Mini Building Sets
Kevin Apgar has a great guest review tonight of
the new mini-building sets of Star Wars Legos - take it away, Kevin!
The Lego Corporation has been making a mint with their Star Wars license. As a result, they have the money and desire to put a lot of time and effort into creating new and interesting sets to appease the hordes of fans that crave both Star Wars and the bricks that have brought me joy since I was five years old. Some sets are hits and some are misses. Some are relatively inexpensive and others could break the bank. The latest release from Lego is the Mini Building Sets series of eight vehicles (two per package) that are collected from all five movies. The four sets are: the X-Wing Fighter/TIE Advanced (#4484), Sebulba’s Podracer/Anakin’s Podracer (#4485), the AT-ST/Snowspeeder (#4486), and Jango Fett’s Slave I/Jedi Starfighter (#4487). All four sets come with extra pieces that can be combined to build a bonus ninth vehicle – the TIE Bomber. Excellent.
Packaging - ****
If I thought Michael would let me score this beyond a mere four stars, I would. This is the best packaging Lego has ever developed. They are clear plastic snap-tight clamshells. They are taped shut at the top and the back swings open towards the bottom of the package. Should you so desire, you can place all the parts back inside the package and snap it shut with no worries about it popping open accidentally. On the front of the package is a molded 4x2 classic brick harkening back to the simple days of Lego’s past.
The cardboard insert is beautiful covering both the front and back and all the sides so you can’t see the nasty little plastic bags inside the package. The front of the insert shows the Lego vehicles “in action” with appropriate background graphics. The back of the insert shows the vehicles in all four sets along with what additional pieces are included in each pack and how those additional pieces fit together to form the TIE Bomber.
The only downside to the packaging, and I am taking no stars away for it because this is still excellent packaging regardless, is that these packs can be easily opened and an army builder with sticky fingers could easily pilfer the parts from within. My suggestion is to carefully examine the tape seal at the top of the package to make sure it doesn’t appear torn or peeled back. Also check the top two corners of the plastic to make sure they haven’t been forced back.
Design Quality - **1/2
Two-and-a-half stars might be high considering they’re not exact likenesses. But, c’mon now. Do you seriously expect McFarlane-inspired creations here? No, didn’t think so. They’re Legos for God’s sake. Can you tell what they’re supposed to be? Absolutely. That’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
My only problem is that some of the sets are really flimsy. Some pieces hold on by a single peg and are not particularly secure. I guess this is forgivable considering their size. But, sometimes I’m afraid to handle the sets because I fear they’ll fall apart. The wings on the Snowspeeder are held in place only by a rod snapped in place by a clip. Also, the fuselage tubes of the TIE Bomber don’t hold firmly to the central axis rod making them misalign with the wings.
A quick note, these sets contain some very small pieces so definitely keep them away from children. I would suggest this sort of set for display on your desk at work. They’re perfect for show.
Colors - ****
One of the greatest things about Lego obtaining the Star Wars license is that, in order to be as close to realistic as possible, they have greatly expanded their color palate. That is definitely evidenced here. There are basics like the two shades of grey, black, yellow, and white. But, with these sets, we are treated to colors that are specific to the SW line. For example, the orange of the Snowspeeder and Sebulba’s Podracer, the deep red of the Jedi Starfighter and the X-Wing, the blue-grey of the TIE Bomber, and the muted sage green and deep blue in Jango’s Slave I.
Usability of Pieces - ***
What the heck does this category mean? Well, read on…
The thing I always liked best about Legos was you could either build the sets as laid out in the instruction booklets or you could create your own. Heck, when I was but a young lad, I created a Transformer out of Legos that relied on the hinge and swivel pieces to transform from a robot to a
However, as Legos evolved, they started developing very intricately molded “special “pieces that weren’t very useable outside the realm of their specific set. This tendency flared up with the Star Wars license. There ain’t a whole heckuva lot you can do unless you are just exceptionally gifted (see
The Star Wars Alphabet Project to understand what I mean). While these mini sets have very specific parts as well, I feel they are much more useable in self-designed projects than the parts that come with their larger SW Lego counterparts.
Value - ****
The price of many Lego sets can really make your heart stop beating in your chest. There are small diorama sets that can be purchased for a mere $5, but to complete the look of the scene, you must buy larger sets that can run anywhere from $15-30. Then there are the monster sets like the Episode II Gunship that is nearly $100. And, finally, the big old UCS sets that have come out recently like the Rebel Blockade Runner for $200 and the Imperial Star Destroyer for $300 (I think). Incredible sets to say the least. Will I ever own them? Not if my wife has a say in the matter and not so long as I’d like to avoid being chased down by the bank that owns the rights to my credit card.
Thankfully, for the casual builder, these Mini Collector Sets run only $3.99. In other words, to obtain all the pieces necessary to build the bonus TIE Bomber, you need only spend about $17 (after taxes) if you can find all the sets. The TIE/X-Wing combo is likely to be popular with army builders and will sell quickly. If you can find it, nab it.
I gotta admit that this “ninth set” scheme is one of the most brilliant marketing ploys I’ve seen to push your products since Playmates required fans to buy four Simpsons figures from each series to send away for the B-Sharps special edition figure. Would it have been the earlier series of figures, before they started making so many variations, I probably would’ve jumped on the B-Sharps offer. But, considering I haven’t purchased a Simpsons figure since Fat Tony, I’m not likely to ever own one. C’est la vie. Intelligent marketing all the same though.
Overall - ***1/2
I love these sets. That’s all there is to it. They’re Legos. They’re Star Wars. They’re cheap. What more could you want? Well, for one, I would’ve liked them to be a bit sturdier (you’ll understand this argument more when you see the
Snowspeeder). I also would have liked it if the twin fuselages (is that a word? Or is it
fuselagi?) on the TIE Bomber held in place better on the axis rod. But, they are fun and the packaging is great. Dish out $4 a set and have some fun.
This is just a note to collectors… there is a tenth set which is the standard TIE Fighter. This set was only available as a limited edition piece that came packaged with some fan club magazine
(dunno if it was the Star Wars fan club or Club Lego). Occasionally,
StarWars.com, in conjunction with Lego.com, has offered this TIE on their website to the first 5,000 people that register. They go very quickly and I actually managed to get in on the offer the second time around and am awaiting the set in the mail. If you want more information about when they are available, you can try your luck at the two above-listed sites or just check the news on
From Bricks to Bothans. This is the ultimate source of news for collectors of Star Wars Legos and they know their stuff.
Where to Buy:
These are primarily available through bricks and mortar stores like Target, Wal-Mart, and (where I found mine)
Meijer’s. So far, the only online source has been to order direct from Lego Shop @
Home. They are available individually for $3.99 or in a set of four for $15.97. Since they are also the manufacturers, they’re not likely to run out anytime soon. So, my suggestion is to check the stores if you want to save the cost of shipping and crave the thrill of the hunt. Meijer’s price is the same as the Lego website while Wal-Mart has the shelf tagged at $3.88 or some such price (always just enough to undercut the competition). You may need to look at some endcaps to find them as these are sometimes sold in POS (“Point of Sale,” not “Piece of S&*#) hanging cardboard sleeves.
About the Reviewer:
I’m a part-time toy collector only who loves Legos as well as the occasional Muppets or Simpsons figures. If something else out there catches my eye and I’ve got some extra cash, I may pick it up as well. I never really know.
Sets from the collection of