It seems the trend of mini-modular houses, which we first saw in last year's 7633 Construction Site and 7641 City Corner is set to continue. It is also nice to see the return to Lego City of the humble dwelling, which of late seems to have been farmed off to the minifigure-less Creator line; let's take a good first look at this brand-new offering from Lego City.
Official picture courtesy of Brickset:
Name: Family Home
Minfigs: 3 (+ 1 canine)
Price: £29.99 from Smyths Toys
Nothing Yet! 8403 is not yet listed on any of the dozen or so countries I tried.
Links ... Brickset ... Bricklink
The Box - Front
It looks like the blue-outline City box is here to stay. This one shows a nice diorama of the house against a faux-town background, laid out American-style in blocks. It's quite a large box for the price, measuring W 478 x H 280 x D 60 mm, or exactly the same size as the heavier (and £5 more expensive) 7937 Train Station.
It's a fairly busy rear, and again in keeping with recent city sets, shows off the modular construction and many play features. But Hey! can you spot what's NOT there? It won't be sadly missed, I'm sure!
It's worth zooming closer in on the bottom right panel:
Here we see the modular construction at work - sections of both 7633 and 7641 can be interspersed with floors from 8403, in some sort of mix-and-match building experiment which to my eyes doesn't look too successful.
What might be an advantage, if Lego chooses to continue this line, is that streets can be built up relatively cheaply, without having to save up for the Cafe Corner/Greengrocer line.
The long top features a spread-out view of the figures:
The grey triangle at the dog's feet is the apex of the gable of the house, where it has 'carried over' from the front.
Out of the box fall four numbered bags, a green baseplate (16x32), three large dark bley plates (6x16), a small sticker sheet and a single instruction manual.
If you compare the instruction cover to the box front, you'll notice it's (relatively) taller, so there is room for the whole house to fit on.
The instructions are simple, with only about 2-4 parts per step, no call-outs, and easy colour differentiation:
You'll notice we're already on step 25 - and page 44 - and still only on bag number 2.
There the usual parts inventory, which we've come to expect (picture is link to Hires):
There's an error in the inventory - there is only one of the flower sprue:
Otherwise, there are adverts for other City Sets, and the Airport line, and the back page again invites you to Win! Gewinne! Gagne!
Decal Sticker Sheet
The small sticker sheet features two solar panels, the house number, and the sun-city designs that would adorn the skateboard, if I had a mind to apply them. The solar panels are nice, though I wonder if the same effect could have been achieved with bricks (eg. grille tiles).
Bags 1 and 2 make up the 'ground' floor of the house, the garden features, and the figures:
Parts of note include three half-arches in dark brown, and eight 2x4 tiles in bley. It's nice also to get a tree. The only printed parts in these bags (figures aside) are an 'error-message' computer screen and a letter.
Bags 3 and 4 contain parts for the upper two floors:
Of note here are the four 'Prince of Persia' arches in white, and two more 2x4 tiles, this time in black. The two printed parts we'll come to later.
Leftovers after building:
No surprises here. Why do they put 4 flowers on a sprue, when there are only three stalks?
We get three figures and a dog, clearly representing a happy family:
The kid sports a freckly smiling face, and a hairstyle just like his dad's, but ... ginger? My knowledge of gentics must be a little flawed. Or he's adopted. Note he also wears the Hoodie torso first seen in January's 3177 Small Car. Dad (whose head print I don't recall seeing before) has a manly Weekend Beard (I approve of that!), and a torso widely available on LDD, last time I looked; Mum has a star-spanlged sunvest that I don't think suits her look, sporting as she does EVIL HAIR.
And from the back:
There is printing on mum's and son's torsos only. None of the figures have reversible heads.
We start with what I'll optimistically call 'the basement' - an area which serves to raise the ground by a brick. Notice that there are two 6x8 plates used here, when I'd have though a fourth 6x16 plate would have done the trick. Still, I'll be an old man before I stop asking why these things happen.
Next, we build the ground floor:
Construction is extremely simple at every stage, and is helped by the wall panels and large window pieces. Note the yellow 2x1 brick with side studs: this holds a computer screen on the inside, possibly representing a burglar alarm or thermostat or other home gadget, and the tile for the house number on the outside.
The awning is completed neatly from eight 4x1 bow pieces.
Looking inside, we can see some furnishings, which define this room as a kitchen/diner:
I love the simple sink and oven. Note how the grille tiles on the studs beneath look just like a hob. Genius!
The ground floor is finished off by adding the garden features:
We have a tree-house, some picket fence, a green recycling bin and mailbox. The lamppost upholds the latest modern design, like City Corner, and will give our streetlamp repair truck some more work to do. Fire hydrants too are in this season, and judging by the heavy Fire presence in Studsville they'll be needed. Plus it'll give Pooch somewhere to go.
The sun-lounger deserves special mention:
Nice! Just five pieces. The black wheel-arch contrives to sit at an angle, allowing the occupant to relax back and soak up the rays. It doesn't attach to the ground like this though, and is meant to sit loosely on the studs of the veranda.
The First Floor is designed as a lounge area. Construction is very similar to the ground floor, but with a second window pane instead of the door. Note the two 1x8 plates with a brick-wide extension which serve as handy guttering; praise here for the imaginitive use of pieces.
Here, the furniture consists of a sofa, a table/lamp and a chair replete with glasses; there is also a computer station.
The computer with its printed tiles deserves a closer look:
We've seen the 'error-message' computer screen both downstairs in this house, and also in the limo of this year's Helicopter/Limousine set, and the yellow truck; however, I for one haven't seen this computer keyboard before. If you look closely, you can make out the QWERTY keyboard, each key printed! Nice touch. I'm sure EB members will be quick to point out if it has featured elsewhere.
The Attic floor is a slightly more interesting build, having lots of dark bley roof parts:
A small bed and another table lamp are the only furniture in this rather cramped space. The solar panels consist of the two black 2x4 tiles arrached via hinges. I'm not sure where the fireplace is that feeds that chimney; perhaps it's in the missing 'back' of the house.
The Complete Set
Here we have it: a three-storey town house, complete with basement (beware low headroom); patio, with sun-lounger and awning; picket fence, tree house and a garden wall with an arch leading who knows where (possible a parallel dimension in which all houses have a rear wall):
Our Happy Family enjoy the balmy summer: Dad teases Pooch with a saveloy; Mum carries a letter that she keeps forgetting to post; son Ginger annoys the world on his skateboard. (Funny how every Lego kid has a skateboard? Must be something to do with the Skateboard shop only a short ride away on the 244 bus.)
Thoughts on the house itself: it's an interesting mix of styles; the overall shape would fit nicely in a town centre in the UK, but the modern full-length windows give it rather a European look, at least to my eyes. The side garden is perhaps a bit of a clash: you'd expect this to be a terraced house, with a back garden; still, it wouldn't be too much trouble to MOD it to your liking.
The side profile is narrow, as you might expect given this is actually half a house:
This angle shows off the pleasing effect of the PoP arches under the guttering.
Let's take a tour of the features:
Dad has a cuppa at the kitchen table, whilst Mum obeys the old stereotype by washing up a frying pan.
Later, Dad relaxes on the sofa, sipping a glass of wine, whilst Mum surfs the internet and Ginger pretends to be asleep:
Mum: 'Darling, which of these pairs of shoes should I buy, the red ones or the gold ones?'
Dad: 'Sssh, Love, I'm trying to watch the World Cup Final*.'
Mum: 'I know, I shall buy both.'
* NB. TV not included in set (it might be in the imaginary rear half.)
Earlier, they had enjoyed a relaxing day in the garden ....
Mum soaks up the sun; Dad undercooks the sausage and Ginge spies on the neighbours in the treehouse (though I'm not sure how he got up there).
A note to UK readers: that sausage on a fork strongly reminds me of this:
For the uninitiated: Grange Hill was a TV drama about a dysfunctional (ie ordinary) secondary school in North East London that ran in the 80s and 90s; the earlier shows featured a 'comic strip' opening sequence and the infamous flying sausage above.
Finally, Mum remembers to post the letter:
... but in her own mailbox..?
There you have it, a run-through of the latest offering in the City range. Personally, I'm delighted at the appearance of a new family home; non action-based sets don't come around very often, though I suppose they are necessary as somewhere for fires to start, and for burglars to burgle. I'm also pleased to see the continuance of the mini-modular building range, which despite its flaws and incomplete look does allow for inexpensive town expansion. Lastly, the addition of well-designed furniture is likely to be very well-received.
Design: 8/10 Despite its mix of styles, this is an attractive house. To me it's somewhat reminiscent of a mini-modular rendition of the classic 80s Holiday Home, and if you're tight on space, it has all the housey features with a reasonably small footprint. I'd rather spend a little more and get a 'complete' house, with a back wall, but at least the open back keeps the price down.
Build: 6/10 There isn't much for the AFOL in the build: it's big blocks and 6x1 brick on 6x1 brick all the way, although the furniture and in particular the sun-lounger brought a smile to my face.
Parts: 6/10 As a source of white blocks and grey roof tiles, this could be useful, but I don't think you'd necessarily buy this set for the parts, unless it's to add extra floors in the new mini-modular building craze the box predicts.
Minifigs: 7/10 These are nice figures; despite what I said about Dad's torso, I owned neither his nor Mum's before I bought this set, and I think Dad's head may be new (again, I'm more than happy to be corrected here). I'm also a little tired of the men's haircut, which seems to be very much the fashion, but it's nice to see it in ginger. I appreciate the dog - it's only my second - but a different colour would be nice. Maybe a black labrador?
Playability: 9/10 Nearly full marks here; there is lots of scope for arranging the figures to do interesting things; I had quite a lot of fun taking the photos for this review. There is also plenty of opportunity for integration with other sets, whether to expand a display or to give the other sets a focus: the bus has somewhere to go; the lamppost repairman has another lamppost to worry about; the fire and police finally have citizens to protect. However, I daresay this is a set that will appeal more to city-building AFOLs or FFOLs that you average 10-year-old boy.
Price: 8/10 This is reasonable value for £30; it certainly feels like you're getting a lot for your money, and I suspect some will buy a few of these to make a little street scene.
Overall: 73%. I'm not sure the score does it justice. I actually really like this set; I thouroughly enjoyed building it (and especially enjoyed reviewing it), and it felt - like with City Corner - a refreshing change. I do hope Lego continues with the mini-modular line, and brings us more places for the City residents actually to live.
I hope you enjoyed the review. Comments and criticisms, as ever, welcome; please do let me know your thoughts on the set.
To finish, there are consequences to spying on the attractive and scantily-clad neighbours:
Edited by Rufus, 13 July 2010 - 11:23 PM.