As you might have heard, TLG will soon unleash six new Minecraft sets in minifig-scale, which are a followup to the micro world Minecraft sets released two years ago. We will take a closer look at several of these new sets in the upcoming days (weeks?). First up today is the 21116 set titled 'Crafting Box'. This set clocks in at 518 parts and comes with three minifigures: our hero Minecraft Steve, an emaciated looking skeleton, and a weird 'cow' named Nathan (or so I was told). It is a pure coincidence that the webmaster of this site is named Nathan as well. The set features mainly square bricks but also some new molds, as we will show shortly. Time to do some crafting!
A small warning beforehand: I'm not terribly familiar with Minecraft, though I may have dabbled in it once or twice on a cold, dark, dreary, December night. Also, I'm mostly a Technic guy. So, Minecraft fans, if I manage to get some details wrong, please put down the pitchforks and send all hatemail to Nathan (the webmaster, not our friendly cow) instead. He loves getting mail. Also, note that you can click on any of the pictures for a bigger version. My apologies for the rather poor quality of some of these pictures, as unfortunately I did not have access to a proper lighting setup.
We start off by taking a look at the box. The front is shown above, and depicts a bunch of (mainly) two-wide LEGO bricks, which are messily lying about on a green Minecraft landscape lit by a square (ofcourse) Minecraft sun. The bricks are getting trampled by Nathan, who is probably looking for the greener pastures underneath. Doesn't Nathan know that stepping on LEGO bricks hurts?! Anyway, the bricks seem to be slowly swallowing the skeleton for some obscure reason. Meanwhile, Minecraft Steve is being a jerk by ignoring the skeleton's plight, instead busy showing off his oddly coloured pixelated pickaxe. Below all this four (out of eight total) different models for which building instructions are included are shown in insets. All in all, despite the poor skeleton's suffering, it is a fairly attractive scene.
Interestingly, TLG have opted to show an overview of all the parts on the back of the box, which is shown to the right. This is something TLG does not do often as far as I know. Possibly this is to emphasize that the set is indeed a 'crafting box' full of 'raw materials'. Below the list of parts four (out of eight total) diffferent buildable models are shown, just like on the front of the box, probably in case you had already forgotten. Further below some models (there are ten in total, though only four are pictured) that are supposed to serve as inspiration are displayed. Finally, in the bottom right, a special 'block translator poster' is mentioned.
In the next section, we will take a further look at the box' contents.
As the picture to the left shows, the box contains:
- 5 x numbered bags of parts (1 x #1 + 4 x #2);
- 1 x bright green plate 8 x 16 (loose in box);
- 2 x instruction manuals;
- 1 x 'block translator poster' (with both sides printed).
No cardboard backing or plastic wrap was used for the instruction manuals and poster, so you'd better hope that the box was handled carefully before you bought it. Kind of lazy (cheap?) by TLG, especially since the large plate is packed loose in the box, allowing for all kinds of nasty scratching action. The five bags of parts are numbered #1 and #2, with the #1 bag containing the parts for the minifigures and some smaller vignettes, and the #2 bags the various terrain 'blocks'. Check out the full inventory of 518 parts here. Now, we will take a closer look at the contents, starting with the poster.
Above the front (left) and back (right) of the included poster are shown. The front of the poster functions as 'block translator', and shows how the various Minecraft 'blocks' such as dirt, cobblestone and obsidian (I'm sure this all sounds very familiar to Minecraft fans) can be built out of LEGO bricks. I have to say some of these are pretty inventive, especially the various ore ones. Note that some of these blocks have a different height, for instance the ore ones are four plates tall, while most of the other blocks are three plates tall. This might cause issues when trying to create your own scene (which is heavily encouraged by the inclusion of multiple 'inspiration' models).
The back of the poster paints a picturesque scene: our hero Minecraft Steve surveying a glorious lush Minecraft landscape made (mainly) out of LEGO bricks, totally missing the Minecraft skeleton who is about to ambush him with its pixelated bow. Payback for letting the skeleton smother in the pile of bricks, I guess. Below Steve a nasty green Minecraft creeper is also planning nefarious plans, but this minifigure is sadly not included the set. The same goes for the other minifigures you can spot in the distance below. Strangely, our lovely Nathan is absent from the poster. Probably had better things to do, like munching juicy green Minecraft grass.
Above the front of the first instruction manual is shown (left), on which the eight models are pictured for which instructions are available. One of the models in particular is featured prominently on the front page: a strange mish-mash of rocky 'trees', water, randomly placed TNT (that has to be a safety hazard), a furnace, and Minecraft Steve bravely running away from the skeleton (it sure holds a grudge). Or is he running towards Nathan to hit him with the pickaxe for eating those carroty things? Or maybe both. It seems to be some kind of cave-scene, though I'm not sure what Nathan is doing underground. Not much grass to be found there. The picture on the right shows the eight models in a bit more detail. Out of these, my favorites (going by the pictures) are the outdoor 'beach' scene with building and two trees (second model on the left page) and the scene with the tall gray and orange tower (third model on the right page). These are also the scenes I will be building later on.
As you can see in the picture on the left, the second instruction manual is used to build smaller submodules and vignettes consisting of about thirty bricks at most. These submodules are then combined together to build the larger models described in the first instruction manual. This modular approach makes it easy to quickly build the different models, and also combine them together into your own creations, true to the spirit of Minecraft.
The picture on the right shows two of the ten extra models which are pictured in the back of the second manual. No instructions are provided for these, these are purely meant as inspiration. I must say the model on the left looks rather nice, I'd rather have seen instructions for that one than for, for example, the odd-looking cave scene described above. The model on the right also looks pretty creative, though I'm not sure whether skeletons flying in hot air balloons is exactly canon in the Minecraft universe.
Time for what I guess is - for the Rebrickable audience at least - the most exciting part of the set: the parts themselves! We will first take a look at the plates included in the set, then the bricks, and finally the smaller stuff, with extra attention paid to the new molds.
Click on the picture to the left to see an overview of all the plates (of size 1 x 2 or larger) included in this set, though I accidently left out one 1 x 2 plate in red. As you can tell it's a mostly colourful affair with tan, blue, bright green and dark bluish gray being the most represented colours among the larger plates. There's a single 1 x 2 plate in bright pink, which is used to model Nathan's udder (!).
For those looking to expand their collection of large plates, this set might be worth considering. None of these parts are particularly rare though - to my admittedly limited knowledge of non-Technic parts - with for example the bright green 8 x 16 plate appearing in eleven other sets before.
Onwards to the two-wide, i.e., 2 x N, bricks. As the picture to the right (please ignore the horrid shadows) shows, there are plenty of those in this set, again in a wide variety of colours, with reddish brown, light bluish gray and dark bluish gray dominating the colour palette. These bricks come in all sizes, from 2 x 2 up to 2 x 10, with both opaque and transparent variants.
Like the plates before, I do not believe the bricks pictured are particularly rare in those colours, though I cannot imagine that the medium dark flesh, trans-green and trans-blue variants are used in a lot of sets. Either way, such a wide variety of bricks may appeal to AFOLs, but I'm not exactly sure how useful 2 x N bricks are in MOCs. If I am wrong about this, feel free to correct me in the comments!
Next up are a smattering of smaller parts, which are shown in the picture to the left. Hinge bricks, bricks with a brick pattern, sloped bricks, SNOT plates, tiles, modified 2 x 2 plates with a central stud, you name it. Quite a variety again, and in several different colours, which are fairly evenly spread over the parts. Once again nothing exceptionally rare, though most of it is probably fairly useful stuff when it comes to MOC'ing, especially the transparent pieces and the modified 2 x 2 plates with a central stud. This set might turn out to be a decent parts pack after all. By the way, you have got to love that TLG keeps including those brick separators, I guess avid set collectors must have hundreds of these blasted things now. Now if only they could be melted down into more useful parts!
Finally, we take a look at the rest of the parts in the set, which includes the various minifigure molds. Please refer to the two pictures below.
In the left picture, we can see that the set contains a fair amount of botanical parts including green, red and reddish brown flower petals (at least, I guess that's what they are) and several other such parts. More interestingly however, the set also includes a very yummy-looking oversized baguette. In fact, the baguette is almost longer than Minecraft Steve is tall. He must be the envy of Frenchmen everywhere. Strangely though, he seems to prefer a carrot. Weirdo. The skeleton also has access to some spare body parts, probably in case he gets swallowed whole by rampaging piles of bricks again.
Among the smaller parts are also included some new molds (finally!), which are shown in the picture to the right. The new torso mold is kind of meh, so we will skip over it. Besides a new sweater, our hero Steve has a squarish head, which is almost entirely covered by his sideburns. Dude needs to see a hairdresser stat. The skeleton also has a new square head mold, both of them fit onto regular torsos. These square molds obviously owe their shape to their Minecraft origins, but the effect is a bit odd: the heads are square, but the rest of the minifigures is 'regular' LEGO, including rounded arms. Bit of a creative dissonance there. Nathan (our friendly cow) also has a new square head mold, but this mold is attached with a regular 1 x 2 plate footprint, and thus cannot be used for regular minifigures. Hence, no swapping with Steve's head, alas.
Aside from the new head molds, there are also two new minifigure utensils included: a Minecraft bow and a Minecraft pickaxe. The more observant amongst you will probably already have noticed these in previous pictures. Well, you don't have to be exactly observant for that, as it was rather obvious. I digress. It's clear that these are Minecraft utensils, because they have 'pixelated' shapes, in a clear reference to Minecraft's glorious geometrically-challenged graphical goodness. The effect, once again, is a bit odd, as this pixelated theme does not occur elsewhere in the set, apart from a few prints. This also ensures that these two molds pretty much cannot be used outside of Minecraft-related builds, unless someone starts making 8-bit MOCs (that would be glorious!). Not sure why TLG did not simply use the regular molds here, but opted to make new molds. But hey, I am not complaining. The more molds, the merrier, right?
Finally, two existing molds have gotten new (pixelated) prints: a 2 x 2 brick with a furnace print and a 1 x 2 brick with a TNT print. Better keep these stored separately. Again, owing to their pixelated nature, these probably will not travel far from Planet Minecraft.
Now with the box contents out of the way, it's finally time to do some building!
As I mentioned before, I have built two different models out of the eight provided: the outdoor 'beach' scene with a building and two trees, and the scene with the tall gray and orange tower. In this section I will show how this was done, and what the results are.
Before I could start building the actual models, the first few pages of the first instruction manual (see the picture on the left) instructed me to first build various small vignettes using the parts in parts bag #1. These small vignettes are shown in the picture on the right, and comprise Minecraft Steve, the skeleton, our friendly cow Nathan, a swinging door, several fences, some 'ore blocks', a case of TNT, a furnace, several botanical items and finally some torches. I assume the red-and-white pieces are some kind of mushroom, looks like the same kind that is growing out of Nathan's back (ick!). Time to hit the shower, Nathan! All eight models use several of these vignettes (though not necessarily all), hence you are instructed to build them up front.
Next, I moved on to building the tower scene. As illustrated in the picture to the right, each construction step consists of first assembling a number of submodules, using the instructions in the second instruction book, and then combining them together. Though this kind of modular building might appeal especially to the Minecraft crowd, it also has a number of drawbacks. First of all, you are flipping back and forth between the first instruction manual and the second while building, which some people might find quite annoying. Secondly, the submodules themselves are very simple, resulting in a quite lackluster building experience, which may be boring for the more experienced builders. Finally, the submodules are usually joined together with a single two-wide brick, resulting in a very fragile model. Still, I must admit the modular approach is quite interesting and innovative.
Some intermediate steps of the construction of the tower scene, and the resulting model. I must say I am not overly impressed with the final result, it clearly looks like a mish-mash of several more or less unrelated submodules (which it obviously is). For instance, why is there a room that stores TNT and a furnace right next to each other on the second floor? There also seems to be a random flow of lava emanating from the left outer side of this room. I am not sure what the construction in the back to the right is supposed to be, it looks like some kind of smoke stack. Either that or a really funky mushroom. Perhaps all this is an accurate representation of the average Minecraft creation? Anyway, Minecraft Steve and the skeleton seem to be enjoying themselves, but Nathan is nowhere to be seen. Probably did not want to hang around a box of TNT about to explode and topple the entire tower over.
Finally, some intermediate steps of the construction of the outdoor scene, and the resulting model. Again, the end result is kind of a jumble of different submodules, though I prefer it to the tower model. I like the little garden with the flowers and the small pool in the middle, and the porch with the seats. It is kind of weird though that the trees seem to grow on sand, and that the furnace is right next to a extremely hot patch of lava (at least, according to the 'block translator' poster). Nathan finally decided to show up, and is happily chewing on a carrot, while the skeleton is making off with the king size baguette. Our hero Minecraft Steve does not look too bothered though, as he once again surveys the landscape from his vantage point. I bet he is giving his right arm a proper workout, lugging along that big pickaxe all day long.
To be honest, I am having a hard time recommending this set to anyone who is not a die-hard Minecraft fan in the first place. Though the modular approach is an interesting concept in theory, in practice it leads to simplified and repetitive builds, and disjointed looking and fragile models. MOC builders might be interested in the set for its parts, but the majority of the parts is formed by two-wide bricks, which probably have limited usefulness. It is also not really worth picking up the set for the new molds included, as these are very specialized and particularly oriented towards the Minecraft theme.
The indicated price for this set is $49.99 USD, and it will be available in stores the first week of November.