December 2022 LEGO News Roundup
Celebrate the New Year at the brand new Jazz Club, check out a ‘Minute Review’ of the LEGO Mario system, and find some other great LEGO articles from around the web.
December was about a few things: revisiting some older content, reviewing some new sets, and helping my son build a ton of new sets after Christmas. This included adding an interview with Kerry Woo (of The Grandpappies) to the popular Learning from the LEGO Masters USA Season 3 contestants article, updating my analysis of the Most Common DUPLO Parts, and (nearly) finishing my next update to my popular LEGO Brick Labels collection — the next update will contain 106 new labels (more than any previous update).
When it comes to reviews of upcoming sets, I really liked (but didn’t quite love) the new #10312 Jazz Club set, and really disliked #40651 Australia Postcard. I also built #71403 Adventures with Peach Starter Course and shared a mini-review of the set below in this article.
Looking around the web, we find some great articles across a range of different topics, but no over-arching theme this month. I think folks are settling into the new reality of increased prices combined with more frequent sales/discounts, which is something I expect will continue for some time given economic uncertainty.
New at Brick Architect
- Review: #10312 Jazz Club
I’m glad to see a night out for the minifigs of Modular City — but how does the new set compare to excellent recent modulars like the Police Station and Boutique Hotel?
- Review: #40651 Australia Postcard
Let’s see how a ‘postcard’ in the Creator series based on an abstract location instead of a specific city or landmark stacks up to previous attempts.
- Updated: Most Common DUPLO Parts
I updated the list of the Most Common DUPLO Parts to reflect those sets released between 2018-2022. (The previous update was two years ago.)
- Updated: Learning from the LEGO Masters USA Season 3 contestants
The article was updated to include interview responses and photos from Kerry Woo of ‘The Grandpappies’.
- Updated: #45025 DUPLO Coding Express Review
Updated review to reflect that the Android app is available again, but downgraded my rating of this product due to The LEGO Group having persistent problems in keeping this app available to download. (This is not acceptable, and further proof that TLG has an inadequate digital strategy.)
I had really hoped to finish the next update to the LEGO Brick Labels collection this month, but I’m afraid that it is taking longer than I had hoped. It should be ready to download in a few days, and will feature more than 100 new labels!
Mini-Review: #71403 Adventures with Peach Starter Course
Despite playing many of the videogames in the franchise when I was younger, the LEGO Mario sets seemed expensive and the ‘game’ element seemed overly simplistic to hold the attention of an adult builder. On a whim, I picked up #71403 Adventures with Peach Starter Course for just $20 at Costco just before Christmas. At that price, the 354 piece set seemed like a good deal even if the game component was a dud.
While it is only moderately engaging for an adult, LEGO Super Mario might be the best blend of Analog and Digital experiences that The LEGO Group has ever created. Why? Because the digital experience makes you want to keep building, rather than tempt you away from building with a digital experience. Once you build the modules and learn how they work, you can re-arrange the modules however you like. I’m sure that you can incorporate additional sets (sold separately) very easily!
After you update the firmware and build the models using instructions on your tablet or phone, the entire digital play experience is constrained to the Mario/Luigi/Princess figure — you can play the game and refine your course without having a phone at all. It’s perfect for families which allow supervised tablet usage (to access the digital instructions to build a new set) but not all of the time.
If the set included printed instructions, it could work right out-of-the-box. This of course assumes that the firmware on the device is up-to-date — it took nearly an hour to complete the required firmware updates to support newly released sets. To be fair, I did find some clumsiness inside the app beyond the slow updates – most notably the need to browse for my specific set in a long gallery (instead of using the statue to scan a code on the box or booklet). I also noticed that the app shows the crystal-shaped starter set box, which doesn’t match the rectangular box art sold at Costco. I suspect some kids will not appreciate that they don’t match.
Even though this is just a mini-review, I’m cautiously optimistic about the set, especially if you can find it deeply discounted. At the $60 MSRP, it isn’t a great value and earns “Good” (3/5 star) Rating, but if you can find it for a better price – it has some interesting parts and is worth a try!
Exciting new sets for AFOLs
January 1 brings with it a huge selection of new LEGO sets. I have decided to simply highlight a couple sets and themes that are unusally good, rather than a massive list of every new set. If you want to see them all, just visit lego.com website..
- #10312 Jazz Club
It might not be quite as good as the last two modulars, but the Jazz Club still has a ton to offer…
2899 pieces, $230, available now at LEGO.com
- #40580 Blacktron Cruiser
While technically a gift-with-purchase, this set valued at $30 offers some amazing nostalgia value for fans of Classic Space.
356 pieces, ages 18+, Free with purchase of $190 or more. Available now at LEGO.com
- #31208 Hokusai – The Great Wave
I haven’t seen it in person, but it’s fun to see a lot more depth, dimensionality, and texture in the LEGO Art series.
1810 pieces, ages 18+, $100. Available now at LEGO.com
- 2023 LEGO Friends Reboot
This year, we have a completely new crop of 8 kids, including three boys. The 18 sets released so far look fantastic — #41732 Downtown Flower and Design Stores ($160) looks like the standout hit for adult builders with modern architecture and a level of detail rivaling the Modular Building Series.
starting at $10, ages 4+ through 12+. Available now at LEGO.com
Best articles from around the web
Here are some highlights this month from around the web – Happy reading!
- Where’s Leia? Gender Disparity in LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendars
This article highlights one of the rarest things in LEGO Star Wars — Female minifigures!
- LEGO ICONS 10312 Jazz Club: New parts in the musical Modular
New Elementary doing what they do best – highlighting new parts and colors in the much-anticipated Jazz Club Modular.
- Interview with Anderson Ward Grubb, designer of 10312 Jazz Club
Anderson had the rare opportunity to design not just one, but the last two additions to the Modular Building Series. This interview offers a behind-the-scenes look at the new set.
When I first started doing some sketches for it, we were exploring things like a shopping street, where the layout might have been completely different with an aisle down the middle. That wasn’t really working for us, partly because we were trying to fit too many things into a space and physically getting your hands into one building, fitting in a street and a second building was a little too much.
Anderson Ward Grubb
- Molds Over Time: How Part Updates Change Build Techniques
This article offers some examples of how relatively small changes to a part over time can introduce or prevent advanced building techniques.
- Is This LEGO? – Clikits
Clikits is one of the long lost LEGO themes that produced a bunch of parts that aren’t especially compatible with the LEGO System in Play. This is a good short overview of the short-lived theme aimed at girls that launched in 2003, and lasted only four years.
- LEGO Friends January 2023: New blocks on the kids
LEGO Friends is being rebooted in 2023 with 8 new friends and 17 new sets. This article highlights the new parts and recolors that come in these colorful sets!
As for the new elements: with 223 to be found, there is bound to be something in the mix you can use for your creations.
- BrickLink Designer Program Accepting New Projects!
The BrickLink Designer Program has evolved from a chance to build LEGO Ideas sets that weren’t selected, and is now a separate program with separate submission process.
—The Brick Blogger
- AFOLs with Kids: Tips For Building LEGO Together
This short article offers a few tips for building LEGO with your kids.
- The Complete, Surprising Eight Year History Of LEGO’s Poop Piece
This is an entertaining exploration of the LEGO element that can move effortlessly from a cupcake covered in chocolate frosting to the iconic poop emoji shape. Yuck!
I hope you enjoy these podcasts, which include LEGO-specific content and other stories..
- LEGO Are Bricks That Aren’t Just For Kids (52:40)
In this informal, call-in format radio show, we learn about the LEGO hobby. Guests include LEGO Artist Nathan Sawaya and LEGO Masters contestant Christine “Tacos” Blandino.
- S03E08: Extra Pieces: LEGO® Australia General Manager, Troy Taylor (35:15)
Richard and Jay’s tour and interview about the LEGO Australia office, and the ways in which the Australia market is unique for The LEGO Group.