Jerac hit a home run with this one. This ninjago-inspired snake mecha is rock-solid. I know this because the young Ninjago fans in my house freaked out when they walked by and saw me blogging this.
The Thunder Raider is one of the 2014 Ninjago sets released in January. It contains 334 pieces and retails for $29.99. You can purchase the set on Amazon. You can also see a previous review of this set by Chris.
- The mech is a great complement to Kai’s Fire Mech and is well designed
- Better than average price-per-part ratio and interesting new elements
- The blue vehicle, while designed for function, doesn’t look very appealing
This is a solid set both for parts and playability. The mech is the best feature of this set, having a simple and elegant design. The vehicle on the other hand looks a bit messy with the haphazard array of blue plates, but it plays well and features a transforming attack mode and the ability to carry the mech. Parts-wise, there’s a wide selection of elements including new ones like the black vehicle spoiler and A-frame wedges. Even though I recommend buying individual parts on Bricklink, sometimes it’s good to buy sets when you there’s not a specific piece you’re looking for and just want to expand the variety of your collection. This is a great set for that purpose.
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.
Here’s the first wave of 2014 Ninjago sets. No word currently on the prices, but you can feast your eyes on all the cool robot goodness this wave is bringing. I, for one, welcome more robot tech.
TBB fixture Mike Nieves (retinence) returns to the Brothership with a commissioned piece he calls “Ninjago Golden Dragon“. The model is a true fusion of Hero Factory, Bionicle, System and Technic parts that is amplified by a striking gold color scheme which the builder aptly describes as “tough to use”. Although this photo doesn’t provide the best angle to observe them, the details on the sides of the legs are amazing. Mike is one of those rare builders who combines talent, consistency and an ability to maintain an easily recognizable style of building without repeating himself. It’s nice to see builders like Mike and Tyler (just to name a few) getting commissioned work, there is nothing like getting paid to do something you you have a passion for.
Friday Night Fights is on hiatus this weekend, but that doesn’t mean we’re leaving fight-fans without some bread and circuses in the meantime. Imagine Rigney (Imagine™) would like to invite you to his Ninjago Dragon Arena to prove your mad Spinjitzu skills that you’re always bragging about. The mosaic face on the arena floor is an eye-catcher and so is the gray samurai statue. I’ve never been more tempted to play the game than when I saw this arena, or more tempted to build my own. I can only imagine the delight this would produce in young fans of the Ninjago theme; it must be something akin to Spinjitzu nirvana.
The highly popular LEGO Ninjago The Golden Dragon 70503 is on sale for 22% off at $23.49 on Amazon. This is the lowest price I’ve seen for this set since it came out. There is also a 28% discount on LEGO Ninjago Ultra Sonic Raider Set 9449. Keep in mind that prices fluctuate often and might change soon.
Another of the sets I bought last week is the smallest of the 2013 Ninjago sets. This is the last wave of Ninjago sets before Legends of Chima takes its place as the go-to theme for battling minifig games, and I’ll be sad to see it go.
Now, I didn’t follow the mythos of Ninjago, or watch the show, so I can’t tell you a lot of backstory about the theme beyond the very broad strokes, but it’s sure included some sweet sets, and 70500 Kai’s Fire Mech is definitely one of them.
The set contains a small mech and two minifigures, and feels like a bargain with 102 pieces and a USD $9.99 MSRP. The mech is basically the little sibling of the previous wave’s Samurai Mech, which is my favorite set of 2012. The mech is built with ball joints, which allow it quite a lot of pose-ability. Add to that the full-fingered left-hand, and this is probably Lego’s best mech of this size.
The gold highlights are terrific, especially since so many of them are weapons, which are always useful. This is also the cheapest set thus far to include the new inverted 2×2 tiles. All of the printed parts except for the minifigs are stickers, which I didn’t apply, even though they do look very nice. The only new piece here is the fire mech’s sword, which is transparent yellow infused with transparent neon orange, for quite a cool effect. Here are photos of the inventory pages, for those who are interested.
The bad guy has a fantastic grimacing visage reminiscent of the masks samurai wore to look fearsome, and a red quiver and hat, both of which are new in that color to this wave of sets. Both minifigs have back printing.
My verdict: this set is a winner. If you’re a fan of Ninjago, mechs, or good Lego deals, you should pick this one up. I enjoyed it so much, I’ve already bought two.
The LEGO Shop online has extended its free shipping (with guaranteed delivery before Christmas) several more days, through December 18. They’ve also reduced the minimum purchase from $99 to $49.
And since I missed it earlier, NinjaGo gets a refresh in 2012 with a bunch of funky sets, which are all out a few weeks early.