Thursday, October 3, 2013

REVIEW: Lego Castle Forest Ambush

Produced by Lego | Released May 2013

The Lego Castle Theme
Lego first introduced the ''Castle'' theme in 1978 with the release of the awesome - and simply titled - ''castle.'' Since that time the company has revisited the concept of this Medieval theme a number of times, incorporating a number of new play elements and characters, ranging from forest dwelling archers to Dwarves and dragons. And now Castle is back, with the release of five new sets, the first of which we're looking at today in the form of set 70400, Forest Ambush.

Forest Ambush
At $11.99, Forest Ambush is the least expensive, entry level set in the line. With only 90 pieces included, it may seem a little pricey (especially when compared to the larger sets, which seem to offer more pieces and better value) but before you dismiss the set, it's worth taking a closer look at just what you get for your money...
The new Castle theme is based around two factions, the King's Knights and the Dragon Warriors and this double-sided scenario plays out with the set's contents, with the included duo of heroic Knights having their own (hand-drawn) treasure cart and the evil Dragon Warriors utilizing on the ''background'' or ''play set'' elements to launch the titular ambush.

Let's begin by taking a closer look at the minifigures, starting with the King's Knights.

The King's Knights
The set includes two heroic guardsmen (and their loyal canine companion), both of which feature unique designs.
Both sport their own tampo chest decals (the figure on the left is wearing a mail shirt, whereas the one on the right has a metal cuirass) and, as you can see from the above image, unique helmets and weapons.

The conical helmet has been in use in the Castle theme since its inception but the kettle helm is new to me. Both feature a really nice, shiny metallic paint app though, which really adds a new level of coolness to the design.

Although the instruction manual suggests the knight in the kettle helm should be equipped with the pike, the box art shows him using the sword and shield. But, obviously, as this is Lego you can elect to switch the weapons around between characters should you so wish. I should also point out that I may have received a second, spare sword in my set, as the instructions only show a single blade.

The Dragon Warriors
Like the King's Knights, the Dragon Warrior faction features two individual figures, both - again - with their own unique helmet designs, face prints (in this case, reversible with different expressions), weapons and armor.
Contrasting with the King's Knights, their palette is a little darker, with their helmets being cast from black plastic and their armor using red and black tampo transfer work. Again, one figure uses the conical helmet but the second sports a really cool T-slot Barbute helm. I really like this design and there's a nice, evil kind of feel to the angular shape of it that works really well.

The face designs are also really neat. The missing tooth is a nice touch and both figures have great, evil looks to them, scowling, nasty expressions that show just what a pair of rogues these two are!

Again, both sport their own weapons, with the Barbute guy having a morning star flail (it's difficult to see in the above picture but you can see it in action in the other shots) and a shield, whereas his companion wields a long-haft axe. Once more, I appeared to have scored an extra piece - in this case, a second blade - and so I combined them to give him a double-headed axe.

The Cart
Let's take a closer look at the King's Knights' ''accessory'' piece, the treasure cart.
For all its simplicity it's a pretty nice piece. The wheels spin freely and the handle fits well into the hand of whichever poor schmuck gets lumbered with dragging it!

In what appears to be a running theme with this set, although the build is simple, there are some unique and very cool looking pieces included. I really dig the King's Banner, there's plenty of space around the cart to clip-in the weapons that aren't in use and, coolest of all, the treasure chest opens to reveal an assortment of gems, gold coins and even a gold chalice.
It may be limited in terms of the construction but it's a fun, nice-looking piece that serves its purpose very well.

The Ambush
The Dragon Warriors, meanwhile, are lurking behind the ''scenery'' piece, which, again, although relatively simple to build, has some neat touches and cool play features.
The tree and bush scenery piece seems pretty simple - and in some ways it is, consisting of a few simple blocks and a few decorative embellishments - but it's actually a pretty fun piece, designed to capitalize on the whole ''ambush'' idea. The shrubbery can be moved to the side, ''parted'' if you will, to allow the bad guys to launch their attack and the tree is hinged, allowing them to drop it into the path of the cart, thus blocking their escape!
The scene also includes a wall-mounted crossbow (which can, of course, be held as a weapon by the minifigures) that incorporates the ''flick missile'' play feature and includes two such projectiles. Obviously they're too large to be fired from the crossbow and the position of the ''launch port'' is below the crossbow itself but it's still a fun little feature I'm sure will appeal to kids who enjoy such things.

And again, there are some rarer pieces included with this set, including some cool ''tree trunk'' parts, leaves and - best of all - an apple.

Put Them Together And...
Individually the pieces are pretty neat but when they're combined, either in a diorama or as a plaything, then there's a lot of fun to be had with this set. Check the images out below and you'll see what I mean.

Final Thoughts 
Chances are that the $12 price point and the limited number of pieces will turn a lot of people off from this set but to do so is to make a huge mistake. And here's why:

For starters, the set includes FOUR minifigures (five, if you include the dog.) A blind-bagged minifigure comes in at around $3, so when you apply that same logic, it becomes quickly apparent that this set is actually not that expensive. Now add to that the fact that you not only get a ''vehicle'' for your King's Knights but also a bit of scenery (which is also a great little play accessory.) And then on top of that, just look at all the accessories, extras and rare/unique pieces that are packed into the 90 piece assembly and you'll quickly see that, all told, the $12 price tag isn't outrageous at all.

If you're a fan of army building, this set is a must. As I said, you get four figures for the same price as you'd pay for the same number of blind-bagged minifigures, plus a bunch of extra accessories and pieces that you're sure to find a use for should you elect not to build the cart and ambush spot. It also combines very nicely with some of the other sets, not just in the Castle range, but also the Lego line in general. Right now I have the Series 9 Minigure Knight and the Forest Maiden riding Gandalf's cart with these guys and it all fits together perfectly.

Those looking for a complex, involved build will probably be a little disappointed with this set but if you're a fan of medieval/fantasy warriors and accessories then you'll really enjoy this set.

Don't let the limited number of pieces and the seemingly higher price put you off: there's surprisingly a lot more to this set than you'd first imagine. 

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