Me and Lego Castle, Part I: A History, Analysis, and Sets List

This is an article about Legos, the toys. I’ve gotten a bit back into them recently. Don’t expect articles like this to be a regular replacement for videogame articles, this is just going to be an occasional thing, but it’s a topic I like so I’m putting it here. It fits with the name of the site, too.

The first part of this article are my thoughts on castle Legos, starting with some of my history with them and then moving on to my thoughts on Lego today. After that, the post will conclude with a list of the castle Lego sets I have. In a following post, which will be very soon because it’s almost finished and I only am breaking it up into two parts because I’d rather post it that way, I will post more extensive opinion summaries about each of the sets in the list at the end of this article.

Introduction

Once, I got a comment about how odd it was that my site is named for my username, which is a Lego reference, but I have no Lego content on the site. Well, this is mostly because while I absolutely loved Legos as a kid and teenager and still like them, I mostly stopped buying Lego sets in my later teens and did not go back to buying more than a handful of them until very recently. Despite having a table with a Lego Castle setup on it, until quite recently I was less of an Adult Fan of Lego or AFOL as they are called, and probably more of a child fan of Lego who held more interest in Lego as an adult than many, but didn’t become a big adult Lego collector or builder.

However, Lego recently released a set which changed that. Lego fans probably know what set I’m talking about. And despite its high cost, I bought it. And while I am continuing my 3DS Game Opinion Summaries series, I love that series and am working on it, I’ve been pretty distracted with Legos recently and want to discuss that at the moment. I’m going to start with this general personal history, before continuing on to my thoughts on the castle Lego sets that I own or owned. I’ve got plenty to say.

I will start with this, though. When it comes to Lego collecting, there are two major issues, money and space. Of course, I am a videogame collector as well as player, but your average videogame takes up much less space than your average Lego set. Videogames are also often cheaper than Legos, as complete or mostly complete Lego sets hold value extremely well, though this varies depending on which game you’re talking about, of course. I have far from infinite space, and a lot of it is taken up with videogames, which I love. So even if I wanted more Legos, where would I put them? It’s not exactly easy. I already have one whole table of them displayed. I don’t really have a good way to display more. But regardless.

My Lego History

When I was a kid, as with many children I liked Legos a lot. (Yes, I’m going to use legos as a plural. Deal with it.) I liked, and bought, Legos for long enough that when I chose my internet username in 1998, when I was in my teens, I named myself for the Black Falcon Lego castle knights, which have always been my favorite Lego line. I would later learn that the Black Falcons are perhaps Lego Castle’s most popular faction, but I didn’t know that as a kid or even in the later ’90s, I just knew that they had the coolest flag and I liked them the most. I really love the opposite-colors design of their logo.

My interest in Lego went up and down over time. As a child, I absolutely loved Legos, they were my favorite toy. We didn’t have a TV until mid 1990, when I was almost eight (because my parents did not want to own one, being former hippies), so books and Legos were what I liked the most. My interest in Lego continued on through the ’90s, though it declined over time as I got more and more into computers and videogames. You only have so much money when you’re younger, after all, and I liked electronic games the most. Doing so was absolutely the right decision, but still I have a strong fondness for the lego sets of the mid ’80s to mid ’90s, when I was a big Lego fan.

After that, however, things changed for me. By the end of the ’90s, between that I was in my late teens and outgrowing Lego’s target audience and the major changes Lego made, towards licensed sets instead of original ones and towards heavily gimmick-focused sets over more plausible ones, my interest in Legos declines significantly. I still was buying big, expensive Lego sets until ’96 or so, but not so after that. I did get some smaller sets in the later ’90s to early ’00s, but following that I mostly stopped buying Lego sets for years. Legos were mostly for kids, while computer and video games have always been for everyone and particularly as an adult have a lot more lasting use value, so that’s fine… but times have changed, and Lego has changed, both for better and worse. I will get into the good and bad of modern Lego later, but one of Lego’s major changes has been that they are no longer aimed only at children. Instead, today Lego makes a significant number of sets for the adult Lego collector, in a way they did not back in the past. Lego knows that nostalgia is a powerful thing, and plenty of adults today have fond memories of playing with Legos and would collect them if more sets were aimed at them. Well, they now are.

… As an aside, thinking about it now, the big thing missing from Lego’s assortment of historical and future themes is something set in the ancient world, such as Greece or Rome. That’d be pretty cool to see. But anyway.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. We had a good number of Lego sets when I was a child and teenager, particularly castle, town, pirate, and space sets, in that order. History has always been my favorite subject, and the medieval era, “castle times” as I said as a kid, has always been my favorite historical period. I would say that it still is. Real castles and learning about the real middle ages is amazing, but playing with and collecting Lego’s Castle sets is also a fun diversion. I’ve got a decent little setup of ’80s and ’90s castle Lego sets, though it would be more impressive if the vast majority of my smaller castle sets were still assembled, which they are not. As a kid you want to not just build a model and look at it, but take them apart and try building your own things.

And indeed, that is exactly what my sister and I did. We built some castle stuff, but our largest work was on a large Town lego setup. We built our own town in the ’90s, though while it was plenty large, we built few buildings over one tile high, they were more floor plans than full buildings. That’s fine, it’s easier to play with them that way and you don’t need to buy an impossibly expensive amount of bricks. We kept a few sets fully assembled, including the pizzeria, Dolphin Point lighthouse, and some vehicles such as a large police command truck, but most of it was our own creations. I still have this town in a fairly large box. A few fully assembled sets are in their own boxes as well, and tehre is also a box of vehicles and a sizable metal container full of loose pieces and chunks of pirate ships. However, they’re in somewhat sorry shape, I raided many pieces out of this town to build other things and other stuff has come apart over the many years of sitting in a box. And as I seem to be getting back into Lego, at least for a while, if I want to ever re-assemble some of the better castle Legos sets that I own but haven’t been assembled for decades, I’ll need to take apart my town setup significantly more. We’ll see.

But as nice as our town is, castle times are what I truly love, so after the mid ’90s as my sister lost interest in Legos the town went in a box and the castle setup expanded. Once I moved to where I am now, I found one table in a corner which I filled up with some of my castle Legos. It’s a nice setup, except for how my cat loves to jump up on the table and wreck havoc on the poor, unsuspecting Lego knights…

My Lego Castle setup, circa 2015.

This is an old photo, taken back in 2012. It was taken well before theI got the sets I hgot this month, but the rest of the classic castle sets I have are there, I hadn’t gotten any more since until just now. I’m posting this older shot because I think that the condition of the sets is at their best here, this was before they really got messed up by my cat(s). I recently tried to fix the damage and will have a newer photos in the second post.

Lego Castle: Old vs. New

So, I have extensive experience with the castle legos of the ’80s and ’90s, and a little experience with a few sets from the ’00s and early ’10s, until the castle Lego line was discontinued in 2014. After that happened, I did not buy another Lego set until this year, with one big exception: Lego Dimensions. I did buy the videogame/Lego set hybrid Lego Dimensions, and built the main base for it and a few other Lego Dimensions sets and figures. A bunch of the Lego Dimensions stuff I got is still complete in its boxes, unused, though, so I didn’t really get that into Dimensions. Lego Dimensions has amazing figures, them being real Legos, easily the best of the toys to life genre, but as far as the actual game goes, I found it less fun than Skylanders or Disney Infinity, the other two major toys-to-life games during that boom. Neither the action nor the platforming are anything special. Lego Dimensions sets are mostly small vehicles and minifigures. Having a Lego Spy Hunter Interceptor is pretty cool.

But regular Lego sets and Lego Dimensions sets are pretty different, as I have now found. And the difference between modern Lego sets and classic ones are quite interesting. I would break Castle Lego sets into five eras: the 1984-1992 era, the 1993-1999 one, the 2000-2013 one, the interregnum with nothing truly castle, and the 2021-2022 sets. The first two eras are the “Classic Castle” era, but I broke it up into two parts to separate the slightly longer-lasting first factions system from the faster turnover of faction replacement of the ’90s and beyond. Lego became a successful childrens’ toy company in the ’80s. In the ’90s, they aimed for a larger mass market and changed their designs, with more gimmicky play features in the sets — there are a lot of sets centered around trap walls and floors and such. These sets started off well, but by the later ’90s I would say that they were getting kind of bad in many cases. In the ’00s, they went for an even more lucrative business by mostly abandoning their homegrown lines in favor of licenses. Almost all of Lego’s own lines were gradually abandoned in favor of the evidenly bigger bucks licenses brought. Non-licensed Lego sets show even steeper decline in quality during this era, with the gimmicks becoming even more prominent and set design getting even worse. At the end of the ’00s things finally started recovering and the last three Castle lines are much better than any since the mid ’90s, but it was too late to save the Castle line and it was discontinued in 2014. People like me not being quite interested enough to buy the new sets, even the great ones, probably didn’t help, but oh well. Lego as a whole needed some work, Castle was not their only problem.

Following this, over the past decade or so, Lego managed to rebuild their flagging business not only with the continued success of their licensed sets and videogame line, but also by focusing on a new audience, adult Lego fans. Sets for adults are significantly more intricate to build and have fewer play features than ones for kids, focusing on interesting design first and foremost. Even designs of childrens’ sets are significantly different than they used to be, though, as Lego has mostly abandoned baseplates; more on this later, I don’t like the change. But anyway, Lego has changed their pricing, piece selection, design styles including piece size, baseplates, target audiences, and more.

One interesting way to look at how Lego has changed over time is the price they charge for their sets, and what you get for that money. Now, Lego sets have always been expensive, and they still are, but accounting for inflation they probably used to be more expensive than they are now. Perhaps moving brick production from Europe, where it was in the ’90s, to more cheaper places around the world including China, helped Lego bring prices down, though in a somewhat unfortunate way considering China’s rights record. But everything is made in China now so what can you do. The result is that Lego sets are, adjusted for inflation, generally cheaper now than they used to be. Or rather, sets aimed at children are cheaper. Of the Lego Castle sets available today, all released in 2021 and 2022, two are more expensive sets aimed at adult audiences only and cost $160 (Medieval Blacksmith) and $400 (Lion Knights’ Castle, aka the new Crusaders’ castle), and one, also for younger builders, costs only $100 (Lego Creator Medieval Castle, aka the new Black Falcons’ Castle), and for that you get a fairly sizable castle. The other two sets are limited production run sets. You would pay almost as much for an only slightly larger castle 25 years ago. What inflation?

What you get within that castle is VERY different from back then, though. As I said earlier, ’80s and ’90s Lego was all about large pieces. You had the raised baseplates, flat baseplates, lots of large bricks and wall pieces, and more, which kept the part count down and the model large. However, interiors were very basic. ’80s interiors are often INCREDIBLY basic or nonexistent, particularly in castle sets where the exterior was clearly the main focus, but even in the mid ’90s castles still often had limited detail inside, with plenty of empty rooms. Today, however, Lego does not do that. Instead, sets now have dramatically more pieces than sets then, but those pieces are smaller. You don’t get nice large baseplates to build the set on, but instead build them on an assortment of smaller plates. This is bad for play as it makes the set easier to knock apart by accident, but adds to the visual look of the set when assembled. But Lego is not catering only to young children anymore, they also want to appeal to adult Lego fans who will be looking at their sets more than they will be playing with them, so this design change makes some sense. It really is a big change, though; every room in that $100 Lego Creator Medieval Castle set is richly detailed in a way that would be unimaginable back in the ’80s or ’90s, they did not have that kind of brick budget. However, this comes at the cost of having over 1,400 pieces in a set only slightly larger than the 424 piece 1984 classic Black Falcons’ Fortress. It all takes longer to build and is more complex.

However, what you don’t usually get with the new sets are as many minifigures. The $400 Lion Knights Castle comes with a huge 22 minifigures and two horses, but the $100 Medieval Castle only comes with three, four including the skeleton, and no horses at all, disappointingly. The Medieval Blacksmith set similarly has few figures for such a pricey set. It’s somewhat disappointing on that front, but seems to be typical now; older sets are often freer with the figures while being much stingier with the part count for the rest of the structure. Black Falcons’ Fortress came with four regular soldiers and two mounted knights, for example. The larger castles of the ’80s to early ’90s came with four mounted knights, though Lego stopped doing that after then and mid ’90s castles unfortunately drop to only one or two horses. Even so, it’s an interesting dichotomy.

The core of it is that Lego has leaned heavily into harder to build sets with very detailed interiors and bases made of lots of very small plates, and has largely abandoned the large thin baseplates of the past. They have done this in all sets, including those for children. I would think that this is bad for children who want sets which stay together, and also bad for people who want a nice base to build their own creation on, but it is good for the visual look of a model sitting on a shelf. The loss of hill plates is also important, because this means that the only way to build a taller set is to add a quite significant amount of bricks to it. There are positives and negatives to both design styles, overall, but I do wish modern Lego wasn’t so anti-baseplate, they have a place. Ah well.

Limited Production Run Sets

This section discusses something Lego has leaned into in recent years: sets made in very limited quantities. It used to be that all Lego sets were sold in stores. Some sets were more common than others and some lines were only sold in some parts of the world — there are sets that only released in the US, for example, but if a set existed, you could buy or mail order it directly from Lego. They branched out into blind-bag minifigures in the ’00s, with some being much rarer than others. Those are just figures and not sets, though.

However, 21st century Lego has changed all that. Now, some sets are only available in limited quantities, and some are only available as limited-time purchase bonuses when you buy another set. I don’t know exactly when Lego started doing this, but I think it is absolutely terrible business, unless their goal is to increase third party sales on the used market and spike used Lego prices, but I don’t know why they would since that makes Lego no money. All this does is hurt the potential customer who can’t buy that set they like because it isn’t available, they only made a tiny number of them and it sold out quickly. This business model is one that you also see in videogames now, with companies such as Limited Run, who make very limited production runs of physical copies of otherwise digital-only games, and I strongly dislike it! The system works on FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out — you must follow the company closely when it announces new things and buy them quickly or potentially you’ll never have it withouth paying a crazy premium on the used market. It’s incredibly obnoxious and awful stuff, but is sadly common now; Limited Run has a bunch of copy companies doing the same thing.

For the 2021-2022 Lego Castle run, there are two limited run sets, both Forestmen themed. First, they did a new set that takes Foresmen’s River Fortress and redesigns it. That set looked great from the outside, but had nothing going on inside, it was empty. This new set fixes that quite thoroughly. However, the set was only produced in VERY limited quantities and sold out in minutes. If you want one be prepared to pay a lot, Forestmen sets are popular. It looks like a nice set, they should have sold it. It would have sold well, I think.

The other set is a remake of the classic set Forestmen’s Tower. The new tower looks a lot like the old one, but with new pieces and such. It looks okay, somewhat average just like the original is but fine. Based on pictures I might prefer the original, and it was never one of my favorite looking sets. Still, it’s neat they made this… except it was only released as a purchase bonus on the Lego store, and for a very limited time. You had to buy something else and then get this set as a bonus with it. Naturally now it’s going for at least twice the original estimated value of ~$25, and this will probably go up over time. Oh come on Lego, why do you do this? I really don’t understand how it is good business to put all the effort into designing and building sets and then making such tiny quantities of them.

And no, I’m not just upset because I didn’t get either of those sets. I do have some limited run videogame stuff, and I think that it’s awful for anyone else because it’s not right that anyone who didn’t happen to be buying from the right website at the right time now can’t get those games without paying crazy markups on ebay. There’s no reason for it other than intentionally punishing your own userbase in order to get people to buy stuff more quickly when it releases. But wouldn’t you sell more overall if you could, you know, just buy the stuff you wanted? Ugh, this is awful stuff and clearly wrong. I hate this business model.

The Building Experience

 

The way Lego has you build sets has changed in two notable ways. First, Lego set instructions now are EXTREMELY detailed and specific, in a way they were not back in the ’80s or ’90s. They give an image of exactly which bricks you add on each step, and mark on the image exactly where each one goes. That’s a big change. These improvements are good, but do mean that anyone should be able to build even the huge 4500 piece $400 castle, if they have the patience. Of course though, it’s much more likely an adult will have the patience for a set this large and detailed than a child. But anyone who can follow instructions should be able to build it.

The other big change is that large sets like these are now broken up into parts built from numbered bags. Each bag produces one specific part of the set, and you put the pieces to gether as you go. The instructions tell which bag you are on next. Of course this only helps the first time you build the model, so if it gets disassembled anyone else building the set will have a harder time, but if you buy the set new the numbered bag system makes it easy to follow what you are doing without having to sort through thousands of pieces to find the one tiny thing you need. Because when sets are this much bigger, piece count wise, than sets of the past were, the help is appreciated.

So, building Lego sets today is easier than it used to be since the instructions are clearer, but is harder because there are more parts and you spend more time building. Making something take longer to make does not make it better, but you do often get impressive results.

Conclusion to the Article Portion: Lego as an Adult

So, I am currently building the expensive castle. I’m less than a quarter of the way through, but have completed some sections of the set and they look great. As a child, I loved both building sets by following the instructions and also trying to build my own things. Making my own stuff was fun, but it never looked as good as the official stuff so I kept the official sets I really liked the look of together. I saved just about every single box and building instructions booklet from the sets I got and still have those.

But then decades passed and now I’m building Lego sets for the first time in a while, more seriously than the handful of Lego Dimensions sets I got a few years back, and it’s like… it’s fun, and a moderate challenge, but certainly isn’t hard. I like it but don’t love it like I do a great videogame, it’s no Mario Maker 2. Having a physical thing after you’re done is nice enough though. Am I enjoying this enough to make it worth buying, yes. But no it isn’t the most complex thing, though that’s partially good and is a big part of why Lego is so popular; I never got into building plastic models, which is a more challenging task, and am entirely fine with that, and I’m not really artistic enough to make things on my own.

Essentially Lego is a balance, simple to build in that every block just clicks together perfectly in a truly astounding way, Lego’s quality control is impeccable, but challenging enough along the way to keep you interested. It’s an absolutely brilliant thing for children and works well, particularly with the more complex sets, for adults who don’t want to have to deal with glue and such in their models. I’m having fun with it but yeah as I said earlier, Lego goes below videogames or fantasy books on my list of things I like. Sorry. But it’s still good, I love my Lego Castle collection and plan on probably adding to it.

My Lego Castle Collection: Set and Theme Listing

 

And on that note, here is my collection. This is a listing of the castle Lego sets that I own. I may be forgetting a few small ones, if so I will add them to this list.

I will start by listing the castle sets I have that are still assembled.

Crusaders (1984-1990, with sets still available until 1992, brought back 2022 as the “Lion Knights”)
Assembled:
Lion Knights’ Castle (2022)
Unassembled: Twin Arm Launcher, Viking Voyager, Town Wall Tavern (Guarded Inn), King’s Oarsmen, Knights’ Arsenal.

Black Falcons (new sets only for them 1984-87, sets with them in them 1984-1994, brought back kind of 2010, brought back for real 2021-22.)
Assembled:
Black Falcon’s Fortress (1986) (this set was unassembled for years, but I put it back together sometime in the ’00s. I had to substitute a few pieces for different colors and the drawbridge string is missing. The flag’s clips are broken and it is taped to its flagpole.)
Lego Creator Medieval Castle (2021)
Unassembled: Castle Guard, the Black Falcons catapult from Knights’ Stronghold, Battle Dragon if for some reason you give this to the Falcons just because of the shield (I don’t).
Minifigures Only: Sea Serpent, Lion Knights’ Castle (2022)

Forestmen (1987-1990, sets available until ’92, brought back as the Forest Guardians in 2021)
Assembled: None
Unassembled: Forestmen’s Tower
Minifigures Only: Lion Knights Castle (2022)

Black Knights (1988-94)
Assembled:
Dungeon Masters’ Castle (Black Knights’ Castle)
Sea Serpent
Unassembled: Knights’ Stronghold (the wall), Battle Dragon (despite the Black Falcons’ shield, I cannot consider this a Black Falcons set, it’s very obviously supposed to be a Black Knights ship. The two guys from this ship are among my Black Knights.), Black Knights’ Boat (if I have it?)

Dragon Masters (1993-95)
Assembled:
Dragon Defender
Dark Dragon’s Den
Dragon Wagon
Majisto’s Magical Tower (this set never fully assembled correctly and still isn’t)
Unassembled: None
Minifigures Only: Royal Drawbridge, Medieval Knights (minifigure pack)

Wolfpack (1992-93)
Assembled: None
Unassembled: Wolfpack Tower
Minifigures Only: Dungeon Master’s Castle, Medieval Knights

Royal Knights (1995-97)
Assembled:
Royal Drawbridge
Royal Knights’ Castle
King’s Carriage
Skeleton Surprise
Crossbow Boat
Royal King
Space/Castle Value Pack (the Royal Knights’ catapult; I don’t think the space set is assembled.)
Unassembled: None
Minifigures Only: Hemlock Stronghold
(I have all of the Royal Knights sets other than their carriage in the big Dark Forest set.)

Dark Forest (1996)
Assembled:
Bandit Ambush
Hemlock Stronghold
Unassembled: None

Fright Knights (1997-98)
Assembled:
Bat Lord
Bat Lord’s Catapult
Unassembled: None

The Fright Knights were a pretty bad line with mostly poorly designed sets. Things needed to change, and they did, but not really for the better. At this point, Lego stopped clearly separating factions, so they are usually merged under a single banner. I will note each faction within each theme below. Also at this point, the good and evil sides become extremely clearly delineated in a way they weren’t really before. I would say that this was not a good change, it was a more interesting setting when you had different factions which you could pretend were what you wanted, versus “these are the good guys and these are the bad guys”. Yes, factions like the Wolfpack or Dragon Masters may have been meant as “bad”, but they are not evil in the same way that the later badguy factions are, a fact I quite liked. I will get into this soon, but let’s just say that my Dragon Masters are NOT evil.

Ninja (1998-99)
The Japanese-themed Ninja sets are alright. The first year of Ninja sets are the Blue Shogun’s Samurais and Grey Ninjas vs. the Red Robbers and Black Ninjas. The good faction uses blue banners and the bad red. I have three small sets from this year. The second year only has a few small sets with the first years’ factions, and instead mostly have good White Samurais and White Ninjas fighting against Red Ninjas. Both of these factions have the same theme colors and flag, with the same black, gold, and white flag, with construction heavy on black with white and blue elements. I really don’t get why these two look so similar, the first samurai and robber factions are much more different. I don’t have any sets from this year.

Good (Shogun) – Blue Samurai and Grey Ninjas (1998-99)
Assembled:
Samurai Swordsman
Treasure Transport (good ninja & the rocks he hides behind)
Unassembled: None

Ninja – Bad – Red Robbers and Black Ninjas (1998-99)
Assembled:
Ninja Surprise
Treasure Transport (the transport)
Unassembled: None

Ninja – Good (Imperial) – White Ninjas & Samurais (1999)
I don’t have any sets from this line. I should get something.

Ninja – Bad – Red Ninjas (1999)
I don’t have any sets of this line. It’s odd how their flags are the same as the white ones and their design style is so similar. The two ’99 lines have only a few sets each.

Knights Kingdom I (2000)
Assembled:
Guarded Treasury (this set has two small buildings, one each for the good and evil factions.)
Unassembled: None
The era’s factions: King Leo’s Knights (blue) vs. Cedric the Bull’s men (red).

After the above one year line Lego waited several years before bringing Castle back, and when they did it was with the worst Castle theme ever.

Knights Kingdom II (2004-2006)
I do not have any sets from this line. I will get some eventually. (I’m not sure what, though, I don’t really think that there are any notable sets in this line.)
The era’s factions: Good: the the King, the six lead knights, and the Valiant Knights. Each lead knight has a different theme color, but blue is the goodguys’ main color. Bad: Vladek and the Shadow Knights (red and black scorpion logo) and his allied Rogue Knights (black and yellow dragon theme).

Castle 2007 (Fantasy Era) & Vikings
I do not have any sets from this line. I will get some eventually. (The most notable set in this line is Medieval Market Village, which is entirely unlike any other set in the line. The line has some other good-looking sets though.)
The era’s factions: Good: Human Crown Knights (blue and gold) and Dwarves (copper and brown colors) vs. Evil: Skeletons (white and black) and Trolls (red, green, brown…).

Kingdoms
I do not have any sets from this line. I will get some eventually. (The most notable sets in this line are Mill Village Raid and Lego Kingdoms Joust.)
The factions from this era: the good Lion Kingdom (red and white colors) vs. the evil Dragon Kingdom (green and yellow colors).

Castle (2013)
Assembled:
Dragon Mountain (has figures and objects for both factions of the line)
Unassembled: None
The factions from this era: the good King’s Knights (blue and gold colors) vs. the bad Dragon Soldiers (red color). The names are similar to Kingdoms’ factions but the colors are different.

After this, Castle went away until 2021, when they started making heavily ’80s nostalgia-laden sets with the returns of the Crusaders (Lion Knights), Black Falcons, and Forestmen (Forest Guardians). I have three of these sets now, and there are two more I don’t have.  I listed them in their factions at the top in this post, but for the full reviews I will put them in chronological order and cover them at the end.

Timeline Analysis

 

From looking at this list above, for anyone who didn’t know, what you will see is how Lego operates: they make new sets, sell them for a year or three, and then discontinue that set, never sell it again, and design some new set. They only incredibly rarely remake a discontinued set, and sets are almost never on the market for more than a few years. In the ’80s to early ’90s at least the themes stayed on the market for a bit longer — the Black Falcons, for instance, only really got new sets between 1984 and 1987, but continued appearing here and there until 1992 — but since the mid ’90s themes generally only last a few years and are rapidly replaced.

The worst part, though, is that since the end of the classic Castle era in 1998, the constant revolving door of similar-but-different themes were not linked together at all. Sure, you generally had good lion or crown knights fighting against evil dragon knights or such, but sometimes the good guys are blue and the bad guys red, and other times it’s the other way around, or some other colors are used. With the classic factions it’s easy to imagine a world where all the factions live together. Even when there were similar factions, such as the Royal Knights, Lego’s first revamping of the classic Crusaders ‘lion knights’ theme they like so much, the logo and theming are different enough from the Crusaders to make them clearly different. That is not really true for the themes of the ’00 to ’13 era, as Lego went back and forth between fantasy and more realistic themes, between larger and smaller set varieties, and between more ambitious and heavily juniorized sets. Juniorized is a term the Lego fan community uses for simplified sets. That is, sets with simpler design and a heavy focus on gimmicks and poor set design, as typified in Castle with the two Knights Kingdom lines. Compare the Knights Kingdom castles to the ones before and the difference should be immediately apparent.

I understand that Lego is a business, and they only make money when people buy their products. If you just kept making the same sets forever, many Lego fans wouldn’t keep buying them, they’d have them already. And they don’t keep making themes which don’t sell. But the constant cycle between reboots and abandonment that Lego has done to the Castle theme since 1999 has made it hard to have any kind of consistent theming over time or collections. Certainly, each era of castle Legos have similar designs, and you can see when you look at one era and the next how it changed to that one, but the results are disjointed and make sticking with the theme harder than it was before. It’s somewhat disappointing, and the end result of abandoning all of it in favor of the Crusaders and Black Falcons again makes a lot of sense in that context — those themes are not only the ones that people my age, people willing and able to spend a lot of money on a Lego set, remember, but they also were around for a bit longer so there were more opportunities for people TO remember them.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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