Our friend, Tommy Williamson has started a new blog, The Brick Nerd, as many of you are aware. He has recently began posting videos where he does set reviews, talks about recent LEGO-related news and highlights various creations. In his second episode, he covers San Diego Comic Con, reviews the Cuusoo Delorean and more!
Update (August 1): LEGO CUUSOO DeLorean Time Machine is now available!
The LEGO Back to the Future DeLorean set, the 4th set to be released as the result of a LEGO CUUSOO project, is being officially unveiled this evening in San Diego at Comic-Con. LEGO sent us an advance copy, and I’m pleased to bring you a full photo review. EDIT TG: You can now buy the set: LEGO 21103 The DeLorean Time Machine Building Set.
First, the details: 21103 LEGO Back to the Future DeLorean goes on sale tomorrow morning (July 17, 2013 in the US) for $34.99. The set includes two minifigs — Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown — and 401 LEGO pieces.
UPDATE: The set is apparently only available at San Diego Comic-Con today (July 17), and it will be on sale globally on August 1st.
First impressions & the finished model
Normally I’d talk about things like the build and parts selection before rendering judgment about the completed set, but let’s just get this out of the way, since there’s already been a lot of discussion about what the set looks like. The official set is, of course, based on a LEGO CUUSOO design by Japanese LEGO fans Masashi Togami, who built the DeLorean, and Sakuretsu, who created the custom minifigs.
The official set was designed by Steen Sig Andersen, a 30-year veteran of LEGO set design. (As a side note, I think it’s important to remember that official LEGO sets are designed by people much like hobbyist builders, who care just as much about the final design as we do and who are no less affected by criticism, but who have to work under far more constraints. Nevertheless, my job here is to review the end result of the process, not speculate on how my critique is going to affect Mr. Andersen’s feelings.)
Like many of you who commented here and elsewhere, my first impression when I saw the box art was not entirely positive. Frankly, I’m not sure why the final, official set looks the way that it does. My first impression when I saw the set was, let’s be honest, confusion. The hood has been re-sculpted using stepped tiles rather than the single large slope in Masashi’s original (a frequent and logical solution, as Larry Lars demonstrated in the version that Ralph highlighted last week). The roof is four studs wide rather than six studs, with the windshield frame angling inward to give the whole cab a pinched look.
There’s been speculation that this design change from Masashi’s original model might have been because of part availability in LEGO’s current production cycle. But Light Bluish Gray Slope 10 6 x 8 is indeed currently in production, in at least two 2013 LEGO sets. Short of the one functional reason (read on…), I’m still not sure why stepped tiles were necessary to achieve the final design in the set.
But in person, in less-dramatic light than the angle in the box art, it’s not nearly as bad. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, and I don’t think the box designer (or photographer) did this set any favors by giving the steps on the hood such deep shadows. Similarly, the set designer could certainly have angled the windshield frame pieces much wider. I’ve done so in a number of the photos, and I think this subtle change alone makes the set look much better.
The rest of the DeLorean includes all the key details and play features you’d expect — from opening gull-wing doors and the big black exhaust vents to wheels that turn down for flight.
Another problem with the final roof design is that it limits headroom inside due to the gull-wing doors coming in closer to the center of the car. As a result, you can only fit one minifig inside, in the driver’s seat. There’s enough floor room (six studs) there for two, but the 4-wide roof prevents both Marty and Doc from riding in the DeLorean together. Since the DeLorean is a time machine, Doc is not particularly happy about being left behind.
If you can get past the hood and cab — granted, the very first things you see in any three-quarters “hero shot” on box art — this really isn’t a bad DeLorean. But it could be better, much better, as other LEGO fans (including Masashi) have demonstrated. And that’s more than a little disappointing.
Packaging, instructions, and the build process
Like LEGO Architecture sets and previous LEGO CUUSOO sets, the DeLorean comes in a solid box suitable for storage.
Similarly, the instruction booklet (printed in English and French) is perfect-bound rather than stapled, and includes background info on the movie, profiles of the CUUSOO project initiators, the LEGO set designer, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Throughout the instructions, there are little notes about the model or the source material.
As someone who grew up in Japan and is bilingual, one thing that bothered me was that the writer referred to Masashi Togami as “Togami” several times (meanwhile, “Sakuretsu” is a screen name). Given that the writer wrote “Steen” for Steen Sig Andersen, I believe the writer’s intent was to use Masashi’s given name as I’m doing, and that the writer assumed incorrectly that “Masashi Togami” followed name order used in Japan (surname, given name). A minor linguistic quibble, but a reminder that a quick read by someone familiar with the other culture or language is always a good idea in cross-cultural communications…
The set comes in five unnumbered poly bags, and with 401 parts, I just dumped them all in the box. (Poly bags are boring, and I’m not sure why other reviewers feel the need to photograph them. I won’t bore you with those photos myself.)
In several respects, the model comes together like one designed by a fan, and not an official set. For a set that did indeed originate as a fan design, that’s a good thing. Though SNOT is no longer unusual in LEGO sets, there are enough single-stud connections, half-stud offsets, and hinge-based connections that it felt like I was building something designed by Daniel Siskind, Tyler Clites, or Christopher White — all of whose custom designs I’ve had the pleasure of building for myself (there’s value for even experienced builders in trying out someone else’s designs from time to time).
The DeLorean on the box art comes together after 93 pages and 63 steps. But there are still 12 more pages of instructions, and I still had about 50 pieces rattling around in the box. The remainder of the instructions and parts enable you to convert the DeLorean into the versions of the car seen in Back to the Future II and Back to the Future III.
The conversion to the BTTF2 DeLorean just adds a Mr. Fusion and swaps out the 1985 license plate for a 2015 license plate, plus four clear bricks to “float” the car off the ground.
To convert the base DeLorean into the version seen in BTTF3, you swap out red wheels for the gray wheels in the tires on the original. Why LEGO didn’t just include 4 more tires I don’t know.
You also build a greebly panel to put on the hood, which (finally) explains the stepped tiles rather than a single smooth slope for the hood.
I still think the same effect could have been achieved (somehow — I’m not the designer with 30 years of professional experience) with the 6×8 slope in Masashi’s original design, but at least this answers the “Why?!” that so many of you out there have expressed.
The highlight of this set is the pair of completely unique minifigs. Marty McFly wears his puffy vest (mistaken for a life jacket in the first movie), and Doc Brown wears a nuclear hazmat suit.
Both the minifig torsos and their heads are printed on two sides — “happy” and “scared”/”angry”.
The minifig parts appear to be of the quality you’d expect in a standard set, not the cheaper-feeling minifig elements you get with some Collectible Minifigures (which you can distinguish by the mold imprint on the inside of the left arm).
To answer a question I’ve seen elsewhere, no, there aren’t additional minifigs in the set to reflect the characters’ outfits in the second and third movies.
Although this probably isn’t a set I’d recommend for a draft, there are definitely some rather special parts in this set that you absolutely won’t be getting anywhere else. In a revelation that I think will truly shock many of you, every one of the unique decorated parts in this set is properly printed rather than a decal. Here’s a shot of the back of the box that shows all of them.
The Flux Capacitor, white California 1985 license plate, orange California 2015 license plate, and time readout on the dashboard are all printed! Combined with the minifigs, if that’s not motivation to buy this set and rebuild it to your own liking, I don’t know what is.
Though less-exciting, and I’m not 100% sure, I think the purple skateboard is also new. That was actually another opportunity for printing, and it would’ve been cool to see LEGO’s official take on the hoverboard. Still, new parts in less-common colors like purple are always welcome.
Based on early photos and the part count, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this set sold at $40-50 MSRP. A licensed product, 401 pieces, two minifigs, and collectible-quality packaging all add up to at least $40. The final MSRP turns out to be $34.99. The LEGO Minecraft set sold for $34.99, so I suppose the same price for the next CUUSOO set isn’t such a surprise after all.
I generally don’t address collectibility or the secondary market in my reviews, but that seems unavoidable here. LEGO couldn’t keep the Minecraft set in stock for more than a few hours during its first year, and the $35 set is still going for $50 and up on the secondary market even though you can buy it for $35 from LEGO again. At times when LEGO didn’t have any in stock, it wasn’t unusual to see the $35 set sold for $100 or more (likely driven by the possibility that it was “out of print”).
Strictly on price-per-part and probable collectibility, this set is a bargain.
This is ultimately, inevitably, and somewhat unfortunately, a mixed review. If you’re both a LEGO fan and a hardcore Back to the Future fan, buy this set. If you want to use the unique printed parts and the base design to make a better DeLorean, by all means do so (the key slope piece starts at about 35 cents on BrickLink, if you don’t already have one).
At $34.99, the set is also a good value, both for the number of parts and the likely scarcity of the printed pieces. I hate to fuel speculation or the secondary market in general, but I can’t imagine that this set will be any less collectible than other licensed LEGO sets, and as a one-off, potentially even more so. Buy one to build (or rebuild), and buy a second to sell to a collector in three years at a 400% profit, thus enabling you to buy more LEGO to build with. Just don’t be a jackass and hoard 30 of them in your basement.
I’ve written the word “buy” quite a lot in the previous two paragraphs. But that doesn’t change the fact that this set could have been much, much better. Changes to the hood and roof design are both baffling, and severely detract from the “shelf appeal” of the set, without really adding anything in terms of sturdiness or playability (normal compromises I’d expect).
Overall, yes, I can recommend this set with a clear conscience. But you deserve to know exactly what you’re getting. And what you’re getting isn’t perfect.
Chrome Block City is a Bricklink store that specializes in selling a large selection of custom chromed Lego elements. This is our first time reviewing their products, which the owner has sent to me for sale in the Creations for Charity fundraiser later this year. Below is a video of the review along with a summary of pros and cons.
- Large selection of parts and colors.
- Very limited quantities on most items, making them exclusive to the few owners.
- Same clutch strength when used with regular Lego elements.
- High quality of chrome paint on most items.
- Chrome parts are expensive due to their quality and cost of production.
- Some parts with bar shapes have minor exposed areas that are not chromed. Contact the seller before buying if this is a concern to you.
- Underlying printed patterns on the original elements may be visible. This can be cool if the pattern is appropriate but may be distracting if the pattern is out of context.
Overall, Chrome Block City’s large selection of chromed elements means there’s a good chance you’ll find something that appeals to you in an interesting shade of chrome. Many of their items are one-of-a-kind, which means you can take pride in being the owner of an exclusive chrome Lego piece. Despite the high quality of most elements, a few will have imperfections as mentioned above and in the video, but they are not significant enough to be recognized without a close inspection.
ChromeBricks is a longstanding Bricklink store that sells custom chromed Lego elements. I reviewed a sample of their products several years ago, and I recently received some of their new items for a review. Below is a video of the review along with a summary of pros and cons.
- Flawless quality of chrome paint. I love the deep shade of chrome red.
- Same clutch strength when used with regular Lego elements.
- Two-toned chrome weapons are unique and awesome.
- Underlying color of Lego element has similar color to chrome paint.
- Chrome parts are expensive due to their quality and cost of production.
- Connections between minifigure parts and accessories are tight, requiring effort to swap.
In conclusion, ChromeBricks offers top quality chrome elements for those with a budget for them. Their crimson red chrome is eye-catching and their unique two-toned weapons are outstanding. The tight connections between their chromed minifigure parts might diminish the play value, but I suspect most buyers will not subject them to heavy use.
The summer wave of sets is here, and LEGO has focused its Tolkien license back onto the Lord of the Rings trilogy, while we wait on the new Hobbit movies. The Council of Elrond is the medium sized set in this wave at $29.99 USD, with 243 pieces.
I find it interesting that LEGO chose to capture this moment from the series in playset form, because although the Council of Elrond is of paramount importance in the ultimate narrative, it’s basically a glorified committee meeting. Not exactly the stuff of Saturday morning cartoon action on which LEGO playsets generally focus. Nevertheless, LEGO has managed to fit in some play features here. The boxes for this summer wave have been redesigned from last year’s Lord of the Rings sets, and I love the new look. The right end of the boxes features a orange-tinted map of Middle Earth, which extends onto the closed flaps. This gives the boxes quite a striking look on the shelf.
Now down to the set itself. Opening the box will dump out two numbered bags, the instruction manual, and that ever-present sheet of stickers. Fortunately my sheet wasn’t crumpled, but I’ll say yet again that LEGO needs to be putting sticker sheets in some sort of protective material. The stickers are for the 3 chair backs, and the Eye of Sauron. The Council of Elrond builds two small structures from Rivendell, the home of Elf-lord Elrond, and his daughter Arwen. The first bag builds the council room, which in the nature of the elves, is more of a patio than a room, being open to the air and shaded by a tree. It includes 3 chairs around a central plinth, where the One Ring resides during the council. The only action feature in the set is also built here. It’s a minifig flinger located in the floor next to the plinth. It’s used to recreate the scene from the film where Gimli brashly gives the One Ring a good whack with his axe, and is sent sprawling backwards. If you’ve watched The Fellowship of the Ring recently, you may also recall that the screen flashes to the Eye of Sauron for a split-second as Gimli hits the ring. In the floor when the fig-flinger lifts up, there’s a red slope that’s stickered with the Eye of Sauron, so you can briefly glimpse it before the floor shuts again. It’s more than a little corny, but also an amusing interpretation of the film into a playset. I tried it, and it actually flings Gimli quite effectively.
The second bag builds the remainder of the set, which is a small segment of a roofed structure. It contains a removable weapon rack for holding Arwen’s bow and Elrond’s spear. This part looks really lovely, using a mixture of white, dark tan, and light grey. It includes another tree, and this segment clips into the adjoining council room segment with two Technic pins. This building also features the first ever appearance of the new Gothic half-arches, which are a long yearned-for piece for Castle builders everywhere. Sadly, this new piece follows suit with the newer design of the full arches, and uses thin walls that disallow studs being placed on the underside, a common fan technique. Other interesting pieces in this set include the first appearance of dark orange large leaves, which in combination with the recently released dark red leaves puts fans well on their way to making an autumnal forest. There are also olive green small leaves here, which aren’t new, but are still hard to find. All told, there are 4 white half-arches, 3 dark orange large leaves, and 5 olive green small leaves. Personally, I’ll be buying this set in droves, just for the leaves and arches.
There are 4 minifigs in this set: Elrond, Arwen, Gimli, and Frodo. This seems a very logical selection of minifigs. Elrond must be present–it is the Council of Elrond, after all. And Frodo has to bring the ring. And Gimli’s got to go flying to give the discussions some play value. Arwen might be the odd character out, but given her limited role in the series, this is probably about the most logical place for her to show up, short of a Black Rider chase set or the Coronation of Aragorn. The figs are all high quality with front and back printing. Gimli and Frodo are identical to those found in previous sets, so I’ll skip over them. Arwen is a fantastic addition to the female medieval population, and her dress is generic enough to pass for any lady in a Castle setting. Both Arwen and Elrond have rubbery hair, with painted ears. Elrond has a meticulously detailed gold printing, and a terrific double-sided cape. The outside of the cap is dark red, with a painted tan inside. I don’t even remember the last time a set included a two-sided cape, though I know it’s been done before.
All in all, this a good set for fans, or parts collectors. I can’t imagine that there’s a lot here to be excited about for kids who aren’t major fans of the movie, since the structure isn’t even defensible. Still, each of the weapons in the set (except Gimli’s axe) have an extra included, so it’s not a bad weapons pack, plus there are 2 extras of the 1 Ring (good thing Sauron didn’t have backups). It seems like a big opportunity missed not to include a statue with Narsil and maybe a shield inside the building, though. Still, I expect most of the lovers of this set will be people like me looking for those new arches and leaves.
There wasn’t anything I wanted to compare and contrast, nor do I want to reveal any secrets by posting a breakdown photo, so I’m using Dan Siskind’s own photos, which are excellent and accurate.
The M113 armored personnel carrier has been in service for more than 50 years, serving through the Vietnam War and Gulf War before being phased out in frontline US service by the Bradley. Alongside the Huey, the M113 is one of the more iconic vehicles of the Vietnam era.
To be honest, I’m more than a little conflicted about the rise of Vietnam-era LEGO models in recent years. I’m probably better-informed about the Vietnam War than I am even about World War II — I’ve read Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History, Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie, Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War, and more. Sure, I’ve watched all the usual movies about the war and its aftermath, but it’s been documentaries like National Geographic’s Inside the Vietnam War that have brought home the true horror and complexity of a war that still feels unresolved.
Nevertheless, Dan Siskind was kind enough to send along a copy of his M113 ACAV together with the World War II kits I reviewed previously, suggesting that it might be interesting to review something more modern. I agree, and I can certainly appreciate an excellent LEGO model even if — maybe especially if — the subject matter isn’t one I’d normally choose to recreate in LEGO myself.
Like all of the Brickmania kits I’ve reviewed so far, the M113 is full of functionality. All the hatches open, and the rear door even has a smaller hatch built into it that opens separately. Inside, there’s room enough to seat 10 minifigs.
Brickmania sells two versions of the M113 — a basic M113 APC and a “limited edition” ACAV (armored cavalry) version that I’m reviewing today. To my taste, the basic APC kit reminds me a bit of a plain square box — which, to be fair, accurately reflects the source material. So I was glad Dan sent the ACAV version. (By the way, the “plain” M113 APC is discounted on Brickmania.com as of May 14 by $15, down to $130.)
In addition to the base APC, the ACAV version of Dan’s kit has additional features and accessories, including a pair of BrickArms M60 machine guns, Browning M2 .50-caliber machine gun, lots of brick-built armor for the guns, and four unique minifigs. The ACAV version costs $255.00, or $110 more than the non-sale price of the “plain” version. As a point of comparison, custom minifigs alone usually cost about $20 each, and the more-expensive kit includes four of them.
The minifigs are notable for a couple of reasons. First, they’re all wearing custom flak jackets created by MMCB Capes, and two of the figs sport BrickArms M1 pot helmets custom-printed in camouflage by Citizen Brick. Second, one of the minifigs is African-American.
The actual kit doesn’t come with these two BrickArms guns, but this photo of the prototype Brickmania M113 is good for illustration purposes.
Thanks to racist recruiting practices, even by the time segregation of the United States military ended shortly after World War II, African-Americans were severely under-represented in the armed forces. But by the Vietnam War, African-Americans — who made up 11% of the US population at the time — constituted nearly 13% of those who served during the war (racism having taken a different turn in the intervening 20 years). It often baffles me that LEGO military builders fail to reflect the true diversity of American service personnel, so Dan’s choice to include an African-American soldier in his M113 kit is notable for its inclusivity.
Setting aside geopolitics and socioeconomics and getting back to the build, though, Dan’s design includes some subtle or surprising techniques for such a boxy shape at the end. Like the M2A4 Light Tank I reviewed a couple weeks ago, the suspension incorporates half-stud-offset techniques to get the road wheels’ spacing right. There are even a couple of brick-stressing combinations that you wouldn’t see in an official LEGO set. For example, a section built from angled plates on the APC’s front pressed the first row of sloped bricks up until I built the final row of slopes on top. But in the end, the model is very sturdy and playable.
One very minor complaint is that I had to pull a couple of random bricks from my own collection in order to elevate the driver minifig up through the front hatch. (You can see the driver’s station on the floor of the APC in the photo on the right, behind the levers.)
If you had no LEGO bricks at all yourself before getting this custom kit, you might be frustrated by the inability to make the driver appear as he does on the box, but for anybody with a spare 2×3 brick, this is no big deal. Still, I thought it was a little odd that the separate packet of ACAV extras didn’t include a brick or two to build a seat for the driver (who isn’t included in the “plain” APC version).
Overall, this was another Brickmania kit that provides an excellent balance of scale, detail, functionality, and sturdiness. Even though the source material isn’t from a historical era in which I’ll be doing much building myself anytime soon, I can heartily recommend the custom kit itself. And besides, every minifig militia needs an APC or two in its motor pool for the next inevitable zombie apocalypse.
Here is my summary of the highlights of the set, which are elaborated in the review videos of the parts and the model.
- The crawling legs are an awesome play feature.
- The catapult is well-designed and fun to launch.
- New parts include the transparent pink pods, insect spawns, olive 1×2 curved slopes, and new/hard-to-find lime green and dark red parts.
- Sleek speeder design.
- Only 3 minifigs included and none are unique to the set.
- Colors look jumbled on the insect, I’m not a fan of the design of the middle section.
Overall, the Hive Crawler is a surprisingly fun set to play with despite not having the best looks. It is also a great parts pack for sci-fi builders with a satisfying array of new elements. Similar to other Galaxy Squad sets, it falls short in the number of minifigs included although it is the cheapest set to get the new 4-eyed alien commander. It is not a bad buy at $60, especially if you want to start building with the new parts right away or can’t wait to have a crawling menace to combat the space marines.
After reviewing the Brickmania M4 Sherman and WC54 Ambulance custom LEGO kits last week, I’m going in a bit of a different direction by reviewing something I haven’t managed to build myself — the M2A4 Light Tank in United States Marine Corps livery.
For comparison, here’s Dan Siskind’s M2A4 Light Tank next to the M4 Sherman I reviewed last week, with a Citizen Brick Marine for scale:
The M2 Light Tank was produced in limited numbers in the years leading up to World War II — only 375 left the assembly line — and they only saw combat on Guadalcanal, with the US Marines. Nevertheless, the tank was an important evolutionary step along the way to the subsequent M3 “Stuart” (photo below) and M5 light tanks. (The M2 Light Tank never entered British/Commonwealth service during WW2, and thus didn’t get a nickname like the Stuart, Lee, Sherman, Chaffee, and so on. It was only later that the US military formally adopted the British convention for naming US tanks after American generals.)
For me, though, I love the M2/M3/M5 tanks because they’re so small. Modern main battle tanks like the M1 Abrams or Challenger 2 are like battleships on land, with low profiles that give them a distinctly sinister look. We drove past Fort Lewis on our way from Seattle to Portland recently, and I pointed out an M2/M3/M5 sitting on a plinth near the highway to my wife. “Oh, what a tiny tank! It’s adorable!” she exclaimed.
My sentiments exactly. Yes, the M2 and its immediate descendants were machines of death and destruction no less so than a Merkava or Leopard, but they are just a teensy bit more twee. (The adorably tiny light tank has also influenced popular culture, in games like Advance Wars and movies like Tank Girl.)
So, the M2 Light Tank would seem like a perfect fit with LEGO. I tried building an M3 Stuart a couple years ago, but I failed miserably (though I still have my tablescraps in a little plastic bag). Thankfully, Dan Siskind has managed to fit nearly every detail of the M2 into his custom LEGO kit, at a scale that fits neatly on my 1/35th schematics for the M2 Light Tank in World War II AFV Plans: American Armored Fighting Vehicles. (Still slightly too tall, but I give LEGO tanks a pass for that at this point.)
The Brickmania M2 Light Tank includes a rotating turret with a gun that can move up and down, proper bogies and road wheels, a BrickArms M1919 machine gun, nicely angled glacis armor plating at the front, and even rear engine doors that open and close.
The single-chain tracks work very well for a smaller tank like this, and enable Dan to keep the tank’s height manageable without losing too much detail. The suspension is interesting because Dan has built the first layer of the tank’s body using 1x plates rather than a larger plate, allowing him to attach 2×2 plates with Technic pin holes to the underside using their hollow studs. This creates a half-stud offset that gives the road wheels the correct spacing — definitely something I would never have thought to do.
The angled antenna gives the tank a jaunty look, and deserves a brief discussion on its own. Internally, Dan achieves the angled antenna by inserting a clip/claw into a 1×2 brick with a Technic pin (and then clipping on a telescope for the antenna to attach to). The clip inside the 1×2 brick’s Technic pin is, of course, an “illegal” connection. Apparently, there are actually two different molds for the 1×2 brick element — one with a fairly open Technic pin, and another with much thicker walls on the pin, preventing you from fitting anything inside the pin. Because BrickLink doesn’t distinguish between these two very different parts and Dan sources all the parts for his kits on the secondary market (like all adult builders and purveyors of custom kits), my kit happened to include a brick that wouldn’t accept the clip piece.
I contacted Dan about my problem, we identified the cause, and he promptly shipped out a “service pack” with the correct part. I bring up this minor issue in my review for two reasons. First, I just think it’s really interesting what kinds of challenges a custom kit maker has in assembling their kits in quantity. Second, I was impressed by Dan’s customer service. And it’s not just because he knew I was reviewing his kits for TBB — it’s something I experienced years back when I picked up a couple older kits to review (though my actual review was extremely brief), and when I’ve bought smaller items through his store over the years. Like Will Chapman of BrickArms, Dan is just a plain good guy, and it’s clear that that comes through in his interactions with fellow builders and with customers.
At 473 LEGO elements, this is a surprisingly substantial set for such a small tank — the completed model has a nice heft to it worthy of the name “tank.” It’s also sturdy enough for play, and fits nicely in my hand compared to larger models. If tanks could be swooshed, the Brickmania M2A4 is definitely swooshable. (What’s the non-flying equivalent of “swooshable”? “Zoomable?”) At $150, the price is comparable to other custom kits on the market.
Overall, Dan’s M2A4 may just be my favorite Brickmania kit yet. Going small can be substantially harder than going big, and Dan has pulled it off wonderfully. Ultimately, though, my positive experience with the Brickmania M2A4 Light Tank was influenced as much by great problem-solving and customer service as by the excellent design of the model itself.
This is the biggest set in the line of licensed sets from Man of Steel, the new Superman movie due out in June.
The 418-piece set features a military jeep with missile launchers and the “Black Zero” drop ship, a Kryptonian fighter ship. There a 5 minifigs included: Superman, Colonel Hardy, General Zod, Faora and Tor-An. At that price point, the set is fairly reasonable, given the part count.
The set comes with 5 polybags of parts, 2 instruction books, stickers and a comic. The first part of the build is the military jeep. It’s simple but nicely designed, employing clever SNOT (Studs Not On Top) techniques. The jeep comes equipped with a pair of flick-fire missiles for its play action. Flick fires are never that interesting in my opinion. The first set of figures are Superman, sporting torso and leg prints based on the movie, and Colonel Hardy, who sports a military-style torso print that might be of interest to military enthusiasts.
The second part of the build is the Black Zero Drop Ship, not to be confused with the Black Zero, which is a gigantic ship in the movie. The minfigures here are particularly noteworthy as they contain a number of new molds. Zod and Faora each have their own styles of body armor, as well as new helmet pieces. Faora appears to have a new hair mold as well. And finally, there is a new blaster weapon.
One particularly noteworthy element is the dark grey bubble canopy. While it is not a new element, the color is new, and should lend itself to some creative uses. Building the dropship is straightforward enough; it only took about 15 minutes to do it. The finished ship is definitely swooshable, and it comes with two spring-loaded missile launchers for its play action. While I’m sure the set was designed to reflect the movie’s look, the end result is largely colorless – it’s mostly dark grey with a few tiny green accents. I somehow get the sense that the designer’s hands are tied on this one, given the source material.
The set is a fair value. If you are a fan of the movie, or a fan of Superman, then you would probably appreciate the set. The set is not a standout in terms of the color design. The predominantly grey palette is a little dull. But my kids, as I suspect with most kids, don’t care about design details. They’ve been playing with the set non-stop ever since we finished building it.
Here is my summary of the highlights of the set, which are elaborated in the review video below.
- Includes lots of tan and dark tan bricks and slopes useful for landscape builders.
- Notable unique and rare elements include dark tan BURPs, boulder, transparent clear 1×4 tiles, transparent green bottle, and a cattle skull.
- A surprisingly large number of play features (see video below)
- All 5 minifigs are unique to the set.
- Model has a non-rectangular footprint and thus has a more natural look.
- Price is a bit steep, but it could be worse.
- Hardly any new part molds besides the cattle skull.
- Standard building techniques with exception of the mine cart.
Overall the Silver Mine Shootout is a decent set worthy of addition to your collection. There’s hardly any sets out there with so many desert landscape elements, but even if you’re not ready to cannibalize the set for parts yet, there’s still display value in its natural appearance and fun to be had in all the play features. Buying this set at retail price is an ok deal, but finding it at a discount would be really worth it.
79110 Silver Mine Shootout is out on Amazon.com and the LEGO Shop online.