In which we consider recurring subjects in LEGO Town and City, consider the nature of the LEGO City Starter Sets and realise why they are no longer named as such, investigate a new cohort of mini figures, make a mountain explode and realise that Glow in the Dark Spiders are never going to surprise you by jumping our of the cupboard. Now read on…
It is a year of celebrations and anniversaries: 60 years of the brick, 40 years of the minifigure, 20 years of Mindstorm. Going back a little, we have just celebrated 10 years of modular buildings/ UCS Millennium Falcon and the Taj Mahal, with a tribute, reboot, or reissue for each.
But there are many sets in this year’s city range that call back to sets from the past, 20 and 30 years ago, and we shall look at some of those in greater detail over the next few months.
Today, I was looking at the Mining Team Set 60184, and saw a vehicle that took me back to the early days of LEGO Town:
The front loader, 607 from 1979 was part of the second wave of LEGO Town sets to be released. A simple vehicle, for a simple time, and bears a remarkable resemblance to the dump truck seen into days set for review.
Fast forward to 2018. Sets of this type have been around for a few years now, featuring various city sub themes including three or four figures (and occasionally a large creature such as a shark or crocodile), providing an introduction to a theme, diversity in mini figures and a great starting point for a story. These sets have, until now, been referred to as [Theme name] Starter Set, but this year there has been a subtle shift. As well as 60184 (Mining Team), we also see the City Theme graced with 60171 (Mountain Fugitives) and the forthcoming Arctic Exploration team(60191)- [source: Brickset, via toy show attendees] . Perhaps after releasing a couple of Fire Starter Sets (60088 and 60106), those Responsible for Set Naming sat down and had a bit of a think about what They Had Done. And so we now have a Team Set. This also implies a degree of expertise for our minifigures, and that they are not just the work experience kids, starting off in the big wide world.
Whats in the Box?
With this set, we get four mini figures, a vehicle, a safe/ display cabinet, a glow in the dark spider and an exploding mound of rock. The set has 82 pieces and an Australian RRP of $AUD15.95, although a number of major retailers have these sets on sale for $10. As a price per part, this set may not feel like good value, but when you you consider that there are four mini figures present, it feels like better value for money.
The mini figures: we get a collection of four diverse characters. All characters have double sided torso prints, only two have any printing on their legs and no figure has a double sided head of printing on the sleeves.
We have our miner, wearing a singlet, with great printed details on his torso, including a pair of braces. He has a broad brimmed helmet, featuring a light. He is plainly a strong man, and accustomed to exertion, as the sweat pouring down his brow might attest to. He is wearing gloves, as you might expect if he is setting out to be digging in the ground. There is a choice of a couple of tools to use for digging. He will probably take his pick.
We have our foreman, older in years, with a moustache that has seen bit of action – extending all the way to his sideburns. With what can be best described as printed braces, a utility belt and ID badge, he looks at home, sipping from his coffee cup or shouting into his megaphone from a safe distance. He has printed pocket details on his dark tan trousers.
Our tipper driver has a hi-visibility jacket, with the only evidence of the mining company’s corporate ID printed on the back. Worn over a dark blue shirt and white t-shirt, he is unlikely to get too cold. His head is fairly generic, with a trim goatee. He has a regular helmet, as has been de rigour for our LEGO construction teams since 1992, although this time in white. While a white helmet has existed since 1994, it took a hiatus from 2002 until 2015, when it reappeared with a new Element ID number… He otherwise sports plain blue pants.
We also have a female explosives engineer, wearing dark blue coveralls, with a printed safely harness and high vis orange highlights. While the printed curves are present, they are not obvious in any but the brightest of light, so you could easily swp roles and outfits between the other members of the team, should you wish. She has a slight smirk, and I wonder if she enjoys her job just a little bit too much. Her helmet features long hair at the back.
The included vehicle is a small dump truck, the like of which has been seen in LEGO form for at least 39 years. With 4 wheels, mudguards in yellow, and a steering wheel attached to a blue mount, this vehicle is similar to other forward hopper dump trucks we have seen previously. The driver is quite close to the back, however, and doesn’t have any form of protection. This is the kind of workplace health and safety consideration that we became accustomed to over the years, before roll cages and back supports were introduced. The hopper can handle a reasonable load, or just transport a pick and shovel. It easily fits in with other similar vehicles seen in Town and City Themes over the years.
An oddity for this build is what appears to be a display cabinet, containing a gold nugget. Sitting on a cupboard, this glass case contains a demonstration gold nugget, suggesting that ‘this is an example of what we a looking for’. Or perhaps it’s a safe, or a museum display piece. One thing that baffles me: the box art shows a spider climbing out of the cupboard. Great new for arachnophobes out there: you won’t ever open this cupboard to discover a 3×3 spider hiding in side. The thing just does not fit in there. Relax.
This year we see two recolours of the spider which debuted in the Jungle sub-theme last year in red. Here is is glow in the dark white/green, and we also see it appear in cool yellow in this year’s Elves sets. while we are here, lets briefly touch on ‘Glow in the Dark’. We recently discussed Fluorescence – where a substance emits light of a different wavelength to that which is striking it. In this situation, energy is rapidly dissipated as light, as excited electrons return to their base state. Glow in the Dark toys demonstrate phosphorescence, where the energy obtained is released much more slowly, and it is this slow return to the base state that releases light, when there is no further excitation occurring. The chemicals involved today are typically zinc sulphide or strontium aluminate, which are mixed into the plastic.
The graphic for the mining sub theme features our sweating mini figure’s head with things blowing up behind it, and indeed, things blowing up is the nature of the play feature we see included in this set. We build up a small rock pile, using medium and dark stone grey elements. There is a sliding rod, to which we attach a stick of dynamite. Pushing this into our pile raises a lever, which in turn pops open our rock pile, revealing another gold nugget. Our mining engineer has a small plunger to enable the detonation, and her expression suggests she gets a certain satisfaction out of seeing things of ‘Boom’. Certainly, this is a great play feature, and I found myself using it several times before I realised I had other things to get on with…
In summary, this is a great set to accumulate a few of mining figures, although the miners helmets with the lights on the front are the only things that establish their identity as miners: just about any adventure/construction/city utilities theme could be adapted to with the use of alternative headwear. Even the jacket with the mining print on the back is not so unsubtle as to not have other uses. I remain confused about the display case, and its role in the wilderness. If you build up a mines operation office however, it might just be perfect!
I am yet to see one of these sets that does not hold any appeal. So much action in a small set, for a reasonable price, it can be incorporated easily into a larger mining layout, or general city outskirts region. I like the minifigure selection, and appreciate that each of the figures have their own character shining through. I give this set three and a half out of five Arbitrary Praise Units.
I have see a number of sets in this year’s city lineup shouting out to previous models appearing in Classic Town or City, and given the 40th Anniversary of the minifigure, I am not sure that this is entirely unintentional. Certainly, there has been a significant change in the ways sets are designed and the final aesthetic used. The degree of greebling, the shift from four wide to 6 or 8 stud wide trucks, evolution of colours and new moulds. However, I find the dump truck in this set appealing because, while it features predominantly newer elements than were seen in 607, it retains a good deal of the spirit of that model.
What do you think is the most interesting ‘revisited’ model or theme in this year’s City lineup? Leave a comment below. While you are there, why not subscribe to the Rambling Brick as we explore some of these other sets during the year.
In the meantime, Play Well.