The summer 2020 Ninjago sets offer a wide range of options, from small Spinjitzu Spinners to giant mechs. The largest set, 71722 Ninjago: Skull Sorcerer’s Dungeons clocks in at a solid 1171 pieces, including eight minifigures. Costing US $99.99 | CAN $139.99 | UK £89.99, this set is available now. But does it have appeal outside of the Ninjago theme? Are there good parts? Is it a good value? Is it…any fun? Read on and see!
The box and contents
Like the other sets in the summer 2020 Ninjago line, the box front features art that would feel at home on a movie poster. Unlike some of the other sets, though, you get a clear idea of what the set’s contents are. I think this is mostly due to fact that the set contains a pretty big centerpiece in the dungeons…there’s not a lot of need to fill the space with special effects. There’s also a bit of inset art that teases a “Game Experience Inside.” This set forms the basis of a minifigure scaled board game, sort of an upgrade to the old Heroica theme. The back of the packaging has a clear product image, with the rest of the space being taken up with more promotional material for the game concept.
Inside the box are ten numbered part bags, an ad for LEGOLAND, and a sealed bag containing the paper extras. In this case, that’s a hefty 255 page instruction book, a sticker sheet, and a flier containing more information about game play. Bagging these things together is a big improvement over having them loose in the box – everything was in great shape for me.
Covering 1171 pieces at a $99 price point, this set has a pretty solid 8.5 cent/part ratio. That includes eight minifigures, as well as new elements and a number of parts in rare or unusual colors. The small black bone, bright blue-green cheese wedge, and sand-yellow minifig head have shown up in only one or two other Ninjago sets. The yellow-green fish previously was only a friend of the Aquaman Collectible minifigure, and the white spear was only available with the Series 20 Athlete minifigure. The golden heart is also a new and welcome color arrival. There are a selection of parts in Aqua that were previously only found in sets from the Friends theme.
Another existing mold that gets a lot of love in this set is the large minifigure skull. The base element was first released as part of the 2019 Ninjago Legacy line. This set sees it with all new prints across three different colors.
Moving on to new molds, one of the more unique pieces is this new six-sided spinner. Designed to hold a minifigure in the center, you spin it like a top and read a value of 1-3 and “skull or heart” off of the side that lands facing up. It’s available in the other Summer 2020 LEGO Ninjago sets 2020 Summer sets that combine to form that full “game experience”.
Finally, I wanted to highlight the cool new swords and shields that have already been covered at length in previous reviews. In this set you’ll get two gold shields, one silver one, and a copy each of the Ivory and Shadow blades. This set appears to include all of the key plot element weapons from Season 13 in a single offering, a nice bonus for those looking to minimize the number of sets they have to buy.
As you’d expect from a set of this size, the Skull Sorcerer’s Dungeons are built from the ground up over the course of the ten numbered part bags. I was very happy with the process, as each section was very well integrated with the previous ones. In particular, there’s some Technic engineering that stretches from bag one all the way to bag ten.
There are two things we’ll keep an eye on as we explore the build. The first is the Technic gearing I just mentioned. It might be worth noting that this early part includes a couple of lime green Technic connectors that currently only appear in the 42115 Lamborghini Sián FKP 37 set.
The other area of interest is the bits that relate to the board game aspects of this set. You see the first hints of the game here, with skull and arrow stickers that are applied to the modified 2×2 plates.
The gearing takes shape with an integrated cam shaft that runs along the center of the build. Turning the shaft raises and lowers a couple of steps, making the hero’s journey more difficult. It’s kind of hypnotic to watch.
Other notable bits of engineering are this sliding hinge arrangement and rope/spool construction. Both go into the build early, but you don’t really see their true value until later.
At this point we start to get some fun detail build. A pair of flaming skulls sit at the front of the dungeons, and a rickety bridge is built up along the right side using Mixel joints to create a non-standard bit of angling. At the top of the game’s trail of modified plates is a cache of weapons, and an extra heart token.
Next up we build the lava falls that block access to the Ivory Blade. The lava takes the form of two transparent orange 1x2x5 bricks filled with flame elements. These form a set of doors that are built on top of the sliding hinge from earlier on. Pushing the step forward parts the flames, making for a nice dramatic reveal of the sword.
There are also a number of “hidden” items. Spread across the scenery are a chunk of gold ore, a green gem, and…a lump of poo. All of these items end up buried far back in the build to the point where they’re not really accessible. I guess they’re just to help establish atmosphere. I suspect there will be more than a few kids who try to incorporate them into their adventures, though, and will then find they’re really hard to put back where they found them.
As the dungeon continues to come together, a few more key elements appear. The first is the twisting tower that drives the game play features. Less dramatic, perhaps, is the axe hidden in the support pillar. At least this bonus item is easy to get to.
Here’s a fun bit of trivia for you. This stickered sign in front of the dungeon? It reads “BEWARE” in Ninjargon.
The backside of the dungeons features this room, presumably the abode of the titular Skull Sorcerer. I’m sure there’s all sorts of vital clues about their identity here that will be given context as the show progresses. Currently we can just be darkly amused at the portrait – a sticker that gets applied to a new-to-this-set dark reddish brown 2×3 tile.
Atop the room is an altar containing the Shadow Blade. It’s protected by a pair of rib-like gates that swing open and closed by using a small switch mounted on the lower left side of the platform. The gearing here is only so-so, but it does have a reasonably dramatic feel. It’s also worth calling out the brick-built skull face that adorns the front of the dungeons. It’s really well done, and makes good use of hinge plates to give the eye sockets some interesting angles.
The final bits of the build involve constructing a cage to hold a minifigure, and hooking it up to the rigging from the very early stages of the build. There are also some additional bridges to make a complete path for the characters to navigate over the course of the game. The end result is a pretty hefty playset.
The finished model
With the build complete, you can really see the thought that went into making this set more than just a static fortress. That crank on the left puts things in motion all over the place. It drives spinning blades along a walkway, raises and lowers the steps, and raises and lowers the cage. It’s a really nice design, allowing for a simple play mechanic to impact things all over the finished set. Add to that the opening lava gate and moving bone-cage thing and you have some of the best play features I’ve seen from this theme so far.
I have to ask, though: This set is called “Skull Sorcerer’s Dungeons”, right? So…where are the dungeons? I don’t think one suspended cage really counts.
There are some additional bits of building that relate to the “game experience” touted on the box. You get two figure stands, each with a crate to hold weapons and a number of golden-heart health counters.
But how you do you actually play this game? Well, included with the building instructions is a flier that attempts to explain things. I say “attempts” as I’m still not really sure how this is supposed to work.
Oh, the basics are there if you look close. You put bad guy characters on the steps marked with a skull, the hero follows the arrows along the path, moving a number of spaces based on the number that comes up on the spinner. If they encounter a baddie, they fight. You spin, and if you get a “heart” you beat them, if you get a “skull” you lose health as indicated by the golden hearts. Or something.
But…there’s no rules about things like when to turn the crank, or what the map on the back of the flier is supposed to do. And what about the weapons and extra health tokens on along the path? And how do you open the lava gates or retrieve the Shadow sword? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.
There’s a QR code on the flier that was probably meant to explain things, but at the time of this review it doesn’t go anywhere beyond a LEGO “404 – Bad link” page. Considering these sets are currently released, this feels like a very bad slip on LEGO’s part.
Oh well. Maybe I can just break out my old Heroica sets and use those rules.
Back to the positives. This set comes with eight minifigures, one of which is exclusive to this set. You get three ninjas, four obvious bad guys, and Princess Vania, who is shown grouped with the ninjas so is probably a hero. But I suppose we’ll have to watch the show to know for sure.
The ninjas all appear in other sets in the Summer 2020 line. You get Hero versions of Earth-ninja Cole, Green ninja Lloyd and Ice-ninja Zane. All three have dual sided torso printing, printed legs, and new-to-this-series cowls and shoulder armor. LLoyd and Cole have two expressions, while the robotic Zane has a mechanical print on the back of his head.
The three more common baddies are an Awaken Warrior, Murt, and the short-yet-deadly purple Ginkle. The Warrior has a new-in-black skull element, and a rare black bone in their helmet. Murt and his neckwear are new for this series, as is Ginkle. The non-skeletal characters have dual sided printing on their torsos, and Ginkle has a second expression.
Princess Vania is exclusive to this set, and comes with a unique golden hairpiece cast from the same mold used for Mulan’s hair. She has dual sided printing on her torso, printed legs, and two expressions.
The final minifigure in this set is the Skull Sorcerer. This individual looks pretty darn cool, if you ask me. They come with a hat/mask combo headpiece, bat wings, and a green skull as an accessory. Under the mask is a unique face print. The figure’s torso has double sided printing, and when combined with the printing on the legs, you can read “Dead Rise” in Ninjargon.
Conclusion and recommendation
I’ve been pretty happy with the summer 2020 Ninjago offerings, and this set is no exception. At only 8.5 cents per part, this set feels like a solid value. There are a wealth of hard to find and unique minifigures, some interesting part recolors, and a few new-for-the-line elements. It’s a bit of a bummer that they went with a sticker sheet, but in the minifigures at least we get some great printed parts. The build is not particularly difficult, but it is very interesting. The Technic gearing and features can be a great template for those wanting to incorporate similar movements into their own creations. At the $99 US price point I think this is a good pick for most LEGO collectors, be they Ninjago fans, people looking for parts, or just someone out for a fun build.
My only complaint is the push for on the board game concept. It feels like there’s a lot of stuff that was still under development. It’s weird to have it be such a prominent feature of the packaging and inserts to have it be so darn confusing. Maybe when LEGO gets their instructions webpage working things will become clear, and I can try and get a playtest together. Or maybe I’ll handle it like I suspect most kids will, and just make up some rules as things go along.
What’s the worst that could happen?
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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