Set Review: 20200 Master Builder Academy Starter Set
Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 at 6:01am by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
Today we have a review of a different sorts. DeeVee has taken a look at the 20200 Master Builder Academy Starter Set to see what this MBA thing is all about. Are you looking for ways to improve your building? Want a peek inside the brains of LEGO set designers and master builders? Even if you don't, read on to see what makes this set tick!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The Master Builder Academy Starter set comes in a large, sturdy, thick box. It is nice. The lime and black colours look sharp, and in the LEGO Stores where you can find it, they lend themselves well to the whole "jumps off the shelf" thing. The back of the box has some information on what you can find inside this awesome set, and man, it's a good bit of stuff.
Gotta love space ships, am I right?
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
So, this set really isn't as much about the building of the stock sets, so much as it's about learning new techniques LEGO "Master Builders" use. I took a bunch of photos of each of the three "sets" included here, all of which, obviously, require the other space ships to not be together. No, you cannot build all three at the same time.
But first! The mascot and pilot!
Look at those giant hands building that tiny rocket pack!
Space Ship 1:
The first ship focuses a lot on "locking." Which the set designers describe as using one piece to hold others together. And what I mean by that is what you see especially in the top of the wing things. That lime tile "locks" the entirety of the wings together, as it effectively covers several different creases and structural points of weakness.
Space Ship 2:
The second ship focuses mostly on "sideways building" as the Master Builders call it. You know, what most of us in the hobby call "SNOT" (Studs Not On Top). This is demonstrated best by the side-rail lime stripe, and the engine work. This is where the bricks are used to build out, down, or up, with the studs not all point up, one brick stacked on top of the other (hence the SNOT acronym).
Space Ship 3:
The third ship is really a culmination of the things you're supposed to have learned from the first two. The instructions are full of lots of, "Hey, remember locking?! We're going to do that here!" and, "sideways building! It's awesome! Let's do it!"
The builds are fun, and all three are quite different from the last, so if you, say, build all three in a row while taking set review photos, you won't get tired of it.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
We're not going to use this the way we usually do. I don't have any pictures of special parts or new molds for you, because that's not what this set is about, and it's not why you're going to buy this if you do. It's not your traditional set by any means.
The point of this set, this "starter kit", this whole line and concept is to teach those unfamiliar with system building techniques the kinds of stuff the certified LEGO Master Builders and set designers use. I've been in the hobby for a long, long time, and none of this was new to me. But it was so very, very interesting to read the instruction book and see all the hints, the tips, to see how the set designers who had input into this described their processes, these techniques, and in some ways, to see the differences between how the "professionals" and the hobbyists do it. The terminology difference was one thing that surprised me, though I suppose LEGO designers sitting around talking about all the cool SNOT would be a little weird.
Speaking of the instruction book, this is the real hero of the set. This is why you would buy this box. It's a thick book, because it's not your traditional instruction book. I chose a random page to photograph so you could see a glimpse of what's inside. There's so much more. There's tips on designing your own set, building technique tips, even blurbs from individual set designers. It is really, really, really cool. As a fan of LEGO and the sets and the product, this is something I was really excited to own, if just for that insight into the company and the design factor that goes into these pieces of plastic we all obsess over.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
This set gives you three different space ships to build, a giant book with tips and hints, and then says "build something new and share it with us at this website!" There's so much play in here, not to mention that, hey, this is LEGO. Build what you want.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
I'm not going to do a pros and cons, because this isn't a traditional set. Basically, what this comes down to, is this:
Do you like building system MOCs but have no idea what you're doing or how to do some of those things you see the "famous" AFOL system builders doing? This set is going to push you in several ways and you are going to get better. It shares techniques and tips from the true Masters, and afterwards, you are going to be better off. Just straight up. If you're an experienced builder already, I'd say go for it just for the instruction book. But full disclosure, I have no idea how much this costs, and the book alone is no doubt far from worth the price tag (TLG graciously donated this set for BZPower to review - they are AWESOME). I had a great time building the three space ships, and I'm not really in the target range here. So I can only imagine the things this set and that book in tandem could do for someone who really wants to do great things with LEGO.
Huge thanks go out to LEGO for donating this set to be reviewed - we're very sorry it took as long as it did. To everyone else, I hope you all enjoyed it. Be sure to thank DeeVee for his look at this interesting set in the Talkback. We're going back to some Avengers sets after this, but of a kind perhaps more associated with this site. So keep checking back right here on BZPower!
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