One of the beloved classics from LEGO is the Pirates theme. It first saw its debut in 1989 and made waves through the mid-90s capturing the imagination of young ones all over the planet. These days, fans who grew up during the early days of LEGO’s early success pine for a return of the three golden classic themes: Space, Castle, and Pirates. LEGO is well aware of this and instead of an outright re-issue, the inspiration never died, but only revived and modernised to steal the hearts and minds of the newer generation today. One such example is the latest Ideas set, 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay. Now, I believe there’s a good chance the LEGO Creator Pirate Ship will be remembered decades later repeating the very same cycle of nostalgia, albeit in its own special and unique way. The LEGO Creator 3-in-1 31109 Pirate Ship has 1,264 pieces and comes with four minifigures. The set is slated for a June 1 release, but the final price has yet to be revealed, but we will update this review as soon as we can confirm it. Let’s up anchor and set sail for a journey of discovery on how the LEGO Creator Pirate ship fares in today’s context.
The box, instructions and contents
The front of the box displays the primary build of the pirate ship sailing off on a sunset. The back of the box showcases another view of the pirate ship and the other two alternate builds of a portside inn and a skull island. The design is sharp and strikingly simple.
The set comes with bags numbered 1 through 9, plus an unnumbered bag. There are two bags numbered 6 to make a total of 11. The instruction guide comes in two booklets and the set is void of any sticker sheets.
Several brown plates from the non-numbered bag are used to make the foundation of the first section. With a square shape section, this would be the hold of the ship with the four gun ports — two on each side.
The stern is made up of three separate builds. Both the left and right sections are symmetrical yet visibly using different coloured bricks for each side. I don’t ever recall seeing a build guide using this approach before, but it’s a great move for several reasons. Younger builders would find it much easier to identify parts by colours, and it keeps the monotonous (mirrored) build a little less repetitive. Once the two parts are sandwiched together, a rudder is constructed at the bottom.
The hull of the ship is constructed in a similar manner, with three sections sandwiched together.
The three major sections, prow, hold, and stern, all come together held together by the two pins on each side to form the base of the ship.
From this stage onward, the various layering of parts strengthens the overall structure of the lower section of the ship. Various sized plates are layered across, with the exception of the central area where it’s left open for accessibility into the lower deck.
The underside is secured with 2×2 rounded boat tiles placed at strategic locations — a very common technique used for builds that eventually be pushed around on a flat surface. Make no attempt to test if this ship will float in water, as the construction that you see is in its final form, including exposed areas which will sink a ship immediately.
The captain’s cabin is one of the most intricate parts of the build, as it is brightly designed with a red and black contrast with golden highlights. Sitting on the desk is the one and only printed piece in this set, a 2×2 tile with a printed treasure map with an “X” that universally marks the spot of where all known buried treasure lies.
The cabin is further decorated all round and shaped with the curves and highlighted with more grandeur that is fitting for a wealthy captain’s quarters.
The cabin is snapped into the place and the ship starts to feel very satisfying as you see the result of the build and design coming together. The two Technic pins sticking out of the centre of the 2×2 round plates form the foundations of the masts.
The forecastle deck is built and highlighted with golden 1×1 round plates with black finishings at the edges of the ship. The poop deck is just above the captain’s quarters and a ship’s wheel is placed in the middle.
A closer look a the various details of the ship shows that the parts used and the build techniques are not very complex nor difficult — thus targeting a younger audience.
The mast and sails
One highlight of this build that fans have been talking about are the sails made with elements instead of the typical cloth pieces. While I could be wrong, I don’t ever recall seeing a LEGO ship that had brick-built sails (except for perhaps custom builds) at this scale, apart from MetalBeard’s Sea Cow. It’s been used in smaller sets or other scales in official LEGO designs (like 1978’s USS Constellation), but this is rather unique. I’m sure there will be debates on the pros and cons of each approach, but I for one will welcome the brick-built sails, since the cloth-like material will tend to degrade much faster over time, especially through fraying, and with this approach, this set is likely to last longer. And potentially future collectors will to be able to complete and display the builds with ease once it’s no longer in production.
Let’s take a quick look at the construction of the mast and sails. Both masts are designed with fighting tops of which attach flexible hoses to the sides of the ship.
Both mainsail and foresails are not fully unfurled. Hinge panels that you usually find on LEGO-designed space shuttles are used to give the illusion a curvature of a rolled-up sail.
A jib sail shown below shows how simple the construction is to keep the parts to a minimum to ensure that it remains sturdy and not weighted down. The bowsprit is constructed in the same fashion.
The mainsail and foresail are similar in shape, size and design. Tiles are placed to depict the lowering of the sails and end with the same hinge panels.
My favourite part is, of course, the decoration on the foresail, with the skull and crossbones motif on the pirate ship hanging proudly.
Completing the build
With the sails in place together with both the foremast and mainmast, a lookout is also placed on the foremast to complete the build.
A clever micro build of a mermaid figurehead is placed just below the bowsprit. Her fins are positioned at the prow of the ship with outstretched arms. While the colours of the pirate ship are largely in brown or black, this figurehead immediately stands out from afar with bright primary colours. Last but not least, a Kedge-Admiralty style anchor is placed and secured at the deck of the bow.
The pirate ship, targeted at a younger audience, comes with a few play features. While many adventures are left to the imagination, there are some areas which feature parts that are movable.
The sails can be rotated from side to side with a light push to catch the wind direction.
The rudders feature a swivel action that can be easily adjusted
And finally, the poop deck can be lifted to access the captain’s quarters as well.
The accessories, mini-builds and minifigures.
The ship comes with two cannons which are placed in the hold of the ship, a treasure chest filled with ill-gotten jewels perhaps, and a barrel.
I’m not sure what species of bird this is, but it’s a play feature that you can have it rest anywhere on the ship and annoy pirates with imaginary bird poop.
Here’s a closer look at the figurehead mermaid design. I must say it’s quite clever and neat, considering it’s instantly recognisable at this scale.
Another favourite of mine is the happy looking brick-built shark!
The shark has numerous points of articulation to give it character and life.
Last but not least are the four minifigures of the crew. I find that the 3 main figures, (aside from the skeleton) resemble the original Redbeard crew from Classic Pirates, but with a twist. What seemingly looks like Redbeard, is not the Captain himself as this figure is missing a hook and has his left hand intact. Everything else down to the pegleg and eyepatch and scruffy red beard, one could mistake him for a long lost Redbeard cousin methinks (or maybe Redbeard before meeting that shark?). The red-and-white striped pirate with a red bandana from the classics come with a moustache, but this pirate learns that it’s a lot more comfortable to keep clean-shaven. Finally, the pirate with the tricorne hat typically wears an eye patch, while this character seems to have fared much better, having both eyes intact! The skeleton remains almost to its original classic look, apart from the upgraded moulds from recent designs.
None of the figures has a dual head print, with the exception of the red-white striped pirate who also has a worried look. I think it’s a good hint of who gets to walk the plank on the ship.
Conclusion and recommendation
The Pirate Ship is a winner in my books and one to entertain and bring joy to all fans of LEGO both young and old. With over a thousand parts, it brings sufficient details and shape to make an enjoyable build and a great display set as well. The lack of stickers and cloth sails makes sure that this build will stay intact for a long while if well cared for.
It would have been great to have a few more minifigures to create more play and imagination, but that’s something that isn’t a deal-breaker for sure. If I dare say, it certainly fits right squarely into the Classic Pirates theme with a revived and modern look and design, as it has kept true to being ‘generic’ and non-IP or movie related. If you’re not running to the LEGO store right now (okay, perhaps surfing to the online store), what are you waiting for?
What about the alternate builds of the inn and skull island? We wanted to get this review out to you as soon as our friends at LEGO allowed. We’re going to build the other models and will likely follow up with a second part to consider if the alternate builds are worthy on their own, and let you know if it would be worth owning a second or third set? What do you think of the alternate models from the box art alone? Share your thoughts on this build and the others in the comments below.
Reviewer’s note: As any dedicated pirate would be chasing the seas, this reviewer dropped out of pirate school at a very early age to chase treasures and thus never acquired the necessary Captain’s diploma, leading to potential errors. Ship-referencing-language and references arrrrr potentially to be in abundance and apologies in advance! Alright matey? Don’t send me to walk the plank!
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.
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