Number – 3189
Name – Heartlake Stables
Theme – Friends
Year – 2012
Minidolls – 2
Pieces – 413
Price – Not yet known
Links: BrickLink, Brickset – Not yet listed, Peeron - Not yet listed, Shop@Home - Not yet listed
With the launch at the beginning of this year of the LEGO Friends line, aimed mostly at girls, we were introduced to the world of Heartlake City, and the five Friends: Olivia, Mia, Stephanie, Andrea and Emma. We had the opportunity to build some of the places where they live, play and work and the beginnings of a new world were taken into the hearts of so many, not least me. With this apparent success, controversy notwithstanding, LEGO have already released pictures of the summer wave of sets to further expand this exciting new world. Indeed these new sets have already started appearing on shelves in some places, and once again there are a wide variety of builds on offer. Here is an early look at one of the larger sets, Heartlake Stables, but have TLG sat on their laurels, or have they enhanced and expanded an exciting new line? Read on to find out more...
So I think we’re all acquainted now with the shape and colour of Friends boxes; our eyes have become accustomed to the vibrant purple and bright colourful scenes. The quirky shape of the Friends boxes has not been lost, they retain their bevelled sides, and the now familiar speckles of flowers, paw-prints and butterflies remain subtly evident. The set is displayed in full, with verdant countryside in the background, setting the scene for the stables.
Those of you with sharp eyes might notice this inset, showing the characters available in this set. Obviously we have Mia, and we're much more familiar with her by now, but looooook! We have a new character, and she's called Katharina! We'll meet her properly a bit later on.
There's just so much to see on the back of the box. It's bright and colourful, but with all the information carefully laid out so it's still clear to see. Firstly you can see that each of the bags contained within contain parts for discrete portions of the set. Then there are numerous views of the set itself, including the various play-features - some of which we'll look at more closely shortly, and then we have a nice large picture of Mia, the star of this particular set, with instructions on how to construct her, but there are also smaller pictures of her other Friends and their associated sets along the bottom. Finally we also have a small but noticeable advert for LEGOFriends.com. Quite a lot of information, but very nicely arranged and proportioned.
One of the insets has a variety of interesting pieces highlighted, and many of these pieces are dark pink, with a couple stickered, but there's still a few interesting items to whet your appetite even if you don't like pink.
And here we have one of the play-features highlighted, charmingly illustrating how the characters can interact with the set. It will become more obvious later whereabouts in the set the girls are lounging.
The top of the box has a great picture of the two characters along with the animals in the set. Mia is about to get a cold horse nose on her neck as she strokes the kitten, while Katharina smacks the other horse on the nose with a carrot. Adjacent to this display is the usual 'actual size' picture, using Mia as the model. The bottom of the box merely displays the necessary safety and manufacturing information.
The right and left sides of the box are left fairly plain, although the purple still has the small motifs of flowers and paw-prints, butterflies and stars. The right side of the box has a bright advert for the LEGOClub.com, using a Mia lookalike as the poster girl. The LEGO Club website is a unisex website for kids with magazine articles, building instructions and even interviews with Master Builders and its inclusion here further demonstrates to me that, while Friends may be marketed for girls, TLG certainly don't therefore consider their other sets or resources as exclusively for boys as a result.
There are two instruction booklets included in the box, and this is the first, which is obvious because it says so at the bottom right. I must say, right here, that my instruction booklets were horribly mangled. They were bent and misshapen, and in a dreadful condition. When I opened 3315: Olivia's House, I delighted that the instructions and sticker sheet were enclosed in plastic with cardboard backing to keep them pristine. Not so here, and you can see that no unfortunate events have befallen the outside of the box, so I think blaming transit on their sorry state to be unfair. Anyway, the front of the first instruction booklet shows exactly the same scene as the front of the box.
The first inside pages of this booklet show an arrangement of insets of the five Friends (the five 'Core' Friends now? ) along with sets that describe their interests. This actually affords us a sneak peak at some of the new sets (and new parts) we can expect in the summer wave of sets. The opposite page has the boooooring instructions to not build on carpet, and not mix the bags and not cross the streams....
The last inside pages of this booklet show you how far in the build this instruction booklet takes you (to the completion of Bag 2 of 3). You can see the booklet has delicate paler swirls and butterflies in lavender, that don't intrude in the detail of the instructions (which by this point are really just adding lovely details) but do make the pages themselves more appealing.
The back of this first booklet has two Gagne children; girls, friends, playing together and being lovely and non-shouty. The girls TLG have used for the Gagne adverts are a million times more pleasant that that awful brat boy-child used on all their other sets. Please, TLG, replace him and use the girls. To spare our eyes. You can also see the severe curl to the instruction booklet from it's dire mangling inside the box. I'm sure I'll moan about that more.
The front of the second instruction booklet is almost identical to the first; it has the same scene again from the front of the box, which remains colourful and cheerful. The difference, aside from the obvious fact that there's a '2' at the bottom right, is that the surface area of this booklet is larger. At opening this booklet, you've built two of the three bags, yet this booklet is larger, however the reason for this is actually that the third model is bigger than either of the other two models, so it's actually an attempt from TLG to save paper on the first booklet where smaller pages can be used. Very sensible, very eco-friendly, high commendable.
The back pages of this booklet have some sets from the first and second waves, along with demonstrations of the figures available in each set, and a handy check-box to tick when you've got them. Once again Mia's lookalike (Nina!) is advertising the LEGO club website and magazine, but this time more specifically for girls and Friends. I also notice from this that Australia and New Zealand fans have to pay for their subscriptions, which seems quite unfair to me: that only those two nations are singled out.
One of the joys of the instruction booklets in Friends sets is the inclusion of a full parts inventory. The lavender background doesn't detract from the colours of the parts at all, and it's a really useful addition.
The back page of the second instruction booklet has a sweet picture of our friendly Friends together, and they are once again peddling the Friends.com website.
So once again you can see the utter mangling of the paper contents of the box. This sticker sheet is still twisted and bent, and I had to rescue one of the butterfly stickers from the back of one of the instruction booklets. Aside from that, the sticker sheet has plenty of stickers, some with fine detailing, like Mia's certificate. The stickers tell us that the horses are called Bella and Niki, and the themes are very much horses, flowers and butterflies.
This set comes with three (three!) bright green 16x16 plates, and these have become common in a few other Friends sets (3942: Heartlake Dog Show; 3188: Heartlake Vet; 3065: Olivia's Treehouse) but I also know they aren't strangers to CREATOR sets either, having recently discovered one in 7346: Seaside House.
There are three numbered polybags, and a fourth polybag in which you can glimpse some dark red tiles and a couple of horses. You can occasionally see parts of the minidolls, which are once again encased in their own private protective polybags, and additionally there are smaller polybags in each with some smaller pieces for each build. However, it's probably better to have a look at the pieces out of the polybags.
Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, those really are dark red 8x16 tiles. Really. And yes, there really are two of them. And unlike any other 8x16 tile you may have seen before, there are tubes entirely covering the underside of these tiles. So we're off to a flying start with the parts.
The horses come in the same bag as the dark red plates, and because it seems logical I've included the little cat here too. The same cat has already appeared in 3065: Olivia's Tree House and she's sort of cute, but also sort of evil looking. That aside, there's really nice detailing in the printing, not just with the stripes on the head but also the stripes on the tail, and of course the cat's face with its varied colours. We've met the dark orange horse before in 3188: Heartlake Vet and in this set we learn that her name is 'Bella'. 'Niki' is her dark brown counterpart, and hasn't been seen before. She is a new horse, which is appropriate for a Stables set. Both horses have a 2x2 cutout that can either be filled with a 2x2 plate and 2x2 curved top brick in the matching colour, or by one of the saddles included in the set.
With the colour matched parts in place, they are much more convincing as horses. They both have the same sweet printed eyes, and the mould of the Friends horses fits the SYSTEM scale somewhat better than the previous horse incarnations in Belville or Scala. It seems odd to me that LEGO would release two new moulds for horses within such a relatively short space of time, the other being the horse now appearing in various Lord of the Rings sets. The Friends mould is smoother, more rounded, and perhaps cuter. There is strangely more detail and playability with the LOTR horses, however, overall I prefer the look of the Friends horses.
You can see that there is more detail in the moulding of the hair: the mane and the tail, and indeed having a black mane and tail on the dark brown horse makes the horse more realistic. Despite not having movable legs, the mould of the horse makes it look more dynamic, and the printed expressions on their faces make them seem more 'alive' than their LOTR counterparts.
The contents of the first bag decant to reveal a bright and colourful assortment of parts. Firstly, all the dark pink Friends accessories have been seen before in 3942: Heartlake Dog Show however, they were medium lavender in that set. The hand truck has been around for a while, but it hasn't been seen in dark pink before. There are a few other unusual and scarce bits and bobs here. We have a nice lime green basket, a lovely medium blue tub, and a pair of bright pink doors which have only been seen in 3318: Heartlake Vet before. The 1x1x3 brick with vertical clips has made an appearance in a number of the new sets of this year, but has only been seen once before in yellow, back in 2008. There's yet more 1x1 bricks with vertical clips in medium blue - new for this year, and previously encountered in 7346: Seaside House. The fences are always welcome, and nobody will say no to jumper plates, tiles, silver 1x2 grilles and tan bricks. A good mix.
The second bag builds a structure very similar to the first, and so there's a lot of repeating of parts from the first bag, however considering that there are some great pieces here, that's actually a good thing. There's a second 2x8 dark red slope, which isn't rare at all (especially if you have 5766: Log Cabin) but it's nicer to have two in a set than one, and there's a small group of other dark red pieces too. There's a quartet of 2x2 light bluish-grey macaroni pieces, and a cute little red 1x1 bucket - new for 2012 and found in at least one other Friends sets from the summer wave. There are two pieces of string with end studs, not new or rare I admit, but always handy to have around. All in all, another nice mix of pieces.
The third bag has some obviously new pieces, notably the saddles in medium blue and bright pink, and also the bridles that also specifically fit the Friends horses. The window lattices aren't new, but they haven't been seen in medium blue before, and the tan 1x12x3 arches are difficult to get your hands on. There's a lovely dark pink Belville bucket that we haven't seen since 2003, and the medium blue ladder (of which there has been one in each of the three bags) has only been seen once before in 3065: Olivia's Tree House. There is a huge number and variety of tan parts here too, which, when added to the tan from the other bags, gives a good sized tan collection.
Being a reasonably large set, there are two minidolls included. You've already had a sneak peek at Katharina, but we'll have a look at Mia first.
Mia is... exactly the same as the Mia we've met before in 3188: Heartlake Vet, which is a little disappointing really. The minidolls are intended to be the stars of the sets and the characters of the five Friends are the main marketing tool to draw girls in. The ability to mix around the minidolls' outfits is surely one of the alluring aspects of these sets to little girls, plus the 'collectability' factor in collecting various different outfits for each Friend. The outfit is nice, with sweet printing of butterflies and a paw-print, and Mia looks summery and playful.
Although Mia may not have a new outfit, she does have a new hair piece, or hat, to be more exact. I'm really glad they didn't just use this hat piece alone, and not include any hair, and having both allows Mia to be Mia, or to fit in better with the environment of the Stables. Safety first, no riding horses without a riding hat, although her pony tail looks a little shorter and she looks a little like she has sideburns.
Say hello to Katharina, who clearly lives and breathes horseriding. She has bright blue eyes and blonde hair underneath her riding hat, and her outfit is very equestrian. There's some lovely silver printing on the torso to bring out the details of her riding jacket and shirt, and from behind, her jodhpurs have the same moulded pockets as Peter did in 3315: Olivia's House. Her riding hat is exactly the same mould as Mia's, except with blonde hair, and in both cases there is a small attachment hole at the back for the various Friends accessories. She looks every bit the horse-rider.
One of the first things to assemble as part of the build is to attach the green jumper plates to the feet of the fences. Yes, it's basic, but don't judge this set on this preliminary step. There are plenty of non-Friends sets out there that require a few simple steps, and adding the green gives a little detail to the fences ('countrifies' them, if you will) and every step of construction, even down to piecing together a single minidoll, is included in the instructions. Think of this as a simple step to ease the builder into the process.
The next item to build is one of the horse jumps. The lime green is employed as the grassy base, while yet another inventive use of garage roller doors forms the removable bars of the jump itself. The colours are a little garish for my eyes, but it's a small part of the set, and in itself a satisfying little build.
The pink hand truck (trolley, really) gets its wheels and the added yellow 1x2 grille brick looks convincing as a bale of hay. Knowing there are more of these bricks to see in the build made me think that was a great idea for use of that part.
The rest of the parts come together to form one of the stables (Bella's stable), with a nicely detailed surrounding area. Here you can see more of the 'haybales' with evil kitteh made more evil by the addition of the dark pink bow. An amused frog looks on, possibly contemplating playing in the water tub with all the brushes and other accessories. Built into the stable wall is an attachment (using the 1x1 medium blue brick with vertical clip) for holding the pitchfork, in case remedial action is necessary to prevent bad kitteh from taking over the world. Of course there are flowers, but this is the countryside after all; they add some nice detail.
The stable doors are two doors high, and along with the bright pink tiles and dark pink accessories constitute the entire pinkness of this part of the build. The white tile on the lower door is supposed to have the sticker with Bella's name on it, and the rosette signifies Bella as 'Number 1 horse', or maybe just the stable is stable number one. The rosettes can be taken out and pinned into the horses, as you'll see later. There's also supposed to be a sticker on the yellow flag, but I have a pathological aversion to stickers. The 2x2 light bluish-grey tiles form stepping stones in the grass, and give the impression of a more functional 'yard'.
At the back there's a green space for Bella to stand in her stable, and the variation in the colours of the bricks used give the impression of rustic stonework (a bit), although the medium blue brick looks somewhat incongruous. It's great to have the new colour of that part, but although they don't come in tan, they do come in white, and that might have looked better. The lime green basket hooks onto the fence to provide a receptacle for the carrot, in case Bella gets peckish, and is again a sweet little detail.
At the back, the medium blue ladder forms a sort of gate, and thus potential escape route for Bella. It's attached by an antenna, which itself is attached to the set by two of the 1x1 medium blue bricks with vertical clips. Again, I don't understand why they have to be medium blue, aside from that part being new in that colour. Having the antenna situated where it is looks a bit odd, unattached to anything at its base. It would be possible, however, to add further plates behind the set (to maybe form a paddock for the horses?) and the antenna base would fit just fine and still perform its function.
Having completed the first build, there were quite a few dark pink accessories and other bits and bobs left over. It occurred to me that it would be logical to put all of the accessories together, and that's why there are a few leftovers, so we'll have a proper look at all the leftovers once the entire set is built.
Bag 2 Build
The first item built from the second bag is another horse jump, but it's very different to the first. The theme for this one is blue, rather than red, and the bars, so simply made from a plate and some tiles, are a great design. They could have made exactly the same horse jump in blue rather than red, but they didn't, they designed a new one and I like this one better. It's less pink, for a start, the only actual pink being the dark pink flags.
The bars rest on the modified plate handles so, like the other horse jump, the bars can realistically be 'knocked off' in play. The addition of the flowers and greenery also make it look like a realistic horse jump, and also add a bit of green detail to the set as a whole. This, like the other horse jump, is a fun little mini-build.
Starting round the back of the second stables, once more there's a lime green basket with a carrot for Niki, and instead of a mismatched wall with medium blue, the detail for the wall this time is provided by two dark pink mugs. There's the same space for Niki as there was for Bella, and the walls of the stable are similarly rustic looking.
This is essentially a mirror image of the first build, only with the detailing changed. There are more flowers around, with the yellow flower heads tempering the pink nicely. The back fence and medium blue 'gate' are the same, but there's a really nice SNOTed dark red curved brick making a feeding trough.
Again the 1x3 white tile should have a sticker on it, this time with Niki's name, and Niki is in stable number 2, according to the rosette on the stable door. There's another sticker required on the flag on top, to make this nicely symmetrical with the first build, and there are more 2x2 bluish-grey plates forming paving stones dotted here and there.
You've been looking at it the whole time, haven't you? I've been talking about all the other stuff, but you've been looking at the well. Well (no pun intended) it is the most prominent feature of this build. You can't see this from any angle, either in photographs, or real life, but the well is actually built around a 2x2 round blue plate, which isn't strictly necessary, but when you build it, you know it's there!
So let's have a closer look at the well. The red bucket perches on the side, with a 1x1 round trans light blue plate to signify water in the bucket, and the string firmly attaches the bucket to the well lest it be lost in the watery depths that you know are there. It's a really cute little design, my only concern is that the colour combination of red, dark red and bright pink looks a bit, wrong. The pink looks like it's there to make it girly, but it would have worked so much better, I feel, if the little roof of the well had been dark red, and the bucket pink. We do have to consider, though, that these parts are used across sets, and introducing a new part (such as a pink 1x1 bucket) would need to be transferable across sets. Anyhow, aside from the slightly jarring colours, it's a nicely designed well.
Bag 3 Build
Now you see where all that tan from the third bag goes, it makes a barn! The vast number of left over dark pink accessories are stored in the chest at the front, so they weren't technically leftovers, and that's why I didn't bother with a 'leftovers from Bag 2 picture'. Inside the barn, there's space to hang both the bridles and places for both of the saddles to sit, ready for use, once again utilising 'haybales'. The wall of tan should be decorated with the two large stickers of flowers in planters, and the front panels of the barn (made by the sides of the tan slopes) have a few butterfly stickers applied. Thanks to the use of the tan panels, none of the stickers are applied over more than one piece, meaning the stickers aren't ruined if the set is dismantled.
I wasn't ignoring the dark red roof tiles, they are designed to open and allow access inside. The lovely thing is that there's actually something inside to find when you open the model; there's a hayloft with more haybales, and Mia's dark pink book (lacking it's sticker) hidden waiting. With the dark red tiles elevated, you can see that they really do have tubes entirely covering the underside. They are attached to the roof by one of these in white which is new in this colour for 2012.
From this angle you can see more of the 'haybales' in the hayloft, and that the third medium blue ladder is used to gain access to the same. The bright pink tile on the front of the barn should also have a sticker on it, but doesn't look terrible without, and the dark pink bucket out front makes itself useful by acting as a receptacle for apples.
Round the side we can see those medium blue window lattices in place, and although the white detailing around the window add as country feel to the design, the pieces are functional too on the inside. The slopes make struts out to the side, and aren't strictly necessary for the structure, but again make the model appealing and rural.
And yup, the other side opens too, giving you a perhaps more proportionate view of the hayloft and Mia's unattended dark pink book. You can have both sides of the roof open together, however it does tend to make the model look like it's about to fly away, which is silly.
At the back of the model you can see where the other bridles should hang, on the modified white 1x2 late with the arm up, and where the other saddle should sit, on the yellow 2x2 yellow jumper plate. The yellow parts in the roof do look a little out of place, but overall it's a pleasing model.
I've tried to emulate the various scenes in the instructions and the front of the box in these completed build pictures. There are two depictions of the completed set at the end of the instructions and this is the first such scene. The barn fits in the middle, with the first and second builds respectively on the left and right sides. Katharina, now with a pink bow in her hat, rides Niki around the rectangular enclosure, jumping the horse jumps and staying within the fences. Mia seems to have forgotten where she's going as she's stood, stock-still, in front of a bemused Bella. The set arranged in this way makes the stables as a whole actually look quite large. The barn in the centre actually looks quite imposing, but thanks to the open centre of the building, it still looks airy and light.
As the plates at the base of each of the three builds aren't joined, the sections can be rearranged into new configurations. This is the second scene at the end of the instructions, and I assume its purpose is to encourage rearrangement of the elements. Mia now hides with her book in the hayloft; the open roof makes the barn seem lighter still. Bella is free from captivity in her stable and investigates the now curved enclosure with Niki, while Katharina looks on. The stables look nice side-by-side and if you wanted to join the plates together then it would take little effort to move some of the 2x2 light bluish-grey tiles. The arrangement of the horse jumps makes more sense in this arrangement, as they are supposed to be jumped sequentially. The really odd thing, though, is that in this configuration, the set as a whole doesn't actually look all that pink. It becomes easier to pick up that the majority of the pink is purely surface detail.
The is the scene from the front of the box, and is probably my favourite. It's very similar to the first; the arrangement of the elements is the same, but it's the detailing that's different. The picture on the front of the box is intended to show the dynamic aspects of the set, and here the characters are interacting more with the environment. Mia is simultaneously feeding an apple to Bella, whilst acknowledging Katharina waving to her as she canters around on Niki. The elements are slightly squished together, to squeeze them all into the view of the camera. The dark pink bucket is more prominent and contains the two crisp carrots that would otherwise be hidden. Bad kitteh surveys her domain from the roof of the stables ready to pounce, and the little frog has hopped down onto the haybales to observe any ensuing carnage.
Having built the entire set, there are a few pieces left over, mostly flower heads and stalks, along with some bright pink plates and a cheese wedge. The most surprising thing is to have a spare string left over. String is relatively expensive for TLG to manufacture, as they outsource the actual string part and then have to bring it in and mould the stud attachments to either end, so to have a spare here seems rather generous. I'm not offering to send it back, though.
Design 9/10 The stables could have been designed as one continuous building block, but instead they are arranged in modules, that can be rearranged and reconfigured. There are clear, actual stables, but addition of the barn as a tack room and the two horse jumps make the set so much more. Each stable has different and relevant detailing, and the large barn is light and airy, and detailed inside. As with other Friends sets, the pink is really surface detailing, and not overpowering. The stable doors are perhaps the biggest contributors to the pinkness, but maybe one day they'll be seen in yellow or reddish brown?
Parts 9/10 Once again, like other Friends sets before, there's a vast array of colourful pieces, not just pink. There's plenty of parts now available in new colours, not just items like the dark pink accessories, but also the 4x4 plate with clips and the little red bucket. There are a good number of pieces that are difficult to get hold of, and a large quantity of tan which is often desirable. The horses, frog, cat, apple and carrots, pitchfork and so many of the other detailing parts fill out an already impressive selection of parts.
Figures 7/10 Two minidolls is exactly the right number for the set, especially as there are two horses. Katharina is exciting as a new character, clearly she's not really a new Friend, she's an additional character just like Olivia's parents Anna and Peter are, and her presence fills out the world of Heartlake City. She has a nice torso, with pleasant detailing, and her riding helmet with blond hair suits her well. It would have been nice if she'd also been supplied with alternative hair, but she wasn't. Mia, on the other hand is slightly disappointing. We've met this Mia before, we want a new outfit for Mia. I think TLG have missed a trick with this; little girls like dressing up dolls and collecting, so to have each of the Friends released in a new outfit each time would be expensive, but I bet it would help the sets fly off the shelves. Maybe there's no need to, they're already flying off the shelves as it is.
Build 8/10 The whole build was fun. I like having sections in separate and discrete bags, although I appreciate it isn't to everyone's taste, as it appeals to my OCD. Each of the stables has a smaller build in the form of horse jumps, also fun to build and perfect to keep a younger sister happy. The buildings themselves employ occasional interesting techniques, such as SNOT, and are no easier or more difficult than some of the CREATOR sets. Just as I said in my Olivia's House review, the build is most certainly not 'dumbed down' for girls. One of the most difficult things I've had to do with LEGO was actually the very last step of the instructions here; putting the bridle on Niki. It doesn't sound much, and I got there in the end, but it was a bit of a struggle.
Playability 8/10 There's plenty to play with here, as so much is provided. There are accessories for grooming the horses, and a water tub for washing too. The large number of bows and rosettes can be attached to the minidolls and the horses both, and when your horses and dolls are ready they can trot around the yard and jump the horse jumps, knocking off the bars if they don't quite make it. The barn has a hiding place in the hayloft where Mia can read her book, or can hang out with Katharina drinking from dark pink mugs as was shown in the box inset so long ago, and the flappy roof allows easy access for play here. Once you've had enough of all that, just rearrange the modules and make your stables the way you think they should be.
Price 7/10 Now this is a little tricky as I don't have a confirmed price for this yet, so take this with a pinch of salt. Friends sets are always slightly more expensive than the other sets, but this is still a great set, and I'd definitely buy it if I didn't already have it. Price is somewhat subjective, really; if you like Friends and you want a good parts pack, then this is probably a really good deal. In fact even if you don't like Friends, it's still a good parts pack, so it's probably quite good value for money.
Heartlake City has been expanded beyond its original limits with a fine set of stables, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was perhaps a result of high sales in the original wave of Friends sets with animals. Surprisingly, this is not the case, Heartlake stables has clearly been on the cards since the release of the very first Friends set. A quick recap back to the poster page of Heartlake City from the instructions booklet in 3315: Olivia's House.... and well have a look in the bottom left corner. There are also a few more of the new wave of sets hidden in there too.
This set fleshes out Heartlake City, and it starts to become the world seen on the poster- a new kind of Paradisa but less tropical, and with fewer palm trees and pastel. The stables are nicely designed, albeit with a large dollop of bright pink, but they allow lots of play as they each have their own environments. The barn has been made so that it can open thanks to the flappy roof, and this really allows access to the nice hayloft feature inside. This would be a lovely surprise, if you hadn't had to build the set yourself, but that makes it sound like a chore and actually this is a fun build. There are lots of different things to build in this set, from smaller horse jumps to the larger barn, and it's all diverting. There's as much complexity (and ease of building) in an equivalent sized Town set, but there's a greater variety of colours here than in many other sets, plus there's a host of newly coloured parts. With this set, I feel the Friends line is going from strength to strength, and I'm more excited to see what details have been added to the other new sets in the line.
Thank you for reading, comments are always very welcome. High-Res pictures can be found on my flickr account.