20 June 2023

LEGO® Icons review: 10320 Eldorado Fortress

Posted by Jonas Kramm

Pirates beware! The legendary Eldorado Fortress from 1989 returns on 4 July 2023 as a LEGO® ICONS™ set, so we got our telescope out to scan for new elements on the horizon. What has changed since the original LEGO® Pirates version came out 24 years ago, and how does the set look placed next to the Blackseas Barracuda from 2020?

Products in this article were provided by LEGO®; the author's opinions are their own.
LEGO® ICONS™ Eldorado Fortress
US$214.99/ £189.99/ 214.99€/ AU$329.99
2509 parts
4 July 2023
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Return of a LEGO® Pirates classic from 1989

The 10320 Eldorado Fortress immediately greets us with a nostalgic feel, as it comes in a yellow box referencing the old LEGOLAND-branded sets from the 1980s. A similar treatment was already used for 10305 Lion Knights' Castle and the 10497 Galaxy Explorer last year for The LEGO Group's 90th anniversary. 

Before we start building, let's have a look if the new version of the Eldorado introduces any interesting pieces.

New parts for the old fortress

New elements in this nostalgic set are rare, as the design closely follows the layout from 1989, so the LEGO parts needed to build a fortress have been around for 34 years. Still, there are a few new things to discover.


There are no new moulds, but there is a new set of sails for the Imperial soldiers' ship. 

All three Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan textiles come in a single paper package (6446574) and the square sail is printed with the Imperial coat of arms, which is inspired by a sail from 1992, as we will see later.


Furthermore, the set features a few elements in new colours, which could come in useful for your own builds.

  • 6x Brick Arch 1 x 4 x 3 in White (6417970 | 80543) is a great recolour of this rather new arch that we have only seen in the two greys so far.
  • 18x Ingot 1 x 2 in Bright Yellow/ Yellow (6437958 | 99563) 
Great to see the colour variations of this neat little tile expanded even further. Surprisingly, it doesn't come in many of the classic colours which were already around 1989, so Yellow is welcome.

It fills out the available range of yellow/red/brown hues nicely.

  • 2x Gate 1 x 4 x 9 Arched with Bars and 3 Studs in Reddish Brown (6437959 | 42448) 
Introduced in Black in 2002, this iconic element has received only three further recolours over the decades, and Reddish Brown is a welcome fourth.

  • 1x Rowing Boat in Dark Brown (6437955 | 21301) is here placed next to the red one from 1989, to show you the slight change in the mould.


Like its older brother, the LEGO Eldorado lacks stickers, instead featuring the return of the printed Imperial flag. It's printed on both sides and you get one. 

  • 1x Flag 6 x 4 with Clips in White with Blue and Black Imperial flag print (6436387)

Together with the Jolly Roger (6317072) from 21322 Barracuda Bay, modern pirate fans now have both of the classic flags back. Let battle commence!

More new prints can be found on the minifigures, which we cover later.

The build

Finally, it is time to tackle the construction of the Eldorado fortress. 

The four building instruction manuals define a new level of minimalism that give no hint of which to start with.

The first pages introduce us to the LEGO Eldorado Fortress and where the inspiration came from. Pierre Normandin is named as the designer in charge.

The reference material

© 1989 The LEGO Group

To make sure we're all on the same page, here is 6276 Eldorado Fortress from 1989. Its iconic look was defined through the use of a raised baseplate and the yellow and white colour scheme.

© 1989 The LEGO Group

We also have to bring to mind set 6277 Imperial Trading Post from 1992, as the new Eldorado makes some callbacks to this perhaps even rarer LEGO Pirates set.


Appropriately, construction sets sail with the ship. 

It uses the Porsche bow (77180) to shape the hull. 

Instead of including two row boats like in the original, the 2023 Eldorado comes with an Imperial ship inspired by the one from the Trading Post. It uses the same colours, and the angled front section refers to what was, back then, a groundbreaking building technique. Today, this is pretty standard stuff.

Here the three sails get used, which have a slightly darker shade than before, but are roughly the same size, so they might even fit on the old single-masted sailing boat.

The finished ship is a tad longer, but otherwise close to the original. Small details such as the lantern and cannons have been copied almost exactly.

A fortress made of bricks

The building process then moves on to the fortress. 

In 1989, it was built onto a vacuum-formed raised baseplate, which are no longer included in LEGO sets, so this new base is brick-built.

It also recreates the original cobblestone printing with elements, which works fairly well.

To hold the angled walkway in that position, 1x1 round plates are used, as they are a bit narrower and leave just enough space for the edge of the plate to lock in.

The new ingots in Yellow make some simple but effective embrasures.

Dark Red wasn't even part of the LEGO palette in 1989, but the old Eldorado has printed panels with crumbling plastering. These are recreated with splashes of Dark Red plates in the walls.

The pirate nostalgia hits particularly hard when building the palm trees and the cannon, which use the same moulds introduced for the first LEGO Pirates sets. 

Just last week, Tom Loftus took his eye-patch off to examine the iconic cannon in detail, including its insides! 

One further reference to the old printed panels is the window, now with a frame of Dark Red bricks.

While a raised baseplate helped to keep the part count way down for the old fortress, it didn’t allow for many details inside the base. The new Eldorado uses this to its advantage and builds in caves, like this wine cellar.

Each section is modular, with clips to connect to the other chunks.

The build is pretty straightforward, without many angles, but the crane is a welcome exception.

A secret tunnel below the prison allows the pirates to plan an escape.

The Eldorado from 1989 had no roof, so the new version took inspiration from the Imperial Trading Post, to vary the architecture a bit more.

The finished Eldorado Fortress

After 2503 bricks are placed, the model is finished and displays a charming LEGO Pirates throwback. 

The fortress uses less yellow than the Eldorado from 1989, but is still true to the original concept. Like the kids from back then, the model has grown up and is more polished. It still has all the details, but there are even more play features to discover.

The recreation of the raised baseplate with bricks works really well and allows for a lot of modification, as we will see soon. 

Even though the Eldorado Fortress is more advanced than its ancestor, it isn't as complex as, for instance, the 10305 Lion Knights' Castle with all its differently angled walls and advanced SNOT techniques.

In many regards, it is still the fortress that was designed for a young audience, where it doesn't matter that the Admiral's chamber is open from the back and a cannon blocks the way.

The fact that it didn't grow up too much is a good thing, as it allows all the little fun play features like opening hatches, and a removable wall for the prison escape.

Rearrange the Fortress

A big improvement in terms of displaying and playing with the new Eldorado is its modularity. 

The fortress splits into five sections, that can clip together in various ways. 

The most useful is probably the arrangement in one long line to showcase the Eldorado on a shelf.

In this configuration, the caves and cellars in the base are more visible.

Minifigures in set 10320 Eldorado Fortress 

Eight minifigures come with the Eldorado Fortress. This is the same amount as in 1989, and just like back then, there are two pirates and six Imperials. LEGO Pirates was the first theme to introduce minifigure heads with more than just the classic smiley face, however all minifigures were still required to be smiling. The different expressions that are now permitted give the figures more diversity.

The black-haired pirate is probably Lady Anchor, who was introduced in 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay. Her torso has a new print (6444471).

It's been a while since LEGO did bluecoats, and they all feature new prints.

The set comes with one Admiral Coat (6444301) and five Imperial Coats (6444336), seen here next to the bluecoat designs from 2015 and 1989.

Another returner is the White bicorne with Black Admiral's hat printing (6436389), which had became pretty rare over the decades.

The Blackseas Barracuda attacks!

Even before LEGO started making nostalgic sets for their 90th anniversary, the LEGO® Ideas 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay brought the LEGO Pirates theme to the present. I was lucky enough to review the set back in 2020 when it launched, but it has since been retired.

Similar to the Eldorado Fortress, the Barracuda was also a reimagination of a classic set, but took a different approach, as it changed a lot, taking the original more as an inspiration. Still, it modernised the ship in a perfect way, and is therefore one of the oldest sets I have on display in my living room.

When combined, we have a great Pirates layout, even though the Barracuda increased significantly in size and so makes the Eldorado look almost a bit small.

Closing thoughts

Unarguably, it's a welcome decision by The LEGO Group to continue their anniversary with another icon. Classic Pirates fans certainly can't feel left out; after the Barracuda already got its renewal, the LEGO Ideas Eldorado Fortress is a perfect choice.

The model spreads nostalgia all around. Compared to the homages to LEGO® Castle and LEGO® Space, this one is probably the simplest build, yet still packs in the details and the minifigures. Adding the ship from the Imperial Trading Port for a second rowing boat is a great choice, through the opportunity to include a redcoat as a crew was missed.

What do you think about the new LEGO Eldorado Fortress and the modularity?

READ MORE: LEGO® Monkie Kid™ review: 80047 Mei's Guardian Dragon

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  1. Great review of an awesome looking set!

    Two of the new white arches from this set also appear in the Dragon of the East Palace from Monkie Kid (which I just finished building the other day).

    I do feel like the classic palm trees are a step down from the fuller, more organic looking palm trees of Barracuda Bay. If I get this set I might have to upgrade the palm trees myself.

  2. I love that they committed to brick-building the base, and that it includes some rooms and features, not just a blob of rock. At first seeing pictures, my reaction was more like "ugh that will drive up the piece count and cost". But it looks fantastic, and you end up with a bunch of nice non-specialized brick in a neutral color, which I find lacking in many modern sets.

  3. That side by side photo of the new and old torsos makes it painfully obvious how bad Lego is at printing light colours on dark parts, white on blue in this case.

    1. True, although they do get it right sometimes (e.g. the CMF Revolutionary Soldier), which makes the recent failures feel even more egregious.

    2. Possibly, although the original torso was blue on white...

    3. Of course, but it shows how the white print really should look like if they actually cared.

    4. Did you know that the printing issues of recent years are because they changed their printing inks to be safer? Seems lik the very definition of caring to me ;)

  4. The set is fine, I guess? I personally would have preferred a more adventurous reimagining in the spirit of Pirates of Barracuda Bay rather than such a slavish recreation. Feels less of a display model for adults then PoBB did.

    I think they really dropped the ball on the art design of the instruction manuals. No cover art, no numbering(!), no in-jokes/lore references. It feels very cheap compared to the care taken with the Lion Knights Castle or Galaxy Explorer manuals (or the amazing cover art on Rivendell for that matter).

    1. Honestly, I feel like it IS pretty close to the same design philosophy as Barracuda Bay. Both sets stay fairly true to to the "footprint" and color palette of the original build, but stand a bit taller, employ more complex building techniques, add additional furnishings and play features where space permits, and improve the historical accuracy of mechanical elements (e.g. Barracuda Bay's working capstan or this set's more detailed crane).

      Also like Barracuda Bay's "hideout mode", this set's brick-built landscaping is far more advanced than anything you'd find in classic pirate sets. The waterfall cave, sandy shorelines, and sloped cobblestone path are especially striking examples of this.

      I do think there's room for improvement — for example, the accessories in Barracuda Bay included lots of food pieces, whereas this set's bowls and cookpot are left empty and its barrels and crates are used solely for treasure and weapons.

      Also, I don't care for the "old-school" palm tree canopies, which feel flat and simplistic compared to many botanical builds from modern sets.

    2. The old flexible palm trees were great. I wonder if they were deemed too expensive to produce, or if they could have been considered too fragile...

  5. I never had any, but I love the vibe of the older "fortress" style sets. They feel more complete to me than the dollhouse-style sets, like they're an actual place. I'm sure the baseplates contributed to that a lot, since they gave some quick verticality and form. I do like that this set can be rearranged if you do want the open-backed look of some docks at a port, too. And I'm the biggest sucker for little hiding spots and pockets of detail scattered around.

    1. I genuinely like dollhouse-style design, though. Even if it's arguably less realistic, it's an approach that works very well for both display aestethics and play philosophy.