It’s coming up to the tail end of the year, and we have just had the official announcement that this year’s ‘Winter Village’ set – the seasonal Creator Expert model – is the Elf Club house. Last year, we had the whimsical Gingerbread House, and this year, we continue our journey into the fanciful with our journey to the Elf Club House. A place for Santa’s helper’s to go and hang out when not busy in Sant’s workshop.
I was fortunate to be sent a copy of the set to review, and I’d like to share my impressions with you. I will occasionally drift towards the way that the experience is different to previous Winter Village sets, but I will cover that in greater depth in a few weeks time.
The box adopts the increasingly familiar 18+ design style: along the bottom inch of the box, we have the strip of elements in relief – this time in white – declaring the set number, 1197 elements and a recommended age of 18+.
Rather than being labelled ‘Creator Expert’, as in the past, the box features a more seasonal ‘Winter Village Collection’ beneath the hand written font declaring it to be the Elf Club house. Reindeer and Holly support the branding, reinforcing the seasonal theme.
The main graphic on the front of the block is dark and subdued – a winter star field behind a warmly lit afar house. Several elves are engaged in various actives including logistics, gift preparation, snacking and stargazing. We also see the Christmas tree associated with the build, as well as some of the smaller builds included. the reverse of the box demonstrates the back of the club house, as well as a couple of the play features included.
The box opened up with a punch out tabs – although I admit, I probably used a butter knife. The box contained a total of 12 bags: Eleven were labelled 1-5, representing different aspects of the build, and one contained the 2 instruction books, as well as the small sticker sheet. With only 5 stickers for the entire set, it was quite refreshing to knowthere was going to be very little demand made of my inability to line up a couple of simple squares.
There are two instruction books: one showing the tree, reindeer, turbo sleigh and presents, while the other shows the clubhouse itself. The internal printing shows the instructions on a black background. It feels very classy, and fortunately, does not seem to interfere with the building experience at all.
Lets start with Book One, Bag One, enter a board with pieces. (Special thanks, once again, to Mrs Rambling Brick for her ongoing commitment to knolling elements in these sets, to help you to appreciate the number of elements involved in each subsection of a build)
As you can see, this bag is dominated by green elements: Bright green and earth green., gold and red follow amongst decorative elements.
We start by putting together our elf, with his sunny disposition and reg scarf, followed by a couple of wrapped boxes, a model plane and a piano, whose keyboard is one of the few printed elements in the set.
From here, we start work on the tree: starting with the trunk: several travis bricks (a 1×1 brick, with a stud on each side), separated by 2 bricks and a plate, to ensure appropriate spacing for the triangular panels laden with leaves. I started to build up the tree’s panels, with multiple layers of slopes and plates, as well as studs representing decorations. It is a great way to start the build: the repetitive nature of this part of the build was like a mantra: helping me to focus on the build. With every piece that I placed, I found myself becoming more mindful of the build: an effect to soon be ruined by the need to have dinner. I make a point of saving one panel for afterwards.
The Carol of the Bells with its repetitive, driving beat, entered my head, and was unable to escape until I had finished building, timming and erecting the tree. Tree is capped off with a star shaped element – an unprinted escapee of The LEGO® Movie 2 sets. With a transparent yellow, inverted 2×2 rounded plate, to cover its underside, it looks set to shine over the neighbourhood.
Next we have another micro build: this time, a small, 5 stud long pirate ship: This is a great example of minimal elements used for maximal effect. the two masts with sails reminds me that many people might be hoping for the Pirates of Barracuda Bay for Christmas …or the other big Ideas set: the grand piano.
Next, we give the elves a small desk to work at, topped off with a desktop computer, circa 1983 on top. This in turn, supports a 2×2 phosphor monitor – the sticker for the green screen declaring the names present on the Nice List.
We finish this sub build off with what I shall refer to as a mini-turbo-sled, pulled by our reindeer. The sled is simple enough, reminiscent in shape of an early space build, The absence of light grey, and the excess of redd with gold trim exclude this as a point of origin, however. despite the flames coming out the exhaust, there are two short gold chains that you attach to either side of the reindeer. the reindeer, as is the want with larger LEGO® animals, has the space for brick missing. in this build, the brick is capped off by a nougat coloured ‘ingot’ element.
The final 10 pages of the 1st manual are dedicated to multilingual explanations of precautions to be taken with the battery included in the light brights. A brick which is still a good three bags away. In retrospect, I wish I had paid greater attention…
Our second bag brings us to the start of the build ‘proper’
We build up the snow covered ground around the clubhouse, and start work building up the walls of the ground floor. The ground floor of the building is dark tan., and features a number of arched windows – ideal for pouring some atmospheric light into the house. The window sills all have a small build up of snow on them – effected with smooth, organic curves.
There are a number of details we build as the floor comes together: A breakfast bar, with tan chairs – and at the bar are plates of waffles, and cups of coffee. Now we know what keeps Santa’s Helpers going: they are highly caffeinated and on a sugar high. There is a small stove, next to the front door, and a coffee pot heating up. There is also a teapot – or is it a kettle: it’s your LEGO, you decide, as well as what might be described as a tea cup. But it might be some eggnog: just what you need to offset the effects of too much coffee. Above the breakfast bar is the Club portrait, along with Santa Claus.
On the far end of the ground floor from the breakfast bar is a gift wrapping station. Some offset plates leave a brown box nicely centred. there is some red and white paper to draw down from its wall mounting. This is great use of the old car door elements. There is a pair of scissors clipped onto the end of the bench, and a return give the elves some room to stack the gifts they have wrapped. And now I am confused, and possibly slightly troubled.
This is the Elf Club House: it appears to be where the elves live BUT who are they wrapping the present for? Are they bringing their work home with them? Do they work here as well as at Santa’s Workshop? Are they just wrapping presents for each other?
We can continue to ponder this points as we build. As we reach the top of the floor, we add in the ceiling. It extends just past the front wall, and uses some 1×1 brackets to give the effect of buttressing, supporting the second floor. A final mystery touch involves a technic axle, running through the floor, with a printed clockface at one end, and a T junction at the other. What will it hold in store as we build upwards?
The second floor builds up as a large A-frame at the front, in sand green. As I built the front wall up, I was concerned that it was almost being assembled as a panel. A 2×2 facet brick was used to anchor this wall to the side.
The centre of the wall is dominated by an arched window. Reddish brown tiles act to frame this window, as well as the small wreath underneath it. A few SNOT bricks on the front result The walls build up slightly on the sides, again providing us with another two square, shuttered windows. As we reach the top of the aframe, elements are constructed in a way that strongly resembles a Christmas tree.
After the front wall, we start work on the furniture. We begin with the triple level bunks. Given the fact that this set comes with four elves, I have so many questions. The bunks are attached to a tilting plate, with is in turn, rocked when the clock/axle is rotated. The effect is one of evicting any sleeping elves from their bunks! Adjacent to the bunks is a chest of drawers at one end, and a reading desk, with a chair at the other. I love the element use for the details of the lamp. Is this where the last Elf to bed has to spend the night?
Above the bed is the obligatory Christmas countdown calendar, with December 24th, the Elves’ peak day for logistical efficiency looming near.
As we finish this step off, the side window frames face out, with a couple of pegs…I expect we will see their role shortly.
The Fourth Stage:
And so we approach the fourth stage: and there are a lot of white plates here. Its beginning to feel very snowy and Northern hemisphere holiday like a winter wonderland. As I write this, I have just read Chris McVeigh’s Q&A, sent out with the press pack. At least the Carol of the Bells has been driven out of my mind. Now I have Winter Wonderland as my earworm. Life could be much worse.
This stage is prodominantly putting together the roof of the building. There are eight main roofing panels: The two for the main A-frame roof – allowing room for the side windows: these are joined at the apex around the light brick, attached through a variety of SNOT elements to another axle. A little pressure on the axle results in the light block being activated, bathing the first floor in a warm yellow glow.
I can say categorically that if you leave the mechanism jammed on, the battery will discharge overnight. Based on past experience, a LEGO Light brick will stay continuously lit for around 6 hours.
Next, we build four triangular panels, which attach to the pegs adjacent to the side windows: they fold down towards the ridgeline and click into place. After repeasting this on both sides, we place the final, lower roof forms, covering the ground flor of the house at one and, and providing a lean to for our reindeer and sleigh at the other. The roof panels are all made of a mixture of triagles, and I found myself surprised at the number of different sized triangles in the building system which support the same angles.
Next, we dispense with the last two stickers of the set: going on the sign post out side the front door, one pointing to the North Pole, and another pointing to the Workshop. Fortunately, this does not clearly define which workshop this is, as Santa’s Workshop 10245 from 2014 actively included the North Pole as part of that set. Should I set this set between the workshop, and the solitary pole? That will help this year’s mantle piece decoration take on a new lease of life.
Of course at the North Pole, as December approaches, night time gets longer and longer: what better way to help pass those Northern December nights than to add a balcony and a telescope, in order to facilitate a little stargazing. Or just to check if the boss if flying over in the sleigh…
And then, the final phase to this step: adding the lights. There are two strings, each with 9 lights attached. This would be an easy place to put a small stringof battery powered Christmas lights, to enhance the ambiance. Unfortunately, I seem to have bought a few too many family sized light strings over the years: they normally overwhelm our tree. I think they may well overwhelm this model.
The Final Stage:
We now have a pretty fair looking Club House for our elves, with accomodation, coffee station, gift wrapping area and balcony to go star gazing from. One thing has had me baffled. Where did the Elves’ waffles come from? Our final stage provides and answer to that question. Most Winter Village houses have some sort of fireplace and chimney. This time it is a little different. As you can see, the stage involves a large number of grey bricks: a mixture of regular bricks, masonary bricks and 1x1x5 bricks.
This time, we start at ground level, and build up to a cooktop, with a pan held in place. This cook top easily tips forward. and with good reason: we build our chimney up, higher and higher, and discover there is a small chute at the front with a lever to the side.
This chute is designed to hold onto a supply of waffles. Shifting the lever up and down causes another one to tip into the frying pan. from here, they are easily tipped wherever you need. this is a really neat play feature, and adds to the functionality found in this set.
The chimney builds up higher and higher. Towers made by simply stacking rows of bricks might be weaker as they get taller. Just as we tend to overlap horizontal elements, when making a wall, 1x1x5 bricks have overlapped in the vertical plane, to strengthen the structure against horizontal shear forces.
Once the chimney was finished, it clipped onto the lower floor of the clubhouse, able to fold in close to the building.
The final product is magnificent: at 16 studs deep, it will fit comfortably on our household mantlepiece.
Lets have a quick look at the minfigures:
There are four minifigures in this set, all with identical torso prints and short legs. They also share the same bright green hat, with removable ears. There are four different head pieces, with two of them having alternative head prints. I appreciate the variety of expressions available here. There seems to be a little leak of the colour around the ears, perhaps more so than in previous years. This seemed to be the case as well with the Corn cob suit in the LEGO City Main square that I looked at recently. however, it was also a finding with 10245 Santa’s Workshop.
The reindeer is a great new element, but I am uncertain about my feelings towards it at present. While it is essentially the same mould as the deer patronus seen in last year’s Harry Potter set 75945: Expecto Patronum: It feels somewhat less LEGO-like: its just too nicely molded, even though it has the space for the brick to be placed in the torso. Santa’s workshop from 2014 used a smaller brick-built model for the purpose. I like the form, but it just doesn’t seem to feel like LEGO Shape.
Here it is, head to head with the Patronus from 2019.
I really think that if I wanted a perfectly formed larger animal (larger than 2x4x2, then I would look at a Schleicht model or similar. I am picking up a lot of Belville vibes from the reindeer, especially when compared with the brick built versions from Sant’s Workshop.
But this is really a churlish criticism, and many people will love it – and I am sure people will try fo get a full herd together, if they can.
I really like this build: the Club house itself has lots of areas for activity – the kitchen table, stove, waffle pan, wrapping station, as well as the bunk room. The reindeer and sleigh, along with the additional gifts and toys provide a broad range of display and play situations. The windows, and little nooks in the building provide lots of opportunities for creative lighting and photography as well.
This has a relatively low minifigure count for a Winter Village set, with many of the other sets having a count of 7-9 minfigures (the notable exception being last year’s Gingerbread house, with only two figures), but the price has been able to be kept at a around the same price of the Winter Village Fire Station from 2018.
If you have have the 10245 Santa’s Workshop from 2014, the models can sit side by side, with thematic material in common. Of course, with a total of 8 elves, there is always a possibility that they might start to seriously question Santa about their residential and working conditions.
Personally, I am unsure that the 18+ label is necessary: previous Winter Village sets have been aimed at 12+. I appreciate that it is to help ‘Adult Newcomers’ to LEGO recognise sets that are designed for them, but the 18+ label is traditionally used as one to be exclusionary on the basis of age, and I am not sure that is appropriate here.
Overall, I really enjoyed the build process: starting with the tree construction, which really helped to gain an appropriate mindset for the build. The instructions were clear, and it was less daunting than some of the other 18+ sets I have built recently. It was probably a long evening’s build project (knolling adds a quite a bit to the build time, even when outsourced).
I regard this set as one of the building highlights of my year!
I am happy to give if four point five out of five (4.5/5) Arbitrary Praise Units. I’d have no hesitation recommending it to someone looking for a seasonal build – whether or not they were an established AFOL. The sticker count is not so high as to be daunting, and the elements they are used on are relatively striaght for ward to use. At $AUD149.99, it represents reasonable value for money, although I notice the cost of this theme has been creeping up a little in recent years, with an associated drop in the minfigure count.
The Elf Club House goes on sale from LEGO branded retail on September 23rd, and costs $AUD149.99 $NZD169.99 $USD99.99 €84.99
I hope you have found this review helpful. I’d love to know what you think of this set: leave your comments below, and until next time,
This set was provided by the LEGO Group for review purposes: all opinions are my own.