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Retro MOC: Merchants House


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#1 The_Cook

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 04:15 PM

The next set in a series in which I'm trying to create MOC's that look as if they could have been part of the Lego castle product lineup from the late 80's.

Design
I started out by revisiting one of the sets that I never had as a child, 6086 Black Knight's Castle. I'm not a fan of the raised baseplate castle but at the same time the baseplate forces them to be asymetrical which I am a fan of, it's why IMHO 6074 Castle Draco is far superior to 6080 Kings Castle. The baseplate reduces the connectability, the ability to join lots of little castles together to build one huge castle but at the same time it provides height for defensibility and it's why I use a slightly modified  6081 King's Mountain Fortress as the keep in my classic castle collection.

Within 6086 it was the small half timbered building at the back right that intrigued me, it's a wonderful little design detail and breaks up what could otherwise be a very monotonous black wall. I grabbed the instructions from Peeron and started assembling that corner of the castle in LDD.

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Without the raised baseplate (which isn't modelled in LDD) there's a great big hole beneath the buliding; so, whilst retaining the exterior detailing of the supporting arches, I filled in the space behind with a couple of 4444 panels. Something needed to be done to support the 'escape door' so another arch and black fence to act as a grille went in beneath the steps. The 'escape door' forced me to set the continuation of the enclosing wall back from the half timbered faces which mirrored the way that the wall was playing out on the far side of the building. Image below shows the escape door end of the building with the grille below and a matching grille in the roofspace.

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Originally I just fronted the lower space that had been created beneath the half timbered room with a big arch. The intention was that the merchant would store his good beneath his house, coincidentally this just happens to be historically correct merchants and artisans lived above their stores and workshops. A couple of treasure chests are placed into the lower room and I'm looking at it and thinking "what's to stop them from being stolen?" Which neatly solved the problem of what's the story behind this set, the wolfpack are out to steal the merchants wealth. At 8 bricks wide but only 6 bricks high all of the brown curved doors were the wrong size and I didn't want to extend the height of the building. I could have used the Door 1 x 4 x 6 that were available at the time but I didn't want to block the view into to room, the lure of treasure for my thief. Therefore a quick re-design placed some Door 1 x 4 x 6 Barred with Stud Handle across the front of the arch. These doors are a slight anachronism since they weren't available in the late 80's but I can't see a way of neatly fitting in those awful Door Frame 2 x 6 x 7 and associated bars that did exist at the time. They shoe-horned one into 6081 but it doesn't really fit with the surrounding 6 brick high 4444 panels and feels out of place. I also considered the arched doors but these would have overlapped into the room above, all three treatments that I actively considered are shown in the picture below:

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Following the 6086 instructions, the upper wall continues beyond the half timbered house. On 6086 this is along the baseplate, on my design this is at the top of a section of grey enclosure wall. I match the inverted 1x2x3 slope that is supporting the battlements by mirroring it with a buttress below. The buttress helps break up what would have been a very flat wall of
4444 panels
; even with the change in colour between top and bottom. Behind this upper wall a gallery is formed using wider than normal plates supported on 1x1x5 pillars. Quite by coincidence when photographing the model I discovered that the gallery marries very nicely (after the removal of the last crenelation on the top battlements) with the half timbered house at the back of 6074 Castle Draco. The photo's at the very bottom of the post illustrate the set combined with other models of the era.

Originally the roof colour was red, but sitting it alongside other buildings like 6074 Castle Draco or 6067 Guarded Inn the red stood out too much, so it got changed to black. On 6086 having a black roof would have made the entire castle too dark and the red makes a nice statement, in my build where there is a significantly less black and with the solid base of old grey that it has a red roof would just be too much colour.

Designs drawn up in LDD, .lxf attached to the post.
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Minifig selection wasn't as easy as the Maidens Tower. Ttwo guards were easy enough. The wolfpack figure is something of an anachronism as the Wolfpack line wasn't released until early 90's, but I feel that the Wolfpack steal more than the Forestmen. It was the merchant himself that presented much more of a challenge. Now, if I worked for Lego design studio I'd submit a torso design that would be sent down to the factory, turned it into screens for the printing machines and I'd have a couple of hundred my new torso's at the flick of a switch. As I don't work for the Lego design studio I'm stuck trawling through Bricklink looking for a more torso that could be used to create my Merchant minifig. I'm looking for something that still looks medieval but has a richer feel than the belt and pouch peasants that were the standard civilian minifig's in the castle range until the advent of the recent Kingdoms range. After perusing through a couple of hundred torso designs I decided that one of the
Prince Of Persia
torso's was nearest to my requirements. A copy of 7570 The Ostrich Race is duly sourced. I'm sure the Ostriches will eventually come in handy to create a Kings Menagerie at some point, I just need a bear and elephant to accompany them. Alternate hair as well as yellow hands and heads came from Bricklink. After trying a couple out, I finally settle on a bearded face, light gray legs and brown hair.
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Analysis
For those that haven't seen my earlier posting on The Maidens Tower the criteria that I'm working to are similar to those that the actual Lego designers would work to.
  • Story - Each set needs to have the ability to have it's own story constructed around it.
  • Playability - Sets need to be playable. To a certain extent this can trump reality, rooms that hands can put minifigs in are more important than accurate scale and/or making sure that every room has a door and that therer are stairs to reach the battlements. Little minds (or big ones for that matter) quickly fill in the irrelevant blanks to get on with important tasks of rescuing maidens, slaying dragons or stealing treasure.
  • Build-ability - Sets need to be build-able. If I can't provide sensible instructions for my creations then they can't be built. As a rule of thumb I should probably be looking at one instruction step for every 15 bricks in the creation. Therefore a 300 brick model would have at most 20 instruction steps.
  • Cost - All Lego sets are built to a budget. My Own Creations should try to fit the price bands that TLG aims for. As a rule of thumb the total cost of parts on BrickLink based on the BrickLink average should be the same as current sets cost. It's not an accurate measure, scarcity of parts on BrickLink pushes the price up, whereas the cost to TLG to produce a brick isn't constrained by it's rarity.
  • Consistency - The creations should be of a design that makes them consistent with sets released in the mid to late 80's, the Lion and Black Falcon era's.

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Story: With the inclusion of the barred doors to protect the treasure room and the thieving Wolfpack minifig there's a definitely story arc that can be played out, namely stealing the treasure.

Playability: Getting fingers into the lower chamber is a bit fiddly and there's an attic space that is also a bit inaccessible, but everything else is easy to get to. Perhaps some additional props would make it more enjoyable, a grappling hook for the wolfpack thief would allow him to scale the walls. At the time of photographing I hadn't added it, but the wolfpack thief should have one of the usual baskets on his back for carrying away the plundered loot.

Build-ability: LDD in it's infinite wisdom created a set of instructions the build the building downwards from the roof gables. Needless to say, I didn't get very far with those instructions and had to create sensible instructions in LeoCAD that built from the baseplate up. Nothing to complex or strenuous about the build, all done within 20 steps. The roof assembly is a little fiddly but it's not that complex compared to some of the more modern techniques that are now prevalent. The LDD file attached should anyone want to recreate it.

Cost: The Merchants House comes in at 204 pieces raw, approx. 240 once Minifigs and accessories have been included. It's 1986 equivalent would be the 6067 Guarded Inn, the nearest modern equivalent would be 7188 King's Carriage Ambush with an RRP of £36. It should be noted that although the Kings Carriage Ambush has a piece count of 286 the modern build techniques used tend to favour lots of smaller pieces rather than the use of large panels that was predominant in the late 80's so the big pieces used in the Merchants House balance out the larger number of pieces in the Kings Carriage Ambush.

Consistency: I think it fits in well between my Maidens Tower and Castle Draco, hopefully that can be seen from the photo's. I don't have a large enough piece of white to sit the Fortified Inn alongside them but it should also match up.

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Conclusion

I'm very happy with the design overall. Whilst in many respects it's just a big long bit of wall there's enough variation in depth , height and colour to stop it being monotonous. It has some storyline to it and it fits that unwritten criteria of being compatible with the rest of my late 80's castle collection. Ideally the barred doors would be dk-grey or black, unfortunately all I had available was bley and my budget can't stretch to sourcing the bars in dk-grey at the moment.

Trying to put together a custom minifig was enjoyable but the Minifig collectors are pushing the cost of spare parts up compared with the cost of new or used bricks. I'll have to keep custom minifigs to a minimum in my builds, but then that's a rule that the Lego designers probably have to live with as well.

Again please judge it against the boundaries that I've set for myself and would have been applied to retail sets of the era, rather than the insanely intricate detailing that you'll find in this forum's moc's.

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#2 AndyC

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 06:09 PM

I like it, I think the only thing I'm not sure about is the panels behind the arches at the base, I think because it obscures the windows in a way that doesn't look so good. It very impressive given the limitations you set yourself and I really like the idea of building out the raised baseplates in some of these old sets, it really creates an interesting final product.
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#3 drakke

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 06:14 PM

Great, great work.
Im a huge fan of 6074 black falcons fortress (I recently adquired it) and I love the variations and "Add-ons" that you are making. Looking forward to your next 80`s idea!

#4 Llew

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 07:32 PM

I really love your ideas and creations. It's a good way for mocing from a limited amount of bricks.
I think the house as a set would be better without the black wall. Insted of it, a standard one panel high wall with a tower like one in the 6062 http://www.brickset....ail/?Set=6062-1 or the original corner tower from the 6086 would be nice.

Off
For the pictures I suggest flickr or brickshelf.

#5 The_Cook

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 03:36 PM

Once a designer declares "This is it! My masterpiece! The ultimate model!" the next thing he's likely to hear is his colleague saying, "It's the wrong colour and the thingies are waaaay too small!" and thus begins the process of peer review. Then engineering get hold of it and tell you that your construction techniques are going to break the bricks, technical design get hold of it and tell you that there's no way they can create instructions that will ever make sense and finally the play-test kids tell you it's boring and that they want more fire-engines...

I'd honestly love to know how many alternative variations get developed in the design studio before the final production ready design is actually chosen. My suspicion would be many weeks of revisions. If we're being true to the rest of the design ethos that I've already outlined then peer-review and revision are just another part of that process.

View PostAndyC, on 16 January 2012 - 06:09 PM, said:

I like it, I think the only thing I'm not sure about is the panels behind the arches at the base, I think because it obscures the windows in a way that doesn't look so good. It very impressive given the limitations you set yourself and I really like the idea of building out the raised baseplates in some of these old sets, it really creates an interesting final product.

Yes, you're probably right. The obscured windows had been niggling at me as well, but I'd held onto the 4444 panels out of habit. At 5 studs width there's no way that the 4444 panels will center neatly within the arches, so I'll probably change them to a large 1x6x5 brick and whatever else is needed to fill the gaps.

At the same time another thing that had been bugging me was the fence beneath the 'escape door' which wasn't centered either. Use of a Window 1x2x2 2/3 with Rounded Top is anachronism as they didn't appear until 1996, but at 2 studs wide it's a better fit even if the  

View PostLlew, on 16 January 2012 - 07:32 PM, said:

I really love your ideas and creations. It's a good way for mocing from a limited amount of bricks.
I think the house as a set would be better without the black wall. Insted of it, a standard one panel high wall with a tower like one in the 6062 http://www.brickset....ail/?Set=6062-1 or the original corner tower from the 6086 would be nice.

Interesting thought. My original intention had been to keep a bit of height in the system. Often the 80's castle walls feel very low, whilst the modern designs such as 8877 Vladeks Dark Fortress do a very good job of getting height into the designs for a very low brick count through inventive use of sloped panels and BURPS.

A half hour of playing with the desing in LDD yielded the following. On the plus side it gives plenty of connection options allowing both straight line and right angle connections. The downside is that the brick budget has gone up to 283 bricks which would push it into the next price-point. Not a real concern, but one of my longer/larger goals is to try and have a product line-up that encompasses each of the price-points.

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All of the above was done on the underground whilst commuting into the office, so no access to Peeron. File for ldd attached below. With hindsight what I should probably have done, and might try this evening, is to loose the upper gallery completely and add on the 6062 tower design complete with it's articulation.

I've got some more yellow half-timbered panels on order with Bricklink so perhaps next week's posting might be a side-by-side comparisson of various options and alternatives.

View PostLlew, on 16 January 2012 - 07:32 PM, said:

For the pictures I suggest flickr or brickshelf.
Noted, he use of Imageshack is a hangover from my time on a different forum. I tried to use links directly to the images, is Imageshack introducing popups? I haven't had any problems with them using Firefox with Adblock and NoScript.

I've got a MOCPages account awaiting approval where my creations should eventually appear. I'll have to investigate their linking policy to make sure I can crosslink from here.



Thanks for all for the constructive criticism, I'll keep evolving this design for a little while longer.

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#6 branolego

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 07:04 PM

i love how the wolf bandit is sneakily waiting to steal the goods.
your what would have  additions are simply fantastic.
these sets were always my favorite as a child.  your sets add
just that much more.
keep up the wonderful work. look forward to more.

#7 SirSven7

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 12:02 AM

wonderful builds all of them, I wish LEGO would do a retro range (revamp old sets) they could use your build as insperation.
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#8 The_Cook

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:19 PM

View PostSirSven7, on 22 February 2012 - 12:02 AM, said:

wonderful builds all of them, I wish LEGO would do a retro range (revamp old sets) they could use your build as insperation.

I wish they would but the days when the 4444 panel reigned supreme are long gone; the building techniques and detail that we've come to expect are a world apart from what Lego was producing in the 80's.

#9 Jesperallen

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 05:00 PM

Brings back nice memories, had the whole series as a kid and enjoyed them very much. I think you have made great additions that would have fitted well in the long castle walls I´m sure many of us put together. Thank´s for inspiration and memories!

#10 SirSven7

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 06:35 PM

View PostThe_Cook, on 22 February 2012 - 04:19 PM, said:

I wish they would but the days when the 4444 panel reigned supreme are long gone; the building techniques and detail that we've come to expect are a world apart from what Lego was producing in the 80's.

very true, but a man can dream though, a man can dream  :pir-sad2:
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#11 chelman

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 11:42 PM

I really dig this whole approach. Whilst I'm I really enjoy looking at 'modern' highly stylized MOCs, I think that I prefer the classic look and feel for playability. Also it feels better to do something with what you have, rather than splashing out $1000 on bricklink and S@H to get all of the latest pieces and apply all of the latest techniques. ;)

#12 natesroom

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 12:24 AM

Cook i am very impressed with this one and the variation that you also did.. I like that you did the archways with no windows.

#13 The_Cook

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 06:43 PM

View Postchelman, on 12 May 2012 - 11:42 PM, said:

I really dig this whole approach. Whilst I'm I really enjoy looking at 'modern' highly stylized MOCs, I think that I prefer the classic look and feel for playability. Also it feels better to do something with what you have, rather than splashing out $1000 on bricklink and S@H to get all of the latest pieces and apply all of the latest techniques. ;)

Thank you. I've been a bit remiss lately and my Eurobricks postings are a little behind what's on my MOCPages feel free to head there and see the other 12 moc's that make up my 80's revival.

I do have to admit to picking up quite a bit on Bricklink in order to put together these MOC's. My childhood lego collection disappeared a long time ago so I've been rebuilding my stocks since. Old grey is getting harder and harder to come by in quantity.

Edited by The_Cook, 13 May 2012 - 06:44 PM.


#14 Venunder

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 06:59 PM

An impressive series of MOC's which could be built quite easily? if you have some of the older castle sets. :thumbup:

#15 soccerkid6

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 07:14 PM

From the thought you put into these it is obvious you are dedicated to this project  :thumbup:  Excellent work on making realistic sets.
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#16 Brinstar

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Posted 13 May 2012 - 08:52 PM

This is a really cool MOC and a definite throw back to the era of classic castle. I like the way you have used the half-timbered room from 6086 as the basis of your design, I agree that is one of the best parts of an exceptional castle. I'm particularly fond of the tower and think you have used the red timbered pieces to particularly good effect. The overall look of the set is very faithful to 80s castle and I think this would have made a nice addition to that lineup.  :classic:

#17 Tria

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 06:32 PM

Wonderful!

#18 surixurient

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 10:34 PM

This is a favorites of the series and a great reuse of an element from another set, something that I try to do myself.  I like the fact that it has a double-high wall on one side and regular wall on the other.   I'd add this to my city (when I get around to making a black falcon or gray-walled city).

Edited by surixurient, 02 April 2014 - 10:34 PM.


#19 kevin1990

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 08:00 AM

What a great MOC! You really managed to get the 80's look. Really cool :D
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