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Best sets for playability by kids (does it fall apart)?
I'm tweaking my Christmas list for my 6-year-old Lego addict. He's been Lego obsessed pretty much all of his life and has a LOT of Lego. But, I keep trying to steer him towards sets he might not otherwise gravitate to...because they actually stay together and he ends up playing with them more. We have a lot of Ninjago (he's 6), but my gripe is that you sneeze on them and they fall apart (Destiny's Bounty, while beautiful and cool, is the worst imho, but the vehicles we have all have the same problem). So, what are some sets that you'd recommend? Current or reasonably available (not 3xRRP) retired sets? Please, no more police or fire, we have enough of that. Is there a helicopter that has blades that actually stand up to play, because Wolverine's and the Alien Conquest one don't in our house? He's interested in the Hobbit, are there any sets worthwhile for play?
I'll give a few examples of things we love:
7639 Camper -- this has gotten a lot of play, even though it does have a tendency to fall apart when open
3181 Passenger Plane
70708 Hive Crawler -- this looks like it would fall apart, but actually stays together really well and has great playability with the launching of the eggs
4183 -- The Mill -- as long as you don't roll that wheel off the table, it stays together amazingly well (and sometimes even off the table). Cool attack feature that works for kids!
9492 Tie Fighter -- for a big Star Wars set, this is the best we have for kids (much better than the x-wing or the pod racers). Little speeders are also great, but we have SO many of those.
Thanks for any input!
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#9516 + #75005 Jabba's Palace + Rancor Pit: Not much playability individually, so probably only worth getting both rather than one or the other. The palace has a few bits in the throne room that can come off easily, but the pit is very sturdy with very few small parts.
#9476 Orc Forge: This one might be difficult to find at a reasonable price, but it has a good amount of playability. The torches will get knocked off but the rest of the set stays together well.
#9464 Vampyre Hearse: My son had a ton of fun playing with the "vampire launcher" feature, but I realize this may be less interesting to a six year old. Regardless, the set is built very solid and except for a few small pieces (teeth on the front and rear of the car) stays together well when played with.
#9466 Mad Scientist: This set has pretty good play features with the pulsing light brick and breakaway cell wall. There are a lot of small pieces in various places, but most are well-connected and stay attached through play.
#75003 A-Wing: There isn't much playability here (though the removable "engine" is a nice) but this ship is the perfect size for swooshing and is quite solid. The extra studs near the cockpit make great "seats" for other minifigures if your kids don't care about realism.
Nice to know about the Hive Crawler. That is one we want to eventually get. If that is staying together so well, have you looked at Galactic Titan? I can't speak to that, but that is THE set my son wants for Christmas.
The large set from Alien Conquest has held up really well.
It's robust enough to withstand most of his hefty play so far without too much rebuilding being needed!
He also loves the various creator houses when he can open the doors/windows. Especially if the roof comes off and he can hide random cars inside (mostly the normal toy cars but the smaller lego cars have appeared there as well!)
Out of this year's sets, the villains I'd recommend most are #44009 Dragon Bolt ($20) and #44007 Ogrum ($13), and the heroes I'd recommend most are #44010 Stormer ($13) and #44006 Breez ($10). If you buy a hero and villain that go together (which this year are conveniently color-coded) there are instructions online to combine the two sets into a larger figure, but I'll be honest, this year's combi models are pretty lousy and your kid would probably be better off combining whichever sets he wants using his own imagination. So any two sets would make a great gift.
Six years old is below the recommended age range for the larger sets, but I wouldn't worry about that. Building with Hero Factory sets is very intuitive and therapeutic, much more so in my opinion than the BIONICLE sets that preceded them. You might want to avoid vehicle sets unless you think your son is ready for complex Technic building, since the vehicle sets tend to be some of the largest and most complex, but they, too, tend to be very sturdy.
If your kid isn't too fond of sci-fi robots, the Chima constraction sets from this year are also very nice sets based on the same building system. My favorite is #70204 CHI Worriz ($15). The main flaw of these sets is that their specialized heads are a lot harder to reuse for different figures or characters than the smaller, simpler heads and masks of Hero Factory figures.
Depending on where you live, how much you want to bargain-hunt, and how long you want to put off your Christmas shopping, you might even be able to get your son one of next year's new Hero Factory sets. These ones have an added bonus — they're minifigure-based mechs and giant monsters instead of large-scale robot characters, and the armor and helmets are compatible with other minifigures. Each set also includes at least one hero figure and one monster figure, so you can have play-battles without having to buy multiple sets. My favorites of these based on pictures are #44018 Furno Jet Machine ($15), a remarkably sturdy and clever build, and #44021 Splitter Beast vs. Furno & Evo ($20), which has two hero minifigures and a giant monster that splits into two separate monsters.
Anyway, hope you take this into consideration. Hero Factory doesn't get a whole lot of respect among AFOLs, but the parts really offer an amazingly fun and versatile building experience, whether you're building the sets themselves or your own custom MOCs.
I definitely need to look into those new Hero Factories. We aren't Hero Factory snobs around here. I think the kiddo has about 10 of them and I do already have 2 more for his Christmas pile (I got a lot of them for about $4 each a while ago and have been slowly giving them as gifts, these are the last 2). Now I'm curious about the new, smaller ones. I've avoided the constraction sets so far, as my kiddo isn't into the superheroes much and I've really tried to avoid Chima (he wants from too many lines already). Now you've got me wondering if some of the mechs might be good choices, as they do tend to use some similar build techniques in places.
Now to go watch reviews of this Vampyre Hearse...it does look so cool.
It doesn't really get "played with" being what it is, but it is used just about every day.
Don't always rule out gear!
But I do agree with you that the Ninjago sets are incredibly flimsy, especially Destiny's Bounty. I think the designers really over engineered that one. It should have been designed more like a standard Lego Pirate ship.