Consistent with previous years, the first wave of 2014 Ninjago sets have arrived in stores just in time for this year’s holiday sales rush, and are also now available on Amazon. The roles have been swapped up a bit this time, with the venerable Sensai Wu now evil and Lord Garmadon now the new ninja master. The seven sets of the new wave cover a good spectrum, and we’re beginning our reviews with a mid-size set, the Thunder Raider.
70723 Thunder Raider comes with a USD $30 price-tag for its 334 pieces, making it a pretty good bargain straight off the top, with an average price-per-piece of 8.9¢. For LEGO to still be maintaining a sub-10¢ per piece price in 2013 – an average for which it has aimed for over 30 years – is nothing short of remarkable, especially on one of its mega-hit themes.
Digging into the set we find three numbered bags, a pair of loose tires, a sticker sheet, and two instruction manuals: one each for the mech and the tank. Bag #1 contains all the pieces to build the small mech, which actually isn’t all that small. It stands about 8 inches tall upon completion. It’s built using a constraction frame (that is, the large ball joints), and even the leg armor pieces are straight out of Hero Factory. If you’ve built any of LEGO’s mech’s in the last four or five years, there are no surprises here, but nevertheless the finished product is fairly nice. The feet contain several of the new Slope, Curved 2 x 1 No Studs in black, which is a new color for that part. Between the mech and the tank, there are eight of those slopes in black. I was also delighted to see that each of the feet contains two Vehicle, Spoiler 2 x 4 with Handle in black, a piece that had thus far been relegated to licensed Cars theme sets only. This bag also contains all three figures. Most of the set’s stickers are applied to the mech armor panels. While nice-enough stickers, I decided not to apply them.
The mech houses one pilot, Cole, who disappointingly has nothing to grab onto while strapped in. I always like mech pilots to have joysticks or at least a computer panel, but Cole is buckled into a harness like he’s on a rollercoaster. I guess the mech is controlled via a mindlink. Each arm of the mech has two giant blades and a cannon, so it’s well defended. With the oversized feet, poseability is high. The back of the mech is pretty sparse, with lots of exposed anti-studs. I feel like the new 2×2 inverted tiles should have been put to good use here. There are two Technic axle pegs stickingout from the shoulder blades, which are used to connect the mech to the rear of the tank.
This is a really weird feature. With the mech attached, it looks half-way between the mech hitching an impromptu ride on the back of a hill-billy tank while dragging its legs in the dust, and the tank serving a tow-truck for an out-of-commission mech. I think the effect would be greatly improved if both the tank and the mech shared a color-scheme, but with the mech being black and green, and the tank predominately blue, they don’t create a unified whole at all.
The second bag begins with the small weapons turret, which features the only unique printed piece in the set (there’s also a standard computer tile in the tank). It’s a 2×2 dark grey round tile with a saw-blade pattern on it. There’s not much to the turret: what you see is what you get. The trans-yellow axe it holds is pretty cool; I can definitely see it looking good in some neo-Blacktron bounty hunter’s hands. There is a depression in the center of the circular part that is almost rod-sized. I have never understood why part designers tantalize us with bits that seem like they should be in system, but aren’t. This would have been a perfect opportunity to place a full rod hole through the middle, greatly increasing the usability of the part.
The rest of the bag starts the tank, getting the basic frame constructed. Bag #3 finishes up the set. The tank follows the same style as several other Ninjago vehicles with treads in the front and wheels in the rear. The setup works well, though, and the tank is pretty fun to drive around. I do wish there were springs on the rear wheels to give it a bit of flexibility, but that’s a minor critique. The top of the tank body has a very cool samurai-esque pattern on it. This is accomplished via a brand new element: two 1×4 plates fused at 45° to each other. This piece appears in several of the new Ninjago sets, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Putting two of these plates next to each other creates a perfect 90° angle, with a plate sticking off in the middle. But I was a bit disappointed to discover that the plates which are at right angles to each other are misaligned by a 1/2 stud in each direction. The piece will still find plenty of uses, and I understand why the piece is designed the way it is (it’s basically a 1×4 hinge plate permanently fused at 45°), but I think it would have ultimately been more useful if the 90° plates aligned when using two. The main play feature of the tank is the sliding cockpit, which moves back, causing the the blue pattern to reveal itself into several rockets. In a shocking twist, there are no flick-fire missiles (oh happy day), and instead the rockets are held in with traditional Technic 1/2 pins, though given their placement I can’t help but wonder if that is an error.
The minifigs here are nothing terribly remarkable. Only the robot (a Nindroid, the instructions inform me) has printed legs. All of the minifigs have front and rear printings which are nice, but not noteworthy. Neither of the humans have double-sided heads, but the Nindroid’s metal pattern does extend to the rear. Each of the ninjas comes with a new bandana piece, which appears to be the go-to style this year instead of the full head-wrap. I’m a bit surprised this bandana didn’t make its debut in the Lone Ranger line, as it seems perfectly fitted to old-timey bank robbers. Nicely enough, an extra of each color is included, for a total of two each in blue and black.
To sum up, this is a good set. There are plenty of good pieces at a good price, including some that only appear in a few other equally-new sets. Both vehicles are sturdy and look nice, and while not revolutionary, are fun. If you’re a fan of Ninjago, this is definitely a good buy, but most other LEGO fans will find something to enjoy here, even if they’re just buying for parts.
The 2013 Creations for Charity fundraiser is ending in less than 24 hours, and your help is needed to buy a custom Lego model donated by the fans. All prices are discounted to their minimum, and if they’re still too high, then you can even make an offer. Over $7,000 have been raised so far to buy Lego for underprivileged children, let’s try to break $8,000 in the last day!
If you haven’t blown your LEGO budget so far in November, there’s plenty of shopping ahead! Both the LEGO Shop online and Amazon.com have plenty of deals to whet your brick appetite.
I’m a bit short on time this morning, so for now I’m just going to put up the banners for you to click through — remember that every purchase from the LEGO Shop and Amazon.com (and not just LEGO!) helps support The Brothers Brick when you click through from Brothers-Brick.com.
Deals for US readers
As usual, Amazon has too many deals to list specifically. Happy hunting!
The LEGO Shop has the following deals:
FREE Limited Edition Holiday Set with purchase of $99 or more.
Valid Nov 29th – Dec 2nd or while supplies last
- FREE $10 Gift Card with purchase of $149 or more (Online Only).
Valid Nov 29th – Dec 2nd or while supplies last.
- FREE Shipping on all orders (no minimum).
Valid Nov 29th – Dec 2nd
- Receive a Free THE LEGO® MOVIE™ poster sticker to customize your Palace Cinema.
Valid: through Dec 31st or while supplies last.
- FREE Exclusive Clone Trooper™ Lieutenant with LEGO® Star Wars™ purchases of $50 or more!
Valid: through Dec 31st or while supplies last.
Deals for Canadian readers
See the US list above for LEGO Shop Canada sales & deals.
Deals for UK readers
In addition to discounted items, the LEGO Shop in the UK is offering free delivery, an exclusive LEGO set, and 10% off your entire purchase.
The 5th annual Creations for Charity fundraiser is ending soon. There’s only 9 days left to shop for a custom creation, each designed and made by a Lego fan who hopes you’ll purchase the creation to help raise money to buy Lego for underprivileged children. With the fundraiser ending soon, prices are at their lowest on most items.
Don’t forget that 100% of the net income will be spent on Lego that will be donated to kids in multiple parts of the world. In addition, Bricklink has offered to match 10% of the money raised. Take a look at the store and see what’s for sale!
The professional builders from Bright Bricks have a reputation to uphold for building big things for Christmas. In 2011 their 38 ft brick-built Christmas tree dazzled travelers passing through St. Pancras Station in London and set a record for being the world’s largest LEGO tree. Last year they built the world’s largest LEGO Advent Calendar for Covent Garden. This year they’ve built a fantastic collection of London landmarks to go inside the world’s largest LEGO snow globe. It measures an impressive 3m x 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft x 10ft). It’s quite possibly the only LEGO snow globe and neither the snow nor the globe are made of LEGO, but who cares?
Snow gets blown through the globe and it has a tunnel down the middle that visitors can walk through, to be pretty much surrounded by it and to possibly feel a bit like London mayor Boris Johnson did in Feb 2009, when one of the largest snowfalls in recent history dumped 20 cm of white flakes on his city, bringing it to a stand-still.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Bright Bricks workshop in early October, when this project had just gotten underway. It must be tempting to cut some corners (perhaps even literally) here and there when building professionally for an audience that largely consists of people who don’t build with LEGO and who may not appreciate all the intricacies, but these are high-quality models. Having seen some of the builds at an early stage, I was very impressed by the level of detail and the clever build techniques that went into them.
The snow globe is on display at Covent Garden London until early January.
The first wave of kits are rolling out to accompany part 2 of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, which appears in theatres next month. This wave consists of 4 sets, priced at $20, $30, $50, and $70, respectively, and are available for preorder from Amazon with a release date of Dec. 1. We’re starting our reviews in the middle of the lineup, with 79012 Mirkwood Elf Army, the $30 set.
79012 Mirkwood Elf Army is a small forest battlement manned (elfed?) by a squadron of 4 wood elves. It’s under siege by a duo of orcs, one of whom rides a warg. With 276 pieces for its $30 price-point, it fares well for a licensed set, and only gets sweeter when you consider that it includes 6 minifigures. It’s the Hobbit equivalent to the Lord of the Rings’ 9471 Uruk-Hai Army.
The box contains 2 numbered bags, a 10×10 octagonal plate with hole, an individually bagged warg (which is new here in dark brown), and one annoyingly crumpled instruction booklet that wouldn’t stay open without weights on the corners. The first numbered bag contains the warg rider, Elf-King Thranduil, and the generic Mirkwood elf, as well as the pieces for the tree-fort — ahem, I mean forest battlement. The forest battlement is a large, brick-built, hollow tree stump, concealing a cubbyhole for a barrel full of green gems — well, one trans-green gem and one trans-green 1×1 round plate. The most interesting part of the trunk is the use of the new 1x3x3 arch, aka the gothic arch, in brown, which is the first time that piece has appeared in brown, and is only the third color currently available. You get 4 of them in brown with this set.
Atop the stump, which is about 8 bricks tall, sits the 10×10 octagonal plate on a turntable. The allows the entire top portion to rotate around the clickyturntable. The top is covered in a mixture of crenellations and foliage, which disguise a giant catapult. The catapult is actually a fig-flinger, which seems far less useful in a siege than the traditional methods of throwing rocks and fiery bombs. When activated, a tree branch is thrown back, revealing the catapult. Oddly, the tree branch that’s thrown aside contains a bar 3L inside the brown 1×1 round bricks that make up the limb. Presumably this is for strength, but I tested the segment with and without the bar, and didn’t note any significant difference in strength. So it’s unnecessary, but extra parts are always a good thing.
Bag number 2 finishes out the set with the rest of the battlement’s wall, the two elf archers, and the remaining orc. The wall is small, with three articulated 6-stud segments for a total of 18 studs in length, and connects to the tree-fort via a pair of Technic pins. This allows it to be placed on either side of the tree-fort. Despite its small size, it’s entirely brick-built, with no “wall” type pieces, and in fact mostly consists of 1×2 sized bricks. The set consists entirely of earth-toned pieces (tan, dark tan, brown, dark brown, light bluish grey, olive, and dark green), which is terrific for those looking to flesh out their landscaping collections. The front of the wall utilizes the second unique arch element for this set, which is the 1x3x2 arch, aka the Prince of Persia arch, in light bluish grey. There are 3 of these in this set. It’s just not a proper action set these days without including a flick-fire missile, and the middle wall segment does not disappoint.
The wall has small segments on the back side for the elf archers to stand on while raining down arrows on the hapless orcs approaching, and the top has the same small crenellations as the tree-fort. There are also two awesomely-printed oval shields that serve as decoration on the wall’s exterior. A separate little rock piece contains clips for weapons, including a spare longbow. Finally, the charging orc is provided with a ladder to scale the wall.
With 6 figures in the box, and the word “army” in the name, you know that the minifigures are the real point of this set. They are all up to LEGO’s usual high standard for minifig detail, with all 6 containing front, rear, and leg printings. The two elf archers and the generic elf have the same printing for the torso, legs, and head. The two archers, are, of course, armed with longbows, and each carries a quiver on his back. The generic elf gets a giant Prince of Persia dagger — there’s an extra in the box, so he can dual wield if you’re so inclined. Thranduil holds a standard long-sword, and gets a terrific olive green torso overlaid with an ornate champagne gold print. His hair/crown mold is the softer rubbery plastic so that it can fit over the cape in back, and is tan with the crown painted gold and the ears painted flesh. Elf-King Thranduil is unique to this set. The two Gundabad orcs are identical, except that the warg rider wears a spiky pauldrons piece and carries a spear instead of a notched scimitar. It’s unfortunate that among the 6 minifigs included here, there are only 3 different torsos/legs/heads. LEGO ought to have made at least one of the elves different from the other two in something besides accessories. Even a different head would have helped, if LEGO didn’t want to create an entirely new print for a torso.
All told, though, this set is a marvelous deal. 6 minifigures in any set is a pretty good bargain, and in a $30 set it’s all the better. The part selection is great, with no single-use pieces, and two highly-useful unique elements in great colors. This set is a must-have for fans of the line, or for anyone looking for a great parts pack.
In addition to recent Amazon sale, some new sets have been put on discount of 30% or higher. Here are some notable ones:
LEGO Ninjago Garmatron 70504 $25.49 (36%)
LEGO Chima Eris Eagle Interceptor 70003 $22.97 (34%)
Lego Castle Dragon Mountain – 70403 $32.99 (34%)
LEGO Star Wars Z-95 Headhunter 75004 $32.99 (34%)
LEGO Friends Heartlake City Pool 41008 $26.60 (33%)
LEGO Star Wars AT-TE $60.99 (32%)
LEGO Galaxy Squad Hive Crawler $47.99 (31%)
LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown 76005 $35.15 (30%)
Looking remarkably like previous years’ offerings, the 2014 sets have been revealed for your perusal. With only one exception, this wave is all from the prequel films, and I believe all of the vehicles in this wave have already appeared in previous versions. So if you’ve missed out on your favorite one before, you’ll get another chance as soon as these hit stores.
75045 Republic AV-7 Anti-Vehicle Cannon
See the rest of the 2014 Star Wars sets after the jump!