I remember a lot of excitement this year (sorry last year, gosh times change quickly) due to a certain new computer game that was coming out. The game was focused on Dragons, the hype was huge and people loved the idea, ‘Dragons’ they said,’ this particular franchise has never given us dragons before, why I’m so excited!’ ,the term Dragon-Born was even coined (though the image for making such an individual is horrendous). People thought this inclusion of Dragons was so innovative, well let me tell you something; these games designers they were mere copycats, nothing more, our trustworthy and dedicated LEGO designers beat them to this particular selling point years ago.
Let’s put it this way, anything to do with Castles, Knights and Swords, instantly becomes more fun when you include a Dragon; knights riding around on horses in full plate armour looks so much more heroic when they then trot of and bash a dragon around the head rather than some poor foot soldier armed with a spear (they just look like bullies then).
In 1993 LEGO released a new castle faction based solely on that one fact (Ok, and maybe they included a wizard too), LEGO Castle had evolved (as all things must) from a Historical toy, to a Fantasy one, the little inclusion of ghost here and there (from previous factions) were replaced with wizards and Dragons.
Now before I get into the nuances of each individual set, I should point out what ‘Dragon Masters’ brought to the world of LEGO that had never been seen before.
Well the Dragon Masters do quite well with new pieces; there are three new knight torso prints (each with a Dragon on each), new face prints, a new large halberd, a new helm (Dragon inspired), a beard piece and pointy hat for the first named Castle minifigs (Wizard Majisto), a new head armour for our horses and of course the Dragon fig itself.
We also start seeing the older flame piece for the first time and cloth capes for our minifigs, printed scroll tiles, brown pieces to show trees and much more. Really I can’t fault LEGO on the efforts it made to make this faction stand out, I even remember at the time how new and interesting the figs looked (I physically needed to get some Halberds and those new helms), by this time the old helms and torso prints had grown stale and this was indeed a nice breath of fresh air. The only thing I really dislike about the faction design is the re-use of the Black Knights Shield, which always bugged me, it just feels lazy on LEGO’s behalf, there are loads of ways to redesign a new dragon emblem however they used the same one as an older faction and hence stole some of that previous factions Identity (one view by Ardelon a Eurobricks member is that Majisto recruited his force from the Black Knights, who simply repainted their old shields, which I like to think could be true).
It should be said though that as a kid I totally needed a Dragon there was no question in my mind. The adverts couldn’t have helped though, as you can see below they are totally pushing their new dragon figs to sell the sets which is a little sad, but then again I guess that’s just business.
LEGO also when out of their way to give children a story to work with for this faction, personally I am not sureabout that choice as it could be taking something away from the magic of LEGO (I always wanted to create my own worlds), but then again due to the fact they had a named character for the first time ever, they had to give him a reason for being there otherwise it would have made no sense. Anyway no more procrastination time to look at the sets.
Set Name = Crossbow Cart 1712 and 1732
Piece Count = 23
Year Released = 1994
This set came in both a polybag and boxed form, and it’s a nice little set. Its cheap, and comes with loads of spare weapons, my favourite thing about the set is the fact that without it, the Dragon Knights have no real way of building up a core army as most of the other sets come with a higher ranked fig (In my opinion) wearing a dragon helm, get a few of these and you even that imbalance, I also like the fact that the shield is positioned to protect the fig.
Set Name = Wizards Cart 1736, 1746 and 2891
Piece Count = 17
Year Released = 1995 and again in 1998
This set came out as a boxed and polybag version and then as part of a sweet promotion in Japan (in 1998). Overall I am not a fan of the wizard fig and this though this set is nice but doesn’t have much in the way of anything for me to like or dislike. That being said, this set is one of the best ways to get a peasant torso (you know the one with the coin purse and belt, ok is blue not grey but still its nice) and a few of these is the best way to bulk up any village population, simply remove the hat and throw the wand in one of the darkest LEGO wells you can find and then you have this brilliant little civilian set, a trader pushing his cart load of goods too market (being watched by his pet falcon all the way).
If you’re really dedicated you could find some hair pieces from your town sets (come on I know you have some) and swap some of the legs around (all blue is just silly). Now you have a civilian population worth protecting, I oddly love this set for what I can do with it rather than what it is, which is a shame. But we all know for a fact that if a small set was released this year (like the jester of 2009) which included only a single civilian fig we would all buy hundreds, stop something for so long and it becomes an obsession (I am obsessed with civilian castle stuff).
Set Name = Dragon Masters Chariot 1794 US Only
Piece Count = 36
Year Released = 1994
This set was part of a Bonus pack (which also included a pirate set), so it’s nice to get some value for your money, yet sadly I am not the biggest fan of the set. Historically it’s reasonably accurate, being reminiscent of the Roman or Greek chariots of old, however that feels obsolete for any castle age. It all feels very lightweight and like something anyone could design (rather than a LEGO designer) the only interesting part of the whole build is the fact that the Halberds on the sides can go down. Overall it is very disappointing (I will however be using a similar design once I get a load of Roman Figs together).
Set Name = Magic Shop 6020
Piece Count = 47
Year Released =1993
I like this set a lot, it always reminds me of the Forestmen and that is never a bad thing. However to call this little tree a ‘shop’ is almost laughable; and the fact that the trunk is brown yet the branches are black is a huge flaw. Again I like it because you can change the wizard into a peasant and then you have a little peasant’s hovel (two or three of these make a nice dilapidated village) and the scroll, falcon, barrel and goblet are all brilliant little additions.
Set Name = Medieval Knights 6105
Piece Count = 41
Year Released = 1993
Another minifigs pack and yet we are seeing a lot less in this set, you only get four figs (unlike 6102 and 6103 were there where six!) the number of shields is poor; and why have two dragon knights yet only one trooper, it doesn’t really fit. Real highlights of the set are the blue and yellow plumes and the wonderful cloth cape (it’s really nice), however the rest is a bit of a letdown, one lone outnumbered Wolfpack, one put upon trooper and one crossbow wielding knight without a quiver (arrrr, never give me a crossbow man without a quiver). It’s not a bad battle pack, I’ve just seen better, I would also have preferred a Dragon over a horse because then you have an instant play set (a band of four brave adventures questing to defeat the Dragon).
Set Name = Majisto’s Tower 1906 US Only
Piece Count = 195
Year Released = 1994
This set is very difficult to find outside of the US and that is a terrible shame. The set has some flaws (the chariot looks terrible) but the structure itself is so nice and you receive so many good building parts (staircase, printed archway, red roof, ect...) that it is hard to be negative. LEGO is the type of product that, as long as you have a visually pleasing set you will always get a good result, this set is one example of that, the build is a little blocky (a couple of BURPS and wall/corner panels, ect..) but you can forgive that once you see the finished product, I would advise anyone with a decent LEGO collection to have a go at building this one, it’s well worth it. It should also be noted that the set came with a cardboard castle to put alongside it (check the pic below) sadly I don’t have that so I can’t really comment.
Set Name = Dragon Defender 6043
Piece Count = 157
Year Released = 1993
The mandatory siege weapon for the Dragon Masters; the design is interesting and I love the brick build Dragon face on the front (as well as a perfect number of figs and weapons), yet sadly the catapult itself is not the greatest. It feels bulky and the saturation of blue bricks is a little off-putting, I also have no idea what the tiny wings are doing on the set. The set looks suitably intimidating however when you fire any of the bricks (by pushing the Dragons head down) they don’t travel far (plus my stupid fat hand gets in the way), it’s all a little bit of a disaster.
Set Name = Majisto's Magical Workshop 1906
Piece Count = 185
Year Released = 1993
If you have read any of my previous posts you will know I am a sucker for a good civilian set and it will come as no surprise that this set features highly as one of my all time favourites. The little stove, the chimney, the blue dragon plumes, the cool blue window and the nice red roof, the design of the set is brilliant, however there is one huge flaw to this set that I never understood, where is the door? How on earth are the figs supposed to get in? The set relies too much on BURPS but I still love it all it requires is a little bit of common sense and you can change the set to something wonderful (I always wanted to make the alternate build on the right).
Set Name = Dragon Wagon 6056
Piece Count = 105
Year Released = 1993
Finally a set with a Dragon, and what a set; the idea is brilliant; Dragon Masters need some way to cart around their captured pets. I love the size of the wagon, I love the cage built out of ladders, I love the flag on top, I love the horse helmets and I love the fact this was the cheapest way to get a Dragon (back in 1993). The set is nice and well thought-out (giving the knight a halberd to deal with the dragon is far better than a sword), most castle wagons feel and look very similar but this one is completely different, it even works well if you’re not a fan of fantasy LEGO, simply remove the Dragon and you have a brilliant prison wagon.
Set Name = Dark Dragon’s Den 6076
Piece Count = 214
Year Released = 1993
You can’t really look at this set and expect it to compare to one of the Castles; that type of thinking will lead to disappointment. This set is not a castle; this set always looked more like a mountain with a small outpost built on top, or possibly a castle that slowly crumbled away over the years. Whatever it is, it is also set up to trap Dragon’s; it comes with a decent compliment of minifigs however it’s not the nicest looking of sets.
Construction wise it is something of a double edged sword, the tree build and outpost roof are both very nice, however the mountain itself is mostly just BURPS so it can be a little disappointing, there are also a few design flaws (such as the ladders on the right leading up into a shrub, or the stairway having no form of protection such as a trap or door). This set whilst being only a slightly glorified cave, is still completely in theme of the Dragon Masters, after all the Dragon’s need somewhere to actually be stored. I always thought the set would be better designed as a cave with the knights questing into it, so that they could kill or capture the Dragon lurking inside, as it is the sets just a bit of a mess, I actually prefer some of the alternate builds. The set overall is ok, but it is far from some of the masterpieces LEGO has built.
Set Name = Fire Breathing Fortress 6082
Piece Count = 397
Year Released = 1993
Now we come to the final set of the Dragon Masters theme, their castle. This castle is on a raised baseplate, yet if compared to some of its competitors it looks like it falls slightly short, with no portcullis, drawbridge, turrets, and with the build simply placed on top of the plate rather than incorporated into it, you are forgiven for being less than impressed. However this set really surprised me, I feel that it is one of those few sets that looks and feels much better in the flesh (so to speak) rather than in picture form.
Minifig wise you get a perfect balance, again you get a Dragon and Wizard, but I also like the inclusion of the solitary Wolfpack (possible Dragon Bait) lurking around and the three troopers commanded by one knight (finally LEGO got the trooper to commander balance right for the Dragon Masters). There is a lot of playability in this set, from the collapsing wall, the Dragon head trap, the trap door on the second floor and much more, everything about this set works well and there just so much to do. I guess what you could say is this set is a rough diamond, it’s worth a look for anyone who is interested and the best thing of all is that most of these Dragon Masters sets sell for a reasonable amount on Bricklink, so if you interested have a look, you might be as surprised as me.
Beginning of the End?
A lot of people have seen the Dragon Masters as the beginning of the end for classic LEGO; this view has always confused me. A lot of the sets to come where brilliant (such as King Leo’s Castel) sure there is a distinctly new feel to these sets; the classic smiley face has gone, not every castle is 90% grey and we have to put up with some BURPS here and there, but these sets still have a very nice thought-out look to them and the figs retain enough of the old whilst incorporating something different too.
Really I like this faction, I feel like they don’t quite reach the true LEGO beauty of some of the sets and the fact that these guys went up against Dragons more than anything else left them feeling a bit left out of the conflict in the LEGO world (when I think of Crusaders for example I instantly think of Black Falcons) but they are a core group and have a deserved place in our combined LEGO history.
I guess you could say they were the beginning of the end for traditional LEGO castle; however I don’t feel that castle really started to go downhill until a little later. Dragon Masters offer something new and very different from what came before; they totally switched up the LEGO styles. Change my good friends is always a good think.
Thank you very much for reading.
Next up Castle goes Royal.