LEGO Star Wars Brick Sketches: 40391 First Order Stormtrooper and 40431 BB-8 [Review]

LEGO Brick Sketches are a new collectible series of brick-built portraits of popular characters intended for display, not play. Slated to be available July 15, they will retail for US $19.99 | EU €19.99 each. We’ve already taken a look at the LEGO DC Brick Sketches characters in the first wave, and today we’ll check out the Star Wars sketches. Are 40391 Brick Sketches: First Order Stormtrooper and 40431 Brick Sketches: BB-8 worth the price point, and do they have any appeal for the larger LEGO market?


The box and contents

The front of the packaging is pretty standard, with a product shot of the completed Brick Sketch, and a mix of Star Wars and LEGO logos. There’s a small color variation to the background grey between the sets, with BB-8 being a just a touch darker. It’s pretty hard to see, and probably won’t be enough to make the two boxes stand out from each other on store shelves. Luckily the red and orange highlights of the builds accomplish that pretty well on their own.

The back of the package highlights the display options: Hung on a wall or propped up using the integrated stand. There’s also an “in progress” image of someone building the sketch. Like we saw in the DC sets, the marketing department wasn’t about to have the characters be hard to recognize by picking a construction point early in the process. So instead we get a couple of non-essential surface details popped off and set to the side.

Inside the boxes we get the usual instruction manual and three bags of parts. (BB-8 also has two 1×16 beams loose in the package.) You can quickly see that there’s a very different mix of parts between the two kits. The part count is pretty similar, with BB-8 having 166 parts and the Stormtrooper a respectable 151. This brings the per-piece cost in at around 12-13 cents, which is a really good ratio for a licensed set. In a departure from the box art, the instructions have an additional logo for Disney along with the Star Wars one.


The build

Brick Sketches are based on a plate-on-plate building style, with multiple layers of brick building up the character image. Despite the seeming simplicity of that approach, there are interesting things to note about the Stormtooper’s build. The first thing that struck me as odd was that some of the back-plate interlocking in the earlier steps is accomplished with 2×4 black tile instead of regular studded plate. I’m guessing that this was done by LEGO for cost-saving reasons. There are exposed 2×4 tiles in the final steps, and it was probably cheaper to pack in several of the same part rather than including different elements. Or maybe it was just a nice treat from the designer, as those tiles are pretty useful for people re-using the parts for their own creations. There are also a couple of 1×1 round tiles that seem added “just because” above the teal 2×8 plate. I don’t have a great explanation for those.

There is one really clever bit of building mid way through that I wanted to highlight. In order to get the shaping of the helmet right, there’s a hinged plate in each corner. The cool part is that the center of the hinge is braced against 2×4 wedge plates to ensure the correct angle.

There’s a nice bit of depth between the shoulders and the base of the helmet, and the use of different wedge plates do a great job of recreating shaping in the eyes and mouth. The red of the background helps the character pop a bit, as well as being a callback to the First Order colors.

BB-8 has a few interesting building steps as well. In a departure from the other Brick Sketches designs, the top dome is its own separate “studs up” section. This allows for various curved slopes to more accurately depict BB-8’s round head. It makes the likeness as a whole a lot more recognizable than it might have been otherwise. That head is just spot-on.

However, you can tell that the body is a lot more angular with the layered plate approach. The center rings are obviously circular, but once you’re past them there are straight-edged wedge plates. I’m not sure there’s a combination of LEGO elements that would have worked better, though. Not without losing the “sketch” feel, anyway.

All the sketches have the same display-feature build on the back. There’s a coupling plate available for a nail if you want to hang the sketch. Otherwise you can use the fold-out stand. I’ve found that the nail option is not great- you need a pretty long nail and getting it through the stud-wide opening can be tricky. But I guess once they’re up you don’t really have to worry about hanging them again.


The finished model

I think both sets do a good job of showcasing their respective characters. The stormtrooper is a cleaner looking build, while BB-8 has a bit more visual interest and texture. We’re not much for the First Order in our household, but BB-8 has already won a coveted display spot in my partner’s workspace.

Taking a look at the builds from the side, you can see that there’s some nice depth to both. The shaping holds up, and you get a feel that both have a little bit of heft in their 12×16 stud footprint.

With a touch of more dramatic lighting you can see that the layered build creates some nice shadow play. The 3D aspects of the builds come forward and you get to see more of these images than a flat mosaic could offer.


Conclusion and recommendation

I started out pretty iffy on these sets. After building them and looking though the parts, however, I can say I’m now a fan. The builds are quick, but fun. The finished models are great.

These sets would make a good gift even for Star Wars fans who aren’t particularly into LEGO. If you are into LEGO, though, there’s even more to recommend them. At the price-per-piece at 12-13 cents, these are among the cheapest licensed part packs options out there. There are a decent range of useful pieces for those who build their own creations, and each kit has something different to offer along those lines. As the part of the first wave of Brick Sketches they’re likely to a good addition to most collections. If you like the look, I recommend you give them a go. You don’t even need to wait for a sale.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of this new theme, be sure to check out our behind-the-scenes interview with the designer, Chris McVeigh.


40391 Brick Sketches: First Order Stormtrooper and 40431 Brick Sketches: BB-8 will be available July 15 and will retail for US $19.99 | EU €19.99 each. They will also available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of these sets for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.


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5 comments on “LEGO Star Wars Brick Sketches: 40391 First Order Stormtrooper and 40431 BB-8 [Review]

  1. Jimmy

    “This brings the per-piece cost in at around 12-13 cents, which is a really good ratio for a licensed set.”

    But these licensed sets contain zero license-specific parts! I know that may not affect how Lego prices the set, but as a consumer it sure affects how I see things, and 12-13 cents per-part for a set with no minifigs nor printed tiles seems steep.

    Are there any other examples of licensed sets that are built entirely from normal non-licensed parts?

  2. Chris Doyle Post author

    @Jimmy – That’s a valid point. Let’s see what I can dig up quickly in response. :)

    You could count most vehicle polybags as fitting your description, and older UCS sets that didn’t include minifigures, but there’s not much in the general range recently that doesn’t rely on a special print or mini to add market appeal. The problem is that the Brick Sketches really don’t fit the “toy” model very well, so going the minifigure route isn’t very apples to apples. Hrm.

    How about the UCS Yoda 75255 as a comparison? That’s only comes with a common Yoda mini (in 3 other sets) and I don’t think it has any unique parts beyond the sticker sheet. That’s a 18 cents a part set. So similar in concept (a non-play display piece) and licensing, but with an even more hefty per-part price.

    And, just to be clear, I agree with you. Some exclusive prints would have been a welcome addition to help justify the price. But I still stand by my view that due to licensing fees, $13 cents a part is still a decent mark to hit.

    It’ll be interesting to see what these do when the mass market gets a hold of them. If they all linger until clearance, maybe wave 2 will have some changes.

  3. Jonathon Collom Valdivia

    Every star wars set I own so far is sub 13 cents per peice.

    Thee only “play” set I own is the Force Awakens Poe’s X-wing at about 11 cents per piece.
    And the upcoming Razor Crest arguably my most expensive per piece at 12.7

    My very much for display helmet series runs for 9-11 cents per piece.

    The buildable BB-8 is sub 12 cents.

    My UCS sets (Millenium Falcon, y-wing, A-Wing, TIE Fighter, Slave 1) all sub 12 cents.

    Let’s move on to another popular license theme, Harry Potter.
    The sets I own are the Hogwarts Express, the clock tower, the great hall and soon will own the whomping willow, Hedwig, the astronomy tower, attack on the burrow and the Hogwarts castle. All of these are sub 11 cents a piece.

    The fact is 12-13 cents is not “a really good ratio for a licensed set.”

    Most people reading this review won’t see your comment where you change really good to decent after your research and you picked specific sets that have high cost per parts to feature in that comment. Yet somehow all I had to do was research the sets I own and am planning to buy to find that your statement is absurd. I think you should amend your review to reflect that.

    Maybe the sets are more expensive because of the lower piece count. An expensive set I found quickly was the $20 expecto patronum set at 121 pieces which comes out to 16.5 cents per piece but this includes exclusive Minifigures.
    I just checked a few $20 star wars sets: Anakin’s star fighter, duel on mustafar, and the death star cannon the most expensive of which is 12.5 cents per piece.

    By any of your metrics or mine 12-13 cents per part is at best an average price and in my opinion is actually expensive. Had these sets been $15 I would have bought them no question but at $20 I find it hard to justify as small display sets.

  4. Chris Doyle Post author

    @Jonathon – An honest thank you for sharing your thoughts and viewpoint on the price-per-piece issue. I certainly don’t disagree with the examples you’ve cited, and I’ll be re-evaluating what I consider to be a “good” ppp value going forward. (Particularly when there aren’t custom pieces/mins involved.)

    And, yeah, $15 for these would be a lot more tempting overall. But as one-off display/gift items likely targeted at Star Wars fans who don’t know LEGO price points… I can kind of see why LEGO went for the full $20 push. They might very well be able to get it.

    Like I said in an earlier comment, it’ll be interesting to see if the mass public balks at the price.

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