The product release schedule has developed a great deal over the last few years but the annual arrival of a Modular Building remains unchanged and is still one of the most anticipated events on the LEGO calendar. 10251 Brick Bank is the latest addition to the range and is the fourth corner building.
When the set was revealed in October the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, not only to the design of the set but also to the reduced price of £119.99 which is less than that of 10246 Detective's Office or 10243 Parisian Restaurant. Meanwhile, the US price has risen to $169.99 in accordance with the increased piece count of 2380. Hopefully the quality of the set has also improved, although the excellence of 10246 is difficult to better in my opinion.
The set will be released worldwide on January 1st but we have been lucky enough to receive one from LEGO so we can bring you an early review.
Box and Contents
Packaging for all kinds of sets has become progressively smaller and the Creator Expert line is no different as it is smaller than many of the earlier sets such as 10211 Grand Emporium or 10218 Pet Shop. Nevertheless the entire model is shown off nicely and there is an inset shot of the three floors separated beside one of the bank manager and the door to the vault. It is also worth noting that this is the first Modular Building to be released since the Creator Expert logo was changed and the new insignia appears in the corner.
The back of the box shows a huge number of details and various scenerios which can be played out in this set. The level of interior detail matches that of any Modular Building which has gone before and you can see an entire street scene which allows you to compare the sizes of the last three models while also seeing how they look side by side. I will discuss this in much more detail later in the review.
Inside are twenty bags of pieces divided between four numbers. The instruction manual is wrapped in plastic and thankfully there are no stickers to be found! Every design you see in the set is printed and that includes several brand new designs as well as some old favourites.
The minifigures are merely the supporting cast in Modular Buildings but they are nevertheless important as they help bring the set to life. Five are included to occupy a variety of roles in the set and you are invited to assign these tasks yourself, although the attire indicates what the minifigures ought to be doing in some cases. No matter what task you set them to they seem to be very happy about it as all five make use of the traditional smiling face.
The two male figures are the bank manager and a fairly plain character wearing a suit jacket and grey trousers. I placed the latter minifigure on the stepladder washing the clock face in the first image but he seems overdressed for that. Perhaps he is intended to be a customer at the bank or an employee instead. The bank manager is shown in his office on the box and is wearing a grey waistcoat which suggests that he occupies a high ranking position.
Three female characters are included and their roles are similarly shrouded in mystery. One is wearing a green jacket and sports a fairly short blonde hairstyle while another has short legs and a brand new torso element which features a red blazer and a rosette. This component looks better suited to a mayor than to a child, although the rosette marks her out as the winner of the enormous 500 stud prize as shown on the giant cheque so it makes sense here!
The final minifigure is perhaps the most enigmatic. She appears more than any other on the packaging and is shown taking photos, supervising the sealing of an envelope in the manager's office, ensuring that the launderette signage is properly placed and burgling the vault!
While she includes the rare dark orange hair piece first used in 76042 SHIELD Helicarrier she also comes with a knit cap and bandana which are ideal for concealing one's identity. Of course you can place these accessories on any of the minifigures but she is shown wearing them on the packaging. The torso printing is even less common than the hair piece, having only appeared in 10686 Family House before now.
Construction of a Modular Building is more enjoyable than almost any other type of set in my opinion so 10251 Brick Bank has a substantial precedent to live up to. It begins with the tiling of the floor and the pavement outside which matches that of previous buildings by featuring light bluish grey kerbstones and dark bluish grey paving slabs. The floor pattern inside the bank is fairly complicated and uses the first of many new elements, the 2x3 shield piece which is prolific within the Nexo Knights theme. These tesselate beautifully and form an intricate pattern which looks superb, as does the flooring in the laundrette. The white, tan and dark tan colour scheme is delightful, although lining up the many 1x1 tiles is a bit tricky. I recommend using the edge of the included brick separator to ensure that they are flush with one another.
The foot of the rear wall is built next along with some of the internal divisions. This primarily involves the typical stacking of bricks but this is broken up a little by the assembly of some furniture and a few window boxes. The enormous door to the vault is also fitted in this section of the build along with the lower half of the staircase which is reminiscent of that in 10218 Pet Shop.
Up to this point the build has been fairly similar to that of previous Modular Buildings but the addition of the security screen between the customers and bank staff is unlike anything we have seen before. Headlight bricks are used to brilliant effect and the use of trans-clear door elements fixed between 1x2 bows is ingenious. Not only is this the first appearance of this building technique in an official set but the resultant structure looks brilliant. This assembly uses the final few pieces of the first set of bags and construction has taken approximately an hour and a half up to this point.
The two walls which face onto the street are far more complicated in their construction methods than the walls at the back. These are packed with detail and make use of several new pieces. The most useful of these will probably prove to be the 1x2x2 brick with four studs on the side, of which 24 are included. By combining these with the interesting geometry of a headlight brick it is possible to create textured brickwork on the corner of the building, a first for any official LEGO set. These bricks are represented using bullion elements in light bluish grey and this is the first time they have appeared in such a versatile colour.
While that section of the model demonstrates how one might create some interesting architectural features to spice up a fairly monochromatic façade, the laundrette is extremely colourful! White and sand blue proliferate and the combination of light yellow with flame yellowish orange looks splendid as the awning.
The complexity of the carving above the doors to the bank is impressive, as are the windows beneath and to either side. Four printed window panels are included and these are complimented by some trans-clear and trans-green pieces which form the fanlights above. Stacking these 1x2 and 1x1 plates is rather tedious but the next assembly more than makes up for that.
The structure of the washing machines seemed fairly simple when official images of the set were revealed in October but they certainly are not when you actually build the set. The literal 'money laundering' feature requires the bank vault and the launderette to be linked so there are safe deposit boxes found on one side and four washing machines found on the other. Plenty of intricate techniques are used to create this play function and there is also a cash drawer incorporated into this assembly which complicates matters even further!
Once this is in place the involved nature of the build does not let up as we move onto the signage above the entrance to the laundrette. Headlight bricks, brackets and tiles are used here to give another lesson in the geometry of a LEGO brick and slotting this into place to complete the ground floor is a satisfying treat.
The third bags contain the pieces used to make up the first floor but before that you build the bottom level of the chimney flue which stretches into the ground floor area. After this construction returns to the tried and tested method of assembling a floor using a mixture of large plates with smaller plates to provide bracing and a few levels of brick walls are placed on top, raising this floor to a height of seven bricks in places.
Some furniture is added next and these smaller models are as detailed as the larger ones and use just as many interesting techniques. The desk in the manager's office is particularly impressive. The window frames which line the front of the building are new in sand green while white textured bricks are used to give the impression of carved stone. White is a stark colour and therefore contrasts nicely with the deep browns of the wall above the laundrette. The inclusion of some black railings and a clock produce the effect of wrought iron which looks fantastic against the white of this upper level.
Although this Modular Building only consists of two floors inside the top level nevertheless uses several hundred pieces as it is quite deep and features plenty of intricate detailing. Once some more large plates have been laid out and supported by narrower elements, construction of the chandelier begins.
This is an absolutely brilliant little build which makes use of a 2x2 round plate with four fingers, a lantern holder and some droid arms to create a very realistic and attractive light fixture. The diamonds used as glass crystals look superb as well.
Several more sand green window frame elements are used in the roof including four semicircular fanlights which only appeared for the first time in the summer. A small area of tiled roof is also assembled here, using a similar technique to that in 10218 Pet Shop and the skylight is installed using yet more of those sand green frames. Finally, with the addition of some furniture to the pavement, the model is complete!
The Completed Model
A couple of things become immediately apparent once the set is assembled, the first of which is the relatively plain colour scheme. Previous Modular Buildings often consist of multiple colours which are squeezed into a fairly small area whereas large sections of wall on this model consist of a single shade, with little to break up the silhouette. However, the intricacies of the architecture throughout the model negate this issue and the absence of colour becomes insignificant. In fact, it could be argued that this set is more successful than any other in that regard as it does not have to resort to using several colours to create interesting surfaces, instead packing in features such as carved stonework or textured bricks.
The relatively small size of the model is also evident almost immediately, particularly when it is added to a street scene. Unfortunately my 10246 Detective's Office is not currently accessible for a photo but you can see that this structure is significantly shorter than most of the others and is only taller than the pool hall building in 10246. Beside a set like 10224 Town Hall I think the bank looks out of place but next to 10218 Pet Shop, 10243 Parisian Restaurant or 10246 Detective's Office it looks fine to me.
This set is as detailed as any other Modular Building on both the exterior and interior. The ground floor includes a rather nice tree and a bench which features some elaborate ironwork which stands beside the white lamppost which has become a staple of the range.
Inside the bank is a lobby area which includes a small desk for writing cheques and signing documents as well as a staircase up the first floor and the counter. The lobby is divided from the staff area and the vault by a glass screen and a door, although this area can be avoided by burglars using another means of entrance which will be discussed later.
The vault door can be locked and unlocked by rotating the handle and it swings open on hinges to reveal a stack of banknotes and three safe deposit boxes inside. The safe deposit boxes contain jewels, coins and a chrome gold bar, all of which is enclosed from above by a cage ceiling.
This is one of my favourite parts of the entire model and seeing how the door mechanism comes together is very enjoyable. It is deceptively simple but it works perfectly and does not occupy a large area so there is plenty of room for other details on the ground floor.
The laundrette next door contains four washing machines, a small table, a seat and a bottle of detergent. This would be quite plain were it not for the lovely floor design and the bright printed window which is visible from outside. Interestingly you can post money through one of the washing machine doors (the one with the red light in the corner) and this will find its way into a safe deposit box. There is not much point to the feature but I appreciate the literal effort to represent 'money laundering'!
Upstairs one finds a desk, a coffee machine and a fireplace for burning old documents as well as warming the room. A lamp, a typewriter and a mug are placed on the desk which adds an extra level of detail and there are some blank papers hidden in the drawers behind the desk.
The bank manager's office is adjacent to the fireplace and features even more details such as a bank lamp, a wax stamp and several pieces of charming brick-built furniture. There is also a portrait on the wall, presumably showing the previous manager or the founder of the Brick Bank.
Heading up the final flight of stairs you come out onto the roof which is split between two levels. The upper section has a large skylight and there are some more architectural details which make clever use of a shield element, two keys and sixteen zip line handles. These are angled to form a scrolling pattern which looks fantastic.
The lower level consists of a steep roof with a hoist lift and the top of the chimney. This structure runs all the way down to the bank vault below and is perfect for any ne'erdowells who might seek to rob the place. You can lower a minifigure down the chimney and access the vault via a hinged panel just above the vault cage.
By lifting the cage you can then gain access to the vault and the valuables inside! Play features like this one will not be to everybody's taste but it does not interfere with the appearance of the model and offers a great deal more play value, so it does not bother me at all.
This is an excellent set. It might not be as large as some of the previous Modular Buildings but it includes just as much detail and is packed with plenty of splendid architectural features. These are sufficiently varied to maintain interest but also look fairly consistent across the model so the design is both intricate and clean.
There are very few criticisms to be made but they should be acknowledged. It is quite difficult to access some areas of the ground floor due to the depth of the model which impacts upon the play value slightly. The inclusion of play functions will not necessarily appeal to everyone and I expect the fact that this model is a little shorter than many of the others will also frustrate some buyers, particularly given that the price has increased in the US. However, the UK price has been reduced to £119.99 which seems like an excellent deal to me while the Euro price has remained the same.
I simply cannot decide where this set ranks among the other Modular Buildings. I love the subject matter and the level of detail is fantastic but the same can be said for 10246 Detective's Office, at least in my opinion. Regardless, it is certainly one of the best and I am delighted that the set lives up to my high expectations. The piece selection is amazing, the set looks spectacular and there are some lovely play features; it really does not get much better than this!