LEGO recently sent us four Star Wars books, published by Dorling-Kindersley. They are LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia,LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary: Updated and Expanded,LEGO Star Wars: The Dark Side,and LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles.If you own any of these books, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, whether you agree with us or not!
LEGO recently sent us some books to review, so you will see more book reviews than normal pop up on here over the next month. If you own any of the books, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments!
The first two we will be reviewing are LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History and The LEGO Movie: The Essential Guide.
As holiday season approachs, No Starch Press is kicking into high gear with a slew of new titles for LEGO fans. Their latest offering is Steampunk LEGO by well-known LEGO builder, innovator and steampunk enthusiast Guy Himber. This 200 page compilation features the work of over 90 individual builders, and includes just about every notable LEGO steampunk creation of the past five years.
Physically, the book has a definite steampunk feel about it. Its blue and gold hard cover sports a full-color dust jacket (shown here) and all the pages have a high quality satin finish that enhances the sumptuous graphic design. The material is presented in the form an ornate Victorian scrapbook, complete with notelets and other trinkets mounted atop a variety of textured vintage backgrounds.
A cornucopia of building styles are covered here. And while the majority are mini-fig oriented, microscale and life-size builds are reasonably well represented. Entries are 1 or 2 to a page, and organized into logical chapters focusing on different categories such as trains, vehicles, automatons, weapons, sea vessels, airships and even floating rocks. There is also a pleasant ‘interlude’ in the center, showcasing Guy’s memorable Cabinet of Curiosities collaborative project.
LEGO has sent The Brothers Brick a copy of the Crafting Box, one of the larger sets from the new minifig-scale Minecraft line. The set includes 518 pieces, and will be $49.99 USD. LEGO hasn’t given us an exact release date, but it should be available in stores around the beginning of November.
Now, I know many LEGO fans roll their eyes at the fact that LEGO picked up the Minecraft license at all, but I love it. I’m a huge Minecraft fan, and I have a bit of history with combining LEGO and Minecraft. I created the first minifig-scale Minecraft creation back in 2011, and was one of three fans involved in the development of the first official LEGO Minecraft set, 21102 Minecraft Microworld. During the development phase of that set, we started off trying to create a minifig-scale set. We quickly realized, however, that it would be very hard to do justice to Minecraft at that scale within the price range that the LEGO Ideas (née Cuusoo) program was targeting, namely $30-$40 USD. The current lineup of six minifig-scale sets is a valiant — but flawed — attempt at doing what the original set could not.
It’s been barely a year since No Starch Press released Beautiful LEGO, a coffee table book packed with carefully curated images of LEGO creations, conceived and organized by New Jersey graphic designer and LEGO builder Mike Doyle.
Unlike many of their other LEGO themed titles, which are targeted squarely at the AFOL community, the book had the potential to appeal to almost anyone with a passing interest in LEGO (ie. almost anyone on the planet). It soon started showing up on the shelves of regular book stores, and has since become one of their best sellers. So the rumors of a sequel came as no surprise…
Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark replays that winning formula, with some interesting twists. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s weightier: this version is about 50 pages longer and sports a proper hard cover. Some folks will be pleased to hear about that change, although as a coffee table book, I kinda find this one harder to handle.
Mike has also cut back heavily on builder interviews (just 4 this time round, compared to 9 in the first book). I’m sure some AFOLs will see that as a loss, but I think it makes sense for a work like this to focus on the images first and foremost. For those curious to learn more about specific builders, every image is labeled, and the Contributor index contains all the necessary URLs.
Then there’s the subtitle, “Dark”. With this book, Mike applied what he calls a “thematic filter” to the curation process, targeting specific classes of build. It’s a bold move, but gives this sequel a much stronger identity than merely “hello, here are some more great builds”. Admittedly “dark” is a rather broad theme with many possible interpretations, but I think it still pays off. The builds range from the serious, the creepy, the political, the darkly humorous, and even just darkly colored.
As for the individual builds and images, Mike delivers again with another 300 pages of gorgiously photographed creations, from over a hundred different builders, that will be appreciated by both AFOL and non-AFOL alike. Everything is organized into chapters such as “Creepy Crawlers”, “Skin and Bones” or “Future Shock”. And a wide variety of building styles and categories are covered.
To achieve a harmonious effect, some of the models were specially reworked or reshot by their creators, and Mike also re-tuned some of the images too (for example, applying neutral backgrounds). The overall effect is definitely moodier than the first book – and that means it’s literally darker. The builds in this tome also skew to the more complex/detailed end of the scale than in the first one. So you’re gonna want to read this one under a decent light!
For the sequel, Mike also chose to include a small selection of digital creations. This is definitely a controversial decision, which Mike acknowledges and explains in his Preface. But the digital creations are clearly annotated as such, wherever they appear.
Like its predecessor, Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark is a beautiful object, that shines a flattering (low wattage) spotlight on the LEGO building community, and in a way that makes that world accessible to the general public. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoyed the first book. And I really hope this becomes a series of books. If it does, I cannot wait to see what theme Mike decides to cover next!
Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark goes on sale everywhere November 20th, and will retail for USD $39.95.
Lego was kind enough to send The Brothers Brick a copy of the upcoming Santa’s Workshop set for review. I was lucky enough to be the one to review the set, and my 3.5 year old son was lucky enough to help. There are plenty of official photos of the set floating around already, including those in our own coverage of the set reveal, so I’ve tried to concentrate my review on interesting things about the set, rather than take a bunch of new photos. This is partially due too the fact that it has been tough to pry the set away from little hands, as my son ran around the house with it screaming about Santa as soon as I opened the shipping box.
This set is a virtual smorgasbord of unusual parts, in fascinating colors. The set contains 883 pieces, which is pretty fantastic for a price point of $70. Although I primarily build space and mecha, I can imagine repurposing most parts in this set to my own use. The doors might find themselves languishing for awhile, but that’s balanced out by a huge helping of gold parts. There’s certainly enough gold piping here to outfit a steampunk lab (even the inside of the North Pole sign is a gold lightsaber blade). I was also surprised to see quite a few printed parts for the reindeer (both their faces and backs are printed. I was also rather pleasantly surprised by the number of extras included in the set. There was even a spare cookie! Finally, the set is PACKED with SNOT bricks, it’s almost worthwhile as a parts pack alone.
As with the parts, I was rather happy with the minifigs included in the set. You get Santa, Mrs. Klaus, four elves, and five reindeer. Oddly, Mrs. Klaus and an elf both come with two-sided faces (alternate unhappy faces shown in the photo). The Santa hat is really nice, though I presume it’s the same as the Collectible Minifig Santa, which I don’t have (at least not open). Mrs. Klaus looks like her dress is a new print, and it certainly fits the part. The elves span a variety of personalities, which helps give the set a bit of a Burle Ives Rudolph vibe, which I personally like. Our complement includes “Magic Wand Guy”, and “The Badest Elf There Ever Was.” The latter steals Santa’s cookies.
Speaking of Reinder, though, there are five in the set, four large, and one small. That said, the set doesn’t actually include Rudolph. According the Marcos Bessa, the designer, Rudolph is a character they would’ve had to license. Fortunately, it was easy enough to swap one of the spare Christmas lights onto the small Reindeer’s nose, and Christmas was saved. The Reindeer count has been raised as in issue in my house, so I may have to pick up more of the printed bits on Bricklink, to bring our complement up to the proper eight (plus Rudolph). The tubing used to connect the harness to the sleigh looks long enough to be able to attach at least one more pair of reindeer. “Rudolph” by the way, can apparently even balance on his tail.
This set was pretty interesting to build. There are some nice SNOT technique used for everything from the Reindeer heads to window construction. It was far beyond my son’s ability to build anything but the minifigs (and repair reindeer), but that’s to be expected. I’m betting that town builders won’t learn much new from building this set, but it’s still a fun build, with a lot of variety. The set is also broken into a series of smaller sections, as most are these days, which allow you to break up the building into discrete chunks, without opening all the bags. There’s also a great little micro-scale Classic-Space ship rolling out of the toy machine, which is marked improvement over the inclusion of another micro scale train for the minifig children to play with.
This set is a great buy, you get a lot of interesting parts, a lot of useful parts, and some unique animal bits. It was fun to build, and SCREAMS Christmas. If you’ve got kids in your house, it’d be fun to build a chunk at a time, as a build-up to Christmas. It’s surprisingly sturdy for a set in the Creator Expert line, but sleigh can even withstand swooshing by a three year old. It also looks like the two exclusive holiday sets for spending over $99 with LEGO direct this year are annexes to this workshop. I’ve only seen the one available October 1 in the store catalog, but it looks like a little elf workshop that’d match up with the back of this set nicely. The set is available September 17 to VIPs, and October 1 to everyone. I’d recommend waiting until October 1, so you can add something else to your cart, and get the free add-on.
No Starch Press, known as the purveyors of many LEGO books written by LEGO fans, recently sent me a copy of their latest book exploring our favorite hobby, The LEGO Neighborhood Book. Written by brothers Brian and Jason Lyles, it explores the City Modular standard through pre-built creations, architectural techniques, and model instructions. The 204-page book is 8″x8″ with a high-quality soft cover, and the glossy pages with great color representation we’ve come to expect from books about LEGO.
It should come as no surprise at all to long-time readers that the new LEGO Ideas Research Institute has been on my list since the day it was confirmed as a set, if not before. I’m all for more gender-equality in my minifig world, and love seeing sets with female figs.
I picked up this set as well as the 21109 Exo Suit while I was on vacation, and admittedly I’ve been waiting to get a chance to break in and build it. Great way to spend the first day back from vacation, I wager.
So let’s get on with the review.
As a child, I was a big fan of LEGO’s Model Team sets of highly detailed and realistic-looking vehicles. It will be no surprise then that I also liked the Classic Beetle LEGO released more than six years ago and that I also bought the Volkswagen Camper van. To my delight, LEGO has now introduced another classic car: the MINI Cooper.
The Mini started life as a humble economy car, but with a lasting legacy. To maximise passenger space within its short body, its engine was transversally mounted and drove the front wheels, which is a configuration copied in pretty much every small family hatchback built since. Sporty versions, called the Cooper and Cooper S, became successful rally racers and celebrities such as Steve McQueen, Paul McCartney, Prince Charles and even Enzo Ferrari owned Minis. From its humble origins, the Mini grew into a cult car, with a particularly British kind of cool.
The set represents a late-model Mini Cooper (produced in late 1997/ early 1998, judging from the license plate) in dark green, with white stripes on the bonnet (hood), white wing mirrors and a white roof. The dark green colour is a close match for traditional British racing green and the colour scheme just screams Mini. The front of the car is spot-on, with the shape of the radiator grille, front-mounted fog lights and the silver bumper pieces. The curved elements used below the windows have neatly-printed thin white lines on them, that run the length of the car. Small details such as the fuel filler cap and indicator lights are nicely represented. Remarkably, for a LEGO set, the finished model is almost completely studless, which suggests that LEGO also hopes to cater to fans of the Mini who may not necessarily be into LEGO.
The model is not without faults, however. Especially when seen from behind, it does not look quite round enough. Having built my own models of Minis, I know that both the front and rear windows ought to be curved, but on the model they are built using large flat window panels. I also don’t particularly like the way the pillars supporting the corners of the roof are built, using 75-degree slopes covered with stickers marked with a black triangle. The stickers are intended to make the pillars look narrower, but I don’t think it really works. In fairness, though, alternative solutions would either require completely new part shapes or would add greatly to the complexity, parts count and cost of the set. Despite the compromises, it definitely looks like a Mini.
LEGO sent The Brothers Brick a copy of the new LEGO Ideas 21109 Exo Suit, which we’re going to give away to one of you out there reading this. Read the full review to find out how!
There have been a lot of great LEGO CUUSOO / LEGO Ideas sets that have come out, but before the Exo Suit they all had one thing in common: they were all based on someone else’s design (intellectual property or IP in licensing jargon). So it was a great to see Pete Reid‘s Exo Suit become the first original idea to be turned into a LEGO Ideas set.
The set comes in a typical small form LEGO Ideas box. I thought the designers did a great job on graphics and background art, which is very reminiscent of the classic space box art.
When you open up the set you’re presented with a fantastic instruction manual and 4 small bags of pieces, which include a total of 321 pieces. While it might not seem like a lot of pieces, the final build is surprisingly large.
The instruction booklet starts off with some info on Pete and Senior Set Designer Mark Stafford on how they collaborated on the set. It’s followed by a great background story that sets up the Exo Suit. I also liked how scattered throughout the instructions are little tid-bits of information about the Exo-Suit or the turtle, which just adds a bit of fun to the whole building.
Originally I had planned to go over the actual build process and point out interesting bits and details on the Exo Suit, but as I was actually building it, I decided not to ruin everyone’s fun — I would rather everyone experience it on their own. I will say that there are definitely some uncommon techniques that you would not find in your typical LEGO set. An example of which is placing a 1×1 round stud in the center of a 2×2 round plate (see picture).
The piece selection in this set is also a bit odd for a typical LEGO offering. There are a lot of ball-joint pieces that makes up the bulk of the frame, and a lot of tiny detailing elements that are attached to it, which makes up the rest of the set. But for a lot of builders this gives a great value: it is a small set with an incredible selection of specialized sci-fi “greeble” pieces.
But really, the stars of the set are the two Classic Space minifigures (with extra air tank) available in green for the first time:
The inclusion of these two figures, plus the low price point, and limited run will likely result in a very high demand set. Which is unfortunate as I would love to be able to buy a massive stockpile of these to get an army of Green Classic Space men, with enough left over pieces to build something really cool.