Halloween has passed, the fireworks and bonfires have had their big night, that can mean only one thing, Christmas is coming. The lights and decorations are already starting to appear once more, and the release of the John Lewis Christmas advert has finally signalled the coming of the most magical time of the year – not to mention there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out next month.
Set Number: 75146
Minifigures: Luke Skywalker, U-3PO, Chewie, Hoth Rebel trooper, Bespin Guard, Imperial Snowtrooper, Stormtrooper, Imperial Navy Trooper
As a parent, it’s safe to say that the next seven weeks are going to be the madness they always are at this time of year, getting the tree, decking out the house, wrapping presents, it’s all part of the fun as far as I’m concerned. Another big part of the lead up to Santa’s big day is the advent calendars, those glorious countdown clocks which get kids more and more excited every day with a quick treat behind a numbered door. Back in my day, the best you could hope for was a festive shaped chocolate, but over the last few years toy companies have joined in and created some amazing calendars for kids. Yes, you’re going to be paying more than the £1 chocolate variety, but the when you see what’s on offer, the value for money is obvious.
One of the biggest success stories with the toy-based advent calendars is, unsurprisingly, LEGO. The construction toy company has been producing Christmas themed calendars for a few years now, with each festive season expanding and improving on the last. This year they have three main advent sets, LEGO Friends, LEGO City, and the always popular LEGO Star Wars. These sets have sold out in an instant in recent years due to their popularity, and after having the pleasure of reviewing last year’s LEGO Star Wars advent calendar, I complete understand why.
Last year was my first look at LEGO’s answer to the advent calendar, and having been overwhelmingly impressed by what was on offer, I’ve returned to review this festive season’s LEGO Star Wars offering. Now armed with the experience of last year for comparison, will 2016’s calendar thrill or bore? Well, let’s take a look.
I should also point out that while I will be going through every model in the set, I will not be revealing any of the door numbers. That’s a surprise I’m just not willing to ruin.
As with last year, we won’t start with what’s in the box, but rather, the box itself. Much like a traditional advent calendar, there are 24 numbered doors to open. Where these toy-based advent calendars differ is the fact that the actual box which makes up the calendar also doubles as a scene for all the surprises inside, themed around the toys themselves.
Last year’s LEGO Star Wars box features a mishmash of locations from the franchise corresponding to the toys, with sections dedicated to Hoth, Tatooine and the forest moon of Endor. This year is no different, though this time Endor is replaced by Naboo, which is given center stage.
As with last year, and I sadly neglected to mention it then, the quality of the box and fold-out play mat are superb. Made from plastic-coated card, this is high quality even by LEGO standards and you can even get away with a small spillage being easily wiped away without damage, a great thing note for parents with children at the lower-end of the age-range. While it may look reasonable simplistic from afar, the image which makes up the scene is incredibly detailed when you look at it closely, right down to the leaves on the trees, this itself is an asset worth keeping for the collection.
Before your LEGO fan can make the most of the play area, though, we need to work our way through the toys on offer as you work your way through December, even closer to the big day. As with previous LEGO Star Wars advent calendars, there are three high-level groups that the 24 toys fall into; Figures, vehicles, and scene builds. Let’s begin with the obvious attraction for any LEGO fan, the new LEGO characters they’re going to be getting.
There’s an impressive selection of characters on offer this year with no less than eight fully-fledged minifigures and two droids to build. While a couple of the figures are essentially repeats from last year (who doesn’t want another stormtrooper?), a couple of the minifigures included in the set are special and, in my opinion as a collector, worth the price-tag on their own.
Kicking off with the lighter side of the Force, there are a couple of very recognisable characters among the collection of minifigures, Return of the Jedi‘s Luke Skywalker and a festive Chewie are the definite highlights from the good guys. Also included in the minifigure collection you’ll find a Hoth Rebel Trooper looking a little worse for wear and a Bespin Guard. Turning to the Empire and there is U-3PO, a droid reprogrammed to spy on the rebellion, the token Stormtrooper, an Imperial Snowtrooper and finally an Imperial Navy Trooper.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been wanting a Jedi Master Skywalker minifigure for a very long time and so the fact that one is included here instantly increases my fondness for the set as a whole. What is exciting about his inclusion here is that the minifigure appears to be a relatively new variant, featuring the same design only seen previously in one other set and the LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens video game.
Luke’s had numerous minifigures over the years, with several dedicated to the characters third outing, the black outfit and singular black hand being instant indicators. While there is very little that’s changed with regards to his head, hair and legs, the new torso features an impressively accurate print of both the front and back. While the detail isn’t overly complicated or brimming with colour, the silver on black design is striking, capturing the outline of the characters outfit and his belt perfectly. The minifigure also comes complete with a green lightsaber.
As this is a Christmas themed set, it’s traditional for at least one of the minifigures to have a seasonal overhaul. Last year it was CPO in a Santa suit, this year everyone’s favourite Wookie appears in a snowy white with a festive green and red sash. There’s not a great deal to say about the minifigure, it is in every way exactly the same as the standard Wookie minifigure, just with a different colour scheme. The character also includes his signature crossbow, though the ammunition studs are white. Along with Chewie, the day you open this door, you’ll also find a little two-piece Christmas tree.
Having appeared in last year’s advent calendar, the Hoth Rebel trooper makes another appearance, though this year there’s an odd difference. Much like his predecessor, the torso piece features a great deal of detail, making up the snow outfit from The Empire Strikes Back, the legs, however, offer little in unique design. Where he differs is the head piece, the face looks rather odd. This rebel trooper is not in good shape and looks like he’s withered somewhat on the ice planet. The new detail on the face looks great, though, and adds a level of uniqueness to the overall figure. The helmet piece again matches last year’s model, with a detachable goggle piece included.
U-3PO is exactly what you’d expected to see, it’s a silver version of the C-3PO we’ve seen crop up in numerous LEGO Star Wars sets over the years, there’s very little difference between the two characters other than the primary colour of the figure. That said, the printed detail is still impressive, running from head to toe, my highlight being the exposed wires on the lower torso.
The Bespin guard is an interesting choice as well, very rare having only appeared in one other LEGO set and yet not a well known enough character for many fans to be actively seeking one. Still, when he’s a resident of cloud city (he’s now sitting with my carbonite chamber set, I should add) and that gives him more than enough credentials to be worthy of a home in LEGO Star Wars. His attire is a refreshing change from the blacks, whites, and greys we find with the majority of the Star Wars universe. A solid blue covers the legs and torso and combined with a similarly coloured hat, this character will definitely stand out in your collection.
The printing on the torso is relatively simplistic compared to many in LEGO Star Wars, but when you compare him to his movie counterpart, the printing is superbly accurate. A gold border follows the edges of the characters outfit, complete with an embroidered pattern at the bottom corners. The one and only disappointment with the figure is his underwhelmingly generic head piece.
We do, of course, have the generic Stormtrooper, though I see no reason to delve into detail with the minifigure as it matches the many hundreds found in the LEGO Star Wars universe. Instead, let’s move one to the far more interesting Imperial Snowtrooper. I’ve got a couple of these in my LEGO collection and I’m a big fan of the Snowtrooper, the massive helmet makes these guys look so much more menacing than the standard stormtrooper, and they’re far less common.
The legs piece has both grey and white, though unlike the standard trooper, there is no additional printing detail. Luckily the torso more than makes up for this oversight. With printing on both front and back brilliantly recreating the character to superb detail, including the individual buttons on the chest, this guy definitely stands out when put side by side with a stormtrooper. The head piece is the same as the stormtrooper, though, in my opinion at least, this is far less important given the aforementioned helmet which the character wears.
Finishing off the look, the figure comes with an attachable neck piece, used to simulate the character backpack. The pack is made up of two one-stud pieces, one of which is pre-printed with circuitry and buttons.
One of my absolute favourites in this set is our final fully-fledged minifigure, the Imperial Navy Trooper. These guys are scattered in the background across all three of the original Star Wars trilogy, usually in control of some powerful planet destroying fake-moon. This minifigure is superb, he just looks the part. Of course, this is partly due to the epic Star Wars bucket, half Darth Vader helmet he wears, famously mocked in parody movie Space Balls. The LEGO version couldn’t be more accurate in detail if they brought in the guy who came up with the original design for the first movie, by LEGO Star Wars standards, this helmet is fantastically detailed and without the need to add any additional colours.
The legs and torso make up the characters very formal, military black outfit perfectly. Similar to the Luke minifigure, the details is solely made up on a silver/grey tone as the perfect contrast to the otherwise dark outfit. While the head piece isn’t mind-blowing in terms of unique detail, the face looks fairly generic, the inclusion of the microphone headpiece certainly adds uniqueness to the character.
U-3PO isn’t the only droid to make this year’s, there are a couple of other mechanical guys included. Last year we were treated to one of the Sandcrawler droids and R2-D2, this year we get a prequel Battle Droid and the Power Droid, the one with the funky legs from Return of the Jedi. I’m not going to bother too much with the Battle Droid as the figures have been around for a while and even made appearances in the recently Star Wars: The Force Awakens sets.
The Power Droid, on the other hand, now that is worthy of a paragraph or two, it looks awesome. The legs, seen in the movie as the droid is clamped into what looks like a torture device upside down (I’m sure he was just having some routine maintenance), are made up of two studs and a square clip and despite the droid’s tiny statue, the feet are fantastically accurate depictions of his movie counterpart.
The body, again, looks brilliant, it’s nothing special in terms of design, but it’s how it manages to capture the character so well that is impressive. It’s layer on layer of 2×3 bricks, a mash-up of difference shapes, sizes and colours, which when put together add the detail needed to make this just a great looking model. In terms of similar builds, this is very much like building a scaled down version of the micro manager from the LEGO Movie sets.
Over the years, LEGO have produced some pretty impressive micro-builds, especially over the last 12 months with LEGO Dimensions. There’s a lot of experience to draw on and when you have such an amazing library of spaceship designs to draw on for inspiration, the results should be fantastic.
The Slave I is an instant hit, the impressive detail with such few pieces is remarkable impressive and let’s face it, Fett’s ship is far from the easiest design to recreate in blocky form. It’s the use of the primary red and green pieces which really make this tiny 20 piece model stand out.
Similarly, the TIE Interceptor looks amazing. I actually own a larger version of the ship in LEGO form and the basic design of this micro-build is not too dissimilar. The blocky body with the purpose-specific circular cockpit piece work really well, but it’s the clip-on wings, which can be rotated easily, which complete the look. Four triangular black pieces make up the wings, which are each connected to two-stud clips which attach to the main body. Despite the lack of colour, this model still stands out as one of the best in this set.
The Droid Gunship, again, looks great, with an accurate colour scheme that fans will instantly recognise when compared to its source material. The main hull of the ship is made up of one large circular piece with a grey doughnut piece on top to add further detail. The front of the ship is connected to the main body via a one-stud clip hidden under the main body, allowing some limited rotation. The only real downside with this is the level pieces used on the front, sadly they make the whole ship look a little like a bug, in my opinion.
The AAT from The Phantom Menace is surprisingly detailed, made ever more stunning by the tan colour used in its design. Again, I actually own the larger LEGO version of the vehicle and it’s surprisingly impressive just how much detail has been added here. The main canon on the top has been recreated using a tan coloured rod on a one-stud clip, while the side cannons are grey pistols. It’s the mixture of brown shades used which helps with the detail, the front triangular piece representing the droid cockpit area.
One of Jabba’s Return of the Jedi Skiff’s makes a welcomed micro-build addition. It’s a tiny model, even by micro-build standards and yet it looks superb, you can even clip a minifigure on to the side of it and it doubles as a sort of scooter.
I’m a big fan of the Jedi Interceptor’s, one of the few truly awesome things to come out of the Star Wars prequels. The micro-build appears to carry the colours of Obi-Wan, the dark red and white working brilliantly together to create a strikingly simple design. There’s not a fantastic amount to discuss regarding the overall model, other than the nice addition of a translucent triangular piece for the cockpit area
Remember that opening scene from the very first Star Wars movie? The ship carrying Leia and the Death Star plans? That was a Rebel Alliance Tantive-IV, a ship with one hell of a large rocket booster on the back, in fact, multiple. If I’m honest, my initial thought once this micro-build was completed was, is that it? It’s far from the most impressive ship on display here, long and thin, but the effort that has gone into recreating the engine on the back is what makes this a worthy addition.
I’m not going to lie, when I first built the Imperial Landing Craft, I thought it would turn out to be a T-16, the large central fin certainly indicating that to be the case, I even googled the design to be sure, but this is the Lander. One of the largest of the models, and definitely one of the more impressive, the cruiser is surprisingly flat with the main body barely a brick thick (using three layers of thin pieces). The front cockpit area and wings are clipped to the main body and can be easily be rotated as you wish. On the back of the model there is a translucent blue two-stud piece which is used to mimic the thrusters brilliantly.
The Republic Cruiser is a blocky chunk and while there is little external detail to be found on the larger triangular pieced hull, the big red stripe down the middle is a dead giveaway for what type ship this is. This micro-build is definitely one of the more sturdy models, much more likely to be safely played with than some of the others. Looking at it from the back, the huge rear thrusters are created here using dark grey circular technics hinges and they look super against the main body.
The final vehicle of the advent calendar is, unsurprisingly, the most seasonal, this year’s sleigh. 2015’s advent calendar also had a sleigh and when comparing the two, it’s clear that each have their own strengths. Last year’s model, for example, had lightsabers making up the sledge blades, this time around we get hockey sticks. While 2015’s model was a simple one brick thick brown block, this time we get a lot more detail to enjoy, a much sterner model.
One of the great things about the sleigh is the lack of Star Wars specific elements, yes I know this is a Star Wars set, but it’s great that you do have the option to use it with LEGO City, as an example. The back of the sleigh even includes a sack filled with ice skates which easily attach to any standard minifigures feet.
If I’m honest, the scene builds were my least favourite part of last year’s advent calendar, theyjust weren’t overly impressive with a couple looking like nothing more than a few small bricket piled up. This year, there are far less of these type of builds and the ones that we do get are a huge step up.
The Tatooine Scene is the only build that really resembles the disappointing builds from last year and yet I really like this one, the simple use of two distinctly different colours to simulate the buildings against the sandy landscape looks fantastic.
With Hoth as one of the key locations again this year, it’s not surprising that an ion canon made it into the line-up. It’s far from overly complicated and personally, I’d consider rebuilding it slightly as a sort of snow-covered turret of your Snowtrooper. The basic design features a mini-tower with two saucer pieces separated by a grey pistol-like piece which clips inside. The only other detail included is a couple of triangular pieces to simulate snow.
For some unknown reason, I really like the Snowtrooper Snowman, it’s a unique and quirky festive themed addition to the line-up and you can easily see it sitting randomly in the middle of the large Battle of Hoth set and looking superb. The snowman so have the advantage of providing up with another stud shooter and a Star Wars Imperial helmet which can easily be transferred to a minifigure.
The last of the 24 model strong line-up is the turret, it’s a superb accessory for one of your millions of Stormtroopers. The handlebars are connected to a rotating hinge, meaning that not only can they be moved up and down but also angled to whatever you need. The canon on the front is made from a lightsaber hilt piece and connects are the centre of the large circular shield, which again is on a hinge that allows you to angle it up or down. This is a superb addition, it’s quite rare to get a decent and unique accessory for the masses, this works perfectly for that.
The Set Overall
When comparing this year’s LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar to its predecessor, it is like that LEGO have upped their game considerably over the last year. 2016’s set boasts a much richer collection of minifigures, some brilliantly designed micro-builds of iconic ships like Slave I and a couple of surprisingly enjoyable scene builds. There is very little to fault this on.
The highlights for me personally have to be the Luke Skywalker Return of the Jedi variant and the Power Droid, two superb LEGO creations which will make any hardcore Star Wars fan weak at the knees, they look fantastic.
There are a minor disappointments, not in any one build, but a couple definitely have their weaknesses. What you have to remember, though, is you get twenty-four unique creations in this pack, that two dozen new LEGO Star Wars toys for your collection, and if the minifigure collection doesn’t sell it, the vast majority of ships included certainly should.
This is a MUST BUY for any LEGO Star Wars fan, young and old, for playtime or display. Highly recommended.
- The expanded minifigure collection is superb, coupled together with a couple of very awesome droids
- A couple of really decent ship micro-builds, the TIE and Slave I really nailing the source material
- There isn’t bad model across the entire 24 piece collection
- A couple of minor disappointments in design, but nothing substantial. Would have loved to see an improved Falcon among this year’s collection, though.