Mech-Ception: What I learned about Mech Construction from 72004: Tech Wizard Showdown.

After feeling disappointed at my own ability to build a good looking mech for a LEGO Rebrick contest, I set out to examine 72004: Tech Wizard Showdown in search of ways in which I could improve my design. Along the way we discover the mech suit in a mech suit: Mech-ception!IMG_2744

IMG_2682In the closing hours of the LEGO Rebrick NEXO Knights Mech Building Challenge, I thought I would give it a go.  After all, how hard could it be? I’d recently returned from Japan BrickFest, where I had the chance to study Mechs and Giant Robots aplenty. I’d even attended a mech building workshop where some key concepts were presented and discussed. It seemed that everyone could do it. In retrospect,  this was an over simplification of the facts on my part.

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In retrospect, there are so many issues with this Mech.  In fact, I filled a paragraph with them.

I built a mech as a MOC. The final result was a bit meh. The Black and green colour scheme seems to work, BUT, I can identify a number of faults: the legs are disproportionately long, and it is quite wobbly; the shoulders look a bit weird.  The feet look like they belong belong on an AT-AT, there are way too many studs on display.  It looks like something thrown together by someone short of parts, trying to get a mech built in six hours.  Which coincidently it was.  However, it got me thinking about what would help to make it look like a reasonable Mech Model.

So I thought I would have a look at the final Mech in the NEXO Knights line: 72004 Tech Wizard Showdown. I wish I had looked at it a few weeks ago. As I built it, I learned a few important lessons in mech construction.

72004 Tech Wizard Showdown

The set is part of the final wave of NEXO Knight Sets, released in January 2018, with 506 Pieces, and costing $AUD49.99. Included in this are two and a half minifigures (Clay, InfectoByter and a Cyberbyter robot), as well as two holograms: Merlock 2.0 and Monstrox. The Mech has a predominantly dark azure, dark blue, grey and transparent fluorescent reddish orange (perhaps I’ll refer to this as TFRO) colour scheme, with pearl gold highlights.

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Does this box look exciting, or just busy?

I have been holding on to this set for a few months without building it.  I have to admit, I found the look of the box a bit unappealing. It’s quite busy, with background colours featuring heavily in build itself. I feel that this may have done a disservice to this wave of sets, as I have been pleasantly surprised with every set I have built this year. I approached the build by putting away the cover art, so I was not anticipating any particular aspect of the build, but could be surprised (and ideally delighted) as the build progressed.

The MinifiguresIMG_2745

First we construct the figures: Clay is sporting a brilliant blue and gold outfit this year with orange trim depicting his falcon heraldry. He wears his standard Earth/Dark Blue helmet which features a TFRO visor. He had a golden shield as well as a TFRO sword.  The Infectobyter is almost identical to the figure we saw in the Twinjector  72002. The small robot features a titanium metal helmet and a double sided head with both stern and angry faces.

Next we build a small spider droid to transport Monstrox, printed black on a trans fluoro green panel. Merlock’s equivalent hologram travels on a small flyer, which can be attached to the back of the main mech.

The First Mech

The build proper starts with a simple battle suit for Clay.  Built around the cockpit seen in the Battle suits in 2017, the build is quick and simple, but extremely effective. It demonstrates a few important principles:

  • for a small mech, without a lot of weight, small ball joints are satisfactoryIMG_2695
  • Bold color blocking: definite blocks of the blue and gold (nice use of complementary colours here)
  • Structural definition is added using a few 1×1 pyramids and 2x2x2/3 plates with bows. There are also a number of 1×2 45º roof tiles without studs, in dark blue.IMG_2699
  • Shoulders are broad, and when held on the right angle, sit above the level of the headIMG_2695
  • There is an impression of knees/thighs using the 2×2 pearl gold tile with the 45º cutoff.  There are twelve of these tiles used in the set ( as well as eight in both dark stone grey and earth blue). Cut off 2×2 plates are used here.IMG_2702
  • The Technic hands will not handle anything other than outrageously sized weapons or shields. Fortunately, Merlok’s flyer has some available for Clay’s use.IMG_2705
  • Dark Azur is used sparingly in this battle suit for highlights, breaking up the Dark blue, gold and grey.IMG_2696
  • Proportions for this mech are roughly: Head 1:Torso 2:Legs:3IMG_2709

This felt perfect, but then I realised I had only completed the first of three bags.

The Mech Suit for the Mech Suit…

As I set upon the next bag, I was a little puzzled as I started by building something that resembled a coffee cup handle with wings. Ultimately we see something that can be only scribed as a mech suit for the mech suit built in bag one: Mech-ception!

Ultimately, we have a medium sized mech, featuring a dark azur Nexagon as its chest plate. We see many of the features seen in the small battle suit reiterated here:IMG_2718

  • The click ball joints are probably better options for a mech of this size: they hold the hips and shoulders in position.
  • The colour blocking is still present, with additional TFRO highlights for the windscreen, pauldrons, sword and shield. The trim features stripes using the cutoff 2×2 tiles, and there are scaled up pyramids over the knees and shoulders, mirroring the effect with the battle suit.
  • Front and back Technic elements are used to strap the shoulders’ click joints onto the main frame.IMG_2722
  • There is a crest above the cabin roofIMG_2736.jpg
  • The knees are in a fixed, flexed position.  This certainly enhances the stability of a model for either play or display, although at the expense of flexibility. It also gives the model a fairly squat appearance.IMG_2740.jpg
  • The ankles have elements limiting the degree of possible flexion and extension, again, enabling an extremely stable model.  The feet are essentially a small stacked wall, and bricks with studs on the side are employed to be strapped together by a plates along the soles.  Wheels without tiles are employed to give the impression of the mechanism driving the vehicle.
  • The cabin lifts up, and the front folds down, allowing the battle suit to emerge!IMG_2718IMG_2716
  • Weapons are suitably outlandish in size.
  • There is a clip hinge to secure the battle suit into the larger mech.  Another clip on the back allows Merlock’s flyer to attach to the completed mech, or alternatively Monstrox to attack, and infect the Mech with some form of Virus.

In summary:

This was a fun build: I was surprised by the techniques used occasionally, and there are a number of features in common with those used by some of the great mech builders, whose models can be found online. I loved the idea of the mech in the mech, and the printed holograms, as well as the mini figures are bold in their colour schemes. While the overall appearance of the mech is rather squat, with the knees perpetually bent, it is quite stable.

I have gained some useful insights into techniques I can use to improve my previous mech attempts: I wish I’d looked at it before trying my hand at the Rebrick mech challenge, still more challenges lie ahead, so I’ll bear them in mind for my next attempt.

I give this set four out of five Arbitrary Praise Units: the deducted point is due to the artwork on the box, and fixed nature of of the knees (giving a somewhat squatty posture).

I look forward to applying the lessons I have learned to the construction of my original mech, and seeing how it improves.  I’ll post the results here when I get it done. Until then,

Play well.

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I would like to thank the AFOL Engagement team for providing this set for review purposes. Provision of material does not guarantee a positive review. Opinions expressed are my own.

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