I'd been looking at the Knock Off figures on eBay and Amazon to see what was in production. The material changes all the time, there are windows of availability, then it's gone. That's the business of cheating, make the product, sell it, move on to the next product.
While looking for LEGO knock off material I found this Star Trek set of LEGO like minifigures. It's an odd mix of figures, we've got Captain Kirk and Spook, Scotty and Zulu, Edward Rayburn and Khan. That's no typo, that Zulu, that's what they call Sulu. The colors of the shirts are OK, the hair is almost good enough, it's the faces that make me really sad. The set is $12.99 on eBay with $3.07 postage. Here's some larger pictures of the figures. They get larger if you click on them.
Kirk looks addlepated and Spock's only identifying feature are his eyebrows. His hair is totally wrong and he has no pointy ears. That's a big fail in my eyes.
Zulu and Scotty both suffer from the absolutely shit face art. Where these drawn by that lady that restored the Jesus fresco a couple of years ago. That's about the level of talent here. Zulu has the same hair piece as Spock, Kirk and Rayburn. All the uniforms have tiny Star Fleet emblems, which I thought should be a little bigger. The lines on the sleeves are white here but Star Fleet mostly has gold lines on their uniforms.
I did like that they picked out a specific red shirt to fill that spot in the set. I had to go look Edward Rayburn up. His character is mentioned in a couple of novels, and the one episode that he appears in, is one where he dies. The version of Kahn doesn't say Kahn to me. Not something that would be worth buying.
I don't normally buy other brands of building blocks but this set was at Target at such a low price I couldn't resist. It's a $25 set that was marked down to $2.26 plus tax. It's got 335 parts and you can make a robot or a car. It doesn't actually transform, which is kind of sad. I hadn't bought any KRE-O sets before but I had looked at them in the store and Erik had brought a couple of the smaller sets to a TCLUG meeting. He'd gotten them for free at a Transformers meeting. They seemed better than Mega Blocks but still not as good as LEGO's pieces. After building the robot I thought they weren't too bad. They clutch power is much better than MB but still not quite as good as LEGO's. The robot actually held together better than any Mega Block set that I have purchased in the past. MB had a line of robots at one time. I got a couple of them at Target on clearance and built them. They were awful. Just awful. This Bumblebee is much better than that. The robot is actually fairly poseable. I could get him to balance on one foot. The little ball hinges have balls coated with a black rubber like substance. They are fairly stiff to move. This set is aimed at the 7-14 age group and I think that the hinges might prove a bit too stiff for the younger end of that group. I had trouble
getting a grip on the body to move the legs or arms without almost always knocking off a another bit here and there. I'm not a car fan and building robots isn't something I'm that big on. I thought the car looked fairly good but the robot not as much. The minifigs are mixed, both in design and quality. The yellow guy looked ok but the guy with the black hair looks creepy. The other weird thing is the color difference in the yellow parts. They look pretty yellow in the picture at the top of the post. When you open the box you see the yellow part with a good bit of orange tint in them. The robot on the box cover isn't even as orange as the parts were. Now that I have dragged the box around to the two clubs I belong to, then built the robot, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. The river? Maybe. There aren't enough parts for me to care about and I won't want to mix them in with my LEGO. The river covers up a lot of sins.
That's the three sets in the series. Here's the second set, the seaplane.
The Seaplane has 320+ parts and I've seen it listed for about 60 bucks. Again it's kind of a novelty item to me, I like Tintin so I'm vaguely interested, and it's easy to keep a picture you download off of the internet. Someone who is into Meccano would be more interested in the product. I was going to say I didn't know anyone with Meccano brand loyalty but I think I might. I don't know that he reads this so we might never know, unless I ask him. Sometimes surprise is found in what people do with their spare time.
I wonder how a nuts and bolts man would look at this set? Model or parts pack? I suspect it's the appeal of building the model. A lot of people like making models, all sorts of models. And certainly the variety in technique and end product is huge. At the last TCLUG meeting we were talking about the lack of plastic model kits in places like Target and WalMart. When I remembered a day or two later I looked up plastic model kits on the internet and there's still a pretty good number of kits available but the price on a 1/25 model kit of a car is about 25 bucks. That seems expensive to me but it might be such a small market that it's the cost now. That Meccano set is 60 bucks, even with it being metal and painted, that seems steep for a smallish plane. I do like the fact that the Meccano parts are painted. The applying of paint on a plastic model kit was always my downfall as a model maker. I tried but never could achieve a good enough level of quality to want to continue. I have to admit the appeal with the LEGO system bricks is the lack of a need to paint. Even with the limited color pallet, when compared to mixing paints, you can achieve a lot of interesting work.
That's the big set of the series of four Tintin set from nanoblocks. The box says over 3000 pieces. That's a lot and the price is higher accordingly. I've seen it range from $175 to $220 on various sites. The Unicorn is the ship from the Tintin books The Secret Of The Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure. Those stories are used for the basis of recent Tintin movie. In the story Tintin finds a nice ship model of The Unicorn. It turns out that a relative of Captain Haddock sailed the ship that model was based on. That model leads to an adventure and treasure. It's how Captain Haddock ends up with Marlinspike Hall. I bet it would be an adventure building that ship, what with it having 3000 tiny little pieces, and sadly I have no Nestor to build it for me. It looks pretty good on the box. Here's a better picture of the ship.
Not much to say about it, not something I feet I need. For the price of the set I could get a lot of LEGO, or a bunch of dvds, or some practical shit. I prefer having the picture version of it. The real version of it would take up some bit of space and that's less appealing.
Here's another of the nanoblock Tintin sets. The set calls it Moulinsart Castle, Herge called it Chateau de Moulinsart in his original story, we know it as Marlinspike Hall in the USA. It's got 1500 pieces and I just saw one on Amazon for 85 bucks. You get to build the building sitting on a yellow base with some green shrubbery. There's a lot of light tan and bluish gray. Hard to tell from those pictures. It looks like the Herge drawing well enough. It's a nice enough building but I've never ever gotten excited about it in the comic. I find that period of French architecture less interesting than other eras. I'm not a fan of the roof style that much but you can easily build it with mostly common LEGO slopes.
Here's Professor Calculus's shark shaped submarine from Red Rackham's Treasure. It's the continuation of the previous book in the series The Secret Of The Unicorn. Sadly the model, while nice enough, doesn't capture the smile of the drawn version. There's no Tintin figure to go in the sub either. The sub isn't that big, about 5 and a half inches from nose to tail and just under 3 and a half inches tall. There are 900 pieces in the set and I've been seeing it on Amazon for prices that range from $62 to $110. That's just crazy talk. It's just not worth that too me. I guess I can admire the box. I save a lot of space by going digital anyway.
I kind of lost interest in Nanoblocks and was surprised to see this set when I was looking for something else. It's part of a series of 4 that came out December 2011 in Japan. Probably last fall I put the bunch of nanoblocks I had picked up away in a box. I didn't have an immediate use for them so they went into storage. The lack of interest kept me from following the Nanoblocks Japan site. I started looking them up since I have an interest in Tintin. I more interested in the comics but I like saving pictures of toys and things related to the series. It's too much to expect to buy stuff like that when it's produced overseas and not marketed here. You can find them for sale on the internet but at a pretty high price. The rocket set is 81 bucks from someone on Amazon. That's a lot, even for 1100 parts. They are small parts and they're only red and white ones in the set. With those pieces you get to build the space ship from the Tintin story Destination Moon. That's actually kind of cool. It's a good story and one that's pulled out to read. I have to finish the couple of books about Herge first and one is taking a while to get through. It's often that way, some books drag, some don't. There's a Herge drawing on the box cover and it's from the Tintin comic book. It's a nice rocket. They do a fair job on getting the shape to work out. It's hard making round shapes with just plain bricks. I don't think they look good. It's not something I tend to try to build. I'm still not interested in buying one but I do like it. I'll enjoy the pictures for sure.
Gary brought a copy of the 2010 Cobi Brick Catalog to the comic con a couple of weekends ago. I had heard of the line before but hadn't picked any up. Here's the 2011 catalog over at Cobi's site. Some of the sets are kind of interesting. I liked the Knights theme and the Romans & Barbarians were pretty entertaining. Gary said he had seen some sets at the Hub Hobby store in Richfield. I popped over there during my lunch hour one day last week and picked up a cheap set. 27050 Catapult set was $9.99 for 50 pieces. Twenty cents a piece isn't a very good price per part. The Cobi shop lists them for 9.99 Euros. Some of the pieces are larger but a LEGO set with that many pieces would be in the 5-7 dollar range.
The top pic in the post is the set I got at Hub Hobby. It says Grunwald 1410 on one side and Tannenberg 1410 on the other side. Grunwald is a real battle in Poland. The battle took place July 15, 1410 in the fields between the towns of Grunwald and Tannenberg; here's a longer description of the battle. Poland and Lithuania kick the ass of the Teutonic Knights. Those guys suck, coming around causing trouble. I am guessing that the Grunwald sets are mostly for the Poland market and the rest of the world gets the more generic Knightslabel.
There's a nice bunch of parts that you won't find in a LEGO set. I like that 1x3 slope and the 1x2 curved slope. The brown color might be a little light for my tastes. There's a green plant thing that's got nice detail in the stems. That piece turns up in white in another set, being worn by a minifig as a crown. There's a 2x4 plate attached 90 degrees to a 1x4 plate. That little gray piece straight below the axe is a handle for the shield. It's a handle with a stud. I can see that being useful. Same for the 1x1 round plate with the stud on each side. That's how they make the round rocks for the catapult. The two halves go together and they form a really nice round textured boulder. The individual halves of the boulder can be used for decoration or who knows what.
The sets got one guy and a catapult with some logs as protection for his knees and feet. There's a flag on a spear and the bottom of a chest. That minifig guy has a nose that sticks up from the face. His skin color is a sort of tan. The knight has a nicely printed torso and I like the simplistic white design on the red flag. It's printed both sides. The shields got a label, in fact, they put in a whole sheet of colorful labels depicting the banners of the participants of the battle. They have some great symbols, don't they? The instructions are pretty good, clear and easy to read. That's the last page of the booklet. It shows a top down and side view of the finished set, as well as a nice illustration of the handle piece and the 1x1 round plate with the stud on each side and how it fits the boulder pieces. I built the set and took it along to the TCLUG meeting. Brian's 5 year old daughter Lindsey had a great time catapulting the boulder at the soldier. I'm not sure that I will rush right out and buy any more sets, that would cut into the LEGO budget, but I can look at them online. Glad I got one for now.
A few days after I exchanged some emails with Larry Kilgallon, the prez of Ohio Arts, I got a small package in the mail. It was packed with baggies full of nanoblocks. There were 4 sets, a Taj Mahal, a Eiffel Tower, a Sagrada Familia and a giant panda, and their instructions. No boxes but still an over 60 dollar value. Nice, huh. I love getting free stuff, so feel free to send me something. Make sure it's nice. I wrote to Larry and thanked him, promising to comment on my blog about the sets when I got done building them. He mentioned that the sales over the Easter Holiday were good and they we excited their new line was catching on. I wonder who's buying them. It would be curious to get some more reviews of the sets and find out what people think about working with them. You can also join the nanoblock facebook page. My earlier review is right at the top of the page. Funny how I get around places. Here's a nice graphic on the size of the parts. For those who don't understand metric, let me tell you, they are small. While I was over at facebook I clicked on the chat button and a guy I knew from Winnipeg asked me if I wanted a couple of copies of my 1976 Christmas Booke. They were in Chester Cuthbert's science fiction collection which went to the Unversity of Edmonton when he died. Sure I said, send them to me. I don't have many copies anymore. They might come in handy. You never know.
The first one I tackled was the Taj Mahal. Like the rest of the building models in the series the base is 3 3/8 inches on a side. That's 20x20 studs in dark gray. The set's got over 400 pieces, almost all white ones, and there are a few left over when you are done. I had to use my stamp tongs to handle the huge number of 1x1 parts. It didn't help to have both my middle fingers and right thumb wrapped in bandages from cuts on the end of those digits. I was attacked by a can of sliced pieces, and that's all I'm sayin'. Those bandages made it hard to pick up the larger pieces. The Taj Mahal looks ok. The model I mean. You can tell what is it supposed to be. The size of the model and the types of pieces mean they have to cheat the round towers, using bundles of round 1x1 parts, but you get the picture. The designer has to find a balance between the features of the original and the scale of the pieces in the set. Some features are moved slightly and other features are eliminated. What seems odd to me is the buildings white base. It's not depicted. That's such a large part of the original that it seems odd to remove it. Still not too bad a set and a good source for white parts.
More stacking in the Eiffel Tower. It's stacked about 5 inches high and there's a lot of dark gray pieces in the set. The box says more than 200 parts and a lot of them are the larger parts. Lots of 1x2, 2x2, and a few 2x4 and 2x8 pieces. There's some yellowy tan and brown and dark green, but only in small quantities. Still a good set for basic gray in the larger piece size. There are also 8 1x4 clear bricks. You'd need a lot of those for an office tower.
I thought the Eiffel Tower was pretty good. For some reason I like the pink 1x1's that dot the base plate. Is it a bunch of tiny naked French men out having a romp in the park? Or better yet, tiny naked French women. I'll never know. Even after I got out my magnifying glass, I couldn't see anything.
That's the Sagrada Familia. It's a Roman Catholic Church that was started back in 1882 and remains unfinished. It dominates the Barcelona skyline. It's the work of Antonio Gaudi, who's a favorite architect of mine. It was a set that I was interested in but seeing it in person I don't think the set does the original building justice, the colors are wrong and while the building's shape is similar the detail is lost and the detail is the king in this man's work. The set was the only one with an open bag and there were some parts missing. Mostly 1x2 bricks in white and clear. Would have been nice to have those. The rest of the model is mostly brown with a bit of red and dark green. This was the hardest set to build, not because of the missing pieces, but because of the instructions. I actually used my magnifying glass to read them. That's where the larger sets fall down, with their hard to read instruction sheet. It's just too small of an image and they cram the whole build onto one letter size sheet. The way they indicate where to put the next pieces are going makes it very hard to see where the edges of the pieces are and what size they are. I went ahead and finished the main part of the model, skipping the small part on the left side. I mostly wanted to see the massing of the main towers. Since there are no tapered pieces it makes the hard to replicate the cone shape of the 4 main towers. They look like straight towers. That's Guadi's model of the unfinished church. It would have been pretty neat looking, very organic. Sadly it won't get finished in my life time. You can see more of Gaudi's work here.
I took the sets over to the TCLUG meeting last weekend and what was waiting on Brian's pool table? More nanoblocks. Lonn had been shopping for stuff on ebay and come across the Dark Hue Color bulk brick set. It's got 800 pieces in 4 different colors, dark blue, dark gree, brown and a dark yellow. There are 7 brick types, 1x1 round, 1x1, 1x2, 1x4, 2x2, 2x4, 2x8 in uncounted quantities of each. There's only one of the 20x20 baseplate. They aren't out from Ohio Arts yet but there were hints that they are coming. Lonn bought the set and was disappointed that it had no instructions. All there was inside the box, other than the pieces, was a cardboard tray and a paper insert. The tray is like the trays that used to come in the older LEGO sets. I miss those trays. I use the ones I have for sorting and works in progress. They come in handy. Undaunted Lonn did build the ship and it looks pretty good. I'm not sure I would have bothered. The baggies in the paper tray above are Lonn's, those are the parts that were left over from building the ship. At the end of the meeting Lonn passed along his nanoblocks to me. Hopefully I will do something with them. I'm starting to mass a few pieces and once I bust up the sets I can sort and see what's there. Who knows what's next.