The summer 2020 wave of LEGO Ninjago sets are just around the corner. We’re kicking off our series of hands-on reviews with LEGO 71718 Ninjago: Wu’s Battle Dragon, 321 pieces of ninja-goodness. One of the smaller sets in this wave, it is expected to retail for $19.99 in the US when it launches June 1st. Ninjago completists are going to want to pick this one up for the exclusive Hero Wu minifigure, but what if you’re not deep into Ninjago lore? Is this set worth your time if you’re just looking for a fun build or useful parts? Read on and see!
The box and contents
Lately LEGO has been opting for box art that is more focused on grabbing a buyer’s attention in a crowded toy aisle than on clarity — the current LEGO Hidden Side theme is one example of this trend. This has its pros and cons – while the artwork is certainly eye-catching, it’s sometimes hard to identify just what is being sold. This wave of Ninjago sets lean heavily into this new style, with the front box art more of a chaotic movie still than a product shot. Wu’s white dragon is almost obscured by dramatic lighting, and you have to look twice to spot the second minifigure. Meanwhile, the small additional build of the sword and stand is almost completely lost in the background art.
The back of the box is a completely different story. The actual contents of the set are clearly displayed, with an additional focus on the set’s play feature. (Sadly that’s just the bad guy’s stud shooting crossbow.) After the muddy mess on the font, this has an almost minimalist feel. It’s a decent way to have your marketing cake and eat it, too.
Inside the box we find three numbered bags, an ad for LEGOLAND, a 67 page instruction book, and a plastic sheet that holds punch-out dragon wings.
This set’s part count is mostly from a lot of smaller elements. There’s a good mix of curved slopes, tiles, ball joints, and brackets that will make custom creation builders happy. There are some cool minifigure bits (we’ll get to them shortly) and also a couple of new/unique parts to enjoy. In particular, we’ve got the dragon’s wings unique to this set, the minifigure plume/flame in a new transparent apple green color, and a new weapon: The Ivory Blade of Deliverance, one of the two “Swords of Destiny” from Ninjago Season 13. I’m not really up on the story line but it does sound important, and Wu’s Battle Dragon is the cheapest way to acquire this piece. It does appear in a couple of the larger sets as well, so you may end up with a spare eventually depending on your LEGO budget.
This is the second of Wu’s dragons to be released; the first was 70734 Master Wu Dragon back in 2015. This set has about half the part count, but this dragon is still a nice build. Bag 1 contains Hero Wu (We’re getting to him, I promise!) and the core of the dragon’s body. The neck and tail are built using ball joints, and so they’re very poseable. The head has some nice techniques including the use of a roller skate for the mouth and curved horns to create the arch of the eyebrow. There’s a decent array of extra pieces in this bag, including several duplicate minifigure accessory bits.
Bag 2 starts out with the stand for the Ivory Blade. It’s a pretty bland build, and the sword just sits loosely in the clips. I do love those green flames, though. The rest of the bag puts limbs on the dragon. There’s a decent amount of detail variation between using upright clips and slopes to create some different textures on the legs and arms. Ball joints again make the dragon easy to pose.
Bag 3 finishes up the build, and includes Gleck, the goblin bad guy. The wings are Technic fingers attached to a System base, with the plastic sheeting attached by inserting 1×1 round tiles with shaft into hollow studs on the wing base. There’s also a micro-build for a saddle for Wu to sit on. The golden chains attach directly to the dragon’s neck (Ouch!) with the bar held in a figure’s hand.
The finished model
The finished build is about what you’d expect for a $20 set – reasonably isolated elements that you can combine into a scene with a bit of imagination. Wu’s dragon is the real stand-out; it just looks impressive. I like that the saddle is removable, as I think it displays better without it. As mentioned earlier the sword stand is pretty weaksauce, but it does give the minifigures something to focus on/fight over. Sadly, I did get distracted wondering if the skull on the sword’s hilt should have been a minifigure skull instead of a human one. I guess in this case “badass” is better than “funny for the sake of meta-consistency.”
One of the big potential draws for this set is the exclusive Hero Wu minifigure. The face print (with ponytail on back) and printed legs have only appeared once before, in 2019’s expensive Land Bounty (US $129.99 | CAN $159.99 | UK £119.99). I believe that’s a brand new dual-sided torso print, too. He also comes with a snazzy hat, shoulder armor, and a staff that uses a metallic black lightsaber hilt in the center.
Gleck the goblin also comes in set 71719 – Zane’s Mino Creature, but this set is the cheapest way to acquire him. His hat, dual-sided face, and torso are all brand new elements. He comes with a stud-shooting crossbow, because of course he does.
Conclusion and recommendation
Overall, this is a very solid set. Ninjago enthusiasts will want it for the Hero Wu figure, and as a cost-effective way to get a bad buy and the Ivory Blade. Fantasy fans will love the dragon, and the purple goblin will appeal to army builders. Part-seekers will be happy with lots of fiddly detail bits and useful connection elements. And at only an expected $20 price point, it feels like a good value for any of those viewpoints. Personally, I like it enough to already be eyeing a second copy at full retail.
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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