When we last met, we caught up with Fenella and Ricardo, from the LEGO Friends design team, and we spoke in part about the preliminary models from Stephanie’s house, and how some things came and went during the design phase.
Today, I thought we would put this set together, and look at some of the features that make these sets so popular with the target demographic.
This is one of the larger sets in the first wave of Friends sets to be released in 2017. It has 613 pieces, and a recommended retail price of $AUD99.99/£64.99/$US69.99/€69.99. It comes with 3 minidolls: Stephanie, her mother Alicia and father James. It is laden with accessories and play features, as one would expect with a Friends set of this size.
The set comes in a large (but not extra large), medium lavender box, with the obligatory call out showing the five core characters in the franchise. On the reverse, several details of the set are focussed on, as well as a specific special elements.
There are five numbered polybags, corresponding to different phases of the build, and also a bag containing some larger (6×16; 8×16) plates, that go to serve as the floor elements. The instruction manual and sticker sheet are bundled together, ensuring a degree of protection from creasing in transit. The instruction manual is a hefty 155 pages. The sticker sheet weighs in with 24 stickers, and is packed in a plastic bag with the manual. this minimises the risk of misshaping the sticker sheet. None of the stickers are mission critical, but if you wish to use the house as a playset rather than a source of pieces, then they certainly enhance the level of detail in the set. Many of the larger stickers are ultimately applied on the inside surface the larger panels, so are likely to be obscured if the panels are to be used in the future.
This set comes with three minidolls: Stephanie, her Mother Alicia and her father James.
Stephanie has a V-striped, white and magenta top, as well as a dark blue layered skirt. All of the elements featured in her figure have appeared previously, with other friends sharing the top and skirt previously. She has the standard, rubbery hair piece that we have come to associate with her.
Her parents, however are a little different. Alicia’s head is currently exclusive to this set, and James’ is only used in the new Heartlake City Hospital (41318). As if in some homage to being a little older or more traditional than their hip and happening adolescent, both parents have hair pieces that have their lineage within the minifigure line. Alicia has a blonde version of the hair piece used by Syren (Ninjago) and Black Widow (Marvel Superheroes). James’ hair piece is tan, and shared with Chris Hemsworth’s character from Ghostbusters2016, and Andre Schurrle from the German Football team collectable minifigures. He features an exclusive shirt and pair of trousers.
All figures feature torso printing front on the front only, and look great, particularly the parents. James has a striped poloshirt, and Alicia has a vest, with a blouse underneath, as well as a printed necklace. The color matching between James’ body and sleeves appears a little off (perhaps i’m being harsh!). To me, he also appears a little young to be Stephanie’s father. His tan hairpiece perhaps could have also been a little darker, to provide greater contrast with his printed poloshirt and skin tone.
Let’s have a look at what else is inside…
The first bag contains the minidolls, as well as the basics for our dining room and kitchen.One of the highlights here is the use of the new printed window element. There are six of these in the whole model. This is an upgrade from the initial draft of the set, where, as you can see, the total size of the bay window is significanly smaller, and the greater number of panes makes it harder to see into the room. Other rare elements used here include the 6×6 rounded corner slope, which is only available in only one other set previously. The lavender 2×4 plates have been featured in only one other set previously.
The angled doorway elements allows the bay window to have extra depth. This is a new element for 2017, as is the 3×3 angled brick that rests underneath these frames.
We also build the rabbit hutch, complete with the second largest carrot to rabbit ratio I have ever seen. This provides scope for an extra level of play to occur within the set.
There is a signifcant level of brick built detail here including the dining table and chairs, stove and the kitchen sink.
Bag two contains more windows, the front door and the makings of the swing seat to go on the verandah. The seat swings nicely, and is integrated with the house’s pergola, with a little construction with technic elements. As discussed with Ricardo and Fenella last time, the swing had to be expanded, because the product testers wanted to be able to play with all three characters on the swing at once. This also widens the living room and windows in front of it.
Amongst the new elements present are the 1×4 plate with 2 studs in brick yellow/tan. they have subsequently been seen in the Black Widow(41591) and Belle(41595) Brickheadz figures as well as the Sunshine Catarmaran(41317).
Sticker enhanced detail in this bag includes the coat/shoe/handbag hanging rack, and a hall stand, featuring a small mirror, drawers and a key hanger. Hanging on the wall above that is a picture of Stephanie and Alicia. Other stickers are used for the doormat, and the ‘doggie door’ which I presume is to allow the rabbit to hop in and out….
So, at the end of the second bag, we find ourselves with the the front two rooms on the ground floor of the house.
There are a few elements that are new this year, including the staircases, which appear appear in a number of the 2017 Friends sets. However, this is the only appearance in lavender to date, and we get two of them here. The aqua 1x3x25º slope is also new in this set. As you can see, quality lighting is required to be able to clearly distinguish this cool, pale colour from white. The2x2 corner tile in brick yellow and the 2x2x45º slope in medium azur are both new for 2017, and appear in several sets released in the first half of the year.
This bag completes the ground floor detail: not just the front garden, but also adding a staircase and television. to a hinged section attached to the back of the house. Tucked away under the stairs is a vacuum cleaner. Given the number of transparent elements, I wonder if it is a fashionable, bagless model. James is shown modelling it on the box.
There are also a number of food elements: cherries, cakes and pie. These go along with the myriad of kitchen utensils which have their own polybag, without which, I suspect they would rapidly behave like an handful of glitter dropped on the living room floor: reappearing for years, despite multiple attempts to clean them up. That said, they add great play value and a fantastic level of detail to the house – both the kitchen, and the place settings. This is only the third appearance of the utensils – otherwise appearing in Olivia’s house (3315) and the Heartlake City Pizzeria (41311).
Bag four sets to work in building Stephanie’s bedroom. There are some more recolored elements making their LEGO set debut here, including the 2×16 plate ; and the 4x4x2 curved fence in bright reddish violet. Elements that are otherwise scarce include the 1×6 arch (or brick with inside bow) in bright purple.
Stephanie’s bedroom has a door opening onto a balcony, which in an earlier version also featured a hot tub. Fortunately, the peril of a rooftop jacuzzi in a suburban home, complete with issues that may arise in the event of plumbing disasters, was recognised by the designers. Those wishing a rooftop jacuzzi experience in Heartlake city would be best referred directly to the Grand Hotel, which will have the appropriate maintenence staff to help deal with any issues that may arise.
Inside, Stephanie’s room is relatively featureless, with many details being enhanced through the use of stickers: I will come back to this later, as I recognise this is a bone of contention with many people. There is a printed tile, with a list on her desk. However the pinboard and mirror, panda calendar, doona/duvet/quilt cover and the selfie of Stephanie with her rabbit get all of their detail from stickers. Had I placed the sticker on the TV downstairs, I would not have been surprised to find the tennis racquet in her room!
There is a tennis racquet in her bag, in the middle of her bedroom floor as well. At least it isn’t blocking the doorway!
Bag five builds an upstairs study and the bathroom, both of which have some great brick built and adhesive enhanced details. We have another 2×16 plate in bright reddish violet. The bathroom has a brick built toilet, vanity and shower, although the detail for the mirror is another sticker. I am impressed at the level of detail in the shower, with hot and cold taps as well as a bottle of shampoo. I wonder if a curtain should be built in here for the purpose of obscuring the view of the bathroom from the street, but given the lack of other curtains in the house, leaving it out for the purpose of consistancy is probably appropriate.
The study has a desk, with room for the laptop, as as a world map with travel pictures on the wall. The chair at the desk has an adjustable back as well as the abilitiy to spin on the spot.
This is the third set to feature a laptop in medium lilac: all are in the Friends range. The screen is blank, however a sticker is provided to go on the screen, showing a palm tree and what looks like an Accept/Cancel dialog box: could Stephanie’s family be planning a holiday somewhere sunny? Was this a clue that was leading us towards the Sunshine Catarmaran, that was released in the middle of the year?
The devil is in the details
I find myself less passionate about stickers than I have been in the past. Most of the stickers provided in this set provide detail that adds to the the quality of play: detail to walls in the bedroom, study and kitchen; hallway furniture and hangings. There are some levels of detail which are nifty: the computer screen; tennis being played on the television; the doona cover. And there are some that I can take or leave. These include the cushions for the couch, including one with a blanket folded up on; the cushions on the swing, the door mat, upstairs window shutters and a few random butterflies, which are used on the external surfaces.
Stickers are optional to use. If you need non sticker detail, some brick built mosic work can help fill the gaps, as could using plates rather than tiles for textured cushions. They are the only way to reliably achieve a high level of detail in the furnishings at this scale.
Through using stickers, the panels can all be reserved as panels; the tiles as plain tiles, and this is a feature that would have been lost if all elements had been printed. I love the new printed window pane element: it really fits in nicely with the Friends house aesthetic, and lets lots of light into the house. This makes the set more useful for ‘parts users’ rather than just people looking to use the final model as part of a play set. The mildly bemusing thing about the sticker sheet is the order in which they are applied – I’m sure it relates to the best way to arrange the stickers on the sheet. in the meantime, they are applied in the following order (covering all numbers from zero to twenty four): 21, 2, 6, 4, 12, 10, 14, 24, 3 and so on…
Building was satisfying, but not taxing. As a household playset, it has a lot to offer. The figure selection is good, but some may prefer to have an extra ‘youth’ present for play value. The level of detail in the furnishings is fun, and the extra elements of play brought on by accessories in the set (rabbit, tennis racquet and laptop) would be great for children playing with this set. the stickers also enhance the level of detail, and means that if you are just getting the set for the parts, then you don’t need to worry about random butterflies or cushion effects.
I found myself a little frustrated at the chairs in this set, as they do not securely hold minidolls, with the exception of the swing. This is primarily a problem inherent to minidoll design. I appreciate that they are not to everyone’s tastes, and I believe that this set would be easily adapted for minifigures, if that is to your taste.
The house is obviously net entirely complete: there is no bedroom for the parents, no laundry and no back yard. The roof is incomplete, but conveys a sense of the shape and style of the house. Unlike the prototypes, there is no built roof, which limits your ability to put a barbecue on it. As a play set however, it feels quite complete: the family, with pet; lots of furnishings; small details that make life feel complete in the household.
I do find myself worrying unduly about the large window in the bathroom…
As a set for parts, there are many doors and windows, as well as white bricks and panels. plenty of plates in different shades or violet/lavender/magenta, and the azure slopes, provide you with elements you may not have a lot of otherwise. Many of the stickers could be used in other contexts if you so wished.
I enojoyed the construction and the balance of activities within the house. Stephanie’s mother Alicia is a fantastic figure, but I feel James is a little beige for my liking. The use of the standard minifigure hairpieces is an interesting precedent here. I think it is just marvellous. I am unaware of it being used in any other minidolls previously, but am happy to be corrected.
I give this set 4 Arbitrary Praise Units out of 5. If you can get it on sale (20% off), you can add in another Friend for Stephanie to hang out with at home for the original RRP!
Do you like Stephanie’s house? Are you aggravated by the stickers? Do you love the swing? What about the other furnishings? Why not leave you comments below, and follow the Rambling Brick by email or on Facebook to get updates delivered straight to your newsfeed!