2008 marks the 30th anniversary of LEGO Castle, their excellent line of medieval models. Imagine Arthurian knights and Tolkeinesque dwarves battling splendidly evil trolls, wizards and skeletons — it’s pretty easy to get into the narrative. Though in the past, the good and bad guys were a little more vague, with saturnine Black Knights and rangers defending camouflaged fortresses. Still, the medieval thing is such a home run that it’s easy to see why the line has lasted so long.
For a fun twist on the classic knights-in-armor theme, LEGO’s Castle line for this year includes the Dwarves’ Mine, a fantastic 575-piece vignette depicting the peace-loving dwarven allies of the Castle humans, minding their own business and doing their dwarf thing. Suddenly, a trio of ruthless trolls arrives!
The Dwarves’ Mine is fantastically detailed, like a lot of bigger LEGO sets. There is a train track complete with two ingeniously-crafted ore cars, along with not one but two bucket transportation systems — one a rope-hauled elevator, the other a free-rolling trolley that whisks the bucket around the structure. A chute and three ladders add to the transportation options. If that weren’t enough, a gigantic catapult protects the entrance from bad guys, and a small forge complete with anvils and a weapons rack sits near the train tracks. Overseeing the gate is the dwarf king’s throne. One thing I love about LEGO models are details that really only the builder can see. For instance, there is a tiny hearth, with a goblet and turkey leg close by. Where is it? Hidden in the base of the structure, visible only from behind.
Brick fanatics will be happy to hear that there are 7 minifigs in the set, four dwarves and three trolls, with weapons and armor for all seven plus a lot of extra minifig-scale equipment like shields, axes, hammers and so on. Additionally, numerous rare and fun bricks are included like the awesome mine gates as well as some gold and silver crystals. The dwarven minifigs, interestingly, are standard figures with different legs — non-articulated stunty limbs that make the dwarf minifig slightly shorter than their knight counterparts. They more than make up for this with their magnificent beards, which fit around the kneck pins like standard minifig torso accessories (e.g., breastplates or backpacks). While the beards conceal the minifigs’ faces, the heads still have the usual features, unlike stormtroopers whose heads are all black beneath their helmets.
There you have it, drama, adventure, trolls! The Dwarves’ Mine is fun to build and crammed full of detail. And with a bevy of spare minifig gear and unusual bricks, serious brickers will find a lot of value beyond the joy of building.