The list of largest LEGO sets ever produced is dominated by Star Wars and Architecture sets, with the likes of the Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon and the Taj Mahal topping the charts. Now, though, LEGO’s home-brewed Ninjago theme is proving to be a serious contender. Having already brought us two sets over the 2,000 piece mark (the Temple of Airjitzu and Destiny’s Bounty), Ninjago’s latest entry has an incredible 4,867 pieces, skyrocketing 70620 Ninjago City to the third-largest LEGO set ever created.
The primary locale in The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which opens September 22, Ninjago City is an Eastern-inspired cyberpunk city, brimming with action and loaded with hidden details. 70620 Ninjago City will be available to VIP members in the LEGO Shop Online and in LEGO stores Aug. 16 for $299.99 USD, and will be available to everyone Sept. 1.
The Ninjago City set builds on the work of the as-yet-unreleased The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and is a partnership of the film designers and LEGO’s model designers. Several designers were responsible for translating the concept art into brick form, but Christopher Leslie Stamp and Nicolaas Vás took the lead. Nico will be familiar to readers of this site, having graced our pages many times for his personal creations.
Befitting the set’s part count, the box is a massive affair, weighing in at 13.8 lbs. One side panel pictures the 17 named minifigures (the two manikins aren’t shown), while the back shows an exploded view of the city’s three main levels and their play features.
Inside the outer box are a multitude of numbered parts bags, a sealed bag with the instruction manuals and sticker sheets, and two smaller boxes, each large enough to be a standard 1,000-plus-piece set in their own right. The bags are numbered 1-15, and each number has at minimum three bags. Annoyingly, the inner boxes are unmarked, though I discovered one contained the bag numbers 1-5, and the other bag numbers 6, 7, 8, and 10 (but not 9). Consequently, you’ll need to open both boxes and then sort the nearly 50 bags before beginning. In the below photo, the inner boxes aren’t even open yet.
There are three instruction manuals, one for each level of Ninjago City. The covers show a sepia-toned image of the set, with the corresponding segment in full color. In total, they span 533 pages.
Book 1 opens with an extensive introduction to the set and setting, including designer interviews, ala the Ultimate Collector’s Sets. There’s also an interview with the movie director, and a translation guide to Ninjago’s faux script—something fans had long ago worked out, though it’s nice to see it confirmed and the rarely-used letters translated.
Ninjago City is nothing if not well-decorated. Two enormous sticker sheets will plaster every available space with decorative text or ornamentation. It’s no secret I’m not a fan of stickers, and that’s no different here. I’d estimate I spent at least 30 minutes of the build time tediously applying stickers to tile after tile, carefully ensuring each decal is centered and lint- and bubble-free. The comic shop’s sale window decoration is a perfect example of why stickers are always inferior to printing; no matter how scrupulously applied, a sticker will never look as good on a transparent window as printing. Nevertheless, the art here is superb, and many of these decorations are among my favorites LEGO has ever produced. The Godzilla-inspired film poster for Return of the Brick Separator, featuring a monstrous brick separator menacing the city, is absolutely magnificent.
Book 1 is for the Old City, which is the first two stories and the base. Each instruction book opens with an introduction to the level and brief character biographies for the minifigures. The city sits on a dark grey 32×32 baseplate; a remarkably humble footprint for the third-largest LEGO set. Onto the base a layer of plates are applied to give subtle color to the water. A deep black channel runs through the middle of the canal, making extensive use of wedge plates laid angle to angle.
Next up: the water. Two entire bags are dedicated to trans light blue 1×2 tiles, with more sprinkled in other bags. Some steps call for placing more than 70 of the tiles at a time, which isn’t difficult but does require careful attention to match the pattern, which has the tiles interspersed with trans light blue 1×1 plates. All told, you’ll place 219 water tiles.
The finished effect is striking. This technique of plates beneath tiles has long been employed by fans, but has always required too many pieces to find its way into an official set. Here we can also see the basic foundations for the buildings, which occupy an even tinier footprint on this already small baseplate. In the right corner there’s also the base of the prominent front column, cleverly locked into a 45-degree angle.
The cleaning robot Sweep has a small domicile on the ground floor. The new 2×2 half tile elements are put to excellent use, interspersing double-long cheese slopes to make wood siding. There’s also a wood dock made with brown Technic pin connectors, and jumbled stone stairs for the sidewalks.
The bridge over the canal uses minifigure neck brackets as a structural element, another great technique common in fan designs that I can’t recall having observed in an official set before. And of course, the artist’s palette makes a debut in green as lily pads, which is such a perfect use that it’s a wonder it’s never been done before. Also worth noting is the rockwork around the bridge’s foundations, with multiple pieces on a half-stud offset. It’s a tiny detail that could have been easily left out, but its presence is an early herald of the care designers took in this set.
The market stall includes one of the more intriguing techniques in the set: a gently curved awning made of minifigure crowbars. After seeing the initial photos of this set, I had numerous discussions with other fans about how the curve would be created. In a fan model, each crowbar would be carefully positioned individually, relying on steady hands. LEGO designers have found a much more simple solution: the crowbars rest on a length of Technic flex tube, which is made of softer plastic and naturally bows when pressed. A quick run of your finger across the crowbars, and the curve is perfectly set. Brilliant.
Each of the second story rooms is built individually and can be removed separately. They’re no less detailed, however. This room features a sleeping mat, television, and dresser, along with a lovely round window.
At the end of Book 1, the cityscape is beginning to take form. The elevator shaft on the right is firmly in place, and each of the main buildings has two floors.
Pages of concept art are interwoven throughout the instruction manuals, giving insight to early designs of the structures and providing some great color. I sincerely wish all LEGO manuals included this, regardless of theme or set size.
The second and third books build their levels as standalones, with a rigid structure of Technic bricks undergirding the plates.
The crab shack includes what is unquestionably my favorite technique: stuffing 1×1 round tiles inside a 1x2x5 transparent column for a decorative fixture. It can be a little tedious to get the proper right-left-right orientation (the tiles kept wanting to go left-right-left), but this is so far outside what I’ve come to expect from a LEGO set that I’m more than happy to play along.
Next door, the comic book shop also gets some nifty handiwork with a brick-built sign. The sign employs printed 1×1 plates for the i and s, and the result is highly readable, especially considering that this is smaller than most other designs for brick-built lettering.
Up on the top level, vehicle doors make a sweeping roof, held firmly in place by headlight bricks. Thankfully, two segments employ this technique, meaning each door comes in a matched set of left/right.
A number of new parts find their way into this set. We already covered the 2×2 half tile plates in the Destiny’s Bounty review, and you’ll get 22 in brown and four in black in this set. In no particular order, we’ll cover some of the other most interesting elements.
This 1×1 white plate is used for the comic book shop’s lettering. Although only three are visible in the finished design, all of the plates in that step are printed. My first thought on seeing them is that they’d make perfect large-scale character eyes, and it would be quite easy to substitute all but the three visible plates for standard 1×1 plates if you intend to display Ninjago City but still want these parts. The set includes 11, plus an extra.
We encountered these new 1x1x2 bricks with side studs in our Temple of the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon review last month, but here they’re in brown for the first time, with a total of seven included.
New double-long jumper tiles. These will be tremendously useful in a variety of applications, and they allow half-stud offsets on the bottom, following the recent redesign of the jumper tile. Four are included.
The new fence element looks fantastic. The horizontal bar can be grasped by any clip, and the pattern matches when two fences are placed next to each other. The outer dimensions of the fence match that of the previous columned fences. 28 black fences are included in Ninjago City. [Particularly eagle-eyed readers may spy a lone old style fence in the set, which I subbed in when I temporarily misplaced one of these new ones during construction.]
This new element may be my favorite. I’m calling it an espresso filter, since it’s a perfect minifigure-scale barista tool, but on a more pragmatic level it’s a 1×1 round plate with a horizontal bar. My only complaint is that the hollow stud isn’t completely open. Our friends at New Elementary have a great write-up of this element, of which Ninjago City employs seven, plus a spare.
A new six-brick tall macaroni piece (aka one-quarter of a 4×4 circle) made its debut in Elves sets earlier this year, but will likely be unfamiliar to many builders. Eight are used in sand green for the top spire.
Finally, while microfigures are not new elements, they are highly sought after. Ninjago City features seven colors of unprinted microfigures, and a spare is included for each color, giving a small army’s worth at 14 total.
Now that we’ve built the entire structure from the ground up, let’s start at the top and work our way down to the old city looking at the finished set.
Ninjago City is quite a high-rise, topping two feet to the tip of the antenna. Full of vibrant color and action, it looks the part of a bustling metropolis, reminding me of my visit to Hong Kong. Despite the rainbow of hues, the various structures form a cohesive and pleasing sum. While the structure is divided into three main levels, Ninjago City really includes five distinct stories with individual rooms that can be accessed and removed, plus the two levels of the sand green tower.While the back is definitely more subdued than the racous front streets, it still evokes its urban inspiration and has plenty of detail. The elevator on the right side spans all three levels, and is manually raised and lowered, relying on friction to hold it in place.
The rooftop sushi restaurant has a bar and three tables for patrons, along with a station for the sushi chef. The sushi is on a conveyor belt, and turning the center light makes the belt move. The belt uses no LEGO track or conveyor belt elements, but is made of 1×2 Technic beams arranged in a chain. The conveyor belt occasionally hits a snag, but is probably the best solution short of a new element.
Both the puffer fish and the squid are genius designs, though for precisely opposite reasons. The pufferfish is a magnificently complex sphere of precisely arranged 2×2 radar dishes, while the squid is an astonishingly elegant and simple design.
The central tower includes a small washroom in the lower level with one of the city’s many sliding rice-paper doors. The washroom level is also removable, revealing a small cubby for the crab cook Severin Black’s disguise for when he’s moonlighting as the sushi chef. Presumably, this will make more sense once I’ve seen The LEGO Ninjago Movie.
Next door is Lloyd’s house, which has a pair of bunk beds, with the top one removable for access. Despite the tiny-home proportions, it’s packed with detail, including a nifty bit of design to attach all the stacked books in the shelves made of empty window frames. There’s also a portrait on the wall in each bunk, made of a stickered tan window pane. This is only the third non-transparent color for the window pane, following white and dark blue.
Every building in Ninjago City is accessible to minifigures, though some require more agility than others. Lloyd’s home can be accessed by a metal grate walkway and a ladder.
The top level is removed independently from Lloyd’s home, which is a small standalone structure resting atop the second level. The second level is split into two stories, which can be removed separately.
Below the sushi restaurant is a fancy shop selling clothes, smartphones, and other goods. Look closely, and space fans might spy a familiar sign.
The shop also has two manikins in the windows modeling clothing. Next door to the shop is the overgrown construction area beneath Lloyd’s house. A beautiful bonsai tree is growing of the window.
The roots of the tree are inside the abandoned building, which is the only room not accessible by a platform.
Out back, a tree root has even found its way down through the drainpipes.
Removing the upper story of the second level gives access to the comic shop and crab shack.
This level, which is the street level, has a full walkway around the stuctures, ringed with a fence covered in signage advertising various cyberpunk businesses, many using the Ninjago text. The crab shack features a large crab over the door greeting patrons.
On the left side, the elevator tower serves as a movie poster board. In a nod to what was perhaps LEGO’s most ill-fated theme, the graphic designers have included a poster for a Galidor film. The sign on the right side of the column can be pushed to reveal three more movie posters, allowing them to be swapped out.
The crab shack has a small counter and a few stools, along with with a kitchen stocked with trays of bananas (both yellow and gold) and various heavy duty tools for cracking crabs. Air conditioning units sit above each side window; in fact, most of the buildings in Ninjago City have great little details like A/C units.
The main play feature here is the large crab grill. Insert an orange, raw crab, close the lid and give the handle outside a spin. When you open the grill back up, a tan cooked crab will now be in its place. It’s quite a nifty mechanism, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t turn up again in a future set.
Next door, there’s an ATM sandwiched between the crab shack and the comic book store. Pushing a lever on the building’s back ejects a $100 bill, no PIN required. Of course, you can also yank the ATM off its footing to get to the fat stacks of cash inside the machine (or to refill the machine, if you’re the lawful-good type). The set includes 15 $100 bill tiles.
The comic shop come apart in two sections. The top three-brick tall segment, which includes the front lettering, can be removed to allow better access to the shop’s tiny floor. Just like a real comic shop, though, the top shelves are stuffed with trinkets. There’s also my favorite LEGO poster of all time, which fans will recognize from The LEGO Movie.
I’m reasonably sure I’ve been in real life comic shops with less room to maneuver than this one affords, but nonetheless it’s a tight squeeze between the stacks of comics and the shelves of action figures. Mother Doomsday, the proprietor, is also a Galidor fan, and sports a shirt bearing the logo.
The comics are all references to other LEGO properties, from Fabuland to Adventurers.
In back is a rack of scifi magazines, one of the few uniquely printed elements in this set. Four are included.
Removing this layer brings us down to the old city, with only the bottom two stories remaining. The elevator shaft has no more removable segments, while each of the other two structures can be removed independently.
The middle building has a small tea room, outfitted with a table, mat, and potted plant made of Sabine Wren’s hairpiece in bright green. The room next door was pictured during the construction phase, so I won’t cover it again here.
Finally, the bottom two rooms, which are the market stall and the robot’s storage closet. Both rooms are uncharacteristically sparse, with no details inside apart from the stall’s racks of seafood and the robot’s lone poster.
There is a small boat included, and it’s a solid build, but not particularly noteworthy.
According to LEGO, Ninjago City includes 16 minifigures, or 17 if you count Sweep the robot. However, the two manikins are full minifigures with unprinted yellow heads, so I’d say they count, for a total of 19 minifigures. That’s almost as many as the entire Collectible Minifigures line. The figures are not as detailed as those in the CMF line, but they are quite nice anyway.
Below, from left, are Sweep, Misako, Kai, Jamanakai Villager, and Ivy Walker.
From left: Manikin #1, Manikin #2, Severin Black, Green Ninja Suit, and Lloyd Garmadon.
From left: Jay, Juno, Konrad, Sally, and Mother Doomsday.
From left: Shark Army Gunner, Guy, Tommy, and Officer Noonan.
Conclusion and recommendation
70620 Ninjago City is huge. Really huge. To see just how big it is, I put it next to 10255 Assembly Square, LEGO’s largest modular, which has 4,002 pieces. Ninjago City has connections on both back edges for attaching it to the modular buildings, so it fits rather well. Perhaps a few small tweaks might be in order to make the transition a little more smooth, but the bigger issue is that Ninjago City positively dwarfs the modulars. Assembly Square is a massive set, yet it looks rather small next to Ninjago City.
The standard line of modulars has always impressed me with its advanced construction, but the nostalgic, placid city theme has never interested me. However, Ninjago City is precisely what I’ve always wanted: it’s a cyberpunk modular. This gorgeous structure is rich in details, loaded with fun play features, and tremendously rewarding to build. No matter your expertise level, you’re sure to learn a few new techniques while building Ninjago City. And even if you’re just eyeing all the new parts, at $299, Ninjago City is a mere $0.06 per piece, or about 40 percent less than the average price-per-piece across LEGO sets.
Ninjago City is absolutely a must-buy for any LEGO fan, even if the Ninjago theme has never interested you before—after all, only two of the 19 minifigures are ninjas. I brought this set to a recent gathering of LEGO fans, and we spent the better part of the afternoon poring over all its details, and everyone loved some aspect of Ninjago City, whether it was the finished set, the techniques, or simply the parts.
70620 Ninjago City is available Aug. 16 to LEGO VIP members in LEGO stores and on the LEGO Shop Online, and will be available to everyone Sept. 1. It retails for $299.99 USD.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.