It has been a year and a few days since I opened 9476 The Orc Forge, an online order following up on my previous Lord of the Rings LEGO reviews. A testament to the sordid state of my first AFOL year, that is as far as I got with The Orc Forge – until now. See The Orc Forge, part I for my box and content photographs as well as initial impressions back then.
The Orc Forge comes in three numbered bags, each one including a smaller bag of small (mostly 1×1 and 2×1) bricks. As with the Uruk-hai Army, I decided to ignore the bag numbers and instead pool all the bricks together and sort by color. I find this a nice way of getting a feel for the set before actually building it. You can see the results of that in the photo below. Interestingly, the parts include a different take on BURP/LURP, although its special shape means it isn’t technically a cheat piece.
Note: You can click the images for larger versions.
One thing to note here – and this is something that to me seems pretty rare in LEGO these days – this is purely a “bad guys” set. I mean, there are no protagonists here for combat play, unless of course you want to pit Lurtz against one of the Mordor orcs – a play that would actually have some movie cannon credibility, though fans of the books might shudder. Indeed, Lurtz is the only named minifigure here, in addition to one nameless Uruk-hai and two Mordor orcs.
When this set was released back in 2012, it was clearly the bad guy’s lair of the initial Lord of the Rings LEGO theme. It has since been “superceded” in this role by the 79007 Battle at the Black Gate (and the 10237 Tower of Orthanc) and that’s for the best, The Orc Forge clearly sucks as a bad guy base. It was never such in the story, more of a complement to the Tower of Orthanc, and a bit of a side-story in the grand scheme of things. More importantly, The Orc Forge simply lacks the trappings of a playable standalone lair, such as walls to defend and cannons to fire.
That being said, The Orc Forge as a set doesn’t suck – far from it. In fact, it seems very interesting both for the builder and the player. It all starts with the base, that has some of that wonderful versatility of the new castle walls or CUUSOO Hayabusa base I have commended in the past, something that continues to be a welcome break from the clinical LEGO designs of yesteryears. Some of the detail on the base is a bit more repetitive this time, though… looking at you three-piece sloping roof tile combo. The combo is actually repeated 11 times and each time the instructions give the three steps for it (this isn’t how it was done back in 1978).
I like all the minifigures and the Uruk-hai are, again, positively giddy. Something not seen in the Uruk-hai Army set (for whatever reason) is the white hand of Saruman in the Uruk-hai shields and helmets. The combed back hair on one of the orcs is especially nice too (the other is bald).
While I applaud TLG for using regular ABS accessories with some of the minifigures (I just hate the cheap, bendy swords in 2013 LEGO Castle sets that my son has trouble even fitting on because they are so soft), it does seem a little funny at first to see orcs wielding classic shovels and mallets perhaps best known from 1970s/1980s LEGO Town/City (the set also makes use of another very classic part, originally from Classic Space, the 1978 space stand 2x2x2). Luckily even the specially designed minifigure accessories here are of higher quality than in 2013 LEGO Castle, so all good.
Building from color sorted parts helped a lot again, I can’t stress how much it helps, even with all the bags mixed together. I just positively flew through the set once I had the parts sorted (and in a good way, more time to admire the actual build than browse through the same parts over and over again to find some minute piece). One detail I liked is the brick-built anvil – a very simple design, but also very nice. The light brick is, of course, the star of the show and you get to put it in place very early, which is satisfying. It does bug me a little, though, that the light brick is next to 1-wide bricks that let some light seep out from the front – including a very narrow, direct beam of red light. This could have been solved with a few horizontal bars inside the lighted cavity.
Otherwise, a quality build and overall a really neat set. The build even manages to surprise a few times. Towards the end a nice little underground passage (or Uruk-hai “birth canal”), some moving parts/walls as well as some pretty elaborate LEGO Technic work happening behind the scenes. This is quite a detailed set and what’s best, unlike many castle sets that repeat the same concepts year after year, The Orc Forge is a type of set not really seen in LEGO before.