The Empire Strikes Back is regarded by many to be one of the best Star Wars movie ever made. The ominous, speechless opening of the movie as the Empire searches out any hidden enclaves of Rebellion, around the Galaxy, sets the tone as to which team is on the offensive: A New Hope started off with the rebellion on the front foot—smuggling the hidden plans of the Death Star to those who might be able to best exploit any weaknesses. The Empire Stikes Back sees the Imperial Forces taking the initiative with the Probe Droids being dispatched across the galaxy. We see one crashing onto the barren world of Hoth, rising out of the snowdrift like a malevolent cybernetic jellyfish before setting out to scan the landscape. Appearing before a cross to Luke Skywalker on his Tauntaun, in all its stop motion animated glory, make the Imperial Viper Probe Droid the first character to appear in the film.
As such, it is high time to see this droid receive a more detailed treatment than the minifigure scaled brick built versions we have seen across various Hoth playsets, Advent calendars and magazine covers, over the years.
The 75306 Imperial Probe Droid will be released on 25th of April, along with the 75304 Darth Vader and 75305 Scout Trooper Helmets. It has 683 pieces and will cost: $59.99 USD/ €69.99 EUR/ £59.99 GBP / 119.99 AUD / 79.99 CAD.
As is de rigour for the Helmet sets, the set comes in a vertically oriented, black box, with a picture of the model on the front, and several images of the imagage and the source material on the back.
Opening the box we find 5 numbered bags of parts, as well as a small sticker sheet, and the instruction book. You will be pleased to hear that the new instruction manual is indeed printed on light grey pages, and not black as has been seen with some of the 18+ sets in recent times. As is her want, Mrs RamblingBrick has again knolled out the elements for your viewing pleasure.
Bag one has the elements required for the icy landscape, while bag 2 contains the elements for the base of the probe droid.
Bag 1 contains a number of white wedge plates, but not all of them are matched left and right sides, as well as a good number of sloped bricks in white, as well as some in dark stone grey, and some curved slope in medium stone grey.
Bag 2 contains a number of rounded elements: quarter circle and circle plates, as well as the 2×2 plate with rounded corner. There are a number of plates with clips, as well as plates with bars, which will clip into them. We have a number of hinge elements, as well as headlamp bricks too. a number of nx3 slopes
We build up the base of the build, with the majority of longer sloped elements aligned left to right/right to left, with shorter/square elements aligned across the short axis of the landscape. We build up a snowdrift that has a 2×2 square hole, whose purpose will become apparent shortly.
There is a sticker to apply to the 6 x 12 plate element, which provides the vital statistics for the droid. Aligning the sticker is annoying, but not impossible. I do like the ‘decorative’ snowdrift around the plate. this is the first time that this type of plate has been decorated. The 6×12 plate with studs around the edge only has been used for the droid and character sculptures since 2017, and is different to the 8×20 tile used in the UCS sets, amongst others since 2010.
Entering the second phase of the build, we start work on the ‘body’ of the droid. We put together a rounded square of plates, and reinforce it with cross pieces. SNOT elements towards the outer aspects of the base allow us to attach slips facing outwards, as well as hinges and some greebled panels.
Some mind bending geometry is then used to create a body with a circular for, attaching 2×3 slopes onto clips on either side of the main axes of the base. Head lamp bricks allowing spoke to be built out between these, resulting in a smooth , 16 faceted body. Let’s quickly remind ourself that a headlamp brick’s half plate thickness offset () allows these spokes to be a more appropriate length, compared with a normal 1×1 brick with a stud on the side.
Elements are secured in place by plates on top.
Bags 3 and 4 complete the body of the droid, and build up the suspended legs. Prominent elements in these bags include a numbet of semicircular plates, as well as a 6×6 and 4×4 round plates. We also see the 5×5 quarter circle arched brick (first introduced in the VW Beetle) introduced in Dark Stone grey for the first time. A stack of transparent 2×2 round bricks are present to produce… well a stack, to suspend our droid in the air.
These elements are followed up with los of clips and bars, as well as a variety of round elements: ‘polo’ studs, ‘BB-8’ domes in dark stone grey, and an accessory pack – well, two copies of the same accessory pack, introduced last year in metallic silver, but now appearing in titanium grey. – We will look at this in greater detail later.
The arched 5×5 quarter circle bricks, in conjunction with simpler 1×2 curves slopes form a smooth edge around the upper part of the body. A turntable base will allow the head of the droid to turn freely on the base.
We add some technic pins, as well as other connectors to the base of the body of the droid:
Having made provision for the legs to be connected, we stack the clear bricks, and reinforce this stack with a technic axle. This allows our droid to be suspended above our snowscape.
From here, we start work on the legs of the probe droid. These are primarily articulated using a collection of clips and bars, with various plates, parabolic dishes, gears and domes used to give the feeling of mechanized joints.
Different elements used in each place prevents repetition, and gives the feeling that each leg has a different function, with a variety of clips, drills and claws at the ends.
The appearance of Accessory pack No.11- design ID 50018, provides a wide variety of elements with different shapes and angles. First appearing in metallic silver in 2019, Titanium grey is a new colour for this pack of 14 parts (and 2 packs are included in this set), but only a few of the parts are used in construction, both in the legs, and the head.
Our final bag brings us to constructing the head of the Probe Droid. The source material demonstrates multiple sensors – scanning all sorts of wavelengths, as well as being capable of meeting out several flavors of electric death. And I found it really exciting to put this bag together: it is truly a masterclass of greebling, demonstrating techniques of construction that fully exploit the possibiilities of the combinations of the 1×2 plate with rounded ends and hollow studs, as well as the 1×1 round plate with longitudinal handle, as seen below.
I found myself intrigued by the way that a connector pin/stud element was placed into the click joint, and then covered by a round 1×1 tile: I was uncertain as to how it is anticipated that we might be able to seperate these elements on dismantling the model – could it be that the designers are confident that this is a model that you will never want to pull apart? You might need the crowbar element from Speed Champions sets to actually get this part to disengage.
Elements are secured using a 1×5 Technic plate to ‘strap them down’. The 1×1 tile with rod engages nicely with the Technic plate.
And after working around the circle, with a combination of bars, SNOT, and parabolic dishes, we then set about covering the sensor array: first with with triangular plates, next we add a layer of sloped curves, to cover the top of probe droid’s head. We have another 2 stickers, to enhance the level of surface detail. We have several black inverted tiles, and radar dishes, acting as larger visual sensors, as well as single rods, transparent black tiles, and finally the domed elements from the accessory pack. The whole circumference of the droid’s head is bristling with sensors in all directions: there is no end to the variety of the texture provided: the greebling detail may or may not perfectly align with the source matter, BUT it certainly works well enough that you would not feel it had any significant difference from the fleeting glimpses that we get in the movie.
Adding a couple of antennae, topped off with inverted black candles, we place the head onto the body/legs of the droid, which in turn is attached to our landscape with the aid of the 1×2 transparent ‘repulsor lift‘ bricks
The Finished Product:
I really like the final model: The landscape is nicely sized, to support the droid, but not so large as to overpower it. The body of the droid is a great demonstration of approximating a circle with squared off elements. The combination of the 16 sided body, with the rounded arch elements around the top of the body give us something approaching the shape of the body. The limited greebling and only 2 stickers at this level offers the right level of detail and complexity to this level of the build. The upper part, the head, of the droid is an excellent example of the craft of greebling: with sensors and weapons poking out in every direction. There are some novel building techniques used throughout the model, and I found myself mentally making notes for the next time I am looking to create a rounded structure.
The legs are, however, a little fragile: there is not necessarily enough ‘clutch’ in the bar and clip connections to hold some of the longer legs in a more bent position. Some of the legs were easily knocked of while I was setting the model up for display. They were easy enough to put back together.
If you are looking for a model of a hitherto underrepresented droid in the LEGO Star Wars Pantheon, I wholeheartedly recommend the 75306 for its depiction of the droid, as well as the interesting building techniques, and demonstrations of different greebling techniques included. The small piece of landscape is also nicely done.
The legs are a little fiddle, and demonstrate why this is an 18+ display set, rather than part of the greater collection of play sets set on the iconic location of Hoth. Some might criticize the choice of dark stone grey as the main colour of this model, with black being used for some of the highlights, but there are certainly some scenes in the movie where the droid’s colour is a little ambiguous. I feel that having two predominantly black models in this year’s Star Wars line up might have been difficult to work with.
I give this set 4 out of 5 arbitrary praise units.
What do you think of this set? Does it take precedence over the helmet models for you? An easy purchase decision? Or more of a challenge? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,
This set was provided by the LEGO Group for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
While you are here, this set is now available for preorder, and will be released more generally on April 26 2021. You could use the affiliate links below, and the Rambling Brick might receive a small commission. $59.99 USD/ €69.99 EUR/ £59.99 GBP / 119.99 AUD / 79.99 CAD