Getting back on Track: Continuous Linked tracks in 2017 LEGO Sets.

Over the last few weeks, life has been getting a bit busy, and interfering with my ability to get to the keyboard! Not an excuse. Just an explanation. And not a very clear one either! Anyway: Perhaps it is time to get back on track…

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Continuous, self propelled tracks were first conceived in the 1770’s, but it was probably not until the early 20th century that they became a method of choice for moving heavy vehicles such as tanks, bulldozers and Antarctic exploration vehicles across soft, uneven ground. The term ‘Caterpillar tracks’ was trademarked in 1911 by Benjamin Holt.  Such tracks have featured in LEGO sets or either as continuous rubber bands, since 1969 and as interlocking linkages since 1974 (Element 273). Continue reading

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Smooth Rolling With NEXO Knights Year 2 [What I learned from Lance’s Twin Jouster 70348]

NEXO Knights has been a theme with a mixed reception amongst the AFOL community: its a fantastic mashup of castle and space elements, but at the same time it is not quite either in the purist form.  The geometry is fascinating, as I have previously discussed.  However, due to so many different things happening throughout the year to distract a LEGO Fan, I have not really spent much time with the theme until now.

There are a couple of stand out changes that I have seen this year.  One is a change in the primary aesthetic of the models: The Knights’ vehicles released in 2016 were had a palette which was primarily bright blue, stone grey,  transparent bright orange with a few earth(dark) blue elements as well as a couple of trim elements, colour matched to the knight whose vehicle it was.  In 2017, the transparent orange is still there, but there is a much larger amount of earth blue and bright orange  compared to the stone grey and bright blue. We have also seen more prominent trim in the colours of the knights, demonstrating the new tile designs quite nicely.  In fact, you may almost be forgiven for thinking “There is a lime green, bright red, azure, white or bright yellowish orange vehicle.”  The Classic space vibe which might have been felt with 2016’s models been reduced this year, in return for the ‘Knight Motif.’ There there is the obligatory change in the villainous team, moving from the Lava monsters to non so molten Rock Monsters.

I should also mention the stickers, because while there are plenty of stickers to apply, those designed to be applied to transparent orange elements have a transparent clear background, making them useful on all surfaces.

Here is a quick ‘Face to face’ of this year’s $AU30 Lance’s Twin Jouster 70348 (212 parts) with the 2016’s Macy’s Thunder Mace 70319(200 parts).  I would consider them both occupying equivalent places in the range, both priced at $AUD29.99.

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On the left, Macy’s Thunder Mace, sporting the greys, silver, blues and trans bright orange of the first year of NEXO Knights.  On the right, we see a typical year 2 vehicle, sporting the colours of Lance Armstrong (white) on top of the dark blue and trans orange.

As well as the colour scheme, the play features have also developed on this year’s set.  I personally found the Thunder Mace a relatively mundane build.  The cockpit felt a little incomplete and the windscreen did not feel properly supported underneath. The only feature I found particularly inspiring was the mechanism that rotated the mudguards, to reveal the hidden weaponry beneath! Admittedly, this is pretty addictive.

 

But are the changes just cosmetic?

Continue reading

Sand Green September I: What I learned from 10228 Monster Fighters Haunted House.

FullSizeRender 83Five 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!IMG_7643

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.IMG_7648

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:

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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.IMG_7662

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.IMG_7664

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.IMG_7666

 

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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…IMG_7667

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.

Until then,

Play Well!

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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…

 

 

Stressed by the Elements: Saturn V, Tiles, Plates and the Legality of Connections.

In which I build the Saturn V Ideas set, almost lose it in a wind gust, consider the legality of the American flag on the moon and Jamie Berard helps us to establish that plates and tiles are more different than we may have previously considered…

IMG_7086I have just been fortunate to complete one of the most satisfying builds I have attempted in recent years.  The LEGO® Ideas Saturn V Rocket  21309 was released on June 1st, to wide accalaim. The Rambling Brick was fortunate to secure a copy on release day, courtesy of of the LEGO® Community Engagement Team.  Any opinions expressed here are, however, my own. The set has been subject to backorder on shop.lego.com for some time, and production continues to catch up with demand.  This may take some time.

IMG_7116Since completing the model, I have been confronted by a severe weather warning, with the possibility of destructive winds – up to 120 km/h (roughly 70MPH).  This is a shame, as the winter sun has been shining brightly today: just what you need to take stirring, outdoor shots of an amazing model.  On setting the model up outside, it became apparant that there are reasons for spaceflights being delayed due to bad weather.  I managed one or two shots before catching the falling bohemoth, as it attempted to attain equilibrium in its ongoing battle with the forces of nature. That is to say, i caught it before it hit the ground.

Perhaps I’ll try again on a less windy day.

Continue reading

Underneath the Arches: Exploring One Stud Radius Curves.

 

One of the great things about LEGO bricks is the system: the way elements fit together and interact with each other, sometimes in unexpected ways.  Studs and tubes are easy to understand. As are minifigure hands and the way they plug into the end of a tube or anti stud, or clip over a 3.18mm bar. Every so often you come across a new set of interactions, and wonder just how far these relationships between elements extend.

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This happened to me this week: While my sorting continues, I was browsing through my holding bin of bricks with bows and arches.  Look, over there, a distraction. And before I knew it, I found myself considering the 1x4x2 arch and what I can place snugly under this arch.  Fortunately, during The Sort, most of the the relevant parts end up in the ‘bricks with a curved surface’ bin.

The arch fits nicely over the top of a window frame 1x2x2 2/3 (Design ID 30044).

The curve of this arch perfectly describes a semicircle, with a radius of one stud (that is, a length of a 1×1 square plate).  This is the same circle described by a 2×2 round plate, brick, tile or droid body.  Also the base profile of a 2×2 ‘dome brick’ officially known as final brick 2×2 Design ID: 30367. But more on that element later.

I have several other bricks that look like they should fit underneath this arch, with a studs up orientation. Those parts are a few of the bricks with arches and/or bows, including:1x1x1 1/3 with arch; (Design ID:6091); and 2×3 with arch (Design ID: 6215); brick 2×2 with bow and knobs (Design ID:30165) and 1x4x1 1/3 (Design ID: 10314).  Let’s see how they all line up after the break…

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Sorting… with Extreme Prejudice.

I have a problem.

Well, I have several, but only one is particularly relevant to you today. It is to find order amongst the chaos. Yes, we are talking about sorting the LEGO collection: mine has gotten a little out of hand.

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This topic is frequently brought up discussion groups, so I thought I would tell you where I have been, and let you know where I am going.  I know many of you have well sorted collections/resources, some are a little more…chaotic.

My current collection of building bricks has evolved from my children’s collection: started around 10 years ago.
In those early days, after graduating from one box, Continue reading

Light up your LEGO #1

There is no doubt that adding lighting to a LEGO model will enhance it’s appearance – it adds a degree of life to it, enhancing lines, lightening shadows and highlighting features which may otherwise be a little obscure.  LEGO have offered lighting for at least 50 years, originally in the form of a light brick, with the options of a filter, and more recently with power functions, providing a pair of LED lights.  We now also see self-contained light bricks in recent sets.IMG_0691-2.jpg

While earlier  LEGO® sets used standard filament bulbs,  more recently builders have been able to look to Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) to provide versatile lighting solutions. Recently,  LEGO builders have been incorporating lighting into their builds than ever before.

The systems used vary from simple ‘bulb and battery’ solutions, through to custom solutions for individual LEGO Sets.  There are also sophisticated, microprocessor controlled solutions available, providing preprogrammed sequential lighting patterns.  Miniaturisation of  LEDs means that they are now able to be incorporated in LEGO builds, with minimal rebuilding required for wiring.

Today, I would like to present a couple of simple options for cheap and easy lighting solutions, that can enhance your models.  In the future, I will present some examples of other, more sophisticated lighting solutions. Continue reading