I've always looked forward to getting the new Winter Village set each year. It's become as much of a tradition in my household as Christmas itself. After last year's 10254 Winter Holiday Train Winter Village Train, this year's offering of a Winter Village Station hardly comes as a surprise.
Initially, it looks a bit small - and the question of value for money has raised a few eyebrows. So in order to answer that question as truthfully as I can, I've stumped up my own cash (well, with some VIP points) to see if we're full steam ahead, or at the end of the line.
Looking at the box first, it's a pretty standard affair for the WV theme. It's nicely designed in the usual blue tones depicting a Winter feeling. It's no heavyweight, being 48x28x7.2cm and just over 1.1kg. Annoyingly, the box has press-in thumb tabs instead of seals - a bit of a shame for a set that will likely go into storage and come out year after year. However, a bit of careful teasing along the seam can avoid ruining the box.
The back shows the various play features and of course its partner train set pulling up at the platform.
Opening it up we find 9 bags and 4 straight pieces of track. One of the criticisms of the Winter Village Train was that it only had curved track supplied, so this adds to the layout quite nicely.
There are two thin instruction manuals and a sticker sheet, thankfully with only 9 to be applied. Book 1 deals with building the level crossing and bus, book 2 with the station itself.
If you're not so interested in parts, then just skip to the next section. There are 902 parts, with some recolours and lesser spotted items included. The 1x2 Technic Brick with 1 Hole and the 1x1 Brick With Scroll are recoloured in Medium Dark Flesh. The Wedge 4x6x2/3 Double that was first available in the 60154 Bus Station Bus Station is recoloured in Dark Blue. The Microphone Accessory gets a recolour in Light Bluish Grey and while 1x6x2 Arches have been done in Yellow before, they haven't been produced since 2007. This is the new medium thick top mould variant.
Aside from the scrolls, the other interesting part to MOCers is the new clock face. This is printed on a black minifigure shield which gives it a lovely convex surface. It's an attractive design, and is a very useful size.
There are five minifigures included – all fairly generic with no new prints which is a shame. You have a Bus Driver, Barista, Small Boy, Grandma and Station Master.
All of the heads have single sided prints and four of the five torsos feature back printing.
The most interesting figure in terms of parts is Grandma. Her head has been in a mere three sets so far, and her jumper print in just one - 60134 Fun in the Park - City People Pack. Her braided hairpiece in Dark Bluish Grey is another rarity appearing in only 70751 Temple of Airjitzu. It's a nice wig, but it will cause some problems – which you'll see later on. As such, there are no stand out figures but they all complement the set just fine.
On to the build, then. To be honest I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Book 1 is 46 pages long with 40 steps. Most of it concerns the minibus.
First up is the level crossing and the lamps which get added onto the station platform later.
Next is the minibus, beginning with a simple chassis with seating for four, and a hinged door.
Add in the arches and some seasonal decorations.
Nearly there - windows, lights, stickers.
Whack on some wheels, fill the roof rack with presents and it's all done. That really didn't take long.
The roof pops off easily to allow access to the seating. We'll look at this properly in a bit.
Now on to the station. Book 2 has 64 pages and 92 steps. All six bags numbered 2 are used for this, which might sound a lot but after I'd ripped them open and spread them all over my table, it made quite an easy pile to work with. There's a good mix of pieces.
First is a basic foundation frame with an oddly placed turntable within.
Add on the plates, some snow, and a postbox with a very poorly aligned sticker (damn my sausage fingers!) and there is a gaping hole left over the turntable area.
Building on upwards, the ticket office and coffee shop start to take shape. It becomes apparent why the turntable is set into the foundations – it's a nice technique for angling the porch area on top.
Stickers again – thankfully I did it much better this time and the first parts of roof goes on.
Now to the clock tower - it's actually a little more intricate than the picture belies with some SNOT work behind to hold the faces and tiles in place. The station is complete. It's quite a pretty little thing from the front. The colour scheme is appealing, and the little patches of dripping snow on the platform look great.
Spin it around though, and it's purely practical. It doesn't seem too attractive from this angle. There's access to the play areas, of which I count the vast total of three – coffee/newspaper counter, ticket counter and, hmm, well, a door. It all looks rather unfinished.
It's hard to put the exact build time on it as I kept stopping to take pictures and faff about. I'm not an especially quick builder, but I reckon there's only a couple of hours here for the whole lot. Saying that, I found it to be really enjoyable. There's nothing repetitive and it has a good variety of bricks, plates, tiles and colours. I didn't expect any interesting techniques, but the angling of the porch is both simple and clever, and the clock tower has some good goings on behind it. The use of microphones to hold the chain rail up on the entrance slope is a nice touch. The stickers are few, and all of a nice design which really enhance the set. Put all of the different elements together and at least it looks a little bit bigger.
The last set I built was 10253 Big Ben, and after the mind numbing tedium of placing all the 1x1's in that, I was just about ready to rip out my own fingernails and give up building for a while. I'm glad I didn't though as this little set has been the breath of fresh air that I needed. I thoroughly enjoyed the construction. Like many WV sets before, it has a feel-good factor about it.
As an AFOL I still find it a bit weird talking about play, and I have to remind myself of the real target demographic. In this case, it's the bus that provides a lot of opportunities. Let's not forget that many lower priced LEGO sets are purely vehicles of some description and sell very well. This is a smart move to include it and must be a big draw for kids.
It's a very attractive retro design. There is one hinged door for the driver and his passengers to use. The pop-off roof has a rack for loading all the presents onto and there are two panels next to the wheel arches inside rear which fit suitcases nicely.
There is a small problem – and not one that is unique to this set - but a general annoyance of how certain LEGO elements are designed. The driver sits in his seat fine. The small boy of course has to stand because of his stubby legs – no surprise there, but as they've given grandma a hairpiece with long braids, she doesn't fit back in the seat. She doesn't connect to the seat studs and ends up rattling around. OK, so we can switch her hair out ourselves to cure this, but surely it would have been better to supply her with a hairpiece that worked within the set in the first place?
It's a great little bus for running passengers to and from the station. Remove the holly wreaths and you've got a vehicle that would work well anywhere else in a city layout too.
The level crossing has barriers that raise up and down easily. Not much else to say about it.
The station itself, pretty as it may be, doesn't have a lot in the way of features. You've got a ticket office and a coffee bar/newstand to play with - it's all up to the imagination and your inner child. Go up the ramp clutching your LEGO dollars and onwards to buy your tickets.
The station master can relieve city folk of their cash and dispense train tickets through the small gap under the window which is a neat touch.
Newspapers and coffee are available on the platform. The window swings upwards next to the scroll detailing and the sand green profile bricks give a nice stained wood effect.
Shown from the rear, you can see there's not a whole lot of room for the barista to get to the window – sandwiched between the coffee machine and the till. Fortunately the till and counter is a standalone item and I found that putting it behind her works a bit better for me. The coffee seems reasonably priced here too.
There is a small sheltered bench where the good citizens can wait for their train to arrive – perhaps with a newspaper or hot beverage.
All 5 minifigures successfully populate the set – there's not too many or too few. The platform certainly works, but with more holiday season commuters, it could become a bit crowded. Fortunately, it's a very easy set to modify - a platform extension using just a few dark tan plates and some beams underneath is something even a novice builder can do. In fact it's crying out for just that. Which leads us to the next question – how does it go with the Winter Village Train? Well, judge for yourself...
Again, it does make the station seem a little small. I think it'd struggle with the original 10173 Holiday Train pulling up here. If you have modified last year's train to be a bit longer you'll need to extend your station too.
For my own personal tastes, I would have probably preferred more station, less bus, but I'm sure any small boy or girl would disagree. I would agree there's certainly fun to be had loading the train with pressies though.
Despite my reservations about “playing” with a set, as with my previous reviews, I've certainly enjoyed a few moments placing and posing characters in order to photograph them. Adding it all together with the bus, crossing and track, it really is rather charming. That's not a word I use in my vocabulary very often, but I think it's very apt here.
Now to the issue of money. It's a bit of an oddity as it one of those sets that has regional differences, so firstly I have to look at it from my UK perspective. It costs £74.99 here, the same as last year's train. If we look purely at the part count, it has 902 pieces compared with the train that only had 734 so it would imply there's more brick per buck. Looking back at the 10249 Winter Toy Shop which is still available, you get 898 pieces for £64.99 – so something doesn't completely add up. I guess train tracks are quite expensive then, as that's the message I'm getting.
So I've paid for it myself and do I feel cheated? Yes, maybe a little. It's easy to look at the station building alone and think it's small for the money, but as a whole collective it's not a long way off the mark. I think I would have been more comfortable if it were priced at £67.95 – I was cogitating quite a bit over the window display before I finally pulled the trigger.
Delving into the facts some more though, it seems that in Germany it costs €69.99 – equating to just under £62 at todays rates. Now I definitely do feel cheated! France/Belgium price is €74.99. I think if you live somewhere where you can buy it at that price, then it's well worth a punt. US price seems an equally reasonable $79.99. If you're a UK buyer, I'd say think long and hard about how much you want it in your village.
Both the bus and station ooze character and charm. It's a really enjoyable (but short) build, and a great addition to a Winter Village if you already have the Train. However, if you never bought into the Train set, there's little reason to get this. I feel it's overpriced in the UK at least, and the rear does seem a tad unfinished. If you can accept those irritations, then I suspect you'll enjoy it as much as I have.