Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Lego Knights Kingdoms 1 Lion Knights Sets 2000 - 2002


A few weeks ago I wrote an article looking into the Bull Knights from 2000 (I’ll leave you a link if you don’t trust me The Bull Knights). Now those guys were portrayed as villains and crooks: a wicked group that wanted one particular castle but my review left a few questions unanswered. Who were they actually competing against? Whose castle did they want?


Well fear not for I am here to enlighten you on those questions and more you probably wouldn't have wanted to know. Yes (my dear readers) it is time for answers. Every "Yin" needs a "Yang" and these guys are definitely the Bull Knights "Yang"; you can’t have one without the other. They're like bacon and eggs or coffee and cream and, if you can’t tell, I’m writing this introduction whilst also eating my breakfast.
I’ll put my bacon and egg sandwich aside for a moment and introduce you to the Lion Knights and most importantly of all their King, a grey bearded fellow by the name of Leo.

From left to right: King Leo, Queen Leonora, Princess Strom, Richard the Strong and John of Mayne
As you can see the actual figures are wonderful we have leg printings, unique torso prints and a fantastic new style of helmet.I really like how all the figures are not sporting the factions emblem it make them feel more realistic and gives a collector a great opportunity to use a few of these as civilian torsos. It really does feel like a lot of effort was made on the figures however I do have a few problems with the overall concept and the repetition of the Royal Knight’s lion head (from 1995).


Firstly I really dislike the fact that every figure is named and that we only receive two troopers, it makes King Leo feel like a retired dictator forced into exile with his family and a couple of loyal bodyguards. I have no sense of command with him, a couple of generic soldiers would have gone a long way towards improving this.

My second biggest problem, and call me sexist if you will, is the inclusion of Princess Storm. Now as an adult I love the figure, I feel that her hips are way too large, but other than that I really like the design but when you’re a child the toughest figure is always a representation of you. I was always Robin Hood shooting arrows into the Crusaders fortress, I was the Wolfpack warrior with the eye patch stealing the treasure and I was always the Black Knight in the armour and visored helm.

I was not however at anytime a Princess. Please don’t misunderstand me and I could be completely wrong as I never owned any of these sets as a child but I feel that, as a child I would have been extremely disappointed by a girl being the best warrior with the coolest equipment. Now half of me wants to delete this paragraph as I am a little ashamed of myself, but it’s true, as a child I would have had no interest in the Princess Storm figure and I feel sorry of any children that missed out on that experience of representing themselves. Ok we got through that and to all girls reading please disregard it, I'm not about to get into the whole boy, girl, LEGO issues, as penance I will now divide up all my spare LEGO pieces into separate colours whilst you watch this movie.


Ok, I’m back, new parts for these guys come in the form of a new helm (exciting) new lion brick pieces (fancy) and weird curved towers (Juniorised) as well as the curved window piece we all know and love and a stained glass window brick.  Now that my Bacon sandwich has congealed into a disappointing cold lump I feel it’s a good time to move onto the sets.

Impulse

Set Name = King Leo’s Spear Cart 1286
Piece Count = 22
Year Released = 2000


Remember my Bull Knights review when I mentioned four impulse sets being released in Japan as part of a sweet promotion, well here is the third set from that little group. I’m not the biggest fan of it as it does go some way towards that retired dictator role, I feel a real King would have someone else to push his carts, but I can’t really fault it and if you’re looking for a cheap way to get a king (and most importantly that crown)  you can’t do much better.

Set Name = Richards Arrow seat / Defence Archer 1287/4801/4811
Piece Count = 15
Year Released = 2000


This is the fourth and final promotional set and it was also released in a boxed and polybag version in its own right. The warrior on the weapon is called Richard the Strong and I love both his helm and the fact that they gave him a quiver (yay); the lion shield is also a plus. The build is nothing special but the figure is just so nice I would happily own ten of these as that would give me some of the generic troopers I crave (or a clone army).


Small

Set Name = Knight’s Catapult 4816
Piece Count = 50
Year Released = 2000


This set was one of the four sets to include a shiny item of some description, two were previously looked at in my Bull Knights review, but the other two have a home here. As you can see the shiny item in question is a sword which is fairly disappointing as this has been seen before, indeed I would have been far more excited by a different chrome weapon (even if it was the short sword version) simply because it would have been new (like the helm and shield for the Bull Knights). As for the set itself you receive a fairly generic catapult (thought I love the arm piece) and a couple of loyal Lion Knights. The build is very simple and I dislike the big fat grey brick it comes attached to, but the set is not in any form bad. I really love both the figures as well so for them alone I would recommend the set and again we get a crossbow with a quiver (yay), but I can't stress enough how the build feels very juniorised.

Set Name = Dungeon 4817
Piece Count = 38
Year Released = 2000


This is the fourth and final shiny item set, in this one we receive a chrome breastplate which was more commonly seen equipped with the Armada minifigs from the pirate theme in 1997. The build for this set is again very blocky and juniorised; to call a little tower with a skeleton in it a dungeon is almost an insult, however the set is very pleasing to build and again I love the figure of John so much that I can forgive the set its flaws. This is quite a common experience for me in a lot of these sets, the builds are poor but the wonderful figures allow me to forgive them.

Set Name = King Leo 6026
Piece Count = 21
Year Released = 2000


I think this set is intended as the battle pack for Knights Kingdom however if it is I find it hugely disappointing, two figures, a horse and some pathetic attempt at a tower. It all feels so bland and incomplete, even if you look at in terms of a parts pack we are seriously missing out two swords, one shield and a flag is not a great number. Overall this set feels like an incomplete find at a car-boot sale (or garage sale if you’re American) where the owner has scrapped together what little Lego he could find in order to make a sale. Very disappointing.

Medium

Set Name = Guarded Treasure 6094
Piece Count = 103
Year Released = 2000


This set is a very interesting build, despite the fact that it feels very juniorised you can see some new elements being combined into a new style of LEGO castle, I would almost class this set as the missing link. The lion bricks and barred window are both new elements and the blue roof is a nice addition to the build, whereas the use of far too many large elements and the blocky base plate is really detrimental; this set feels both 'good and bad' and 'old and new' at the same time. 


The instruction manual also includes an alternate build (something I greatly appreciate) and the figures included are wonderful, the fact that this set can be picked up on bricklink for about a tenner makes it a very attractive option for anyone wanting to ‘dip a toe’ into the waters of Knights Kingdom. By no means is this set revolutionary but I see it as the very first pebble with started the avalanche, to what we have now.


Set Name = Royal Joust 6095
Piece Count = 101
Year Released = 2000


The previous jousting set was released twelve years earlier and it was a grand affair with eight figures, a weapon rack, barding for both horses, a drinks butt and many other things, this set is very much inferior to that. As you can see the jousting set has been stripped down to the bare minimum, the King and two competitors.

The build for this set slightly hit and miss, I love the stained glass window but hate the blocky baseplate; I like the lion bricks but dislike the swinging axe mechanism. The parts for this set are very appealing, visored helm, two chests, shields, axes, chains, ect... this set comes with a lot of stuff and that alone can make it enjoyable to build but it looks like a bit of a mess after its done (with far too many weapons on display) and I actually find myself liking the simple gateway alternate build far more from an atheistic point of view.


I mentioned it in passing above but I need to spend a little longer on it, what really lets this set down is the swing axe play mechanic, I see no reason in changing the excitement of a joust into a silly ‘hit the target to swing the axe’ game. LEGO is taking the magic of imagination away from the child and dictating how a toy should be played with, they win it back somewhat with the alternate build in the instructions but I still feel like the set would have benefited greatly from simply having a fence instead. Overall the set isn’t bad but it cannot in anyway compete with its predecessor.


Large

Set Name = Blacksmith Shop (My Own Creation) 3739
Piece Count = 619
Year Released = 2002


Now this set was not officially part of Knights Kingdom and in fact it wasn't released until a couple of years later under the ‘My Own Creation’ title, however the fact that it includes prints from this era and  the timeframe involved places this set in either Knights Kingdom I or II, I chose here.

This set was not actually made by a LEGO designer but rather a fan by the name of Daniel Siskind and was available exclusively through the online shop of LEGO. Truly I find this set remarkable in every way, it was designed by a fan, it has a detailed interior, it fully closes, and it was the first true representation of a civilian set for LEGO Castle.  Most amazing of all was the fact that this set was only £30 when it was first released.

This set is a groundbreaking moment, a point in time were everything changed, take a second to realize how important that is. Without this set I have my doubts that we would have received the Medieval Market Village (which is possibly my all time favorite set). I would like to say thank you to Daniel Siskind for that.


Set Name = King Leo’s Castle 6091/6098
Piece Count = 529
Year Released = 2000



Now we come to the final set for Knights Kingdom I, King Leo’s castle, and if you have been following the story, the reason for all this conflict.

This set comes with every figure released for KK1 (except Weeezil) and is the first castle to feature a decent number of combatants on both sides (rather than the token one opponent for most castle sets); the child receives decent play value straight out of the box and can instantly start his own little war without needing any of the other sets.  The fact that the set includes the exclusive Queen Leonora (if you discount the Blacksmiths shop) is also very welcome.

Parts  wise the set almost has it all, shiny weapons, barding, cloth flags, a skeleton, a catapult, a cannon, flames, shields, a brown bird (which I haven’t seen anywhere else), a chest, a stained glass window, a throne, gems, traps and so much more. I really feel LEGO went all out when it came to filling every inch of this set with pieces.



As for the build itself I find myself less enthused, the set is on a wonderful baseplate but each section is divided up and placed on the baseplate separately so you don’t feel like you’re building a castle at all. It’s a very disjointed affair where you build each part solo and then add it to the plate one set at a time, the Guarded Treasure set can actually replace certain towers (so one can be taken out and another placed in) because they have exactly the same dimensions. The alternate builds on the instruction manual go some way towards pacifying me but its still a disappointment.


But a poor builds ok if the sets nice right? Well yes that is correct but sadly not apt in this instance. The castle looks nice from a distance and there’s plenty of space within it to stuff it full of minifigs but it has an incomplete feel to it, from the front the set looks wonderful but on closer inspection you will find that there’s lots of gaps and that big space in the centre is completely wasted (with nothing but a throne). The set has play features coming out of its foundations but none of them add a great deal (a flying chest section, a simple axe trap, a rotating window, a hidden coin stash in the throne, ect)


The set just doesn’t live up to its full potential, I like it but I feel alienated by it, it has none of the elegance of design I have come to expect; this set reminds me more than any other that LEGO is a child’s toy. Now there is nothing wrong with that and indeed that was probably the designer’s intention but as an AFOL I am disappointed.


LEGO Limbo


Looking back I feel my review of King Leo’s Castle is slightly harsh, as a child I would have loved this castle because there was so much to play with. As an adult however I am bored by it because for me the was build is dull and as a display piece it is lacking; this set and many from this theme have none of the simply beauty that we see in sets from the 80s and 90s and they also have none of the design beauty of the sets from Fantasy and Kingdoms.

This faction (and to some extent the Bull Knights) are stuck in an awkward kind of limbo, I still think as a child I would have been very happy with them, but sadly they don’t quite live up to the test of time like many of their older compatriots.

The figure design for this wave is some of the highest quality I have seen so far indeed they far outstrip the simple smiley’s of the 80s; so in some respects progress was being made, the inclusion of alternate builds in the instructions and the new elements used also reinforce this. But the sets are lacking a great deal with overall design none of the sets are as fun or as satisfying to build as the older ones and therein lies the problem for me, these sets are less about construction and more about play features, I feel that to some extent LEGO lost was made their toy so unique.

I can buy hundreds of different toy products that have spring firing mechanisms and targets to aim for, I can by lots of toys that focus on collecting them all and combining the shiniest elements. I can only buy one toy that allows me to break it apart and build it back together again however I want.

There is only one LEGO; somehow I feel that is missing just a little bit in these sets.

As always thank you very much for reading,
Until Next Time. 

20 comments:

  1. These were some of the first Lego set's that I received as a child...Reading your review brought back great memories and nostalgia. Great interpretations of these sets keep up the good work.

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  2. As always, great review, Steve! I actually have a soft spot for this wave, as I though that, had it been fleshed out more it would've been amazing. However, two things- 6091/6098 did not come with every figure in Knight's Kingdom I, as it is missing Weezil, and all minifigures from 10176 Royal King's Castle, which leads me to number two- the aforementioned castle is missing, which I believe is widely considered to be a part of this wave.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback, I have now included Weezil's absence from the castle (thank you for that).

      As for set 10176 I see that as part of the KK2 line as it was released in 2006 (six years after this set), it was indeed a recreation of this set but it has no actual place in the wave itself. I will be commenting on how weird it is (with the original shields and emblems from KK1) but considering it has none of the same figures and none of the flavour of KK1 it just feels too out of place to put it here.

      I can see how someone would consider them to be in the same wave as Brickipedia does indeed claim it as such, but I personally saw no place to put it in my review and considering Brickset puts the set in KK2 I felt ok doing the same  it is however a puzzler.

      Cheers again for the comments and thanks for reading, without feedback I would have quite writing these things after my first post.

      Delete
  3. Hi Steve, It's me again :)

    I agree with you about the Royal Joust 6095 set, it is a far cry from my Knight's Challenge 6060 set. I do welcome a few new minifigs. However, apart from that, I don't see anything good about this theme (just my own opinion). It's really sad to see Lego's failure to achieve it's motto of "det bedste er ikke for godt" which means the best is never too good.

    I do agree with you that some of these sets are really inferior compared to their counterparts in the 80s & 90s or even the Fantasy & Kingdom sets. The main purpose of Lego is to allow its users ( be it child or adult) to build, design and create. If you are just teaching the younger ones how they should be playing their lego, you are simply restricting their ability to imagine, which would be a waste. Also, I really dislike the shiny gimmicks made by lego to induced consumption by people.

    Well, enough of my ranting. Thanks for sharing my view and articulating it in such a fanciful and beautiful manner :) Btw, I realized you had given some of these sets a second chance by reviewing them. Personally, I had expanded my collections in both the Pirates and Castle themes due to your reviews. Although it's burning a big hole in my pocket but I appreciate your blog posts. Awesome stuff! Keep it up the good work!

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    Replies
    1. Hello Yiqun good to hear from you :)

      Wallet burning hey, I know how that feels. Its a great compliment to hear that my opinion has helped someone part with their hard earned cash so thank you for making me feel fantastic :)

      These sets aren't all bad but they are lacking and I wouldn't advise anyone get these unless they see them cheap or really love the figures. Its been these guys and the KK2 sets that have been hardest for me to track down and get my grubby hands on, its a shme that these guys weren't really worth all the effort I went to.

      That being said great comments like yours make it all worth it so thanks again

      Cheers

      Delete
  4. I really am rather offended by your treatment of Princess Storm. Aside from that, great review!

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry Gorm, she's a fantastic figure and I love the two I now have in my collection it's just I know how I would have been as a child :( but I agree no excuses, she's a great figure.

      Cheers for commenting and hopefully I won't be as mean with KK2

      Delete
    2. I understand what you wrote about Princess Strom, and it is better to be honest. I am curious though:

      As an 80s kid I had and greatly loved the the Kings Castle 6080, the Maiden's cart (except I always called it "the Queen in a carriage") and later the Black Knights Castle 6086 which I combined with the other castle to make MOCs. But I always wondered where the king was. When I got older a friend of my mother's young son played with them, and his question was always "but where is the king?".

      King Leo looks cool and powerful, so doesn't having him included in the set make up for Princess Strom since he ranks above her? If she has the best weapons you can always give them to one of the boys anyway and just make her an archer. As a girl I think I would have loved that figure, just as when I watched the new Star Wars I loved that there were now more options for girls than being a princess (which is not to disrespect princesses, I just never wanted to be one).

      Just my thoughts. Really enjoying your blog and seeing all the 80s and 90s castle sets along with the boxes and alternate builds.

      Delete
  5. Sorry, would you give me to say in here? I am disappoint for the castle 6098, it is very easy to build, only spent half hours, also the castle is not strong and delicate, after I bought this set, i didn't buy LEGO castle till 2007......

    After I saw the 7094, I buy LEGO product again...... :D

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  6. Hey, Legosteve. Are you going to post anymore? I am a huge fan, and love your marvelous posts.

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  7. Why princess is so BIG? Feminists designed this set or what?

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  8. Growing up in the eighties, and looking through your blog here, I must say, the final great era of castle legos ended with the wolfpack. And the last really great castle being the Black Knight's Castle. I remember regretting not getting that for years, until I discovered ebay. I also liked the magicians workshop from a later series, but that was the last I bought. It all got a little too silly with dragons, witches and bat lords. The thing that pulled me in to castles in the beginning was that they seemed to try to depict realistic castles and stuff, so for a kid it almost became a history lesson in a way. Great blog btw

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  9. I think they could've massively improved on the design of the castle if they just used some parts to fill the gaps at the sides. A castle that is open from behind is okay, as that is good for playing. But the sides are what bothers me the most. They look open and ugly. Same goes for the design between the glass window and the gatehouse. It is just... open. I bet I would need less than 100 parts to make a big impact on the whole of that set.

    The castle is clearly aiming to get some disney fairytale castle vibes and it does that pretty well for its time, unfortunally it is ruined by those big holes in the walls...

    All in all I think it isn't really fair tho to judge this line from the eyes of an AFOL. It is clearly aimed at kids, who will have fun with these sets. (Probably will also be bothered by the castles design flaws on the sides and above the gatehouse)

    When it comes to the towers, I like them on the castle, as while they are junorised, they add alot of deco (you can't tell me those blue roofed towers don't look nice). Also they are well integrated into the structure. I like that.

    Back in the day I wanted this castle for christmas. My parents instead got me 6090 somewhere from ebay for about 50 bucks. On the one hand I was dissappointed because it wasn't the castle I wanted, but on the other hand it was pure magic, as I had no internet access back then and didn't know that 6090 existed. After just a few seconds of building I was absolutly in love with 6090 and I don't think I would've been as happy if I got this castle (6091) instead.

    But I have to say this was the last lego castle that really delivered this classic blocky lego feeling and that alone makes me think about getting it now and kinda make my childhood dream come true...

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    Replies
    1. Tested it and I need 66 parts to make the sides look good/decent and improve the whole castle by a longshot

      Delete
  10. Guarded Treasure, King Leo, and Defense Archer were some of the first lego sets my parents got for me and my brother alongside some of the earlier star wars sets. The classic toy store in Boston with the spiral stairs, the time spent playing and fighting with my brother, and so on really cemented this as my favorite lego knight theme (having never experienced the first days of Castle).

    I might tell you, in relation to the characterization of the gigs that I never knew Richard was named. Because we ended up with three, and since they all had different weapons, my brother and I as children assumed that the red-sleeve was the standard troop of the Kingdom Guard. I see the dilemma from a designer's standpoint, but from a kid's eyes the king's army of silver-chested, contrast-shielded minions made for wonderful play.

    (It never occurred to us that they were clones either. It was generally assumed that like Victorians with top hats and waxed moustaches, the similarities of the knights were the result of several choices on the part of individuals to willingly conform to the accepted aesthetic. The brown-mousteched knight was seen as a rebel and maverick, and princess storm was the source of much debate and gender confusion until a young reader novel confirmed that she was in fact female.)

    (As young boys, we assigned gender mostly my outward appearance. The armored redhead was assumed to be a male cousin of the redheaded rebel trooper from the Episode 5 Hoth Turret set; albeit one with abnormally shapely hips.)

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