Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures Series 2

The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures Series 2 consists of 20 new figures. Some are new outfits for existing characters from the movie (including two each for Batman, Batgirl, and Alfred), some are new interpretations of previously-released characters (like Jor-El and Zod), while others are characters that have not been released before (including several members of the Justice League).

I have not purchased a complete set of all 20 minifigures. Because of this, I will give more attention to the characters that I did acquire, which are marked with asterisks (*) below.

This series is distinguished by having the Batman logo printed on each baseplate. The next regular Minifigure release, Series 18 (due out in April), will have orange bases, so perhaps this Batman series marks the beginning of a permanent move away from the boring black baseplates that every Minifigures collector has hundreds of by now.

The Bat Family

Batman, Batgirl, Robin, and Alfred all appear again in this series, and all but Robin get two new outfits.

Bat-Merch Batgirl has been hit by the Bat-Merch Gun, so is covered in Batman logos and carries two "Bat Bucks" tiles. This makes her parts largely useless for other purposes, though her masked head and utility belt seem to have escaped the branding.

Disco Alfred Pennyworth wears a glittery white tuxedo that is extended with cloth coattails that fit over the hip posts. He still wears the high collar and bald wig found in every other Alfred minifigure, but his half-specs are replaced by shiny sunglasses. His electric guitar seems to be a standard part.

*Mermaid Batman has the classic, straight mermaid tail from old Pirates sets, but in black for the first time. He wears a clamshell bra that looks rather comical on his macho muscled chest. The head and cowl are standard for the character, and the trident appears in black here for only the second time (the first being the Cute Little Devil from Series 16).

Series 2 also depicts all of Team Batman on vacation at the beach.

*Swimsuit Batman wears black Speedos with his logo on the waistband, and his cowl is molded with swim goggles attached. He carries a red flotation device, and comes with a dolphin that is based on the LEGO Friends version (but with a less cutesy expression, and no blowhole). The dolphin alone is worth the cost of the minifigure, as it has only appeared in a handful of sets, and is shorter than the older white or gray LEGO dolphin.

Vacation Robin wears a red shirt (decorated with his namesake) and green shorts that match his usual costume's color scheme. His accessories--a boombox and an ice cream cone--have appeared in other sets, so the figure is mostly noteworthy for Robin's robins shirt.

*Vacation Batgirl's purple costume is redone as a wetsuit with short sleeves and legs that leave her hands and feet bare. Her dark red ponytail is attached to a small pin at the back of the cowl, which means that she can push the ponytail to one side or the other (or remove it altogether) to make room for a back accessory. Finally, she comes with a yellow surfboard with a purple Batman logo.

Vacation Alfred Pennyworth appears to be the standard Alfred figure from the collar upwards, but he wears a very old-fashioned, one-piece pin-striped swimsuit, and carries a goblet with a cherry cocktail of some sort.

The Justice League

Apart from Batman, five members of the Justice League appear in this series. Four of them--Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, and the Wonder Twins--will be instantly familiar to anyone who, like me, grew up on the Super Friends in the 1970s. Black Canary is just as much a member of the Justice League, but as far as I can recall, she didn't get her due share of the TV spotlight until the Justice League cartoon of the early 2000s.

*Apache Chief has light brown skin, a traditional tribal costume in red and brown, and long black hair held in a headband. (This hairpiece has been previously used by hippy and rocker characters, but looks more dignified on the 'Chief.) His only accessory, a 1x3 tile, is printed as what appears to be a photo booth strip, taken at the Justice League's Anniversary Party (parts of the last two words can be seen in frame). A monkey appears in two of the photos; this must be Gleek (about whom see the Wonder Twins, below). Not having this photo strip illustrate his signature size-changing power seems like a missed opportunity.

*Black Canary wears her signature two-tone blue outfit of choker, jacket, bustier, fishnets, and boots. She is one of only two figures in this series (AFAIK) who has a two-sided head. One face has a neutral expression, while the other shows her either belting out song lyrics or attacking with her sonic scream. She comes with a microphone and stand that is nicely scaled for picking up by the pole (see the photo above).

Like Apache Chief, *Black Vulcan was little more than a token minority on the Super Friends cartoon, but the success of the current live-action Black Lightning series is testament to there being a lot more to the character. This version features his original leg-baring costume, and he wields two lightning bolts. Sadly, his brown head is only printed with one face, which has a mask over his eyes. I would have loved to see the other side printed without the mask, because decent brown-skinned heads are quite rare among LEGO minifigures.

The Wonder Twins, *Zan and *Jayna, were created for the Super Friends cartoon and proved popular enough to cross over to the main DC comics universe. These two figures are, appropriately, identical except for their faces and the initials and gendered contour lines on their torsos. This hairpiece with pointed ears has been used previously for elves and werewolves, but appears here in black for the first time (a welcome contrast to the usual blond elves). Zan's accessory is a bucket with a 1x1 round tile printed with his face--a nod to his usual schtick of changing into water, then being carried by his sister to get to the action. Jayna, on the other hand, gets a record of party songs. This is a reference to the Justice League party scene in The LEGO Batman Movie, but I would have much rather seen the Twins' sidekick, Gleek, appear here instead--especially since Apache Chief's accessory makes the blue monkey's absence all the more obvious.

The Kryptonians

Two characters from Superman's past appear in this series.

Superman's father, *Jor-El, appears in The LEGO Batman Movie as a hologram in the Fortress of Solitude, and this minifigure carries a blue crystal to underline that connection. This version very deliberately evokes Marlon Brando's classic 1978 movie portrayal, but adds a pearl-gray cuirass and a printed beard. The robe is printed with a nicely patterned vertical stripe and a black "S"-shield over the chest; a white tile with a smaller "S" attaches to a stud in the armor piece. This figure would make an excellent white-robed wizard by removing the armor and adding a beard that can cover the "S."

General Zod is based on Terence Stamp in Superman II, from his angular face and pronounced widow's peak to his chest-baring black robe. He carries a Gotham Gazette proclaiming "Kneel Before Zod (in polls)." (This image reveals the full joke: "Candidate Kneel wins on platform: 'Will Not Enslave Humanity'.")

The Villains

Besides Zod, this series includes six other villains, two of whom (Harley Quinn and The Joker) appeared in the first series of The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures.

The Clock King is one of hordes of minor Batman villains with painfully silly costumes. (This is why I did not buy him.) His head is the Gingerbread Man's head repurposed, and his weapons, presumably representing the hands of a clock, are simply two black spears.

*Doctor Phosphorus is an even more obscure villain, a man transformed into a being of eternally burning chemicals. (Yes, I had to look him up on Brickipedia. It's a very short page.) The minifigure is a very pale, sickly opaque green printed with a black skeleton, but this look might have been more effectively done on a transparent body (like the trans-yellow-green used for ghost characters in some Ninjago sets). Still, he'll make a decent mini for a D&D or Pathfinder burning skeleton, and his yellow-green flames are a new color for my collection.

Killer Moth is another minor Batman villain. He wears wings, and a helmet with antennae, that are identical to the Bumblebee Girl's (Series 10) but in new colors. He wields a ray gun that was first used for the Retro Space Hero (Series 17). For both the 'Hero and 'Moth, I'm a little confused why the designers didn't just re-use the ray gun from the Classic Alien (Series 6), which has a nozzle that can hold a transparent bar "ray."

Disco Harley Quinn wears a white suit jacket, tutu, and tights, and dances on mismatched gold and silver roller skates. Her hair appears to be identical to other Harley figures.

Hugo Strange is a psychiatrist who is dangerously obsessed with studying the inmates of Arkham Asylum. He wears a long white lab jacket with black gloves and boots. His laboratory flasks and short, spiky beard have been recycled from other characters.

*Vacation The Joker wears rose-colored sunglasses, purple shorts, green flip-flops, a turquoise Hawaiian shirt, and a lime-green inflatable duck. He carries a camera and a dubious-looking yellow-green popsicle. Like the other Joker minifigures based on this movie, he has a two-sided head (though with less difference between expressions here) and the same wavy green hair.

Final Verdict?

I had no real interest in roughly half the characters in this series, simply because their inherent silliness would make it difficult to re-use any of their parts in my own creations. That's pretty typical for most Minifigures series, though--I have very different criteria for my LEGO purchases than many Batman fans do. If 50% of a given series appeals to me, it's doing well enough, and I'm honestly surprised when the fraction that I want goes much higher than that (as it did for Series 14: Monsters, and Series 8 promises to do 18 later this year).

However, there were some gems with highly desirable parts, such as Batman's dolphin and mermaid tail, the Joker's hair, Jor-El's robe, and Doctor Phosphorus's weird skeletal body. Others, such as the Wonder Twins, I acquired mostly out to nostalgia, but I also anticipate making good use of Zan and Jayna's heads and hair for elves.

The only real disappointments here were the missed opportunities I mentioned above: Zan and Jayna are simply incomplete without Gleek, and giving Black Vulcan a second face without the mask would have greatly boosted his appeal to collectors.


Past Collectible Minifigures Reviews 

LEGO Minifigures Series 14: Monsters!
Series 15 Minifigures
Disney Minifigures
LEGO Minifigures Series 16
The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures
The LEGO Ninjago Movie Minifigures

While writing this column, I realized that I never reviewed Series 17 (from 2017). That was another set where I only collected about half of the characters, so I'm not sure whether I will go back and cover that series at some point. If you would like to see a column about that Series, please let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: Action Figure Therapy's Godzilla Clones

I wrote this column in February, but had other columns ahead of it in the queue. Ironically, during the first week of March, Action Figure Therapy announced that they would no longer be selling minifigures or other toys, and held a brief clearance sale to clear out their remaining stock. I have decided to leave this column as I originally wrote it, only editing it enough to remove dead links to deleted product pages. AFT did not make these figures themselves, and never identified their manufacturer, but they're sure to be available somewhere online, through another toy retailer or reseller.

UPDATE: Steve Coupland and Rocky Maxwell (from the LEGO D&D Facebook group) have helped me identify the manufacturer as Pogo, a Chinese company known for cloning LEGO minifigures. The Godzilla figures remain available through Ali Express, an online store that many group members use to purchase off-brand bricks cheaply.


A member of the LEGO Dungeons & Dragons Facebook group recently shared a link to the Ultimate Giant Radioactive Mutant Sea Lizard Sent To Punish Man’s Hubris Minifigure Set on the Action Figure Therapy online store. I very rarely buy off-brand minifigures, but this set piqued my interest because 1. was preparing to run a D&D adventure featuring a troglodyte tribe, and 2. my daughter is a fan of all kinds of monsters, specifically including Godzilla. 

Action Figure Therapy sells custom toys based on the LEGO minifigure. Some figures are sold individually, while others are only available in themed sets of 2-10. Some of their offerings, like The Giant Radioactive Mutant Sea Lizard Sent To Punish Man’s Hubris Minifigure Set (which I'm going to call !Godzilla from here on), are obviously custom-made figures. Others appear to be cherry-picked minifigures from existing LEGO sets, but I've noticed just enough variation in some of the product photos to think these (or some of them, at least) are cloned knock-offs instead.

Note: AFT's site is designed for adults, not young children. Their set titles and descriptions are long and humorous (in large part to avoid naming trademarked characters), and are not always strictly PG (examples include Super Hero Lady Whose Main Power Is Having Amazing Boobs [i.e., DC's Power Girl] and Yeti Vs. Sasquatch Sensual Roleplay Minifigure Set). 

The !Godzilla set (above) is $24.95, and includes three monsters cast in opaque plastic (green, gray and black) and three in translucent or transparent colors (orange, blue, and clear). (The green !Godzilla can be bought separately for $5.95.) Each figure comes with the minifigure body and torso already assembled, plus the head/back piece and a 3x4 baseplate. The baseplate is a clone of the LEGO Minifigures series' base, but without any brand marks.

Each minifigure (except for the clear one) is printed on the front, the sides of the arms and legs, and the head. The gray and black !Godzillas also have purple and red printed on the spinal ridge.

The parts aren't as finely engineered as LEGO's toys, so some joints are a bit too loose or too tight. For example, some of the head/tail pieces fit so tightly that I'm hesitant to try to pry them off again, and one mini's left hand (below) just would not go in all the way. Likewise, the clutch quality of the hands varies, but tends to be fairly tight. However, one of my !Godzilla hands already shows some stress lines in the plastic; I'm not sure if they were there before I tested the clutch or not.

The shoulders are where the minis suffer most. On the !Godzilla arms (below, right), the pin lacks the recessed band around the base that LEGO arms (left) have, which allows the latter to firmly snap into place. I had to replace arms a few times while assembling the figures, because they popped off when I was forcing on a head/back piece or pushing a hand fully into its wrist socket. I think the plastic in AFT's figures might be slightly softer, too, which only exacerbates the issue. 

On the plus side, I received a surprise gift of two bonus figures, presumably due to the size of my order (one !Godzilla set for myself, one for my daughter's upcoming birthday, and Five Robot Lions That Form A Giant Robot With A Sword [AKA The Greatest Minifigure In The Universe] for a friend who's a huge Voltron fan). These extras were two more !Godzillas, in trans-green and trans-red. 

The large tail makes these figures just a little too big to fit comfortably in a 1" map square, but it also makes them very stable without needing a base. 

These figures will be useful miniatures for a variety of RPG monsters (some of which are shown in the photo below the list):
  • The three opaque !Godzillas would make excellent troglodytes or lizard men, or possibly sahuagin. If you don't mind the bright colors and translucent nature of the other figures, they will serve just as well, too. Having each figure in a different color will also make tracking hit points and conditions easier during battles, because each figure is very distinctive.
  • The trans-orange figure (or the bonus trans-red one I received) would make a passable salamander if you ignore the fact that it has legs. 
  • By itself, the head/back piece just needs a couple small filler bricks to serve as a moray eel (any opaque), flame snake (red or orange), or water weird (blue or clear). 
  • Tip a !Godzilla forward onto all fours and it becomes a dimetrodon.
  • Remove the head/tail of the clear figure, and add a clear LEGO minifigure head to make an invisible man or a transparent ghost. (Or leave it as-is if your troglodyte can cast invisibility, as happened in the adventure I ran recently.)

Overall, I would say that this set is worth the price to someone who is a serious movie monster fan, or who wants to diversify their collection of reptilian minifigures. However, due to the quality issues I mentioned above, I'm unlikely to buy more toys from Action Figure Therapy, unless I find something even more tempting than The Giant Radioactive Mutant Sea Lizard Sent To Punish Man’s Hubris.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Plane Shift and Freeport, Part 2: Ixalan

Back in August, I reviewed the first four Plane Shift articles, which provided material for using planes from the Magic: The Gathering CCG in D&D Fifth Edition games. The fifth document in this series, Plane Shift: Ixalan, was released in January, and a free adventure for the setting, X Marks the Spot, was released through Dungeon Masters Guild in December. Because of this adventure, and because Ixalan is the longest Plane Shift installment so far, I will devote this column to just the one setting.

The World of Ixalan

Ixalan draws much of its flavor from Mesoamerican civilizations--and their subjugation by foreign invaders. (In "Land of the Great River," below, an explicit link is even made between Ixalan and the adventure The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan, which inspired it.) This should make it easy to introduce Ixalan as a new exotic continent in the World of Freeport; after all, the City of Adventure's history has much in common with Caribbean pirate havens.

One of the chief questions to answer is where to place Torrezon, the origin of the Legion of Dusk. The Hexworth Inquisition would attempt to rally all the nations of "the Continent" nearest Freeport against the rise of a nation openly ruled by vampires, so even the infamous Bone Lands would be an unlikely home. However, the azhar of Kizmir provide ample precedent for conquering armies appearing out of a previously unknown quarter to change the face of the known World of Freeport. Placing Torrezon on a new continent on the far side of Ixalan from Freeport seems to make the most sense--and would make Ixalan into a critical buffer state between the many nations of the Continent and the advance of the Legion's war machine.

Alternately, Freeport alone could be inserted into the plane of Ixalan, as part of (or even instead of) the Brazen Coalition.

Races of Ixalan

Humans have the same traits as given in the Player's Handbook, while Orcs have the same traits as PHB half-orcs.

Merfolk, vampires, and goblins previously appeared in Plane Shift: Zendikar, but Ixalan's versions are treated as separate races here. A sidebar provides guidelines for treating both settings' vampire races as subraces of the same species, and the same is done for goblins. Merfolk use the same traits as in Zendikar, but have two new Ixalan subraces: Green Merfolk and Blue Merfolk. As with Plane Shift: Zendikar, goblins and merfolk can easily be used with Freeport, even if the larger setting of Ixalan is not. (Vampires would have to be far more secretive to operate in Freeport.)

One entirely new race, the sirens, is introduced here as well. These avian humanoids have arms that serve as wings, and have a flying speed from 1st level. (This can easily circumvent many obstacles that low-level parties would find challenging, so this race should be allowed as PCs with caution.) Sirens typically inhabit island coasts, which could make them a potential hazard to Freeport's shipping traffic if they reach the Serpent's Teeth.

Land of the Great River

This section gives a map of Ixalan with brief notes about some of the locations shown on it. Following this are treasure tables for randomly generating art objects appropriate to the setting--and which will be useful in any Freeport campaign, whether Ixalan is used or not.

An Ixalan Bestiary

Most of the creatures listed here can be represented by stat blocks from the Monster Manual or Volo's Guide to Monsters. Dinosaurs are among the most common beasts here, and this Plane Shift provides both alternate, in-world names for many species, as well as stat blocks for some truly epic saurians.

Other new monsters include the sunbird (phoenix) and chupacabra.

Appendix: The Colors of Magic

This section discusses the five colors of magic used in Magic: The Gathering, and how a "color alignment" can used a shorthand for the effects of spells or the personality traits of a creature. This material has no rules content, just role-playing hooks to include this central feature of the CCG in a D&D campaign.

X Marks the Spot: A Plane Shift: Ixalan Adventure

This adventure is designed for a party of pregenerated 4th-level characters who belong to various factions within the Ixalan setting. If the vampire cleric Alante is kept as a PC or NPC, then the adventure could easily be adapted for other characters from a home game set in (or visiting) Ixalan.

DMs who do not wish to run the adventure can still plunder it for ideas. The pregenerated characters would make excellent Ixalan NPCs, and Ellie and Turk would fit right into any Freeport campaign without any changes. In addition, Appendix D: Hidden Plunder presents six low-level magic items appropriate to both Ixalan and Freeport.

The influence of The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan on Ixalan is apparent from the use of a temple of the bat god Aclazotz as an adventure site. DMs running that adventure (updated to Fifth Edition in Tales from the Yawning Portal) can use Plane Shift: Ixalan and X Marks the Spot to help flesh out the area around Tomoachan, and to provide hooks for why characters wish to seek it out.


For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Minifigures

The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Minifigure collection consists of 20 characters from the movie, including multiple versions of Lloyd and Garmadon. About half of the collection are characters from the original NINJAGO toy theme and animated series who were redesigned for the movie, while the remainder are original to the new story. (I have not yet seen the movie, so please pardon any mistakes I make about its content.)

The Ninjas

Master Wu has a very similar design to the original minifigure, but his tunic has been extended with a cloth wrap that fits over the pegs on the legs piece. His single accessory is a box of corn flakes.

Three of his students, Cole, Jay Walker, and Zane, appear in new outfits that reflect their lives before becoming ninja. Cole wears a tanktop with the Ninjago characters for "AC/DC" and carries a boombox. Jay looks like a preppy fop, with artfully mussed curls, a nervous smile, a blazer and scarf, and a selfie stick. Zane is a nerdy day-hiker with a two-tone backpack and a sweater vest depicting two Alien Conquest "head-huggers." The hair and faces of these three characters, along with the hinges in Jay's selfie stick, will be the most useful parts for building fantasy miniatures.

Kai and his sister Nya are dressed in training outfits. Kai Kendo has a kendo mask and breastplate, while Spinjitsu Training Nya wears a gi decorated with Master Wu's likeness. Kai's practice swords are long brown bars, while Nya's are brown wooden katanas. These two can be used as-is in an Asian-inspired setting; Kai's spiky hair and scarred face, and Nya's smirk and messy ponytail will be more broadly useful.

Finally, Lloyd appears twice in this Series. Lloyd Garmadon wears street clothes: jeans and a green hoodie (with attached blonde forelock). He holds a spoon and a bowl with a printed dragon motif. Lloyd also appears as the Green Ninja, with both a two-piece hood and mask and a blonde wig. He wields a new style of sword with a slightly curved blade and a hinged tassel on the pommel, and holds a blueprint of a (robotic?) dragon's head.


The chief villain of the NINJAGO universe appears in three different outfits in this Series. The first Garmadon is the iconic four-armed, all-black evil warrior, though his armor has some additional details, and his headgear is a new, more curved version of the classic conical hat. He also wields a poleaxe with a new blade shape (or new to me, at least).

Flashback Garmadon has a '70s vibe, with big sunglasses, an orange and brown outfit with a wide tie and lapels, and carefully parted blonde hair. He carries a camera and a Polaroid photo of his volcano lair. Volcano Garmadon shows the villain relaxing in baby blue pajamas covered in tiny pictures of his home. He holds a spoon and bowl (with a wave motif), and wears an elaborate samurai helmet.

In the original NINJAGO theme, Garmadon only appeared in the largest sets, making it difficult (and expensive) to acquire his very desirable torso-extension piece with the second pair of arms. However, this Minifigure Series (and some of the smaller movie tie-in sets like Master Falls) have made these parts much more affordable. They are invaluable for building many-armed creatures like xills and mariliths. (See Building the Bestiary #16: Serpentine Creatures for an example of the latter.)

The Shark Army

This series contains four characters from the villainous Shark Army, whose amphibious assault threatens Ninjago City. Shark Army General #1 is a nice female figure, with a dark blue uniform decorated with scales, a sash, and medals. She also has a two-piece blue cape that resembles fish fins, and an interesting asymmetrical hairdo. Her only accessory is a new version of the fast-food style drink cup.

The other three soldiers wear wetsuits, oxygen tanks, and helmets that resemble sea creatures, and wield fish-handled weapons. Shark Army Octopus wears an orange-brown rubber octopus on his head, which works well on its own as an animal minifigure. He carries a plain gray fish and one of the newer guns that fires 1x1 plates. Shark Army Angler has his namesake (in sand-green) for a helmet, and wields a fish-handled mace. Shark Army Great White has a black shark's head helmet and carries a black fish with flame spouting from its mouth. Like the General, Great White's wetsuit/uniform is dark blue with several medals, but his gear shows burned patches (I'm guessing from his own weapon?).

People of Ninjago City 

The final five minifigures depict various citizens of Ninjago City.

Misako is Lloyd's mother and Garmadon's estranged wife. She wears a name badge with her nickname, "Koko," clipped to her blazer, and carries a dark red handbag. Her hair piece is the best part of the figure, with orange tresses held in place with red chopsticks.

The Gong and Guitar Rocker wears a headband over his long hair, a tank top with a skull and some NINJAGO characters, torn jeans, and high boots. His electric guitar is an existing style, but appears here in red and white for the first time.

The GPL Tech wears a lab coat over a Batman T-shirt, and has large round glasses printed to look thick enough to obscure her eyes. She carries a plain mug and a laptop, and wears her hair in a braid.

The Sushi Chef has a bald wig with headband similar to the Pirate from Series 16. His tunic is covered with pictures of shrimp, and he holds a cleaver. His sushi roll is built from a 1x1 cylinder brick and a pair of printed 1x1 round tiles.

The N-POP Girl appears to be inspired by J-Pop idols. Her sleeveless top has a picture of Uni-Kitty (from The LEGO Movie) on it, and it, her tutu, stockings, and boots are pastel pink, blue, and green. Her hair is a copy of Harley Quinn's two-tone wig (from The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigure Series) but in cotton-candy pink and blue. Her accessory is a pink teddybear coordinated to her outfit's palette. For me, she would probably be the hardest character to repurpose for RPG minis in other genres--but I have seen another member of the Facebook LEGO Dungeons & Dragons group use her as-is.

Past Collectible Minifigures Reviews 

LEGO Minifigures Series 14: Monsters!
Series 15 Minifigures
Disney Minifigures
LEGO Minifigures Series 16
The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures