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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.