REVIEW: Hogwarts crests LEGO wall art

31201 – Harry Potter Hogwarts Crests

1 January is just around the corner, and with that five new LEGO Harry Potter sets become available. I’ve previously reviewed the four Hogwarts Moments buildable books. The fifth set is different – as it is part of the new LEGO Art series of sets, where you build a mosaic to hang on your wall. Is that something for you? Here are my thoughts…

Thanks to LEGO’s AFOL Engagement Team, I’ve had an early look at the new Hogwarts Crests wall art set. This set allows you to build not just one picture, but any of the crests from the four Hogwarts Houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.

Christmas is about being together; and while COVID-19 has made that difficult this year, we were enough around here to have four different people have a go at building a crest each, allowing me to get a more wide set of views on the build experience to report here.

One Christmas morning, I opened the set to have a look…

The art sets, apart from targeting AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO) who have spare wall space, also is LEGO’s answer to the colouring books that helps people to de-stress. With COVID-19, this has become even more relevant, so I was not surprised to see that the range was expanded to include two new sets in January – one with Mickey Mouse and then this Harry Potter themed one. Let’s take a closer look at that.

Box and content

The box is square and rather flat. The front is dominated by black – the colour used for the set targeting the adult collectors, also highlighted by the 18+ age label. A large photo shows one of the four crests you can build from this set, with “Harry Potter” written along the left side, where it also lists that you can build one picture, choosing from four different options. The other three options are shown in small insert photos at the bottom.

Turning over the box, you can see the three options in slightly bigger versions, and otherwise the top half of the box shows how the set when built can decorate your wall, and the process of building it is shown at the bottom right, highlighting that you can listen to a soundtrack while building (only available in English).

One of the first things I noticed, when I received the set in the mail was the weight of the set considering the size of the box. According to my kitchen scale, it is 1.795 kg of LEGO fun. With 4249 pieces, it is the LEGO Art set with the highest piece count to date. And looking at the Australian retail price of AU$179, you pay 4 cents per piece, which is low compared to other sets, but then again the vast majority of the parts are small 1×1 round plates.

The box itself is pretty solid. No cheap cardboard here. It is a quality product, which is reinforced when you open the box. The content is nicely lined up in an experience you would expect when buying a new phone.

The manual is of high quality and includes, as expected, information about the four houses.

So far, it has been very promising. Now I just had to build one. Being sorted into Gryffindor myself, I decided to start building their crest.

The build

First I had to get organised. There were 4000+ pieces ready to be used, with 12 different coloured round plates included for the mosaics. Luckily, I had just for other reasons bought some plastic boxes which coincidentally had 12 rooms. One got repurposed as storage for the bricks.

The set also includes a bag with allows you to build the colour chart with the 12 colours. The bag also includes a huge brick separator (that will be your friend when dismantling the mosaic, if you want to build one of the other options), and a small minifigure crowbar, which is perfect for removing single plates that have been misplaced.

With the round plates ready, next I found the nine 16×16 brick plates. They are a thick as normal bricks and have Technic holes on the sides, allowing them to be connected to each other using normal Technic pins. This is a new part that has been designed for the LEGO Art range, but I am sure it will find a use in a lot of LEGO models in the future.

Now I could start building. Each crest is done in nine sections, each based on one 16×16 plate shown above. The manual shows the colour (and for clarity also the colour number) for each stud on the plate. Once you’ve done a plate, you turn over to the following page and start on the next section.

Anyone with extreme OCD may consider to align the LEGO logo. But you need to be super close to notice, and I didn’t bother apart from the first nine plates shown below.

Once you have built all nine sections and attached them to each other in a 3×3 square, you build a frame using two layers of bricks around it. The frame is attached to the mosaic using 1×2 bricks with Technic pins. A layer of plates at the bottom ensures it all stays firmly in place.

Finally, the frame is completed by covering the top with tiles for a nice smooth look. For some reason, they have used 2×2 corner plates rather than 2×2 corner tiles in the corners. Several 2020 sets include 2×2 corner tiles in black, so it is surprising they were not used for this.

Finally, as the photo above shows, the table got a lot of minor scratches from the corners of the plates when I repeatedly pressed round plate after round plate on top of it. For a worn kitchen table, that is not a problem, but do not to this on your antique table sets, or at least over it with a table cloth.

Experience

So how is building it then? I found that it took 15-17 minutes per section, which seemed to be rather consistent across the various people building. Adding the frame means you have 2.5 to 3 hours of building fun. And then you can repeat that another 3 times if you want to build the other crests.

Is it fun? Relaxing? I should add that I’m not a person that likes colouring in or any other repetitive tasks (like sorting bricks). Still, I didn’t mind spending the time and felt a sense of achievement having completed it. I would probably have stopped after the first version though, as I have so many other projects on my to-do list that repeating it another 3 times would delay other work I want to get on with.

The nice thing is that you can do this while watching TV shows (I didn’t, but two experienced TV watchers proved to me it could be done), listening to music (Harry Potter soundtrack comes to mind), audio books (guess what) or podcasts.

And interestingly, this set comes with a podcast (it is labelled a soundtrack, but it is really a podcast) which complements the building experience well. It lasts about an hour, so it won’t cater for the full build time, and includes roundtable interviews with people who worked on the “arts” side of the Harry Potter movies (such as props) and the LEGO set designer. It is supplemented with sound clips from the movies, including the sorting hat’s discussion with Harry about where to put him. Overall, I liked its focus on the arts side, which was different from what you otherwise usually get exposed to, and fits well with an “arts” set.

Alternative build

If you want to have a go building one of the other models, you have to dismantle the set first (unless you buy another (or three) sets to go with it. Overall, I found removing some of the colours that were only used a few times using the tiny crowbar was a good start, and then work your way though with the large brick separator, doing segments of mostly one colour at a time, making sorting rather easy. The first couple of attempts sent round bricks flying around the room, and I ultimately created a technique where one hand shielded the bricks, preventing them from flying away, when I lifted them off with the separator.

The minifigure crowbar is great for removing individual plates

Once done dismantling, I let others build their Hogwarts crests. Luckily, we had one person from each Hogwarts house. Here are what the crests looks like when built.

While they all look good, from talking with the various builders, I think the Slytherin and Gryffindor ones may be the most fun to build, with the objects filling out the square better (the Ravenclaw one ends with a square, which is pretty must just stripes) and have more colours (than the Hufflepuff one).

Putting it on the wall

Once complete, you need to display it. You can simply let it stand on a shelf, but you can also hang it from the wall. For this, two Technic pieces are attached to the frame – perfect if you put two screws in the wall allowing it to hang firmly there. Unfortunately, the spot I had in mind already had one screw – centered. So I thought I could simply add some wire to make it hang from that. But adding the wire to the Technic pieces didn’t work as they got pulled out from the sideways force from the wire.

But you have plenty of Technic holes to work with, so I quickly found a solution that worked for me.

Here is what the four different versions look like hanging from the only free spot I had in my LEGO room.

The big one

The review would not be complete without mentioning “the big one”. Anyone who has four of the sets, can build a giant crest with all four of the Hogwarts houses covered, as in the official Hogwarts crest itself. As I only have one set, I haven’t tried this one, but instructions are available online, should you wish so. The photo below is an official LEGO photo showing what it looks like when built. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will have the wall space for it, though I would really like having it.

Conclusions

So overall, I liked this set and it does look great on the free spot between my windows. Do you have to be into mindfulness and colouring books? Not really, as I am certainly not that type. But you will probably appreciate it even more if you do.

Overall, I think the four house crests look fine, with the Gryffindor and Slytherin ones being my favourites. Maybe they could have been more interesting if more colours had been used – and the huge Hogwarts crest made out of four sets does stand out as more colourful overall (but will be costly to achieve, as you need four full sets).

But it is limited what you can do with just 48×48 resolution. I may try to come up with some alternative designs later, but first I still have a pile of 2020 sets that need to be reviewed, and my Diagon Alley needs expansion. So look out for those posts early in the new year.

Till then, Build the Magic!

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