Lego's first two series of miniature Star Wars sets proved to be very popuar, offering fans their favorite ships at a very affordable price, with a fun little bit of collecting enthusiasm built in.
Eschewing their long-running Minifig scale for the first time, Lego gave us small, easy to assemble sets that still caputured the look and feel of the Star Wars universe. While the first series were all two-packs of small vehicles, the following offerings have all been larger ships packaged alone. With four sets in series three, we again get ships from four different films.
The sets continue to come in those wonderfully imagined clamshells that have a nice sense of design while still protecting and storing your bricks. The right edge curves away, and the shape of a standard eight-bump Lego brick is rising forth. Not only does this look cool (and function well; the "brick" on the package is entirely compatible with the real things), but it also allows the boxes to stack horizontally without the curved edge causing them to topple.
The graphic elements are printed on a carboard insert which folds perfectly into the box. Inside that sleeve, the Legos are bagged just like any other set. The clamshell is hinged at the bottom, and careful design assures that the box shuts tightly. You can tell a lot of work went into this packaging, and it really looks nice. Too bad no other companies have followed Lego's lead - clamshells are bad packaging, unless you do them smart.
The first set in this series is an Imperial Star Destroyer - the giant triangular ship that makes its first appearance scrolling in from the top of the screen at the beginning of the original Star Wars. These behemoths were the main transport for the empire, mile-long daggers stabbing at the heart of the rebellion. In mini form, the Star Destroyer is 5 1/4" long and 2 3/4" tall. It's built from 83 gray pieces and three blue ones - the triple engine in the back has a translucent blue block on the end of each port, giving them the appropriate powered-up glow. The ship really looks great, even if it's not in the same scale as the rest of the sets in this line: remember, this is the type of ship Han Solo hid the Millennium Falcon against when escaping from Hoth. If you want to recreate that scene, just put one of the extra single-bump bricks on the back of the command tower and you're all set!
From there it's off to Episode 1 for the Sith Infiltrator. This small personal craft was Darth Maul's ride, packed to the brim with probe droids, a speeder bike and other impressively menacing stuff. You can really see the stylistic roots of the original trilogy's TIE fighters in this ship - its rounded cockpit is suspended between two curved stabilizer wings. The completed ship is 5 3/4" long and 4" across and is built from 55 pieces. The little wings fold down, the landing gear is retractable and even the rear gantry opens. It's all very cool. The disc that forms the top of the cockpit is printed with a nice technological decoration that helps sell the look of the ship.
From Return of the Jedi comes the 82-piece Imperial Shuttle. Take your pick - this is either the ship that brought the Emperor to inspect the second Death Star, or the one the Rebels hijacked to get past the blockade to Endor. It's the ship with the three fold-up wings. In Lego form, the ship looks a little unbalanced; the top wing is more than twice as thick as the other two. They really should have found a way to balance that better. Other than that, the look is great - the sloping cockpit is printed to with a windshield and a few seams, there's a translucent yellow brick on each wing suggesting a trio of landing lights, and a few forward-facing guns. Three conical pieces serve as landing gear when the wings are raised.
The Clone Troopers in Episode 2 couldn't just run around with rifles all day - like any army, they needed heavy artillery. Their tanks were the All-Terrain Tactical Enforcers. The big AT-TEs were like prototype AT-ATs, their little pillbug bodies lumbering around on six tiny legs instead of four big ones. Built from 63 pieces, this mini AT-TE is easily the most decorated set in Series 3: the curving pieces taht form the top of its outer shell are printed with black, grey and red to recreate all the tiny details that would have otherwise been overlooked at this scale. All six legs move, as do the guns. Even the main cannon can be raised to aim at distant targets. Translucent neon yellow bricks serve as the stacked cockpits.
Unfortunately, Series 3 does not include any of the bonus pieces that the first two did - no building a fifth set if you buy them all. That's only gotta hurt sales: with no extra impetus to buy a set you're on the fence about, it's more likely to stay on the shelf. However, these four aren't the end of the Star Wars minis: in conjunction with Episode 3, Toys R Us offered an exclusive set if you purchased $14 worth of SW Lego product.
In the first series of Minis, we got three out of four TIE ships, and now finally we got the TIE Interceptor, too. The Interceptor was designed specifially to counter the Rebels' X-Wings, a craft with both speed and firepower. Its angular wings set it apart from the other TIEs and conceal four powerful laser cannons. This is just a 32-piece set, sold (or given out, anyway) in a plastic bag, but it captures the look of the Interceptor well and fits in with its three sister ships well. The only decorated block is on the top of the cockpit, re-creating the pod's hatch.
When the supply of TIE Interceptors was exhausted, Toys R Us began offering a second exclusive Mini set, the ARC-170 Starfighter.
This is the Republic's main air support, and the ship that'll one day grow up to be an X-Wing. This is a 42-piece set, with articulated wings and a rotating gun turret. The layered cockpit is built from two clear bricks, and there are just enough hints of red among the white blocks to give the ship some personality. While the design is supposed to make us think of the original trilogy's X-Wings, but it really looks like it came out of the same shipyards as Battlestar Galactica's Raptors.
Other than the Star Destroyer (which would have had to be about 30 times the size it is here), all these sets are still pretty much in the same scale, which is nice. They came out a while ago, but there's still no trouble finding them in stores - possibly because of the lack of a fifth ship. The exclusives round out the collection nicely, even if you might have to work to get them. Heck, if you have an extra $300 to spare, you can even build a mini-styled Death Star to call your own. Let's hope these Mini sets keep coming.
What Star Wars vehicles or sets do you want to see Mini-sized? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.