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12 January 2017

Combo NEXO Power shields

The LEGO® NEXO KNIGHTS™ theme introduced many exciting and useful new elements into the LEGO System in 2016 and this trend continues into 2017. Today we look at a highly unusual piece which is set to take your building into totally new dimensions, literally!


BrickLink are yet to name it and I haven't discovered TLG's official name for it [EDIT: their names are "Plate, Modified 6 x 6 Hexagonal with Pin Hole" and "Rotor , w/ 4.85 hole, No. 1" respectively] but in marketing materials it is referred to as the "Combo NEXO Power shield". They seem a little unsure of this mouthful of a name though, as the official Nexo Knights page also refers to it as the Combo Shield and Combo Plate. I'll call it the hexagonal plate (as my other idea, "Nexogon", is a tad too silly). The part number (a.k.a. Design ID) is 27255 and it comes in one colour, Medium Stone Grey [TLG]/Light Bluish Gray [BL], as Element ID 6173203.

Isn't it beautiful? Particularly the underside. It comes in the new Nexo Knights pocket money sub-theme called Battle Suits, and I will review the two sets that I bought in a separate post but the main thrust is: these are large shields held by mecha that can treble your fighting powers within the Nexo Knights app. Today, however, let's see what it can do to your building prowess in reality!

Fittingly, the hexagonal plate embraces three of what I call 'connection families' within the LEGO System: studs, 3.18s and Technic holes.




Most obviously, the hexagonal plate has an area of 2x2 studs on three of its edges, with the corresponding anti-studs on the undersides. There is additional space in the centre of the top so that Nexo powers can be attached, which I'll show in a moment.

The other three edges have a raised, chamfered design with a 3.18mm bar in the middle. Using pieces with clips, you can join hexagonal plates together, as shown here, which is the one used in the supplementary set from this sub-theme, 70372 Combo NEXO Powers.

The centre of the plate has a Technic pin hole. This descends form the underside for a distance equal to the height of two plates, as I will show later.

I won't examine the Technic connections in detail in this post, as I am no great Technic freak, but let's see what is possible with the stud and 3.18 connections.

Connecting via studs


As mentioned, the main intended purpose of the hexagonal plate is to host three Nexo powers, which are printed onto transparent pentagonal tiles (Design ID 22385) however I have opted for Medium Stone Grey ones in this photo as it is a lovely effect to see this in monotone, which highlights the chamfered edges of both pieces.

The pentagonal tile was introduced for Nexo Knights last year and has prven extremely popular with builders. You can see some innovative ideas from New Elementary's Nexo-Classic Space parts festival. It's great to see this part inspire another new part that is a pleasing extension of the pentagonal tile's geometry.
A similar effect is achieved using Design ID 3049, the "Slope 45 2 x 1 Double / Inverted" or "attic" slope, which is a shorter piece than the pentagonal tile. This left space for me to use another 45° roof slope (3043) to connect multiple hexagonal plates together. This looks like the beginning of something Blacktron, I think!



Connecting multiple hexagonal plates together is, of course, the very first thing you want to do and six is clearly an ideal number to use. Again, I think the underside is much prettier.. or should I say, more industrial. Oh, and a belated Merry Christmas, dear readers!


My next port of call was to examine how the hexagonal plate interacts with wedge pieces. The results were a little frustrating as no angles match perfectly. The 2x4 double wedge plate (51739) is really close but not quite, as you can see below.


You can't attach three of these underneath a hexagonal plate as the angled edge is fractionally too long. The nicest effect I achieved was reversing their direction to create the sort-of-nuclear symbol shape shown bottom left of the photos above.

You may have noticed that the underside of the hexagonal plate does not have 'notches', presumably because these reduce the aesthetics of an element. When wedge plates first appeared in the 1970s they didn't have notches but did get them in later iterations of the designs, which improves the functionality of the parts. Without notches, the parts that can be attached underneath a hexagonal plate are limited to those with two studs on the end. An example that may be useful should you wish to expand a hexagonal plate for a larger build is the 4x9 double wedge plate (14189 or the old version without notches 2413), shown below.


Of course you can already achieve triangular or hexagonal structures in LEGO building using hinges, so what fun can you have combining hexagonal plates and hinges? Here are a couple of ideas.

As mentioned, the descending section of the Technic hole is the height of two plates, so you can stack hexagon plates either by putting two plates in between them (as shown below) or simply connecting with a Technic pin, which would provide the additional possibility of rotation.

I think it looks like a microscale Brutalist car park!

Connecting via bars

Now to examine some of the 3.18 connection possibilities, and we will start small by trying out some decorative parts with clips. 

Roadsigns proved very pleasing and I combined the three square ones with three 2x2 tiles.

This worked even better when combining round roadsigns and round 2x2 tiles, shown here in White: a perfect fit and the tops of the roadsigns and tiles all end up at the same level too!

Triangular roadsigns were, surprisingly, less satisfying as the position of the clip means they can't point into the centre of the hexagonal plate. Using just two, aligned in different directions, could be useful though.

I won't show you all the clipped parts I tried but believe me there is a lot of fun to be had trying them out. However I did feel the one above is worth sharing; "Panel 3 x 5 Solar/Clip-On/Deltoid" (Design ID 30034) from the Exploriens theme in 1996. Despite being hexagonal its geometry isn't especially compatible with the hexagonal plate but they undoubtedly look beautiful when combined, and very Spacey indeed.


As mentioned, the 70372 Combo NEXO Powers set comes with pieces to connect hexagonal plates together using plates with clips, tiles and boat studs. Quickly you can imagine interesting Spacey flooring or walkways.

Again, connecting six together is satisfying and beautiful. Widening the connecting sections to four studs creates a dodecagonal hole.

I was surprised that this hole is eight studs in diameter, although perhaps the tolerance afforded by the clip connections is permitting this, which might make it an illegal connection by TLG standards. Maybe the mathematicians among you could figure that out for me. Anyway, I was able to do it and to add parts to create a tight 8x8 round circle in the middle. [EDIT: Reader Bfa did the maths, and Mecabrick designed it digitally. Both agree this is legal and intentional. Yay!]

3D LEGO Polyhedra


Let's move away from two dimensions now, as the hexagonal plate offers thrilling three-dimensional building opportunities.


Building with four Combo Nexo Power Shield triangular plates

Indeed, 3D building is encouraged by TLG. The leaflet inside 70372 Combo NEXO Powers shows that you can combine multiple copies of this set to create the exciting shape shown here, which I think would be called a truncated octahedron if all its sides were solid. If the connecting sections are 4x4 instead of 2x2, there should be space to attach a further four hexagonal plates in the gaps somehow, but I haven't tried this yet.

The leaflet erroneously states you need six to create this model however only four are required; an easy mistake to have made. [EDIT: the mistake is mine! You do require six booster packs to build this model; while you only need four of the hexagonal plates, you need six connections between the four plates, for which you need 12 of the 1x2 plates with clip (Design ID 11476) and two are provided in each pack. Thanks to Brainslugged for pointing this out.]

You can make some more complex irregular forms with six of the hexagon plates however the real fun is when you own eight of them, which is the number I purchased.

Building with eight Combo Nexo Power Shield triangular plates

With eight hexagonal plates I was able to create this shape comprised of hexagons, rectangles and octagons. Filling in the octagonal face proved a little tricky and this clumsy arrangement was my best effort before moving on.


I moved my attentions away from the 3.18 connector and instead used hinges to attach hexagonal plates via stud connections. A bar/clip hinge probably would have been best to use but I have lost my box of these parts! Surprisingly, "click hinges" - which can only be angled at fixed increments of 22.5° - worked out just fine and indeed provided for more stable models, which I was even able to roll like giant Dungeons & Dragons dice.
Again, these represent truncated octahedrons and there are a variety of ways to connect these pieces. The photo above left has the hexagonal plates underneath the hinges whereas above centre they are above the hinges. Above right, all pieces have been reversed to expose those lovely undersides.

In the photos above I have expanded the form by one stud. This brings the shape closer to a perfect cuboctahedron, which I have tried to emphasise by pointing pentagonal tiles outwards. I could not find a way to fill in the 'square' faces of any of the above, but surely there is a way - certainly if you keep expanding the form.

And so I kept expanding. You don't have to expand every edge uniformly; indeed just expanding half of them created this intriguing form. At this distance I found I was able to use the 3.18 bars to connect the gaps by adding clips to eight-long plates (below).


The other faces could be filled in with wedge plates. This is just an initial experiment to inspire you - I am certain the possibilities are just as infinite as your imagination and LEGO!

Further exploration

With more than the eight hexagonal plates that I currently own, the opportunities will increase.

These five plates are the beginning of a truncated icosidodecahedron, for which I will need 20 hexagonal plates (and to locate my lost bar/clip hinges instead of using click hinges, I suspect).

Other more complex and beautiful geometric forms will be possible, as the below image suggests.


And of course you don't need to stick to 'solids' - the hexagonal plate offers any manner of strange and wonderful shapes, as shown above.


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UK: Get the Hexagon Plate in these sets



28 comments:

  1. What an amazing part. Thanks, Tim

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  2. What out for that amazon link. It is pulling up a lot of 3rd party sets for $15 or so. Amazon sells them directly for $9.99.

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    1. Hmmm weird, thanks for pointing out. Proving weirdly difficult to call up the Amazon ones, will keep investigating

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  3. I suspect that attaching six in a dodecagon would indeed lead to a legal 8-stud distance between opposite pieces. Hexagons have a geometry that tends to work out nicely, since they can be broken down into 30-60-90 right triangles (whose sides have a ratio of 1:sqrt(3):2). If the designers didn't take this into consideration when working out the relationship between the stud and clip locations on this piece I would be very surprised.

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  4. Good review! This is an exciting new part and I can't wait to see what I can use it for. My brother mentioned the possibility of using it in conjunction with 62743 as a helicopter propellor, which I would not be surprised to see in a set in the future.

    I'm curious—having gotten several packs, what is the distribution of powers like? I know that there are 35 in all but I'm wondering whether the assortments are predetermined (that is to say, seven distinct sets of five) or more randomized. Also, does each pack have all five colors of power, or is it possible to get, say, a pack with two blue powers and no yellow ones?

    With the knowledge that there will be a second wave of these later in the year, I'm also curious whether the contents will be changed up at all. It'd be exciting if the wave two packs featured a differently shaped shield—maybe an octagonal one that allowed for four powers to be used at once, or another triangular one but with a rocky texture like the "evil" shields used by the bad guys! Even just a different color of the same shield piece could still be exciting!

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    1. Thanks Andrew! I will be reviewing the booster packs (and Battle Suit Clay) separately but FYI all seven packs I bought had one tile in each colour.

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    2. I see you have several doublet powers in the Christmas star, but maybe there hasn't been enough different powers produced.

      /Håkan

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    3. Hi Håkan, I deliberately chose as many doubles as possible in the hope it would look a little more consistent. The booster packs have 35 variants, I'll review the sets I bought when I get the chance.

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  5. Great article. You can get a great deal in Lego stores in the UK at the moment... purchase any Nexo Knight set and get 30378 free. This even works if you buy just the £3 70372 which has one of these hex pieces, I think 6 nexo powers, a 2x2 tile and a 1x2 plate with clip. I got three of them but was thinking six would be nice. Having read this article though, I'm gonna have to try and get a whole bunch.

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    1. Thank you! Yes I got one of those when I rushed to buy more booster packs! I will be reviewing those packs separately (along with Battle Suit Clay) but FYI you get five powers, one tile, one boat stud and two of the clips. You can see the tile and boat stud in photos in this post.

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  6. An excellent article about a very cool part! I've yet to see any 2017 sets round this way, let alone the Nexo Knights shield pack but after reading this I'm tempted to pick some up when I do.

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    1. Ah the perils of exotic cruises! I bet you wish you were at home in the snow with a Nexo booster pack

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  7. I honestly didn't bat an eye for this piece in the beginning (I thought it looked unuseful), but now that you showed all those possibilities, my opinion has completely changed! Agh, I NEED these! :D

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    1. Same with me! I'm not a massive fan of 'novelty' parts but they really made this one as 'Systemy' as they could!

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    2. Yeah, it does seem to be integrated in builds pretty seamlessly...

      /Håkan

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  8. You mention the Technic pin hole being two plates tall. A Technic brick or beam is one stud wide, which is 2.5 plates tall when laid on its side. Judging by the "parking garage", the whole thing is three plates tall, which should be half a plate thicker than a pin will connect to. So, what's the deal with that, then?

    Also, no need to go hunting down your finger hinges. 60470 and 48336 will do the trick.

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    1. Yeah, as far as I can tell this hole is 3 plates tall; 1 within the plate itself and 2 below.

      Did I say finger hinges? I meant bar/clip. Ironically, I have my finger hinges to hand! I just don't own enough for this task :(

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    2. So that still doesn't really answer my question, but looking more closely at some of the pics I think I figured part of it out. In the "Technic holes to pins" pic, I can see a nice angle shot of one of the Technic pins in the center hole of the shield. Unlike in a normal part, it does not sit flush at the surface, so that's probably where the extra half-plate height is accommodated. I'm not certain, but I think I see a double lip in the top of the hole. The lower, inner lip would be for the pin to catch on, and I'm guessing the higher, outer lip would be a countersink so a pin-connector would sit half a plate below the studded surface, allowing a regular pin to connect the shield to another shield, or any of a variety of pin and axle connectors that don't exceed one stud in diameter.

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  9. I'm really tempted to grab some at some point to mess around with. Problem is i can't b/c the shields by themselves aren't up on bricklink yet so unless i steal the shields from the 2 combo packs and Aaron that i just ordered last night, i can't

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    1. Yup. After receiving a Battle Suit for Christmas I was in the same dilemma, so plumped for 7 booster packs using my VIP points! Have you tried Mecabrick? They've just added this part!

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    2. Oh and BTW the other parts in the booster packs are nice. And very useful in this scenario are the two clip plates (11476) provided in each pack, but maybe you have a lot of those already.

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  10. FYI... having picked up another four packs of 70372 today, I realize that while you may only need four shields to make the geometric shape suggested by Lego, Lego is correct that you do need six packs as you need six sets of connections.

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    1. Ohhhhhhhhhhh very good point. I had best update the post, thank you!

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  11. I really like the Nexagon term. Let's make that stick, shall we?

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    1. Hehe thanks. OK, I will call the parts challenge that.

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