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

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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.

 

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 – Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown (76108)

I have always liked the Marvel movies and shows, but for most of my life I have been a DC Comics fan. Apart from Maximum Carnage back in the ’90s, I never read Marvel comic books. So, for budget reasons, I have mostly selected DC Comics LEGO® sets. I have made one exception in the past, and that was for the Avengers Tower (click here to read my review). I really wanted the set so that I could re-purpose the pieces (particularly the windows) in my custom police station (click here for more on that). But, it also gave me the chance to collect some Marvel characters. This year, when I saw the first pictures of the Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown set, I began to contemplate my second Marvel purchase. The building looked great in the photos, and I started to dream about making it into my own modular. The day finally arrived when the set was 30% off on Brick Friday at the LEGO® Store. I also had $60 worth of VIP points saved. So, getting the Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown for $30.99 was too good an opportunity to pass up.

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Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown box art.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown
SET #: 76108
THEME: Marvel Super Heroes
COST: $129.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 1004
MINIFIGURES: 4
OF INTEREST: 1 big-fig
RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2018

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Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown box contents.

SUMMARY REVIEW: 79%

VALUE: 80% (At full price, you are paying a decent $0.13/brick.)
BUILD: 70% (Nice exterior, but other areas need work.)
MINIFIGURES: 85% (Great assortment, nice designs, low-ish brick:fig.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 80% (Ok build time, good play value, wish it was modular.)

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The Sanctum Sanctorum.

REVIEW

VALUE: 80%
As I write this, the average that I have paid for a LEGO® brick in all of the sets that I have bought over the last two years has been about $0.14. With 1004 parts and a price tag of $129.99 in Canada, the Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown will cost you $0.13 per brick at full price. That is not bad in my books, and would already earn 4/5 (80%) for value. If you were lucky enough to get this set on Brick Friday, it was being sold for $90.99. At that price, you would have paid $0.09/brick, which is phenomenal. With my saved up VIP points from the last few double points events, I paid $30.99, which brought my cost per brick down to $0.03. If you can find this set for 30% off again, I would pick one up, because it earns 100% for value at that price.

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Peter Parker’s apartment building.

BUILD: 70%
There are aspect of this build that I really like, and others that I am not so crazy about. I’ll do a building by building analysis here, starting with the Sanctum Sanctorum. I love exterior facade of the building. I think it looks great and is well detailed for a set that is not part of the Creator Expert line. I really liked the sideways attached roof tiles at the base of the building. I had never thought to do that before. The roof with the large round window is also built in an interesting way using a variety of plates. The round portion itself is formed of curved edge plates that I have not seen before. My only complaint about the round window design is that there is an obvious and large gap between the base of the window and the roof.

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There is a large gap between the base of the window and the roof.

The interior of the Sanctum Sanctorum is sadly a little bland. There are some furnishings put in, and a play feature. There is a blow out wall behind one of the shelves that reveals one of the Infinity Stones. I thought it odd that the wall behind the shelf blows off, as if someone outside the building knew that the stone was exactly behind that specific wall. In my mind, it would have made more sense for the shelf to swing open or something from the inside. Some stairs would also have been nice…

The exterior of Peter Parker’s apartment building isn’t as nice as the Sanctum Sanctorum, but is still a decent build. I don’t really like the number of holes in the design that result from all the exposed Technic bricks. Otherwise, the brick facade is nice, and I really like the fire escape. It uses a design reminiscent of that seen in the Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters (click here to read the review). There are a few pegs sticking out of the aforementioned Technic bricks that link to play features. The one on the ground level causes the Pizzeria window to blow out. Between the second and third floors, the peg opens a trap door inside the apartment. The third one, on the side of the building just below the roof, blows out the top floor apartment window. A final peg, that you can’t see in my photo above, causes Spider-Man to leap from the perch in the picture and lower on his web to street level.

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The fire escape is designed similarly to the Ghostbusters Firehouse.

The feature which allows Spider-Man to swing on his web is actually a rotating water tower on the roof of the building. To say I dislike this design is an understatement. While I understand why they made the tower turn, the design just looks bad. The legs of the water tower don’t even touch any part of the reservoir. Some other spinning device could have easily replaced this and looked better.

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The water tower design leaves much to be desired.

The interior of the apartment building is also a little dull. The pizzeria has a pizza oven, but I don’t know what the other kitchen implement is meant to be. Mostly, this part of the build is worthwhile because of the stickers that will look good in a pizzeria MOC. Upstairs, Peter has two floors. One features an unfurnished room with some boxes, and the other an office space. Upstairs is another empty room (the floor here is a trap door), and a bedroom. You get some fun stickers to decorate the walls with. I particularly like the Captain America “Stay in School” poster.

The final little build is a corner alley piece. I guess Peter is supposed to change here into Spider-Man since there is a web for him to leave his cell phone on? Overall, the exterior of both of these buildings are nice, particularly the Sanctum Sanctorum. I am happy with the pizzeria stickers, and can’t wait to expand the whole pizzeria in a MOC. The interiors could use a little more detail, while the water tower needs a redesign. I would also like to see the round window in the Sanctum Sanctorum reworked to have less of a gap. I rate the build for this set at 7/10 (70%).

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The small alley segment.

MINIFIGURES: 85%
The Sanctum Sanctorum showdown comes with four Minifigs and one big-fig. The four proper Minifigures are quite detailed, though I would not expect any less from a Super Heroes set. Spider-Man and Ebony Maw do not come with any head gear or hair, but Iron Man has his helmet, and Dr. Strange has his hair with the grey temples painted on. Each of them also has front and back printed torsos, as well as front printed legs. Spider-Man also features arm printing. Dr. Strange’s cape comes in two pieces, the collar and the cape itself. Based on just the details included on these Minifigures, I would give them 48/60 (80%). But, you get SO many accessories with them too. Iron Man and Dr. Strange alone come with 10 different blast/magic options each. Spider-Man and Ebony Maw also have web and magic hand shooters respectively. In conjunction with all the other accessories around the apartment and Sanctum, you are easily looking at a 100% design score for these characters… and that says nothing yet about the Cull Obsidian big-fig that you also get.

I did not include Cull Obsidian in the design score since he doesn’t fit the criteria of being a “Minifigure”. However, he is still a pretty cool character to get as a big-fig. For that reason, I will include him when I consider the brick-to-fig ratio. With Cull counted along for the ride, you are looking at a ratio of 201:1. That is not great, but it is not terrible either. In general, the bigger a set gets, the fewer Minifigs you are going to get for the brick count. None-the-less, that earns the Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown a ratio score of 3.5/5 (70%).

All in all, I really like the Minifigures that you get in this kit. I already had an Iron Man, but this is a different variant of him. I also really wanted a Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. So, I am quite happy with the assortment. My one complaint about these guys is that Spider-Man was not given two tone legs. The printing suffers from the same minor flaws that bothered me about each Green Lantern Minifigure that has been produced. The red around the edges really sticks out on the blue portions of the legs, and looks a little sloppy. But, that is not a huge issue, more of a nit-pick. If I average out the design and ratio scores, this set earns a total Minifigure rating of 85%.

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Iron Man features this blue face on one side (meant to simulate the helmet’s screen glow on his face), and a normal Tony Stark on the other side.

ENTERTAINMENT: 80%
The Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown took me exactly 180 minutes to build. At the full price of $129.99, that would mean that each minute of build time costs $0.72. Like the brick-to-fig ratio, that is not bad, but not great either, and would earn 3.5/5 (70%). At 30% off, you are looking at $0.51/minute, which is excellent and would earn 5/5. With my VIP points slapped on top of that, my build time cost shot WAY down to $0.17/minute.

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You get a lot of blast pieces in this kit.

Now, the big question… do I really like this set? As I mentioned in the build section, I love the exterior. I also think that kids will get a huge amount of play out of this set. It is really fun, and has many play features. As a kid, I greatly enjoyed having a “base” for my characters, and this not only provides one for Dr. Strange, but also for Spider-Man. As an adult though, I would have liked more detail inside, and I think this set would have been killer if it had been produced in the modular style of advanced Creator sets. Can you imagine these two buildings set up like the Pet Shop modular? I can… and will… I am really looking forward to customizing this set. However, since it didn’t come out of the box ready for me to keep it as is, I won’t give it full points. Normally, I would say this set is a 4/5… however, since I think it would be hugely amusing for play purposes, I will up that a little to 4.5/5 (90%).

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I really love these blast pieces. Anyone else think they’d also double well as water in a fountain?

Looking at the Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown at full price, it would earn an average entertainment score of 80%. If you were lucky enough to find one at 30% off, or if such a sale comes around again, I would give it 95% in this category. It is a nice set that would be made even better if the price tag was consistently lower.

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Spider-Man, Spider-Man, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man…

OVERALL: 79%

I do really like the Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown, but I am happy that I waited for a good sale before I picked it up. At full price, this set is only satisfactory in my AFOL mind. As I kid, I would have loved this. To have a base for my characters would have been amazing. But, I can still imagine myself as a kid modifying the interior to have more detail. Now, I just wish that it was modular, and will modify mine to be just that.

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The Doctor is in.

The Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown has an ok value at full price, and a satisfactory build time. You get a great, and nicely detailed character assortment, but there are a number of design flaws that I plan to customize. At full price, I rate this set at 79%. However, at 30% off, I think it is much more worth it, and rate it at 88%.

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The Iron Spider!

What are your thoughts on the Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown? 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 – 2018 Hallmark Ninjago Ornament

It’s that time of year again. The Holiday Season is in full swing, and folks are digging out those boxes of ornaments and trimming their trees. Well, much like last year, there is a new Hallmark ornament that I have added to my geeked-out Christmas tree. Last year, they released a LEGO® Batman (click here to read my review). This year, we have gotten Lloyd from the LEGO® Ninjago movie.

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Box art for the 2018 Hallmark Ninjago ornament.

This is a nicely designed ornament. Lloyd is quite detailed, with a lot of printing on his torso and arms. Obviously, since this is an ornament, Lloyd is fixed in one position. He is a touch smaller than the Batman that we got last year. Lloyd also does not have any neat textures like Batman did. But, I don’t think that really takes away from the ornament, because it is nicely designed and painted.

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This year’s Lloyd Hallmark ornament alongside last year’s Batman.

Hallmark employees make a habit of opening the ornament boxes before you actually buy them. They always show you that the ornament is in good condition. Buying Lloyd was no exception. But, I do offer a word of caution. While my ornament was in good condition in the store, when the employee repackaged it, she unintentionally bent Lloyd’s sword. I was able to bend it back into shape, but I am sure that too much of that will cause it to break right off. So, be careful repackaging your ornament…

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How ornament Lloyd (left) compares to Minifigure Lloyd (right).

Hallmark ornaments tend to be a little on the pricey side. In Canada, you will usually pay about $20-$25 for one. That is why I only buy one of these every year. They are nice though, and this one is great for the LEGO® fans out there. This year, you can also get Joker from the LEGO® Batman Movie. My local Hallmark did not carry that one, I found out about it while perusing their website. I am glad that I was able to get Lloyd though.

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Lloyd in my Christmas tree.

What are your thoughts on the LEGO® Hallmark ornaments? Feel free to let me know in the comments below. As always, 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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Another shot of Lloyd and Lloyd.

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

Review – Buildable Holiday Present (40292)

This year’s LEGO® Black Friday giveaway was the Buildable Holiday Present set (40292). There was actually two opportunities to get it this year. The first was a week before Black Friday even rolled around. VIP card holders had early access to it along with a double VIP points event. Then, of course, it was given away again on Black Friday. I actually got a hold of it on both occasions. My wife did her Christmas shopping during the double VIP points weekend. I don’t know what I am getting for Christmas, but I do know that this freebie is coming along with it (as is the Harry Potter Diagon Alley microbuild set). I spent those VIP points (along with the ones I racked up in October) on the Black Friday sale, and got another of these freebies (along with the Ninjago Minifigure pack previously offered during Bricktober, click here to read about that). This is a nice, seasonal freebie that comes with plenty of reusable pieces.

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Buildable Holiday Present box art.

SET SUMMARY

NAME: Buildable Holiday Present
SET #: 40292
THEME: Seasonal giveaway
COST: Free, but advertised with a value of $26.99 CAD
BRICK COUNT: 301
MINIFIGURES: 2
RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2018

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The closed Buildable Holiday Present set.

SUMMARY REVIEW: 84%

VALUE: 100% (You can’t beat free bricks.)
BUILD: 80% (Exterior looks great, interior is pretty good too.)
MINIFIGURES: 77% (Generic characters, ok brick:fig ratio.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 80% (It’s free, so the build time is great, but I won’t keep it built.)

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The lid of the Buildable Holiday Present is easily lifted off.

REVIEW

VALUE: 100%
This set was free with purchase, so I have no complaints about the cost. You had to spend $99 or more to get it, but the purchases would have been made anyway in my case. LEGO® is advertising this set as having a value of $26.99 in Canada. At that price, with 301 parts, you are looking at a cost of $0.09 per brick. That is a really good value, and would earn a score of 4.5/5 (90%). However, it was free, so I will just bump that up to 100%.

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A holiday scene awaits inside the Buildable Holiday Present.

BUILD: 80%
As the name of the set suggests, you are building a gift box. However, the gift box lid can be removed to reveal a cozy fireplace room with a Christmas tree inside. Furthermore, the two halves of the gift box swing open for easier access to the scene. There are no phenomenal or novel build techniques being employed here, but the overall look is still nice and festive. I like the overall design of the box too, and the brick-built ribbon on top looks great. I don’t really like the design of the windows inside the box though. They stick out into the scene, and the “curtains” on top make them hard to identify as windows in my opinion. I give this set 8/10 (80%) as a build score.

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The gift box also swings open.

MINIFIGURES: 77%
There are two pretty average Minifigures included in this set. One of them is a child figurine, which loses points right off the bat in my books. I harp on this every time I get one of these, but I really don’t like the ape-like look those stumpy legs and regular length arms generate. Otherwise, you get three hairpieces along with these characters for a little more customization, and both have front and back printed torsos. The legs are plain, and only one Minifig has a double-sided face. Where accessories are concerned, there is a mug and a printed tile clock. I give these guys a design score of 22/30 (73%).

With a brick count of 301, you are looking at a brick-to-Minifigure ratio of about 150:1. That is okay, and earns a score of 4/5 (80%). Averaging this with the design score gives an overall Minifigure rating of 77%.

ENTERTAINMENT: 80%
The Buildable Holiday Present took me 37 minutes to build. If this set had been purchased at the advertised value of $26.99, then I would have paid $0.73 per minute of build time. That is not the best value, but not the worst either. I would rate it at 3.5/5 (70%). However, I didn’t actually pay anything for this set, so free build time earns it 100% for the purposes of this review.

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Detailed view of the fireplace in the Buildable Holiday Present.

How do I feel about this set overall? It’ll be a nice display piece this Christmas, but then the parts will be recycled into MOC projects, and I will probably forget that I own it. The parts that come with it are great colors, and can easily be re-purposed. My mind is already spinning with the possibilities. I use a lot of dark red in my builds. I have also been trying to collect the sandy green, and the golden pieces making up the ribbon will be great accents in a future project. Since I will not be keeping this one as is, I rate it at 3/5 for likability (60%). Averaging this with the build time score lands the Buildable Holiday Present an overall entertainment rating of 80%.

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Detailed view of the Christmas Tree room in the Buildable Holiday Present.

OVERALL SCORE: 84%

All in all, this is a nice freebie. It is purely a display piece, and as such doesn’t have much play value. However, the parts that come with it have great build value when it comes to custom projects. If I had actually paid for this set, I would have given it a lower score (78%). It lands in the 80s largely because it was free. This is by no means a bad set though, just not my favorite. What are your thoughts on the Buildable Holiday Present? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments 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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Buildable toy train.