We’ve already shown you the ins and outs of Wu’s Battle Dragon from the summer 2020 Ninjago sets, but that’s not the only dragon in this series. No, there’s another, larger, offering to be had. 71721 Ninjago: Skull Sorcerer’s Dragon (US $79.99 | CAN $109.99 | UK £74.99) is just over three times the pieces…for four times the price. Is it worth it? Let’s take a detailed look and find out.
The box and contents
Inside the cinematic packaging, this set contains eight numbered bags, a small cardboard box holding the cloth dragon wings, a loose spinner element, an ad for LEGOLAND, and a bag containing the printed materials. Inside that bag is a sticker sheet (ugh) and a 199 page instruction book. It also includes a flier detailing the “Game Experience” that this set is a part of. This set and three others from the 2020 summer line combine to form a cross between a traditional board game and a role playing game. We’ll go into more detail about that in a bit.
LEGO fans looking for pieces to incorporate into their own builds will be pleased with the wide array of unique and rare elements found among the 1,016 parts in this set. Despite the presence of a sticker sheet, there’s even a unique printed part: A 2×2 brick with a design of a dragon eye on both sides. There are also new (huge!) cloth wing elements with die-cut holes and a fittingly skeletal print.
Also worth special highlighting are two recolored elements. The first is a 1×1 double cheese slope. This white version is only available here and in the 10270 Creator Expert Bookshop. The second is a two-part rock in transparent apple-green, unique to this set.
Continuing the hit parade, there’s a stepped-plate design that is new to the 2020 Ninjago sets. The white version of the roof rock plate is also a Ninjago exclusive, appearing only twice before in 2019.
This tile-shooter is also a fairly new design that debuted in 2019. A Technic plunger shoots 1×1 round tiles, an interesting variation on the traditional stud-shooter play feature. I know I’m happy to get a bunch of round tiles as ammo, anyway.
Another play-feature-in-miniature is this “game experience” spinner. It acts as a three sided die, also giving a value of “heart” or “skull” on whatever edge ends facing upwards.
Moving on, there are a number of parts that are also new to the summer Ninjago 2020 sets. These include dragon-printed minifigure shields, a gold version of the 1×1 heart tile, and three colors and prints of a new minifigure skull head. And there’s even a few more I’ll call out over the course of the build!
Finally, there’s the Ivory Blade of Deliverance, one of the two “Swords of Destiny” from Ninjago Season 13. While not unique to this set, it’s still a sweet inclusion that gives the heroic ninja something to try and grab to slay the dragon.
The first part of the build focuses on this bit of pathway. Part of the “game experience” touted on the box, it has a rotating plank that the ninja characters have to navigate. They start out on the left hand side, rotate to fight a baddie (and possibly claim a golden heart token and mysterious blue crystal), then continue on to whatever battles are connected to the right side of the path. The transparent-green flame element atop the skull is another new-for-2020 coloration.
The second island features a trap guarding the Ivory Blade. There are three game play interactions here. The sticker with the “X” marks the treasure of the Ivory Blade. The sticker with the skull indicates where one of the bad guy minifigures should be placed to battle the Ninja characters. And the swirl sticker shows that there’s a bit of interaction when a character reaches the spot in front of the statue…
The play feature is a trap that is very much on a hair-trigger. Any pressure on the plate will cause the statue to slam into the ground, right on top of the encroaching Ninja. Ker-splat!
The build for the dragon starts out with a bit of gearing. The two raised Technic plates in the back press down and rotate the connection points along the side. Those connection points serve as the basis of a whole rib cage assembly. (We’ll talk about what the gearing accomplishes a little later on.)
The back of the dragon has a couple of exposed studs for the Skull Sorcerer to stand on, as well as a couple of sticker-based flags with the Skull Sorcerer logo on it. There are stickers on both sides of the flags, so no matter how you adjust things you don’t get a blank surface showing. It’s a small but appreciated touch.
The legs have Technic ball joints at the knee and ankle, and the toes are all on hinged plates. The rear legs have a new part – a pointed curved slope in white. The front legs are locked off at the shoulder, I’m guessing to provide a bit of needed stability. The front legs also have those tile-shooters mounted on them.. The tail is made from a series of hinges, with the tip of the tail attached with a Mixel ball joint.
The wings are huge and sturdy. Mounted on ball joints, the range of motion is a little smaller than I’d like. Still, you can still move them around a fair bit, and the poses you can achieve all look good.
The final bit of build is putting together the dragon’s head. This is a fun bit of construction, with a good mix of parts and building techniques. I’m a little mixed on the printed eyes – it might have been nice to see a brick-built solution here. But a unique printed part is still a cool perk.
The finished model
The finished dragon is an imposing sight. The articulated legs, neck, and tail give it some great display and play options. My only complaint is the hinges in the tail don’t have a lot of grip, so it tends to flail around quite a bit.
As noted earlier, the rib cage of the dragon is the basis of a play feature. You start by filling that transparent green rock with a mix of spiders and bones, then jamming it into the hollow interior. It’s a good fit, and flying the dragon around is unlikely to dislodge the rock by accident. I should also mention that black is a new color for that bone element, and so far it’s unique to the summer 2020 Ninjago sets.
When you’re ready, press on the back of the dragon’s chest to open up the ribs. Then it’s look out below! It’s best to do this from a height, though. If the dragon is standing on the ground the effect is kind of comical.
The island-path builds can be combined to form one larger landmass. They can also be connected to the other “game experience” sets to create even larger adventures.
This set is one of four from the summer 2020 Ninjago line that features a “game experience inside.” We’ve already gone over the basics of the game in our review for the Skull Sorcerer’s Dungeons, but since then there have been a few updates. The QR code on the enclosed flier now resolves to a Choose The Path page that goes into a lot more detail on how things are supposed to work. In particular, there’s a PDF of roleplaying rules as well as a comic that shows the basics of game play. As I guessed previously, there’s a lot of expected interplay with the players’ imagination, rather than a strict set of board game rules. But it feels like there’s enough there to work with, as opposed to just totally winging it.
This set’s additions to the game experience are the two island path builds, the spinner, and two figure stands. Darkly amusing to me is the fact that LEGO has named these stands “loot boxes” in the play guides. Considering the controversy that name gets in the electronic gaming world, you have to wonder if it was a purposeful dig.
This set comes with six minifigures listed on the box. None of them are exclusive to this set, but all are new for the summer 2020 Ninjago series. (There’s a quasi-bonus seventh minifigure, too. More on that in a bit.)
The forces of good are represented by three of the core ninjas, all in “Hero” variations. You get lightning ninja Jay, water ninja Nya, and fire ninja Kai. All have two expressions, dual sided torso prints, and printed legs. They each have a brick-built weapon, a printed shield, and a removable cowl and shoulder armor. They all look great to me.
On “Team Evil” we get the Skull Sorcerer and two Awaken Warriors. (That name still sounds wrong to me. Shouldn’t it be “Awoken”?) The Sorcerer has dual sided printing on the torso, a printed sloped leg element, removable bat wings, a super sweet mask/hat combo, and a snappy green skull accessory. The Warriors each have a sword and helm decorated with more of those rare black bones.
Although not listed as an “official” minifigure on the packaging, the statue from the smash-trap play feature is pretty much a bonus character. No printed elements, but you do get a decent brick-built weapon, shield, and shoulder armor. There’s also a grey hairpiece that would be useful in Town builds.
Conclusion and recommendation
Dragons are always a good draw for LEGO sets, and this one should be no exception to that trend. The build is engaging, the play features solid, and the look is top-notch. At under 8 cents per piece, it’s a good value for those looking for parts to use in their own creations, too. And what a selection of pieces! There are rare and unique elements, cool recolors, and six new-for-2020 minifigures to be had. The “gaming experience” is a pretty weak addition in a meta sense, but the small island elements are fun to build and both have action features. Even if you’re not into the Ninjago lore, this is a sweet display piece as well as a fun toy to play with. At full price this set is a good deal, so if you ever see it on sale you should really consider grabbing at least one. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Back at the beginning of this article, I asked if the Skull Sorcerer’s dragon would compare favorably with Wu’s battle dragon from set 71718. My verdict? Yeah, it does. As cool as Wu’s dragon is, this one has the added bonus of the play features and size you’d expect from a $80 set. It would have been nice to see Wu’s dragon at this scale, though, as currently it feels severely outmatched. Let me know in the comments who you think will win the inevitable fight.
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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