Friday, 24 February 2012

The Lego Fright Knights 1997 -1998


1997 was a sad year for most of England: Princess Diana Died, we gave Hong Kong back to China, the Teletubbies first came on TV, Elton John got knighted and Tony Blair came into power (he was rubbish). Being an apple cheek young child of tender years I didn't pay the slightest bit of notice to any of this (though I did give my mum a hug when she cried over Diana) but for me this year was even worse, this year marked the release of the Fright Knights, I shudder at the memory.


For those who don’t know (lucky you) Fright Knights were the final faction to be released for the classic Castle sets we all know and love. Yes Fright Knights can class itself as a member of the same family that produced Forestmen, Falcons, Black Knights and all the other wonderful LEGO factions from the 80’s and 90’s, clearly Classic Castle had been suck a little too long in its own gene pool however as this new offspring is a sad mutated parody of those noble factions of yesteryear.

Please don’t miss understand me, this child looks ok, sure his ears are a little too big, he’s missing a few teeth and his eyes are blank vacant orbs of despair, but there is a clear family resemblance; no, the problem lies deeper on a more subconscious level, Fright Knights is just inherently wrong.


Ok, I’m sorry, I’m going to drop the metaphor now (it was running a little thin) and just start explaining this faction.

Fright Knights featured an evil couple by the names of Basil the Bat Lord and Willa the Witch, now it has never been confirmed if their relationship was anything other than professional but I like to think there was something going on in that tall juniorised tower of theirs. After all it would explain why Basil was the first Minifig the come with a frown rather than a smile (I’m joking of course I Love my partner).


New elements for this wave come in the form of new torso prints, a new bat helm, a crystal ball, a bat fig, and best of all, the chain piece we all love nowadays. They also repainted the Green Dragon from the Dragon Masters theme with a nice coat of black and gave him the name Draco; this theme also stole the broomstick piece from the Fabuland line.

This faction had castles, catapults, hot air balloons (kinda), flying machines(not as cool as they sound) and carriages; they also liked to pick fights with their two most modern of rivals (Dark Forest and Royal Knights) but these other factions never appeared in any great number. This faction also had a very large number of impulse sets.

It has also been pointed out to me by Lego_Lord _Mayorca on Brickset that these guys had something of a short story publised in the LEGO magazine, here it is below.



Impulse

Set Name = Fire Cart 2538
Piece Count = 20
Year Released = 1998


This set was one of three Fright Knights sets that were part of a Shell Garage promotional offer. As a spare part set its ok, you get a bat, some handy flame and wheel pieces plus a barrel; the fig is also a nice addition to the troop collection. As a set its ok, not the most exciting thing in the world but I can respect LEGO for doing things a little different.

Set Name = Flying Machine 2539
Piece Count = 21
Year Released = 1998


Number two in the Shell list. Ok, what? I don’t know what to say about this, silly, very silly, for shame LEGO, however I do like the shiny sword and would probably get this just for that. Here is a classic example of the ‘wrongness’ surrounding this faction.

Set Name = Catapult Cart 2540
Piece Count = 28
Year Released = 1998


The third promotional set and thank goodness it’s not another flying machine. This set is ok, the catapults a little blocky, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to fire (those yellow studs?), the man has no weapons and it has the look of a set my little brother would build from spare brick, but other than that it’s ok (in which I mean to say ‘yay, not a flying machine’).

Set Name = Flying Machine 2848
Piece Count = 19
Year Released = 1997


Same name, same silliness, different set, this one doesn’t even have wings, how does it fly? Magic? Is it a jet? Ok I have to stop laughing and be serious for a moment, a new fig and a shiny sword doesn’t make it a good LEGO set, this is so random and it’s a shame LEGO put time and effort into this type of thing when they could have given us almost anything else and it would have been better.

Set Name = Witch and Fireplace
Piece Count = 19
Year Released = 1997


Thank you, a witch, a fireplace and a nice number of accessories (including a cat!) this is a set I can get behind. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with this set, it’s actually really good and both the really successful Castle Lines of the modern age have included something similar (except both had wizards instead of a witch), that fireplace has sat in my Crusaders Mountain Fortress for the majority of the last decade and it’s a nice early example of LEGO designing some furniture. What I don’t get is way LEGO didn’t make more sets like this rather than the atrocious promo sets above.

Set Name = Crossbow Cart 6004 and 6006
Piece Count = 20
Year Released = 1997


Here we have an example of another good impulse set; the amount of weaponry with it is stunning and the fig is useful to bulk out the troops of your army. Another siege weapon but at least it can’t fly.

Set Name = Treasure Cart 6028 and 6029
Piece Count = 22
Year Released = 1998


This is the final impulse set for Fright Knights, it’s a standard model that we have seen before but that comment is not supposed to be detrimental. I would have liked a shield to be included and for the chest to be filled with treasure (rather than two yellow gems) but other than there’s nothing wrong with the set, the figs ok and a chest is always useful, average would be a good description of this build.

Small

Set Name = Bat Lord 6007
Piece Count = 12
Year Released = 1997


Anyone want a Dragon Army? Well this is a brilliant way to get it, I love the old style Dragon fig and this set made the Black one very accessible (you even get a flame element to show him breathing fire). Aside from that you also get a cape, shiny sword, a bat and another Bat Lord. It’s more a minifigs pack than a set but if you like those figs you can’t go wrong.

Set Name = Fright Force 6031
Piece Count = 30
Year Released = 1998


This set is the minifigs-pack and again it’s rather nice, I would rather have five figs than a horse but I can appreciate the inclusion, just as I like the fair amount of weapons, nice figure variety, the red feather, the flag and the witch’s crystal ball, overall not bad.

Set Name = Bat Lord’s catapult
Piece Count = 55
Year Released = 1997


Another set that to me highlights the ‘wrongness’ of Fright Knights, sure the cart looks ok but why is that bat riding on the horse, why is the catapult just a barrel, what are those fire pieces doing? The whole design looks ok at first but feels like a set my little brother would design after I had made the basic structure for him, I can’t decide if LEGO was being patronising to children or just lazy with the set designs.

Set Name = Witch’s Windship 6037
Piece Count = 56
Year Released = 1997


This is possibly my most hated Castle Set from the 90’s and 80’s combined. It’s silly, ugly, poorly designed and makes no sense, witches fly on brooms; they don’t steal Dragon from the Dragon Masters. The dragon breaks off quite often and the rigging is not stable, I also dislike the halberds on the front and what I can only describe as tail-lights at the back, my other big gripe is what would I use it for? It’s pointless and the hull is just one large circular brick piece so we don’t even get a large build to enjoy. The only thing I like about this set is the figs and parts (dragon, witch, broom, cape, ect.) that is not enough for a set.


Medium

Set Name = Traitor Transport 6047 and 6099
Piece Count = 139
Year Released = 1997


Interestingly enough this set came with a cave in the US (see below); sadly I do not have the cave so I can only speculate, however I think the idea is clever (a cave for the Dragon finally), though in the picture it looks like the Bat Lord is sacrificing the Traitor to the Dragon.


 As for the set itself I am in two minds, the design looks solid and I like that the cage can lift out, but I really dislike all the wings, trans-yellow bricks, the big red roof and the way it attaches to the Dragon. I like the inclusion of the barding for the horse and the fig who I can only assume is a Black Knight, but by this time I am board of the Bat Lord Fig (he’s everywhere).

This set has a ‘hit or miss’ value to it I am not sure if I like it or not, I will say that its one of the better Fright Knight sets but that is not the highest of praise.


Set Name = Witch’s Magic Manor 6087
Piece Count = 250
Year Released = 1997


Now before we make judgments on this set I as you to pause and consider this one comment, ‘it only ‘Looks’ like a random assortment of black bricks, grey bricks and BURP’s because the witch herself put a magical spell over it’. All we need to do is kiss the frog (I could be confusing my fairy tales at this point) and the curse will be broken and before our eyes this set (if you can call it that) will transform to something more akin to the Magical Workshop or one of the houses from the MMV.

Have you considered that? Ok I know its wishful thinking but this set is defiantly not what made LEGO great, it horrible, the baseplate is too thick, there’s way to many BURPS, the colour scheme is ugly and the play elements are rubbish; you get a skeleton that can spin round from a wall and a stone trap that has nothing clever about it (seriously the stone on a chain drops when you detach it from the wall manually, no clever pulley system or anything). As for the design there a big open gap at the back so the trap is useless anyway and there’s nothing inside the building other than a little witch’s corner on the second floor and 70% of the construction is BURP’s, eurgh.


Ohh and if that wasn’t enough we also get a helicopter, great.  I regretted getting this set which is a very rare occurrence; I will say that if this is one of your treasured sets from your childhood then go and treat yourself to one of the most expensive castle sets you can find from the early 90’s as you deserve a treat after years of torment.


Large

Set Name = Night Lord’s Castle 6097
Piece Count = 601
Year Released = 1997


As much as I dislike the Manor, I find myself unusually drawn towards this set, it has its problems its design is lacking somewhat, these gaps and holes all over the place but there is just something so fun in watching this set slowly reach out towards the skies . I get that same childish rush of joy when I build this set just a I would when I splash in a puddle (come on we all do it occasionally), this set fires off some long forgotten pleasure synapse in my mind that comes from building stupidly impractical things from LEGO, each floor added is another little thrill.

As for the set itself, it is by no means a groundbreaker and it is way too ugly to do anything other than build it and then dismantle and I would never leave this one out on display. It is also one of the sets I would happily give to a smaller LEGO fan (someone of five or six) to keep them busy when their parents come round to visit and we need to keep them quite, I don’t feel particularly attached to this set (small people however cannot touch my Forestmen).


I will also say that as a parts collection you do get quite a good deal, a fair number of figs, a cool flag, a dragon, two horses, a skeleton, bats, fire, chains, shields, weapons, a magic scroll, ect... However once it’s been first built any LEGO collector with any talent will mod it in a hundred tiny ways to improve it; why didn’t the LEGO designers do this in the first place?

If any of you are still in the mood for Fright Knights after reading this overview I will say this is the best one to get, its big, it’s dumb but its fun.


Set Name = LEGO Dacta Castle 9376
Piece Count = 321
Year Released = 1997


This isn’t a set exactly it’s more of a huge bits box (which I don’t own) but I thought it would be good to include it here. If something like this came out now I would be all over it and to include 14 figs is just wonderful (two of each). This type of thing is very handy to use on an already existing castle to make it even bigger.

Am I Biased?

Ok reading back over this review I can see that I haven’t been the fairest individual, I feel the need to point out that what I say is only an opinion, you are perfectly welcome to disagree and some of these sets might mean more to you than me because you have had a different experience with them.

So I will say now I am biased against Fright Knights, as a child I only had a couple of the smaller sets (including the windship) and when I started doing the research for these guys I spent quite a bit of my own money on sets I really didn’t feel were worth it. This is all from a modern perspective with the benefit of comparison, I will compare these guys to all the sets that came before because I except LEGO to get better, I except them to take what was done and improve on that. With these sets I see little of that, the designs are basic and the whole idea behind the faction feels lazy, we had knights and wizard and dragons before.

To me LEGO Castle lost its way a little over this time, I feel like they took all the good castle designers and sent them off to make Western and Adventure sets instead, don’t get me wrong I love those themes and when I finally get round to doing those faction overviews you will hear a fair amount of praise for the set design, but that design is lacking from these guys, it’s as simple as that.

Thank you for taking the time to read this next faction on the chopping black ‘Knights Kingdoms I’.

19 comments:

  1. Good work and you are spot on, Fright knights were terrible. Give me falcons TLG!

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  2. Ugh, you are right, some of these sets look horrible, like the witches manor, no way is that a manor, its just a random collection of bricks! Its such a shame because the title 'witch's magic manor sounds so exciting!

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  3. Also i just noticed, why is there a minifigure randomly holding dragon wings? Did he just pinch them off the dragon? Does he believe they will actually make him fly? Ahhhh, too many questions!!

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  4. Haha, 1997 was a sad year for most of England: we gave Hong Kong back to China.

    I am also sad too, China is not good at the lead of Hong Kong, many bad things after 1997 in Hong Kong, Economic Depression, 2003 SARS, H5N1 Disease.

    I am very enjoy before 1997, many memorable before 1997. Christopher Francis Patten - our good governor. I am from Hong Kong, but I like England.

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  5. Spot on with this write-up. You are saying what the majority of us were thinking when these came out. 6007 and 6027 were the only sets I have acquired from this era (second lowest only to the jelly beans) and I am ashamed to admit that in public. If nothing else, the late 90s were the time of BURPs which is what brought things to such a low point. Looking forward to you getting to the Fantasy Era ('cuz Kingdoms... sigh).

    PS: Not to be "that guy" but you have a near howler of a typo.
    "clearly Classic Castle had been suck a little too long in its own gene poll"

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  6. Good stuff keep up the good work!

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  7. Thanks Steve. I do agree with your review on the Fright Knights. This faction is really a let down to the previous castle factions like the black falcons, black knights and the foresten. In fact, I only bought 6007 & 6027 despite I had more savings at that age :p I guess this was one of the reasons why I went into the "dark ages" where I stopped buying lego sets. haha. But I'm happy with the many impressive lego factions before the Fright Knights :)

    Thank you for this interesting review on such an 'uninteresting' faction. Deeply appreciate your hard work! keep it up!

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  8. Hi Nat
    Ha too many questions indeed, this faction was a shameful time in LEGO history, its best not to delve too deeply for fear of what we might uncover.

    Hi Matthew
    Thanks for the comparison from the other side of the globe it made me laught, thanks always for commenting and reading on this blog :)

    Hi Yiqun
    Thanks for continualy commenting and reading, as I said in the review I have to compare these guys to what came before because thats the way things were. I am hearing more and more that it was with faction that sent so many of us into our 'dark age, for that I almost can't forgive them.There are so many sets I missed out on in the mid 2000s because these guys made me give up on LEGO :(

    To everyone else thank you for reading and the comments they really keep me going, ohh and I have changed the typo :)

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  9. I remember when these came out as I was just getting out of Lego. Didn't own any of these, your review brought back memories of my initial impressions as a kid. Added you to my RSS feed - keep it up!

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  10. I was about 12 years old when the fright nights set came out. I remember sitting down in front of the Night Lord's Castle at the store each time we went, and my parents wouldn't buy it for me.

    Then one day they didn't just buy the castle, but the entire set and even a few extra of the little sets that go with it. It was waiting for me in the middle of my room in a big pile when I got off school one day. It was incredible, I loved that set and kept the night lord's castle for years until a friend knocked it over and it fell into a million pieces :cry:

    Ended up boxing up the whole set and giving it to an older friend's young kid. Had a lot of other sets too, the underwater set from about the same year was another I really liked, had the whole set of that too.

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  11. I got the Witch's Magic Manor and Bat Lord for Christmas when I was 10 years old and they were the final Castle themed Legos I ever had, certainly the end of an era. At the time I actually liked these sets, but looking back I agree they were a mess compared to the ones in years past. I thought they were entertaining though and brought some neat ideas and pieces. I actually do like the Magic Manor, it isn't similar to any of the other castles. These weren't nearly as good as the Dragon Masters sets though.

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  12. I never noticed it before, but in the alternate build of 6087 they switched the witch and dark forestman's heads! Magic Spell?

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    1. That's the scariest part of the set.

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  13. "After all it would explain why Basil was the first Minifig the come with a frown rather than a smile" <-LMAO. Great post.

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    1. I didn't mind the Fright Knights so much. The only real complaint I had was those stupid blocky baseplates. I liked the tower idea for their castle; although, it could have been pulled off better.

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  14. hey don't dis Fright Knights! :P well i admit the sets we're not really that well made but as was proved in Lego Universe; BAT LORDS ARE AWESOME

    don't foget that! :P

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  15. "Quick Robin, Willa the Witch stole the Bat-Copter!"

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  16. I do miss all these small set, which I keep buying when young to accumulate my minifigure!

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  17. I didn't much care for this theme, but it was mostly because I preferred just the regular old knights. All that mystical magical stuff just wasn't for me. Of course by 97/98 I was about to enter my teens, and had pretty much given up the whole Lego thing by then. The only reason I know the sets at all is because my little brother got a few of the sets, but I was never too impressed. I do feel you're being a little harsh on the Night Lord's Castle set. Just look at how tall that tower is? It's great!

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