To capture the essence of a coaching inn a couple of things are needed:
- Large gates allowing access to a courtyard
- Timbered galleries overlooking the courtyard
- A bar-room
Simple enough, but tricky to accomplish in a limited number of bricks and with the bricks that were available in the late 80's. I knew from the outset that this was going to be at least as large as 6074 Black Falcon's Fortress with 430 bricks and 6 minifigs.
The design evolved from a number of directions at once. The first job was to capture the volume of space that I wanted in as few bricks as possible, primarly this meant working out how to do a large roof for as few bricks possible. The construction technique that I opted for is the same one as the half-timbered building in Bar 7 x 3 with Double Clips (Ladder) as sides to a cart based around a Plate 4x8. A couple of little clip bricks to hold the bottoms of the bars was fine but how to secure the top. Whilst it's not historically accurate I felt that Arm Mechanical, Straight with Clips at 90 degrees (Vertical Grip) might prove a good solution. The twist in the arms allowed them to connect the bars but also to some vertical Antenna pieces. The disadvantage was that there's nothing to stop the sticks pulling apart, after various attempts at fashioning something from brick I settled on the use of a 1x6 hanger pushed down over the sticks. the version in LDD doesn't have the through holes but thankfully the version in my bricks box does. A fairly respectable cart in less than 20 bricks.
LDD files are over on MOCpages
Story: None, but I somehow feel that it could if it had the right characters...
The minifigs and props means that you can enact the comings and goings of a busy coaching in, the only downside is that there's very little in the way of conflict and it's conflict that drives the drama hence the modern trend for everything being "Attack this..." or "Escape from that..." I think the cart was an important part of fleshing out the set as it provides a bit of "swooshability" (to use a phrase that the Star Wars collectors use to describe their space-ships) where you can drive it around. The two horses are also important because the cart needs one and the knight the other.
Playability: As a standalone set it's not bad. Everything but the very back of the bar-room is easy to access, the open back allowing little hands to place minifigures in the various rooms. On the courtyard side the galleries are similarly accesssible. The one design decision that I'm not fully happy with is that the hay-loft and attic spaces aren't as accessible as they could be, it would have been nice to have lift-up rooves.
Buildability: Once again the lack of 6x10 plates in green comes back to haunt me! A hasty reconfiguration of the baseplate layout is needed and it's not optimal. It also complicates the archway section and I need to change the design slightly to account for the fact that there's now a seam between two 4x10 plates across the width of the arch.
Aside from a slight pause to allow more 4444 timber panels to arrive the build progressed quickly. The most complex portion being the attachment of the roof plates, they're just a bit fiddly to get into position, definitely a sub-assembly and guidance arrows in the instructions...
As a final post design tweak I added 1x2 technic bricks so that it could be clipped into the castle wall if desired. I'm not sure I want to clip it directly into my town wall but I wouldn't want to stop others from doing so. Given that almost everything else has been clip-able it seemed wrong not to make this one clipable as well. I've retrospectively applied the changes to LDD.
There are a couple of loose plate joints that I'd rather weren't there, if I had access to the moulding machines a quick run of green plates in the missing sizes would easily solve the issues.
Cost:At 476 bricks it's significantly larger than 6076 Guarded Inn but that is the obvious comparisson that will innevitably be drawn because both sets draw on similar subject matter.
Consistency: The robot arms used in the cart didn't arrive until the late 90's. Additionally the curves on the bed in the big bedroom are anachronistic, not arriving until the early 90's. The 3 stud long pins are similarly a 90's invention but since they're well hidden they're not as obvious. Everything else is of the era.
Another build that I'm very happy with. It's ended up with all the playability that I desired and all of the features that form the essence of a coaching inn.
Would it work as a sellable set? The ultimate argument always becomes economics, would a parent pay for little Johny to have a Coaching Inn or a castle of some sort. I feel that the castle would generally win the purchase because the attack and defend storyline is the more obvious. Countering that argument is 7189 Mill Village Raid, a set which works as a stand-alone domestic medieval set and illustrates that a high-priced domestic orientated set can sell. Mill Village Raid's advantage is that there is conflict, the raid, even if does feel like that conflict has been artifically introduced. The Coaching Inn doesn't have that conflict and I don't think it would be right to artifically introduce it and therefore we complete the circle and go back to comparing it against the Guarded Inn where the conflict is implied, the Guarded, rather than explicit. Would people pay the cost of larger set against the smaller one?
As a castle collector I'd have bought it, but I don't think it would have sold to the general public in enough volume to warrant production. Still I've got a nice addition to my 80's style medieval town.