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As I begin to write this review, I am enjoying the warm days of mid-September; Summery enough for kids to want ice lollies and for there to be fruit and green leaves on the trees. It still plays on my mind, however, that the local supermarket has Christmas goods already in stock, and I know of a fair few people who start their Winter celebration preparations as early as now (for a variety of reasons I shall not go into - I am not one of them.) With that in mind, LEGO are about to release this set which very strongly looks like it is meant to be a Winter Decoration, especially with the greenery and Saturnalian colours. The name "Christmas Wreath" is a dead giveaway, though. So, is it a decorative decoration? Is it a fun build? Is it worth buying? Read on to find out more. Number – 40426 Name – Christmas Wreath 2-in-1 Theme – Merchandise Year – 2020 Pieces – 510 Price – GB £30.99. EUR €34.11 (according to German Shop@Home), US $34.99 Links: Brickset, Peeron - not listed yet, BrickLink - not yet listed, Shop@Home - available from October 1st Information from LEGO shop@home: The Box The box is one of those nice flippy-top boxes that feels a bit sturdier than the usual set boxes, and this probably represents the fact that you’re meant to build this set, display it, break it down and put it back in the box ready to be rebuilt again next Winter, or even just put it back in the box still built. It strikes me as a wise choice, and it reinforces that this isn’t just a gimmick item; a novelty for one year, but rather something to be treasured for multiple years. The front has no-nonsense artwork; it shows the primary build against an ashen tongue and groove wooden background, presumably (but not certainly) a door. Very Scandi. The colour stripe down the side is green, a colour not often seen, which offsets the LEGO logo and the insert picture of the secondary build quite nicely. This is advertised as a 2-in-1, but as we’ll see there’s even more to it than that! The back of the box shows the secondary build on a mahogany-like table, in what looks like a real room with a window in the background and other ‘real’ items like the candle snuffer (as an aside, I couldn’t remember what that was called, so I googled “candle putter outer” and discovered that that’s quite a common thing to google as nobody else can remember it’s called a candle snuffer either.) Anyway, it all looks rather grown-up and serious. This is not a child’s toy, it is not for playing with, it is for display amongst antique furniture and items people can’t remember the names of. You must put it in a room with a window through which you can see proper (preferably well-tended) grass. The box sides are beige and inoffensive where they host the usual warnings and parts size indicator, and they are brightened up considerably by the green and bright green tile and plate tessellation pattern on the remaining sides. Again the red of the small picture of the primary build and of the LEGO logo really pop against this background. Once you get the box open, there’s a potentially confusing assortment of bags. Two bags are labelled “1”, three bags are labelled “2” and one bag is labelled “3”. If you’re getting this as a gift for someone who isn’t all that LEGO-savvy, they might wonder what on Earth is going on. Instruction Booklets Underneath the bags of parts, there are two instruction booklets, one each for the two main builds. These are labelled “1” and “2” and it’s pretty obvious what they’re for, especially as they have very nice pictures of the respective builds on the front of the booklets, just as they were on the box. The backs of the first instruction booklet has a very grown up and sensible LEGO man with a cup of coffee suggesting “win” in a slightly above normal speaking volume voice, as opposed to a Firefighter or a Police Officer shouting it as you'd find on the more child-oriented sets. I say that, but actually I spotted an instruction booklet for one of my kids' LEGO Movie 2 sets who also had genteel coffee dude, so maybe I'm reading too much into this. The back of the second booklet has the ever-useful inventory page. I really do find this useful, so here's a clearer picture. If you want to get a handle on what’s in this set, this will tell you, however don’t go anywhere because I’ll show you the actual bricks themselves too. Parts So I’ve done this bag by bag, because for some of these items the actual quantity seems somewhat astonishing. There’s not a massive array of colours, and anything that doesn’t fit into the Saturnalian theme, like the blue and yellow, you know will be destined to a supporting role somewhere deep within the model. I did think a few times, “ooh, there’s lots of those, that’s good.” There aren't really any parts that made me jump for joy, and nothing especially stands out to me aside from being present in a larger quantity. The pearl gold flower 1x1 plate was new as of 2019, and has been found in a few sets but only one in each, not 14. The bright green plant stem with 3 leaves was also new in 2019, and again has been found in a few sets but only in a similar quantity in three other sets. There are an astonishing 36 of the 4x3 plant leaves! The closest previously was16 each in 4209: Fire Plane from 2012, and 10173: Holiday Train from 2006. As for the plant plate with three leaves - there are 40 here, with the past closest being this year’s 80105: Chinese New Year Temple Fair. The Build So, if we go back to the instructions and compare the first steps of each build, we can see they are extremely similar. In fact, the difference comes only because one model is hanging and one will sit flat, and the chunk of the basic ring structure that holds the string with end studs to allow the hanging one to hang obviously isn’t present when built as a flat candle display. For the flat model (Build 2) that chunk is just built like all the others, but still has the red brick base as it’s useful for orientation when building. Regardless of which model you’re building, making 16 of these nuggets is pretty tedious. You can see why it’s necessary, there’s no other way of doing it, but it is still really quite dull. I could have stopped part of the way through to show you some build pictures, but there wasn’t really a sensible place to stop and I probably would have lost where I got up to. Putting the greenery on is like foliage greebling - is there a word for that? I am reliably told there isn’t, so maybe it should be “foliabling”? Or “greenbling”? Anyway this foliage greebling involves the most intense game of spot-the-difference I have ever played. Due to the lack of variety in colours (I’m not saying they should be different and I can see why it’s necessary, it would look a lot less Saturnalian with orange, magenta and aqua) it can be very hard to see where and how a piece of foliage has been added sometimes. It makes it a challenging build, but not necessarily a fun-challenging, I’m sorry to say. There are some nice techniques used, and a whole lot of SNOT-work, which is pleasing. Building the curved, rounded, bright red bow was actually my favourite part of the build, and it was a satisfying moment to attach it to model and complete the first build. It’s a really nice model once it’s built. I thought parts of it might look a little bare, but really any more foliage would have just looked messy. I particularly like that it isn’t symmetrical; the downside (or maybe an upside) is that the build is less predictable, but it makes the model look a little more organic, in as much as LEGO can. There’s a nice variety of plant parts used, but I have to admit I’m not completely convinced with the 6x5 swordleaf plant leaves in this. It was the best part that could be used, I can appreciate that, but it doesn’t feel (and I’ve been trying to avoid using this word) Christmassy. I know that December holidays happen in summer for half the world, but it is heavily implied that they’re trying for a particular mid-winter look when they’re using red and white berries, and styling palm fronds to look like holly. It looks really nice as long as you don’t look too closely at it and think about palm trees, and the bow is definitely the best bit. I successfully hung the build up for a while and nothing fell off (quite a lot of the 4x3 plant leaves are secured with the 2x1 curved slopes), and the string with studs was able to take the strain just fine. It doesn’t take too much to knock stuff off though, so don’t put it on the back of a door that might slam, for instance, or where kids can get to it and fiddle with it. Moving on to build two, which is slightly different. You’ll find yourself being quietly relieved you don’t have to rebuild all 16 chunks of the circular base, just fiddling with one chunk to take the string with studs out and make it more like its siblings. On the second build you put the bows on first, and then do all the fiddly stuff. It doesn’t make it better or worse, just different. There’s still plenty of greenery greebling. There is symmetry with this model, which makes the build slightly less headachey, but it can be tricky occasionally to see exactly where the right bits are meant to go. This is heavily implied to be a sort of Advent ring, with the four candles (to my fellow Brits I would love to make a reference to the joke here, but I can’t!) Following the instructions has the candles at different heights, but there are enough pieces provided to make all the candles tall if that’s what you’d prefer. I can see this on a table as a decoration; it looks much better from slightly above rather than straight down. It looks very pretty and festive, but it is very easy to knock bits off. It’s also going to be in an easier position to repair, but if people reach across it, it’s quite easy to knock the candles off. On the plus side they won’t burn your house down, so there’s that. I do like this model, but you’d have to have the right place to put it. Alternate Builds Imagine my unbridled joy at discovering four more suggestions for ways to build this wreath! Obviously building these foliage-festooned rings had been just too simple with instructions, so now it’s time to build them without! I am sure that when this set is available there will be links to instructions online, however no mention is made of that in the instruction booklet. This does helpfully illustrate that actually, you can make this wreath anything you want, and there are plenty of parts to be rearranged to your aesthetic whims. Having cut my teeth building the alternate crazy builds in FABULAND sets, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity to do so with this set pass me by. I did only build A and C though because, you know, I’m not insane. Alternate build A is probably my favourite configuration. It was fiddly to build it just from one picture, but it didn’t take that long and I like the way it ended up. The smaller red bows are super cute, and super easy if you’ve just built build 2 as they are the same! A lot of the pieces are there to help stabilise the foliage parts and anchor them down, but again there are still areas (particularly the swordleaf plant leaves) that are vulnerable to being knocked off. I do think this looks the best. As an alternative to build 1 I thought I would make build C as another hanging wreath. I was drawn to this over build D because of the removal of red. I like that the designer here has managed to be just as creative, and Saturnalian, without using any of the red detailing (the red index chunk of the wreath notwithstanding.) Again, I am pleased that it looks as good in the brick as it does in the instruction booklet. I had no doubt it would hang, as I knew the string with studs would hold, but I was also very much reassured that no bits fell off on hanging it up. Again, I would think very carefully where I’d put this, but it is very attractive as a decoration. Having built four of six possible models, I shall introduce you to the hero of the set. With a whole family crazily devoted to LEGO, we have an insane number of brick separators, but I was super glad to have this one to hand with this set. I have built and rebuilt all manner of things, but this is so fiddly, and there are so many small things attached to other small things that I have never been so incredibly grateful for a brick separator. I don’t even care that it’s orange. If you decide you’ve built this enough times already now and you’d just like to put it away for next year without breaking it down again, and that also you’d prefer not to have to rebuild it all over again next year, then you can just shove the whole thing as is in the box it came in. Hooray! for whoever made that decision, to make the box big enough to accommodate the built model. Somebody at TLC should buy that person a beer. So you might have to take the candles off, but chances are you’ll have spent a fair amount of time over the festive period reattaching the candles after they’ve been knocked off anyway, so you’ll be an expert. It's a very tight squeeze, as you can see, and there's a fair-to-middling chance that bits will come off. Even if they don't, you'll have to keep the box perfectly flat at all times, as those clippy swordleaf parts will just ping right off with any pressure. Assume some rebuilding will be necessary next year and put the instructions at the bottom and remember the bag of unused parts! Conclusion Design: 7/10 It's advertised as 2-in-1 but in reality there are six builds to try out, all of which are very pretty decorations in their own different ways. The design is really very Christmassy, or Saturnalian if you prefer, and there are many efforts to stabilise and anchor parts, but it remains fragile by its very nature. It's great that there are so many alternate examples, but I'm not sure how many people would be willing to try so many out after just building any configuration once. Parts: 7/10 Nothing here is hugely exciting, unless you love getting tons of greenery, in which case you'll be very excited! Using the swordleaf leaves with clips gives the wreath a slightly odd tropical feel, and although there's a lot of greenery here, I feel they could have mixed it up a bit. Minifigs: N/A Build: 5/10 I feel bad for saying this but I didn't enjoy the build all that much at all. There's a lot of moving on to the next 'nugget' and then going back to the 'nugget' before. You have to look very carefully at what you're putting down, how many and where. Trying to put new parts down can make you knock previously placed parts off, which can be very frustrating. My kids love building anything, but I think they would give up in exasperation and boredom if tasked with building this. Playability: N/A Price: 6/10 It's an odd price in Europe - £30.99 or €34.11, and it's probably been price-pointed (I don't know if that's a verb, but it is now) based on the US market. I think under £30 would have been reasonable, and before the price was released I was expecting it to be approximately £25 or so. I know it's designed to be used again and again, but isn't all LEGO? Overall 63% This is a very grown up LEGO model, designed for a very specific purpose. As a set you have a wide variety of ways to build in order to create some really quite lovely Saturnalian decorations. The builds aren’t necessarily fun, and occasionally are repetitive or fiddly, but the built models are attractive and would not look odd as decorations. There are some caveats in how they might be displayed, due to some fragility, and this is not a set for a LEGO novice. If you were to get this for someone, I would strongly suggest that you gift it well in advance of any celebration so there is time for it to be built and enjoyed over the holiday, and so that person is not spending a day of celebration getting frustrated with a fiddly LEGO build. I am very glad to have this, however, and I might well have bought this for myself although I find the price a little steep. Additionally, this is a remarkable leaf parts pack too, albeit an expensive one. I wonder if it might have worked better as an actual parts pack - by which I mean include a variety of parts to make your own wreath, with a few suggestions on how to in the booklet. Some ideas on how to build different bows and having more variety in the parts to truly individualise it would have been much more exciting and desirable. Nonetheless it is likely I will have this built and displayed over the festive season, although whether it returns next year remains to be seen. I made my own and used bamboo!