Friday, September 30, 2011

Two New Kingdoms Sets

First off, my apologies for continuing to fall off the face of the Earth, even though it's no longer summer. School has been great, but it's also been busy, but that's not the real reason I've been tardy in the posting. The real reason is that I'm really not proud of the pictures I've been taking of my new acquisitions, so I've been putting off having anything to do with them. However, I have now bitten the bullet and will round out the sets acquired--rather a long time ago, now.

Both the sets I'm looking at today are from the current line of "Castle" LEGO, the Kingdoms theme, which is in its second year. The sets of this second wave were released over the summer, and I picked up two of them. The first is 6918 Blacksmith Attack, the smallest in the wave.

There have been many Castle blacksmiths over the years, from the original 6040 Blacksmith Shop in 1984, to the fan-designed set by Dan Siskind, 3739 Blacksmith Shop, the recent Medieval Market Village, and a couple others. As sets go, Blacksmith Attack isn't the stand-out best that has ever featured a blacksmith, but it has its perks.

In terms of design, Blacksmith Attack most strongly resembles the smithy portion of Medieval Market Village, and it is naturally going to lose out to that masterful set in most categories, except for affordable size. The blacksmith himself, however, is new, with a new torso and a black cowl not seen since the 1996 Dark Forest sets. The other fig is a more-or-less standard Dragon Knight, who I note with approval has a shield (unlike his predecessor in 2010's 7950 Knights' Showdown.

The real departure for Blacksmith Attack (other than simply being a cheap blacksmith set--most of the other examples are in rather pricey sets) is the inclusion of the Heroica weapons. Designed for one of LEGO's boardgames, this set of six-weapons-on-a-sprue are slightly smaller than most minifigure scale weapons, and I don't personally like any of them as much as I like the equivalent "classic" minifigure weapon. Nonetheless, they provide some variety, and I definitely think they have a place. Speaking for myself, I can see them being quite helpful for distinguishing Hobbit-scale weapons from Man-scaled.

The second Kingdoms set that I bought, which also came out this summer, is 7187 Escape from Dragon's Prison. Much like Blacksmith Attack, Escape from Dragon's Prison belongs to a pedigreed "type" of Castle set, namely the "mid-range size, Castle wall" type of set, which goes back to
1984's 6061 Siege Tower, and has had a number of reinterpretations over the years. As such sets go, Escape from Dragon's Prison is not a terrible wall, but it is a little weak on the ground floor, where one can shoot an arrow or toss a spear right through the bars of the prison--admittedly, this would probably kill one's captured vassals or allies.

The real reason to buy Escape from Dragon's Prison is the parts and the figs. It is a respectable army-builder, with four figs, none of whom are individualized hero, king, or wizard figs. I was a bit disappointed that LEGO included two Lion Knights and only two Dragon Knights. I would have preferred a single captured Lion and three Dragons, but that's because I have other sets. I suppose that from LEGO's perspective, one has to assume that the kidlings getting this set don't have any other minifigs they can draft, so if they only get one little Lion and he's captured, it's game over--hence the need for a second Lion fig to rescue him.

This minor disappointment is made up for by the impressiveness of the lead Dragon Knight, who I feel I can rightly say is *the* Dragon Knight:

The dark pearl euro visor, new-designed printing on the dark pearl euro armour, new Dragon Knight barding, and new Dragon Knight kite shield (and, I believe, new head--though I'm not sure about that one) make the Dragon Knight here *the* Castle fig of the year to beat.

Aquazone Breakfast News: 036

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

30002 "Police Boat"

Continuing my protracted review of newly acquired LEGO sets, and continuing my protracted series of poor pictures, today I present the freebie set that came along with my purchase--I believe because we spent over $50 at the LEGO Store.

This set, which I am calling "Police Boat," does not currently exist in the Lugnet database.

In terms of parts, Police Boat is not an exceptional set, and as far as the design goes it's nothing special--indeed, I would say that the console section below the windshield is a particularly weak design. Nor is the fig particularly new or wonderful.

That being said, Police Boat was a free set, and I was quite excited to get it. Even if my Police force does not need new recruits, I was still glad to get the little fellow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

7049 Alien Striker

Continuing yesterday's discussion of the sets I purchased on my weekend trip to the LEGO Store, today brings us a look at 7049 Alien Striker, the smallest regular Alien Conquest set, and my first in that theme.

Once again, I apologise for the rather appalling photo...

EDIT: 28/Dec/2011: The photo has since been replaced, and while it is not stellar, it is still immensely better...

Alien Conquest is a wonderful new theme, and was only my desire to avoid hauling several overweight pounds of LEGO back from Canada that had me put off acquiring any sets until now. Due to the financial cringing involved with starting a new school year, I didn't go overboard at the LEGO Store last weekend, but I did make sure that my loot included an Alien Conquest set. As the smallest, Alien Striker was a good bet, but not a sure bet. Looking at them side by side, however, I decided that not only was Alien Striker cheaper than 7050 Alien Defender, but it was also a nicer set.

Part of this preference probably has to do with the fact that Alien Striker is chiefly an alien craft, with a human, while Alien Defender is a human vehicle with a smaller attacking alien. Although the human elements of Alien Conquest include some wonderful pieces--the new gun is particularly well-done--and some nice-looking sets, my overall preference is for the aliens. Perhaps it boils down to simple swooshability: the alien craft flies, which the human vehicles generally don't. It might also just be colours: both factions feature new coloured elements, but on whole I prefer the magenta colour that the alien sports on his sleeves to the "dark azure" (so Bricklink calls it) of the ADU (human) fig.

In any case, Alien Striker was well worth it for the price. The little craft, especially given its size, is well-done, and is almost completely composed of "useful" pieces. The purple 1x1 round plates are also nice--the first in my collection.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

30080 "Flying Ninja"

Well, it was pretty much inevitable that after getting back to Boston it would only be a matter of time before I went to the LEGO Store, and this weekend was that weekend. Instead of putting it all together in one mass "New Acquisitions" post, I'm going to break it down by set. This is partly so that I can deal with each new piece at greater length, but also because I can use the material. The LEGO I brought back from Canada is with me, but the overwhelming balance of my collection is still at my future father-in-law's place in the country, and will be there until we can find an excuse to start driving "all my stuff" back in.

Anyway, the first set that I picked up yesterday was not actually at the LEGO Store, but at the Target in the same mall. My fiancée and I were putting together part of our wedding registry there (I was not allowed to scan LEGO sets, alas), and the reward for me was that we got to go to the LEGO Store. However, as we were exiting Target, I caught sight of a polybag on the rack.

A polybag! From a look at the contents, there is no difference between a "polybag" and an "impulse set," but nostalgia speaks somewhat differently for me. While polybags, or "bag sets," as we called them, were hardly the pinnacle of LEGO sets growing up, but they were an integral part of that period--not least because, as a kid, they were often all that could be afforded at a given moment. Indeed, there were a couple themes that owed their entire collection in my possession to a polybag. So, after a several year drought, whenever I see a polybag now, I tend to snap it up for the nostalgia.

Hence how 30080 ended up in my collection. Lugnet calls it "Flying Ninja," which is accurate enough, but the bag itself has no name that I could find.

Anyway, I must apologise for the terrible photo. The apartment is a basement and has NO natural lighting and my improvised light box was... not as light as it could have been.

"Flying Ninja" is not a remarkable set, though I think it's one of the cuter ninja polybags out there. It's certainly more aesthetically pleasing to my mind than 3019 "Grey Ninja", which is the other "single ninja-glider polybag" in my possession. Since my purchase of NinjaGo has thus far been limited to a couple of the smaller boxes, and since I've never managed to get one of the legendary "ninja princesses," it was nice to be able to get my hands on a white ninja.

And, of course, the golden "troll swords" are nice--I didn't have any of them in gold (or any of the ExoForce "robot arms" in gold), and this set comes with a nice complement. Perhaps the nicest thing about them, though, is how surprisingly effective they are--and somewhat poseable too.

All things considered, I was pleasantly surprised to find a NinjaGo polybag, and feel like LEGO did a marvellous job with this one.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Aquazone Breakfast News: 032

Sorry about the two-day delay getting this one up--September 1st is "everyone moves day" in Boston, so Internet wasn't available until today (which is actually earlier than it might have been).