Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Tale of Two Fortresses

I recently had the pleasure of acquiring two different yet similar Lego sets: 2006’s 7709 Sentai Defense Headquarters from the Exo-Force theme and 2012’s 5887 Dino Defense HQ from the new Dino theme.

7709 Sentai Defense Headquarters

5887 Dino Defense HQ

Both sets are, in their own right, full of similarities.  Each consists of 4 walls enclosing an open courtyard.  The two side walls on each fortress are mirror images of each other with the front consisting of a large gate.  Each one also includes a variety of supporting cast members of both vehicles and figures.  Although inflation impacts it slightly they also cost the same each clocking in at the $100 mark.  But when you look at them side by side the differences could not be greater.

The most obvious difference is the piece count, the Sentai fortress comes in at nearly double the amount of pieces: over 1400 to the Dino fortress’ 800+.  The second is the size.  I am not exaggerating to when I say that the Dino Defense HQ can fit inside the Sentai’s courtyard.  The walls of the Sentai fortress are tall enough to legitimately impede the non-flying mecha included with the set while the walls of the Dino Defense HQ look like the T-Rex could have stepped over them to get inside as he is pictured on the front of the box.  How in the world could these sets have cost the same amount?  The answer can be found in Lego’s history, specifically the 2004 fiasco.

Most people do not know that Lego nearly collapsed in 2004.  Years of mediocre product did a serious number on the company’s pocketbook and in fiscal year 2004 they posted their biggest loss in history.  The sharks were circling the family owned company, most notably toy giant Mattel (the thought of Mattel owning Lego sends a shudder through every true fan!).  So Lego went back to the basics focusing all their efforts on their core products.  They also had something to prove so sets got big, very big (I have never seen a set which required more floor area outside of the train and monorail genre than the Sentai Headquarters) and the piece counts got large, very large.  Lego had to recapture the market and they opted for the go big or go home approach.  The focus shifted in the last couple of years to realism.  Those dinos (of which the HQ set includes three) are highly detailed, multi-colored pieces that required new molds and colors.  Realistic, but not cheap to produce.  Size was traded for detail.  Each has value in its own right and I am a big fan of both of these sets.  The playability alone for each of them is incredible.  I highly recommend either of these sets.         

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