If you were a pirate stranded on a tiny island with a large, scary shark circling around, and could only have 3 objects with you, what would they be? There are only two correct answers to this question. You would either want a bottle of rum, another bottle of rum, and yet another bottle of rum... or you would want a gun, a bigger gun, and an even bigger gun. (Any combination of these two scenarios will only lead to dangerous pirate behavior and the risk of self-inflicted harm.)
Lego set number 1492, "Battle Cove" gives us that three-gun island. Our lonely pirate may be down, but he is most certainly not out - not without a fight, anyway.
Name: Battle Cove
Availability: USA Only
Brickset Set Entry
Bricklink Catalog Entry
Peeron Catalog Entry
Lugnet Catalog Entry
Today I am reviewing Lego System polybag set 1492 "Battle Cove". Unfortunately, I do not have the original packaging, but I do have a complete copy otherwise. This is a set I received as a child. As such, I must cite the informative links I have placed above as historical records of this set. Apparently, this set was sold only in the USA, and according to some inventories, this set may have only been sold at certain stores or was perhaps part of some kind of promotion aimed at consumers. At any rate, it would seem that this is one of the rarer sets in the pirate theme.
The Unboxing Unbagging
A fresh copy of 1492 (image courtesy of BrickLink)
Imagine receiving the polybag shown above. What would you do? Why, rip it right open and dump out the contents, of course!
The front of the instructions shows the same image as the bag packaging depicts. We see the entire set, complete with minfig and shark against a nice background and surface. As a hobbyist photographer, I really appreciate these old box/instructions photos. The good people at Lego put a refreshing emphasis on their product art. This set being from 1992, Lego has not yet turned to computer rendered artwork, and someone has put together a nice backdrop and foreground to show off this set. Bravo.
Instructions (back / random segment)
This image of the instructions back side is for completion. The type of instructions with this polybag set is more of a folded leaflet that has two sides' worth of instruction panels. So the "back side" in this case is really just one of the instruction panes (the first one showing how to put a shark together... and a pirate.)
Set contents (sans instructions)
Here we have all the pieces in this set laid out. According to set inventories, there are 26 pieces. However, I count 27! I believe the online inventories are counting the shark body and head as one piece, however the instructions show how to connect the head to the body, suggesting that the shark probably came unassembled.
But enough of the geeky piece count nitpicking. Instead, let's nitpick the parts we have here! We have a decent assortment of colors here. We have 4 printed pieces. We also have 3 guns (one being a cannon, actually). (There is no rum, however. Rum bottles would not be included in pirate sets until the Pirates of the Caribbean line.) A palm frond is always a welcome addition to any collection. A smattering of light gray elements and two 6 x 6 yellow plates finish up this set's parts. These are nice to have.
Printed corner wall element
One piece that sticks out in particular is the printed corner wall element. According to online inventories, this element is only in 7 sets produced between 1988 and 1995. And of those 7 sets, this set is the smallest (the other six are all above 160 pieces and mostly castle-themed sets). That might make this set a viable way to acquire this piece, if not for the fact that this set was a USA exclusive.
United States issue non-firing Lego cannon
One interesting aspect of Lego sets released in the USA is that the cannons do not fire. I had no idea this was abnormal from the rest of the world until I was out of my dark ages. I'm not an expert on this minutae, but I've heard it explained that it was a safety concern. I believe that some copies of pirate sets in 1989 sold in the USA _did_ in fact have the pull-firing cannons at first, until the design was tweaked to have the non-firing type. The interesting thing is that the newer line of pirate sets from 2009 had firing cannons, including copies sold in the USA.
The dark gray shark
Here we have the set's dark gray shark. Let's be honest here: the shark is the crowning jewel of this set. I think we can all agree on that. (Be sure to cast your vote in the poll at the top of this thread!)
The pirate (front, back)
It seems that this minfig torso always accompanies this particular head, and it appears in 5 different minifigure permutations across 21 sets (all of them "classic" 80s/90s pirate sets). But in each canonical minifigure, the pants are either white, gray, or black, and the fig also always sports a tricorner hat (albeit black or brown). If not for having black pants instead of light gray, we might have been able to classify this pirate as Rummy, the first mate of the Renegade Runner. (For more pirate naming fun, see this thread). Could this pirate in fact be Rummy with different pants? I'm undecided; share your opinion on this matter by replying to this thread!
Regardless, we have here a minfig whose head and torso printing are some of the more detailed in the line. I personally think the face print is one of my all-time favorites. You have an eye patch, scruffy hair, stubble, and a pleasing smile. This is part of what makes classic pirates so memorable. Everyone is happy in classic Legoland, and why not? The torso on this pirate is also one of the more detailed in the line, with a jacket exposing an undershirt and a thick, piratey belt. It's also worth noting that this torso can perhaps be put to good use as a bluecoat officer or perhaps some kind of privateer.
Let's get building.
With so few parts in this polybag set, the build is relatively straightforward. The instructions are nice and simple, without any of the modern-day part callouts.
After a step or two, we have the beginnings of a wall and our cannon placed down. And after just a few more steps, we have our completed structure. (That was quick!)
Island and structure (front)
From the front, we have a bit of a fortification wall, our proud Jolly Roger pirate flag flying, and a palm frond to protect our heroic pirate from harmful UVA and UVB rays during his stay.
Island and structure (rear)
From the rear, we can see that the pirate has a place to hang his rifle. We also note that there are hiding places for pirate loot and cannon balls. It's a shame there aren't any in this set. How is our pirate to make use of the cannon without any ammunition?
The complete build
Here we have the set all together, including the pirate and the shark. Despite its size, it is an aesthetically pleasing set! For sets of this size, our imagination is really what drives the story here. Who is this pirate? And what of the island itself? Is it an abandoned fort, perhaps?
There's enough playablity here to have a fair bit of fun on its own. With a chomping shark, a yawing cannon, and an armed pirate, we have all the trappings of a good pirate adventure. Still, there is room for improvement. A lack of a cannonball or two is a definite oversight, even if the cannon does not actually fire. And the addition of a monkey or some gold would really have made this set fantastic.
It's a good "parts pack" at the very least, and a good addition to any pirate collection. There's enough to have a bit of fun with. If price data were available, I believe we would find a respectable price-to-parts ratio. It is also very easy to take elements from this set and add to other pirate sets. The minfigure and shark are easily added to a larger ship, as are the cannon, firearms, and flag.
At the end of the day, this is a solid polybag set that captures the freespirited nature of classic pirate sets. I give this set two rusty hooks straight up!
Playability: 6/10 (Minifig and shark fun, but your imagination will do some heavy lifting here.)
Design: 7/10 (A reasonably attractive structure given the part count. But an extra palm frond or a monkey would be nice.)
Parts: 9/10 (Some useful, detailed parts here. Multiple printed pieces. Good for crew building and armaments.)
Minfigs: 7/10 (Relatively common minifig parts. But a classic and one of the more complex face and torso printings in the line.)
Sharks: 9/10 (You can't go wrong with a dark gray shark. Point off for lack of additional sharks.)
Price: N/A (Pricing is lost to the sands of time. Likely comparable to other polybags of its time.)
Availability: 2/10 (Only available in USA! May have been an "exclusive" set only at a certain store.)
Final Score: 7/10 (A solid pirate polybag. A good mix of parts, and a welcome addition to any pirate universe.)
Uh oh. Looks like our hero is in trouble!...
Whew! That was close! Our hero lives to fight another day.