Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Our Final Thoughts!

With the battle now concluded, our reviewers share their final thoughts on this year’s advent calendars:

Stephen Churchill (SW Reviewer): Final thoughts on the whole thing- Both Matt and I went into December expecting an easy overall win for Star Wars, and we were both wrong. Thanks to some lucky/strategic matchups, Harry Potter kept the score interesting and it was a nail-biter right to the end. Looking back, an overall tie actually feels right. Both Calendars have had good days and bad this year, and overall 2020’s Star Wars calendar turned out to be a middle-of-the-road offering – neither the worst nor the greatest.

Patrick Barnes (SW Weekend Reviewer): As someone who has been getting the annual Star Wars advent since 2011, I was really happy with this years calendar. The majority of the vehicle builds were great and I’ll likely keep them built, which is more than I can say for a lot of previous advent builds, and the calendar came with a whopping 10 figures, so days with gifts like the Battle Droid and Porg didn’t feel like a wasted slot. I would have liked to have seen more Mandalorian and Clone Wars builds, as those media have been staples of Star Wars this past year, but it was nice to get stuff over all three trilogies regardless. I think the highlight of the calendar has got to be Poe and Vader in their Christmas sweaters!!

Matt Zwicker (HP Reviewer): This is the second year for the Harry Potter Advent Calendar, and first year that we’ve run a seasonal “battle” (for fun) on NewfoundLUG.ca. I had previously run this in the comments section of Brickset (a popular LEGO Fan wesbite) and it was well received, so together Steve and I thought it would be a fun competition to bring in-house, and run on our LUG’s website. I’m glad we did.

I think overall HP’s inaugural 2019 calendar was better, maybe just based on the figs or the novelty at the time. My initial thoughts upon seeing the 2020 box art was that this year’s calendar was going to be far weaker. Despite my initial take, I actually welcome the strategy of sticking to Year 4 (Goblet of Fire) as the overall theme for the calendar. I think that’s a smart play by TLG and gives them a strategy moving forward. There’s so much content in each novel/film, that sticking to a single one for each HPAC is pretty cool. That said, while the Yule Ball does take place around Christmas, I felt like it hemmed us in a little bit in terms of daily offerings. Getting multiple mantle/windowsill days as well as two halves of an ice sculpture felt a bit cheapened. I would prefer if each HPAC told a visual story of the novel/film as we worked our way through December month. That said, the “coherent scene” theme that’s come to define the HPAC’s from both 2019 and 2020 might suffer under that strategy I just mentioned. It’s always give and take with these things.

The 4th novel is my favorite although ironically, my least favorite film. That said, there were a lot of missed opportunities in my opinion. How about a Quidditch World Cup Viktor Krum in Bulgarian colours? A microscale Hungarian Horntail? Something from the 2nd Triwizard Challenge? Mad-Eye Moody/exclusive Barty Crouch fig? Fleur or Madame Maxine? So many possibilities. And as mentioned in the Day 24 review, I would have liked the last couple days to be both festive and HP related, with a definite Dumbledore/Voldemort presence (If SW can get its main antagonist, why can’t we?!).

In the end, as Steve mentioned, HP pulled off some strategic wins where it mattered and were able to secure 12 days worth of points, which came as a definite surprise to me. All’s well that ends well.

That’s it folks! I’d like to take this time to thank both Steve and Patrick for their insightful reviews and commitment to the Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars on NewfoundLUG.ca. I hope that you, the reader, enjoyed following along with our daily matchups for a laugh, and if you have any thoughts or suggestions of your own, we’d love to hear the feedback!

On behalf of my fellow reviewers and the rest of NewfoundLUG, we’d like to wish you and yours a safe, relaxing, and brick filled holidays!

Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Day 24

With SW down a single point, can they complete the comeback to tie the overall seasonal battle, or will HP secure it’s final point for the win? It has all come down to the final day of the season. Let’s see how the battle concludes:

Harry Potter- Day 24

Matt: After giving back a point on a very close decision yesterday, HP still requires one more to secure the overall seasonal victory. Behind Door #24 is the Triwizard Cup. While faithful to the on screen version, I am reticent to grant this entry a passing grade, especially on the final day of the calendar. Although it is a critical item at the end of the 4th film, acting as a portkey to the graveyard scene, it really doesn’t have that festive, HP vibe I was hoping for. I’m surprised that we haven’t seen a Santa Claus Albus Dumbledore for the second straight year, or maybe a festive Voldemort (yeah, I said his name) on the final day of the calendar. Or any fig for that matter. I do enjoy the overall design, and the snake pieces on today’s entry but find the inverted trans-light blue 2×2 round brick to be a bit bulky. A shame for HP to finish off the calendar in such a mediocre fashion, and I’m sure most fans were hoping for a better finish. It’s definitely a bit of a head scratcher. Today’s entry leaves us on a ho-hum note, and certainly can’t match SW’s entry today. I’ll touch more on this year’s HPAC in the final thoughts section, but for now, this is the way (wait, that’s a SW thing).

Star Wars- Day 24

Steve: The final door for Star Wars isn’t a surprise, we’ve seen him on the box so he had to show up today – It’s Darth Vader in a Holiday Sweater! Needless to say, this is a unique fig, depicting Vader in an appearance in the 2020 LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. The printing on the torso and legs is clean (no arm printing, though). The helmet is the new ‘split’ style, which is always appreciated, and the face underneath is a good print with scars printed around the entire head. Overall, this is easily the best fig that Star Wars has had for the calendar, and easily takes the day.

Verdict

With a bizarre final HP build versus an exclusive and festive SW fig, it’s really one of the more lopsided wins of the season with SW cruising to an easy victory today. With the win, SW goes back to back to tie the overall battle, and the score concluded as a tie with:

HP- 12

SW- 12

Stay tuned for our concluding article later this evening, where we will recap the seasonal battle and our reviewers will share their final thoughts on this year’s advent calendars!

Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Day 23

With only two days to go, HP has already secured an overall tie in this year’s calendar. SW needs to sweep the last two days in order to secure an overall tie this year. Can they come back or will HP grab the win? Let’s find out:

Harry Potter- Day 23

Matt: After Hermione came to the rescue yesterday, HP needs to grab a point today or tomorrow to secure the seasonal victory. Behind Door #23 are festive Hogwarts house presents. Owners of last year’s calendar will recognize today’s gift as the 2019 calendar also offered 4 gifts representing each of the Hogwarts houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin). Worth nothing that the shapes of each gift are different than their 2019 counterparts adding to the variance from year to year, which is nice if this is your 2nd annual HPAC. The main difference, however, is the wrapped Firebolt as the Gryffindor house gift. I think this is a cool addition, and it is synonymous with the 4th novel/film, as Harry gets an upgrade to his Nimbus 2000 at Christmas time by receiving the Firebolt from an anonymous sender (his godfather Sirius Black). I think the gold and dark red work best here on the broomstick, unlike the dark yellow/dark red Gryffindor present colours last year. The main knock on today’s entry are the use of 1×1 clips on the presents. With all the accessories now available to us via Clickits and Friends theme lines, they could have instead gone with pieces such as bows, flower, star, heart, quarter tiles, etc. It’s a minor gripe, but I definitely think this would have improved today’s offering. Overall though, a solid to-scale, festive and themed gift today. Could there have been better options for the 23rd of December? Yes, no doubt. But the gifts today certainly aren’t among the lower tier entries this year and I look forward to tomorrow’s offering.

Star Wars- Day 23

Steve: Star Wars needs the ‘W’ today to stay in it. Behind door 23 we have a microscale version of Darth Vader’s castle! This is a well designed build, a great example of microscale – it evokes the shape of the original in just a few well-chosen pieces and techniques. The model itself may not be iconic to more casual fans, having only appeared on-screen for a brief shot in ‘Rogue One’ but we’ve seen it in many games and other media before and since. Accompanying the castle is the smallest (nanoscale?) TIE Fighter I’ve ever seen. Ideally, this should be Vader’s custom TIE, but the twin hulls mark this as a TIE Bomber variant. It’s hard to criticize at this scale, given it manages to say ‘TIE’ with only 3 pieces! Darth Vader can feel the presents of today’s HP build, but takes the win today to force the contest down to the wire for Day 24.

Verdict

While HP provided a to-scale, festive, and on theme build today, it was SW that came out on top with a microscale rendition of Vader’s castle with nanoscale TIE fighter. With the win, SW keeps their hopes of a seasonal draw alive, and it comes down to the last day of advent. With the win, the score is now:

HP- 12

SW- 11

To be concluded…

Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Day 22

With only THREE DAYS LEFT (can’t believe we’re here already), HP has a single point lead over SW by a score of 11-10. Can SW complete the comeback and even the score, setting us up for a dramatic finish, or will HP clinch at least a seasonal tie? Let’s find out on a critical Day 22:

Harry Potter- Day 22

Matt: Oh HP, the up and down roller coaster continues until the end. With only 3 days left, HP needs a single point to clinch a tie, and two for the win. Can they pull it off? Behind Door #22 is none other than Hermione Granger! It wasn’t a stretch to imagine that she’d show up at some point, given her presence in last year’s calendar and the fact that both Harry and Ron have shown up so far in 2020. Furthermore, the Yule Ball is where the star Gryffindor student really shines and cleans up well (to say the least). Her dashing appearance at the ball was the salt in the wounds of one Ronald Weasley on that night, and it’s no wonder he was so sour. At least she enjoyed the evening with Bulgarian Quidditch prodigy Viktor Krum. But alas, back to the fig. This variant of Hermione appears only once before in a $120 dollar set, making her presence here that much more welcoming. Her Yule Ball attire looks fantastic, with superb printing adorning her light pink torso and dark pink/magenta leg piece (1×2 brick). I also like how the fuchsia 1×2 plate looks to cap off the fig. The hair piece is true to her appearance in this scene, and there is a small hole on the top of her head to place an accessory, if desired (although none are included here). She carries her typical dark tan wand and again, we’re treated to an extra sprue. Apart from the exclusive figs we received in this year’s calendar, I think this one is the next best offering in the minifig category. Once again and true to form, Hermione shows up to save the day for the HP calendar assuring that it can do no worse than a tie this holiday season. Clutch.

Star Wars- Day 22

Steve: Minifig vs. minifig battle! Against a very nice Hermione, Star Wars puts up…. an Imperial Stormtrooper. It’s the new dual-molded helmet outside, but the old “angry clone face” inside. I’m not a huge fan of the newest helmet mold for Stormtroopers, as it limits the ability to rotate the head for posing. There’s nothing wrong with this figure, it’s just not particularly exciting. Harry Potter wins the day and secures at least a tie – Star Wars needs to sweep the last 2 days just to even it up.

Verdict

Hermione takes a commanding point today over the stormtrooper. With the win, the Harry Potter Advent Calendar is the first to reach the magic number of 12 points- meaning it can do no worse than a tie this holiday season. Although it struggled to find consistency throughout, it managed to secure enough head to head victories to get it this far so it should be commended for that. The final question is, can HP grab any of the remaining two points or can SW take back to back days deep in the calendar to tie the battle up? We will find out tomorrow. For now, the score is:

HP- 12

SW- 10

To be continued…

Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Day 21

Steve is back to start the week.

Kicking off the week with only 4 days left to go, it’s HP with a two-point buffer over SW. But anything can happen in the battle. Today could determine whether HP secures a tie overall, or if the competition remains up in the air. Let’s check it out:

Harry Potter- Day 21

Matt: You’ve got to hand it to HP. They’ve gotten this far despite some really mediocre offerings. Can they capitalize on their momentum to secure an overall tie in the battle? Behind Door #21 is a microphone and music stand. I’m not sure this is what HP fans were expecting today, especially at this juncture in the advent season. This is presumably for the Yule Ball scene and to pair with the piano we received earlier. I think it’s a pretty weak offering today, although I do appreciate the 2×2 printed music tile. That part is fairly rare, having only appeared in a few other sets prior to now (thanks Bricklink). Like many builds this season, the link to HP is weak at best, and the focus on the Yule Ball scene has resulted in some thin HP-based offerings. I’ll touch on this at the end of the calendar battle on the 24th so stay tuned. For now, we get a really nice printed tile, but that’s about it. A bit of a letdown in my opinion, and I think SW will grab the point today if they put up anything festive/on theme at all.

Star Wars- Day 21

Steve: It’s Christmas Week and Star Wars is down by 2 – can they come back? Today’s build is a “Snow-Gonk Droid”, continuing a tradition of a festive-themed droid in Star Wars calendars. This figure is seen briefly on screen in the 2020 LEGO Star Wars Holiday special, and the model here is very accurately that appearance. While I’m sure it’s not going to win over any Star Wars purists, it’s a fun little build and goes great with the other Holiday-themed figures we’ve seen so far. This figure is a winner in my books.

Verdict

With a festive and on-theme build, SW grabs today’s point over HP, who submits a fairly weak offering for such a late date in the calendar season. With the win, SW keeps HP within its grasp, preventing HP from clinching at least a tie. Tomorrow’s matchup will be critical, but for now, the score is:

HP- 11

SW- 10

To be continued…

Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Day 20

While it may be a cold Sunday evening outside, the heat is on for this season’s battle. With only 5 days remaining, every point is massive from here on in. HP has a one point advantage but based on the entries this year, no lead is safe. Let’s see what awaits us behind Door #20:

Harry Potter- Day 20

Matt: With yesterday’s superb minifigure, HP managed to grab a one point lead late in the calendar battle. It’s far from over though, and I believe HP has won some strategic days to get their current lead. Behind Door #20 is the second and final half of the ice sculpture Yule Ball table. After Day 18’s half-table with 1×4 technic brick, we had a hint that this half was just around the corner. Again, we are treated to more ice sculptures topped with 1×1 trans clear pyramidal bricks which are the highlight for me. We also get 1×1 trans clear plates with vertical sticks, used to create the drinks on the table (pumpkin juice perhaps?). I actually think this half of the table looks cleaner, if not as vibrant as its predecessor. The key point of today’s build are the technic pins which now allow us to connect and complete the final round table (see extra picture below). I know we’re usually hard on “rehash/repeat” builds within the same calendar, but I actually believe the final result is far better than the mantle/windowsill “scene” that was spread out over 3 days in the mid-calendar. Bear in mind, we get a “to-scale” table that can be used as an accessory, even across multiple themes (City Christmas layout, anyone?). Overall, I can’t get as excited about builds that have a thin HP vibe to them, and “near duplicate” builds can be disappointing, but I believe the final model is pretty robust. I just wish it came behind one door rather than two.

Star Wars- Day 20

Patrick: As we approach the end of the advent, one would think the caliber of builds would be elevated, finish on a high note and whatnot. So what iconic vehicle, character or scene from the Star Wars saga will we kick off the 20s with… some plates drying? Or like a spring? Ohhhh, its the Rebel’s shield generator from Hoth… sure. Its probably the weakest build we’ve gotten in the advent, with the “disks” representing the separate rings, but otherwise theres very little going on. If they had used some of the newer 1×1 quarter-circle tiles to cover the studs it might’ve worked a little better, but the build still uses a random blue plate that ruins the whole grey/white colour scheme. Even though the SNOT (Studs Not On Top) technique was well executed at this scale, its not enough to redeem this unremarkable build in an otherwise great advent calendar.

Verdict

With precious few days to go, we expect great things from both calendars. Unfortunately, SW did not put up a great Day #20 build today, and while HP’s is a near duplicate, it completes a festive, to-scale Yule Ball model, and the result is solid. By those metrics, HP grabs another point in back to back days, and has opened up a two point lead late in the competition. It needs only ONE more point to secure a tie, and two for the win. But anything can happen. Heading into Monday, the score is now:

HP- 11

SW- 9

To be continued…

Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Day 19

Patrick Barnes is back with our weekend SW reviews!

With just 6 days left, the battle is reaching a boiling point, with both calendars going day for day. The final week is critical for both calendars, and we will ultimately see which one comes out on top. Let’s see the results for Day 19:

Harry Potter- Day 19

Matt: After giving up the lead (yet again), HP really needs to impress this week if they want any shot at winning the overall battle. Behind Door #19 is Parvati Patil! The twin of Padma who we received on Day 15, she is also the last minute date of Harry Potter for the Yule Ball. This is the first iteration of Parvati Patil in brick form, making her an exclusive as well. Like her twin sister, she sports a similar colour attire, although this time her dress colours are the inverse of her sisters, with a coral torso and printed magenta 1×2 brick as her dress. She also shares similar highlights as her sister including the gold bindi on her forehead and her facial expression (dual sided). Upon closer inspection, there are some very slight differences in the silver printing on their dresses, which adds to the exclusivity factor, however I’m not 100% sure this was intentional. She also sports a dark orange wand, with an extra sprue. With today’s entry, we now have two Yule Ball exclusive Patil twins. On a side note, I often felt bad for the twins because Harry and Ron weren’t exactly great dates that night, as both of them wished they were there with someone else. Overall, these are the type of gifts we want in HP calendars- new, exclusive, festive, and HP related. HP is ticking all the boxes today, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.

Star Wars- Day 19

Patrick: Entering the final weekend of the advent calendar, door 19 reveals the advents second animal, a mini Tauntaun! I guess he’s a Rudolf the Red-Nosed Tauntaun due to the addition of the stud, which was probably unnecessary, I would’ve been happy to simply get the Tauntaun build, but appreciated regardless. This little guy has a pretty complex build to achieve the right shaping of the body, tail and legs, and the inclusion of a 1×1 brown plate for the saddle was a nice touch. The head doesn’t look great with the big tan clips used to hold the horns on but I can’t think of a better piece they could’ve used instead either. In general this is a nice attempt at a Tauntaun at this scale that will have a hard time beating an exclusive Harry Potter character.

Verdict

With its third exclusive minifigure of the season, Harry Potter takes today’s point form Star Wars, and retakes a one point lead deep into the season of advent. The matchup is razor close and heading into Sunday, the score is now:

HP- 10

SW- 9

To be continued…

Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Day 18

After 17 days, HP has fought its way back to a tenuous, one point advantage. Will SW tie things back up again or will HP break out into its first two point lead since Day 6? Read on to find out:

Harry Potter- Day 18

Matt: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a bit surprised that HP has the lead. I think with a string of mediocre builds in the mid-calendar, they are lucky to be here at this point. But I’ll take it. Behind door #18 is half a yule ball ice sculpture table with food and potentially drink. Whew. That was a mouthful. This build is presumably based off the movie scene as I don’t recall this item being a main fixture in the novel. The build is essentially half complete as the 1×4 technic brick with holes suggests that the other half of the table is yet to come. There appear to be food and drink of some sort adorning the table, but I’d be hesitant to outright label the exact type (if anyone knows, feel free to chime in). The main highlight for me are the 1×1 trans clear pyramid bricks, which are rare in my opinion. I also like how the “bubble” forms in each brick near the top. Usually, this pattern is random in trans clear pieces, but is rather consistent in this mold- at least, on the pieces I received. All in all, it’s a build that may contribute to the Yule Ball festivities, but again, loses marks for not screaming Harry Potter or being “inherently magical” (thanks Patrick). In conclusion, I don’t feel this is the strongest entry this deep into the calendar but there have been worse builds to date.

Star Wars- Day 18

Steve: Day 18 from Star Wars is a micro-scale Snowspeeder. This is a really great example of the scale, evoking the classic shape in just 15 pieces. No rare or unusual parts, just clean design. Looking at HP today shows us… half a build? Literally half. No contest. SW takes it.

Verdict

While HP’s build included interesting elements, it provides half a build and doesn’t evoke anything magical or “on theme”. With that said, SW grabs today’s point with a clean microbuild. With the win, SW prevents HP from gaining any ground, and the battle is tied up once again as we head into our final week of the calendar. The score is now:

HP- 9

SW- 9

To be continued…

Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars- Day 17

After yesterday’s point, HP has squared things back up again with SW as we approach the back 9 of the Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars. Who will be our new leader after today? Let’s dive right in:

Harry Potter- Day 17

Matt: After a string of mediocre offerings, HP has somehow managed to tie the competition up, winning strategic daily matchups when they count. Behind Door #17 is a piano! This build continues the Yule Ball trend despite not screaming HP outright, in my opinion. Eschewing the standard black colour that’s associated with pianos, the designer has opted for dark grey with pearl-silver 1×1 cones for the feet. I actually think this colour choice works here, offering something slightly different while blending with the overall color scheme of the Yule Ball. The highlight for me is the 1×4 printed (yay, no sticker!) piano keys tile that adorns the front. In terms of scale, the piano is not too far off minifig scale, albeit not quite there, as this build is slightly too small. Nevertheless, today’s offering is a usable build that can be transferred to other themes as desired. Overall, a unique, solid offering today and one of the better ones of the last five days.

Star Wars- Day 17

Steve: For Day 17, Star Wars gives us a buildable Pit Droid minifig. While the Pit Droids go all the way back to Episode I, they have been seen most recently on-screen in “The Mandalorian”. This is a unique version of the figure for the advent calendar, as previous versions have used a slightly different build. In my opinion, this new version is the most screen-accurate as well. It’s a good build, but if we are not counting buildable figures for our automatic win criteria (and I don’t think we should) then I think the piano build from HP is better today – it’s a nice, compact build with a relatively rare printed piece for the keyboard.

Verdict

Both calendars offer solid builds today which is a refreshing change of pace as we enter the single digit countdown to Christmas. Based on its compact, clean build and printed 1×4 tile, HP takes the point today and with that, its first lead since Day 7! The score is now:

HP- 9

SW- 8

To be continued…