year, I will probably keep some of the mini-builds. At the very least, I will be keeping the toy robot. So, in that respect, it is a step up from the 2017 calendar where I re-purposed everything. So, this year, I will give the advent calendar 3/5 (60%) as an enjoyment score. Averaging that with the build-time value gives the 2018 City Advent Calendar an overall entertainment grade of 55%.

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The 2018 LEGO City Advent Calendar contents.

OVERALL: 74%

The 2018 City Advent Calendar fared a little better than its 2017 predecessor in terms of my review. Last year, it earned 69%, so we are seeing a 5% increase. We got more bricks this year, which contributed to better overall value for the calendar, but I was generally less impressed with the builds. One major saving grace was the nicely designed toy robot. There was another drop in the number of Minifigures included in the set as well, which I am not thrilled about. Less Minifigures leaves me feeling like it’s lower quality, especially since there were no specially themed characters. Do I still recommend the advent calendars? Without a doubt. Despite the issues that I have with them, it is still fun to get a little LEGO® build everyday.

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Did you enjoy this year’s City advent calendar? Or perhaps you have some thoughts to share on the Star Wars or Friends calendars? Feel free to leave a comment 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

 

Review – Ambulance Helicopter (60179)

I bought the Ambulance Helicopter set in August so that I could get the LEGO® Store freebie at the time. I really liked the look of it, and I wanted something with a little more substance to go with my City Hospital (click here to read the review), since the helicopter that came in that set left a little to be desired. I actually waited to build the Ambulance Helicopter until after the first snow here in Montreal. The reason for that is that this helicopter is built on skis, so I wanted to photograph it outside in a winter setting. Well, the first snows have come, and I finally got my chance. If you are interested to know how I generate scores in each section of this review, feel free to read my rating system page (click here).

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Ambulance Helicopter box art.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: Ambulance Helicopter
SET #: 60179
THEME: City
COST: $24.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 190
MINIFIGURES: 3
OF INTEREST: a snowboard and stretcher
RELEASE DATE: November 26, 2017

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Front view of the Ambulance Helicopter.

SUMMARY REVIEW: 87%

VALUE: 80% ($0.13 per brick is a decent value.)
BUILD: 90% (Great looking set, but the medic doesn’t fit inside.)
MINIFIGURES: 88% (Generic, but nice characters, excellent brick:fig.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 90% (Good build time, really fun set that I plan to keep.)

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Side view of the Ambulance Helicopter.

REVIEW

VALUE: 80%
There are 190 pieces in the Ambulance Helicopter kit. Since the set costs $24.99 in Canada, you are looking a price per brick of $0.13. Over the past couple of years, I have been tracking the cost per brick in each of the LEGO® sets that I have purchased. At this time, that average is $0.14/brick. So, the value you get with the Ambulance Helicopter is not bad, and I would rate this set at 4/5 (80%). The value is even better when you compare it with other sets in the City theme, where my current average is $0.16 per brick.

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Overhead view of the Ambulance Helicopter.

BUILD: 90%
The exterior of this helicopter has a very sleek look to it, which I like quite a bit. The yellow and red color scheme is also a nice break from the usual white and red. I enjoy that there is a rear ramp that lowers, and the stretcher fits comfortably inside. There are added details in the rear compartment of a screen for monitoring vitals (a sticker), a fluid drip set up, and a wall mounted syringe. The cockpit contains a console with a radar screen, but no joystick to control the helicopter. That is a pretty easy fix though.

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The rear of the helicopter opens, and the stretcher fits inside.

My primary issue with this set is that the paramedic can’t actually fit into the rear compartment of the helicopter. The ceiling is just a little too low to accommodate her sitting by the stretcher. So, she has to sit on the edge of the side openings. The set has these 1×2 plates designed onto the sides that swing up or down, and the back of the packaging shows the paramedic using those as a seat. Since there was still some clear thought into where this medic would sit, I will not take off a full mark for that.

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“Help, I’m over here!”

My second issue is the lack of an actual entry into the cockpit. I don’t like when you have to imagine doors. I suppose with this set, there really was no way around that. An entry from the rear would have sacrificed the vitals screen. Since I really like that detail, I won’t take off a mark for the doors.

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The paramedic included in the Ambulance Helicopter.

While there are no really impressive or new build techniques in the Ambulance Helicopter, I like the overall look and design of it.  I wish it had an actual cockpit door, and that the medic could fit fully inside the rear compartment. But, overall, I like the design of this set. It earns a build score of 4.5/5 (90%).

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The Ambulance Helicopter pilot.

MINIFIGURES: 88%
There are three Minifigures included in this set. You get a snowboarder in need of rescue, a female paramedic, and a male helicopter pilot. All are nicely designed characters, but none of them have double sided faces or leg printing. In terms of accessories, you get a stretcher, a snowboard, and two syringes. The paramedic also comes with the new hat/ponytail headpiece that I like so much. While these Minifigs look good, they are still fairly generic townsfolk. Like with most city sets, these characters don’t have the same amount of detail that you see in some other LEGO® themes. I give them a design score of 34/45 (76%).

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Front view of the Minifigures included with the Ambulance Helicopter.

With three Minifigures and 190 parts, you are looking at a brick-to-Minifigure ratio of 63:1 for the Ambulance Helicopter set. The average brick:fig for the sets that I have bought over the last couple of years is 134:1. So, this set actually gives you a fair character count. Based on my current rating system, I give the Ambulance Helicopter a ratio score of 5/5. Averaging this with the design score gives an overall Minifigure grade of 88%.

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Rear view of the Minifigures included with the Ambulance Helicopter.

ENTERTAINMENT: 90%
The Ambulance Helicopter took me 33 minutes to build. At $24.99, that means that each minute of build time cost me $0.76. Based on my last two years of LEGO® purchases, my current average cost per minute of build time is $0.85. So, this set gives you a decent amount of building time for the price tag. I rate the build time at 4/5 (80%).

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Boardin’

I actually really like this set, and I plan to keep it pretty much as is in my LEGO® city. I will swap out the skis for wheels. However, that is not a point of contention for me. I like the skis, and think that it was a nice twist that was added to the story of this set. My city just isn’t a winter scene city. So, I give the Ambulance Helicopter 5/5 for my enjoyment of it. Averaging this with the build time score gives an overall entertainment grade of 90%.

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The snowboard comes with decorative stickers.

OVERALL: 87%

The Ambulance Helicopter is a solid buy, even at full price. You get a good looking set that comes at a nice value in terms of the cost per brick, as well as the build time that you get. The Minifigures are not super detailed, but every city needs men and women in generic uniforms as well. I like this set quite a bit, and my only major alteration would have been to make the roof one tile layer higher. That way, the paramedic could have fit into the rear compartment. All the same, I recommend the Ambulance Helicopter.

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No where to sit… I guess I’ll just have to hang precariously out the door…

What are your thoughts on the Ambulance Helicopter? Feel free to leave a comment 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