Whatever happened to the 2 x 4 Brick? Minecraft: The Ice Spikes 21131

The humble 2×4 brick.

If any element over the years has been used to represent the concept of the LEGO® system of play, this is it.IMG_5070

One of the original elements in the LEGO brick parts palette, it is the first piece that springs to mind when many of us think of LEGO® Bricks.  The favourite element of many large scale builders, if you have enough of them, you can build almost anything!  It is one of those pieces that brings memories flooding back to those of us raised on basic sets back in the early to mid 1970’s.  Before the advent of the minifigure, this brick was the cornerstone of LEGO construction, being a significant component of the Basic/ Universal Construction Sets that were commonly played with in this era. IMG_5066While allowing an incredibly versatile method of construction, there is no doubt that that they contributed significantly to the chunky aesthetic that is associated with LEGO® design and construction in my childhood. When your parents say “In my day, it was just bricks,” this is what they are talking about.  Continue reading

Massive Minecraft Mountain Cave 21137 Announced…

There I was wondering where I was going to Ramble Next in my LEGO® Journey. I had a copy of the LEGO Minecraft set 31131 ‘The Ice Spikes’ in one hand, and the 31065 Creator Park Street Town house sitting on my desk, and the 10703 Classic Creative Builder Box waiting to be unboxed.

Why? You may well ask.  As regular readers may know, I frequently wax nostalgic, recalling the halcyon days of LEGO® sets in the mid 1970’s: The Basic Sets ushered in an era of blocky building styles, with a limited colour palette.8-3  Basic Set #8 in particular springs to mind.  When looking through the old box art, I found this one reminded me in part of something I had seen a little more recently.  With 700 pieces in 7 colors, (including green and transparent clear), this was how many growing up at the time remember what building with LEGO bricks was like.  A few sloped bricks, but not many.  Overall,  it reminiscent of 3D 8-bit graphics, but from an era before 8 bit graphics were even considered.  Then mini figures came along, and nothing was quite the same again.

The spirit of these Basic Sets lives on in many themes: Creator would be where you go to build a house or other model based on everyday life, but those sets are particularly model driven.  Classic sets such as the Creative Building Box provide the elements for free building, but the colour palette is a little broader, with over 35 different colours appearing in the set.

And then there is Minecraft.  Originally an open world, sandbox sale game on multiple gaming and computer platforms, Minecraft was originally ported to LEGO® set form as an Cuusoo set in 2012 in microscale.  Now, twenty two sets and 5 years later, this is a theme in its own right. Capturing a variety of environments, with a relatively limited color palette, and a very blocky construction style, I could almost feel myself flashing back to childhood merely by looking at these sets.  And they actively encourage rearranging the set in different forms, but with less strict instructions than rearranging creator sets.

So there I was… getting ready to look at the a comparison between 3 sets with approximately 500 pieces each…and this arrives in my inbox:

THE PRESS RELEASE: 21137 The Mountain Cave

Ages 12+.  2,863 pieces.
US $249.99 – CA $299.99 – DE 249.99€ – UK £259.99 – DK 2099.00 DKK
*Euro pricing varies by country.  Please visit shop.LEGO.com for regional pricing.

Experience the Mountain Cave!

21137_Prod

Build and experience the Mountain Cave, featuring an amazing minecart track with an integrated redstone‑powered minecart elevator, and an array of other features and functions, including TNT blasting, rotating spider‑spawner, charged Creeper™ explosion and a lava burst. Position the light brick to illuminate the rotating spider-spawner, wall of redstone, jack o’lantern, first-night shelter, furnace, lava or the torch above the cave entrance. Enjoy hands‑on Minecraft™ adventures featuring your favorite characters and objects with this easy-to-reconfigure, modular LEGO® Minecraft set designed for young fans of the highly successful sandbox video game. Includes Steve and Alex minifigures, plus 13 mobs including a charged Creeper™.
● Includes 2 minifigures: Steve and Alex, plus a cave spider, wolf, baby wolf, slime, 2 small slimes, 2 bats, zombie, enderman, skeleton, sheep and a charged Creeper™.


● Features a minecart track with an integrated redstone-powered minecart elevator; 2 minecarts; first-night shelter with bed, crafting table and torch; a mountaintop shelter with bed, torch and furnace; plus a light brick, trees, waterfall, lava and extra torches.


● Open up the model to access the detailed interior and remodel with easy-to-connect modular sections.
● Remove the diamond ore elements and activate the lava burst function.
● Activate the revolving cave-spider spawner.


● Trigger the charged Creeper™ explosion function.
● Jump aboard the minecart and race around the track, and travel to the mountaintop aboard the redstone powered minecart elevator.
● Blast through the mountain with the TNT to extend the rail track.
● Position the light brick to illuminate the rotating spider-spawner, wall of redstone, jack o’lantern, first-night-shelter, furnace, lava or the torch above the cave entrance.
● Enjoy easy access to the detailed interior.
● Put on your golden armor, grab your diamond sword and shield, and prepare for battle!
● Weapons include a sword and a bow.
● Accessory elements include a Minecraft™ clock, spider eyes, signs, map, golden armor, shield, TNT and 8 ore style elements, including diamond, lapis lazuli, emerald, redstone, golden, iron and 2 coal ores.
● Easy-to-reconfigure, modular design—choose from 3 different model configurations.
● Set your imagination free—rebuild the set for more LEGO® Minecraft™ creations!
● Measures over 12” (31cm) high, 20” (53cm) wide and 11” (29cm) deep.

Available for sale directly through LEGO® beginningJuly 1, 2017 via shop.LEGO.com, LEGO® Stores.  VIP Access will be available from 15 June.

So, this brings back so many ideas of how 6 year old me would have built with LEGO bricks, if I had the bricks.  A lot of LEGO as a kid is never nearly as much as ‘quite a bit of a LEGO collection’ as an adult.

I’ll get back to comparing those sets i mentioned soon. But what do you think of the Mountain Cave?  It’s huge! I wonder what I will cost when it arrives in Australia? Last year’s Village 21128 with 1600 pieces retails for $AUD350.  With 2800 pieces, it may be edging closer to $500 or more.[thanks to Dean: Australian RRP will be $AUD399.99]  Do you like the look of it? Or do you think its a few too many light blueish grey bricks out of 2800 odd elements?

Write your thoughts in the comments below.

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Carousel 10257 Coming Soon: Reimagining an Investor’s Classic.

boxes.pngAround eight years ago, shortly after I emerged from my Dark Ages, I visited LEGOLAND 10257_Front_02_1California with my family. The Aussie Dollar was running at 90US¢ to A$1: the best exchange rate in years.  We got to the store.  What followed is a bit embarrassing, but suffice to say it included  Cafe Corner and the Grand Carousel 10196.  Despite currency fluctuations, the pricing model used meant we could afford these 2 sets, and some more, as well as some luggage to transport them home, and still come out in front.  Unfortunately, this involved unboxing these sets prior to returning home.  Once the box is broken, you might as well build them, don’t you think? If I knew then what I know now, I would have also picked up a Millennium falcon UCS, and transported them home in fur-lined gold plated shipping container instead.  Aah: hindsight. It gives me 20-20 vision.

The Grand Carousel had a huge footprint with a 48 square, green baseplate. It had an interesting 16 sided construction and rotation was afforded by a spring-loaded wheel turning the outside – just like the real carousel’s that would tour country Victoria going to annual town fairs.  Not only did it rotate, but the horses bounced up and down as well.  And then there was the sound brick ,providing the joyous sounds of a Calliope, and invoking a nightmare flashback in any kid scared by carnival clowns.  This set has appreciated significantly over theirs, with new sticker sheets selling for more than $70 on Brick link, and the sound brick for more than $200!

fairground past.pngIn more recent years, the Lego Creator Expert team have been producing exceptional sets based on Fairground rides, providing a challenging building experience and great play and display features. In 2014, we saw the release of the Fairground Mixer 10244, followed up by the Ferris wheel 10247 in 2015. Last year it was the Friends turn, with a whole sub theme.  The Amusement park Roller Coaster41130 was a highlight for many here! Builders have not been content with with merely adding motion to this to these rides. Lighting has also become popular, with some spectacular third party lighting kits now available especially for them. But I didn’t stop writing this post for the purpose of becoming over whelmed with nostalgia, continuing to chart my descent from a regular human being into an Adult Fan of LEGO, but rather to present the announcement of the latest fairground set, at Play-Time in New York today.

The press release: more pictures and discussion follow . Continue reading

Retro Reconstruction – 852 Helicopter 1978

LEGO Alive!

So, last week I wrote about my memories of my introduction to LEGO Technic, which was way back in 1978. Over the recent Easter weekend, I had the chance to visit my childhood LEGO collection.  I found some Technical set instructions in the mix: 8860-Car Chassis, and 856Bulldozer.  But not for my original helicopter.  Then I found the sheet you see here: preserved after 40 years.  Not the instructions for the Helicopter, but for the B-Model airplane. I turned them over, and on the flip side were blueprints for the helicopter, at a 1:1 scale.IMG_5385

Now, we ended up owning a fairly broad collection of LEGO for the 70’s-80’s: lots of regular bricks, ancient wheels and parts from 3 significant technical sets (as well as some supplementary sets).  I thought to myself: there is a high probability of locating enough parts to put the helicopter together. Perhaps not colour perfect, but structurally so.

And so I set to work…

Continue reading

Technic: Embarking on a Nostalgia Road Trip down Memory Lane

 

Christmas 1978: Monday Morning, 5 am.

I’d like to tell you story.  Like all good stories, it is possibly a little long winded, and feels a little irrelevant until you get to the point. This may or may not be a good story.  I’d be curious to know your opinion. But bear with me. It was Christmas Day, 1978. A Monday.  I was 9 years old. We were staying in Ballarat ( regional Victoria) with my Aunt for Christmas.  As I mentioned, I was nine.:Christmas was exciting,  even more so at five in the morning when you wake up with an exciting new form of seasonal insomnia. Monday morning at five o’clock is not a time that comes naturally to me these days, but on Christmas day as a child, it represented a definite sleep in!

Our personal family record occurred in 1977, when my brother and I got up at 3:40am on Christmas day, ten minutes after our parents had gone to bed. He proudly went in to excitedly inform our visiting relatives that he had been given a bicycle, and it was all red! Oddly enough, our relatives did not share his enthusiasm at this time.  The story however is presented on a semi annual basis to this day. But I digress.

872-1
The labelling on my box was a little less French!
But back to 1978. I had asked for a LEGO Technical set.  I don’t recall being particularly fussed about which one. When I woke up early, I selected a box, and gave it a rattle. It wasn’t an especially big box, but it was all I was allowed to open before a civilised waking hour.  This set was number 872: Two Gear Blocks. I had no idea what this set was intended to do. And I had to wait until a civilised hour before Dad would explain that it was to slow down the rate of rotation of a motor.  This upset me a little, as the only motors I had belonged to a train set that I had received a year or two earlier. I cannot recall if it was the above Christmas, or another occasion.

870-1So, I was encouraged me to open another package. ( I suspect other members of the family had opened some presents by this stage.)
This one was a similarly sized box, that did not seem to rattle as much as the previous one.  This set had only twenty-two pieces, and was #870 – the 4.5V Technical Motor.
After assembling that battery box and connecting the wire, I was a little taken aback: this motor seemed to be spinning at a rate that rivalled even a dentist’s drill.  The role of the gear blocks became apparent. Finally, I got to the Big Box. It rattled in a most mysterious way.  Tearing off the wrapping paper revealed the  852 Helicopter set.  The box had a flip top lid, revealing all of the parts sorted into their own compartments.  The set contained a mere three hundred and sixty four pieces. As for the instructions: this was the first set where I remember using an instruction book rather than a single sheet. 852-1The 16 page manual included both the Helicopter and alternative Airplane build, as well as inspiration for installing the motor. The helicopter featured a massive 20 instruction steps. This was the greatest LEGO Challenge I had ever faced. [Editors note: The link back there will take you to a scan of the manual at Peeron.com.  This is a great resource for sourcing the instructions for LEGO® sets released prior to 2000- after which the majority of instructions appear on the customer support section of LEGO.com]
One of the best things about going away for a Family Christmas meant there was plenty of time for discussion, menu planning, basting, food preparation, cups of tea, cooking, pudding completion, meat roasting, and gravy making by parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and extended family.  By the time Christmas Lunch was ready, it was close to four o’clock in the afternoon.  But I didn’t mind.  I had completed the Helicopter.  I enjoyed spinning the rotors with side mounted steering wheel. And the blades had variable pitch, with the aid a a lever in the cockpit.  I don’t think I even noticed that Lunch was running a bit late.

IMG_5265
Who needs Christmas Dinner, when you can build a brand new LEGO® Technical Helicopter and demonstrate the maximum rotor pitch. Thank’s Dad for taking this picture,  thanks to my daughter for unearthing it while visiting her Grandparents!
By the end of the Christmas holiday, I had built the ‘B’ Model – a monoplane, with a propellor that spun as you pushed it along the ground, rebuilt and motorised the A model, and finally put together an unstoppable, motorised shunting vehicle that attempted to clear Granny’s finest china from the dining room table. After this I was invited to do some reading… Certainly I was hooked with building using my Technical Sets, which were undoubtably very ‘system brick’ oriented in its style.

Why am I telling you this?

8860-1
The instruction book from 8860: Image Source – Brickset.com
While I was delighted to receive the helicopter, the most coveted set that year was in fact the Technical Flagship Set: The 863 Car Chassis.  With over 600 pieces,  rack and pinion steering and a front mounted engine, this was the pinnacle of LEGO sets in this era.  I never received that set and I am thankful for this.  It was at least another 18 months before I received my next Technical set.  That set was 8860: Another Car Chassis, with a rear mounted flat four engine, all the previous bells and whistles, a variable slip differential, a two speed gearbox and rear wheel suspension.  This set was, by all accounts a great improvement over the previous version. I performed the standard 10 year old builder’s modification of increasing the gearbox to accommodate a third gear, and developing an understanding as to why the designers had decided not to include it in the first place!

This set remained in the LEGO Catalogue up until 1987.  An epic eight year run!. The next Technic Car Chassis did not appear until 1998’s 900 piece epic:  8865: Test Car.  Over the years, these sets have evolved: losing the brick and plate construction that was par for the course at this time, to a beam and panel construction style.  I am still coming to terms with the new vocabulary for working with these pieces. In 2016 we saw the release of the Technic Porsche 911 with 2704 pieces and a price tag to match.

40th Anniversary 8860 with the Modern Parts Palette

With 2017 representing the 40th year of LEGO Technic, a celebration of the 8860 is underway.  Using components from 42057 (Ultralight Helicopter); 42061 (Telehandler) and 42063 (BMW R 12 GS Adventure), you can revisit 8860, using contemporary Technic construction techniques. The construction style is quite different to that of the 1980’s – and the final model looks as if it will be a little smaller than the original 8860, but I took the first step back towards visiting Technic sets this week.

42057 Ultralight Helicopter

The Ultralight Helicopter is a small, inexpensive Technic kit, with 200 pieces – around two thirds of the original helicopter I received all those years ago.  It took around an hour to build. As an ultralight, the top rotors spin and drive the thrusting rotor, and the 2 cylinders in the engine move up and down as they do so.  The pitch of the blades do not change, but there is a lever that allows you to turn the rudder.


For me, this is a good introduction to the current crop of Technic Elements, which have certainly evolved since I last gave them a serious look (35 years ago) and includes a 40th anniversary Technic beam: it was reasonably simple and leaves me looking forward to investigating the Telehandler and BMW R 1200 Adventure Motor Cycle.  I just need to find a good way to get them cheaply.  In reality, I consider $AUD 170 a little expensive for the sake of nostalgia.  I found the Ultralight Helicopter for $AUD22 (RRP $AUD29.99).  In the current season of Easter/ School Holiday Toy Sales, I suspect I can get a better deal.  I also think completing the project may take a little time. In the mean time…



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