Wait, the title of this article doesn't give away my conclusion, does it? Because I enjoy a good setup. So maybe just try to ignore what I wrote there and read everything. Of course, I actually have to issue an official retraction for a comment I made on the forum when these sets were first leaked...
Based on the price conversion and random guessing, prices would look to be $25 (perhaps $30)... no way it would be $20 for Ambush, $40 for Mirkwood (though I could see this being $50 and replacing Attack of the Wargs in the lineup), and the Fortress is likely replacing Goblin King Battle at $100. No way it's in the $50 range.
Turns out, Ambush is $20, Mirkwood is only $30, and Fortress was only $70. Given the recent trends in Lego prices being somewhere between "are you kidding" and "those greedy *bleeps*," it seems like something is up here. I mean, this set is basically a $30 battle pack with six figures, five of them being generic and the kind of things you want a whole bunch of. What is this, opposite world?
The second movie just came out, and to be honest, I have no idea if this scene is in it, in the extended edition release that's going to trick us out of $20 next year, or in the third movie that we haven't even been disappointed in yet. But on the Lego front, there's a whole lot to love in this wave of sets. After some shaky initial releases, it looks like both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings sets are hitting their stride. Anyway, let's see how much value can be pulled out of your $30.
Sometimes I make a comment about how tough a set is to review, either because of its price point, the subject matter, or just the nature of what its trying to show us. Often its a licensed set like this, where I haven't seen the movie (yet... going to go this weekend and write another hated movie review), like this one. But there is no conflict here... this set, without knowing anything about the movie other than the trailer makes me think it's based on the Hobbit in much the same way that The Lost World was based on the book of the same name (either one, really).
We get a staggering six minifigs (and a brown warg) in this set. More than that, with the exception of Thranduil, King of the Wood Elves (something that's cooler than it sounds), they're all generic, army-builder type figures. Make no mistake, this set is basically a glorified $30 battle pack. I've railed against other sets for that fact, but here... that actually makes it awesome. This is basically a direct replacement for the LotR Uruk-hai Army set, which sat in the same price point and number of figures.
I was positive, for the most part, on that set, but thought it was diminished by not balancing out between the Rohan soldiers and orcs. This set doesn't balance it out either, but that doesn't really hurt as much since orcs show up in almost every other Hobbit set (off the top of my head, Unexpected Gathering, Mirkwood Spiders, and this one don't have orcs or goblins... most others I remember do). We get two orcs in dark tan, which is starting to really widen the variety of orcs we have. There is also an awesome set of shoulder pads for one of the guys, and a couple of orc weapons. You won't mind getting multiple orcs in this... which I bet we'll need for the next film and the battle of Five Armies.
We do get Thranduil, who is not Haldir, as another named elf, and the first one with a unique hair mold since Elrond. Unlike our subdued Agent Smith leading his elves, this guy knows some style. A shame that the crown is part of the hair, otherwise you have the start of a good King Triton crown. I know that he has a more prominent role in the second film (other than just kind of being a wank and letting a bunch of orcs die in the first), so there will be a lot more to compare him to later.
Otherwise, an armored torso that can easily be given to a human minifig as well in a good castle setting (so long as you want a little fleshy touch), a dark red cap, and that angry elf face with his huge eyebrows are all nice to have. The biggest issue I had was that his hair, positioned over the cloak, tends to rise up (as you can see in some of my pictures). I hope this guy has a big forehead...
Of course, with eyebrows like that, you have to have an alternate face. I suppose the angry face is really the alt, but I like my elves to look angry and a little confused. The elven scale armor is printed on both sides, though the inclusion of the back patterns is a little bit odd, and hurts it on the back. I like the color stagger, but that divide should be oblive or something that blends better than the black line.
Of course, the whole purpose of this set is to get Mirkwood elves to everyone that missed out on the polybags that served as a sneak preview. All three are the same, with the exception of one having a generic brown hairpiece (and that recolored elf hair that most of the others have). I really like these guys, but we've seen a regression in torso to leg printing here. After several sets where LEGO started to get those things to match up, these just look bad by comparison. Plain dark brown legs would have looked better than this printing, I think, but that's just me.
Otherwise, we get two quivers, elves with alt faces, and a couple of dark green hoods. Yeah, I think I'll be getting more of this set than I did the Uruk-Hai army (which I want to say I got 3 or 4 times). I do wish they'd make a version of the elf hair that went over the quiver, the same as they did with the dwarves. The elf with hair also comes with the fancy dagger that I assume LEGO is still unpacking from unsold Prince of Persia sets... two of them, actually (you get an extra).
The version in this set is unique compared to the polybag (and has the dark brown legs I talked about). Honestly, I like the polybag a little more, but probably because it's not very elf-like. If it didn't say Mirkwood Elf in the name, you'd think it was more like a Castle Forrester revisit (that is not a bad thing). There's a place for both of them your budding elf/human armies... though the Mirkwood guys are pretty hard to find on Bricklink these days. I guess there are some big Smaug MOCs coming up soon.
We now have a bunch of elves (Haldir was hiding from me)... this wasn't even all of them. In short, if you like Tolkein's ange... I mean elves. They totally weren't a thinly-veiled representation for perfection and angels in his books. In the movies, they're kind of jerks, so I guess that's the modern era angel.
We get a brown Warg, in the same mold from the Warg attack set. Like all horses, you also get a 1x2 brick and plate to fill in the spot for the saddle.
We now have three Wargs, white, grey, and brown. No black, which apparently keeps staff writer buriedbybricks waiting in anticipation. I like the brown one, since now we can set up that somewhat pointless warg attack scene from Two Towers. I've certainly got enough goblins and orcs now to do it.
I know I called this thing a glorified battle pack, but there actually is some substance to this set outside of the minifigs. If you like tan, this is the set for you! Okay, that's not fair, but really, that's the most tan I've seen in a set since the Prince of Persia line was a thing. This whole battlement is designed to be extended and connected to other sets. Since there aren't any other elf themed sets, I suppose you're supposed to extend it with more copies of this set. If only they would have done something to make buying multiples of this set more attractive...
The strange thing about building this set is that throughout the entire thing you're thinking that you're missing a bag of parts. When you empty the stuff, it never feels like you have enough to build something of the size you see on the box or pictured here. Part of that is that the whole thing is smaller than you probably think, but it never really feels tiny once its together.
There are some real little treasures buried in the parts as well, like the wood elf pattern shields, the new short arches (introduced with the Elrond and Black Gate sets) in brown, small arches in light grey, and of course, some tan bricks. Did I mention all the tan? Cause there's a lot of tan. There is one odd little flair of a statue and bow holder. The uniqueness of the microfigures has sort of worn off, but since we don't get a lot of the games in the states these days, it's nice to see them still getting used.
Also, there is a flick-fire in the front, because of course there is. I've used up my flick-fire quota for the year, so I'm going to crowdsource jokes about this flick fire in the comments. Let's hear your best!
The biggest individual piece of the battlements and wall is a kinda-tree setup with a launcher on top. There was something obviously inspired by the Ewok Village here, because I'm pretty sure I built these things a few dozen times with that set. Those looked better, because you put a few more bucks into that set compared to this, but it's not bad, per se. There's a catapult launcher on top, which was, for some reason, a breakaway tree branch on an axle. That branch falls away when you try to launch an elf for some reason.
I didn't really try the launcher, so I can't say how well it works. History tells me "not that well" but it's a playset feature not designed for a 35-year-old guy. When my daughter is older, I'll get her opinions on the set (though she seems to prefer Star Wars sets over any others... my poor Death Star has been emptied in any compartment she can reach).
The tree itself is basically just a turntable so you can spin it around. Trees are known for their general motility and being able to quickly reposition in a forest. I mean, who hasn't dreamed of taking that vacation to the Sequoia National Forest and see the majestic trees doing their daily rendition of some newsies dance number? That or this is kind of silly, but sometimes, silly is okay.
Because this is an army, and we have orcs, we also get a little siege ladder. It has hooks. It's also short, because the set is pretty short.
Like I said earlier, the strange thing about the set is that as you build it, you're thinking that stuff is missing. In truth, it's just a limitation of the size of the set. Uruk-hai army built a higher section of wall because it was shorter and less involved. It also had the new-ish "brick" bricks, and lots of grey and sand green. This set has a far more forest feel, wood over stone, so you get brown, tan, dark tan, and dark brown. Much like its predecessor, there are plenty of parts here to like, and I think that buying multiples of the set could make it a lot easier to build the wall higher so it looks even better (and longer, so you can fit all of the elves).
Part of the attraction of this one, that kicks it from good to great, is the simple addition of elves and a better balance of good guys over the bad guys. We can get bad guys almost anywhere, but elves are fairly rare. So now, we can elf armies easier than we could Rohan armies. Given how over-the-top and big all of the battles have been in The Hobbit, we're going to need them.
What I liked
- A good balance of elves and orcs, with them being generic enough that you want to buy more than one of the set
- Brown Warg!
- Plenty of parts in the set outside of the minifigs to make it worthwhile, like printed shields and small arches
What I didn't like
- Printing on the Mirkwood Elves torso and legs do not match up at all
- The tree / launcher feels like a waste of parts that could have gone into building a bigger or better wall
- Making the tree smaller and taller (and ditching the launcher) would have helped the look of the set a lot
- There's a flick fire for some reason
You can buy Mirkwood Elf Army on Walmart.com, for a great little discount of 17% at the time of this writing (with free shipping or Pick-Up-Today if your local store has it in stock)