Saturday, 16 April 2011

Lego Pirate Wave 4 1996-1997

The Pirate Sets of Wave 4
Wave four saw a completely new overhaul for the Lego pirates, this year saw a whole new pirate crew and another new faction, the Armada. The Armada were fashioned after the Conquistadors (Spaniards), the slightly odd thing about this wave is the fact that the Imperials are fashioned in a 1700’s style whilst the Spaniards style looks similar to the 1600’s, especially the Helmets know as Morion’s, (maybe in the Lego Universe time goes backwards?). Still the new crew are welcome because most people had lots of the previous pirate crew; sadly this wave is not as good as the previous three, so this post will be negative when called for, but before you read them please note I love all Lego and all these sets, but they are in my opinion not as good as those before.
Sets from 1996
Impulse
Set Name = Treasure Surprise 1747 or Tidy Treasure 1802
Piece Count = 21
This Impulse set came with a brand new minifig, now this fella might look very similar to his old predecessor but he is actually different, just look below. The nice thing about the similarities is the fact that the new pirate blends in perfectly well with the older pirates making all of them look alike. As for the set itself we see some interesting innovation with a hollowed out rock for hiding treasure. A nice little set.

Set Name = Skeleton Crew 6232
Piece Count = 27
In the next impulse set from wave four we see another new pirate and a skeleton. This guy looks completely different from those who have come before and the skeleton was only released in one set in the previous year, so figure wise the set is nice. But what I dislike is the fact that we have a skeleton figure with an armada helmet, and a live pirate figure, if we had instead an armada figure and a skeleton pirate then the set would be far more exciting. The box picture is weird because we see a pirate attacking the skeleton, why is he doing that the skeleton cannot harm him (violent pirates). I remember getting this set but not being nearly as excited on my ride home in the car (check Wave 2 to get this reference) but after you build the green pirate the set is pretty dull.

Small


Set Name = Imperial Cannon 1723 (US and Canada Only) Value Pack

Piece Count = 36

The Imperials final set, and again we recieve an officer (they loved those officers in the Red Army). This set came as part of a value pack and it does look quite nice, but its a shame this is the last Redcoats released, the yellow corner wall is a particular highlight.

Set Name = Armada Sentry 6244
Piece Count = 70
Now this is a set I loved as a child, we have before us now the only structure owned by the Armada, one small outpost. Despite this saddling news (an actual large base would have been wonderful, but it never happened) the set itself is really nice. The building looks like a small dock (which always fitted well at the front of my trading post), the biggest highlights of the set include the green doors (new at the time) and the cool looking armada soldier. That is not to say the set is perfect, the structure is great for so few bricks but the soldier cannot get into the building without getting his feet wet, I would have preferred to have removed the boat and use the saving there to make the actual structure bigger maybe even include a second fig as the guy must get lonely.

Set Name = Volcano Island 6248
Piece Count = 119
Another skull structure, last year (1995) the pirates received a new base which include a skull on the front of it, here we see the skull design used again. This island has no reason being part of the pirate collection because it sells itself on a gimmick, that gimmick is the ability to shoot small items over the floor. I might sound negative but this set is one of the worst available in the range (someone had to be) I want to imagine huge explosions and destruction not simply see a little spring fire a few red gems over the carpet. The design of the set looks ok but it serves no purpose, the island is too small to make the volcanic eruption scary, the skull might as well be a big neon sign saying “danger and treasure here” and as a final insult to all that is good, the barrels on the pirates raft don’t have lids, those holes will cause the raft to sink, not cool Lego. For all those who own and love this set I will say right now that I am sorry, I own one too but it is just not as good as other sets of its size.

Medium
Set Name = Armada Flagship 6280
Piece Count = 284
This set is the best release in Wave four; we see the second (and last) set devoted to the Armada. Whilst this ship might be far too small to be considered a “Flagship” I have always viewed it as a brilliant trading vessel, the ship is beautifully designed and the white hull, green cannon, front sail and flag are all unique to this set (I think), we even get an anchor again after so many years without one. My only complaint is the number of minifigs; this ship could have used a couple more of the basic soldiers (we only get one). That is a minor gripe though the set is a perfect example of how to make a perfect ship.

Set Name = Shipwreck Island 6296
Piece Count = 216
I remember a set released in 1989 which had the very same name as this, with all the words in the world I am surprised Lego couldn’t think of any other name for this set. Still if the worst part of the set was its name then everything would be ok, sadly that is not the case. The general design of the set looks sloppy; two of the biggest flaws are as follows. Firstly we have at the back a BURP (big ugly rock piece) which is linked to the ship, my question would be how? Did the ship sail around with a rock on the side or did the cabin and the rock form together after the ship sunk. My second problem is the small supply of sand in the set, for example the palm tree on the side is connected to the most pathetic piece of sand and then surrounded by water (roots being something that happens to other trees). The set would be good if we had a strong island structure (sand, rocks, a tree) and then a wrecked ship that had hit it, but the set looks like a small ship that has slowly dissolved into the ocean over a period of about 60 years, that makes no sense.

Large
Set Name = Red Beard Runner 6289
Piece Count = 698
Noooooo! Gimmicks no please not more gimmicks. Here we have the third large pirate ship of the series and again with the stupid gimmicks. The ship features a back that can fall off and a mast that can lean to the side, my question is why are these features needed, Lego in and of itself is a construction toy, why do we need to have a feature to show destruction when you can simply destroy it and make it up again, Lego you have missed the fundamental joy of what you are. What is the cost of having this magic feature? No Cabin, we have a large ship but no cabin for its mighty captain. To hammer the final nail home in the coffin that is the Red Beard Runner, we have the sails, a ship this large and we only get one sail per mast (it’s usually two) and it’s ripped, dreadful. On the plus side we get a nice variation of minifigs and two black bandanas, which I believe are very rare. But if the best thing I can say for a ship is that we have black bandanas then it does not look good. Compared to the previous two ships, this is a big letdown.

Overview of the Year
A bad year in terms of design, take out the two fabulous Armada sets and the new pirate figs and I feel this year would struggle to get above a 2. In terms of equality this year shows a huge weighting towards the pirates, in previous years the balance was good giving people a choice over who to favour, this year its pirates all the way, with a poor ship and a silly sunken wreck for a base. It should also be noted that two sets is the lowest number for any faction ever released (the castle theme had a couple of factions with three sets), the flagship is nice but Armada deserved better.
Overview on 1996 = 5/10 (This score is almost all dedicated to the Armada)

Sets from 1997
This was to be the final year for our beloved Pirates, no new sets until 2009 which believe me is a very long time to wait. We continue with Spaniards verse the Pirates from the previous year, but with only four sets released it’s a sad goodbye (I would have liked more).   
Small
Set Name = Buccaneers 6204
Piece Count = 31
Another battle pack, this time with Spaniards and Pirates. This set is very nice as we see some very rare figures in the form of both the Spaniards; they also come with beautiful white feathers (very rare now) and a silver chest plate for one of the men. I don’t even mind the pirates in this set, as we get a nice Tricorn fig and the old pirate captain, I like his inclusion because this set makes it so that the figure is one of only two survivors from the original sets (of 1989), to make it through to the last year. What I don’t like is the fact that we get a Skeleton; this set would be as good as the first, if we got five actual minifigs, if they made that fifth minifig a Spaniard then the set would win as best ever. But sadly it does not.

Medium
Set Name = Pirates Ambush 6249
Piece Count = 159
I don’t know what to say about this set, I like it but I don’t understand it, why are the pirates ambushing an Armada fig? The pirates have bigger ships and numbers, the lowly Armada have one ship and a tiny base, the pirates don’t need to be clever with ambushes they simply need to sail up and say “we want your stuff”, and the Armada would have to agree, also why capture a Spaniard when you could just kill him. Switch this set round and have two Armada figs in a medium base ambushing a pirate (for questioning) and you have a better set. I like this set, the structure is ok, and the net drops but it’s just another pirate base in a theme that boasts many. I would class this as very average or vanilla, nothing fancy, not bad not great.

Set Name = Cross Bone Clipper 6250
Piece Count = 151
The dreaded Cross Bone Clipper, the most hated of all pirate ships, put simply this set is very small, too small. Personally I like this set a lot (I have a thing about small ships) but I can see its flaws, the spacing is very cramped, Lego stupidly decided to design the rudder so that it would move from the inside of the ship, the problem with that, we lose even more space, the red sail looks a little childish and I don’t like the figurehead on the front. Our original Captain used to sail in mighty ships and to see him reduced to this is a little sad, but at least he has his wench back (I missed her), the biggest problem of the set was the price, I remember it being a very expensive set at the time, and when opened from the box, it’s no surprise to feel let down. I changed the sail and figure head and used it as a trading vessel, much more satisfying.  

Large
Set Name = Pirates Perilous Pitfalls 6281
Piece Count = 395
The final set for Lego Pirates, It’s a momentous occasion but what a sad way to go out. I urge you now to think back to the other large land set of the Pirate theme, Eldorado’s Fortress, Rock Island Refuge, Imperial Trading Post, The Enchanted Island and Skull Island. Think of the beauty, think of the design, think of the logic and use for the set. Now look at this, this thing. What’s with another wreaked ship that happened last year? What’s with the large round rock? This is not Indianan Jones; why is that mountain at the back a black, grey and Burp monstrosity? How is the bridge in the front being raised if it’s designed as a rope bridge? (something you cannot raise as that would untied the ropes and make it fall) and lastly what is the little brown tower to the side all about. I like the minifigs but that is not enough, this set is just lacking on so many levels. I understand the idea of a wrecked island but this is not done well, it all looks like a mass of other sets combined into some type of beast. I often keep big sets I like up for ages on a little shelf, The Trading Post for example had been on my shelf for years (it gets dusted every other month) but I have never left this set up, it is always dismantled and stored in my attic.

Overview of the Year
Well we have sadly reached the end of the initial pirate sets from 1989 to 1997; if you have read all of them I must say congratulations and I am sorry if this writing was difficult to follow. These last two years showed us a few brilliant sets, I love the Armada Flagship and Sentry Post, but why if Lego still had the ability to make these great sets, did it rely on gimmicks and nice minifigs to sell the rest of their mediocre range. Now don’t get me wrong, I like change, in 1994 we saw the Islanders, a whole new faction which fitted in perfectly, these pirate sets feel lazy, simple designs that don’t look good it could have been a thing of beauty (the Armada Flagship was) , but overall it was not meant to be for this last year.

Overview on 1997= 4/10 (it’s not the best of years)

Overview on Wave 4= 5/10 (Only for the Armada sets and the new minifigs)


10 comments:

  1. Great website keep it up! I found this doing a Masters project in University on LEGO. The pirates were my fave by far. Ive got the urge to go to the attic and take them all out!

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  2. Thanks,

    your doing a masters project at Uni on Lego!!! that sounds amazing, what does it entail?

    Pirates were my fave 2 (though I did like the Castle sets)

    My next blog will be about the pirate sets of 2009 and 2010 so keep on checking it out.

    Thanks for reading

    Lego Steve

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  3. 1997 was the year I entered my dark ages. I remeber being very disappointed when reading the new catalog (last one for a long time) and seeing these awfuly designed fright knoight, juniorized town and NO new pirate sets at all. Yes the mediocre '97 pirate sets wasn't even released in my country (Sweden)

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  4. Frasse, that's amazing: I had the SAME feelings.

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  5. What I think 6296 Shipwreck Island is all about is, the pirates have built a smll base with the bits from the shipwreck.

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  6. Did you notice that on the set Imperial Cannon, the flag is flying at half mast? Could it be because this was the final set of the Imperial Guards? It is almost as if Lego is subtly paying their respects to the Imperial Guards on the cover of this box. I haven't seen this on any of the other sets, so is it just a coincidence? I think maybe not.

    Tim Hansen
    www.ebay.com/usr/gov.broadside

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  7. I have the RBR (ordered it from Germany so I would get shooting cannons) and I must say that I LOVE it. nowhere near as good as the SES or BSB, but nice nonetheless. I have modified it heavily to have a real cabin, and am in the process of disabling the gimmicks. Great reviews, btw.

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  8. Frasse, I'm from Russia, but I had exactly the SAME feelings.

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  9. Quick question (if you're still reading these comments): where are you getting your release year information? Other sites have the Imperial Cannon as being released in 1994, which makes sense given that no other redcoats sets were released in 1996.

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