Mini review: 79003 An Unexpected Gathering

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79003 An Unexpected Gathering79003 An Unexpected Gathering is, without doubt, the best Hobbit set. It's also the best set of 2012. In fact, I think I agree with Andrew over at Brothers-Brick who said in his review that it could just be the best set of all time.

That is a very bold statement to make but it really does tick all the boxes.

Read on to find out why you have to buy this set...

79003 An Unexpected GatheringSo, what's so special about it? First, the design. For a start it's built onto a sturdy base.

So often these days sets are just a collection of sub-assemblies that don't join together (like, in fact, most of the other Hobbit sets), but that's not the case here. Everything is fixed to the large plate-built base and the result is very sturdy.

 

79003 An Unexpected GatheringNext, the build-process is very satisfying. It's generally easy and straightforward but there are some touches of genius, particularly the way the large round window is made.

Often you build a set only to have a feeling that the designer has scrimped on bricks to keep the cost down, but not so here, it's solid, sturdy and there's not a big ugly single use piece in sight.

 

79003 An Unexpected GatheringThirdly, the parts selection is excellent. Lots of greens, browns, tans and 'earthy' colours. There are some new pieces, and old pieces in new colours. This picture shows some of them. The best can barely be seen in the photo: a transparent 4x4 ring plate like the dark orange ones in the picture.

There are no 'filler' pieces in odd colours, everything is useful.

 

79003 An Unexpected GatheringIt's packed with small details and playability. I think the pretzel-shaped loaf (or whatever it is) on the table is new, isn't it?

There's four reasons why it qualifies as the best set ever, and I haven't even mentioned the minifigs yet...

 

79003 An Unexpected GatheringThe set comes with 6 minifigs. Here's Gandalf the Grey, who's the same as in other sets, and Bilbo Baggins, who is sporting a torso unique to this set.

 

79003 An Unexpected GatheringIt also contains four dwarves, from left to right: Bofur, Bombur, Balin and Dwalin. All are excellent and feature unique hair, beards, or both. You can't quite see it in this picture but Bombur has, how can I say it politely, a 'stomach extension' under his beard.

One thing I haven't mentioned in the Hobbit reviews, but I've been asked about, is the origin of the new minifig parts. The vast majority are of European or Mexican origin. The only ones that aren't are those that are complex and painted, such as Bofur's hat in this set. Having said that there is nothing at all wrong with them and nothing to worry about.

 

79003 An Unexpected GatheringAll have printed back and three have double-sided heads. Dwalin has a tattooed back-of-head which looks excellent.

So, there's the fifth and reason: the minifigs are all superb and, being dwarves, cute and cuddly :-)

 

So what's not to like? Excellent sturdy design, satisfying build, great parts selection, highly playable and superb minifigs. The finished model looks idyllic, just as you imagine life in The Shire to be. Even the price (£60, US$70) is pretty good.

Is there anything negative I can say about it? I'm hard pushed to anything I don't like, to be honest. I guess it would have been nice to get a different Gandalf, and stickers are always annoying (although to be fair there are not many, they mostly go onto tiles and they are printed on clear film so won't peel).

I suppose the worse thing is that stubby-legged dwarves and Hobbits can't sit on the stools provided for them round the table, but there's not much the set designer could have done about that, I guess.

Best set of the year? Definitely! Best set of all time? I reckon it comes close! What do you think?

47 comments on this article

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By in United States,

Very close. This almost feels more like an MOC than a LEGO set. A definite must-buy!

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By in Norway,

Thanks for the review, this is my favorite hobbit sete.

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By in United States,

Totally off topic: Based on some hi-res images uncovered by Grogall, Speedorz is actually part of Chima!

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By in Norway,

Can't wait to build this!

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By in United Kingdom,

Wow, that is a bold statement, especially for a licensed set but it does look the best of the bunch. I can't imagine it will be very popular with kids, lacking any obvious play features or good vs bad element but maybe this is one for the fans.

(The pretzel is new, it came with the s8 Bavarian Man first).

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By in United States,

Awesome review! I can't wait to get this set! It's great to see a set where they really just nailed it. This set may have to stay put together and proudly displayed.

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By in Russian Federation,

I've already ordered this set along with the Riddlers one, and now can't wait to get it and build it. It definetly looks iconic and designed like a MOC when you look at the facade, but inside... I think these green parts that are visible in the walls are quite odd, and the door from the back is something ugly.
But the second photo with the beginning of the build process looks great, so the main shortcoming is the door... It could be black only inside, but why, why tan? Was it so difficult to produce these connectors in green or simply to add a black 4x4 plate?

Of course I can change it for a black piece, and the tan one is definetly more useful, but I usually do not change anything in licensed sets bought for displaying.

Also, now I know how the transparent part of the window is made, it's really genius, though I will now consider it as a big spoiler)

After all, doesn't it seem small after it is completed?

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By in Slovakia,

Thanks for review Huw.
that pretzel is in cmf 8

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By in United Kingdom,

I've built this set and think it is excellent. I like all the plates and food and all the "twiddly bits" (flowers plants etc) Certainly its a unique shape, when you consider the basic brick shape, and what it builds into.

The thing that makes me smile is the picture above and on the set box are the 4 dwarves. Theres Bofur, Balin and Dwalin all brandishing their weapons and poor old Bowbur holding his sausage!!

I agree with Huw, this is an superb set.

Isn't the pretzel the same one as in the CMF series 8 Austrian?

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By in United Kingdom,

When my local TRU briefly had the hobbit sets in stock, this was the only one that was absent. I cant express how much i want this, im even debating doing a custom build using the parts from the Uruk Hai army sets to build a small hobbit castle on the roof plate (i know its silly but i think it could be cool). Excellent review, this has sold me on the set even more

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By in Austria,

Gandalf looks the same in all movies (except when he's Gandalf the White), so why change the minifig? It's not like R2-D2 changes from set to set.

edit: ok, you could add hair, when he's not wearing the hat, but apart from that...

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By in Sweden,

This was the only must-have of the Hobbit sets for me, and I'm glad I could pre-order it on Amazon UK when it was 25% off. Still hasn't shipped, but I can't wait for it to get here. It's definitely the flagship of the Hobbit theme, possibly all of the Tolkien themes.

I just hope they release an Old Bilbo minifigure some day so this set can be used with the Gandalf Arrives set from The Lord of the Rings. I'm sure one could already cobble together a fairly decent Old Bilbo, but it sure would be nice if they made a real one (whiter hair, wrinklier face).

The only thing about this set that I'm unhappy about is that the maps aren't printed. If they could print the tiles for that little Batman/Catwoman set and the CMF figures that come with them you'd really, really think they would be able to do it for a set like this. There's really no excuse at all for LEGO to not go "all out" and print the tiles for this set.

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By in United Kingdom,

@all, you are right about the pretzel, thanks. It's a cool piece!

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By in United Kingdom,

Easily the best Hobbit set and the one I really want to get first.

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By in United Kingdom,

It's not my favourite set ever, though not at all because there's anything wrong with this set.

The house itself is pretty much flawless. I mean, I'm sure there's some sort of inaccuracy somewhere, but as far as LEGO buildings go, it is basically perfection. I love how although they could have just plonked it all on a green baseplate and left the floor green, or left the walls green and messy, they actually made the effort to make the interior look neat, cosy and you know, like an interior. Plus there's all the useful Medium Nougat parts, multiple tiles and useful accessories.

So although it's not my absolute favourite, I still do love it. Thanks for the review!

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By in United States,

This set looks amazing.

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By in United States,

I had a really good feeling about this set from the time it was first shown, and I'm glad that it seems to deliver on first impressions.
I think all of the LOTR sets are very well-designed in general. Don't have this set yet, but to me the Weathertop model is a tough standard to beat!

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By in United Kingdom,

Yes one of best sets ever built,finished building it this morning I just marvelled at the design of it. Possibly in top 3 sets of all time easily. How should I have it displayed inside shire or on outside. Just can't fault it majorly. Only things I wasn't keen on was diddy bits of food. Tho a highly enjoyable experience and even good for £59.99, I give it a perfect 10/10.

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By in United States,

I haven't been able to decide if I should buy this set or not. Now I really want to.

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By in United Kingdom,

That is a bold statement, but I can certainly see what you mean. I cannot wait now for the sets to be delivered!

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By in Netherlands,

Isn't that that nougat color - medium dark flesh - on the front? Or dark orange? looks like the former

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By in United States,

I'm not a LotR fan but this set is fantastic! I love the carrot garden in the front. :)

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By in United Kingdom,

Great review- really looking forward to getting this, hope the amazon pre-orders don't take too long to ship.
Was amazing value for the £45 pre-order, but its still very decent value at £60- especially when you look at a set like the Rancor Pit which costs the same as this.
Echo a few other comments about the maps not being printed- such a shame. I know there are more and more stickers these days, and while this set really doesn't have that many the maps seem a bit of an oversight- especially when you consider that one of the maps 'lonely mountain' IS printed in the Hobbit Board Game.

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By in United States,

Thanks for showing Bumbor's stomach Huw!!! Great review as well!!!

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By in Austria,

one of the best sets ever!

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By in Australia,

Glad I preordered this one :)

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By in United States,

sweet! i'll be getting this and mines of moria for christmas

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By in United States,

Since someone kindly posted here on Brickset that KMart had the Hobbit sets on Nov 16th at a 10% discount, I swooped in and ordered this one. It was only available for part of a day, so I got lucky. It arrived two days later and was quickly built. I agree that it is a very satisfying set. I also thought Weathertop was a star in the LOTR series [and I build it five times cause I had to have Nine Black Riders!]

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By in United States,

I agree that it's the best Hobbit set, and it is certainly among the best sets of 2012, but I certainly do not think that it's the best set ever...

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By in United States,

I've got to agree with HUW, the best set thus far from LOTR. The organic feel of this set is excellent. It belongs in the Shire. My only complaint was actually all of the loose parts. All of the food items were unique and great; however, it took less than 5 minutes for one of my daughters to lose one of the cherries in the carpet.

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By in United States,

I am still not quite inclined to say this is the "Best set of all TIME!" but it sure does rank in the top 10!!! Certainly this is the best-designed set from recent years, and that really stacks it against some winners. You hit the nail on the head, Huw, with all the big points. (OH that clear ring!!!) A real gem in a sea of precious stones.

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By in United States,

By the way, how big is this thing? Like 9 inches wide?

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By in Netherlands,

Although I've decided I'm not to keen on any of the other 'The Hobbit' sets, especially in comparison to the excellent LotR sets, this set was a must buy from the get-go. I still like everything I've seen of this set. I can't wait until it is available in Europe for a decent price.

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By in United Kingdom,

just got this set from Argos as they are selling them a day early... and a £5 off over £50 so i also went back and picked up a Hobbit Riddles of the ring set for £6.38

Argos also have a few £££ off each set as well, so a little better than TRU pricing as usual

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By in United Kingdom,

@Huw: Thanks for the picture. The hair doesn't look nearly as bad as I was expecting, in fact it looks quite good.

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By in United States,

The interior of this set doesn't charm me as much as the Winter Village cottage this year. (And Bilbo's fireplace could use the Light Brick charm just like that set has.) But this set is quite attractive and charming for the serene Shire lifestyle it connotes. I agree the non-sitting Dwarves are an annoyance; time is long overdue for Lego to invent a new articulated short legs piece.

Speaking of the pretzel that debuted with the Minifigures' Bavarian Guy: I had tended to enjoy the Minifigure reviews by It's All True (http://www.itsalltrue.net/?category_name=lego) since they always highlighted new emerging pieces and colors. But they went absent on their reviews after series 7. :-(

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By in United Kingdom,

Spot on Huw, this is an instant classic. Absolutely love it!

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By in United States,

10.7 cents price per piece... /

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By in Germany,

Good news, Amazon.de reduced the price to 63,99 Euro right now , so the price is now 51,20 Euro after the 20% discount, when spending more than 80 Euro , plus shipping of course. This makes it my deal of the week ;)

http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B008KYL2J6

Edit: My order is already on the way, expecting it tomorrow.

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By in United States,

Definitely want to get this. It has the look and feel of a well made MoC. And great parts pack!

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By in Germany,

Ordered! My first castle set, and as I always wanted to have 6066 Camouflaged Outpost as a kid, this is surely a sign. The amazon.de deal is amazing, I needed to get a Duplo set anyway for my niece and end up having this almost 40% off! A good deal for any Lego set in Europe these days. I wouldn't say it's a 10/10, though. Not anywhere up there along Eldorado, Metroliner or Venice Chase. But it's only my very personal opinion.

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By in United States,

Saw this one and Troll King at TRU last night. The boxes look amazing! And I'm not even a fantasy genre fan...

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By in United States,

Probably the most fun I have ever had with a build and simply beautiful results. The window construction alone was just inspirational.

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By in Norway,

Yeah! Will be delivered earlier from Amazon than previously stated:

Previous estimated arrival date: December 31 2012 - January 11 2013
New estimated arrival date: December 12 2012 - December 13 2012

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