Released earlier this month, Lego set 21310 Old Fishing Store is the latest addition to the Ideas range. It's also the biggest yet — and in my opinion, the best.
Cat sold separately.
At 2,049 pieces, it beats most of the previous Ideas sets by well over 1,000 bricks (with the exception being the NASA Apollo Saturn V set from earlier this year, which was 1,969 bricks). The size of it comes with a few caveats: the Old Fishing Store comes in standard packaging, rather than the nice folio-style boxes that the smaller Ideas sets have. Its instruction book is also fairly standard, but being almost 300 pages long, it's pretty forgivable. It does have a fairly nice preface with some words from the designers, though. Finally, it comes with some dreaded stickers. Some of the bricks have printed patterns, but a few larger ones require stickers. It's certainly not a dealbreaker, but an unusual choice for an Ideas set, which generally have all printed bricks.
The dreaded sticker sheet
The four minifigures that come with the set
Actually, despite coming from Lego's Ideas programme, the Old Fishing Store feels more like one of Lego's own modular sets. The amount of detail that's gone into the design is painstaking, and it's clear a lot of expert work has gone into it from both the original fan designer and the LEGO team who have brought it to life. The original concept came from Lego Ideas user RobenAnn, who'd based the design on the style of the popular Christmas village Lego sets. He's definitely captured the level of character that goes into them, for sure — and then some. The Old Fishing Store is jam-packed full of personality, and every inch of it was an absolute joy to build.
While the 270-page instruction book is a little overwhelming to begin with, the bricks are separated into numbered bags, from 1 to 7. Each number has a few bags to go with it, usually one or two larger bags and a couple of smaller bags. I'm always thankful when the bricks are pre-sorted like this; it's much easier to get stuck straight into the brick-building action without wasting lots of time trying to find the correct piece. It took me around an hour to get through each set of numbered bags, making this build take around seven hours overall, but I'm a pretty fast builder. I'm actually kind of sad it didn't take me longer — I enjoyed it so much I wish I'd have dragged it out a bit more.
30 pages in. I'm not sure I'd be happy having a spider that big in my house's foundations.
The first set of bags complete, and the foundations have well and truly taken shape.
The first part of the build involved laying out the foundations. It's nice that the entire building lays on a sand-coloured 32x32 baseplate, keeping the whole model together throughout the build. The most annoying thing about this is that you have to constantly rotate the model to work on a new area. The instructions jump around quite a bit, so you'll be rotating every couple of steps. Make sure you've got a big enough area to be able to do this comfortably! Working on a quarter of an already small dining table, it meant I had to rehome the instructions and shuffle my pile of bricks every time. It quickly gets heavy too, but it's a very sturdy build.
After the second set of bags.
The second set of bags saw the foundations coming to a finish, and also floors and steps going in. You can see on the left-hand side in the picture above the start of a rickety set of stairs, and on the right, the cream and green 'tiled' floor that'll form the whole of the shop area. To the top, the decking has been laid that'll run around the base of the tower.
The set has a lot of really nice, unique bricks in it. You can see over on the steps that there are several bricks printed with a wood panel effect, complete with little nail heads in each corner. There are also lots of the 'brickwork' effect 2x1s that make up the walls of the foundations. And, of course, to make way for that unique mint green panelling, there are a hell of a lot of 'SNOT' bricks in the set, too. (That's a 'Stud Not On Top' brick, if you're not up to date with your Lego vernacular.) My only complaint in terms of the bricks used is that the colours are quite hard to distinguish between in the instruction book. The green looks awfully like light grey, and light grey is easily confused with dark grey. There are also yellow bricks, beige bricks, sandy-coloured bricks and light orange bricks which, if you're not paying attention, can very easily be confused. On several occasions I'd placed the wrong colour, and only later in the build when I was short a part did I realise, meaning I'd have to flip through a dozen or more pages to try to find the step where I'd gone wrong.
Yay lovely printed bricks!
Boo stickers (but yay for putting it on almost straight!)
Bags three and four saw most of the walls of the shop and little office go up. These involved a layer of those lovely SNOT bricks (see the image above), with the green tile pieces going on top. Confession: because of the "rickety" nature of the Old Fishing Shop, you're supposed to put some of the tiles on wonky. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm sorry, Lego, I really am. I know you mean well in your instructions, but I wanted my Fishing Shop to look as neat and tidy as possible.
This section saw the beginnings of lots of the set's cool little details take place, too. The office has a desk, complete with lamp, newspaper and swivelly chair. The doors outside the shop both have a fish "sign" above them, and there's a couple of cool posters that hang on the walls outside (unfortunately, both stickers). The sales desk in the shop takes shape during section four too, and I absolutely love the details included there. It's the first time I've seen Lego sticky notes used, and they're brilliant (despite being as big as a Lego person's head, but hey, that's Lego scaling for you).
Bag three complete
Lego post-it notes are the coolest!
Bag four completed.
The fifth set of bags might just be my favourite. It's also possibly the fiddliest part of the build, because it's entirely concerned with fitting out the shop with all its intricate items and displays. Since the walls of the shop are all built, if you've got fairly big hands it can be hard to put things neatly where you need them to go, but the finished product is excellent. It's definitely one of the most intricate interiors I've seen in any set. The Simpsons House had a lot of room detail, but the Old Fishing Shop has so much stuff crammed into every available space that you can spend tens of minutes just admiring everything.
Bag five completed. The shop's interior is incredibly detailed and packed with a lot of cool stuff.
The sixth set of bags were dedicated to building the roof of the main part of the building. I was a bit sceptical of this as first: another similarity between the Old Fishing Shop and the Simpsons House is that they both have a roof which simply "rests" on the rest of the building. I hated this with the Simpsons House; for some reason, mine would never sit quite right and always looked wonky — and just the slightest touch meant the whole thing would just fall off.
Thankfully, the Lego team has taken the concept and tightened it up massively. Where the Simpsons House had two separate panels that balanced against each other, the roof of the Old Fishing Shop is cleverly joined together with hinges, making it much more secure. While it still just balances on top of the building's walls, the hinges means it locks in place, unable to move unless you voluntarily take it off.
The design of the roof with its rickety boarding is ingenious, and although up close it can look a bit patchwork, it's very effective and fits with the overall build. So much for bothering to make all my green tiles to try and make it look less ramshackle, though. Oh well; the mini planks of wood look too cool to leave them out, although I suppose if you're slightly more obsessive than I am, you could technically neaten it up.
This sixth lot of bags also included building a porch roof above the shop's main door, complete with an "Anton's Bait Shop" sign. Strangely, this sign is actually printed rather than a sticker, even though other similarly-sized pieces (like the wood panel with metal plates you can see in the image below) are stickers.
The last stage — as sad as I was to rip open the last set of bags — is all about building the tower that goes on the left-hand side of the shop. This is probably the least structurally-sound part of the build, mainly because the entire tower is secured to the rest of the build by just two pins. It's sturdy enough though, as long as you're not too heavy-handed with it, and it means that, if you want to use it as a playset (or just have a nosey at what's happening inside!) it's easy enough to take off and replace for a gander.
Like the rest of the model, the tower's got some lovely detailing to it, such as the wee balcony complete with fancy-looking telescope. There's even a tiny platform inside, with a ladder leading up from the office, so your minifigs have a little hideout — or a stash for their contraband, if they're that way inclined — that's pretty hard to find!
I've built a lot of Lego in the last year since rediscovering my love for the little plastic brick, and the Old Fishing Shop is up there with the best of them. It's a little on the pricey side at £140, but considering the amount of bricks and special pieces that are included with that, I'd argue that it's certainly one of the better value sets.
The building itself is magnificent to look at, and it's definitely one I'm going to be proud to have on display (as soon as I find somewhere with enough room to put it!), but it's the small details that absolutely make it. The seagulls perching on the decking; the rickety steps; the shop crammed with fishing tackle and diving gear; the artwork on the walls; the broken window. Every single inch of the model has been carefully thought about, and it really shows.
Now I just want to build it again... but that means taking it apart...