Five years ago, I was on holiday with my family in the UK. This was years before any talk of LEGO® Certified stores or LEGO Land Discovery Centres opening up in Australia. And Australian prices for large LEGO sets were quite outrageous, when compared with those in Europe. At least it felt that way. Anyway, in early September 2012, the LEGO Monster Fighters Haunted House 10228 first went on sale. A couple of weeks later we made it to the LEGO Brand Retail Store in Cardiff. We were in Cardiff for various reasons. Many of these reasons may have involved members of our family being fans of Doctor Who. I was probably (and still am) one of them. But this is irrelevant for today’s story.
On the shelves, we found the Haunted house: it evoked so many great memories: the Addams Family, the Munsters – both after school and Saturday morning television staples as I grew up, as well as Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi movies. A quick check of the exchange rate made me feel that it was an offer too good to refuse, so we bought it. Unfortunately, the box did not survive the trip home in our luggage, and the numbered bags have been sitting in a yellow and red LEGO Store bag , in a drawer, in our LEGO room. And then, for five years, nothing happened. Until this week.
I was prompted to think about this set because a couple of new sets released recently had also entered by possession: The Old Fishing Store (21310) and Lloyd’s Green Mech, from the LEGO Ninjago Movie. Both of these sets have a significant proportion of sand green elements. (Is it wrong to start obsessing over a new colour, so recently after I looked at Spring Yellowish Green? I hope not.) In researching the haunted house, I discover the designer video. And then things started to reach a nexus: The LEGO designer (as opposed to the fan creator) of the Old Fishing Store is Adam Grabowski, who also had a hand in designing many of the Monster Fighter sets. In particular, however, he designed the Haunted house, with the first sketches existing back in 2008-2009 or so.
At this point, I am yet to build The Old Fishing Store, so I thought I would start with the Haunted House. Like the Fishing Store, it also has just over 2000 pieces, is also an old building, and also features a significant amount of sand green. As I put it together, I found myself thinking about the next building I am planning to design. The exact details of that build are not important right now. However, I found myself noticing the features of this set that made it look like a nifty, dilapidated building which, while conforming to the requirements for using the building techniques approved for the use in sets, give us handy design cues for our own such buildings.
What the Haunted House 10228 Taught Me About Building an Old House:
Foundations – regardless of the material used for building, almost always the bottom layers are a different colour and/or material. Here we have a few layers of light stone grey, before we start layering up with the sand green walls. i am imagining the sand green being more likely to represent weatherboard, or some form of render over boards. I have difficulty reconciling this with the possible use of stone for the foundations. To enhance the old, ruined look, and avoid the great flat wall syndrome, three gestures of light stop grey are used: flat bricks, the palisade brick, and the 1×2 profile brick, with the ‘brick profile’ exposed. Occasionally a 1×1 cylinder brick is used next to the palisade tor a 1×3 effect. this combination of ‘stone bricks’ works quite well for the chimney as well. While is may not have the same level ramshackle construction as some of the more detailed MOCs by castle builders such as Dermal Cardem, it still conveys the same effect, with a parts count that we can deal with. And our fingers won’t start to bleed as we continue to build it!
Incorporate the flight of stairs into the wall: The wall adjacent to the stairs starts off two studs thick. As we add steps to the staircase, it reverts to one stud thick. The result is a flight of stairs that is steady, and robust, incorporated as a firm part of the building.
Incorporate the chimney build into the interior wall: this happens in real life: the structure of the chimney will run up the internal wall of a house. By using 2×2 corner bricks in the build, crossing from the internal wall to the external stone chimney, the chimney is ‘part of the house’ not just loosely attached to the out side.
Nothing will break or wear out exactly the same way:
Every main window , down stairs and on the first floor is wearing out in a different way to every other: the wooden plank boring the window up may be light reddish brown, and printed as a board, or a dark brown plain tile. The plank may go up or down, over the top or bottom window pane. There may or may not be shutter as well. The window may have a curtain sticker on the upper pane, or a cobweb stuck onto the lower pane of glass. This variety is as likely in real life as it is in LEGO sets.
Chipped plaster/render reveals the boards underneath. The profile brick (design ID 98283) has a different profile design on each sides: the obvious one has the effect of a layers of brick laid offset on each other. The other side is a simpler design, and it was only while building this set that I realised that it works very successfully to represent exposed boards on the external walls. The use of the contrasting dark tan/brick yellow next to the sand green bricks makes it look like a different material is underneath the render/ paint, and enhances the ruined old house effect significantly. I am disappointed in myself for taking this long to realise that the profile brick has a ‘plank side’ as well as the ‘brick side!’
The ground floor – a scattering of tiles on the ground floor allows the building to feel as if the stone floor has been chipped or worn away over the years. placing a few of the 1×1 tiles diagonally – off the grid as it were – greatly enhances the experience.
Windows are present on each wall of the house, but shelves or other furniture inside the house prevent windows being placed evenly, all the way around. Again, the lack of symmetry is useful to enhance the realism of the house design.
The use of the ‘stick with 3.2mm holder’ – element 4289538 – all the way around the roof, clipping onto the bars, allows for uneven spacing, as well as uneven angles, signs of wear on the building. In real life however, I think we should still try to place them evenly, as they will not slide away in real life.
The steps to the front door are uneven, thanks to the use of cheese slopes, and the boards on the porch have different textures: plates and tiles used together, in a staggered fashion.
Also near the porch is the vegetation: dark tan shrubs suggests that they haven’t been kept living as vibrantly as they might have. And some magic seems to have stopped the house from being overrun by ivy.
Zombie heads on the verandah: nothing says ‘old and decaying’ quite like a zombie head. I am afraid to consider just how these heads came to be here. Are they still ‘functioning’ as it were – serving as an alarm system by groaning overtime somebody approaches the from door? Or are they just the mortal remains of previous…guests? and did the Zombie chef cook up the rest of them?
Great Big Iron Gates. Nothing says ‘Old house’ quite like big, wrought iron gates. The fact that these are a separate build to most of the house allows the house to be placed on a small hill, back from the fence, perhaps with a small family graveyard off to the side? I might incorporate the haunted house into a larger layout, with the house elevated, but having the fence crossing the front of the block…perhaps with a pond incorporating a swamp creature from the lagoon of an abnormal dark shade…
This house is designed as a fold open ‘playset’ type of house, rather than a ‘remove the roof and the top floor’ type of building, similar to the modular buildings. One of the implications of this is that if it is displayed in a closed position, it becomes almost essential to consider lighting the inside of the building, so that the details inside the house can be viewed through the windows.
Fun Fact: while this set contains 56 sand green 1×6 bricks, the element number (4155053) is different to that used for the 61 sand green 1×6 brick in the recently released 31136 Minecraft- The Ocean Monument set (6177081). If you are looking at sourcing elements for this build for yourself, it is currently cheaper to source these parts through bricks and pieces on the LEGO website ($AUD0.43) compared to bricklink prices (starting at $AUD0.57 each). (september 2017). The much rarer element 1x1x5 brick, with a solid stud (2453b), only appeared in this set. Considering this, it is reasonably priced on Bricklink (~30-50c each), BUT not available in this colour at all. from LEGO.
Well, I will say that this is a fun build: the detailed furniture and decorations constructed separately to the rest of the house. The design does not afford itself to a shared building experience, because although there are 3 instruction books, the floors are not constructed separately, unlike the modular houses. The minifigure selection is great, especially with the new glow in the dark ghosts, which are limited to some of the Monster fighter sets, the Scooby Doo Haunted Mansion, and recent Halloween offerings.
The design offers itself for installation of lighting, and it looks suitably forbidding. There is also a good collection of creepy critters: spider, snake and bat! I would have preferred the floors being able to be removed seperately, like the modulars, however the opening up feature allows the house to be used more as a playset.
I give it four out of five Arbitrary Praise Units.
What do you think of this set? Did you build it? What did you learn from it?
Come back in a few days when I will review another set for Sand Green September.
Edit Oct 29 :I’m pretty sure I published this a month ago… but it vanished. Hopefully the text is mostly accurate, and not a draft…