Sunday, 20 April 2014

Lego Review -- Dragon Mountain (70403)

Set: 70403 Dragon Mountain

Theme: Castle

Pieces: 376
Build Time: 1 ½ hours

Year: 2013

The Background
The 2010-12 Kingdoms series was a little underwhelming. Ditching the more fantasy-oriented elements of Castle in favour of a more “realistic” approach was a mistake in my opinion, so when Castle returned in early 2013, I was initially quite pleased. However, the sets left me a little cold at first – I was pleased to see a dragon and an evil wizard, as well as good and evil knights – but I didn’t see myself buying any.

However, I ran across some sets instore recently and reassessed my position. Dragon Mountain particularly took my interest. An evil wizard, a princess to rescue -- and of course, a dragon. It hits on a lot of fantasy archetypes in one fell swoop. So I decided that I would like it, and my wife was kind enough to oblige a few weeks ago for our first wedding anniversary :)
There are 5 minifgures in this set – 2 Lion Knights, the princess (the good guys), the Dragon Wizard and a Dragon Knight (the bad guys). None of them seem to have names, but that’s okay – all you really need to know is that the Lion Knights (silver and blue) and the Dragon Knights (black and red) are battling against one another. The rest is up to you.

The Dragon Knight looks like most of the others – black armour with red and silver detailing. His head is goateed, with stubble around it. He does the job of generic henchman quite well.

The same goes for the first of the Lion Knights – nothing out of the ordinary, just a conical helmet with a noseguard, and a spear as a weapon. He gets to tend the catapult.  

One of the Lion Knights looks significantly more “heroic” than the other, though he’s still not given a specific name. He’s armed with a sword and shield. He’s also got a closing helmet, with two faces beneath, seen in the pics in the review – one confident-looking, and the other terrified.

The role of the Princess will be seen by some as sexist, as she is depicted on the box art as being locked up, waiting for a knight to come and rescue her. But this is Lego, so you can make your own story. She uses the standard dress piece, and has two faces – anxious and happy. Her hair is cast in soft rubber, rather than hard plastic, and her crown/tiara slots into the top.  

The Evil Wizard uses a black rubber beard piece, like Gandalf, and comes with a cloth cape and horned staff – a bit like Skeletor’s but without the skull. He’s a nice, standard Dungeons and Dragons-style evil villain.


The set is relatively simple to construct, consisting of two main elements – the Lion Knight’s catapult and Dragon Mountain itself. The catapult is nicely detailed – and I would have enjoyed flinging the “rock” around immensely as a child – but it’s neither here nor there to me. I can’t help but think that the dragon’s flames would consume it quite rapidly. Still, it’s a nice generic piece to add to the medieval pile.
Dragon Mountain, on the other hand, is very cool. Split into two towers, connected by a bridge with a small catapult that shoots flaming projectiles, there’s a number of intriguing features packed into a relatively small set.

The most obvious is the jail cell on the taller of the two towers, where the Princess (or any figure of your choice, really) can be positioned. But turn the set around and you’ll see the bottom section of this tower is something of a break room or miniature mess hall. There’s a small table, complete with goblet and slice of cheese.  


A level up from the jail cell houses the a red crystal – one can only assume that it is some sort of nefarious object, perhaps the source of the Evil Wizard’s sinister powers. And at the top of the tower is the platform on which the wizard stands – though how he got there without a ladder is open to debate. Perhaps he can fly?
Over on the back of the other tower, you’ll see a large spiderweb, and a deadly spider lurking on it. But flip it down and you’ll see that concealed within is the Evil Wizard’s lair. Two keys (presumably for the jail cell), two mysterious flasks and a lit candle lie within.

It will sound silly to some, but one of the things I was most excited about was the inclusion of not just a treasure chest – but gold coins! I used to love these coins back in my childhood days, when they were included in Pirates sets. Now, as then, they have different denominations embossed on them -- and this time there’s an actual bar of gold included. It’s awesome!  

Last but not least, the mousehole – complete with mouse poking out – is a great touch. Presumably he was after the delicious cheese within.
The real centrepiece, though, is the titular dragon. Since 1993, Lego has produced several different dragons (and there are some amazing customs out there too!). This one was first released in 2007, and is classed as version 2.5, according to Brickipedia.  

Somewhere between an action figure and standard animal figure, his arms and legs are all swivels, and his neck is kind of swivel-hinged both where it connects to his head and body (albeit with somewhat limited range). His tail can be rotated to change its angle, but not moved much more. He’s also got a hole on the lower part of his mouth, where a flame piece can be inserted. This allows you to display him either neutral or breathing fire, whichever you prefer. His jaw is also articulated, so there’s a number of different looks you can go for here. Last but not least, his wings are ratcheted – which is very handy for keeping his wings in your preferred pose.

He looks pretty good on the whole, though in real life I was initially a little underwhelmed – I think due to the shape of his next being different to what I had expected. Nonetheless, he’s grown on me and is an impressively large piece – a terror for any minifigure to behold.

The set is a little small for its price, but it does come with a large amount of minifigs and obviously the dragon is where a lot of the cost is coming from. It’s not the best value-for-money set I’ve had from Lego, bbut as mentioned above, it was a gift from my wife for our first wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago, so money wasn’t such an object J

After initially being ambivalent to iteration of Castle, I’ve come to quite enjoy it. My wife recently purchased me set 70402 (The Gatehouse Raid) -- but it’s similar enough to 70806 (Castle Cavalry) from The Lego Movie that I don’t think I’ll review it separately.
I owned a little bit of Castle Lego as a kid, but never a huge amount – it does not hold the same nostalgia for me as say, Pirates. As a boy King Arthur did not yet hold the same appeal as Robin Hood (granted, I did own some of the Forestmen), nor had I started reading fantasy novels and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Even though I’m quite late to this party, I’m glad that I decided to come. Now I’m eyeing off the King’s Castle – but at nearly $140 wherever I go, I’m having a hard time justifying it!


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