One posting which was always going to happen was this one, though - the Gimme LEGO Awards 2012. I enjoyed last year's trawl through the 2011 sets far too much not to repeat it with the 2012 sets, particularly as it"s been another vintage year to be a LEGO fan. OK, so maybe the line-up has arguably not been quite as stellar in 2012 as it was in 2011, but we've still been spoiled with a huge number of outstanding sets, and here's my own personal pick of the best of them.
1 . Best Theme
Last years winner : Alien Conquest
2012 winner : Monster Fighters
Set 9466 Crazy Scientist and his Monster (picture below, and reviewed by me here) is a typical example of the theme and illustrates nicely why Monster Fighters is so good - it has goofy B-movie charm, it's an interesting build, it has tons of play features and it features loads of interesting and varied parts. And just to top it all, LEGO then went and brought out what was effectively a spectacular Monster Fighters modular building - Set 10228 Haunted House - thus assuring the theme's place in my annual affections right there and then.
I have to say I love pretty much all of the Monster Fighters sets, with the possible exception of the truly bizarre Set 9467 Ghost Train which is too peculiar even for me. We won't be seeing any more Monster Fighters sets in 2013 - like last year's Theme of the Year it's a 'one and done' - so farewell, thanks and and long may you be fondly remembered.....
Honourable mention : Lord of the Rings - LEGO could easily have got away with a "by the numbers" LotR cash-in, but the sets came out great - much better than I expected.
Honourable mention #2 : Dino - seemingly unloved by everybody except me, this theme was a solid and entertaining reboot of the dinosaur genre which LEGO seems to revisit every so often. The magnificant dinosaurs themselves were the stars of the show, and why nobody but me was seemingly drooling over these chunks of plastic perfection God only knows - what's wrong with you all ?!
2. Most Disappointing Theme
Last year's winner : Star Wars
2012 winner : Cars
(Dis)honourable mention : Racers. So where are they, these Racers sets ? In years gone by we've been blessed with such splendid offerings as Set 8461 Williams F1 Team Racer and Set 8653 Enzo Ferrari 1 : 10. And then in 2012 we get four decidedly mediocre monster trucks and a few poly bags which thus far haven't been available outside of the Phillippines and Italy. Rubbish. Did people stop liking fast cars, or did LEGO just drop the ball on this one ? You decide....
3. The "Medieval Market Village" award for Best Non-Licensed Set
Last year's winner : Set 7066 Earth Defense HQ
2012 winner : Set 10228 Haunted House
Despite there being a fair few worthy candidates this year, this was for me one of the easiest winners to pick. What a bolt from the blue, though - who could have guessed that LEGO would chance their arm on such a big, expensive showpiece set for a brand new non-licensed theme ? I certainly couldn't see that coming. What a great set, though - over 2,000 pieces, and a design highly reminiscent of the revered range of Modular buildings.
The level of detail is just spectacular. Outside there are boarded up windows, distressed brickwork and shutters hanging off their hinges, all complemented by a perfect sand green and light bley colour scheme, while inside the rooms are decorated to modern Modular standards, full of lovely little touches. Someone has clearly expended love and attention on the details to give us fans something to truly savour, and it's certainly hit the spot as far as I'm concerned.
From a business perspective it's hard to see LEGO shifting huge numbers of these, so if you're wavering then I'd urge you to take the plunge - the more they sell, the more likely we'll be to get more bold products like this from LEGO in the future. It's an absolute cracker and wins the gong at a canter.
4. Best Licensed Set
Last year's winner : Set 10217 Diagon Alley
2012 winner : Set 79003 An Unexpected Gathering
Last year this award literally chose itself. The winning set was IMHO so far ahead of all the other contenders that there was really only one winner. This year was a different story, however - nothing stood out anything like as much. Also, I had a couple of issues to contend with. Firstly, I wasn't even sure if I should consider the Hobbit sets at all - they only appeared in December, and I initially assumed that they were actually 2013 sets which naughty retailers were releasing early. Their appearance in LEGO brand stores and on LEGO S@H finally convinced me that I should include them, however. I also had to contend with my almost irrational love of Set 6862 Superman and Power Armor Lex (see below). In the end, however, I just couldn't ignore the charms of Set 79003 An Unexpected Gathering, the standout Hobbit release, and a genuinely worthy winner. It grabbed me from the first publicity shots, and it really is beautifully conceived and designed, utilising a host of interesting building techniques. And of course it looks lovely when completed, nailing the tricky "organic" look and managing to capture the essence of the subject matter. If that wasn't enough, it also comes with a generous sprinkling of six key minifigures, and to top it all it's very reasonably priced for a licensed set. Bravo !
(Very) Honourable mention : Set 6862 Superman vs. Power Armor Lex (below). I love, love, love this set - a truly underrated gem IMHO. I bought this one almost as soon as it was released, and indeed at RRP despite my intention not to pay full price for anything in 2012 if at all possible. It just....works, I guess. I absolutely love Lex's mech - the overall look, the neat ways you can pose it, the colour scheme, and the fantastic primary weapon which even contains a lump of Kryptonite. And then there's the thrill of finally owning a Superman minifigure after all these years of wishing that one existed, not to mention the presence of Wonder Woman which made my wife extremely happy. A superb set at a very nice price, then. I was a whisker away from awarding this set my "Best Licensed Set" gong, and while I suspect there might have been howls of protest from many, I really wouldn't have cared.
Honourable mention 2 : Set 10225 R2-D2 (below). Agonisingly close, but not quite there... I was thrilled when this set was announced, and it was another one which I ran out and bought as soon as I could. It's an interesting set to build, looks great when it's finished, and, well, it's Artoo, isn't it, so what more is there to say ?! I guess this set suffered from unrealistic expectations however. While it's undoubtedly a loving homage, the completed model was perhaps just a little small and skinny to be perfect, and it's crying out for some Power Functions to make Artoo move, rotate his head and beep-a-beep-beep. I fully accept that this would have doubled the price, but for subject material as revered and iconic as this I just wish that LEGO had properly pushed the boat out. If LEGO had addressed my wish list above then this set would have been my set of the year, bar none. As it is, it's a worthy effort and well worth owning, but I do continue to wonder what could have been....
5. The "Phantom Menace" Award for Most Disappointing Set
Last year's winner : Set 7877 Naboo Starfighter
2012 winner : Set 21012 Sydney Opera House
The Architecture theme has been something of a mixed bag since its appearance in 2008. Nobody doubts the aesthetic merits of the glossy black boxes or plush information brochures, but the models themselves have been decidedly inconsistent, ranging from excellent to frankly shocking. And as frankly shocking goes, I think you really have to go some to out-do Set 21012 Sydney Opera House. Honestly, just look at it - ghastly. It's a miserable dog's dinner of a design, and all the glossy black boxes and plush information brochures on earth won't save this one from my derision. Just awful.
(Dis)honourable mention : Set 40026 Statue of Liberty - reviewed by me here, this mercifully small poly bag set was utterly dire. The only saving grace was that it was only available from a couple of retail outlets in New York City, so relatively few people were exposed to it's awfulness. Unlucky them, I say.
6. Best Minifigure
Last year's winner : Jack Sparrow with Tricorne
2012 winner : Queen Amidala
Like last year this was a real bastard to judge due to the high standards of LEGO minifigure design that we continue to be blessed with. Licensed themes such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Super Heroes have pumped out literally scores of excellent minifigures, and there have also been some outstanding minifigures emerging from within the ranks of the Collectible Minifigures and non-licensed themes such as Ninjago and Monster Fighters.
In the end, despite the stiff competition, the gong just had to go to the stunning Star Wars Queen Amidala figure which is unique to Set 9499 Gungan Sub. Fanboys have been crying out for a new Amidala minifigure for a decade now, and finally LEGO delivered, and how ! The figure is exquisitely detailed and beautiful, so much so that you can almost forgive LEGO for it's inclusion in a random set in which it has no business appearing....
Honourable mention : Lady Liberty, Swamp Creature, Friends. Lady Liberty, from the sixth series of Collectable Minifigures, is beautifully realised and I think my favourite of all the Collectable Minifigures to date, while the intricately detailed Swamp Creature, from the Monster Fighters set of the same name, is maybe the best of all the Monster Fighters figures. And as for the Friends Minidolls, well, let's just say that they won me over, which is quite a feat given how sceptical I was at first.
Honourable mention #2 : Dino. OK, so they're not exactly minifigures as such, but the beauty of hosting your own awards is that you can make up the rules as you go along.... If I was a millionaire then I'd buy up hundreds of Dino sets so I could assemble huge herds of these wonderful dinosaurs and have them roam around my house. Bloody awesome, they are. All that's missing is a stegosaurus and a diplodocus and I'd be in heaven.
7. The "Better than Expected" Award
Last year's winner : Cars
2012 winner : Lord of the Rings
OK, so once the excitement of last year's Lord of the Rings (LotR) announcement had died down, hands up if you were secretly a bit worried that the sets might actually turn out to be, you know, a bit crap....dumbed down for a younger audience, too simplistic, lazy, whatever.
Wrong, wrong, wrong - what a pleasant surprise ! All the first wave of sets have something to commend them, and a couple of them including Set 9474 The Battle of Helm's Deep (above) are actually pretty impressive. Even the smallest of them, Set 9469 Gandalf Arrives (below), is a cracker - perfectly formed and utterly charming. The minifigures are great, the new horses are great, and overall I think LEGO have done the theme justice.
Also of note, the second wave of LotR sets, which consists of sets inspired by The Hobbit, has recently appeared on the shelves, and gratifyingly, they seem to be maintaining the level of quality established by the first wave of sets, with Set 79003 An Unexpected Gathering (below) the highlight as previously discussed.
Honourable mention : Friends. Having stuck the boot in here somewhat when I first saw images of the sets, particularly the minidolls, I had to eat some serious humble pie here when I laid my hands on a few sets and realised that the minidolls were actually delicate and quite beautiful, and the sets (or at least some of them) were quite neat....
Honourable mention #2 : Ninjago. More cohesive, interesting designs this year and a big improvement on the 2011 sets I reckon. I'm almost disappointed that the theme will be bowing out after its last hurrah in 2013, although on balance I'm glad LEGO are wrapping up the theme while it's at the top of its game rather than flogging it to death and then some - Star Wars, I'm looking at you....
8. Most Welcome LEGO-Related Announcement
Last year's winner : LEGO Lord of the Rings sets on the way
2012 Winner : Watford LEGO Brand Store
OK, OK - apologies for being so tediously parochial, but what do you expect me to say when LEGO announces it's going to open a new LEGO Brand Store just a few miles from my house ? I mean, how would YOU feel ?! Living on the outskirts of London, I already considered myself pretty lucky having three of the UK's eight LEGO Brand Stores within a hour's travelling distance and a couple more within two hours drive, but the new Watford store is really the icing on the cake. As I write, the store opened less than 2 weeks ago and I'm preparing for my first visit this coming weekend - can't wait !
9. Gimme LEGO Reader's Choice Award
Last year's winner : Set 10217 Diagon Alley
2012 Winner : You Decide !
Can you believe that a few miserable curmudgeons actually chided me for going all populist and including a vote last year ? Grumpy sods - you know you you are.... Enough people actually voted to encourage me do it again, however, so here it is !
|The 2011 Winner - Set 10217 Diagon Alley|
Before I go, I'd just like to thank you all for reading, and wish you all a wonderful Christmas - have good one !
*EDIT* I can't see the poll on my iPad or smartphone - thanks Blogger - so if you're in the same boat you'll probably need to click "view web version" at the bottom of the page in order to see the nominations and vote. Sorry about that....