The Chinese New Year sets that were originally released for just the Asia Pacific audience earlier this year was easily one of the hottest topics of discussion in the LEGO world earlier this year - or more specifically, the limited distribution of those sets! After that ensuing outcry, LEGO announced that starting with the third set targeted for the Asia Pacific region, 80103 Dragon Boat Race, the distribution for regional sets would be much broader. 80103 is scheduled to be available in Europe on June 1, and in the U.S. around the same time (though as of this writing it has not been listed on [email protected]).
Prior to LEGO's announcement, I had made arrangements to get 80103 from Australia (thanks to a helpful Brickset member), and received it last week. Read on to see if it's worth getting when it comes to a store near you.
The box is decorated very similarly to the Chinese New Year sets, with the gold seal on the top front right of the box indicating that this set is celebrating the dragon boat festival and part of the Chinese Festival Special Edition series. The box art shows the dragon boat race action - the front depicts the race underway while the back shows the red dragon team accepting the trophy for winning as well as several insets illustrating other features of the set. Inside the box there are five numbered bags, a perfect bound instruction book and (in my case) a significantly bent medium sized sticker sheet.
There are an impressive fifteen minifigures in this set. Ten of them are the members of the two dragon boat teams. Both teams have new torsos and legs to this set.
The red team is outfitted in white sleeveless shirts with red piping and black frog closures, tied with a bright red sash. Their legs are red and I particularly like the printing at the top of the legs showing the bottom of the shirt and the remainder of the tied sash in the team colour. The minifigs have a variety of expressions - some, but not all of them have two sided heads. I chose the expression that seemed the most appropriate for the race. In this picture they’re shown (left to right) from the back of the boat to the front. The minifig on the right is the drummer who sets the pace for the rowing.
The printing continues on the back of the minifig and shows some nice detail.
The green team has similarly gorgeous printing. Their shirts are orange, with green piping, frog closures, and sash. The legs for these minifigs are printed similar to the red team showing the sash in the team’s colour. Again, some, but not all of them have two sided heads. I was happy to see that there are ten different minifig heads, although there is a duplication or two in the hairstyles. The order in the picture is the same as for the red team, with the drummer on the right.
There is similar detailing on the back, as with the red team.
There are five additional minifigs. None of these have new torsos or legs but I feel they have been chosen well for the set all the same. I’ve not shown the back of these minifigs as they have been found before in other sets.
A very formal looking bespectacled gentleman in a black suit and tie looks like he must be the official for the race. He looks suitably distinguished with the grey piping on his suit, complete with a white kerchief. A vendor for the food stand wears a sand blue tunic with dark blue shirt underneath. The printing continues on the legs for the lower part of the tunic and sash. He wears dark brown pants, and I particularly like his sandals. His look is topped off with a conical hat.
Other spectators of the race include a man, a woman and a child. The man and woman both come equipped with flags for their team (not pictured). The woman’s hair is in a long ponytail - for some reason I always find this piece pops off quite easily. She’s wearing a green cardigan with pale blue shirt underneath with a chunky necklace. She does not have a dual sided head, and her legs are in a plain dark blue.
The man wears a plaid shirt paired with blue pants. In addition to his flag, he’s carrying a treat purchased from the food vendor. The child is wearing a white hoodie with blue accents on the inside of the hood and front pocket.
The completed model
The model includes the two dragon boats and a floating spectator area.
The spectator area has three areas: a food vending area, an elevated platform where the trophy is stored and a viewing area linking the two.
Signs across the top of the vending area show pictures of the snacks for sale. Thanks to some helpful Brickset members on Facebook, I’ve learned that the character on the center sign means “zong”, which is short for “zongzi”. Zongzi is a traditional Chinese dish made of glutinous rice stuffed with various fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. A sign on the side shows the various wares for sale. The details on the signs are all courtesy of stickers. From this side you can see one of the green zongzi.
A closer look at the vending area shows the details of the workspace - a pot on a stove with rice, more of the zongzi, the bamboo leaves, and an area where several zongzi are hung. I absolutely love the zongzi pieces - and the best part? Those are printed pieces - no stickers! It’s one of the few times that I remember seeing printed cheese slopes.
The officials watch the race from the elevated viewing platform.
I really like the detail that the designer has put into this area - the water is depicted with blue plates with clear and blue transparent 1x2 pieces, and some nice greenery. This is an area that didn’t need to have a lot of detail but I’m very glad the designer made sure to pay some attention here.
The grand viewing platform has a pedestal for the trophy and also has very brightly coloured sign with intertwining dragons. The ornate dragons are provided via stickers, and can be somewhat challenging to line up to get straight. I love the parts usage in the decorations - what a great use of sausages!
The red dragon boat has room for the five team members. Four of them are rowers. The rower in the rear stands as opposed to sits and has a longer paddle that he uses to steer the boat. The fifth team member, while at the front of the boat faces to the stern and is the drummer that provides the beat for the rowers. The boat resembles a dragon, and has some nice parts usage for the dragon’s tail. The boat moves forward when you push on the tail, thanks to several sets of small black wheels constructed in the undercarriage of the boat.
The prow of the boat features an ornate dragon’s head. Some terrific parts usage is featured here, especially that of the New Dark Red croissant! You can also see the small black wheels that can be used to move the boat around. Stickers are used to provide some ornate red and gold detailing to the underside of the boat.
The green dragon boat is quite similar to the red, though with a different tail and head. Green and black stickers are provided for detailing for the underside of the boat. However when I built this part of the model I was in an area with dim lighting and didn’t feel confident on my placement of such small stickers at the time. I promptly forgot about the stickers until editing these photos. I’ll let you decide as to whether the stickers make a big difference on the boats or not.
The dragon’s head is similarly impressive on the green boat, again with some terrific parts usage. I think this is a very novel use of a telephone handset.
There were many who, when seeing the three Chinese sets, expressed the opinion that 80103 was the least impressive of the three. For the price (49.99 Euro, 44.99 GBP, assuming around $60 US, 643 pieces) it’s a pretty good deal. Quite frankly, even with the premium of having the set shipped to me I feel the set’s a good value.
There are quite a few parts in new colours, you can find a set inventory here. The parts usage is terrific, and those zongzi pieces might just be my favourite new LEGO piece.
The dragon boats move smoothly and allow for a lot of play. The set allow for a lot of storytelling from the race to the spectators to the food vendor. It’s a terrific display piece, too. I think it’s a worthy addition to the Chinese Festival Special Edition series.
What do you think? Does this set stand up to the previous two sets in the series? Will you be adding it to your collection? Let us know in the comments.