In 2000 LEGO Castle went straight back to its classical roots, a castle and a couple of traditional ‘non magical’ factions to fight over it, ohh and more siege weapons than you could comfortably fit inside your own Castle’s courtyard. No, we had none of this silly magical stuff (ok, we had a Dragon, shut up) and none of this interesting ninja stuff (which I shall explore at a later date, I promise).
‘Hang on a minute’ I hear you all say (yes all 20 of you) ‘one castle to fight over, that’s not traditional; old LEGO gave each of their factions a base camp of some description, I liked that it allowed me to collect the factions I want, you know, build my own world’. Well my dear readers, you are correct, it seems for this wave of Castle they had become a little lean in the ‘build it your way’ ethos, and sadly Juniorization had set in on all levels of this faction. They even gave every minifigs a name and released a computer game to go alongside the sets; yes it feels that the actual design was not the only focus for these guys.
Anyway today I shall be looking at the ‘evil’ side The Bull Knight; lead by none other than Cedric the Bull. Cedric lead a mighty army of two, who went by the names Weezil and Gilbert the Bad and his motivation was simple, he wanted the King Leo’s Castle.
|From Left to Right; Cedric the Bull , Gilbert the Bad and Weezil|
Now it’s not all doom and gloom with these guys look you can see Weezil is even smiling isn’t that nice. I quite like the armour prints and leg prints for these guys however they never came with a castle or indeed any building of any type, so as much as they gain points on one hand (Leg printing innovation) they lose them on the other. Sadly these warriors had to let their armour and weapons rust in the forest as there was nowhere else for them to stay. Both the helms seen on these figs make their final appearance in these sets as well so I sort of feel sorry for them, poor bandits wearing ‘last seasons’ armour just looking for shelter; what type of King doesn’t help his homeless, it’s just a little cruel.
See that was just mean Cedric obviously had some type of delusional problem if he thinks he can occupy a castle by pole-vaulting over the wall, King Leo should be helping him. If you’re like me you will always route for the underdog and these guys couldn’t get any more ‘under’ if they tried, so it’s a little bit difficult to see them as the evil faction for this wave. LEGO needed to work better on its characterisation, these guys are tragic not evil.
Set Name = Bull’s Fire Attacker 1288 and 4807
Piece Count = 24
Year Released = 200
This set was available in two forms one as part of a Japanese candy promotion (one of four available) and one as a set in its own right. As a small set it is actually quite nice, though I am not a fan of the fire cart itself; it does comes with a lot of extra weapons and Cedric himself, a couple of these would look nice attacking any Castle.
Set Name = Weezil’s Stone Bomber
Piece Count = 22
Year Released = 2000
This set was only available as part of a Japanese candy promotion, it is however very easy to build for anyone with a fairly extensive bits box. The catapult is a simple swivel design and it works well enough, it is neither exciting nor upsetting; I am not the greatest fan of the fact that the catapult cannot be moved as I don’t feel it’s realistic enough for me, but what do I know? I’m not designer or a historian. It has to be said the Weezil himself has a horrible face, the odd smirk combined with eye shadow, eurrgh; but if you were lucky enough to collect all four of these promotional sets you could combine them into yet another couple of siege weapons (see below). I like this idea it’s fun to collect towards a goal, sure a lot of people will have a couple of the sets but only a dedicated person will have all four and there reward it the option of build yet more designs, this plays into LEGO’s strength as a toy; it’s just a shame it just more siege weaponry.
Set Name = Axe Cart 4806
Piece Count = 28
Year Released = 2000
The final impulse set for the Bull Knights and yes another siege weapon (are you seeing a pattern) this one was not part of a sweet promotion so it instantly becomes my favourite; it also has five weapons with it so it gets higher points again. The two halberds are a very welcome addition and make the set look particularly fearsome; I also like how you can put both the crossbows on the top, Weezils stupid face does mar the beauty somewhat and the set is very bulky. I also see little use of the set as a weapon of war, the only way it could cause any damage it for the Bull Knights to be standing on a hill letting these roll down onto on enemy troops below; a burning log would be just as good and then you wouldn’t have to go to all the trouble of designing this monstrosity. Yeah I have convinced myself, I don’t like the set.
Set Name = Dragon Rider 4818
Piece Count = 11
Year Released = 2000
The LEGO company released four sets in this wave that each containing a shining item (a Helm, Shield, Sword and Breastplate) the idea was to combine the four and give them to one fig (Cedric himself) so that you would have a mighty Champion in shining armour, did you want to see him, ohh ok just for you faithful reader (see below). This set has also got a dragon! At the time I believe the set cost about £3 which would be about £5 in modern money, would you by this set for a fiver? I would, ohh yes, I would by five of them and make a Dragon squadron equipped with shining helms (unique to this set) and huge Halberds, then Cedric would capture that blasted Castle. Its a nice battle pack, but has little else in it, if your a fan of the classic Dragon then this set is golden.
Set Name = Bull’s Attack Wagon 4819
Piece Count = 49
Year Released = 2000
The second set to come with a shiny item (unique to this set); I see this one as the army building set for the Bulls. I love Gilbert the Bad, I have a soft spot for eye-patches and the fact that this one looks stitched on is brilliant, his armour is also great for any mercenary figs or even an elite unit of Forestmen, so I am changing 'Gilbert the Bad' to 'Gilbert the Great'. Weezil is back looking as ugly as ever, but what really lets the set down it the ‘box on wheels’, I hate sets that look like I could have designed them, sadly this is one of those sets; there is nothing exciting or pretty about it the harness is just dire, it allows no pivot and the cart itelf is just a square, horrible. This is possibly one of the worst carts available, but that is counteracted somewhat by the figs and the shiny shield (I’m like a magpie attracted to shiny things).
Set Name = Catapult Crusher 6032
Piece Count = 56
Year Released = 2000
This is my favourite Bull’s Knight Set; it a nice, compact and slightly top heavy catapult; but it comes with Gilbert some fancy accessories and has a very nice design. Ok extras first, the large stones, barrel, plenty of weapons (ohh a shiny) and the shield makes this a great parts pack, as far as the design goes it a cross between a catapult and a battering ram, though I doubt the horns would do much go against a castle it’s nice to see the LEGO designer place that bull reference in there on a slightly subtle level (unlike the bats for the Fright Knights). The catapult does have a tendency to fall backwards as its slightly top heavy and the design is a little chunky, I would have preferred the old wheels compared to these logs but it’s not bad by any stretch. What really lets this set down is that fact that you only get one minifigs, if they would have given us a second Bull Knight then it would have been up there with the classic siege weapons of old (crusaders twin launcher anyone?). As it is, it falls slightly short, but if compared to a lot of the other sets for this wave it’s by no means the worst.
Set Name = Bull’s Attack 6096
Piece Count = 313
Year Released = 2000
The Largest set that the Bull Knights received is actually a collection of siege weapons. Now it would be very easy to moan about this set, asking why it isn’t a castle of some kind and generally running these guys into the ground, but I am not going to do that. Yes it is disappointing that LEGO didn’t give the Bull Knights a castle and yes we already have a siege weapon in every other set, but I am going to judge this set on its own merit and flaws; and remember this is one of the first sets to come with a spring so that you could fire your projectiles long distances so the potential for tomfoolery is very attractive.
First off figures and accessories, we get four minifigs with this set (the fourth is a Royal knight locked in the prison), which is the entire Bull Knights range, I feel the set would have justified a couple of extra troopers but I believe LEGO hamstrung itself with naming the figs and it wouldn’t have felt right to have two Weezil’s loading the cannon or whatever. As for accessories we get a great deal, plenty of weaponry, barding and extras, accessory wise I have no complaints.
Now to look at the set, or should I say sets, you get four separate builds so there’s some definite variation here, however they are all siege weapons so the set actually comes with more siege equipment than there are Bull Knights to operate them, that’s a tad strange.
First the small catapult, this is an easy build and I like the sloped bricks and grey boulders used in it; the catapult fires really easily and the brick goes shooting across the room so for function and form this is a real winner, it’s a shame it’s a static catapult but I am only nitpicking this is a nice set.
Onto the cannon and yes its spring loaded, it might just be my version of this (with a super tight spring) but the cannon is a really deadly weapon, seriously I have owned bb Guns with less power. This is one of the few siege weapons that actually have the potential of knocking a trooper of a wall or damaging part of a castle, I just love it and because of that I can look past its blocky-ness and the silly crossbow on top; this is another wonderful addition to the set.
With the large catapult the set starts to fall down somewhat, the design is a bit odd, why do I need another catapult and why am I using my cannon to fire it? This effectively wastes the potential of the cannon and the worst part about it is that this catapult isn’t as good as the little one, the brick keep falling of the basket (for want of a better word) and when they do fire it’s a pathetic throw that goes nowhere. This is the worst part of the set by a long way it just doesn’t work well enough.
The last and biggest part of this set is the siege tower/battering ram/prison; yes it’s a construct of many uses and it combines them all fairly successfully. The base is six wheels that look very solid and the battering ram itself can swing back and forth; the prison is held in place my some long technic rods and can be pulled out and the top of the siege tower can extend (and is attached to some chains to keep it in place). In reality the build gets better as you go up, the wheels are too blocky and the ram is a little unstable, the prison is nice but I resent the use of a ladder piece as the door when the top of the tower has no means of being reached and the top is perfect (the extend chains are brilliant) it’s funny but I have never like and dislike parts of the same set as much as I do with this one.
Another exciting bonus for this set was the fact that they have included some instructions for extra builds, a type of bridge and yet another siege weapon, I really like this decision, it allows for more variation on style and design and it allows the child the confidence to make their own sets up, I would welcome this in some of the more modern sets I buy. However as with the sweets promotion it’s just a shame the only big ideas they could make were yet more siege weaponry.
Losing Their Way?
When I reviewed these sets I did feel a little bit alienated by some of the decisions LEGO had made, a lot of the emphasis on these sets is play features (flicking a brick across a room) or collecting them all, it feels like they are encouraging the purchase rather than the product. Does that make sense? Well maybe no, but I feel like if you’re trying to sell a set on the premise that it helps complete a whole (like with the Chrome pieces) then you’re not really selling the set based on its own merits, you’re selling it based on a gimmick.
Now you could say that’s the emphasis on some of the more modern sets (such as Pharaoh Quest and the golden pieces or the portal rings for Atlantis) but it’s the way it’s promoted, its part of the play features rather than the selling point of the set.
I don’t know; it could just be me reading too much into it and believe me the Bull Knights were a faction I defiantly missed as a child so my nostalgia goggles where turned off when I looked at the sets, but apart from the figures (which are excellent in the most part) these sets don’t really have anything special about them and one catapult does much the same as another so why would a child (or me) need three or four of them?
The Bull Knights could have been the next Wolfpack but despite being give a greater number of sets they just aren’t as good. This faction is truly one of the greatest loses of potential for LEGO Castle, little variation and little in the way of quality builds.
But not to leave on such a low note, let’s look at the Bull Knights jut again attempting to occupy that castle.
As always thank you very much for reading, until next time.