Review: Tie Fighter set #9492

When word reached the streets about a new series of Lego Star Wars fighters based on the original trilogy was in the works, I was happy. The movies have some great ship designs, and building an Imperial Tie Fighter is a something that every generation of science fiction fans (who are Lego enthusiasts) should have a chance to do.

The newest Lego version of the Tie Fighter is the best they have released in both looks and durability, but it does have some minor issues that prevent it from being perfect.

At 413 pieces, this set has a lot more potential for detail than the previous sets, and it delivers. The build uses a few build tricks to create a very pleasing model once it is complete. Especially nice is the light bluish gray border around the outside of the radiator panels. Along with being detailed, the 9492 Tie Fighter is big. It is noticeably larger than the older 7263 and 7146 sets.

The large radiator panels are mostly created using plates. Some of these are relatively uncommon black 6×12 modified tiles (or modified plates) that only have studs along three edges. I discovered one bad thing about these tiles right after opening the set. Due to their large size, and how the set is packed, two of them had a number of fairly deep scratches that really stood out. The scratches were probably caused by another tile during either packing or shipping. I’m sure that Lego would have replaced the plates if I notified them.

Four minifigures come with the set: an imperial officer, a death star trooper, a R5-J2 droid, and the Tie Fighter’s pilot.


“Alright, so a priest, a rabbi, and a wookie walk into a bar…”

Along with outshining its predecessors in aesthetics, this new Tie Fighter also performs better in terms of durability. It is not unbreakable, but it did hold up to a pair of young children (4 and 7) playing with it. The plates that make up the radiator panels can separate. Once that starts, the radiator assembly starts to fall apart. I also found that the entire radiator will detach if it is dropped. That is a good thing, because the complete radiator is easy to reattach (it is held on by two pins and an axle).

The building process was quick and the directions clear. The two radiators are identical and symmetrical, so you might as well build them both at the same time. A huge positive about this set is NO STICKERS!

My biggest complaint is that all of the black makes any dust stand out like a sore thumb, and for some reason my newly built Tie Fighter is a dust magnet. Not just little threads of dust either, it likes to collect extremely fine dust on those big black tiles. If you are going to make this a display piece, you should either dust it off often (with a can of air) or keep it in a display case.


All the black means that dust and smudges really stand out under close inspection.

Favorite part in this set: there are eight dark bluish gray 1×4 hinge plates. Least favorite part in this set: the two dark bluish gray slopes, inverted 65 6x6x2 quad with cutouts. However, without them the fighter would be less durable, and they did a nice job of incorporating them into the design.

MSRP is $54.99. What would I pay for this set? My target is $44.99 or less, which should be possible once it is not a brand new set.

 

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MOC: Cola

A small MOC, but building a minifig-scale soda machine with lettering was fun and challenging.

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MOC: Heroica – The Sands of Kemet

Heroica’s small scale and fantasy theme gave me the idea for several MOCs. The Sands of Kemet is an Egypt-themed expansion for the Lego game. A number of pieces are from 7326 Rise of the Sphinx and 3843 Ramses Pyramid.

Below the pictures and building notes are the rules for this expansion, in case you would like to make something similar.


A mummy in his sarcophagus.

The inside of a tomb that contains the Elixir of Life.

An obelisk rises from the desert sands.

It’s a trap!

Two seated statues of Anubis, god of the afterlife.

The ruined sphinx, where the Pharaoh awaits.

Another view of the Sphinx.

Creating the sphinx was the most fun part of this MOC. I used it as an excuse to give a nod to the old 5978 Sphinx Secret Surprise. After building my sphinx, I took a look at the old set. It is scary how similar the two sphinxes turned out. Part of the similarity is due to how few bricks were used, because I was trying to keep it very small. The other factor that makes them so alike is the colors. I would love to have used tan and dark tan bricks instead of the light bluish gray, but some of the pieces are not available in those colors. At least the gray does make it stand out from the rest of the MOC. Something I want to do is to swap out the blue in the Sphinx’s headdress with dark blue pieces, which will give it a more royal look (and tie it together with the mummy sarcophagi). Off to BrickLink I go!

As promised, here are the rules.

Denizens of the Sands (Monsters)
Scorpion. Strength: 1.
Mummy. Strength: 2. If you move through a space adjacent to a mummy resting in his sarcophagus, roll the dice. “Skull” or “Skull & Sword” means that the mummy awakes and you must fight the monster. Mummies in their sarcophagus cannot be killed at any other time.
Pharaoh. Strength: 3. The first time the Pharaoh is defeated he is not removed from play. Instead, remove his golden crown and continue the fight.

Potion
Elixir of Life. Restore 4 health.

Traps
When you move into a space adjacent to a trap roll the dice.
“Shield” = the trap is removed and you find one gold.
“Sword” = the trap is removed.
“Skull” = you lose one Health and move back one space.
“Sword & Skull” = lose one Health and remove the trap.

 

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Review: Tripod Invader set #7051

The new Alien Conquest series makes me chuckle, so I had to check out one of the sets. I picked this one because it comes with a tripod machine, an obvious homage to “The War of the Worlds.” There is also a little creature they call an “alien clinger” that is just a PG version of the facehuggers from the “Alien” franchise. With that in mind, how could I resist?


The clinger has a strange fascination with briefcases.

“The next knuckle-dragging primate that makes a joke about George Jetson is getting turned inside out.”

Having built the set and played around with it, my opinion is that it is OK, but nothing special at 166 pieces. The tripod legs can be moved into different poses, though the actual range of motion is limited by the design. It will never squat all the way to the ground nor reach higher; the height seems fixed at about 8 inches no matter how you position the legs. The limited number of pieces and nature of the pieces included also leave something to be desired.

On the positive side, the tripod stays together fairly well. The most common issue is that the radar dish feet fall off. The saucer is designed to detach from the tripod assembly, allowing it to become an independent flying spacecraft. The little ship is both simple and durable. I like that compact UFO.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the set is the minifigures. The businessman, with his two-sided head (one happy face, one frightened face) and briefcase isn’t terribly unique, but fitting. The alien trooper is neat, though I like the Zando-Zan inspired alien pilots from other Alien Conquest sets better. By far my favorite piece of LEGO in this set is the parasitic clinger. Who doesn’t want a little green tentacled monster that gloms onto people?

Building this was quick and easy. The worst part is affixing the stickers. I’ve always had a problem putting stickers on pieces that are either curved or non-symmetrical, and this set has both. Thankfully there are not many stickers.

The instructions are acceptable. Favorite part in this set: (besides the alien clinger) the 6 dark purple 3×2 curved slopes. Least favorite part in this set: The 1×9 bent technic links; I think that replacing them would require a lot more parts, but would also give the tripod a greater range of motion.


“But I don’t like spaghetti!”
MSRP is $19.99. What would I pay for this set? My target is $16.99 or less, which should happen once the set is no longer so new, or if a retailer offers it on sale.

 

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Deal: Spinjitzu Dojo on Amazon

Amazon.com has set 2504, Spinjitzu Dojo from the Ninjago series, for $40 today. The regular price from LEGO is $50. Amazon has offered the Dojo for this price a few times, so if you missed the deal just check it regularly. Chances are they will mark it down again.

My children own this set. It looks nice and has some interesting pieces, specifically the windows with Kanji lettering and the Sensei Wu minifigure. However, the dojo doesn’t stand up to their playing with it (it often requires reassembly).

$40 is a good target price for buying this set.

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Review: Portal of Atlantis, set #8078.

This is the set that made me like the Atlantis series. I purchased it without much in the way of expectations, because I was only looking for something to use as a fortress for the Squid Lord’s army. An underwater set, with lots of dark colors and some mean-looking guardians, seemed to be the perfect choice. However, once I sat down to build the Portal of Atlantis, I found a pleasant surprise.

Among the main attractions in the set is the impressive shark’s mouth entrance, which opens to reveal steps leading to the main platform. Not only is the shark’s mouth visually interesting, it is also a mechanical trick that works very well. As for the portal itself, it has mounts for all five Atlantis treasure keys (included in the set), along with a mechanism to open and close the portal. Included are some unique Atlantis minifigs, like the squid and shark warriors, along with a pair of sharks that are easily removed to menace any curious divers.


The shark’s mouth entrance.

The portal itself.

The Atlantis minifigures show a good evolution from earlier underwater sets. Being a sucker for monsters, I especially like the squid warrior. The three human minifigs all come with utensils (two spearguns, one camera) and diving hardsuits that allow for some neat additions, like lights and propulsion systems. Something amusing to note is that all of the characters in this set are left-handed, the sole exception being the diver equipped with the camera.


Always put your cameraman on point.
That way you can use your spearguns to shoot whatever eats him.

At 1007 pieces and with 7 minifigs, this is a fairly large set. When you have that many pieces and minifigs, it is hard not to have some good things to say about a LEGO product. However, I believe that there are several reasons that the Portal turned out to be a pleasant suprise.

First off is that it is fun to build. There are three different sections to the building process. The first section is the central platform which is comprised of the entrance and the portal itself. The second and third sections are the walls to either side of the portal. The shark’s mouth entrance and the portal are both fun to build, though you have to exercise some care when assembling the portal until it is reinforced. Also, it might take a little fiddling or breaking in to get the portal’s sphincter to work correctly.

Building the the walls to either side of the portal did not become repetitious, despite being largely mirror images of each other. That is probably because each individual side (right or left) does not contain a lot of repeat work. If anything, I found myself looking over the sides of the portal and thinking, “You know, if I wanted to make these larger…”

The colors used go together quite nicely. I would not mind building up my selection of parts in the colors offered, so I will be watching for deals or sales on the 8078 set.


Squids need steps for some reason.

RIP Ken “Crab Crusher Crushing” Johnson.
The instructions are very clear and easy to follow. My only change would be to attach the black 1×1 round plates to the gates before snapping the gates into place, but that is such a tiny adjustment that it hardly bears mentioning. Favorite part in this set: (besides the squid warrior minifig) the dark bluish gray 1×2 logs. 42 of them come in this set. Least favorite part in this set: The big 3X6X5 ornamental archs, because using pieces like that feel like cheating.

For play, the design allows enough room to move minifigures around without knocking things off. It is more difficult to place minifigures in the hallways at ground level, but the walkways atop the walls are easy access. If anything, I wish the walls were a bit longer to allow for more minifigures atop them; the squid warrior takes up a lot of space due to his tentacles and makes it hard to place anybody else atop the wall. As for durability, I am happy to say that the set is rather rugged. The shark’s mouth entrance opens and closes, the portal works smoothly after a little fine-tuning, and the whole set also folds up for easier transportation and storage. My biggest complaint in the durability area is that the two sharks tend to lose their tails.


Why do I always get stuck fixing the sharks?

The Emperor’s quarters are rather spartan.
What would I pay for this set? MSRP, $99.99. Keep an eye on Amazon.com though, I’ve seen the Portal of Atlantis for as little as $80 new.

 

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Cleaning LEGOs

Purchasing used LEGOs from eBay, a garage sale, or other sources is a great way to expand your collection without hurting your wallet.  However, toys get touched by everything from sticky kid fingers to pets, and LEGOs are toys.  Even worse for nonsmokers, bricks from a smoker’s home can positively reek.   This article will help you to clean your LEGOs. 

The two cleaning agents I recommend are a solution of vinegar and water and also hot soapy water made with dishwashing liquid (I use Dawn PLUS Oder Eraser).

WARNING:  Cleaning your LEGOs with anything does have some drawbacks.  First off, any stickers are likely to be ruined unless you are extremely careful and do not soak them in the cleaning solution.  Second, there are LEGO parts that you should not immerse in a liquid, such as light-up bricks.  Use your common sense about this.  If you are concerned about how your cleaning agent will affect a part, then test one item before dumping the whole lot into the bucket.  Third, vinegar can cause rubber parts to dry out and crack.

The hardest thing to get out of LEGOs is the smell of cigarette smoke, so I am going to focus on removing the smell of smoke from LEGOs.  The same procedure will also clean spilled soda, dog slobber, or worse.  Something you should remember about LEGOs is that they are made from ABS plastic, and plastic absorbs odors (different types of plastic more than others).  Bricks that stink heavily of smoke are going to take some work.

The first thing you need is a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and warm water.  Most grocery stores carry white vinegar in gallon containers for around $2.50.  I do not recommend any other vinegar besides white, because they might stain the bricks.  Try soaking a white LEGO in apple vinegar if you want to see what I mean.  Anyway, make the solution of water and vinegar in a bucket or other handy container.  Do not pick something plastic that you use for food storage, because it is likely to absorb some of the nicotine smell, which is not going to make anything taste better.

Now you need a way to dunk the LEGOs in and out of your cleaning solution without losing any of them.  Using a small strainer works well for this task.  Remember that a plastic strainer will absorb some of the smell, and metal strainers could cause damage to the much softer plastic bricks.  Another consideration is how small is the smallest LEGO that you are cleaning.  The very smallest parts tend to be the handle part of a lever, minifig hands, or some of the minifig utensils (especially screwdrivers).  My suggestion is to use something plastic, with very small holes.  Making your own strainer from a cheap food storage container or LEGO bin by drilling holes into it is a great idea.  You can also use a cloth mesh bag, just make sure than no small parts will slip through the mesh.

Be careful with that drill!

With this first wash, dunk your LEGOs multiple times into the vinegar and water.  Make sure that you let them soak in it for a while to let the vinegar do its work.  Pretty soon your cleaning solution will smell like a foul brew.  When it does, it’s time to dump it out and make a new bucket of vinegar and water.  Repeat.  I find that three separate washes usually does a good job of getting rid of the cigarette odor in LEGOs.

The amount of contamination will dictate how much time this takes.  I have left LEGOs that smelled like they came from the home of Gorgo the Smog Monster in a bucket of vinegar and water overnight to get them clean.  Those were so bad my nose started running after I smelled them, but you get the idea.

For your last wash, make a mixture of hot water (not so hot that you cannot put your hand in it) and dishwashing liquid.  Dunk the bricks as before, replace the soapy water with nothing besides water, and rinse them off.  Let your used, but newly cleaned bricks dry, and check to make sure that the smell is gone. 

Dry your LEGOs by dumping them onto a towel, carefully rolling them back and forth to work the water out, and then spreading them out so they can dry.  You can hurry things along by placing them in the sun or using a hair dryer, but do not to go overboard unless you really want to make a minifig that looks like the Incredible Melting Man.

I have used this procedure to clean thousands of LEGOs of many different colors, and have never noticed any problem with fading or color changes. Again, I do not recommend it for LEGO parts that are not entirely made of ABS plastic or parts which have stickers or designs imprinted on the surface.

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Deal: Garmadon’s Dark Fortress on Amazon

Amazon.com has set 2505, Garmadon’s Dark Fortress from the Ninjago series, for $51 today. That is not a sudden change in Amazon’s price, because the set has been between $50 and $55 for the last few weeks. It is $69.99 from LEGO or any other source I have found, so Amazon is definitely the place to purchase it.

I own this set, and would not pay the full retail price of $69.99 for it. Between $50 and $55 is good.

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