Hi Bricks of the Dead readers!
Miy stockpile of sets needing building has been staring at me every day, so I got a bit of time to build some sets and today I will be reviewing the third set from the second phase release of the Lord of the Rings theme: Battle at the Black Gate. So let’s get on with it.
Out of the Box
Out of the box you get four main bags, a smaller bag containing the giant eagle, two instruction books, and a loose plate. Inside the main bags we have smaller bags protecting Gandalf’s hair piece and the Mouth of Sauron’s helmet, also have the small cardboard box protecting the cloaks. Box size is good, not too much sliding around inside.
The first two bags and instruction booklet one contain and cover everything to build the tower and include Gandalf the White and Aragorn minifigs. We start off with bag one building the towers bottom half which includes some minor technic piece usage to create a hidden door in the front of the tower. Bag two covers the top half of the tower and the interesting part for me here was the spikes on top of the tower and that they aren’t solid LEGO® plastic, they feel more like a rubber compound, they are attached to the top of the tower utilizing more technic pin pieces and I like the overall look. We also get a play feature in form of a small catapult on top of the tower so the orcs can fling rocks, among other things, at our heroes. There is also a bunch of grey bricks and slopes which are utilized to make small parts of mountainous terrain to go at each end of the gate.
We move onto the second instruction booklet, along with the third and fourth bags which have the components for the gate itself with the Mouth of Sauron, his horse and two orc minifigs. Starting with bag three you build the bottom plates of the gate to hold the whole thing up along with the skeleton of the gates themselves, complete with a locking mechanism. Bag four is lots of plate and small pieces that are used to sheath the gate structure, and do all the fiddly bits along the top of the gates to give them the finished menacing look; again the bigger spikes are the rubber compound pieces.
Once this is done, we attach the tower and mountainous terrain to the model to get our completed set.
OK, this set is very strong when it comes to the minifig side of things, first up…
“The eagles are coming!”
In this set we get a giant eagle, I personally really love the detailing, in particular the wings which look really good. I would like to have legs/talons that move on them, but I understand why they are static. The eagle has studs on its back and can hold a stud in its talons, so it can perform transport duties as required.
Next we have a couple of Mordor orcs who are the same as they have been in other sets, which makes sense when you think about it.
The Mouth of Sauron makes his only appearance in this set and he is a good recreation of what they made him look like in the movie, the face print only features the mouth and not much else other than some minor straggly hair detail that we will never see. The helmet is fantastic and even has the cloak that extends from the helmet downwards which is then continued by an actual cloak. He is perched on top of one of the newer posable horses which have the same print as the Nazgul horses; he is also sporting a dark grey sword, so overall pretty great looking figure.
Gandalf the White also makes his first appearance in this set as well and has a basic detail print on his torso to break up the monotonous white you might have got otherwise. His face prints are pretty much the same as his Grey iterations, and his staff and cloak have changed color. The rubberized hair piece he has is very well detailed and this is what gives him his distinctive look, minor overlook by Lego in my opinion is that he is missing a sword.
The last minifig entry in this set is Aragorn, but not as we have seen him before. In this set he has set aside his ranger outfit and is sporting a multi coloured cloak (black inside, red outside) with his well detailed armor complete with the tree and stars of Gondor, along with blue base clothing. His face detailing, hair and sword are still the same as we have seen in other sets.
I’ll get my very minor grizzle out of the way first; if you look at the above gate photos you will notice there are two grey 1×1 round bricks in the middle of the gate. These are there to represent the handles of the gate so you can open it up from the outside… wait, what? really? I have now replaced these with two black pieces as I strongly believe the Black Gate of Mordor doesn’t have grey handles half way up for people to open it from the outside.
The two small mountain terrain pieces you build hide the technic pins that are present so you can connect your second Battle of the Black gate set, which is how you get a tower at each end and get a really decent sized gate. So as a stand alone set with only one tower it does feel a little bit unfinished, although if you built your own tower for the other end without doing anymore extensions on the gate that would finish it off nicely as well.
The Mouth of Sauron and Gandalf the White minifigs are exclusive to this set, although I expect Gandalf the White to show up in future sets. The minifigs in this set are really strong given that four of them are new to the line figs, so even if you don’t want to buy the set for the gate, it is probably worth it just for the minifigs, and the fact you would get a bunch of black pieces to add to your collection of Lego.
Last thought is the rubberized spikes. I have no problem with them being rubberized as it means kids aren’t likely to stab themselves or someone else with long sharp Lego spikes, I’m just hoping that long term is doesn’t discolor or perish or any of that fun stuff rubber can do. This is because I have the Orthanc set which I am planning on having on display for a good length of time, which I assume utilises the same spike pieces.
Overall, I like this set. The gate itself works well and looks menacing enough, I reckon you need two sets joined to get the real “look” so this feels half finished as is, however we also get a lot of black pieces and a very strong minifig line up.
Excellent review, sir!
Heh, I think I’m getting better at them, happy to keep to doing them while people are happy to keep reading.
Means you can spend more time on the comic and other things on the site 🙂
Nice review Mad!
To the risk of sounding overly critical…I find this set to be one of the most disappointing one in the entire LotR lineup. It is trying to represent something that simply can’t be done with so few elements. Anyone who has seen the movie remembers the gates as being huge, ominous… impassable. A $60 set just does not cut it; worse, they somehow acknowledge this flaw by suggesting to get a second one to give it a better finish… really? So they want us to spend another $60 and get doubles of Gandalf, Aragorn and Sauron?
So yes, the MF are very good but the rest is just disappointing, overpriced and their marketing methods questionable (IMO).
To end on a more positive note, a good example of a set that is perfectly balanced in a somewhat comparable price range would be the Unexpected Gathering (Bilbo’s house).
Totally agree with your point about having to get two sets to bulk it out, the other thing that I have thought about since submitting the review to Dave is the lack of height. I know it is tricky to get scale right with Lego at times, but when you have a MF on a horse being almost as tall as the gate itself (check out last photo), makes it underwhelming on the whole.
Minifigs saved this set for me, as there were several new figs compared to say the Council of Elrond set, which was too small in scale again, but only had one minifig (Elrond) to offset this.
Unexpected Gathering…. one of my favourite sets ever, and it is still set up on my shelf for display and play 🙂
Scale is hard to do while also keeping sets in reasonable pricing parameters. I’d say the Black Gate is just a poor fit. Sure, they could release a $150+ model, but it just wouldn’t be as interesting as things like Orthanc.
The Orthanc set succeeds where this one fails.. but it’s clearly another price range and I agree that not many people would be interested in buying a $200 “gate” set.
I definitely see this one as a faux pas, wrong subject with the wrong pricing and a poor marketing.
As for the question of combining 2 sets into 1, LEGO can and has released many sets that present a true modularity so they really have no excuse. Helm’s deep and the wall extension, more recently the Dol Guldur Battle and Ambush or the last Star Wars spaceships from the Rebels line that can also be combined (I think). You get a different building experience from each set and a different set of MF.
Excellent point, Greg. It’s LEGO, it can and should be made modular and any number of cool ways. With this set? I don’t see it. It’s just an odd design choice.
That said, I usually buy for parts anyway (except the modulars, which I heard).