This is a set which has divided opinion from the moment it was announced. 79005 The Wizard Battle is a nice set on its own, no doubt about that, but the main source of complaint has generally been the fact that this model is almost identical to the third floor of 10237 Tower of Orthanc.
Nobody can deny the fact that this set is very similar to Saruman's throne room in the Tower of Orthanc set, but I would argue that this set is well worth purchasing nevertheless at £11.99 or $12.99 for 113-pieces. Obviously if you cannot afford 10237 Tower of Orthanc, or cannot justify the cost of the set, then this model is going to be a winner, but there is a single piece which might well draw in even owners of the larger model. You can probably guess which one I am talking about already...
Box and Contents
LEGO has recently introduced smaller boxes in an attempt to save packaging and this set is no exception to the new rule. On the front of the box are Gandalf and Saruman in the midst of their epic duel, while the eye of Sauron stares out from the Palantír which sits in pride of place in the very centre of the box. The malevolent Sauron also glares from the border of the box along the top, just like the other Lord of the Rings sets from 2013.
The back of the box shows the set from another perspective and demonstrates the features of the model, as well as a couple of cinematic shots of the Minifigures. The instructions are folded inside and there are two small bags, which are not numbered of course, as one would expect of such a small set. Two dark bluish grey 2 x 14 plates are packaged loose within the box and there are no stickers.
Two Minifigures are included, one of whom is all too common, although this is a slight variation on the usual Minifigure, while the other will doubtless prove very popular indeed.
The duller of the two in my opinion is Gandalf the Grey, who has appeared in five other sets (9469, 10237, 30213, 79003 and 79010). This Minifigure is technically unique to this set, although only due to the lack of a cape and hat. Without his hat of course, Gandalf has a long grey hairpiece, which has been around for many years now. Unfortunately his hair and beard do not quite link up as they should, but the piece is quite accurate nonetheless. His head is the same as the Gandalf Minifigure in 10237, with one smiling face and one angry expression, along with bushy grey eyebrows and a few wrinkles printed on both sides. His beard was moulded specifically for this character and is highly detailed with texturing and impressive accuracy.
The torso is the same as always too, with various pouches and a brown belt printed on the front and back, although much of this design is obscured by the beard. His legs are plain dark bluish grey and he carries a reddish brown staff to represent the one he uses in the film. If this is your first Gandalf Minifigure, then he is rather nice, although a hat and cape would be welcome. However, if you have been collecting the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit sets so far, then you will doubtless have a few of this Minifigure already.
By far the more interesting for me of the two Minifigures included is the wizard Saruman the White, who reveals in this scene that he is now loyal to Sauron. Starting from the top, his combined hair and beard piece is fantastic. It is mostly white, but is printed with light and dark shades of grey on the beard area, just like in the film. The piece is slightly rubbery and moulded with some nice hair texture. Interestingly, his head is identical to the one of Count Dooku in the Star Wars set 75017 Duel on Geonosis with a huge amount of detail including a white beard, black eyebrows and some tiny wrinkles. The use of the same piece makes perfect sense of course as both characters are played by the same magnificent actor, Christopher Lee. Two expressions are printed on the head, one serious and the other smiling slyly. Saruman wears a simple white cape which looks suitably luxurious.
The torso is printed with a lot of detail, including silver scrollwork and some creases in his white jacket. The back, despite being covered by the cape, is also printed with some more of the jacket and folds in the fabric. The legs are plain white and he carries a staff made up of three pieces which resembles the film prop reasonably well. This is a fantastic Minifigure and if you do not plan to purchase 10237 Tower of Orthanc, this set is well worth purchasing for this figure alone in my opinion.
This is a small set, so not much can be expected from the build, which takes about ten minutes. There are no interesting building techniques as far as I can see, although some may be interested in the use of a crystal ball piece which distorts the eye of Sauron inside giving it a rather mystical quality. If this use for the crystal ball piece is new to you, then it is well worth remembering!
The Completed Model
Needless to say the model itself is not hugely exciting, consisting basically of a throne for Saruman, two light fixtures and the Palantír on its stand. There are a couple of features included which are nice, the first of which is on the throne itself. Saruman can be launched from his seat using a button behind the throne to recreate the moment he launches himself at Gandalf during this scene in the film. When Saruman is seated, it is worth noting that a gap has been included to cater for his cape, which does not need to be removed or folded up when he sits down.
There are a couple of steps on either side of the model and two lamps which represent those used inside the Tower of Orthanc in the films. The highlight for me however, as you might have imagined, is the eye of Sauron printed piece which is contained within the Palantír. This can be rotated using a knob on the back of the model and one can even recreate Gandalf being spun around by Saruman by using the turntable piece which makes the eye spin.
The eye itself is printed on a translucent orange Minifigure head component and looks fantastic. To me it begs to be used in a microscale Barad-dûr but it works equally well as a Minifigure accessory.
If you own (or plan to buy) 10237 Tower of Orthanc, then this is a set which you can certainly pass on. However, if you think that this set is worth it for the eye of Sauron alone, then naturally it is well worth having. For those of you who have no intention to purchase 10237 Tower of Orthanc on the other hand, this is an excellent set. An affordable way of getting Saruman is very welcome and the model itself is not bad at all.
Even so, as I have said again and again, I think the eye of Sauron is the highlight. Even if you do own the Tower of Orthanc set, make sure at the very least to lay your hands on the eye of Sauron which is of course notably absent from the larger set (although the very different Palantír in that set is excellent too).
Parts: 4 - There are some useful black and dark grey pieces, but the best piece needless to say is the eye of Sauron itself.
Playability: 4.5 - A couple of features are bound to be entertaining and with these two Minifigures, one can easily recreate the dueling scene as the name of the set would suggest. A lot of playability for the price.
Building Experience: 3 - Nothing more nor less than what one might expect from a set at this price point.
Value for Money: 4 - It is great to see Saruman in such an inexpensive set, and it certainly feels as though you get your money's worth.
Overall: 4 - For those of you who own 10237, this set can be skipped, if you do not, an excellent little set really.
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