LEGO Icons The Lord of the Rings 10316 Rivendell: Middle Earth just got bigger [Review]

LEGO’s standalone The Lord of the Rings theme is back after the better part of a decade-long hiatus, and it’s come back with a roar. A few small BrickHeadz sets have already been released, but the star of the newly revived theme is a massive diorama of Rivendell, the Last Homely House East of the Sea, where the Fellowship of the Ring is formed. The three-part diorama of the elven home spans almost 30 inches and is the first to include the entire fellowship together, with 21 minifigures in total. 10316 Rivendell includes 6,167 pieces and will be available for LEGO VIP members starting March 5, with general availability March 8. It will retail for US $499.99 | CAN $669.99 | UK £429.99.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Unboxing the set and contents

Rivendell, based on Peter Jackson’s film adaptation, is branded for both The Lord of the Rings as well as LEGO’s Icons theme. The latter denotes its adult target audience, and so the set features the now-common black background packaging, which frankly disguises just how massive this set is. At 6,167 pieces, it’s currently the eighth-largest LEGO set ever, slotting in just behind the Star Wars UCS 75292 The Razor Crest (6,187 pieces) and ahead of the Harry Potter 71043 Hogwarts Castle (6,020 pieces). That’s a statistic that seems almost unbelievable considering that when Hogwarts came out in 2018, it was the second-largest set of all time, but has since been pushed down to ninth.

The 15 non-statue minifigures are pictured along the top of the box, and there are a few fun details as you open the set, including some fantastic illustrations on the flaps. I’d love for LEGO to release these as posters. As usual, some of the parts are in an inner box, but frustratingly there’s no rhyme to which bags are in which, and you’ll need to sort all the bags before you begin. A positive change on this set is that it seems LEGO has moved away from having multiple bags for the same step; no longer are there two bag 1s, for instance. Instead, the first section calls for bags 1 and 2. It does have the side effect of making the bag numbers go higher; all the way up to bag 49 here, plus one unnumbered bag.

There are two small sticker sheets with some of the same beautiful illustrations from the box, and three instruction manuals, one for each segment of the diorama. The individual manuals mean this set lends itself well to the family building; three people could build in parallel, although the middle section is about twice the size of the other two. There’s no indication of which manual, to begin with; so you can pick whichever strikes your fancy as it makes no difference. I enjoy some aspects of LEGO’s new minimalistic design language, but I don’t like that the instructions lack some basic information such as the set number or name. It’s not an issue when you’re opening a brand new set, but in 20 years when you’ve got a huge stack of manuals, it could be unnecessarily difficult for a casual fan to track down which set the manual belongs to based on the line art on the cover. The manuals do at least have intro material to the set, the designers, and the previous The Lord of the Rings line, along with small trivia callouts throughout the build.

There are a fair number of rare elements and a number of new recolors here, plus a few all-new elements. The most interesting new element is a small fern which can be used individually or stacked. New additions to flora are always welcome, especially ones that are as useful as this one, and you’ll get 34 of them to play with in this set. The rest of the brand-new elements are minifigure weapons, a total of six new designs ranging from the shattered hilt of Narsil to an Elven sword. Many of the weapons are quite similar to older designs, but the new ones have more detail (for instance, this version of Sting has more detail on the hilt). Two or four of each design are packed in a single bag for a total of 16 (sure to be one of the more expensive weapons bags ever). In my bag, one of the dwarven axes was significantly bent, though I was able to straighten it out again mostly.

There are also some new printed elements, including a set of three unique printed tiles to make a mosaic floor. You’ll get 64 of the regular 2×2 tiles, 6 of the corner design 2×2 tiles, and 7 of the shield tiles.

The build

Since the set doesn’t specify which of the three manuals you should start with, I opted to be traditional and begin with the tower on the left side, which has the lowest bag numbers, using bags 1-11. If you’ve built a larger LEGO set with a building and some landscaping in the last few years, you’ll be familiar with the brick-built base style consisting of a framework of bricks and plates, covered with large plates. It creates a remarkably strong foundation for the large structures to come.

The details immediately begin springing to life, and it’s apparent why this set has over 6,000 pieces, as every crevice is filled nicely fleshed out. On the bottom floor, the tower has a rounded end punctuated with five statues in alcoves, and the engineering is remarkable though it is a bit fiddly. I found that placing some of the sub-assemblies took more head-scratching and alignment nudging than I expect from an official set, but if you’re a moderately experienced builder, or willing to be a bit patient until you get it right, you’ll find the results worthwhile. The second floor contains Bilbo’s room at Rivendell with a bed, reading desk, and more. There’s also a chest that contains Bilbo’s mithril chainmail shirt and Sting that’s added near the end of the build.

The roof is made of large plates covered in 1×1 tiles turned at 45° angles. The instructions provide a clever way to align them all with a long plate, and it works quite well. It’s a great technique to make a relatively detailed-looking roof without having it be as parts intensive as many other solutions, such as those often used in fan designs. And speaking of great designs, the round tower employs some more great techniques for the circular structure.

Now, it’s time to move on to the middle section, which is the largest and contains the main structure of Imladris and the council seating. It also starts with a raised base with a fair amount of detail around the edges. All those printed tiles get a hefty workout here, and it takes extra attention to make sure they’re all placed correctly with the colors facing the same direction.


The structure is open and airy with lots of columns, but it all comes together to be quite strong. The foundation for the council seating is sideways bricks to make a smooth circular platform, and there’s a little easter egg here with a brick-built Eye of Sauron directly beneath the ring’s platform, a nod to Sauron’s presence that the council feels when the ring is touched. The portion that will connect to the third section is set at an angle.

The intricate scrollwork that makes up the facade above the council seating is just lovely. It’s a framework made of candlesticks, horns, and other elements and despite looking quite fragile, it’s pretty sturdy. If the taste of tiling on the tower wasn’t enough for you, you’ll have the opportunity to try out your mosaic skills again with a much bigger stretch of the roof here.

The small side pavilion comes next, and it’s built as a subassembly that attaches to the base on a turntable. Like many of the other subassemblies in this model, it’s loaded with details right down to the lembas bread on the table, and the design is far more reminiscent of the level of building I’d expect from a fan design than an official set.

The council seating chairs are absolutely brilliant designs using sausages and ice cream pops. They’re all connected in a row because only a few of them align with studs on the base. The pedestal is also a perfect design, made of tan shulker boxes from the Minecraft theme, each nesting inside the next at a 45° angle.

Once completed with the tall tree, the scene looks gorgeous. The seating area is a standalone subassembly that slots into the main build but doesn’t attach. It’s made to be displayed separately if you don’t have room for the full diorama. It’s an incomparable upgrade over LEGO’s previous Council of Elrond set from 2013, though of course that one only cost $30.

It’s worth noting that while the chairs look great and fit a minifigure well, the figures have no way to attach to the chairs and constantly slide out at the slightest bump. I was able to get the full council arranged for this shot where I could reach all sides, but with the council seating attached to the rest of the diorama, there’s little room to reach in and pose the figures. I gave up trying that after numerous attempts of posing a figure only to bump it slightly and have 3 or 4 others slide off. It’s nothing a tiny bit of sticky tack on the seats won’t fix, but without an outside solution like that you won’t be able to display the seated figures.

And speaking of seated figures, LEGO has a fun solution for seating the characters who don’t have movable legs. Alternate elements are available for Gandalf, Elrond, Bilbo, and Frodo to replace their legs with brick-built seated legs, including printed slopes for Gandalf and Elrond. Additionally, a hairpiece is available for both Gandalf and Gimli so that they can take off their headgear.

The final third of the diorama is called the River, Forge, and Armory, and gives more of the lush setting around Rivendell that helps bring the scene to life. The prominent features are a stream with a waterfall and bridge, and an underground room with an armory beneath the gazebo.

This is probably the most straightforward build of the three sections—that is, until you get to the gazebo. The gazebo is the roof of the armory and like the council seating area, is completely removable and simply slots into place. The gazebo subassembly is a masterwork of design; even the stone base is quite a complex build despite looking like a simple grey circle. The decorative gazebo is one of the spindly and fiddly designs I’ve ever encountered in an official set, and you’ll need to bring lots of patience to get it all lined up. But I think the results speak for themselves.

Inside the armory, there are several removable weapons racks and various forging tools, along with an anvil and more tools outside.

The completed build

Now we’ve got each of the three segments finished. Each third works well on its own and is an impressive build, with well over a thousand pieces in even the smallest of the sections. Each of the segments slides into its neighbor with exposed Technic axle pins but they’re for alignment only, and the segments are functionally separate (a single clip connects the roofline between the tower and middle section). If you need to move or even rotate the diorama, you’ll probably need to do so to each section individually.

Bring them together, though, and Rivendell starts to feel a bit like one of the “bigature” models from Weta’s studios, with an elegant elven structure nestling into the landscape.

The back of the diorama is less refined than the front, with a flat cutaway that provides access to most of the rooms. It’s functional and lets you get a great look at all the interiors, but you’ll definitely not want to display this model with the back side facing out.

There are more details sprinkled throughout the build than I can cover here, from Merry and Pippen’s hiding spot to eavesdrop on the council to a wonderfully stocked library on the ground floor. The displayed shards of Narsil where Aragorn and Boromir first meet is one of my favorite scenes, and although it’s not quite an accurate setting to the on-screen version, it’s a great inclusion. The new broken Narsil element is absolutely crucial, and I can’t imagine any other solution using existing pieces working nearly as well.

The minifigures

This is the first LEGO set to include all nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring in a single set, and each of the characters has received a complete overhaul from the previous versions.

Let’s start with the four hobbits, who for the first time have double-molded legs to give them bare feet. It’s a small change that makes a huge improvement to the look of these figs. From left we have Pippen with a carrot, Merry with a piece of lembas bread, Frodo with the ring, and Samwise with a frying pan. Each of the hobbits has a cape and reversible heads with alternate expressions; Frodo appears poisoned from the ringwraith’s wound.

Next up we have Bilbo, Gandalf, Glóin (Gimli’s father), Gimli, Aragorn, and Boromir. Glóin is the only minifigure here that feels a bit lacking in detail, but it’s still a great addition that would have been easy to skip, as I doubt anyone would have criticized LEGO for not including him in this set. Gimli’s helmet is wonderfully ornamented with printing, but I believe it’s the same print as the previous version from 2012. Of course, the new axe looks splendid. Meanwhile, Boromir sports a new shield design and wields a new sword. All of these minifigures except Glóin have double-sided heads with alternate expressions.

As befitting the famous elven home, we get a complement of elves. The two on the left are unnamed in the set; perhaps they are an unnamed female member of Elrond’s household, and Erestor, Elrond’s chief counselor. Then of course we have Legolas, Arwen, and Elrond himself. All five have alternate expressions. The printed tile in Arwen’s book is not new, though it does fit the setting well.

Rivendell includes 21 minifigures, though LEGO’s description only lists 15. The discrepancy comes from an additional six statue minifigures, which I think count even if they’re part of the structure, since they’re complete figures. Five lines the tower, and the sixth holds Narsil.

Conclusion and recommendation

It’s always a challenge to recommend a LEGO set that costs half a grand, because let’s face it, that’s a lot of money to drop on a single set. But if you’ve got a big enough LEGO budget to consider this set, it earns a hearty recommendation. Imladris is wonderfully rendered in brick here, and the full set feels like a top-notch fan creation. The irregular footprint matches the organic feel of the elven home, and warm earth tones used liberally throughout the build work perfectly to recreate one of the most beautiful sets from the films.

It’s not a perfect set; some of the construction is fiddly, and I found two minor mistakes in the instructions, and I find it disappointing that it’s basically impossible to display the council seated without something to stick the figs to their seats. But those are small gripes in an otherwise brilliant set that’s quite honestly one of the best LEGO dioramas I’ve ever built.

10316 Rivendell includes 6,167 pieces and will be available for LEGO VIP members starting March 5, with general availability March 8. It will retail for US $499.99 | CAN $669.99 | UK £429.99. It may also be available from third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

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