The summer 2020 Ninjago line contains a lot of big sets, but what if you’re on a budget? Coming in at 401 pieces, 71717 Journey to the Skull Dungeons is currently available, and pretty affordable at US $29.99 | CAN $39.99 | UK £24.99. Can it keep up with the excitement present in the rest this wave? Read on and see!
The box for this set fits in with the over-saturated and busy images shown on the rest of the main 2020 Ninjago line. Inside are three numbered part bags, a 92-page instruction booklet, and a sticker sheet. This set is part of the “Game Experience” group, so there’s also a flier to get you started playing. (For a more in-depth discussion of the game, check out our Skull Sorcerer’s Dungeons review.) The set itself consists of four minifigures and two pieces of “adventure path”. Each section of the path has clip connectors on each end to allow them to link up to the other sets to create more elaborate adventures.
There are a few new parts included, but all of them appear in other summer 2020 Ninjago sets. Of particular note are new gold 1×1 heart tiles, the game spinner, printed silver dragon shields, and the Shadow Blade of Deliverance, one of the two “Blades of Deliverance” from Ninjago series 13.
The first section of the path is joined together by hinged plates, allowing you to tweak the look slightly. There are six modified plates designed as “spaces” on the board game path. Three are marked with arrow stickers to help keep your characters from getting lost or confused. A fourth is marked with a skull sticker, indicating you should put a bad guy on that space for the ninja to fight. A friendly(?) spider sits on one of the unmarked spaces. Is she a visitor or a threat? The game rules are still kind of murky to me, so who really knows?
The second set of path is an enemy outpost. It has stairs leading up, a small campsite, a movable cage, and a spot for the Shadow Blade. As in the first section, orange plates along the bottom represent lava. There’s a small upgrade to that in the additional use of transparent orange elements in the rock face. Those transparent bright-green flames are also new to the summer Ninjago line.
Joining the two sections together does give a bit of distance for the characters to travel. I don’t know if it’s really a “journey,” but I’ve certainly encountered less robust game expansions elsewhere.
The final bit of build is a “Loot Crate” figure stand. (Yes, they really called it that in the rules.) The best bit here is the gold heart “health tokens” — those parts will come in handy in future builds, I’m sure.
This set comes with four minifigures: Jay, Lloyd, and Nya in their “Hero” variations, and Murt, the bad guy. All four are available in other sets in this wave, but this is the cheapest way to acquire them. All have brick-built weapons, dual-sided torso prints, printed legs. The ninja all have dual-sided head prints showing a second expression on the reverse.
The play features of this set are closely tied to the game experience. Placing figures along the path, you can role-play a confrontation. Notice that big red button next to Murt’s space, though? It is a bit of Technic gearing to make the fight a bit more energetic.
Pressing firmly on the button will send the skull-labeled step flying, taking the baddie with it. It’s oddly satisfying.
At the end of the path is the enemy outpost. It features a cage you can raise and lower by use of the crank on the top floor. It’s the same cage design as the Skull Sorcerer’s Dungeons set but uses a LEGO chain length instead of a string to connect things. It’s a nice bit of thematic unity.
The reverse of the build also has some play value. A small bedroll for Murt is on the ground here, giving him a place to nap between cagings and flingings. There’s also a modified 1×1 brick on the lower right that allows you to connect up more pathways to continue the adventure if you want.
The main point of this sub-adventure is likely the capture of the Shadow Blade. “X marks the spot,” thanks to another stickered plate. The sword is clipped in front of some wooden boards, decorated with more stickers. A stewpot boiling up some tasty bone broth provides a bit of weaponry to hurl at anyone climbing the stairs. Good times.
Conclusion and recommendation
At 401 pieces and a $30 US price point, this set comes in around 7.5 cents per part. Considering that covers four hard-to-find minifigures and some printed and scarce elements, that’s a pretty solid value at full price. I’m not 100% sold on the “game experience” but as an expansion, it seems like a reasonable addition to the sub-theme. The play features are sturdy, and the build is easy but enjoyable. If you’re looking for a lower-cost entry point to this Ninjago series, looking for parts, or just looking for an excuse to fling a minifigure across the table, you’re likely to be happy with this set.
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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