Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Desert Delight?

Unless you've been living under a stone for the past few years you can't fail to be aware of the phenomenon that is Minecraft. I have to confess that I came to the party quite late, stubbornly refusing to get caught up in it all until I was eventually dragged into the fray by my Minecraft-mad youngster (nickname Super B, or just B for short). Although I've since dabbled a little with single player, most of my Minecraft game time has been spent playing co-op with B on an XBOX 360, building somewhere for us to live, exploring different biomes and digging down to the bedrock layer looking for diamonds while trying to avoid being blown up by creepers or falling into lava.

As well as enjoying Minecraft the game, B has built some of the Minecraft LEGO sets including a couple of the original Microscale offerings as well as a selection of the more recent minifigure sets such as The Mine and The First Night. I therefore thought it'd be interesting to involve him in a review of one of the new summer wave of Minecraft sets. His job would be to build the set and simultaneously provide me with a stream-of-consciousness commentary, while I would be relegated to the role of parts monkey as well as adding my own thoughts about the set into the mix and trying to pull everything together into a coherent Gimme LEGO posting. Read on to discover if I succeeded....

We reviewed Set 21121 The Desert Outpost, kindly provided to us ahead of its general release by LEGO's Community Events and Engagement (CEE) Team. First off I sat junior down, put the box in front of him and asked him for his thoughts. It was interesting that he immediately zeroed in on the minifigures, particularly Alex, who I have to admit I'd never heard of, and the wolf. He didn't think that either of these characters had previously appeared in any of the Minecraft sets, and he couldn't wait to get his hands on them. He was also excited to discover that the set contained two skeletons, both of which had bows, and one of which was wearing armour. It was only after he'd closely examined the minifigures that his attention eventually switched to the Desert Outpost building itself, which he said looked like it was made out of cobblestone and dirt and reminded him of First Night with an extension.

Both the front and back of the box carry the "Build your own creations" mantra which is I assume a reference to the fact that you can substantially reconfigure the Desert Outpost building by design as we'll see later. Consistent with this, the back of the box shows a reconfigured version of the Desert Outpost as well as showcasing a number of notable play features. It was the latter that caught B's eye, particularly "the launcher that fires TNT" and "the exploding area where the TNT lands". Oh, and for some reason the fact that Minecraft hero Steve is holding a cookie in one of the pictures was also a cause of much amusement.

The box contains three numbered bags of elements, an un-numbered bag containing large tan plates and a single instruction booklet (front cover above). There's no sticker sheet. B's trawl through the 108-page instruction booklet stopped abruptly when he got to an advertisement for LEGO's Minecraft microsite as it featured a Snow Golem, and he was also drawn to a two-page spread showing all the Minecraft minifigure sets.

In addition to the obligatory building guide for the Desert Outpost model the instruction booklet contains some interesting additional content. Notably, there are 16 pages of supplementary instructions, of which more later. The booklet also contains a number of other adverts and a two-page inventory of parts. My eye was caught by a somewhat bizarre two-page Mojang advert, one half of which (below) features what looks like a 1970s photograph of a bearded man watching on while a little girl plays with a Commodore PET or similarly ancient personal computer; a Minecraft scene is superimposed on the computer screen to make it seem like the kid is playing Minecraft. It's all a bit surreal....

As previously mentioned, B couldn't wait to get hold of the minifigures, with Alex (below) taking star billing. He was right that Alex hasn't previously featured in a LEGO Minecraft set. An alternative version of Alex featuring what looks like the same orange head and sand green torso but sporting a diamond helmet and a diamond sword appears in another of the 2015 summer Minecraft releases, Set 21122 The Nether Fortress. Neither the head nor the torso are back-printed. Alex comes complete with an iron pickaxe.

Next up is Minecraft stalwart Steve. With his minimally printed dark azure torso and dark purple legs, this seems to be the same version of the Steve minifigure that appears in the first wave of Minecraft minifigure sets, although I don't recall him being provided with a cookie before; B didn't think that the cookie had any special significance, concluding that Steve must just be hungry.... In this set Steve gets an iron sword and an iron helmet in addition to his cookie but he isn't provided with armour to protect his torso. Like Alex, neither his head nor torso are back-printed.

The skeletons appear to be the same as those which appeared in the first wave of Minecraft minifigure sets. Each of them is provided with a wooden bow.

One of the skeletons sports an iron helmet and iron body armour. B wanted me to point out that in Minecraft skeletons are destroyed by sunlight, but wearing a helmet protects them and hence its significance. So now you know....

Last but definitely not least we come to the wolf, which is my own favourite minifigure in this set, if you can even call it a minifigure. The printed head appears to be a new element, while the legs are represented by a couple of light bley modified 1 x 2 bricks with groove which have previously only appeared in 5 sets. B reminded me that the red 1 x 2 plate immediately above the front legs is supposed to represent a collar and shows that the wolf has been tamed.

The first bag of elements contains all the parts needed to construct the minifigures plus a real mixed bag of accessories which you can see laid out in the picture below. First up are the crafting table and furnace, both structures that any self-respecting Minecraft fan will immediately recognise; if that's not you however then they're the cube-like structures on the left of the picture. These structures utilise a number of printed elements which were expressly produced for this purpose, specifically a medium dark flesh 1 x 2 brick with reddish brown and dark brown lines and 2 x 2 tile with dark brown Minecraft grid pattern, and a dark bley 2 x 2 brick with light bley and black Minecraft geometric pattern printed on the side. Each of these elements has previously appeared in a couple of the 2014 Minecraft sets. With the crafting table and furnace constructed, some torches of both the standard and Redstone variety, a small square wooden boat for Steve, some sugar cane fashioned from lime green 1 x 1 round bricks, some crops consisting of bright green round 1 x 1 plates with flower edges and bright light orange Carrot Tops, and a bed were next to be built. These were quickly followed by a cactus which makes effective use of green 1 x 2 - 2 x 2 brackets, a TNT launcher, a medium dark flesh and reddish brown door, and finally a small outside section featuring a simple mechanism for flipping sand blocks into the air. I could see B's attention beginning to wander as he reached the end of this laundry list of accessories and it was no surprise when he said he wanted to take a break. When I asked him what the problem was he said that it was a bit boring to build all the accessories at once and that he'd have rather built the Desert Outpost first and made the accessories as he went along.

After a break Mini Me was ready to get stuck into the front section of the Desert Outpost; this requires the contents of Bag 2 plus a 16 x 16 tan plate from the unmarked bag. Bag 2 contains predominantly basic bricks and plates, which is not a surprise given the nature of the Minecraft sets but still relatively unusual in a licensed set. The 16 x 16 plate is the starting point, and a few basic bricks are attached to the underside to raise it up off the ground.  Soon the walls of the outpost start to take shape. These utilise lots of light bley jumper plates which are used to offset sections of dark bley masonry bricks as you can see in the picture below. With the beginnings of the walls in place the previously-assembled crafting table and furnace are put in place and the door is attached. A rudimentary upper floor is then constructed, after which the section featuring the mechanism for flipping sand blocks into the air is attached adjacent to the door. Finally the cactus is put in place and and TNT launcher is placed on top of the upper level. When the launcher is activated the TNT block falls to the ground, at which point you can simulate an explosion by pressing down on the flipping mechanism and shooting the sand blocks into the air. It was no surprise that B was highly amused by this play feature, recruiting the set's minifigures to participate in a minigame which consisted of them taking turns launching the TNT block from the upper level of the Desert Outpost and sending sand blocks cascading into the air.

Once B had finally tired of his sand block flipping minigame he got back to the job in hand and started on the rear section of the Desert Outpost. Once again the floor, which is constructed from the remainder of the tan plates in the un-numbered bag, is raised up off the ground via the attachment of a few strategically-placed basic bricks underneath; the floor of the rear section actually consists of two distinct sections joined by hinges for reasons that will soon become clear. The walls of the rear section are made up of a number of detachable brick-built wall panels. These panels sit on light bley modified 2 x 2 tiles with one stud at the centre which hold the wall panels in position while still making it easy for them to be detached and swapped around if desired. At various points some of the accessories constructed during the first stage of the build, namely the bed, sugar cane and other crops, are put into place. Once the rear section of the Desert Outpost is completed, it's attached to the front section using hinges. Three reddish brown roof sections are then attached, torches are placed in strategic locations, and the build is complete.

Access to the upper level is provided by a ladder which you can see in the rear view below.

The completed build populated by its complement of minifigures can be seen below. Note Steve in his wooden boat on the right of the picture, and the mechanism for flipping sand blocks on the left. While B was pleased with the finished build, I have to say that my immediate reaction was that the outpost seems insubstantial, with the walls reaching no higher than two blocks in some areas. Even so, it does undoubtedly capture the Minecraft vibe in terms of the construction style, some instantly recognisable accessories, and of the course the minifigures.

Some of the floor sections are connected to each other via the use of hinges, meaning that the build can be unfolded (picture below) in order to provide access to the interior. In order for the model to be fully opened out the reddish brown roof sections need to be detached from the rear section of the outpost.

As previously mentioned, there are 16 pages of supplementary building instructions at the back of the instruction booklet. Entitled "Rebuild Inspiration" and bearing the words "Build your own creations" these pages walk the builder through a partial disassembly of the primary model and a reworking into an alternative build (picture below). This basically involves removing the detachable wall panels from the rear section of the outpost, completely dissassembling them and then using almost all of the newly-liberated pieces to build a tower. In truth the alternative build looks unfinished and pretty uninspiring, although I guess that the intent is merely to get the creative juices flowing and hopefully encourage the builder to finish the job with additional pieces from elsewhere.

Although the set carries an age recommendation of 8+ it's not a particularly challenging build - B is younger than the recommended age, but having had some previous experience building LEGO sets he managed to complete it without too much difficulty. The highlight of the set from his perspective was the minifigures, with Alex and the wolf being his two favourites. The play features, particularly the TNT launcher and the mechanism for flipping sand blocks, also got a big thumbs up. He concluded proceedings by providing me with an overall set rating of 9.3 out of 10 "because the set has lots of cool features" after which he made it clear that he was done talking and wanted to be left in peace to play with Alex and the other minifigs. So clearly a satisfied customer, then.... From an AFOL perspective, however, I have to say that even though I've grown to appreciate the joys of Minecraft to some extent the set didn't particularly grab me. I agree with B that the minifigures are neat, particularly the wolf, but the build itself feels insubstantial, and it's hard to believe that the set contains 519 elements. That having been said, I had the same lukewarm reaction to most of the other Minecraft minifigure sets as well so if you liked them then you'll probably like this one too. You might not like the price, though - while I've not seen an official RRP yet, the set is already listed for pre-order on a couple of UK sites at a price of £59.99 which seems a bit pricey.

Thanks again to Kim from LEGO's CEE team for providing Gimme LEGO with a copy of the set to review ahead of its general release.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Offsite set reviews - an apology....

Although my intention has always been to update the Gimme LEGO Offsite Set Reviews section when I post a set review elsewhere, a quick glance suggests that I'm doing a terrible job of this, with none of the recent (or indeed not-so-recent) set reviews that I've posted on Brickset or elsewhere having been added to the list.

Given that many of my offsite set reviews and articles are written in a similar style to the stuff that I publish on Gimme LEGO, it actually got me wondering why I don't make a bigger deal of publicising them here. After all, one of the most frequent complaints I get from you guys is that I don't post often enough, so such offsite content might help to address that somewhat.

I've therefore decided that in future I'll aim to post brief notifications of my new offsite set reviews and articles here so that Gimme LEGO readers can get a heads-up and go and check them out if they're interested. First up is my review of Set 70173 Ultra Agents Ocean HQ which I posted over at Brickset yesterday (12th July 2015) - click here to read.

Rumour has it that none of the three Summer 2015 Ultra Agents offerings, including the Ocean HQ set, will be coming to Europe. I'll try and seek confirmation of this from LEGO, but if true it'd be a real shame. Let's therefore hope that the rumours are wide of the mark, or if they're true that fan pressure might change their minds - we can always hope!

While I'm on the subject of offsite set reviews, I guess it might be worth providing a brief recap of some of the other offsite set reviews which I've posted since around the turn of the year but which haven't as yet appeared in the Offsite Set Reviews section - read on to get up to date.

City Set 60080 Spaceport. Review posted on Brickset on 9th June 2015. Click here to read the review.

Jurassic World Set 75919 Indominus Rex Breakout. Review posted on Brickset on 18th May 2015. Click here to read the review.

Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Series Set 75095 TIE Fighter. Review posted on Brickset on 1st May 2015. Click here to read the review.

Speed Champions Set 75913 F14 T & Scuderia Ferrari Truck. Review posted on Brickset on 11th March 2015. Click here to read the review.

Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Series Set 75060 Slave 1. Review posted on Brickset on 9th December 2014. Click here to read the review.

In addition to the Brickset reviews above, I've also written a number of set reviews and articles for Bricks Magazine, and prior to that for Blocks Magazine. Given that these are paper publications I obviously can't link to the content directly, although if I can get permission to republish articles on Gimme LEGO (as I did for my review of Set 5975 T-Rex Transport which appeared in Blocks Issue 1) then I'll certainly do so. For the sake of completeness, you can see a list of articles below which I wrote for those publications and which may be of interest.

I hope this recap has been helpful, and has maybe flagged something of interest that you weren't aware of, in which case happy reading!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

And the winners are....

Many thanks to all of you who entered the recent Gimme LEGO competition to win a copy of the limited edition Jurassic World Dr Wu polybag below. As shipping costs weren't going to be such an issue this time round I was able to open up the competition to Gimme LEGO readers regardless of their location, and it was great to receive entries from as far afield as Australia, Malaysia, the U.S. and Singapore as well as from closer to home.

In order to win you had to tell me upon which island the original Jurassic Park was located, and if you identified Isla Nublar as the correct answer then your name went into the hat for the prize draw. I then asked my wife and my visiting in-laws to close their eyes and pick out one name each, so if you didn't win then you can blame them....

The three lucky winners are:

  • Andrea Reynolds from Leicestershire, UK
  • Chester Ng from Singapore
  • Oliver Donlon from Massachusetts, USA

Congratulations, you guys - a new, sealed copy of the Dr Wu poly will be winging its way to you shortly.

Thanks again to everybody who entered, and thanks also to LEGO's PR folks at Norton for donating the prizes.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Jurassic Perk

Last week's release of the Jurassic World movie and the launch of the LEGO Jurassic World videogame provided the backdrop for a family-oriented LEGO Jurassic World launch event which was held in London's Hyde Park on Saturday 6th June. Mark Guest, editor of Bricks Magazine, was good enough to sort me out a couple of invites so I attended with my son who didn't need any encouragement to come along when he heard about the heady mix of LEGO, dinosaurs and videogames that we'd be checking out.

The event took place at The Lookout (above), a sizeable, self-contained eco-sustainable building in the middle of London's Hyde Park. On what turned out to be a pleasant, sunny day we took a tube to one of the nearby stations and after a 5-10 minute walk through the park we were greeted by event security who ushered us through. The Lookout is located within a fenced compound and surrounded by a number of walkways; these pass alongside small rockeries and water features and in some areas cut through thick undergrowth. Traversing the walkways was therefore the perfect start to the event as it wasn't difficult for anyone familiar with the Jurassic Park movies to suspend belief and pretend that prehistoric predators might be lurking in the undergrowth.... At the top of the walkways was an area of wooden decking, alongside which was the imposing sight below.

Refreshments and snacks were available on the decked area, as were a couple of skilled face painters who busied themselves decorating attendees with a variety of dinosaur-related designs. It was heartening to see so many adults getting in line with their kids and partaking in the face painting experience, although some folks such as myself opted to get other body parts painted instead (my arm, in case you're wondering....) with designs such as the diplodocus below and patches of colourful dinosaur skin.

The main space inside the venue was loosely split into two halves. One half contained a number of gaming stations running the LEGO Jurassic World demo, of which more later, while the other half was laid out with rows of seating and a large screen at the front connected to a laptop; this was used by one of the team responsible for the design of the LEGO Jurassic World game who at set times throughout the day gave attendees a brief presentation on the making of the game and demonstrated various gameplay features. A number of perspex display stands such as the one below were dotted aound the room; these contained the completed builds from the various Jurassic World retail sets. Having already built and reviewed a number of the Jurassic World sets, for instance here, I was obviously familiar with them but this didn't appear to be the case for some of the attendees who seemed to be encountering them for the first time.

One of the highlights of the event from my son's perspective was a dinosaur egg hunt. Prior to the arrival of the attendees a number of LEGO dinosaur eggs (below) had been hidden around the venue. Children, aided and abetted by their parents, were tasked with exploring the compound and finding the eggs, with prizes of Jurassic World LEGO retail sets and polybags on offer for the successful sleuths. Cue a mad scramble through the undergrowth to try and locate the eggs. I'm pleased to report that my son found one of the eggs, no thanks to his hopeless dad who managed to find absolutely nothing.....

As previously mentioned, a number of stations kitted out with a screen, a Playstation 4 and a pair of PS4 controllers were available for attendees to play on. The stations were running the LEGO Jurassic World game demo. LEGO Jurassic World is the latest in a long line of LEGO-themed offerings from developer Traveller's Tales including a number of LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Indiana Jones and LEGO Batman games amongst others. Having completed some of these games cooperatively, my son and I are pretty familiar with them, and after spending some time playing through the LEGO Jurassic World demo stages at the event both cooperatively and individually, I think it's fair to say that that the latest game sticks to the tried and tested formula with few obvious detours. It predictably looks great running on the PS4, and the gameplay seems very similar to that of previous TT LEGO releases. The demo levels we saw thankfully included scenes from the original Jurassic Park movies as well as Jurassic World rather than just focusing on the new movie.

Apart from the designer presentations and egg hunt the day was relatively unstructured, with attendees free to wander around both inside and outside the venue, help themselves to refreshments, make use of the gaming stations and chat to other attendees; I didn't recognise many of the people there. although it was good to catch up with Richard Hayes from Brick Fanatics and chat to Christina from the LEGO Press Office while my son burned his way through the LEGO Jurassic World demo levels.

All told my son and I spent an enjoyable  2-3 hours at the event, and when it was time to leave we were handed a goodie bag. As a collector I always look forward to digging through the contents of these bags after events to see if there's anything unusual within and I wasn't disappointed. Pride of place goes to the Dr Wu polybag below which carries the set number 5000193818. In addition to the Dr Wu minifigure the poly also contains a trans-orange 1 x 2 crystal printed with a black mosquito pattern. As far as I can tell the Dr Wu minifigure is identical to that which appears in Set 75919 Indominus Rex Breakout (you can see the minifigure here), as is the trans-orange crystal, but I'd not previously been aware of this particular polybag. My understanding is that a free Dr Wu minifigure is available from some retailers with orders of the LEGO Jurassic World game, although I have no idea if it's packaged in the same way as the one below.

Other freebies included a LEGO Jurassic World sticker sheet (you can see a scan of this below), a couple of LEGO Jurassic World postcards, an A3-Sized poster, a press release providing information on the LEGO Jurassic World sets, and a copy of Set 75915 Pteranodon Capture, all contained within a Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group cloth bag.

I'm well aware that I'm not the only collector who likes to get their hands on interesting LEGO-related items, and I'm therefore pleased to tell you that Christina gave me a few extra Dr Wu polybags for readers of Gimme LEGO. If you'd like one of them, please e-mail the answer to the question below plus your name and full address to me at gimmelego@virginmedia.com; I'll draw a few names out of a hat, and those people will get a poly each. The question is as follows:

On which island was the original Jurassic Park located?

You can enter the competition regardless of which country you live in and I'll cover the cost of posting out the prizes. Only one entry per household, please, and the decision of the judge (that's me) is final. Entrants must agree to their names being announced on Gimme LEGO if they win. Closing date is midnight GMT on Tuesday 30th June 2015. Good luck, folks!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Raising the Roof

Having spent the last few weeks reviewing the largest of LEGO's new Jurassic World sets (here) and checking out TIE Fighters new and old (here and here respectively) in excruciating detail, not to mention taking some welcome holiday, I was starting to get withdrawal symptoms from my newly-resurrected LEGO City Layout. I was therefore delighted to find some time to work on it over the past week or so.

At the time of my most recent update (here) I'd pretty much completed the walls of the lower level of the layout (picture above) with only the front right section of wall needing to be finished off. This was therefore the obvious place to jump back in, and as you can see from the pictures below I completed the straightforward job of building the walls of the front right section up to the required height fairly quickly.


Having reached this point in the build I figured that it would be as good a time as any to briefly pause and take stock of my parts usage to date. According to the original rough sketch I put together on LDD which I've followed reasonably closely, I've used around 500 light bley 1 x 1 bricks, 670 light bley 1 x 2 bricks, 240 light bley 1 x 4 bricks, 800 light bley 1 x 6 bricks and 810 light bley 1 x 8 bricks so far; the total part count currently stands at approximately 5,600 bricks, which seems a lot given how little there is to look at yet....

Having completed the walls of the lower level it was time to finish the job of enclosing the lower track loop by building a roof over the top of it; for those of you unfamiliar with the intended design, the roof over the lower track loop will form the floor of the planned upper track loop, thus providing a double-decker arrangement.

Covering the straight sections of track with a sturdy roof (pictures above and below) was a quick and simple task - the roof over these sections only has to span 15 studs so I was able to efficiently complete the job using a combination of dark bley 6 x 16 and 2 x 16 plates. The only real discomfort was financial - the 96 dark bley 6 x 16 plates needed to cover just the straight track sections alone don't exactly come cheap....

Although putting a roof over the straight track sections was simple enough, the corners required a little more thought as covering the curved track sections would necessitate spanning an area 34 studs square. My first thought was to use a 32 x 32 baseplate for each corner and support it at the edges, but because I wanted the corner roof sections to be at the same height as the straight roof sections this wasn't really viable. I therefore needed to use standard plates, but there obviously aren't any plates remotely large enough to span a 34 x 34 area on their own. I consequently needed to come up with a 'mosaic' of plates which would cover the area while providing at least a modicum of structural rigidity so that the roof wouldn't cave in under the slightest pressure. In the end I went with the arrangement below; the dark bley roof sections, again predominantly a combination of 6 x 16 and 2 x 16 plates, are supported underneath by a light bley 16 x 16 plate and a few smaller plates. The use of the large 16 x 16 plate turned out to be key, conferring an unexpectedly high degree of strength and rigidity.

It didn't take long to construct three more assemblies similar to the one above, and you can see the layout with all four corner roof sections in place in the pictures below. Time will tell whether this corner roof arrangement will prove to be sufficiently robust; a section of curved track will run over each corner, so the roof will need to support the weight of trains running over it, not to mention me accidentally leaning on it now and again.... Having tested the corner roof sections under modest weight-bearing, however, the early signs are that they'll do the job OK.

So that's the visible part of the lower level now pretty much done apart from the subway station, then. I still of course need to build the structures which will support the upper level, though, and I also need to figure out a way of rescuing stricken trains from the lower loop in the event of a breakdown; at present I can access the subway train through the arches, and the large opening in front of the subway platform is just about big enough to squeeze the train through when I need to remove it, but it's fiddly and not ideal.

Because I designed the lower level such a long time ago, I've predictably come up with a whole bunch of new ideas during the intervening period to tweak and potentially improve it. I'm going to do my best to keep a lid on those tweaks for now, though - having already taken the best part of 4 years just to get to this point it's high time I moved on, put the lower level to bed for the time being at least, and started to focus on the upper level so that's what I'm going to do.

With the lower track loop now fully enclosed I figured it was high time to power up the track and get the subway train running. You can see a brief video clip below of my modified 7938 Passenger Train running around the lower track loop at about 2/3 speed; click here to view the clip on YouTube if you can't access the embedded video on your device.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Old School TIE

Given the recent release of the Ultimate Collector's Series TIE Fighter (you can read my review of the set here) I thought I'd mark the occasion by going back to the early days of the LEGO Star Wars theme and taking a fresh look at the first non-variant TIE Fighter that LEGO ever produced, Set 7146 TIE Fighter from 2001. Interestingly, LEGO had already released two TIE variants by the time that Set 7146 appeared on shelves - Set 7150 TIE Fighter and Y-wing from 1999 included a TIE Advanced, while Set 7181 TIE Interceptor from 2000 was one of the very first Ultimate Collector's Series sets that LEGO ever produced.

The box measures about 7.5" (19 cm) wide and 11.5" (29cm) tall, with a depth of approximately 3" (7 cm). The front of the box (above) is dominated by an image of the TIE Fighter complete with motion blur, superimposed on what I assume is the surface of the Death Star. The 2001 LEGO Star Wars logo can be seen top right, although it's unfortunately partly obscured by the price label on my copy (£18 from The Entertainer, if anybody's interested). The set's two minifigures can be seen alongside the TIE Fighter's display stand bottom right; the TIE Pilot looks surprisingly jovial considering that he's about to go into battle in a ship without a shield generator..... The two minifigures make a further appearance on the back of the box (below) where they're shown building the TIE Fighter and also piloting a couple of alternate builds.

The box opens by way of a pair of thumb tabs. In addition to the 171 pieces needed to build the model the box contains a single folded instruction booklet and a pair of folded advertising leaflets. The set doesn't include a sticker sheet.

The instruction booklet is A4-sized which means it has to be folded in half in order to squeeze into the box. It's 16 pages from cover to cover, with a full 3 pages taken up by advertising for a host of Star Wars sets released between 1999 and 2001. You can see an example below, with the rest available to view on the Gimme LEGO Flickr stream here.

In addition to the 3 pages of adverts in the instruction booklet, my copy of the set, which was bought from new back in 2001, includes a couple of advertising leaflets. One of the leaflets features a Star Wars 2002 teaser on one side which you can see here and advertising for other 2002 themes plus assorted bits and pieces on the reverse, while the second leaflet features advertising for LEGO's short-lived Life on Mars theme on one side (picture below) and a mixed bag of LEGO themes, video games and LEGO.com on the other.

The set contains two minifigures - a TIE Fighter Pilot and a Stormtrooper. The version of the TIE Fighter Pilot included in this set can only be found in one other set, Set 4479 TIE Bomber from 2003. Time really hasn't been kind to this minifigure - the helmet's features are extremely poorly defined, so much so that I wondered whether my copy of the minifigure had somehow melted in storage.... Compare and contrast with the most recent version of the TIE Fighter Pilot here from Set 75095 TIE Fighter which picks out the helmet's features via use of silver print. Beneath the helmet there's an unprinted brown minifigure head which has only ever appeared in 3 sets. The torso, which isn't back-printed, has graced a number of TIE Fighter pilots, TIE Interceptor pilots and even a TIE Defender pilot, until as recently as 2012. The legs are unprinted and generic.

There have been many different versions of the iconic Stormtrooper minifigure. The version included in this set has also appeared in 3 other sets. The helmet looks like the same basic element as the TIE Fighter Pilot helmet albeit in white, but the black printing makes a huge difference to the definition of the features. There's an unprinted yellow minifigure head underneath the helmet. The back-printed torso has appeared as part of numerous different Stormtrooper minifigures - 13 according to Bricklink - while the unprinted white legs with black hips have been a part of literally hundreds of minifigures.

Once the minifigures have been assembled its time to get to work on the TIE Fighter itself. The cockpit and wing struts are assembled first. It's pretty tight in the cockpit - there's barely room for the pilot in there and no flight stick, but at least there's a printed control panel. The trans-black printed windscreen is fairly uncommon, having appeared in only 6 sets including this one. The windscreen lifts up via a hinge plate in order to provide the pilot with access to the cockpit. The cockpit roof is covered by a dark grey printed 4 x 4 inverted dish which has only ever appeared in 3 sets in this colour.

The wings are next to be built. These feature crude blue detailing on the outer surface which is supposed to approximate the spokes radiating out from the central hub to the edges of the wing. I've never understood why LEGO used blue elements for wing detailing in this and other early TIE Fighter sets; thankfully they switched to light grey in more recent sets which seems to be a much better reflection of the subject matter. The central wing hub features a light gray round 2 x 2 tile printed with the Star Wars Imperial logo which has only appeared in a total of 5 sets in this colour.

The wings attach via pins protruding from a pair of modified 2 x 2 bricks on the wing struts which insert into the base of an inverted 65 6 x 6 x 2 quad with cutouts on the inner surface of each wing. This forms a reasonably robust join, certainly strong enough to tolerate some fairly enthusiastic swooshing.

A display stand (below) completes the build. The centrepiece of the stand and the element which takes the weight of the TIE Fighter is a dark grey 2 x 2 x 10 vertical support girder which has appeared in a total of 7 sets in this colour. A light grey 12L flexible hose with tabbed dark gray ends provides some nice decoration at the front of the stand.

You can see the completed TIE Fighter resting on its stand in the pictures below. Like its pilot, time hasn't been particularly kind to this model which looks a bit crude and untidy, with more than a hint of BOLOCs about it.... The blue detailing on the wings is particularly nasty. That having been said, it's all very well being critical 14 years after the set was released, but I don't recall having been too disappointed when I first got it. Life, and LEGO, moves on.

As is the case for the UCS TIE Fighter, the ship is perched on the display stand rather than attached to it. There's a 2 x 2 round tile on top of the stand which slips into a shallow recess on the underside of the TIE cockpit. This allows the ship to rotate on the stand, while still supporting it reasonably securely. You can see the finished model on its display stand below accompanied by the two minifigures.

I photographed Set 7146 with the recently-released Ultimate Collector's Series Set 75095 TIE Fighter to try and convey a sense of scale (picture below). There's clearly a substantial size differential, although it's still hard to believe that the Ultimate Collector's Series version contains fully ten times as many elements as its baby brother. The jarring blue detailing of the smaller set stands out like a sore thumb against the UCS version - honestly, what were LEGO thinking?

Set 7146 TIE Fighter contains 171 parts and was released in 2001 at a recommended retail price of £17.99 / US$ 20.00. It's long since been superceded by a number of superior versions, notably 2012's Set 9492 TIE Fighter, so it isn't really a "must have" unless you're a collector. Prices are modest - at time of writing you can get a pre-owned complete, boxed example of the set from Bricklink for as little as £25 plus shipping, and a new, sealed example can be had for not much more than that. They also come up fairly regularly on eBay so you shouldn't have any trouble tracking one down should you decide to take the plunge.