70627 Dragon's Forge
The line of classic Ninjago at the beginning of 2017 was a bit mellow, probably because they were expecting to go big with the movie later in the year. The snake villains felt like another repeat, and the Ninja costumes got Metru-fied (they started using the darker tones) which I didn’t like. I picked up Destiny’s Shadow and Samurai VXL, which were decent sets, but far from the best the theme has to offer. But then you look at Dragon’s Forge, which is easily the gem of the wave. The dragon’s design isn’t exactly revolutionary, but the clever combination of the blues and reds and the two heads work out nicely. (The dragon’s been on display at my work desk since I picked up the set, that’s how good I think it is.) Plus, the blacksmith’s hut is a fairly sizable structure, and it swivels opened for better access to all the play features, while still looking good from the outside. That, and you get Kai and Nya’s parents as figs, so this set was easily a win.
41184 Aira’s Airship and the Amulet Chase
It’s not that the Elves line for 2017 was bad, it’s just that 2016 was hard to follow, and my budget isn’t endless. (A majority of my money went to the Ninjago theme, which meant I didn’t venture too much into other various themes.) The goblins weren’t particularly interesting IMO, and some of the buildings either felt meh-worthy or just more of the same. I even picked up Rosalyn’s Healing Hideout for the dragon, which is nice in dark blue, but the design isn’t really new. (Never did grab the evil dragon, been meaning to.) But then there’s the airship; while reminiscent of Nadia’s boat from the first year, it has enough clever design features to get me interested. The elegant gold curves on the edges were nicely done, and the action feature with the wings works out too. Plus, purple boomerang! (And I wrote a mini review of it too.) If you only had to pick one Elves set from this year, this would be my recommendation.
76084 The Ultimate Battle for Asgard
Okay, to be fair, this list is based off what I bought this year (and narrowing it down even further, what I’ve bought and built.) Super Hero sets tend to be pretty far down the list as far as quality is concerned, outside maybe fig designs. That said, Thor: Ragnarok was a good movie and this set did a decent job of showing it off. You get most of the main characters here, including the main baddie Hela, the newbie Valkyrie, a snazzy redesigned Thor, and Bruce Banner as a fig (finally.) All the figs are well done and worth of a collection. The Fenris wolf build is similar to the Legends of Chima Legend Beasts, but the detailing on it works. The design and size make is movie accurate too, I believe. I wasn’t really expecting much from the Commodore spaceship, given that Lego doesn’t always do space vehicles justice. And although they’ve really scaled it down, the shape and colors are all there. It even has the drop bay in the center from the movie (although clearly without the necessary space for the minifigures to properly stand inside it.) The one bit that is off from the movie is the stud shooters, since they made a big deal about how the ship didn’t have any weapons initially. Oh well, I guess Lego needed the action feature. Anyway, the set gets onto the list for exceeding my expectations.
70904 Clayface Splat Attack
The beginning of 2017 showered us in Batman sets, showing that Lego likes to bet on black (and very dark gray). There were some sets that certainly had better designs, but most of them were out of my budget. The few that I did get my hands on (Riddler Racer, Killer Croc truck, and the Scuttler) had vehicles that ranged from meh to bleh. (The huge cast of figs was better, and there were definitely some sets that I bought just for the figs, not to mention the entire CMF series.) Clayface was a set that I didn’t have high expectations for; the medium nougat color was nice, but there weren’t enough cool pieces in that shade to make it a worthwhile parts pack. Still, I was interested enough to pick it up on sale, and I found the Clayface character to be quite cleverly designed and fun to pose, quite exceeding my expectations. Sure, there are still improvements that could be made, but I think they did a decent job on this set to make it worthwhile. (Plus, I quickly made use of the Mayor’s darker skin tone female head, which is a bit of a rarity.)
70362 Battle Suit Clay
The 2017 run of Nexo Knights was another theme that was just a bit out of my budget. I liked the purple and medium blue highlights of the villains this year, but the cooler designs were generally in the expensive models, so I only picked up a few sets to get those cool gargoyle wings. The Knight vehicles look okay-ish, but I’m not a fan of their color scheme, which tried to keep a dark blue and trans orange scheme mixed in with colored highlights of the specific Knight, which offers mixed results. But my favorite designs were actually the smaller Battle Suits released at the beginning on the year. Although there’s little difference between the five mechs, the color schemes are solid and match the characters, and I liked the new system where they utilize the Mixel joints. In the end, you have a Mixel sized character (with some decent weapon designs) but with a fig snugly fitting on the inside. (The unique fig designs are also nice too, better than their standard armor IMO.) I haven’t had a chance to make any custom mini mechs using these pieces, but I know I’ll get to it eventually, and I think these make for nice small purchases. (Just go ahead and pick your favorite Knight.)
75532 Scout Trooper & Speeder Bike
I wouldn’t say this has been a great year for CCBS, and I actually didn’t buy a single set with this primary building style. (I did, however, win a bunch.) The main reason is that CCBS is now limited entirely to Star Wars characters, and the last few waves have been pretty bland. I’m getting tired of the same humanoid build (there’s only so many ways you can make a “realistic human” shape. At least the Toa could go off in different directions build wise) and the color schemes have been generally pretty dull. (It was nice to get some tans and browns at first… and now that’s all we get, besides black, white, and red. The Boba Fett next year does add a space of new color to the mix.) But the fun bit with this set isn’t the Scout Trooper but the Speeder Bike. Ever since we got Luke and Vader, I wondered what to-scale vehicles would be like (and I would still like to build a CCBS X-Wing and Tie Fighter), so it was nice for Lego to deliver with one of the smaller vehicle designs. That said, the Speeder Bike isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it conveys the overall shape and looks great with the figure. (Although it’s not very swooshable with the stand, but it looks great on display.) If they’re going to try to unload more boring Storm Trooper characters on us, then at least give us some cool vehicles to go with them!
60162 Jungle Air Drop Helicopter
The new City Jungle theme this summer looked pretty neat, but I had to forgo purchasing any of the sets due to my budget constraints. Still, I got lucky and got the larger model sent to me free for a review. This set encapsulates most of the coolest parts of them theme in a single model, although it’s a bit pricey so that would put some collectors off. You have a cool assortment of figs in explorer gear, with an almost even gender ratio too. You also get a cool man-eating plant, a new crocodile mold, some spiders, and a tiger, so you’re covered for jungle animals too! You get a couple of cool vehicles (the boat is my favorite, the helicopter my least favorite) as well as a few landscape features (the docks are simplistic, but the bridge bit is very nice.) The helicopter is also designed so it can pick up both the pallets and the truck, and the various pallets also fit beneath the tower and in the boat, so I applaud the design consistencies. The play value is thru the roof and demonstrates the best that the theme has to offer. (That said, putting such a large review together has been time consuming, which is why it’s taken me nearly five months to get it to the front page.)
70615 Fire Mech
The Ninjago Movie may have been a bit lackluster, but the sets based on it have been amazing and a joy to build. I’m quite a sucker and have already picked up four of the Ninja’s mechs, including the Water Strider (which I felt was a repeat design with too dark of a color scheme), the Lightning Jet (the build was more solid than I was expecting, but there are just too many bits shooting out everywhere, feels like too much of a mess), and the Ice Tank (which has a cool shell design, but in the end feels just a bit too simple.) I’ve yet to pick up the Green Dragon Mech (the design doesn’t speak to me, but I found one on sale so it’s in the mail) or the Quake Mech (haven’t been able to order it yet, waiting until the New Year deals to go live), but these will eventually be added to my collection.
But so far, my favorite is the Fire Mech, which is surprising because I thought it would be just “another Ninjago mech.” But I didn’t realize how large it is; it’s probably the largest humanoid Lego mech I’ve ever purchased. (Not counting Bionicle, but I don’t think any of the Bionicle characters I have can match it in size either.) (I’m also not sure there are a lot of other mechs that are larger? Only one that pops to mind is Emmet’s mech from TLM, but there might’ve been some others in Exo Force too.) With its size comes a lot of neat details, and some decent action features. It is a bit disappointing that it doesn’t have knees (I bet that would’ve made it too unstable for its size) but otherwise its articulation is decent. For the scale, it’s also fairly similar to its movie version, and it a great model to display. That said, all the Ninjago Movie vehicles so far have been fun to build, and I can’t wait to get the rest to complete my collection. (The Quake Mech looks like it might become my favorite, but since I haven’t picked it up yet, it doesn’t make the list.)
70620 Ninjago City
It might go without saying that I’m a huge fan of this set, since I dedicated four separate blog entries to describing my thoughts while building it. The designs are excellent, from the little details to the large architectural designs, and it really conveys the idea that the lower levels are from a different generation in this city. And there are also a couple of nifty action features, as well as plenty of display space for figs on the walkways and within the buildings. And the parts; lots and lots of great colors and designs, and a few brand new molds were introduced here too. (It would make for a great parts pack, except that I’m not taking it apart for pieces. Ever.) Heck, I’ve even added a custom level to it to build it up higher, although my designs aren’t nearly as fancy as the official model, but it gives me more space to display figs from across the Ninjago theme, and then some. The biggest issue is that it’s massively expensive; you totally get the bang for your buck, but not everybody can afford that. (I definitely had to curb my summer spending this year because I knew I wanted to purchase this one, hence my numerous “not in my budget” comments.) The set is like a mixture of a large modular design with all the cool features of a fun Ninjago set, and while I still dislike modulars I loved this set. If price weren’t an issue, I’d recommend this to everyone. (Which is a bit annoying, when these lists are people just saying “the most expensive sets of the year are the best.” Like how everybody’s recommending the new Millennium Falcon despite the near impossibility of being able to purchase it anytime soon. Still, if I had to choose between the Falcon and this set, I would go for this one easily.)
I am a big collector of Collectible Minifigures, and I did snag full sets from the three waves released this year, so I’ll share my favorites. The first wave of Batman figs had some cool Batman suits, secondary forms for the main characters, and some rarer villain designs. My favorites are Glam Metal Batman, Pink Power Batgirl, and The Eraser. That said, it felt like a bit of a mellow theme, and next year’s second series of Batman figs will be one of the few where I DON’T collect all of them. Series 17 was a return to classic CMFs, and its looking like we’re only getting one of these mixed batch waves every year in the future, since they’re starting to enjoy more licensed waves instead. (The rumors next year say we’re getting Batman V2, Series 18, and then a wave of Harry Potter figs.) For Series 17, my favorites were the Butterfly Girl, Rocketship Boy (man, that one was a hard one to find, given its popularity), and the Battle Elf Girl. The Ninjago Movie wave was another licensed wave, and there were a couple of designs that I was less interested in. However, it did offer a chance to get civilian outfits for Zane, Cole, and Jay, as well as a few alternate colored fish heads for the Octopus and Angler soldiers, not to mention a cheaper way to pick up Koko. Still, some were a bit too repetitive, like the two Lloyds, Kai, Nya, and Sensei Wu, and they could’ve used a few more civilians to go along with the UniKitty Fan, Sushi Chef, and Punk Rocker. My favorites were General #1, Hipster Jay, and Misako.
There were a few sets that I got that certainly don’t quality as “Best of 2017” but are still worth mentioning. 41591 Black Widow BrickHeadz had the best head design from an otherwise fairly basic and generic theme that’s really only good for the piece count. 60153 Fun at the Beach was a nice pack of summer and beach figs, with plenty of nice fig parts for collectors to mix and match. 40172 Brick Calendar is a fairly basic set, but served as a great way to get a lot of those SNOT corner bricks. (Brick with studs on two adjacent sides, which simplifies the connections for some SNOT designs.) 41150 Moana’s Ocean Voyage almost doesn’t count, since I bought the set in December 2016, but it was a great set for the characters, and I had fun recreating the boat design. 21312 Women of NASA is also a pretty stellar small set, but I have yet to open my copy, so I can’t really speak to the build…
Worst Set of 2017: 76078 Hulk vs. Red Hulk
Generally I don’t pick up sets that don’t appeal to me. But I picked up this set early in the year. (Or in particular, Chocolate Frogs got it on a steep discount and gave me a further price drop as payment for driving him around at BricksCascade last year. I think there might’ve been a requirement that I had to review it too, but that never happen on the front page, so I guess this has to count.) Anyway, the set looks like it has some cool characters with some awful builds. . . and that’s pretty much what it is. She-Hulk and Red-She Hulk (real original names, Marvel) are okay, and the Red Hulk bigfig is a nice recolor. The Hulk is fine too, I guess, but I prefer some other color combinations to his lime and magenta. Their vehicles are supposed to be some sort of Cyber Slammers; they smash into each other’s bumpers, which trigger the catapults to launch the Hulks out of their seats and at each other. Well, I found that the functions don’t work quite that well; they mostly cause the Hulks to pitch forward slightly into the middle of their vehicles. (The mechanism might work better for standard figs, but not the heavy bigfigs.) The overall vehicle designs are meh, and outside the big wheels and large panels, there’s not a whole lot of unique pieces or colors in use here. And then you consider that there are only 375 parts for a $60 set, and it becomes clear this is quite the rip-off. At this point, I’d only recommend it if you REALLY want those characters, and even then I’d suggest waiting for a clearance sale or something. (As is, I think I made CF overpay for this.)
Anyway, that's my last bit of mini reviews for the year. See ya on the flip side!