Jacob Sadovich's Ship in a Bottle, The Flagship Leviathan LEGO Ideas project proved incredibly popular when it was submitted towards the end of 2016, gathering the 10,000 votes required to reach the review phase in less than two months!
However, 21313 Ship in a Bottle received a mixed response when it was revealed in January. The revised model is considerably smaller than the original submission and the miniature galleon at the core of the set appears less detailed as a result of its restricted size. Furthermore, the price of £69.99 or $69.99 feels rather high in relation to many other LEGO Ideas products. Nevertheless, I love the idea of a LEGO ship in a bottle so have been looking forward to building this unique set very much indeed.
Box and Contents
21313 Ship in a Bottle is packaged in a box with a flap which is made from a thick cardboard stock, as with most LEGO Ideas products. The artwork is comparatively muted but suits a traditional model like this one and I think it looks superb, showing the bottle resting on a table alongside plans for the ship inside. I like the brass porthole in the background too.
Nautical designs continue onto the sides and back of the box where the galleon is shown in more detail. The graphics include an octopus, a compass rose and the Leviathan itself, all of which look marvellous and are intended to resemble scrimshaw, a historic art form in which intricate designs are carved into bone or ivory. This style of engraving is most frequently associated with sailors so is ideally suited to 21313 Ship in a Bottle.
The box contains a single instruction manual which features a short interview with Jake Sadovich, the creator of this LEGO Ideas project, as well as Tiago Catarino and Mark Tranter who designed the final model and the printed elements respectively. Seven bags of pieces are included, numbered between one and four. These are unusually packaged as the second bag consists almost entirely of trans-clear parts while those printed with the number three contain all 284 trans-light blue 1x1 round plates that will form the water!
The first bag contains a selection of relatively small pieces which are used in construction of the ship. Several bricks with studs on the side form the core of the hull and there are a few notable parts found inside as teal 1x2 plates are included alongside a pair of the new 1x2 rounded plates. These elements could prove vital in other creations and are employed to good effect here, providing a rigid connection between the masts and the deck.
Curved slopes form the sides of the hull and these are topped with dark orange 1x3 panels which have only appeared in two previous sets. The tan deck is three studs wide and nestles between these panels almost perfectly, demonstrating the ingenious geometry of LEGO. Unusually, one of the plates on the deck is not initially attached to any studs but a tan 1x3 plate towards the stern, added during the next step, ensures that it is held down properly.
The three masts are intricately constructed using aerials, telescopes and 1x1 round plates with a hollow stud which are new in reddish brown! They are very narrow so appear fragile, much like a real ship in a bottle, but I am quite impressed by their sturdy structure. Moreover, both the gun ports and the taffrail consist of further parts in new colours as the 1x1 curved plate with shaft is used in both reddish brown and metallic gold.
Construction of the bottle takes place next. This consists primarily of large panels but the base consists almost entirely of trans-clear headlight bricks alongside 1x1 and 1x2 plates, forming a round translucent panel which is remarkably strong given its depth of a single brick. The frosted effect is not consistent throughout the model but I think it works well here, loosely resembling the punt in a real bottle as the large trans-clear panels at the centre of the base contrast with the layers of smaller plates around the edge.
The sides of the bottle are assembled quickly using a selection of different trans-clear panels. I was concerned about the potential fragility of these panels but they are anchored in place using layers of 1x2 plates which is surprisingly effective even before the bottle is complete. Four dark orange jumper plates secure the ship on the base of the bottle and more panels are then attached, slotting over each of the taller masts very neatly.
Once the Leviathan has been fitted in place, the 284 trans-light blue 1x1 round plates are poured into the bottle. This is not the first time that a set has included loose pieces but they have never been used in such a high quantity before. The shoulder and neck of the bottle are assembled next and include four 6x6x9 convex corner panels which have not appeared in trans-clear since 2001. Finally uniting the two halves is very satisfying and one must then shake the bottle to evenly distribute the 1x1 round plates around the ship.
A detailed stand for the ship in a bottle is also included and this represents another change in the style of building. The central section is built with the studs facing upwards but features rows of brackets on each side to which the corners are attached sideways. This forms a smooth edge around the entire stand and it looks equally impressive when viewed from above as the only exposed studs are those surrounding the compass.
The compass is cleverly printed on the convex surface of a trans-clear 6x6 parabola so the design shows through on the concave side. A similar technique was used in 10253 Big Ben a couple of years ago but it continues to impress here, particularly when integrated with the 4x4 curved tile and 4x4 plate with curved cutout. The latter element is new in reddish brown and there are yet more interesting parts found inside the stand, including teal 2x2 round plates, teal 2x4 tiles and two purple minifigure heads inside the decorative globes!
The Completed Model
I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the completed ship in a bottle, measuring 31cm in length which is about the same as a standard wine bottle. Even so, its size has been reduced a great deal in relation to the original submission and was presumably dictated not only by the price but also the dimensions of the 6x6x9 convex corner panels which are integral to the structure of the bottle. Personally, I rather like the revised shape which matches a real bottle and consists of fewer panels, thereby reducing the number of seams between them.
The stand for the model is intended to resemble a piece of carved wood and I think it looks fantastic, including very few exposed studs and a perfectly consistent colour scheme. A printed 2x4 tile displays the name of the ship and features some lovely coiled rope designs while printed globes are attached at two corners and these can rotate to show the entire world. The pearl gold accents sprinkled throughout the model are also very attractive.
A printed compass lies at the centre of the stand. This features a detailed compass rose which stands out within its reddish brown surround but suits the traditional styling of the entire set very well. Naturally, the compass is not actually functional but the needle does rotate on a Technic pin so can be aligned in accordance with its position on display.
The bottle includes a decorative stopper which looks splendid in reddish brown, pearl gold and black. A delightful wax seal is printed on a red 2x2 tile and this is decorated with the initials of the set designer, Tiago Catarino. The elegant curvature of the bottle's shoulder is similarly impressive and this area of the model features very few seams so is almost entirely transparent, giving a tremendous view of the ship inside!
Smaller panels are used at the sides of the bottle so more joints are visible. However, these become indistinct when the model is viewed from a distance and there are far fewer seams on this version of the ship in a bottle than there were on the original project, an inevitable result of its reduced size. This is undoubtedly disappointing but I believe it to be a worthy compromise as being able to see the ship clearly inside is vitally important for display.
However, this has also forced the designer to reduce the size of the ship and in this regard I think Jake Sadovich's original model was superior. The larger vessel, known as the Leviathan, included far more detail and its masts have been truncated to fit inside the bottle which looks rather awkward. On the other hand, I like the dark orange colour scheme of the hull which appears distinctive against the reddish brown stand and the white sails are very striking.
These include a brand new printed design which might prove popular among builders of medieval or pirate-themed models. The sails on Jake's ship featured red and white quarters with a rampant lion at the centre, taken from the recent Kingdoms Lion Knights. The graphic designer has replaced the lions with golden leviathan creatures to match the name of the ship and they look magnificent. I also like the crow's nests at the top of each mast and the reddish brown yards from which the sails are suspended look very realistic.
Three open gun ports line the port and starboard sides of the vessel and the cannons are run out from each one. They look splendid and I love the pearl gold lids above the gun ports which match the taffrail around the poop deck. Tiago Catarino comes from Portugal so a fitting red and green flag flies from the stern. Of course, you could easily swap this for a flag in the colours of another country if you prefer but I think the Portuguese flag is appropriate given their enormous influence on historic naval exploration.
The Leviathan measures a little over 14cm long so is almost exactly the same size as the miniature 6285 Black Seas Barracuda found in 40290 60 Years of the LEGO Brick. I am not sure whether this was intentional but their comparable sizes have caused many fans to wonder whether the Black Seas Barracuda would fit inside the bottle and I am delighted to report that it does! The flags at the top of the masts must be removed but this colourful vessel looks fantastic to me and you could certainly choose to display it in this form.
LEGO Ideas provides a perfect opportunity to produce a selection of unusual sets, not all of which have impressed me. Fortunately, 21313 Ship in a Bottle is an absolute delight! The shaping of the bottle and its stand is superb while the joints between the panels are far less noticeable than I was anticipating, giving an excellent view of the ship inside. Jake Sadovich's original design for the Leviathan was brilliant and the reduced scale of this model is therefore somewhat disappointing, although it still looks pretty good in my opinion and includes some interesting building techniques as well as charming detail.
However, the price of £69.99 in the UK feels expensive in relation to the size of the set. Using so many large panels has an inevitable effect upon the price but nearly 300 1x1 round plates are included as well so one might expect these to counterbalance the cost of the trans-clear panels. $69.99 in the US seems more reasonable to me. Ultimately, this is an outstanding set for display and I would therefore recommend it but the price is too high in certain regions so waiting for a sale may be beneficial. Nevertheless, I would like to congratulate Jake Sadovich, Tiago Catarino and Mark Tranter on their marvellous creation!
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This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.