If any element over the years has been used to represent the concept of the LEGO® system of play, this is it.
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. While 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 →
I never understood the joy of Technic Motorcycles. And yet here I am, staring at the box of one. I would never have bought this set were I not aiming to put together the Reimagined Technic Car Chassis 8860 . But people seem to be interested in it. Every time I attend my local LUG, somebody else is putting it together. And they seem to be enjoying it. And they aren’t all the people I expect to see putting Technic sets together! So what is the appeal?
But surely it’s just two wheels, a fuel tank, engine, handlebars, and a bit of trim? How much variation can you get out of it? The first Technical Motorcycle was set 857 Motorbike with Sidecar, released in 1979. This vehicle featured the same wheels ultimately used in 8860 (albeit only 3 of them). The single cylinder piston engine attached to the rear wheel via a chain drive; the ride was a little rough due to lack of suspension, and the front forks were 6 studs wide, and built from a multitude of bricks and plates. The seat was wide and comfortable and the fuel tank extremely chunky. A side car made a third wheel necessary!
How on earth could any of that be different? I mean that first set had a massive 409 pieces, with lots of red, black, grey and blue. However, here we have a very different vehicle: with only 197 pieces more than the first one! It has a recommended retail price of $AUD89.99 (just under 15¢/piece). It has been around during recent 20% sales in Australia shops.
Pictures of the latest series (Number 17) of Collectable Minifigures have been circulating the interwebs like crazy in the run up to their official release this week. My figures arrived on 2nd of May, and I have to admit, I think this is one of the most appealing series yet There is something for pretty well everyone…
As autumn has taken control of the weather here (in the USA, you may call it fall although I appreciate it is currently spring in the northern hemisphere), temperatures have dropped and evenings may be spent sitting in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of tea/ glass of whine/ beverage of choice. While I was sitting down in front of the fireplace, this evening, I opened today’s mail. The camera was in easy reach, and I could not justify moving far from my seat to photograph these figures.
If you have seen them already, you know who we have. I’m not up to generating a bag feeling guide tonight, and I know there are a few already out there.
If you have not yet seen reviews of this series, here is a quick summary: Continue reading →
Over Christmas I built the Creator Expert VW Beetle, and found it to be a most enjoyable thing to take to the beach. So,
I was quite excited when it was announced that there would be a small version of the model available earlier in the year (40252). Decked out in Dark Azure, just like 10252 (I sense a numbering pattern), I knew I was going to want to get it. I also knew it was going to prompt me to place a shop.lego.com order when it became available.
And so April came. Free gift with purchase over $60 was announced. I was excited. And then the triple VIP points were added. This period of the year coincides with school holidays in many states of Australia, and many of our major retailers have LEGO® Sets reduced by 20%. Some stores were excluding Collectable Minifigures, Some excluded The LEGO® Batman™ Movie Sets, and one excluded The LEGO® Batman™ Movie Collectable Minifigures.
There I was, browsing through my LEGO Life newsfeed, and the announcement leapt out at me: The LEGO® Batman™ Movie App, now available for download. So I visited my App Store of choice and tracked it down. It had the right price: this App is free, with no claim of in-app purchases. But what would the cost be?
The opening splash screen give you some options for where to start. You can choose to watch videos, read about the Lego sets, play the game,customize your vehicle or purchase upgrades in return for studs that you collect around the game..
Let us start with the game…
The game starts of interestingly enough: Select your character: Batman or BatGirl with the promise of many others to unlock as you gain the universal unit of LEGO®game currency: the stud. And run. Just run. Dodge, jump over, or slide under obstacles. Occasionally, you may gain the use of a vehicle – initially the standard Batmobile from the movie, but able to be customised – and crash through barricades.
As you may have picked up over the hundred or so blog posts, I am more of a system kind of a guy: Bricks, studs, 3.18mm bar and clip, mini figures, creator, friends, elves, superheroes, video games are my normal thing.
I have never really been invested in the constraction (constructible action figures) figures: Bionicle passed me by, Super Heroes happened in the background, Hero Factory came and went, and then Bionicle came and went again. And in the meantime, Star Wars characters started to get a go at it too.
I never bought into the mythology of Bionicles and Hero Factory. I have admired some remarkable creations put together with these elements, but I have never actually picked up a set until now. My curiosity was piqued a few weeks ago when I put together the Creator Mighty Dinosaurs and first encountered the ‘ball cup with rubber, high friction.’
Last time, we spoke about some of this year’s Pizza related sets. One of the things I found lacking in the Heartlake City Pizzeria was a Pizza maker, similar to the one to be found in 60150: Pizza Van. It left me wondering: can I just swap my figures over?
Crossing the Streams
At a public display earlier in the year, I had a chance to talk to lots of people. One of the ongoing topics seemed to be along the nature of LEGO® City: A lovely little place to get robbed, burnt down, go power boating, volcano exploring or monster trucking, but not so great if you just wanted to go to the mall, bakery, supermarket, hospital, recreation centre or school. By the end of the year, Heartlake City will have had all of these things and more.
Now, many people were a little disheartened by the Friends’ mini-dolls when they were first released: issues with body shape, unrealistic proportions, legs unable to move independently and wrists unable to rotate. However they have now spread across a wide variety of themes… not just ‘City’, they can also be found in Elves, DC Super Hero Girls, and Disney (princess?) sets. Mini-dolls can now be found spread across a broad range of thematic material.
So, do I need to work any magic to make this set (or any other Friend’s set) work at Minifigure scale? Can I just give the mini-dolls to the children next door, and put my Minifigure in? I took my figures and situations from the 41311 Heartlake Pizzeria, and the 60150 Pizza Van to find out.
Now Minifigures and mini-dolls are proportioned a little differently to each other. But what are the real differences, and how does this work out in real life?
So, lets look at these two sets, and think about the alterations that may need to be made to cross them both over.
Fitting your Minifigures in Heartlake City:
In areas where the figures are standing, there is little need to make adjustments to the original model to swap mini-dolls for Minifigures.
Most of the pizzeria works quite well with Minifigures. The kitchen benches are around the height you would normally use with Minifigures. Even the pizza oven is at the necessary height as is the dessert bar and the cash register. In fact there are only one or two things that need to be adjusted to make it feel like a city scale set:
The seating: Often seating for Minifigures has studs to fix the figure’s legs to. Perhaps use plates rather than tiles on the stools, or use chairs, as are used in many LEGO City sets. However the tiles provided are satisfactory, even if your Minifigures slide on them a bit.
Most of the problems I encountered were in the various vehicles, where the legs are of significantly different length. In the delivery van accompanying the pizzeria, I replaced element 6093479 (Foot, Plate) with a steering wheel, and replaced the 1×2 tile with 2 green flower elements- providing studs (because they were spare) for the Minifigure’s legs to bind to.
Fitting Minidolls into City Sets:
There is already a precedent for the mini-dolls working in a food cart: last year’s Amusement Park Hot Dog Van 41129. As you can see in this image from shop.lego.com, Stephanie’s hips are a plate or two higher than the counter. (i.e. counter top is 4 plates above the floor). It would seem to be the same height in the food truck, with the transparent screen rising above this height, but in the name of food safety, I think this is acceptable.
So… the food service aspect of the truck is no problem here. As you can see, Emma fits in here quite easily, to feed the masses at the back of the van. The main challenge seems to be to securely fit the mini-doll into the driver’s seat. By tiling the seat, and placing the ‘foot, plate’, the mini-doll can fit securely into the seat. We then move the steering wheel forward in the cabin. This is not too tricky, but does require a little modification, and a couple of extra pieces.
The next challenge is the motor scooter: the handlebars included in this set are incompatible with mini-dolls. Hands can only clip on if they run from side to side. Mini-dolls’ hands run at approximately 90º to this. Motor scooters in other LEGO® Friends sets use element 98397 for the handlebars, which are designed to fit the minidoll grips. It is compatible with minifigures, but is not the ‘go to’ motorbike handlebar in LEGO® City. It appears to be readily available in LEGO Friends and DC Super Hero Girls sets, as well as a few other themes- especially LEGO Ninjago.
Don’t be afraid:
If the colour scheme does not cause you concern, you can safely integrate the architecture from Heartlake City directly into your regular, Minifigure populated town layout, with minimal alterations. Every one will fit, and you will add a higher level of functionality to your town.
Likewise, it’s not too hard to move City sets into Heartlake City. The colors may be a little more subdued, but it will allow our LEGO® Friends to get some proper danger and excitement into their life. And you can exchange hair pieces/hats. But your city may descend into anarchy if you have no police force to maintain civil calm. (At least there are the DC Super Hero Girls?)
Myself, I am quite happy to merely ensure the figures can safely sit in the driver’s seat without excessive peril. But, if you are bothered by the lack of interesting businesses in your LEGO city, but feel that investing in the complete back catalog of Modular Buildings is a little extreme, why don’t you take a look at the Friends sets. Remove the mini-dolls, and replace them with random minifigures… you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Have you tried moving Friend’s Buildings into your regular city? Have you taken them the other way, with a layout occupied by minidolls? Or are you happy to have them all live together in one big town? Why not leave a comment below.