LEGO Castle (2013) pits two factions against each other: Lion Knights and Dragon Knights, both having plenty of counterparts in earlier LEGO Castle themes, but here appearing in new colors and designs. In fact, the first striking thing about this new theme is the color reversal: Lion Knights, usually sporting red since their appearance in 1984, appear here in blue – more reminiscent of the 2007 Castle’s Crown Knights. (There is precedent for this, though, in the original Knight’s Kingdom.) This time Dragon Knights are red instead, although combined with black, making for a suitably sinister look – in the 2010 Kingdoms, the Dragon Kingdom used green as their highlight.
I like the new colors. Looking at the press pictures, I originally assumed the grey on blue – bley on blue – color theme would look boring, but actually in reality it looks pretty fresh. There is good contrast between the grey and the blue, which is brighter than in pictures. I don’t think photographs really do the new LEGO Castle justice. There is nothing boring about this set either: a prisoner/treasure carriage, a horse with a cool brick-built harness to pull it, flick-fire crossbow on wheels, a detailed guard outpost and plentiful accessories/figures mean good times. I think this set compares well with any of the numerous past LEGO Castle(y) carriages and processions.
The small guard post wall is fairly interesting. Like many of the new castle walls, it is brick-built using a mix of interesting pieces (although the 1x4x2 arch feels cheating) – including some plant life. It is topped off by a green frog, always a nice piece. The crossbow cart is uneventful and a little done-to-death in my mind, but the carriage is great. Not only is the new horse equipped with a brick-built harness, there are other nice details as well: There is separate room for the treasure chest on the back, so you can carry both treasure and a prisoner. Both the roof and the door open, plus there are bars on the other side too. Ingenious use of flick-fires: You flick from the back side to unlock the chain on the front. As a final touch, there is a padlock on the door.
Note: You can click the images for larger versions.
I do have a few quality concerns, though. Judging by how big a deal quality plays in the official LEGO heritage, I have to wonder if TLG isn’t slipping a little – and I do remember saying this out loud before too. First, the two swords of the Lion Knights are very soft plastic, not the quality ABS LEGO is mostly known for. The swords are copyright 2011. What was wrong with the old sword? Or ABS? Also, the new horse in matte black looks somewhat cheap, as does its new red headgear. For whatever reason, these pieces lack – to my eye – the polish and sheen of regular LEGO. Weirdly, this was not my initial impression with the new brown horse. Finally, the Dragon Knight helmet stays on very poorly, it slips off much easier than the regular helmets worn by the Lion Knights.
Still, overall, a great little set. Recommended.
P.S. Judging by the cover art (which is somewhat reminiscent of the 1984 Castle look), treasure is a big part of this new theme. There were three colorful diamond pieces and six (plus one) generic, round gold plates included with this set – plentiful stuffings for the treasure chest. However, the set does not include the actual gold coins and gold bars some of the other sets do.