Tuesday, 27 March 2012

An Easy Medieval LEGO House

Taking a break from my usual format I have decided to bring you a build of my own. Now for anyone familiar with my articles you will know I am a huge fan of the civilian side of LEGO Castle, but this particular obsession is not always easy to indulge.

Well I have today an easy way to make a passable Medieval LEGO house, it requires no special “Bricklink” or “Pick a Brick” orders, just some smallish set purchases that are available now.
To build this house I bought three sets, here they are listed below. 

The Log Cabin (set 5766)

Blacksmith Attack (set 6918)

Knight and Castle Building Set (set 5929)

This build was made using only bricks from these sets, I have included other figures and accessories simply because I like them but the actual build was very brick-limited. Please also note that this is just one suggestion and that I am not the greatest builder ever, but I do like its inclusion within my Castle collection so please everyone be kind.

I call it the LEGO Log Cabin MOD.

As always thanks for reading, until next time.

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.


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).


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.


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.


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. 

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Lego Bull Knights Sets 2000

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.