I’ve slowing been eating my way through all the food that was prepared and bought up to Christmas, and now got some time for other activities, such as reflecting on this year’s Advent Calendar and how it does stack up compared to the previous two calendars. I also have a few ideas for how it could have been better…
We have now had three LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendars (you can check my review pages of them in case you want to revisit what was in them: 2019, 2020 and 2021). How did this year’s calendar stack up?
Let us first look at a comparison of some key stats:
- 2019 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar: 305 pieces, 413 gram, 6 minifigures (or 7 if including the Hogwarts Architect statue).
- 2020 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar: 355 pieces, 443 gram, 6 minifigures.
- 2021 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar: 274 pieces, 400 gram, 6 minifigures.
Most obvious is the significant lower piece count in the 2021 calendar compared to last year (and even the year before). We were down 81 bricks compared to last year, and that was felt at times when opening the calendar. But it is not all about the number of pieces.
A strong theme can help bringing the various models together with a consistent story-line.
- 2019 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar: First Christmas at Hogwarts
- 2020 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar: The Yule ball (4th year at Hogwarts)
- 2021 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar: Journey to Hogwarts – back to first year, but not really a focus on Christmas.
As such, there is not a lot of difference there. They have all done fairly well on that front, in particular with minifigures supporting the theme like Harry and Ron with their sweaters from Molly in 2019 and the characters dressed up for the Yule ball in 2020. This year I really liked Harry and Dudley in particular. One difference is that 2021 didn’t really have a strong focus on Christmas, with only two models linked to this.
I’ve noted the fewer pieces – and the limited focus on Christmas in this year’s models. But one thing that helped this year’s calendar is the inclusion of so many printed pieces unique to this calendar. Let’s have a look at how the calendars stack up when it comes to printed pieces.
This calendar included two cookies (12 Dec), four tiles with the Hogwarts house crests (20 Dec), two envelopes (22 Dec) and as a special treat on 24 December: A 2×3 tile printed as Hogwarts acceptance letter, as well as 1×2 tiles with Wingardium Leviosa spell and a chocolate bar print.
Only the Hogwarts Acceptance letter was unique to the calendar though.
The following year we got even less printed pieces. We started on 1 December with the beautifully printed Yule ball invitation (on a 2×3 tile). Otherwise, we got piano keys (17 Dec), music nodes (21 Dec) and an envelope (23 December).
Only the Yule ball invitation was unique to the calendar.
In 2021 we got a lot more printed pieces:
- 1 Dec: Privet Drive sign and one envelope
- 4 Dec: Three envelopes
- 5 Dec: Harry’s birthday cake
- 7 Dec: Leaky Cauldron sign
- 16 Dec: Wizard card tile and Hogwarts express ticket
- 18 Dec: Wizard card tile
- 19 Dec: Platform 9 ¾ sign
- 24 Dec: Spinner top
Apart from the envelopes and wizard card tiles, the printed pieces are all unique to the calendar and (with the spinner top being the exception) very useful pieces when creating your own models. The wizard card tiles would have useful too for those starting their collection now.
Adding printed pieces does come at a cost and it may explain the lower piece count otherwise.
My suggestions for an improved calendar
Some or all of the ideas below would have improved the calendar in my eyes. It may have made it too expensive to produce though. Generally, I tried to add more Christmas related links, accessories to the included figures, and slightly better coverage of persons/locations from Harry’s Journey to Hogwarts. My suggestions add some extra bricks, but it should still be less than what was in the 2020 Calendar.
As per calendar. Include owl plus grip to allow the owl to deliver the envelopes.
As calendar, but include envelope along with Harry (previous calendars often had accessories with the figures).
Fireplace – part 1. Only minor change to top compared to what was in calendar. Maybe leave out broom and shovel to allow more bricks on next day.
Include one less envelope (got that one on 2 December), but include chimney – for example as my attempt below.
This is what it would look like combined with the 3 December model. The functionality with the envelopes coming out the fireplace is still there (when you lift the chimney).
I’ve chosen to add another minfigure early – and include Hagrid rather than Draco Malfoy. Hagrid may cost quite a bit more than a normal minifigure to produce. To be honest, I have no idea what any additional costs might be, but if it only a small increase, I think Hagrid is a much better choice for the calendar, as he played a key role in many parts of Harry’s journey to Hogwarts. He should come with a pink umbrella, which he can use to punish children, who eat cake before given permission (see 8 December entry).
The spinner – now you have two figures, you can start playing the game. No need to wait for the spinner till 24 December in my opinion.
Harry’s birthday cake in box (exactly as in calendar).
Dudley Dursley – with a piece of cake icing (a quarter circle piece would be better, but I didn’t have that in pink).
He better not eat the cake before he’s allowed though, or Hagrid may get angry.
The Leaky Cauldron sign – with added Christmas wreath as I discussed in my review post.
Leaky Cauldron table – add butterbeer glasses instead of the metallic cups included. Or alternatively, add some food or a couple of chairs instead. It didn’t feel like a lot on the day.
Entrance to Diagon Alley – exactly as in calendar.
I do like the Gringotts desk we got in the calendar, so I’ll let that one remain unchanged (might even consider the design for my custom Gringotts bank. One change could be if the white globe had been replaced by a glow-in-the-dark piece, should it be available in that colour.
Griphook – as we got him in the calendar. He’s perfect with the desk too.
Gringotts underground mine cart – as in calendar.
Still at Gringotts, the next model is Harry Potter’s underground vault.
By cutting down on the amount of gold, the whole vault plus gold could be given in one day rather than over two. Added a mix of gold and silver to represent different coins in the wizarding world.
The days where we got the baggage trolley and items Harry had got from Diagon Alley over three days were probably the ones where I felt most underwhelmed. So I’ve given most of this over two days instead (the “extra” day gives me the build shown for 17 Dec). First day is as in the calendar though, with some Diagon Alley shopping items.
I thought it would be good with another location from Diagon Alley. My suggestion is a shop front for example of the Magical Menagerie magical creature shop, where Hagrid bought Harry’s birthday present. It should include a perch for Hedwig (which we got yesterday – or the other owl I suggested for 1 December). It could come with a small box with a toad. Even better would be a printed sign for the shop, as it hasn’t been covered in a LEGO set to date. But noting how many printed pieces that already have been included, that might be pushing it.
Finally, we get the baggage trolley – along with the ticket for Hogwarts Express. Without that ticket, it trolley by itself didn’t feel like a lot on the day.
Here is the trolley loaded up with the baggage.
Ron Weasley. Compared with the calendar, only with one set of wands – but still to come with both chocolate frog and wizard card.
Ron helps Harry finding Platform 9 ¾. The included model is fine, though it would have been nice if they had been able to add a Christmas wreath (similar to what I added to the Leaky Cauldron sign).
It is made up of 18 bricks, which doesn’t seem to add much to size. Using just one brick more (but also larger, it should be noted), you can make it a lot more impressive, but probably too big for a calendar.
Hermione Granger. Compared with the calendar, only with one set of wands – but she’s to come with both chocolate frog and wizard card as Ron.
Table with food from the welcome feast in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. This is exactly as in the calendar.
Keeping up with the tradition from the previous calendars, we could have Christmas presents wrapped in the colours representing the different Hogwarts houses (photo here is from the presents included in the 2019 calendar). This is an extra build allowed by combining the two Gringotts vault builds into one earlier on.
I really think the last day should be something strongly related to Christmas, so I’d put the Christmas tree here. As noted in my review, it is smaller than in previous years, but given I’ve added quite a few extra bricks already, I’m not suggesting making it bigger.
I would have liked some changes – but all my suggestions above would probably have been too costly.
Going through this process, I realised that I was reasonably happy with the calendar overall. Yes, it had fewer pieces, and wasn’t really much about Christmas till we got to 23 December, but the models were nice little builds you can use in larger MOCs. And in particular I liked the many printed tiles this year.
Including a game is an interesting idea. For me, the game was not particular exciting, but I’m not the target audience either. I’d be curious if anyone have had kids that have played this over and over again? You can however make the game more interesting by adding house rules as discussed here.
One thing the game does, is to tie the different models together in the “Journey to Hogwarts” theme, adding a more visible timeline.
Looking back at the calendars, I probably prefer 2020 slightly over this one, as it helped complete the set of characters for the Yule ball, and it had some really nice micro-scale builds, I’ve subsequently added to a MOC (my own creation) of a “Goblet of Fire book”. You can find instructions here.
Talking about MOCs, I should also remind about our “A Merry Potter Christmas” MOC competition. Check the competition post for details – entries are due 4 January, so you still have plenty of time to build something. I have a few other posts planned as well for the blog, so stay tuned.
Till then, Build the Magic…