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.
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
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.)
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!
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.
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.)
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. ) 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.)
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.
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.
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
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.