Every few years or so, Lego decide to go big and release another of their world landmark sets. We’ve had sets like the Sydney Opera House, Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower and another London landmark, Tower Bridge. This year it is the turn of Big Ben, or more accurately, part of the Palace of Westminster and Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben just being the name of the bell inside the tower).
This 4,163 piece set retails for £169.99, coming in at a remarkable 4p per piece. Once finished, the model is about 43cm wide and the tower stands at an impressive 60cm. There is no doubt that this is a set designed for display, as there’s not really anything in here for a kid to play with. This is certainly not minifig scale, with the front entrance to the building only being two blocks high.
When you open the large box you will find 7 sets of numbered bags inside, with anything from 3-5 bags of each number. The bag 2’s are all in a separate box, which I’m told by Lego is because those are packed separately and it makes the final assembly of all the different bags easier if some are already pre-packed. There are 300 steps to follow in the manual over 207 pages, so this is not a build for the faint hearted. Coming from working my way through a number of City and super hero sets over the past few weeks, there is a noticeable difference in the number of bricks required in each step. While a City set may only have you putting one or two pieces in place at a time, this turns into a series spot the difference games between the pictures on each page – even with the highlight line around the changes. Be prepared to concentrate.
My problem with the build is the repetition. This is an obvious side effect of making a model out of the Palace of Westminster, which in real life has lots of repetition in it’s architecture. Whether it’s the columns, the windows, the spires, or even the roof – this is a build where you’ll find yourself doing the same thing over and over again. It’s not unusual for a page in the manual to ask you to build 25 of something, or place 50 identical parts into place, which can quickly feel very laborious. Even after the satisfaction of finishing the second set of bags, you suddenly realise that the next floor of the palace is just the same again, and that means the next round of bags are going to make you do it all over again. Just look at the main clock tower, that’s 5 almost identical sections, 3 of which have four identical sides. I recommend a production line process just to make it palatable.
Then there’s those pieces. The reason why this set is so cheap is that the majority of the pieces involved are 1×1 bricks and plates in a single tan colour. Pouring out some of the bags you just won’t believe how many of them are the same, whole bags just filled with the same two pieces repeated. This means that the plastic involved from Lego’s point of view is much less, and that’s why the price has been kept so low. Plus, I assume, no brand rights to negotiate.
It took me just under 9 hours to build the whole thing, which I don’t think is too bad considering the size and fiddly nature of the pieces required. You will end up with numb finger tips by the end, simply by the very nature of getting all of these tiny parts to stick together. I managed to put two 1×1 plates together that I still haven’t managed to get apart. If you’re looking for small tan parts for your own creations, then look no further.
Despite all this negativity, let me be clear, it looks brilliant when finished. It really does. All those tiny parts mean the intricate detail is as good as you’ll get on any production set. As a showcase model to put up somewhere in your house or with the rest of your collection, or alongside the other world landmarks that Lego have released, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I just think you’ll have more fun building something else.