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Monthly Mini-Builds: 2013 in Review

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With 2013 coming to a close tomorrow (eek!), I thought it'd be fun to quickly review all of the Lego Store Monthly Mini Builds for the year. Last year, my family moved to an area that actually has several Lego Stores nearby. We've been going monthly ever since. Sometime this year, we got the crazy idea of making a goal of going to every MMB for the year, and we actually did it. This required me to take off from work once a month, picking up my daughter immediately afterschool, and rushing over to the store. It got tedious after awhile, but we did it.

To recap, if you haven't heard: the physical Lego Stores do a free mini-build at least once a month. At least here in the States, the build is held at 5 p.m. on the First Tuesday of the month. The build is a quick project made up of 20-40 pieces, and a competent kid should be able to put it together in 10 minutes. Let's be honest, it's a way to get parents into the store outside of the weekend. It works, as I've seen plenty of customers coming out of the store with large purchases and then getting in line for the build. Heck, I usually end up at least filling my Pick-a-Brick cup on a given visit. You do get a free pile of bricks. FREE! Nothing to complain about there, and you're not obligated to buy.

I'll note that these aren't the ONLY monthly builds. This year, the Stores did a few extra builds other than on the First Tuesdays. My recollection was that they had a mini-model of Superman, a grill, a Star Wars Holocron Droid, and a Friends jewelry box.

If you live near a store and want to start doing these, I do advise that you get to the store as early as possible. The line at my local store gets pretty long within 1/2 hour of the event. We make a point of getting there an hour early, and then my daughter and I take turns running in and out of the store to keep ourselves busy. (I also make her do her homework. If she finishes early, she can go in the store.)

So, here goes:


January was a little Igloo with two brick-built penguins. I don't care for brick-built animals, but these do look rather cute. Some of the unique pieces in here are the four white curved dome parts. This igloo does bear a superficial resemblance to the little igloo in 2012's Winter Village set, only a little smaller. This wasn't a bad start to the year.


February was a little Log Cabin. I don't know why--perhaps because President's Day is in February, which celebrates Abraham Lincoln, who lived in a log cabin as a boy? Maybe it was just wintry. This set did come with a lot of L-shaped 2 x 2 brown tiles and some long brown slopes. It was OK as a building, but otherwise just sat there and was kind of blah. This model didn't really do it for us.


March was a little Sea Turtle. The fun thing for us about this model is that we got it literally an hour or two after getting off a plane from Florida. We almost missed this build, but I convinced my wife to let us go even though we just got off the plane. Anyway, it had some nice parts, mostly the light green curved bricks. I also enjoyed the functionality of this model, as you can make the turtle "swim" by moving the legs. This felt like one of the better models of the year.


April was these two Lambs, a big one and a small. Honestly, this was my personal least favorite build of the year, and we almost didn't go to it because I was getting a little sick of rushing to the mall on the 1st Tuesday of every month. (I think this was just after Easter, too.) I realize that all Lego is abstract, but this set of models struck me as really, really abstract, Yeah, they look like two lambs if you use your imagination, but they're really just lumps of white brick IMO.


May was this Kingfisher which I reviewed on EB shortly after getting it. (I'll start showing the free cards that the Store gives out as your ticket to get in. We didn't keep the cards from January to April.) We liked this model, as he had some functionality with movable wings and tail. He's cute and wasn't a bad little build, plus he had interesting parts like the blue slopes and yellow clips.


June was this Fisherman, which is functional but also kind of blah in my opinion. Just like brick-built animals, I also tend not to like brick-built people (maybe it's the lack of faces). Still, he's functional with his moveable fishing rod, and the orange fish is a nice touch.


July was this little Crab which we enjoyed a lot since we live in Maryland. (The only thing that would have been better would be if he had come in blue.) Like the turtle, he's pretty functional, as his "claws" can extend (but not pinch) and the switch-built legs can be posed many different ways. I also reviewed the crab on EB over here.


August was this Flamingo, which would be a lot of fun if you lived in Florida. It's not a bad build, and has a lot of interesting pink pieces. It has a little bit of functionality in the wings, but otherwise just sits there. Because the base is so small, it's probably the most unstable model of the year, but it does stand up if left alone.


September is when "Talk Like a Pirate Day" is held, so I guess that's why we got this Pirate. Again, I'm not keen on brick-built people, but I will admit that he captures a lot of pirate details in a small space. The buttons, pegleg, and flair of his hat are all pretty well done. He even has a little functionality, as you can bend his head at the neck (though this does leave a weird gap where his neck should be).


October gave us this Witch for Halloween. Her head can move at the neck, but that's it. It's not a bad looking witch and made a nice decoration for our house in advance of Halloween, and she did come with some nice cone pieces, but otherwise didn't really do anything.


November gave us a Lawnmower which, ha-ha, doesn't come with Batman. We just stuck him on there to illustrate that this was the only minifigure-compatible MMB for the year. The timing was a little odd, as the Ride-On Lawn Mower polybag came out around the same time. A fun fact is that this model was designed by some Lego fan out there. The Store has a "design a MMB contest" every year, and this was 2013's winner. Next year's winner will be revealed in October. Anyway, we kind of like this one. I honestly think it's a little big for a mower, and the Ride-On Mower poly looks a lot better, but it's not a bad model and works well in a City scene.


Finally, December gave us this cute Rocking Horse. This model is very similar to 2012's Rocking Horse polybag, only smaller. It's cute and does the job, although brick-printed eyes might have been a nice touch. The one drawback is that the 4 x 4 red plate on the bottom keeps it from really rocking. You can take the plate off to regain that feature (with some pushing, as the red slopes are partly flat on the bottom). Then again, the red plate does hold the thing together. The really nice touch is the black rope, which has enough clutch power to support the model. We hung it on our Christmas tree, and it looks great there.

So, a pretty good year overall. It took some work, but we got a good load of free bricks as a result. We've kept all the models together since getting them, but if we get tired of them, they're a pretty good source of parts. I'm not sure if we'll keep going every month in 2014, but the draw of free bricks is hard to resist. I haven't seen 2014's schedule yet, though--all I know is that January's model is a nice looking snowplow.

Anyway, if you live near a store, have a kid under 12, and want to brave the lines, I highly recommend going. Your kid will have fun, and it's free bricks! Here's hoping 2014 is just as fun.

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Nice review, although i think Miniland Scale figs (the brickbuilt ones) are bettert than Minifigs, especially if you've been able to visit any LEGOLAND park and see Miniland and all its beauty. But to be honest, the scale for them in the MMB are a bit off, legs are too short, etc...

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