Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Great Balls of Fire

OK, so when I last wrote I was preparing to take my first, faltering steps into the world of Great Ball Contraptions, or GBCs. I'd found instructions online to a GBC which could be constructed using only the elements contained in a single Technic set, 42049 Mine Loader, and prior to cannabalising the parts I'd built and reviewed both the Mine Loader and the alternate build, a Rock Cutter.

My next job was to disassemble the Rock Cutter, after which it was time to get to work on my first GBC. I had initially planned to reverse engineer the GBC, which was designed by Great Ball Pit, from a video clip but I ended up paying to download a set of instructions instead which, as it turned out, made my life a whole lot easier. The download, which is in .pdf format, consists of a total of 62 pages and you can see a full listing of the content in the screengrab below. As well as a 54-page building guide the document also incorporates other content including hints for fine-tuning the GBC mechanisms and instructions for upgrading the module with Power Functions. The building guide is fairly easy to follow; at each stage the parts you need to add are highlighted in pink, and the build is logically sequenced.

I was about a third of the way through the build when I took the photograph below. The GBC module has been designed to be mounted onto a trailer, and the trailer chassis is pretty much done by this point. A pair of wheels will later be attached to the axle that you can see in the foreground, while the various gears embedded into the chassis are part of the mechanism that makes a single cylinder move up and down in the chassis-mounted engine block when the GBC module is activated. The stickers that you can see here and in subsequent pictures are a reminder that we're using recycled elements from a donor 42049 Mine Loader set, and they don't have any significance with respect to the GBC module.

With the chassis complete it's time to get to work on the section of the GBC which is responsible for moving the balls (below). The mechanism consists of a series of sweeper arms which pass the balls along the line as they rotate. The arms obviously need to work together in perfect harmony to make this happen, and in order for the arms move in unison they're connected underneath via a system of gears. Timing is critical - one sweeper arm can't pass the ball to the next unless the rotation of the arms is carefully coordinated - and for this reason specific instructions are provided to ensure that the sweeper arms are correctly positioned relative to each other.

Another important part of the module can be seen on the left side of the picture above. A black 1 x 6 Technic link connects the spindle of the first sweeper arm to a pivoting structure; as the spindle turns it rocks the structure backwards and forwards, which has the effect of feeding balls from the "in-basket" to the first sweeper arm in the finished module.

You can see how everything fits together in the pictures above and below which show the completed GBC module from the front and the back. The GBC mechanism is activated by turning a crank which is located to the left of the wheel in the picture above. Once the balls are swept to the top of the slope by the arms they're 'recycled' along a rear return channel and roll back down into the in-basket, thus creating a perpetual loop. The light bluish grey exhaust pipe element at the top of the slope diverts the balls down the return channel, but if you want the balls to be transferred to an adjacent GBC module instead then the exhaust pipe can be removed and the balls will then drop off the end of the conveyor and into the in-basket of the next module.

You can motorise the module quickly and easily by replacing the hand crank with a LEGO Power Functions motor. I used a standard XL Motor powered by a Battery Box containing six rechargeable eneloop AA batteries and you can see the result in the video clip below; if you're having difficulty viewing the embedded video clip then you can watch it here instead.

Occasionally the ball at the front of the queue needs a nudge from one of the returning balls in order to launch it onto the conveyer, but otherwise the mechanism runs smoothly and the balls are quickly and efficiently whisked up the slope. Watching the module operate is actually quite hypnotic, and it's certainly given me a taste for more. There's still the issue that I don't have many loose Technic elements, but having now built a GBC with the aid of instructions I at least have a better idea of what I'll need in order to build one of my own design and I've also picked up a few techniques that I can potentially make use of so overall it was a valuable learning experience.

If you'd like to build this GBC then you can purchase instructions from here for €9.95. I don't have any financial interest in the sale of these instructions, incidentally, and I paid for my own copy.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Mined Out

One of the great things about the LEGO hobby is the sheer number and variety of niches to be found within it. Although I entered the fray as a big LEGO Star Wars fan, my areas of interest have expanded since then to encompass Modular Buildings, constructing my own MOCs, collecting various other LEGO themes and even dabbling with the odd bit of Technic.

One niche that I haven't previously dipped my toe into, however, is Great Ball Contraptions, or GBCs. GBCs are machines built from LEGO and usually powered by LEGO motors which transport small balls from one place to another. Multiple GBCs are typically chained together, with balls being passed from one GBC module to another, sometimes over considerable distances. In order to facilitate collaboration between GBC builders so that their modules are compatible with each other, a GBC standard has been defined. This standard legislates for various factors such as the size and location of a module's 'in-basket' and the rate of ball flow into the machine, amongst others.

I'd been largely oblivious to the GBC scene until recently when a GBC discussion thread on the Brickset Forum caught my eye. Particularly interesting were postings which linked to a selection of spectacular GBC modules such as the Strain Wave Gearing GBC Module (above) built by akiyuky who was also responsible for the incredible collection of GBC modules that you can see here. I was so impressed that I decided I wanted to have a go at building a GBC myself, but where to start? I've built a few Technic sets, for instance this one, but have never built a Technic MOC. Also, pretty much all of my Technic elements are tied up in official sets, so I initially wasn't sure how best to proceed.

Thankfully the community came to my rescue in the form of a posting by Brickset Forum member greatballpit who linked to this video that he'd posted on YouTube. The video showcases a fully functional GBC module that can be constructed in its entirety using the elements contained in just one recent Technic set, 42049 Mine Loader. I initially assumed that I'd need to reverse-engineer the build by studying the video clip, but it later transpired that instructions are available to download for €9.95 so I decided to take the plunge, pay the money and make my life a whole lot easier. In addition to getting me started in the world of GBCs, the project would also give me the perfect excuse to review the mine loader set, an official LEGO offering that I hadn't previously paid much attention to.

The front of the box (above) showcases the finished mine loader model which is a decidedly odd-looking vehicle - I did a quick internet search and couldn't actually find its exact real-world equivalent, although Caterpillar do manufacture a variety of underground mine loaders which appear broadly similar apart from the attachment at the front. Technic sets characteristically feature an alternate build which can be constructed with the elements contained within the set. In the case of 42049 the 'B' model is a rock cutting vehicle and this is shown on the back of the box (below).

The box opens via a couple thumb tabs on the left side, although as usual I ignored these and instead carefully slid a knife under the seams and opened the left side, thus minimising damage to the box. The box contains four unnumbered bags of elements, three instruction booklets and a sticker sheet (below). There are also four huge rubber tyres loose in the box.

The mine loader is the larger of the two builds and has two instruction booklets as against one for the rock cutter. Both mine loader booklets have front covers which are identical apart from the booklet number in the bottom right corner.

I seldom build Technic. It's therefore not surprising that when I do I should encounter elements that I haven't seen before. This time it was red 6L and yellow 7L axles that caught my eye, although it turns out that these have been around for years and have appeared in multiple sets. Genuinely uncommon elements appearing in the set include a yellow Technic 3 x 3 T-shaped thick liftarm which is only appearing in a set for the tenth time in this colour, and a light bluish grey large Technic turntable base plus its black large Technic turntable top counterpart, both of which have only appeared in a total of 10 sets to date.

In terms of notable features, the build incorporates a 2-cylinder engine; it's actually not the first time that I've built a LEGO Technic engine but I still find it impressive the way that the LEGO crankshaft smoothly drives the pistons in the engine block. The crankshaft also attaches to a flat silver 8 blade propeller which represents a cooling fan and which has only previously appeared in seven sets in this colour. By the end of the first instruction booklet we're well beyond the halfway point in the build (below).

With the bulk of the internal structure and Technic mechanisms already completed, much of the remaining build consists of predominantly cosmetic details. The mudguards behind the front wheels consist of yellow Technic curved 3 x 6 x 3 panels which are only appearing in a set for the third time. These are decorated with black and yellow striped warning stickers and provide the attachment point for bilateral twin headlights. The driver's cab bolts on to the left side of the vehicle and includes a single seat which is made up of a couple of blue 2 x 4 L-shaped thick Technic liftarms. A single exhaust represented by a light bluish grey vehicle exhaust pipe with Technic pin emerges from the left side of the engine, and a couple more of the yellow Technic curved 3 x 6 x 3 panels are used to create the corners of the rear bumper which also incorporates a pair of trans-red tail lights.

The build is nearly complete now. An aerial, represented by a flat silver rapier, attaches just in front of the engine, after which the four wheels with their huge 62.4mm tyres are attached. Finally a red drum, made up of a pair of stickered interlocking red 3 x 5 x 8 cylinder halves which are exclusive to the set in this colour, is assembled and we're finished (below).

I asked my ten year old what he thought of the finished build and I have to report that he wasn't particularly impressed with the look of it; I'd have to agree that it's rather underwhelming from an aesthetic point of view. The build does however incorporate a number of functions, and all of the mechanisms work well.

The large Technic turntable I mentioned earlier connects the front and rear sections of the vehicle. Turning the small black gear next to the cab rotates the turntable; this pivots the entire front section and thus steers the vehicle as you can see in the picture below. Meanwhile, pushing the vehicle forwards or backwards causes the pistons in the engine block to smoothly rise and fall, and the cooling fan at the back to rotate. At the front of the vehicle the claw can be raised and lowered; it's in the fully raised position in the picture above, and the lowered position below. The claw can also be closed and opened so as to grab and subsequently drop the red drum; this is accomplished by rotating another small black gear which is located just in front of the engine. The gear connects to the claw via a long axle assembly running almost the whole length of the vehicle.

With the mine loader completed and photographed it was time to take it apart in preparation for building the 'B' model. One of the reasons that I've struggled to love Technic over the years is the misery of deconstructing the builds, which is both time consuming and a cause of physical discomfort. Thankfully the mine loader is modestly sized so taking it apart didn't take too long, although as ever it was not a comfortable experience for my fingers.

The 'B' model, a rock cutter, is another curious-looking vehicle and a quick online search didn't reveal any real-world examples of machines that looked remotely similar. Like the mine loader it incorporates a 2-cylinder engine, with the pair of red cylinder halves which were previously used to fashion the drum being repurposed as engine covers that wrap around either side of the engine block. The turntable assembly, previously utilised as a steering mechanism for the mine loader, is incorporated into the boom of the rock cutter.

Attaching the boom doubles the length of the vehicle and makes it predictably unwieldy. Despite this, the weight of the body ensures that the centre of gravity is far enough back for the vehicle to be nice and stable, although like the mine loader it's a decidedly strange-looking beast. Following completion of the rock cutter there are 57 elements left over, of which 11 are spares. The rock cutter therefore utilises more than 90% of the set's total of 476 elements.

Function-wise I found the rock cutter to be more interesting than the mine loader. The vehicle can be steered by rotating the prominent tan gear in front of the engine which turns the front wheels, and similar to the mine loader the pistons in the engine block smoothly rise and fall when the rear wheels rotate. The boom can be raised and lowered by turning a crank on the right side of the vehicle, and unlike the claw at the front of the mine loader it has a substantial range of vertical movement. As you can see in the picture below the orientation of the blade can be changed; a pair of red bushes are attached to an axle just above the turntable, and turning these bushes rotates the turntable which changes the angle of the front section of the boom and hence the blade. Finally, you can spin the blade itself by rotating the tan gear at the base of the boom.

So that's both the 'A' and 'B' models built, then. Overall, while neither of these strange-looking vehicles will ever win a beauty contest, they were both enjoyable to assemble. Furthermore, they both manage to cram in a fair number of functions, all of which operate smoothly and reliably.

42049 Mine Loader was released in 2016 at a price of £29.99 / US$49.99 / 39.99€. You may struggle to find this set at retail now, but at time of writing new sealed examples can still be acquired at or below the RRP over at Bricklink which is where I bought my copy from.

Right, now to disassemble the rock cutter in preparation for my first attempt at building a Great Ball Contraption. Check back in a couple of weeks to find out how I got on....

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Still on Track

One of the cool things about working for the LEGO company is that it gives presents to its employees in the form of LEGO sets. These aren't just any LEGO sets either - they're exclusive employee sets. These sets are typically given out at Christmas, and they're almost invariably well worth having. Highlights from the past few years have included 4002014 LEGO HUB Birds (below) which was given to employees as a Christmas gift back in 2014, and 4002017 Nutcracker which employees received at Christmas 2017.

While these employee sets aren't available at retail, it's nevertheless fairly easy for non-employees to get hold of them as some LEGO employees view them as an opportunity to make a quick buck and consequently sell them on eBay, Bricklink or elsewhere. They're not cheap, though - with the increase in popularity of LEGO and the rise of LEGO collecting as a hobby there's a ready market for such exclusive items, meaning that employees can get good money for them.

Of all the sets gifted to employees over the past few years, perhaps the most desirable of all from my perspective is 4002016 50 Years on Track from 2016 which is a celebration of 50 years of LEGO trains. The set contains predominantly 4-wide miniature versions of six different trains released by LEGO over the years, most of which can be considered noteworthy or iconic. As a fan and collector of LEGO trains I was predictably drawn to this set, and eventually took the plunge on a sealed copy from Bricklink which I bought for myself as a belated Christmas present!

The box leaves little to the imagination, showcasing all six miniature builds on the front (above). These images are accompanied by a black and white picture of Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, former president and CEO of The LEGO Group, playing trains with a young girl. The same image appears on the back of the box (below), next to a picture of Kjeld's father Godtfred Kirk Christiansen playing trains with a young boy. I did wonder whether the youngsters might be family members, but the identities of the children are not stated. Given how much I paid for the set, I had to smile ruefully at a 'Not for sale' message printed in eight languages on the right side of the box....

The box opens in a similar fashion to a typical LEGO Architecture set. Cutting a couple of tape seals allows the front of the box to be lifted up, revealing Christmas greetings printed in a variety of languages on the front edge of the box. Nestled inside the box are six sealed bags of LEGO elements and six booklets containing building instructions. There's no sticker sheet.

Each individual build has its own numbered bag of elements and booklet. You can see the cover of the first booklet above; this 36-page booklet provides instructions for building a miniature version of the locomotive from 113 Motorized Train Set which was the first train that LEGO ever released back in 1966. All six booklets contain a brief introduction to the set which inspired their particular miniature build. The first booklet also contains a short introduction to the entire 50 Years On Track collection, while the sixth booklet contains an inventory of all the elements appearing in the set. All six booklets have the same back cover (below).

Construction of the miniature Motorized Train commences with the assembly of a display base. This incorporates a pair of light bley rails which have only previously appeared in four sets in this colour. The rails are mounted on dark bley 6 x 6 plates and are accompanied by an arrangement of reddish brown tiles which serve as sleepers. A display plaque consisting of a modified 4 x 4 tile with studs on one edge printed with the words 'Motorized Train Set 1966' is mounted on the edge of the display base by way of a reddish brown A-shape wedge plate with 2 rows of 4 studs and an uncommon reddish brown 2 x 2 top hinge plate.

The miniature locomotive itself is a fairly straightforward build which doesn't employ any particularly rare elements apart from small red train wheels which are exclusive to this set. Even so, it's a pretty good representation of the crudely-styled original locomotive, thanks in part to the use of a variety of modern elements such as single and double cheese slopes and jumper plates. You can see the original 1966 locomotive running in this video clip.

We jump forward 10 years for the subject of our second miniature train which is the locomotive from   726 Western Train released in 1976. According to the corresponding booklet (below) it's believed that set 726 was the inspiration for the Western locomotives that appeared in LEGOLAND shortly afterwards.

Once again the build commences with construction of a display base which is identical to that employed for the miniature Motorized Train apart from the printing on the display plaque. Similar to the previous build the train's headlights are fashioned from a pair of modified 1 x 1 headlight bricks which are laid on their backs thus making them 2- rather than 3-plates high, and again there's liberal use of jumper plates and cheese slopes which help to neatly mimic the original design at a smaller scale. The windows are formed from stacks of yellow modified 1 x 1 plates with vertical clip. This element exists in a number of different variants, and irritatingly those supplied with my copy of the set are a mixture of two different types and this is evident in the build as the clips don't line up as neatly as they should.

The sides of the boiler are fashioned from blue and black 45 degree 2 x 1 slopes with 2/3 cutout.
An uncommon yellow 1 x 2 x 2 panel with side supports makes an appearance at the front of the cab, while the back of the locomotive is made up of a red 1 x 4 x 2 panel with side supports; this element is only appearing in a set for the sixth time ever in this colour. The attention to detail is laudable - even the buffers and magnetic couplings of the original locomotive are modeled via the use of black Technic ball joints and red & blue 1 x 1 round tiles respectively. The coupling rods are also reproduced via the use of yellow 6L bars with stop ring which have only previously appeared in five sets in this colour. Overall, it's an excellent representation of 726 Western Train and a nice little display model in its own right.

AFOLs have been clamouring for the return of monorail for more than a decade now, and LEGO has steadfastly refused to bring it back, so it's perhaps ironic that the next set chosen to be immortalised in miniature form is the classic 6990 Monorail Transport System from 1987....

Consistent with the other builds the display base is first to be assembled, although uniquely in this case the base incorporates a section of elevated monorail track. The stanchions which support the single light bluish grey 16L track section upon which the monorail rests are represented by modified 1 x 2 plates with long towball.

The designers have done a cracking job of reproducing the full size monorail in miniature form, managing to nicely capture the overall shape and include most of the pertinent exterior details. Construction of the 3-wide chassis is facilitated by the use of an uncommon black 3 x 3 plate which is only appearing in a set for the tenth time in this colour and which forms a part of the floor of the monorail. Bionicle Barraki eyes are used to represent the characteristic trans-dark blue and trans-red lights on either side of the monorail. The full-sized monorail's 9V motor and connecting cable are particularly impressively reproduced, utilising a white robot body and a black flexible whip, while a pair of white hockey sticks, which were only previously available in eight sets in this colour, cleverly mimic the flexible hose which forms a loop at the front of the original model. There's also ingenious use of pairs of flat silver ice skates which attach to the underside of the body and are perfectly spaced to ensure that the monorail fits snugly on the single rail beneath and can smoothly slide backwards and forwards.

The classics just keep on coming with the much-loved 4558 Metroliner from 1991 next up for miniaturisation. Such was its popularity that the Metroliner was re-released in 2001 with a new set number (10001).

For the miniature Metroliner build we're back to using the same style of ground-level display base that was previously used for the Motorized Train Set and Western Train.

This is another great-looking miniature build which is once again pleasingly faithful to the original design. The distinctive red, white and blue stripes along the sides of the locomotive appropriately survive the miniaturisation process, as do various other prominent external landmarks. The front of the locomotive is fashioned from a variety of 45 degree slopes including black 2 x 1 45 degree slopes with 2/3 cutout and a trans-black 3 x 4 x 1 1/3 windscreen with 2 studs on top; all that's missing is a slope printed with the LEGO train logo from the 1990's. The attention to detail extends to the construction of twin bogies, each of which attaches to the underside of the train via a modified 2 x 2 tile with pin. This allows the bogies to rotate, which is impressive but ultimately unnecessary given that the train will never have to navigate a section of curved track. Black minifig handlebars representing a pantograph attach to the roof and complete the build.

We now come to the build that I was most looking forward to, the miniature version of 10194 Emerald Night which is one of my all-time favourite sets. Released in 2009, Emerald Night set a new standard for LEGO trains, and the high aftermarket prices are testament to its enduring popularity - it's an absolutely beauty!

Once again the same ground-level display base is utilized, and as a consequence there's only space to reproduce and display the locomotive itself - a miniature version of the tender is unfortunately not included in the build. That having been said, I don't think it would be particularly difficult to increase the length of the display base and design your own tender should you feel so inclined.

I'm pleased to report that the miniature Emerald Night doesn't disappoint - it's an excellent little build. Pretty much all of the key exterior detailing is reproduced apart from the connecting and coupling rods over the drive wheels. The front of the locomotive is cleverly sculpted by way of a black 4 x 3 wedge open with cutout and 4 studs, while the sides of the boiler are shaped via the use of 3 x 1 and 2 x 2 dark green curved slopes. Stickers featuring the set number in gold print are attached to the sides of the driver's cab in the original set; this detail is crudely reproduced here via the use of pearl gold 1 x 1 plates. The miniature build utilises six spoked train wheels with Technic axle hole and rubber friction band; fitting these is tricky as they need to be squeezed beneath tight overhangs, and in addition the 4L axles that attach them to the chassis are a very tight fit. The original Emerald Night features a total of six smaller front and trailing wheels in addition to its six large driving wheels, and these are also faithfully reproduced in the miniature version via more of the black small train wheels seen previously in the Metroliner miniature build.

The final build is a miniature version of 10254 Winter Holiday Train which was released in late 2016. This is in some ways a slightly surprising choice for inclusion in this collection given that it's such a recent offering and arguably not in the 'classic' bracket. Even so, it certainly brings the collection bang up to date.

After building the now-familiar ground-level display base for the fifth and final time, attention quickly shifts to the locomotive. Two sand green modified 1 x 1 bricks with studs on opposite sides, which are only appearing in a set for the second time, form part of the internal structure of the boiler, while the exterior of the boiler is shaped via the use of green 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 curved slopes with no studs. The roof of the driver's cab is made up of more green curved slopes, and a pearl gold modified 1 x 2 with handle on side - closed ends provides some decoration at the front of the cab.

The main drive wheels consist of a pair of red spoked train wheels with Technic axle hole and rubber friction band which are only appearing in a set for the second time in this colour, while four of the exclusive red small train wheels mimic the original's front wheels. The original Winter Holiday Train build featured a cow catcher at the front, and a black modified 1 x 2 plate with angled handles on the side does a good job of representing this in the miniature build.

With the miniature Winter Village Train build finished the full 50 Years on Track collection is complete and can be seen laid out below.

As a longstanding fan of LEGO trains I found this set to be an absolute joy to build. All six miniature models are superb representations of the full-size originals, and the attention to detail lavished on each of the builds is commendable. The set isn't quite perfect - given the choice I would probably have dropped the miniature Western Train and Winter Village Train and replaced them with miniature versions of any two of 396 Thatcher Perkins Locomotive7740 Inter-City Passenger Train Set6399 Airport Shuttle, or even 10233 Horizon Express. Minor gripes aside, however, the selection is undoubtedly varied and interesting, and I suspect that any longstanding fan of LEGO trains is pretty much guaranteed to find at least one of their favourites among them.

Similar to 41498 Boba Fett and Han Solo in Carbonite which I reviewed a few weeks back, it's a real shame that 4002016 50 years on Track was never available at retail and is thus destined to remain out of reach for many LEGO fans. If you want to acquire a copy of the set you'll need to venture on to the likes of Bricklink, which is what I did, or eBay; at time of writing, Bricklink prices start at around £125/$175 plus shipping for a new, sealed copy of the set. Not cheap, but I have no regrets - outstanding!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Don't mess with the Fett....

Another Comic Con, another desirable exclusive.... This time the location was New York City and the event was the 2017 New York Comic Con (NYCC) where a few hundred lucky attendees were able to purchase a copy of 41498 Boba Fett and Han Solo in Carbonite, an exclusive Brickheadz set. I'm generally able to resist the lure of LEGO Star Wars exclusives, contenting myself with the Star Wars retail sets as discussed here; occasionally, however, a Star Wars exclusive comes along that I can't ignore and this set is one of those. And so it was that I dived into eBay and took the plunge on a copy of the set which arrived from the U.S. a couple of weeks later.

The sturdy packaging features an outer box (above) that's considerably thicker and more robust than that of the retail Brickheadz. Cutting the twin paper seals at the base allows the outer box to slide up and off, revealing a similarly robust black inner box (below). The front of the outer box features a shot of Boba Fett and Han in Carbonite without their display stands, beneath which are decorative rows of black bricks running along the bottom edge of the box which also appear on the retail set boxes.

The back of the box (below) features an alternative view of Boba Fett and Han. There's also stylised text identifying the set as a New York Comic Con exclusive, beneath which is a picture which illustrates the use of Boba Fett's display stand. I was pleased that I managed to acquire a copy of the set which had been signed by set designer Marcos Bessa. Marcos is rapidly becoming one of LEGO's most well-known set designers, having been responsible for a number of high profile sets including 71040 Disney Castle and 75827 Firehouse Headquarters as well as this Comic Con exclusive and a number of other Brickheadz.

The inner box contains two sealed bags of elements, one for the Boba Fett build and the other for Han. There are also two instruction booklets, one for each build. There's no sticker sheet.

Each booklet measures approximately 15cm x 10cm and is bound by way of a pair of staples down the left side. The booklet containing the building instructions for Boba Fett (cover above) is the shorter of the two at only 40 pages, while Han's booklet (cover below) weighs in at 52 pages in length. Both booklets incorporate a 2-page inventory of elements at the back specific to the individual build. The page backgrounds in both booklets are black, lending a stylish appearance to the building instructions which are clear and easy to follow.

The set includes a number of printed elements (below), all of which I assume are unique to the set. I built Boba Fett first. Construction follows the standard Brickheadz blueprint which is nicely summarised here. As is the case with other Brickheadz a handful of light bluish grey modified 1 x 2 x 1 2/3 bricks with studs on 1 side feature prominently in the construction of a central core. These are accompanied by a variety of other SNOT bricks including a reddish brown modified 1 x 1 x 1 2/3 brick with studs on one side which at the time the set was released was only appearing for the second time in this colour. The core of SNOT bricks provides abundant attachment points for the external detailing which brings the Brickheadz to life.

Fett's shoulders are made up of a pair of bright light orange double cheese slopes, one of which is printed with a mythosaur skull. This Mandalorian symbol has become synonymous with Boba Fett. The upper body utilises a number of dark green 1 x 1 tiles, and immediately above the waist is a printed reddish brown curved 4 x 1 double slope with no studs which represents a tool belt with 4 pockets. A dark green modified 3 x 2 plate with hole, appearing in a set for only the eighth time in this colour, attaches below the waist and presumably represents Fett's armoured codpiece, while his tiny legs are made up of a stack of small plates including bright light orange 1 x 1 plates to represent his knee pads.

Much of the build is concerned with crafting Fett's iconic helmet. The visor consists of a black 1 x 4 tile with a dark red print, while a pair of sand green modified 1 x 2 plates with door rail form part of the top of the helmet; these are only appearing in a set for the fifth time in this colour. In the movies, Boba Fett's helmet has a number of distinguishing features including a dent at the front and some yellow kill stripes on the left side. These have been reproduced by way of printed elements; the curved front of his helmet is formed from a couple of sand green 2 x 2 curved slopes, one of which is printed with the dent pattern, while the yellow kill stripes are printed on a sand green 2 x 4 tile. Unprinted sand green 2 x 4 tiles form the right side and back of the helmet, while the top of the helmet is crafted from more sand green 2 x 2 curved slopes. The triangular plates at the front of the helmet are made up of dark green left and right 2 x 2 wedge plates which haven't previously been available in this colour.

At the rear, a dark tan 3 x 3 wedge plate and an uncommon dark tan 1 x 3 plate make up the bottom of Fett's brick-built cloak; the cloak is decorated with a couple of medium dark flesh 2 x 1 curved slopes which have only previously graced a single set. A light bluish grey modified 1 x 2 x 2/3 brick with studs on the sides forms the core of Fett's sizeable jetpack; this is surrounded by various sand green elements including more modified 1 x 2 plates with door rail. The two jet nozzles, which are represented by sand green 1 x 1 cones, are attached to the body of the jetpack by black 1 x 1 round plates with 1L bar that have only previously appeared in three sets. A flat silver harpoon passing through a pair of sand green 1 x 1 cones forms the missile attached to the top of the jetpack.
With the jetpack completed and attached to Boba Fett's back, all that's left to do is assemble his blaster which is crafted from six elements, and build the display base featuring the printed black 2 x 4 souvenir tile.

With Boba Fett now built it's time to assemble Han Solo in carbonite. This build incorporates more printed elements than is immediately evident. As was the case for Boba Fett, I suspect that all of the printed elements are currently unique to the set. In true Brickheadz style the core is predominantly populated by SNOT elements, although in this case the elements concerned are a variety of brackets as opposed to the usual SNOT bricks. A couple of 2017 sets including 70620 NINJAGO City included a black modified 1 x 3 plate with 2 studs a.k.a. double jumper which hadn't previously been available. This element now makes an appearance here in a new colour, light bluish grey.  Further recolours follow soon afterwards in the build, specifically light bluish grey 45 degree 1 x 2 slopes with cutout and without stud and light bluish grey left and right curved 2 x 1 slopes with no studs and stud notch, none of which to my knowledge had previously appeared in a set in his colour. The latter are combined with some light bluish grey 1 x 1 round quarter tiles to make up Han's petrified hair. Han's closed eyes, represented by exclusive printed light bluish grey 1 x 1 round tiles, are then put into place, after which all that's left to do is finish up the background carbonite block.

The sides of the carbonite block feature a number of printed 1 x 2 tiles which represent digital readouts, buttons and switches; there are two different designs of printed tile utilised, both of which are presumably exclusive to the set. Four trans-clear 1 x 2 x 1 panels attach to the back of the block (below), and when the build is laid horizontally they help to create the illusion that it's floating above the ground. Once upright the block doesn't attach to the display base via studs; instead it sits within a tiled slot bounded by black 1 x 4 x 1 and 1 x 2 x 1 panels. The base incorporates a second NYCC-printed 2 x 4 souvenir tile identical to that found on the base of the Boba Fett Brickheadz.

You can see the pair of completed builds below. The set is a delight for anyone who loves Star Wars and is a fan of the Brickheadz aesthetic. Given how cool the set is, it's a huge pity that LEGO chose to release it as a NYCC exclusive rather than as a retail set, and it's unfortunately far from being the first time that LEGO have severely restricted supply of a desirable item like this - longstanding readers of Gimme LEGO may recall my past rants on the subject, for instance this one. It's clear however that the practice of restricting desirable collectables to a lucky few on the basis of geography or just dumb luck is clearly not going away anytime soon. I guess there's always a chance that LEGO will take pity on fans and decide to release the set, or at least a variation of it, at retail at some point. Past history doesn't provide much cause for optimism in this respect, however, and in all likelihood it'll therefore be a case of having to stump up the cash on the secondary market or just going without. It's not even as if these Brickheadz can be accurately Bricklinked, given the number of exclusive printed elements that they incorporate.

Determined collectors can at least aquire a copy of the set from the likes of eBay and Bricklink if they're feeling sufficiently flush. Most copies of the set currently listed for sale are located in the U.S., meaning that unless you're based there you can expect the overall cost of acquisition to be considerably bumped up by the addition of shipping fees and import duty. At time of writing there are a number of boxed, sealed examples of the set available on Bricklink starting at £125 plus shipping, although you may be able to find one for less on eBay. Happy hunting!