As announced a few weeks ago, the latest Lego set to come out of the user-submitted Ideas scheme is the Ship in a Bottle. The £70 set comes out on 1st February, packed with 962 pieces that come together to produce a miniature sailboat inside a bottle made up of transparent Lego bits. Which is rather self-explanatory when you think about it. We managed to get our hands on the set before release to see what was what.
Despite having nearly 1,000 pieces, the build is pretty simple. It's made up of four different sections that took between 90 minutes and two hours to complete. Section 1 involves building the mini ship, section two is the bulk of the bottle, and section four is the base and the top third of the bottle. Section three involves zero building, since you have to literally open up the bag and pour the little blue 'water' studs into the bottle.
The box and the instructions are the usual Ideas affair, with more intricate box art than regular sets and a few pages detailing the backstory of the original Ideas set. As you can see from the original page, things have changed quite considerably. The commercial set is much smaller, in part due to the limited size of the ship itself. That mast takes up a lot of room, and someone clearly decided it wasn't necessary. While you can understand the reasoning, there's quite a bit of intricacy lost that would have looked great on a mass-produced set.
The ship manages to squeeze a lot of detail into the small frame. There's the mini crow's nest on top of the front mast, cannons, and cannonports represented by a single piece each. There's also the bridge (no wheel sadly, it's not that detailed) and all the other parts of a sailing ship I don't actually know the name of, having zero nautical experience. Almost all of these pieces are recognisable, though the burnt orange colouring seems new. What is definitely new, however, are the decals on the sails. They're printed on (thankfully there aren't any stickers with this set), and feature a sea monster that looks ready enough to pop up and ask for $3.50. They were made specifically for the set in place of the original design's lions, in order to cement the sea-faring theme.
The main flaw with the Ship in a Bottle is really a matter of availability, specifically the fact that the pieces necessary to build a bottle don't really exist. Nowhere is that more true that the bottom of the bottle, which requires a lot of single-stud pieces to fit together in what proved to be the fiddliest part of the build. The transparent blocks are tricky to tell apart when they're all stuck together like that, and there was one point I'd added too many but couldn't actually tell by looking at it. Lego clearly realised this as well, since the manual has a 1:1 scale image of the final product for builders to compare against.
The availability reason also means you end up with a 'bottle' that is broken up by ugly lines where the pieces fit together. It's obvious that this is down to both Lego and the original Ideas designer having to use pieces that are already available, but it does distort the interior image of the ship itself - as you can see above. This is especially obvious since the majority of the lines are right in the middle of the bottle in front of the ship where your eyes are drawn to anyway
One of my favourite details of the whole set is the cork, particularly the little seal on the side. That's another brand new piece that's designed to make it feel like a fancy real bottle - even though it's made from interconnecting plastic blocks. The cork doesn't exactly pull out of the bottle neck cleanly, but it's nice piece of design that brings the whole thing together. After all, you can't have a bottle without something to keep it sealed.
Every good bottled ship needs a base, and this one is pretty sweet. Not only does it have the arms necessary to hold it in place, it also comes with a name plaque (Leviathan), two mini globes, and a non-functioning compass that still spins. The compass is the highlight of this, seeing as how the stand itself is actually pretty basic. It's got the usual compassy stuff printed onto the inside of a rounded shield pieces. It's a bit of a shame the compass doesn't actually work, but presumably the logistics of putting that together are the reason why. Still, it's a great addition to the set, and it's a nice touch to ensure the needle itself actually spins.
Some might find the £70 price tag to be an issue as well, especially for a set that can be built so quickly, but what you get is inline with similarly-priced sets. There are 962 pieces, which is more than you'll get in the £75 Star Wars Defence of Crait (746) and the £70 Police Mountain Headquarters (663).
The Ship in a Bottle isn't the most extravagant of sets, nor does it offer a great deal of playtime, but if you're looking for a Lego set that serves as a decoration then you can't go wrong here. It's got the obvious issue with the thick lines messing up the bottle view, but there's not much that can be done about that. Not without creating large new pieces that would have dramatically increased the cost of the set. But for the most part it's a nice setpiece for any adult Lego fan with shelf space to fill.
The set comes out on 1st February for £70, and can be purchased from the Lego website.