Friday, June 28, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Smaug

Sharon Vance displayed this wonderful mosaic of Smaug at BrickWorld. It's based on the painting Dragon's Lair by the Brothers Hildebrandt.


Friday, June 14, 2013

What may yet be - Return of the Kings set ideas

I'm not sure how I missed blogging these when he posted them last fall. We've already seen a couple of sets based on the Return of the King, with the Pirate Ship Ambush and Battle at the Black Gate sets (and arguably the Shelob Attacks set - the movies break at a slightly different point than the books), but we'll surely get at least another wave. There's so much more action around Minas Tirith to be covered, and we'll probably get some 'Cracks of Doom' set with Frodo and Gollum. Anyway, last fall John Lennon/Nuju Metru posted a series of Return of the King set ideas.

First up is the Paths of the Dead. This would include Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, and the ghostly king. He includes action features to throw the king off his platform, and also to launch skulls at the three heroes.


Next is the Witch King Demise, with Eowyn and Merry battling the Witch King. I think this is a pretty obvious set, though I think when LEGO does it they will include the Fell Beast (I realize that Nuju Metru already built a Fell Beast in one of his other set ideas, which is probably why he didn't do it here).


Finally there is Minas Tirith itself, which Nuju Metru proposes as a huge set with lots of heroes and villains (btw, he's also put this up as a Cuusoo project). I don't know if LEGO would build the set this big (but who knows? the Orthanc set is huge, and the Star Wars theme has huge sets like the Death Star and Imperial Star Destroyer). I'd suspect that instead they would do a series of sets that could all go together to depict the battle outside the walls. I'd do four sets - one of the main gate and Grond, one of a section of wall (that connects to the gatehouse on either side, so you could buy multiples) along with a catapult or siege tower, an Oliphant set, and the Witch King vs Eowyn set with the Fell Beast. Orcs, Haradrim, Gondorian soldiers, mounted Rohirrim, and principle characters would be spread through these sets so you have to buy them all. Of course, it was always my idea that LEGO would do different sections of the Death Star as separate sets that hook together, but instead they did one huge set, so they may well go that way with Minas Tirith.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

BrickFair NE

Here are some Tolkien MOCs from last month's BrickFair gathering in New Hampshire. I've previously noted Steve Morrison's (aka ShayDeGrai's) Argonath, but he's updated it, adding river and landscaping around the base. Somehow I've never featured his Minas Morgul or his Minas Tirith, so here they are from his Flickr stream. As a bonus, here's Greg Titcomb's set mod of Gollum's cave.





Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Trailer

I'm sure readers of this blog have already seen this, but today the first trailer came out for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I really should include some LEGO content, so let's have some rampant speculation on upcoming LEGO sets. I just listened to a great analysis on the Tolkien Professor Podcast (find it on iTunes) that went through all of the footage that Peter Jackson has released up until this trailer, including the live web event that you needed a password to see. It's fairly clear that the second movie will follow the story of the dwarves from the Carrock, through Mirkwood, through Laketown, up until at least Bilbo's first meeting with Smaug. The speculation is that the film will end with Smaug leaving the Lonely Mountain and flying off towards Laketown (oops, spoilers, I suppose - c'mon, the book was written 75 years ago, you have no excuse). Then there is the 'Dol Guldur' storyline implied in the book and fleshed out a little bit more in the LotR Appendices, but changed in translation to the film. At the very least we will have further development, as Gandalf and Radagast go off to investigate, but many speculate that this storyline will come to a climax in film 2 as the the White Council put forth their power to attack Dol Guldur. Perhaps the big reveal of the identity of the Necromancer won't come until the end of film 3, though, to set the Hobbit up as a prequel to the LotR movies. Anyway, what sets does this film promise? We've already gotten two Mirkwood sets in the spider scene and the barrel escape, so I doubt we'll get more there - maybe a set focused on Beorn? Some Laketown set would be cool, but I anticipate this coming with the attack of Smaug, which should be at the start of film 3. We'll surely get a Smaug set, with Bilbo sneaking in. And the rest depends, IMO, on the Dol Guldur storyline. In the trailer below we see Gandalf and Radagst sneaking around some creepy ruins, anticipating a trap. Will they be attacked by Nazgul? If so, I'll bet that would be a set. And maybe a big 'Battle of Dol Guldur' set, which could be an expensive set and include at least a couple of members of the White Council. Perhaps some small set with dwarves being chased by orcs, as that seems to be continuing in movie 2, as seen in the trailer below. Anyway, what do you think? Or is it possible that we'll get mostly Lord of the Rings sets this year, and then lots of Hobbit sets in January, falling between the releases of movies 2 and 3.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Maps!

Bilbo "loved maps, and in his hall there hung a large one of the Country Round with all his favourite walks marked on it in red ink." - The Hobbit.

Here are some maps by Dodge, hermanblume and Legopard.




Monday, June 10, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Micros

I've been going through Thaler1978's photostream, and he's got a bunch of Tolkien micros.







Thursday, June 6, 2013

Barad-dûr

I think that pretty much everyone who looked at pictures of the new set 79005, Wizard Battle saw that orange fig-head with printed Sauron's eye had the same idea - make this the top element in an appropriately micro-scaled Barad-dûr. Rgeiger even anticipated the set release by building a Barad-dûr, promising to replace the blank orange head with the new piece once he gets it.



The first person I've seen actually use this piece, though I'm sure we'll see others, is Thaler1978's micro version. BTW, he's also done a nano version.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book Review: BrickGun

I've recently received a review copy of one of the newest AFOL-driven books, BrickGun, by Jeff Boen, published by No Starch Press. While this is off-topic for my blogs, I'm going to post this review across most of my blogs (except SciBricks and GodBricks), because I want to support AFOL authors and also encourage publishing houses to produce more books for and about the community. You can learn more about Jeff Boen, see additional models that did not find their way into the book, and even purchase kits to build these guns on his site, BrickGun. Also, if you are interested in purchasing this book, right now No Starch has a 40% discount if you buy through their site.



First up, a bit of a disclaimer and then a defense. I understand that a lot of people do not like the idea of a book celebrating full scale models of realistic weapons. When Huw reviewed this book on Brickset a week and a half ago (yes, I'm slow), a lot of the feedback was very negative on even the idea of this book, and some criticized Huw for reviewing it at all. Some people pointed out that playing with full scale LEGO guns can get you in a lot of trouble. Of course, so can playing with fig-scale guns. As I said, though, I do understand the concern. I previously reviewed No Starch's LEGO Heavy Weapons book, and it was right in the aftermath of the horrible school shooting in Newton Connecticut, and I was torn about the idea. On the flip side, I think a lot of the hue and cry is hypocritical. There are a huge number of militaristic MOCs out there, and we don't see similar comments on the latest tank or fighter plane. When the custom dealers such as BrickArms or BrickForge come out with a new realistic weapon, people run out to order them for their next WWII diorama. Even official sets come with some sort of weapon as often as not. My own theme of choice is castle, and my figs are usually carrying some sort of sword or battle axe. I'm under no illusion that these were for peaceful purposes. Like it or not, weapons are a big part of our LEGO play.



Anyway, on to the book itself. It is pretty much a set of full instructions to build five guns. Four are replicas of pistols and are life-size. They have moving features like triggers that can be pulled, and one has a magazine that can be inserted. The MAC 11 subcompact machine pistol is 'working', in that it fires rubber bands. At least to my untrained eye, the models themselves look very authentic. The instructions are detailed and in color. One critique is that since these are built almost all out of black, it might have been nice in the instructions to print the previous layer in a faded color, so that the new bricks being added would stand out. I have not built any of these, but reading through the instructions it seems that any reasonably experienced builder would be able to follow along with no problems.



There are a few pages of text at the start of the book, but IMO these could have largely been left off. Aside from a few building tips, most of this text is autobiographical and IMO a little self indulgent (basically saying how he built the MOCs and describing all of the great response he received). Perhaps the book would have been improved by a little bit of history of the weapons depicted in LEGO form, as seen in the LEGO Heavy Weapons book. That suggests a bit of side-by-side comparison of BrickGun (BG) with the LEGO Heavy Weapons (LHW) book. I haven't built the models from either, so I can't really compare them, but based on the pictures I like the look of the BG models better. The BG models seem to be based more on basic bricks, plates and slopes, while the LHW ones seem to use more Technic elements, though both books use both types of pieces. BG has color pictures on glossy paper, vs the black and white LHW. Color doesn't seem necessary, since the models are mostly black, but it does make the book seem a little nicer. BG is about a third shorter (222 pages vs 354 for LHW). This seems odd since BG has 5 models vs 4 for LHW. Flipping through the instructions it seems the LHW models have more fiddly bits, which probably explains the greater number of pages. The LHW models are supposed to launch bricks, while one of the BG models fires rubber bands. Oh, that reminds me of what I found quite funny. On the last page of BG, you're told to not fire rubber bands at people. Were the publishers never kids? That's pretty much the point of a rubber band gun - from the simplest rubber band looped over the end of a ruler up to these highly detailed LEGO versions.

As I've said, No Starch has previously published the LEGO Heavy Weapons book, and they also have Badass LEGO Guns and some guns in the Forbidden LEGO book.



One complaint is that these, especially the BrickGun and LEGO Heavy Weapons, seem to be a little repetitive. At least they seem so to me as a non-gun-guy. One humble suggestion is that if No Starch does another of these books, they may want to go back and do historical guns. Imagine a book that had a LEGO musket, pirate-era pistol, a six-shooter from the old west, etc. A very cursory look on Flickr finds, for instance, this WWI era revolver by Cole Edmonson. Going further back into history, there are lots of people who have made full-scale LEGO swords, shields, and other medieval weapons. Or, they could go the other direction, and do futuristic weapons. There are a lot of builders who have made 1:1 scale models of different weapons from the Star Wars universe, such as Captaininfinity's Han Solo blaster. I would imagine that a book of these would tap into both those builders interested in full scale models of weapons, and also the vast Star Wars fanbase. Alternatively I've seen full scale LEGO versions of Star Trek weapons or other sci-fi accessories. One last direction, Ken Robichard has done a series of full scale Avengers accessories, and there are others who have done 1:1 models of different comic book items. Of course, all of these last ideas would necessarily run into licensing issues.



Anyway, in summary, this is a pretty niche market, but fits that market well. I can understand why some people would not want to build life-size LEGO guns, but if you do, this book (and the other No Starch offering) is perfect for you. The book is well made and a good addition to your LEGO library. I hope they continue to make AFOL-driven books like this, perhaps focused on different subject matter as well.