The Chronicler's Rating - 4/5
Price ~ $90.00
Year Released - 2011
Over the years there have been several short lived themes that are revered as something close to holy by Lego enthusiasts. One of these is the Nautica theme which came and went in the late 80’s and early 90’s. If that theme is hallowed its holy grail would be 6542 Launch and Load Seaport, closely followed by that set’s little brother (for those who couldn’t afford the elder’s hefty price tag) 6541 Intercoastal Seaport. Perhaps sales were not as high as we enthusiasts would think but for some unknown reason Lego waited over 15 years, until 2007, to release another harbor set: 7994 City Harbor which was so shamelessly inspired by the Launch and Load Seaport (and why not that set was pretty much perfect!) that it is safe to say it was essentially copied (though it was not quite as good). When that last set vanished quickly from shelves I figured Lego would likely wait another decade and a half to release another so I was pleasantly surprised to see this offering only a few years later. Harbors are wonderful sets enabling all sorts of adventures to be acted out that are hard to create on your own or with other sets and this one, though not the best, will work.
This set differs from all its predecessors in that it is a commodities harbor as opposed to a cargo harbor. The ship, crane, truck and conveyor belt are meant to convey and transport grain, represented by tan colored cylinders (most of you will know them as “cannonball” pieces). My honest guess is that this change was driven less by Lego trying to be original and more by an attempt to drive up the piece count (and therefore the price they can charge) while minimizing the manufacturing costs (those cylinders take a lot less plastic than the containers found in previous offerings). Even with that change the characteristics that make harbor sets great are still here.
There are some sets that any kid can easily make using pieces from their own collection (see my review of 7869 Battle for Geonosis as an example) and their model will be at least as good if not better than the official set. Harbors however, are not one of them. The boat hull in particular as well as the cranes and various other components are difficult to build on your own (boat hulls and other curved shapes are among the most advanced Lego building techniques and beyond the capability of most kids). Your child will find endless uses for these pieces and they are not found on many other sets so I would recommend that you take advantage of this opportunity while you still can.
Think of what you could do with that boat hull. An exploration vessel? A battleship? A luxury ocean liner? The possibilities are nearly endless not to mention playing with it as is. If you missed (or were too young for) the City Harbor set from a few years ago I would recommend that you take full advantage of this second chance and get this set. Who knows Lego may decide to repeat history and not release another one until you are in college (that was the case with me)!
In the limited pantheon of Lego Harbors this set is not the greatest, but none of its shortcomings diminish its ability to enable every type of story, adventure and creation that its predecessors did. If you have any of the previous harbors there is no reason to get this set but if you don’t then I would recommend it to you as there is no guarantee a better offering (or if history is to repeat itself another offering at all!) will be coming and every collection needs a harbor, they are great sets.
The Lego Chronicler