Name: Trolls' Mountain Fortress
Minifigs: 8 minifigs, 2 giant trolls
Resources: Brickset, Shop@Home
The Trolls finally get a room to call one's own! When this set was first announced, I was immediately excited - I had visions of a massive defensive hideout built into the side of a mountain, cage-like walls made of giant bones, replete with animal carcasses and drunken trolls living in their own filth - kind of like a slum version of 8637 Volcano Base but three times as large. It would be the greatest Castle set ever!
So when the prelim pics of the actual set were leaked, you can understand my disappointment - the established Troll palette of dark brown and dark red was thrown out in favour of bley, bley and more bley, and what could have been an iconic and revolutionary design was revealed to be yet another walled Castle arrangement, with all the Trolly goodness just being window dressing - some dark green plants here, some dark red teeth there.
The confusing box art - which bears little resemblance to the finished set - did little to dispel this negative impression. However, looking at the box is one thing; building the set is another. So how does the finished product live up to the hype (and the criticism)? Is this just a smaller version of 7094 King's Castle Siege as redecorated by trolls, or entirely different? Journey with us into the heart of darkness as we voyage into one of Lego's most visually twisted sets ever!
Box, Instructions and Parts
The front of the box. I suspect the photographers have simply disconnected the left side wall and stretched out the set to make the central Tower visible from the low-angle they've chosen. You can already see how different it looks from the final product in my intro pic!
The back of the box, showing all the set functions. There ain't that many! Compared to the box for 7199 Temple of Doom, which goes to great pains to demonstrate the various hidden traps and features, the Troll Fortress possesses far fewer secrets. When the most exciting thing the Lego photographers can come up with is a sorceress looking at her crystal ball, or the Troll King walking down a flight of stairs, you know this isn't going to be the most function-heavy set (click for larger size image):
All the figs:
One thing the box does emphasise is modularity. Some alternate models are more attractive than others. We will get to them in due course:
Two standard instruction books. As one of our members noted, the inventory is up on Bricklink:
Most AFOLs are probably burning with desire to know about the latest advances in Billund catapult technology. This page answers all!
A lovely piece of poster art from the back cover, kind of the inverse of that which appeared on the 2007 sets with the 7094 Kings Castle Siege. Indeed, there's even a cameo from the 2007 horse! (That livery isn't around in 2009):
The box contains 9 bags, with 2 separately bagged Trolls, BURPS and a plate:
Parts! Not as many as King's Castle Siege, but a goodly amount:
There's enough rock pieces to do a small mountain before you even open the bags! It's a shame they phased out the mixed dark green/ dark bley large BURPs as I think they would have added more of the mountain feel:
We get 6 castle corner walls, and 2 of those turret pieces which everyone rightly hates
There's a predictable amount of dark brown slopes and inverse slopes, a la last year's sets, but we do see some different pieces in the new shade:
And the Troll clubs look much better in dark brown than they did in bley:
Some other nice pieces include the inverse arches in dark brown, 2 dark brown barrels, 2 of those Star Wars gun turret bases, 2 of the new flame pieces, and 4 regular flame pieces in the lovely trans-orange shade (NOT neon orange):
We finally get this piece in a new colour - a sickly-looking mix of trans-green and trans neon-green. Dark magic is afoot, I tell ya!
I never liked the seagrass piece. It doesn't look like a plant at all, to be honest. It's too stylised. In this set we get 6 in dark green. I wish they'd gone with the look of the box art and made a spindly, twiggy forest surrounding the Fortress rather than simply used these pieces as wall-hangings:
Here's 5% of the pieces in one shot! 47 white teeth/ horns. I guess if you missed these in the Viking sets they could be useful. 47 is an awful lot though! (Another 5% come in the form of dark red teeth and 1x1 red-brown cone pieces.)
2: The figs
The new Bondage Trolls. I kind of liked the simplicity of the old large Troll and feel a repaint was probably unnecessary. Black is also kind of dark, and this is already a very dark set. However, the printing is nicely detailed, and I have come to like these special
Are these the first official Lego figs with tattoos?
Guarding each other's backs! (Probably because they're confused about which way is forward )
When they saved enough of their wages, the giant Trolls were finally able to afford a place of their own:
Also in Bag 1, we have the standard white horse and a few weapons stands and barrels with a key and turkey leg:
Three standard Crownies, nothing new here:
The Crowny King, with shiny sash-pants:
The King's double-sided torso:
On the Trolls side, we have 2 regular grunts. The Troll General is probably still off fighting in his siege wagon:
After all this time, we finally meet the Troll King and his nefarious Sorceress. Two new torsos - yays! The Advent Calendar witch now has a rival in the evil femme stakes :
The King and Sorceress both wear these ragged looking capes:
A better view of the great new faces. As I said, the figs are kind of dark, conceptually. King Troll has had one eye put out . That's kinda strong for non-violent Lego! Or maybe he was blinded by the Sorceress' beauty? Look at those luscious pouting lips and tell me you wouldn't like to pucker up:
I think the King and the Sorceress have a thing going, if you know what I mean. After a long day at the front, I bet he likes to come home and get her to tickle his sweet spot with her giant electric prong:
All our cast together. Take a bow!
Overall thoughts on the minifigs:
The Troll King and the sorceress are fantastic Ragged capes, the brown crown and the magic piece in a new colour all add to the uniqueness of this set. Printing the large Trolls wasn't necessary in my opinion, but again these are (at the moment) exclusive. The Crownies and generic Trolls are less inspiring, but OK as filler. I would have liked to have seen a third generic Troll soldier introduced, however, to make the ranks a bit more diverse, maybe with a slightly different head or torso. The King is an impressive looking figure, and I don't mind having extras with such nice prints. I am disappointed by the lack of accessories though - 2 Crown shields and only one Orc shield (used on the Fortress itself) The new dark brown spears aside, the rest of the weapons are fairly generic.
3: The build
I haven't included any build shots, as there are no intriguing special techniques. The Fortress is made up of the central gate, 2 gatehouses, 2 side walls and the rear tower, all connected by Technic pins. I will discuss these individual submodels as I go.
First up is the gate, with flaming torches and a macabre skeleton face adorning the top. The gate doors have a half-finished, thrown-together aesthetic which is appropriate for the chaotic Trolls. It's an impressive composition, almost cartoonish, and the colour gradation from dark green and bley to the wooden, blood-tipped teeth is handled well. I love the new fire pieces, too. I guess they also keep the guards in the gatehouses warm in winter :
Behind the gate, knobs control halberds which can be spun down to slice'n'dice unwary Crownies:
The large Troll gatehouses are next. The build is mirrored, which adds a little variety. The separate gatehouses really are intimidating looking! I love how they kind of look like squinting orcish faces, with a single eye in the centre formed from bley slopes. The hollowed out effect to allow room for the giant trolls is also impressives.
Here's the right gatehouse:
And the left, from a slightly different angle:
After two years and a myriad of excuses, we're still experiencing colour issues, as you can see with these tiles (which are actually what holds the Trolls feet in place) I've bought sets from the summer waves from both the US and Europe, so it isn't like this is confined to one production facility. I find it difficult to believe that after 2 years there are still such huge stockpiles of sub-par parts that need to be cleared out. (In this set, there's also an issue with dark bley; from Europe, yellow still glows). I don't normally mention this in my reviews, having faith that the problem would eventually be fixed, but I find it frustrating that after this long the problem is ongoing. Please, won't somebody think of the AFOLs?
The gatehouses in position. Looks like the front of 7094, doesn't it? :
From behind. Here you can see the rocky detail of the back of the gatehouses. It's great to have this extra level of detail and interchangeability. From this angle, the whole facade could be an abandoned, spooky mine working (hello, residents of Willoughby!)
The BURP sections can handily be folded completely back to sit flush with the gate tower, which is another versatile touch. I really like that the designers tried to make these submodels as playable as possible! Here's a view with the reduced frontage:
A close-up of the catapult area. I like the inverse dark brown arches to provide a brick-built, jagged castle roof effect. The poor trolls only get one 1x2 round brick ammo per catapult! They'll be slaughtered! Probably these shortages are due to trade embargoes on black bricks from the Crownies
Next up are these two side walls, which in my opinion are the weakest part of the set. They're a little plain-looking and a bit of a mish-mash of colours. I don't know if the light bley turret works as part of a rough mountain wall either , although as you'll see in some recombinations of the modular system, they do look quite effective. More of a problem is that these side walls are just one or two bricks low, and don't really give the impression of a heavily fortified mountain hideaway:
Behind, there is nothing but ladders. By now, you will have noticed the lack of interior detail in this set It is nice how the 1x2 log brick has been included to stop the ladders flopping into the interior of the mountain:
The Fortress extends!
Already it can be folded into interesting shapes. We call this one 'The Tricorn' :
The last part of the build is the Sorceress' Tower, which contains a little lab for her, the prison cell of the King and a pointy stone lookout. Here's the front:
There's nothing of note on the ground floor; further up, the Sorceress' lab contains a few potions, a spider, a bat, and a crystal ball. The lack of brick-built witchy paraphernalia is very disappointing. I don't understand how a relatively inexpensive special set such as the 7979 Advent Calendar can include several brilliant witchy submodels including a well-stacked shelf of potions and a cauldron, but the interiors of actual retail sets are a big bundle of suck.
The top two floors, showing the (bare) prison cell and the outlook:
*Mwahahah* She's evil! Pure evil!
4. The finished set
Connecting all the submodels, we now can view the finished Troll Fortress in all its glory. The resemblance to the King's Castle Siege is less once you've put it together. For a start, it's trapezoidal, not square! The whole thing is a bit more pinched and compressed looking, and is definitely smaller - but I don't think that's a bad thing as the central square of 7094 is devoid of detail:
Compared to the bley dominated scheme of the Crownies' residence, a riot of colour assaults the senses as you approach the Troll Fortress. Like the 7199, I felt that the mix of colours was a little random, but once the whole thing comes together the effect makes sense:
The Troll King is not afraid to face intruders directly:
Interior space is quite tight, as you can see from this overhead shot. However, the set is a lot stronger and easier to move than 7094. It is possible to pick the whole thing up and carry it from place to place without it falling apart, which was impossible with the larger (and weaker) King's Castle:
A three quarter view:
And side view:
The rear view, showing the Sorceress' Tower connected to the side walls. I am really impressed that the designers got all the rocks to line up so the back wall looks consistent : Fantastic work!
5. The three alternate arrangements from the box art
The emphasis in this set is on the modular system rather than specific play features. I think it works really well; far better than the kind of clumsy system found in 7094 where the walls didn't really meet together without some fiddling or the result looking a bit rough. Here the specific intention is to make as many combinations as possible, and here are the suggested combinations (you can see what they should look like from the pic at the start of this review):
A, with one long wall and the Tower at the back - from the angle I've taken the photo it is hard to see that the Tower is positioned well at the rear:
B, In this arrangement, the guardhouses are at the side, and the Fortress is enclosed:
C, An elongated defensive wall with gate and a bulked-up rear Tower:
And my own bonus model! The Trolls' Fortress can be combined with the other big lump of rock produced this year, 7199 Temple of Doom, for a truly crazed, almost Dali-esque architecture:
6. Overall Rating
This set ended up being very different to what I thought it would be. Generally, I liked it much better than I thought it would, although it is not without its share of problems. However, it definitely has potential for MOCing and ideally you'd need two to make the badass Fortress that the heretofore homeless Trolls deserve!
- Excellent modular design
- Much more flexible than 7094 King's Castle Siege in terms of modularity (can put together many combinations) and size (easy to pick up the whole thing and move place to place)
- Good mountain-building part selection
- Excellent unique figs
- Nice rocky detailing on back of models to give overall consistent appearance from any angle
- Bondage trolls!
- Build interesting and not too repetitive
- The box art looks nothing like the actual set in terms of arrangement
- Colour issues persist
- A little too many colours
- The side walls are kind of sucky
- Almost completely lacks interior detail
- And the number one bugbear, not mentioned elsewhere in the review: the decorative detail of the 1x1 red-brown cones with Viking horns have no sticking power but are absolutely everywhere, so you constantly have to reattach them when moving the set around - this is intensely irritating!
Overall, I'd give this set a very solid 8/10. Above average, but not quite perfect. Its grown on me over time, and I think it is a very respectable entry in the Castle series, and probably a must-have for Castle fans.