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28 December 2014

Elementary, my dear Brickman


Christmas is so last Thursday. This post is all about a happy New Year, because on January 1, the next set in the 'Modular' series hits shelves: 10246 Detective s Office. This annual treat from the Creator Expert line is aimed largely at adult fans and always delivers a complex build with interesting techniques, nice part usage, rare colours and new elements. In fact building these is such a treat, it feels a bit spoilery to point out the great techniques to you. And I am going to - but I've moved that part of this review to the end, so that those of you wishing to maintain the mystery for when you build it can simply stop reading when I warn you!

Whilst it's been named Detective's Office, this set is far more than that: there's also a barber's shop, pool hall, kitchen, bathroom, terrace and an interconnecting section with balconies and alleyway. What's more, designer Jamie Berard has concocted an involved storyline to accompany this set which he explains in his designer video. It's not well-explained on the box or in the instructions, so I'll summarise it: we're in Prohibition times, but in some strange child-appropriate parallel universe where it's not alcohol that's been prohibited, but sugar. The bumbling private detective Ace Brickman is trying to figure out who is smuggling cookies and sweets and what he doesn't realise is that this is all happening on his patch. The product is being cooked in the kitchen upstairs, sneaked down the fire escape, through a grate at the back of the barber's, under a staircase and into the pub. Oops, I mean "pool hall". Not a pub.



So yeah, pretty bonkers, and therefore I love it. Jamie has managed to turn a potentially seedy, film noir-esque concept into a fun kids' toy. What makes it even more delicious is that the LEGO® Group actually have an ethical policy on sugar within the company - you won't find any fizzy pop in the vending machines at LEGO HQ, just water. I wonder how many LEGO sets contain satire?

There's a more varied colour scheme than usual, which looks fantastic. One advantage of Modulars is that they're an opportunity for the designer to deliver us a lot of basic bricks in a less common colour, like the Olive Green in last year's 10243 Parisian Restaurant, so the downside to having more colours in Detective's Office is that there's no real 'bulk' of any colour - but don't fret, there's still some new parts in a rarer hue.

Here's a pic of the cast of minifigures: the detective, a femme fatale, a darts player, a pool player, a barber and a police officer. I think there's a new print here; the detective's torso (Element ID 6100023 | Design ID 76382) which will be very useful. Aside from that, the two female torsos are the rarest - I think they each only appear in one LEGO Movie set.



Parts

The Creator line cannot request completely new parts, but they certainly can use any new parts that are available. In this set we have some really cool new 2015 stuff, and for me the most interesting offering is the round jumper. Oh yeah! There are two in the set, both used as tabletops.



So White is the first colour for the 2x2 round tile with 1 stud (6093053 18674) however I suspect we'll get other colours of this one fairly soon. Dark Stone Grey [TLG]/Dark Bluish Gray [BL] seems a likely candidate, because that's the colour that part 15535 comes in - the 2x2 round tile with a hole. Ever since that came out we've been putting a regular square 2x2 jumper upside down in it to create a neat (and legal) 180° reversal of anti-studs. Now with the round jumper, we have a combination that looks a lot prettier and can be exposed in builds. We just need it in gray please!

Apart from their shape, round jumpers do have another critical difference from their square counterparts. The stud is completely hollow rather than recessed, so you can insert a bar right through. This is in-keeping with the nature of round parts in LEGO; compare things like 1x1 bricks or 2x2 plates with their round versions and you'll note there's a tendency to include a 3.18mm hole or an axle hole in round parts. So I found quite a lot more things to do with my round jumpers than I anticipated.

Including making the
eye stalk of a Dalek!





I have no idea what this thing I made is (perhaps, sticking with the Doctor Who theme, it's a Gallifreyan decoration) but what it does suggest to me that the round jumper will help us make many pretty things.


Here's a nice effect using two round jumpers and a regular round tile. This could be used for steps, or smoke effects, or clouds perhaps. If you use the older style of round tile with an 'X' on the underside, there are more options as to where to insert the stud, permitting different levels of offset with the topmost layer.


Under the cone on the left is a round 2x2 plate with the regular 4 studs. When used in its place, the round jumper creates a subtle difference which I can imagine being useful in microscale models or when textures are desired, such as on spacecraft.

Another new part is this lovely minifig accessory: scissors (6096993 18920) of which you get two plus a spare. Fans are already thrilled about them simply based on the online set pictures, and rightly so. They're going to be so useful for your scenes and I'm expecting some lovely Edward Scissorhands minifigs soon! Finding alternate uses for them would be challenging, but I wouldn't put it past a hardcore Spacer to use it for greebling somehow.

This interesting new mirror (6103793 20193) counts as a new part: although it is the same size as the panes for 1x4x6 windows, it isn't the same mould. There are no embossed markings; it's just a plain sheet of white plastic with this special mirror on one side. It comes in the bag with the sides covered in protective stickers, so don't fret about it arriving scratched. As you can see, the reflection is superb so I am certain this will become a highly sought-after element. For example it will be great to work these into models that you can only view from one angle - to reflect certain details hidden from view.

On to recolours and printed parts now, and my favourites in this set are the tiles. Here you see a 1x3 tile in Reddish Brown at last (6100769 63864) - ironically I wanted these for a MOC last month - and you get twelve of them! Then there are two lovely recent tiles in Bright Red [TLG]/Red [BL]: the corner tile (6078641 14719) of which there are two and the doughnut tile (6102138 15535) of which you get a healthy six. This is the first recolour of the doughnut tile. There are two lovely new printed tiles too; a dartboard (6100582 14769) and an amusing "wanted" poster (6100585 19605) which ties into the story within the set.

The other printed parts are the very classy windows - yup, no stickers in this set! The 1x4x3 (6100569 86210) whilst beautiful will not find use beyond being the window of a private detective called Ace Brickman. However the two 1x4x6s (6100581 60803) will be great for pub windows. Because of course, it's not a pub in this set - it's a pool hall, remember? Why, the fact that there used to be a pub in Billund called the Highlander is but sheer coincidence.

Back to recolours. The 2x2x1 truncated cone is a very interesting part and now comes in Dark Orange (6075354 98100); here used upside down as a plant pot. The paint roller handle (6099599 12885) was a huge hit when it first came out in the Series 10 Minifigures' Decorator, as it is an interesting right-angled piece. This is its first appearance in a set in any colour and Jamie uses two of them for the exterior lamps on the barber shop. Also used in these lamps is another part new to Black: 1x1 round plates with a hole (6100627 85861), a.k.a. Apollo studs. And they're not just in the lamps: Jamie utilises the seventeen Apollo studs in the set in all sorts of places for functional or decorative effect. Better yet, he also uses them in places where a regular 1x1 round would have sufficed. Ostensibly this would be because it's more effective from a production standpoint to re-use the same part rather than introduce another one into a set's inventory... but I'd like to imagine that Jamie was more concerned with giving us as fans many as possible! When building this set, if you substitute regular 1x1 rounds wherever possible (including where Jamie has used Apollo studs decoratively), you'll have a dozen Black Apollo studs (including the spare) to use elsewhere. 1x1 round plates with 4 petals arrive in Lavender (6074906 33291) which is a surprise - I'm glad to have so many colours of flower available, but the Bright Reddish-Violet [TLG]/Magenta [BL] one released last summer has only appeared in one set to date. No complaints though! Although it's sad there's only one plus a spare in this set. And finally in this shot we have the 4x4 hemispherical dome in Earth Green [TLG]/Dark Green [BL] (6099338 86500), two of which are used as canopies on the pool hall.

Oops, forgot to include this in the last pic: there are Dark Green [TLG]/Green [BL] inverted 1x2 brackets (6099243 99780). What's especially great is that you get eight of them.

I also forgot to photograph the Reddish Brown 32x32 baseplate before I began building on it, but you can see plenty of it here because it remains exposed at the rear of the building, like a dirt yard. Getting a new baseplate in such a useful colour is fantastic news, but these will surely command a high price in the secondary market, so I'm hoping they will be available directly from TLG - or better yet, via the LUGbulk programme in 2016.

Two recolours in Dark Stone Grey are used decoratively - I'll say no more until we get to the spoilers section, although it's likely many of you already spotted these from pictures or videos of the set. There are four Unikitty tails (6099344 15429) and seven fists from Hero Factory (6099343 93575).
It's a little hard to tell in this pic, but these parts are Light Royal Blue [TLG]/Bright Light Blue [BL]. I discussed this colour in a post ages ago, when the 1x2 plate came out in this colour. Six 1x2 plates are present in Detective's Office, but it's these parts that are new: the 1x4x6 door frame (6099508 60596) of which there are three and the 1x2 brick (6100322 3004) of which there are a magnificent 67! So we're slowly getting there with the range of basic Light Royal Blue parts, but there's still a long way to go.

I'm not sure that anyone is especially bothered, but I'll also mention these colours of the 1x2 jumper with a central antistud (Design ID 15573) - as there are quite a lot that are getting rolled out for 2015. We have Warm Gold [TLG]/Pearl Gold [BL] (Element ID 6092594), Brick Yellow [TLG]/Tan [BL] (6092587), Sand Yellow [TLG]/Dark Tan [BL] (6092591), Dark Red (6092597) and finally Green (6092586) which so far has only been included in the limited edition 4000011 Nyiregyhaza Factory set.

Spoilers, sweetie

Yes, it's time to tune out if you don't want to know about cool sections of the build. Come back after you've built it!

I'll start with one you can't fail to have noticed.

The double-sided "POOL" sign takes a different approach to signage by using tiles to form letters. This sign couldn't have been achieved before the arrival of the doughnut tile and corner tile, and I think it's a lot of fun. I've read complaints of it looking "too cartoony" but that's exactly how signs often look, such as neon ones. You can actually straighten up the vertical lines in the P and the L if you prefer, but I like it as-is. (You can also remove the L altogether and snigger.) I am puzzled as to why both Black and White plates have been used behind the lettering; I'd have thought a single colour would be more effective but perhaps I'm missing something. The double-sided structure of the sign itself is clever too; Light Bluish Gray clip lights stick the two sides together but the sign is attached to the building with a single clip and bar connection.

Here are three places where Jamie has used specialised parts in clever ways. On the left you see the new ball and cup connectors used as columns - this is the first set I'm aware of that uses these functional parts decoratively. Top right, you can see how seven Hero Factory fists make a detailed balustrade. And bottom right, the four Unikitty tails top off another roof in fine form. I'm pleased to see it used so well - it was actually a part that really bothered me when it came out.

The pool hall is larger than all the other rooms and so has this small projecting roof at the rear, which detaches for ease of access. Given the trouble Jamie went to to make this room larger, it would have been nice if it was larger still. The exposed baseplate at the rear does make the model feel a little bare. However the set contains 2262 pieces which is a perfectly normal amount for a Modular. All that aside, this projecting roof is one example of the many varied facets in the layout of this Modular.

Indeed this set is no four-walled box, as you can see from this pic of the top floor without the roof. Whilst the Modulars all follow a certain format, no two are the same in approach and it's the many oddly-shaped buildings which distinguish this one - and the layout is more detailed than you might first imagine. For example, examine the top centre of this pic (around the flowers) and you'll see how the roof of the kitchen is actually offset by half a stud compared to the terrace walls.

Here's a closer shot of that Reddish Brown wall which is set inwards by a half-stud. To connect it to the Dark Bluish Gray wall Jamie uses the coupling plate (Design ID 3176) which creates this quirky tapered effect with the sill. Note also that at this stage of the build, the Reddish Brown wall is also a half-stud offset from the blue wall.

As we progress higher, both rooms need to be aligned back into the same grid so that the roof can be attached. Rather than the more obvious option of taking the Reddish Brown wall back out of offset, Jamie brings the blue walls into offset - making the front and back walls of the kitchen suddenly project outwards by half a stud. This is achieved with a layer of jumper plates - as well as utilising the hollow studs of windows and a solitary Apollo stud.

The finished effect is a nice subtle flourish and very realistic. Several windows in the build are also positioned a half-stud in or out, and although you might not spot all these uses of offset on first sight of the pictures, they add loads of charm and complexity to the model.

The water tower is constructed of a chain of Technic treads wrapped around a cog, with a Reddish Brown 1x3 tile neatly applied to each tread. Those five holes in treads are the right size to fit the small pins on the underside of tiles (or plates). The whole tower is a pretty neat bit of geometry and Jamie has used the opportunity to build parts of it upside down to make it extremely stable.

Now let's move downstairs to the ground floor to see a couple of nice things down there.

The pool table is clever - it seems simple, but doubtless took many iterations to get it right (and simple). I've rebuilt it here on a plate just for clarity; in the set it's built on the baseplate and surrounded by nice Earth Blue tiles. It's sort of a clam shell arrangement of two halves, if that makes sense. For the base you insert 1x1 bricks with bar into jumper plates, which creates a really tight hold and enables the cones to be added upside down, which represent pockets. The rest of the table is a submodel which then attaches on top of the 1x1 bricks with bar. I've left a little of the table exposed so you can see how Jamie has used inverted brackets to create the subtle cushions around the edges of the slate. In an ideal world the pockets would somehow sit within the frame of the table, but I'm being overcritical - the detail achieved here is remarkable.


The barber's sign repeats the technique from 10218 Pet Shop: using SNOT to create the lettering which is attached to a hidden bar using clips. It's great fun to build all the strange little pieces which you see in the left-hand pic and suddenly have them all come together as a legible word. It's interesting to note that there's far less hand-holding this time around - what took four pages to describe in Pet Shop takes only two here. Consequently this is a much better building experience that feels akin to putting a jigsaw together.

Here's the interior of my favourite room, the barber's shop, before the front gets built up. It's a far more complex build than you might imagine thanks to the secret passages and the level of details included. Note the lovely chair, and the lower section of the wall which uses White 1x2 bricks with groove (you get fourteen). The mirror doesn't connect to anything; instead it is held in a cavity that is designed to angle it down slightly so that you properly see the reflection of the minifigure.

I photographed a lot more, but feel I have already said more than enough! To cover every enjoyable section of 10246 Detective's Office would take a much longer post than this. 



Our thanks to LEGO's Community & Events Engagement Team for providing this set.

10246 Detective s Office costs US$159.99/GB£132.99/€149.99. Consider using our affiliate links to buy it (or anything); this helps support New Elementary!



7 comments:

  1. Speaking of castor sugar, when I first took a look at this set and the smuggling story, I immediately thought that there's a similarity between cookies and coke, ain't it.

    And for recolored parts, I find it a sort of missed opportunity to exclude a recolor of the 93082 Kitchen Accessories sprue. Having a more natural color, such as chrome or gray, or even black or white would feel like a perfect fit for the Parisian Restaurant.

    /Håkan

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  2. I feel like I've seen the Detective torso before. http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItem.asp?M=sh054

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  3. There are 10 (counting extras) magenta 33291 in set 41061 (which also has two brand new glitter colors) :)

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  4. Great review, makes me want the set even more now.

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  5. Reviews like this are exactly the content that has kept me subscribed to this blog. I know it's a niche interest, but I really appreciate the work you put into this site, and these reviews! Thank you!

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  6. Sometimes I wish I wasn't a poor tfol, so that I could get sets like this.

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  7. Such an awesome review & an AMAZING set!!

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