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.