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Team J.A.F.


Old and New Stories

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts, Stories May 15 2019 · 63 views

It's been a while since I've put together a blog post, so here's me jabbering about my stories in general. I'm finally finishing up a couple that I've been posting.

Highfly Vinesman, Deepwood Wayfinder was for the BZPower Fanfic Exchange 2018 and written for Darth Jaller. It features Tamaru, Taipu, and Kapura and it's been fun writing back about the MNOLG-era. The other is a sequel to my Kulagi's Kanoka story, A Shadow's Contrivance which features the Kanoka wielding Matoran against the Dark Hunters during the Toa and Dark Hunter war. I am actually extremely proud of this story; it expands and better uses the characters from the original, has lots of character development on multiple fronts, and features a ton of Dark Hunters, both official and custom. And I'm happy with the plot too, which has enough twists and fight sequences and chase scenes and Kanoka usages to really make it worthwhile. The whole thing started off as a minor short story idea but the expanded into this major operation. (It's also one of those stories that I'm really happy with but barely has any reviews. Oh well.)

Also found some of the round-robin stories I participated in for a contest years ago; the topics still exist but the formatting got lost so it was a whole block of text, but once I got past that they were some fun stories, and I'm kind of disappointed that we didn't finish any of them. :(

One story that just made my blog look like it got updated was my BZPower Blog Story set in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure story but starring BZPower members from the time. Of course, it was posted during the server downtime, back when the BZPower urls included "forum" instead of "board". Well, all the blog entries were still there (blog stuff got preserved but topics did not) but the links were all dead. I just went through and updated them, but that pushed a couple up to the front of the blog, soooo kinda made it look like I just posted a bunch of stuff here when all I was doing was updating some links. Story is still good, although most of the members have changed their names or become inactive since. (Gosh, and this was originally written when Bionicle G1 was coming to an end... and now it's been a couple of years since G2 abruptly ended. Crazy.)

Speaking of that, I also had that BZ-Koro epic that was supposed to herald in G2, and it was one where I'd have people vote on where each new chapter would go. It made some decent progress before work got the best of me and I dropped it. (I mean, that was before I finally got diagnosed with sleep apnea, so I mean I was running of fumes for years there.) Problem is there's not much of an audience left and some of the main characters... well, things happened and it didn't feel right to continue. I'm tempted to change some things around and write the conclusion I was working towards, but dunno if it would be worth it. Still, I don't know if I'm ever going to top Tekulo and Dotcom singing "A Whole New World" in the middle of a fight... I still get reminded of my parody's lyrics when I listen to the original.

I was also looking back at my story about the Slizers on Mata Nui. The original story was long; partially it was drawn out because I didn't know where I wanted to take it, so I just kept having fight scene after fight scene. Somebody originally contacted my about it and I started to revisit the plot and make plans for making it shorter but keeping to the same general story, just with less redundancy. Some things would undoubtably be lost in a rewrite, but I am very tempted because I plotted out an ending for the original but never got around to finishing it. Granted, I don't know if there'd be an audience left to be interested in it anyway.

A big thing for looking back on my older stories was this thing where I'm trying to list out all the characters I've ever used in stories before. Mostly because I've reused some character names through different stories. (Like I've had variations of Triki in four different stories, playing variations of his crazy character.) Of course, putting together the list made me look up some older stories, where I've found my older writing both impressive at times and cringe worthy at other times. Also makes me sad that there are some stories that I wrote that I no longer have records before, because I lost a bunch of stuff when my laptop was stolen and the BZP servers crashed and took a lot of other stories down. There was a fun Bionicle Christmas story I wrote staring Kapura, another small epic featuring the Voya-Nui Matoran against the Piraka, and a comedy about the Toa in an election, plus a bunch of other short stories and such.

Meanwhile, I have a handful of current stories I want to complete (two of which I've worked on for NaNoWriMo... twice each) plus a lot of other ideas I want to move forward with. But unfortunately, working full time has really cut down on my mental ability to just sit down and write write write... a professional author I will never be. Too many story ideas stuck in my head, and that says nothing of the older stories I want to redo / reboot. :mellow:



Best Lego Sets of 2018

Posted by xccj , in Review, Thoughts Jan 13 2019 · 130 views
Ninjago, Black-Panther and 3 more...
2018 has been an interesting year for me for Lego. I generally bought fewer sets compared to the last four years, but my budget was dominated by a couple of large purchases this summer, thus forcing me to hold out on buying a lot of sets in the second half of the year. I’ve also bought a couple of sets that I have yet to open, which is a strategy I haven’t applied before. (Usually I build any set I get soon after purchase. But this year, I bought a few sets exclusively for the pieces, and I want to sort the pieces into my collection directly, but I haven’t gotten to the sorting step yet, so they remain unopened.) Anyway, I thought I’d post a few quick thoughts on the sets I did pick up this year.


Ninjago was my biggest theme in 2018, although I wouldn’t say it was the theme’s best year. I collected a bunch of the S.O.G. sets, but I wasn’t particularly impressed by most of the vehicles. (Lloyd’s Nightcrawler wasn’t bad, but Kai’s Katana V11 was generic and Zane and Mr. E’s motorcycles were mostly boring IMO.) The S.O.G. Headquarters is okay for parts and figs, and has a lot of great play features to make up for the lackluster designs. My favorite set from the first wave is the Temple of Resurrection, which is a cool stylized building with nice details and a cool function. Still, it’s only a modest building compared to previous Ninjago structures.

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The best set of the year for Ninjago is undoubtedly The Dragon Put, which has an awesome functioning gate tower with a snazzy dragon skull throne on the top, a particularly intimidating guard tower, and a humdrum prison cell. The full size of the piece is impressive, but it also comes with a plethora of figs for the Ninjas and Dragon Hunters, as well as a decent earth dragon. It’s a pricy set, but still worthwhile. The other Dragon Hunter sets also looked good, but alas I didn’t have the dough to buy them all, so I focused on the big one. (I also find it mildly ironic that I bought most of the dull S.O.G. sets but had to hold out on the cooler Hunter sets. Oh well.)

Also, because I have become a bit of a Ninja fig completionist, I bought a bunch of the spinner and flyer sets this year, like the Golden Dragon Master. The pieces used to make the handles are okay, but I’m tired of the various spinner and ripcord pieces, which are large and bulky and generally can’t fit into other builds. The exclusive figs aren’t even as cool as some of the previous spinner packs. (I especially liked the crazy elemental designs of the Airjitzu Flyer Ninjas; the Spinjitzu Master Ninjas were boring in comparison.) I honestly wouldn’t recommend them unless you have a specific need for the pieces or the figs.

Marvel Super Heroes

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Super Hero sets have a tendency to be pretty bad builds, since the primary focus is usually on the highly detailed figs. But the Marvel side did a decent job this year for its various movies. The two sets for Black Panther were pretty good, with the highlight being the brick build rhinoceros. The head design was as good as or better than anything we saw out of Chima, and while the body was armored it still looked fairly natural, so with a few changes this rhino could easily fit into a safari MOC. While the various versions of the Black Panther suits were a bit dull, the other figs included were great, like heist Killmonger, Klaue, Nakia, and Okoye (although her uniform should’ve been red and not dark orange.)

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The Infinity War sets also were better than I would’ve expected from the theme. While some of the designs were meh in order to include more figs (Bearded Cap and Blonde Widow in Outrider Dropship Attach, and Shuri in Vorvus Glaive Thresher Attack), some of the designs were quite nice. I didn’t pick it up, but I like the detail they put into the large Sanctum Sanctorum set. My favorites were the two sets that put together the Guardian’s new orange spaceship. It has a nice sleek design, which is similar to the Milano but still distinct in its own right. The smaller dropship alone is kind of odd, but I appreciate how seamlessly it fits into the back of the main ship. Plus, Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet is a huge draw, although you need to buy each set to get all the infinity stones. (Or trade them with friends; Chocolate Frogs helped me fill out my gauntlet.) Still, I think they did a good job of making decent sets for this movie, and not just some lame builds to go along with the new figs. Excelsior!


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Alas, this appears to be the last year of the fun Elves theme. I’ve enjoyed the pastel colors, animal designs, and general collectability of this fantasy theme, even if it involves minidolls instead of minifigures. Luckily, the theme got some decent sets to go out on. The first wave was great, especially since it included some new styles of creature design like the Eagle, the Turtle, and the Fox. I also liked the inclusion of lots of Teal pieces in the various sets. (Apparently, the Elves team played a major role in getting teal reintroduced.) My favorite animal design is the green Earth Fox, and Noctura’s teal and dark blue tower is also another nice highlight to the set. It’s also fun that the Elves got some weaponry this year, which I think may be a first for a minidolls set. (Okay, some Friends sets had crossbows for sport, but I think this is the first wave where the Elves are specifically armed to fight evil.) I haven’t built the final two sets released last summer, but they look pretty good too. I’ll be sad to see this theme go; I hope they’re able to replace it with another cool fantasy theme with the same fun colors and designs.

Star Wars

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Okay, I barely bought any Star Wars sets this year, but I still want to highlight one of the best CCBS characters they’ve made: Boba Fett. When they first introduced the concept of Star Wars Buildable Figures, I thought Boba Fett should’ve been in the first wave. . . but instead they went with his father, Jango Fett. Six waves later, Boba Fett appears in the final wave of these CCBS sets, which have generally reused the same humanoid design so much that it’s become rather boring and predictable. Boba Fett doesn’t deviate too much from that design, but he does include some additions like the hip pouches, wrist rocket launcher, and a detailed jetpack to fill out his back. However, he make’s excellent use of colors to recreate the character from the movies, which also provides us with some unique pieces too, like the shells in sand green, dark red, and light grey, Keetongu orange shoulders, and blue Technic connectors. And the printing on the pieces is also well done. I’d say Boba Fett is up there with General Grievous and K-2SO as the best Star Wars CCBS, and it’s fitting that he’s in the final wave. (I’m not necessarily sad to see Star Wars CCBS go, but it doesn’t look like any other theme will be providing us with CCBS sets any time soon. While I’m sure some of the pieces will still be used to supplement system and technic sets, I think the CCBS building style may be on its way out.)


Lego Ideas had a good year in 2018 with a handful of exceptional sets. TRON had an affordable but iconic depiction of the vehicles from the film, and the Pop-Up Book had a fun function. (I also got to meet the designers of the latter when they held their signing event in Portland.) I also heard good things about the Ship in a Bottle, although I didn’t pick it up myself. Still, one set stands above the rest (both figuratively and literally.)

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I picked up Voltron as a “feel better” gift to myself after I got bit by a dog this summer. (From a budget standpoint, I shouldn’t have bought this, but the pain made me impulsive. :P ) To be fair, I never watched the original Voltron; it was before my time, although I did follow the Netflix series. Still, I was familiar with the concept of individual vehicles forming a big humanoid mech from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, so I went for this. The five individual Lions were fun to put together; there were some interesting designs used, lots of nice colors and pieces, and generally satisfying builds. (I mean, I was seriously surprised at how many teal plates are hidden inside the build.) It is truly impressive that the Lions can work as standalone sets while still easily combining into a giant mech. And it is massive; if it’s not the largest humanoid Lego set ever, then at least it holds that distinction in my collection. It’s easily identifiable as Voltron, and I particularly like how the face is built into the Black Lion’s head. Articulation is a bit of a weak point; the arms are a bit restricted with the double ball joint connections and the legs have no mobility at all. Still, given the size and weight of the set, those restrictions are absolutely required, making Voltron much more of a display piece than a playable toy. It would’ve been cool to get a set of Paladin figs for display, even if they can’t fit inside the Lions; maybe they could be included in future sets, if Lego ever decides to expand on the Voltron license. (Wishful thinking, probably.)

Roller Coaster

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The Roller Coaster is the largest and most expensive Lego set I have ever picked up, which I blogged about four times this summer. It’s a lengthy and tedious build (seriously, I got really tired of building the supports over and over again, and putting together the chain was aggravating.) It doesn’t quite have the same level of cool visual designs as Voltron or Ninjago City, but having a fully functional roller coaster is still amazing. I eventually got a motor hooked up to it, and I like to run the carts through a couple of rounds every so often. The set is far from without issue: the fact that the top wheel mechanisms are run by the chain puts a lot of stress on it, and it doesn’t take much for it to jam or snap. There is a braking feature in the dock that doesn’t quite work for me either; a train moving at full speed just pushes through without issue. And while the supports and track make it sturdier than I expected, it’s still fairly flimsy, and a slight nudging in the wrong place can break the track off. But still, IT’S A FUNCTIONING LEGO ROLLER COASTER!! That generally outweighs a bunch of the issues. Of course, at $379.99 it’s insanely expensive and the primary reason I didn’t get a bunch of other sets this summer; I can see how some people can easily afford this set, but it kinda broke my budget. Still, I could easily claim this to be the best set of the year.

Collectible Minifigures

I’ve always been a completionist for Collectible Minifigures, but I am starting to get turned off by the licensed waves they keep doing. The second wave of Batman figs was mostly disappointing, although I did like getting some secondary Justice League characters and a few third string villains. Series 18 with the party theme was excellent and had many great costumed characters, and I totally got all of them. The Harry Potter wave was okay but it could’ve included a lot more secondary characters. (As nice as it was to get the cast from Fantastic Beasts, most of them appeared in sets, and new variations of the core Harry Potter characters weren’t exactly required here.) Still, the biggest draw for me were the new medium legs for the teenage students; I hope these style of legs appear more often, and they’re not just a one-off thing like the extra-long legs were for Woody in Toy Story. Because of that, I did end up picking up most of the Harry Potter figs, although I avoided picking up a few. Also a great way to stock up on those new wand pieces.

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My favorites from the Batman line were some of the Justice Leage characters like Black Canary, Black Vulcan, and the Wonder Twins, although Doctor Phosphorus was appreciated for his trans lime green flame pieces. There were a lot of great costumed characters, but my favorites were Dragon Suit Guy, Cactus Girl, and Race Car Guy. There weren’t a lot of standout favorites in the Harry Potter wave where the main draw was the short legs, but first time appearances for Cho, Dean, and Cedrick were appreciated. I also like Newt and Tina’s updated outfits compared to their Lego Dimension figs. Cho also has the first Ravenclaw torso, but I think that skin color was a bit too dark for her.

Worst Set of 2018

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To be honest, I don’t really have any sets that would fit here based on what I bought. (I mean, there were a lot of sets that I had no desire for this year, but I didn’t pick them up. And also, price level and age range tend to skew things, so while I might not personally like them, I am also probably not the targeted audience.) There were some sets that I picked up but haven’t built because the design just doesn’t appeal to me. The Incredibles Great Home Escape has lackluster builds and no real standout pieces, but it is a Juniors set, so I can’t blame it that much, and I only got it for the Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack figs. Arctic Air Transport is another boring city helicopter, made worse by the fact that I bought a very similar Arctic Helicrane set four years ago. But this one was the cheapest way to get a Sabretooth Tiger, so I grabbed it on sale earlier this year. There’s also the plethora of BrickHeadz sets released this year, and I ended up picking up more than a few just for the pieces. (Some of the Disney Princess ones had unusually good parts selections.) And, as mentioned earlier, the various Ninjago Spinners are pretty lousy sets too.

Anyway, that’s it for 2018. Honestly I hope I can cut back my spending for 2019, because I can’t afford another Roller Coaster / Voltron summer with my budget! The 2019 Ninjago theme looks fun, but I’m not quite as impressed with all the Lego Movie 2 sets, so at least I won’t be motivated to buy all of those. (Still, Emmet’s House Rocket Ship looks appealing, and I am a sucker for the new color introduced in the party bus.) I’m also interested in some of the Overwatch and Disney Aladdin sets, but so far nothing that’ll break the bank! Still, the year’s still young, so I could very well end up broke by this time next year. :D



This will be a pain to sort...

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts Jan 27 2018 · 330 views

Instagram pict here

I'm trying to prepare for BricksCascade, and I have a couple of models I want to construct. But I inevitably have to go thru the pile from last year, which includes a bunch of partial MOCs and sets that I've been meaning to part out and sort, but never got around to it. And... that pile is intimidating. I wish I could get a full team of AFOLs to come sort it all in an afternoon like I've seen em do at PortLug... but I don't know that many people in the area, and my house is a big enough mess even without the Lego.

For now... I guess see how many partial sets you can identify in that pile? There are a few obvious ones, but a few are more subtle. And then of course there are a couple of MOC remains in there as well...



Best Lego Sets of 2017

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts, Review Dec 31 2017 · 557 views
Long-Post, Ninjago, Best-of-2017
Another year has come and gone, and with it I’ve spent a large sum of it on Lego. There were a lot of sets that I wanted to review this year, but alas I have not been able to touch on a lot of them. Some sets were great, others not so much. Some had great figs, some had great builds, and some had great pieces. Instead of doing a comprehensive review, I figured I’d do a quick “Best of 2017” list. So, in no particular order, here are my picks for the best Lego sets of 2017 (based on what I’ve purchased):

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.)

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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!

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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.)

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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.)

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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.)

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Collectible Minifigures

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.

Honorable Mentions

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…

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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!



A Glitchy Convention Colab Idea

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts, Lego Conventions Nov 16 2017 · 263 views

Make Bionicle / CCBS / System builds of the Galidor characters.

Who's in?

(It'll be like recreating the original Toa using newer styles and pieces, only without the happy nostalgia.)



Ninjago Mosaic?

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts Nov 01 2017 · 203 views

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This might be my next mosaic project, based on one of my favorite scenes from the skybound season. I'm not 100% behind the background design... I may need to add subtle details to the buildings and maybe a few more clouds. But I think it could be a fun mosaic.



Who Would Want Custom Printed Toa Minifigures?

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts Oct 30 2017 · 475 views

I've been trying to work out a deal for some custom printed minifigure torsos for another project, and then I got thinking about how cool it would be to have printed torsos for the Toa, and then perhaps even printed heads too! Custom Lego fig prints are more common nowadays, so in theory it wouldn't be too difficult to pull it off. But it would still be pricey... but one way to bring down the price is to order in bulk. And it occurred to me that there might be other fans out there also interested in Toa figs.

Alas, this is not the first time I've considered minifigure Toa. Years ago (gosh, it's been nearly a decade) I came across the Toa pens from 2001, and they had these mini mask molds that could fit on the beads that you stacked on your Lego pens. (That was their concept back in the day for pens. I'm guessing it didn't quite catch on, but they continued making them for a while.) Anyway, the beads could then be attached to a mini fig torso... kinda sorta. The Toa pens were rare and hard to track down, but they appear occasionally on BrickLink and at Lego conventions, so I eventually gathered all six...

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Above are four examples of the Toa I was able to make. Kopaka utilizes a Ninjago sword and dish for a shield, Gali uses semi-rare Ogel hook hands, Onua grasps some Wolverine claws, and Tahu is holding a flame piece. (I have Lewa and Pohatu, but their "weapons" are not as easily made.) They're using colored beads from the pens to partially fit atop the torsos, and then the masks snap onto the beads. (Those pieces are weak tho... Kopaka's bead has broken on me, and sadly Gali's mask also chipped off.) I was able to bribe Nuju Metru to make me some torsos stickers, but time has not been nice to them.

But what about a concept that uses printed pieces and doesn't rely on hard-to-find pen masks?

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This is a VERY rough sketch of what the Toa could look like. I am fairly confident that the torso designs can be pulled off without issue. The heads are a different beast, because the unique outlines don't translate well to the minifig head shape. I am okay with the designs for the Gali and Pohatu heads, although some color contrast will need to be used to make them stand out a bit more. The Tahu and Onua heads could use some more work, and Kopaka's needs an overhaul because his eye line doesn't match the other's at all. I am surprisingly fine with how Lewa's head turned out; the "cheeks" of the mask translate onto the minifig head well.

There are other possibilities too for the heads. They could be printed on larger elements (like the round racing helmets) to give them a bigger size. You could even create custom molds with 3D printing... which is more complicated and expensive than what I'm willing to work with. But they managed to make the Toy Fair Iron Man look good with just a head printing before they introduced custom molds, so I'm optimistic.

In general, what I'm looking for is to see if other people have any interest in getting some of these, since it would be cheaper to make them in bulk. I think the general idea is $10 per printed element, so each Toa fig would be at least $20, maybe more so if you include rare colored legs or weapons. (Getting authentic trans blue Gali hooks would be the worst.) (Even more if we considered leg and arm prints... which I haven't.) If enough folks would like to invest, I'm sure we could get a bulk order together. If not... well, no big deal. Anyway, yeah, this post is to mostly test interest on the concept. Let me know what you think.



Ninja Concede

Posted by xccj , in TV, Thoughts Sep 24 2017 · 859 views

A true Ninja knows when to admit defeat, and alas I must too.

The Lego Ninjago Movie was kinda meh.

There, I said it.

I mean, it was a good movie and stuff, but it is definitely the lesser of the three Lego movies. In fact, there were some of the TV show seasons that I think would outshine it in terms of story and characters. (Tournament of Elements and Skybound, to be precise.) I thought there was potential that it didn't quite live up to, so yes I was kind of disappointed.

So what follows is a semi-spoilery review. I mean, I won't say anything too serious. Like, I'll tell you WHO the Green Ninja is, but not WHY the Green Ninja is...


So it was still a good movie, but still a bit of a let down... and I very much went into it hoping for the best. Honestly, now I'm more excited for the next season of the television show. Yes, the animation will be less impressive and it's not like the fight sequences are any better, but the continuing story probably will be. (At the very least, it won't have to work as hard to establish all the characters.) I probably will get the Lego Ninjago Movie when it comes out on disc, simply for the ability to pause and marvel at the scenery and background characters, because soooo much zooms by on the theater screen that I know I missed out on a lot. But still... mixed feelings about this movie, and that averages below my lofty expectations. :mellow:

Anyway, those be my ramblings. Now, the Ninjago video game... THAT looks like it might be fun!



Pre Ninja

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts, TV Sep 22 2017 · 240 views

So the Ninjago movie comes out this week... or rather, tomorrow. I had been planning to see it Thursday night, only to check and see that, actually, they don't have any showings for it Thursday. And the showings on Friday are either too early in the day (AKA when I'm at work) or too late (AKA going to bed cause I have work on Saturday too.) So alas, I won't be able to catch the movie until Saturday afternoon, making me jealous of everyone who got a chance to see it early.

Anyway, despite my earlier reservations, I'm excited for the movie. It looks like it will have some nice comedy and action, and I've come to terms that it won't be the same as the TV show. (Which is continuing on its own anyway.) But I've already read for other AFOL reviews, and they seem to be of the opinion that it's good, but not as good as the other movies, and it exceeded their expectations because they expected it to be a flop. Because, like Bionicle, a lot of AFOLs on certain sites seem to dislike the theme because... I dunno, because it has a story aimed at kids? The Ninjago TV show is a fun cartoon, but it's no Star Wars, and adults who don't like the Power Rangers / Ninja Turtle / Super Hero vibe don't like it. That's fine, but it always seems like some assume that since they don't like it, it should (and will) fail. (Disregarding that it's the one Lego theme that consumers did successfully revive after a cancelation and continues to be a best seller.) Even if some of them like the sets, they only "get it for the pieces" and assume the show and story is worthless.

Anyway, that's probably an exaggeration, but that kinda feels like the gist I was getting from the reviews. The "This theme is awful, no way a movie based on it will work" that turned into "Okay, it's good but not AS good as the other movies." And there's legitimate reason's for it; the original Lego Movie was so awesome that it'll be hard to top or even match. (I think the Lego Batman Movie fell quite short of that.) And maybe it's too soon for another Lego movie to be coming out, because I guess people do start getting bored of more of the same and stuff. But I'm going to ignore that for now. I've read plenty of reviews where people who already disliked the genre ended up disliking the film, and I have high hopes, especially given that every new sequence I've seen clips for brings something new and cool to the table, so I'm optimistic that it'll be good. But the negativity right out of the door is a bit off-putting, even if that negativity is "good, but not as good."

(Although one spoiler that the reviews seemed to have confirmed is that the movie is very Lloyd centric. The original show was like that, where the first year focused primarily on Kai's journey. Further seasons have focused on the other ninjas, which is fine when you start getting a long running show, but that doesn't bode well for a movie, which made have started with too large of a cast of characters as is. If your favorite ninja isn't Lloyd, then you might get disappointed.) (Wait, must remain optimistic!!!!)

Anyway, I'll probably post more of my rambling thoughts this weekend after I see it. So far, I've kept myself from buying ALL the sets, only have two of the smaller ones... I'll see if I can continue to maintain that willpower...



Ninjago Movie Theory

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts Sep 02 2017 · 443 views

Based on the promotional material, we've seen a lot of human Jackie Chan making ninja jokes.

So my theory is that the LEGO Ninjago Movie is merely Jackie Chan playing with his Lego collection and making up a story for it.


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Is that the light at the far end of the tunnel, or just the train.
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Crazy how that shipwreck meant my ship was coming in
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So make now your ally, and leap before you look
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