LEGO Theme Throwback- Adventurers- Part 3

By: Matthew Zwicker

After the 1999 Jungle Subtheme, the Adventurers line took a turn for the fantastical with 2000’s Dino Island. Read on for an overview of the subtheme!

Dino Island (2000)

With two successful subthemes of Desert and Jungle in the books, Johnny Thunder’s next adventures would take place on Dino Island. 

This next chapter of the Adventurers line almost represents  the “black sheep” of the overall theme. This was the first time the Adventurers theme was not based on a real world location nor were our heroes seeking a specific treasure or artifact. Dino Island is a fantasy locale where dinosaurs have been spotted- perhaps near the Jungle of the previous theme, or in a more remote part of the Pacific Ocean? Your guess is as good as mine.

Part 3- Jurassic Park meets LEGO Adventurers (Unofficially). Courtesy miniland.nl

Apart from Johnny Thunder and a new set of Adventures, the main draw to this theme was clearly the new molded dinosaurs. These dinosaurs from 2000 are really TLG’s first attempt at minifig/playset-scale molded Dinos. While sorely outdated by today’s standards, they were certainly exciting at the time and brought something new to the theme. I love how the classic green dragon’s arms were repurposed for the main T.Rex too!

As a big fan of Jurassic Park (1993), any dinosaur based LEGO is exciting on some level- even to this day. That said, there was a big gap between 1993-2000, so I’m not sure if TLG was trying to harness some of that dino-energy created from JP or not.

A few of the first molded dinosaurs produced by TLG under Dino Island.

Overall the theme was just slightly bigger in terms of total set offerings than its predecessor (Jungle) with 14 sets in the subtheme. Most sets are vehicle based (dino tracker, cars, planes, etc.). 5935 Island Hopper was particularly well received, and even today’s Ninjago theme pays homage to the set in the form of a sticker in the Ninjago Docks set. Apart from the dinos, the vehicles provided throughout the theme might be the real winner here and I’d encourage you to check them out if you’re interested.

The marquee set of the subtheme is 5987 Dino Research Compound- offering 3 different dinosaurs, and the subtheme’s main characters and villains. I’d like to imagine this set as the final battle, where Johnny and his team have corralled a few dinosaurs and are sending their observations back home, only to be disrupted by the Baron attempting to capture them for himself. The set isn’t the most detailed and in fact, I have made a few changes, like adding more research equipment and foliage. That said, it is a source of some rare parts, including the Slope 10 6 x 8 with Rusting Sheet Metal Roof Pattern, appearing only in this set. 

5987 Dino Research Compound. Retrieved from Brickset.com.

Speaking of which, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the characters in this subtheme. Along with Johnny, Gail, and Dr. Lightning, new characters called Mike, Mr. Cunningham, and Alexia Sinister (sister of Sam Sinister) are introduced in this theme. Which brings me around to Sam Sinister/Baron Von Barron himself, who seemingly survived the events of the Desert to return and wreak havoc on Johnny and the crew on Dino Island. 

As an aside, I always thought it was curious that Sam Sinister/Baron took a theme off with Jungle, only to return as the main villain in Dino Island. To me, there’s definitely some fodder here for a fan-created narrative or story. Perhaps he was reeling financially from his defeat in the Desert and had to focus on securing more money to finance the Dino Island expedition. Maybe he suffered an injury and instead, hired Senor Palomar to do his bidding in the Jungle. Nevertheless, as you’ll see in the final part of this Adventurers Throwback series, Sam Sinister/Baron continues to be the main villain up and until the end of the theme.

Rare printed slope from Dino Research Compound. Printed pieces are always preferred over stickers.

Plot-wise, I never quite understood what was happening on Dino Island. In the Desert, Johnny was after the ruby of the Pharaoh Hotep, and in Jungle, the Sun-Disk of jungle ruler Achu. On Dino Island, it would seem Johnny and his team were commissioned to investigate the dinosaurs, and perhaps research/accumulate as much info as possible- without harming the creatures. This was made challenging by the presence of the Baron, who was likely there to capture the dinosaurs and profit from their sale.

Conclusion

The third foray of the Adventurers theme will always be my least favorite of the four subthemes, and as mentioned, the “black sheep” of the bunch. It wasn’t that it was bad, I just felt it lacked that specific Adventurers DNA that we’d come to love. One could argue that it was similar to Desert insofar as it was evoking another popular franchise (Jurassic Park) as Desert evoked Indiana Jones.

All said, I think one of the most important contributions Dino Island made to the world of LEGO fandom was the piloting of molded dinosaur figures. As we know, LEGO would go on to make many iterations of Dinosaurs, ultimately culminating in the present Jurassic World sets. 

Dinosaurs and LEGO seemingly go hand in hand these days, and the ones from Dino Island perhaps paved the way for that. It was also featured in some video games as well, and there’s plenty more info to read out there about the subtheme. In that sense, it made an impact and has a rightful place in LEGO lore.

And that’s it for Part 3! Make sure to catch the final article next week, where I take a look at one of the best (and my personal favorite) subthemes- Orient Expedition!

Until next time,

Matt Z.

LEGO Theme Throwback- Adventurers- Part 2

By: Matthew Zwicker

After Adventurers made a thrilling debut on the scene in 1998 with the Desert subtheme, Johnny and the crew were off to the Jungle for their next set of adventures.

Jungle (1999)

After conquering the Desert, Johnny Thunder came back with his familiar team of heroes against a new set of foes in the Jungle. As a kid, I was not fortunate enough to obtain many sets from this subtheme at their time of release (the exception being 5936 Spider’s Secret which in itself is jam packed with cool features). That said, while there were only 10 official Jungle themed sets, I ogled them all from afar and followed them closely in the LEGO MANIA Magazines. 

Announcing Jungle Adventures in the MANIA Magazine (Jan/Feb 1999). Image courtesy miniland.nl.

Continuing the theme’s earlier tradition of dual-naming their characters, Senor Palomar (also known as Senor Gomez) was the main bad guy of the set, and the antagonist to challenge Johnny. His sidekick was named Max Villano. The sets seemed to revolve around finding the “Sun Disk”, a chrome gold colored treasure featured in many sets. The guardian of the sun disk was Achu, who appeared to be the ruler of the jungle throughout this series. This figure was particularly fantastic and well ahead of its time- its colorful headdress, amazing cape, and printed legs were major draws for fans. 

Achu. For 1999, this was definitely a breakthrough figure. Photo courtesy Brickset.com.

Along with Johnny, Dr. Lightning, and Gail Storm, their faithful pilot Harry Cane rejoined them for back-to-back adventures in the Jungle. The marquee set of this subtheme was 5986 Amazon Ancient Ruins, an utterly fantastic but somewhat rare set by today’s standards (I will touch on this later). The set used a raised baseplate which evoked some of the earlier Castle and Pirates sets. I found myself longing to own this one and discover all its play features and secrets, but was never able to get my hands on a copy in my youth. I wouldn’t actually see the set in real life until 2020. After obtaining it, I can safely say it lived up to the hype, and is proudly displayed to this day. A decade’s long itch was scratched at last!

The subthemes “big” set- 5986 Amazon Ancient Ruins. A true gem. Retrieved from Brickset.com.

I admired the reuse of some items from the previous subtheme- the adventurers cars, tools, torso printing, and certain animals like snakes. It allowed us to imagine that hot off the heels of Johnny’s success in the Desert, he packed his bags immediately for another rumble in the Jungle. Furthermore, I loved seeing the familiar weapons we’d all become accustomed to through classic themes like Castle, Pirates, and even Western. Like its Desert theme before it, we also received some amazingly rare and downright wicked printed pieces.

A collection of unique pieces from the Jungle line. Images via Bricklink.

While ultimately the story is a little disjointed, in my imagination, I like to think Johnny and his team raced Senor Palomar to the sun disk (overcoming many obstacles along the way) yet ultimately deciding that its power should remain with Achu. In turn the jungle ruler rewarded them with other treasures and allowed them to leave the Jungle alive. Unfortunately, Senor Palomar and his crooks weren’t as lucky- their fate in the Jungle remains a mystery. 

Conclusion

In my estimation, the Desert and Jungle subthemes were complete box office hits for the Adventurers line. While difficult to beat out Desert and with far less sets, the theme certainly picked up where our heroes left off, and offered amazing iconic sets that are bona fide classics today.

I mentioned above that this subtheme in particular definitely has some obscurity and rarity to it. Perhaps it was the smaller offering of 10 retail sets or limited production runs, but copies of certain Jungle themed sets are scarce in the wild- at least from my experience, and that of fellow LUG members as well. 

Interestingly, the two biggest sets in this theme (5976 River Expedition and 5986 Amazon Ancient Ruins)  are marked as “wanted” by more Brickset members than they are “owned” by Brickset members- an interesting litmus test for rarity that I’ve used over the years. But take that with a grain of salt- perhaps there are many more owners of the Jungle sets out there, existing in attics and forgotten bins waiting to be rediscovered one day. Or, like the fate of Achu and his Sun Disk, remains a mystery.

And that does it for the Jungle subtheme. Stay tuned for Part 3 of my  Adventurers Theme Throwback, where I dive into the next subtheme in the chronology- Dino Island.

Until next time,

Matt Z.

LEGO Theme Throwback- Adventurers- Part 1

By: Matthew Zwicker

Welcome to Part 1 of the LEGO Theme Throwback series, focusing on the Adventurers theme! This will be a four-part series, with each article focusing on a different subtheme from Adventurers. Enjoy!

As a kid growing up in the mid-90’s/early 2000’s, there were several LEGO themes that were important and influential to me- Castle, Pirates, Western, Harry Potter, just to name a few. In 1998, LEGO introduced a new theme- Adventurers– that would quickly become one of my favorite themes of all time.

In a pre-internet world, magazines and catalogs were the main ways in which companies like LEGO would market their products and build hype around certain themes. As a kid, I had a subscription to the LEGO MANIA Magazine, which ran from 1994-2002, before being rebranded. This magazine was essentially a kids club magazine showcasing all things LEGO- products, comics, short stories, games, contests, and more. 

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LEGO Mania Magazine, announcing the new Adventurers line (Jan/Feb 1998). Image courtesy miniland.nl.

It was through these magazines where I discovered the new Adventurers theme, making its debut in 1998. The theme was centered around the adventures of its main protagonist, Johnny Thunder (initially known as Sam Grant in the UK), Dr. Charles Lightening (also known as Dr. Kilroy or the Professor), and Miss Gail Storm (also known as Pippen Reed). To date, I never quite figured out why the characters had multiple names. Perhaps it was a regional thing or quick re-brand prior to the theme’s release in North America. Or maybe LEGO didn’t know what they wanted to call the characters yet either.

Being a fan of the Indiana Jones films, it was clear to see where LEGO “borrowed” their inspiration from- Johnny Thunder evoked the iconic hero, both in appearance and setting. It wouldn’t be until much later where LEGO would eventually get the license to produce Indiana Jones LEGO sets. So for most of us kids at the time, Johnny Thunder was our Indy in the world of LEGO.

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The Man, The Myth, The Legend- Johnny Thunder. Image via Bricklink.

Four distinct subthemes

The Adventurers line spanned four separate subthemes from 1998-2003- Desert, Jungle, Dino Island, and Orient Expedition. I like to think of these subthemes as the four different “theatres” in which Johnny and his crew played out their adventures. Each had their own storyline and characters, with a range of sets to offer.

One of the main attractions of this theme for me as a kid was the storyline. I really enjoyed how there was a background story which could be loosely followed in the LEGO Mania Magazine comics at the time. It provided just the right amount of spark for imagination and set the stage, allowing us to play out the details after building the sets. I think this did wonders for kids and really brought a depth to the theme. 

Desert (1998)

The Desert subtheme, released in 1998 was critical for launching the Adventurers line. With arguably the most direct connection with the Indy films, the theme centered around Johnny Thunder and the Lost Ruby. It also introduced the theme’s antagonist- Baron Von Barron (also sometimes known as Sam Sinister) and his sidekick Sly Boots (also known as Sam Sinister- don’t worry, LEGO hadn’t made up its mind yet). The Pharaoh Hotep was the “neutral” character protecting and guarding his Ruby.

Ultimately, it was a race against time as Johnny and his mates had to beat Baron Von Barron to the ruby, all the while avoiding the traps and surprises set by Pharoah Hotep himself. Each set contained portions of a tiled map that when put together, led to the location of the ruby, culminating in the themes’ marquee set, 5988 Pharaoh’s Forbidden Ruins (or The Temple of Anubis- LEGO still hadn’t figured out its names and the trend will continue- stay tuned). According to Brickset.com, the subtheme produced 25 sets, although some of these were polybag duplicates.

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5988 Pharaoh’s Forbidden Ruins was the “marquee” set in the subtheme. Each subtheme would go on to have a central “big/main set” where the final storyline played out (at least, in my interpretation).

In my opinion, this theme produced some of the most fun and playable LEGO sets I’ve ever owned. It introduced some amazing new pieces that are hard to come by today. A big shoutout goes to 5978 Sphinx Secret Surprise, one of my favorites from my youth and arguably a Top 10 Personal Set of All-Time!

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Printed pieces from the Adventurers- Desert subtheme. The minifigure sarcophagus cover in particular still stands the test of time in terms of intricate LEGO pieces. Images via Bricklink.

Conclusion

Although it’s hard to say, I think the inaugural Desert subtheme may be the greatest of the four in the Adventurers line, as it introduced a new story, new characters, and a new theme to LEGO fans in a big way. The climate for an Indy-inspired hero seemed perfect and the atmosphere that these sets evoked was one of mystery, discovery, and wonder- hallmarks that would go on to define the theme.

I would encourage everyone to check out the Desert subtheme sets on sites like Brickset or Bricklink. There’s still a lot to love in these sets, and they’re definitely considered “classics” by today’s standards. If you ever get an opportunity to purchase sets from this era, don’t hesitate- they’re truly awesome on display.

That about does it for Part 1 of my Adventurers Throwback series. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I tackle the next subtheme- Jungle! 

Until next time,

Matt Z.

Election Results

We’ve completed our Annual Meeting!

All positions unopposed and were elected by Acclimation:

Stephen Churchill -President

Patrick Barnes – Vice President

Geoff Stevens – Secretary/Treasurer

In addition, the motion to expand the Executive passed unanimously. We will soon be opening the nominations for 2 At Large positions to expand the Executive soon.

Lots of exciting things coming to NewfoundLUG in 2022 and beyond – Watch this space!

Annual General Meeting and NewfoundLUG Executive Elections

Every 2 years, the LUG holds elections for the voting members of the Executive Committee.  The Exec is busy throughout the year, keeping the LUG working behind the scenes.

The election this year will be during our Annual General Meeting on May 4th, 2022 at 7:30pm at the Rabbittown Community Centre.

As of April 20th, 2022 we will be opening nominations for the following positions:

  • President (Currently Stephen Churchill, elected in May 2020)
  • Vice President: Currently Patrick Barnes, appointed by Exec as per bylaws when the previous VP resigned)
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Currently Geoff Stevens, elected in May 2020)

If you cannot attend the meeting, you can still vote by allowing someone to vote in your place via proxy, or by attending via Zoom.

In addition, we will be voting on changing the bylaws to expand the Exec by 2 “At Large” positions.  If you wish to see the text of the changes, please reach out to Stephen Churchill or email newfoundlug@gmail.com.

Assuming this change passes, and in the interest of allowing nominations for these positions time to stand, we will hold the nominations and elections for these expanded roles to take place at the next meeting, time to be determined.

IMPORTANT – LUG Executive Election

At the May 4 meeting, the LUG Executive will be up for election.

The following positions will be voted on:

  • President (currently Stephen Churchill)
  • Vice President (currently Patrick Barnes)
  • Secretary: (currently Geoff Stevens)
  • 2 Executive At Large positions (proposed, see below)

If you would like to nominate yourself or another LUG Member for one of these positions, please contact one of us. Nominations formally open on April 20.

You must be have attended at least one event in the last year to be a nominee or to vote.

As part of the election process, we are proposing expanding the Executive to add two “At-large” positions. The proposal to expand the Exec will be voted on by the membership.

If the proposal is not supported by the membership, we will not hold the election for the “At Large” positions.

If the proposal passes, then we will also hold a single election for the two “At Large” members. The two nominees receiving the most votes will assume the roles.

If you can NOT attend the meeting, you can still be a nominee, and more importantly you can STILL cast your vote – voting is allowed via proxy – notify the Executive of who is holding/casting your proxy vote.

If there are any questions PLEASE reach out to the Executive!

LUG Meeting – April 4th

We are having an in-person meeting on April 4th at 7pm, at the Rabbittown Community Centre.

New members not only welcome, but encouraged!

What happens at a meeting? the 3 B’s! Business, Building, Banter!

Business – There’s a brief bit of talking the Executive needs to do around the upcoming LUG Elections, and upcoming events like Avalon Expo. Someone will be attending to answer questions about AvExpo 8.

Building – Bring in a set or build you are working on, or a MOC you want to show off! We’ll have a bag of Bulk Brick to spread out and poke around in to play with as well.

Banter – Meet your fellow LUG-Nuts and talk about what you are working on, or looking forward to!

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 (MCU Reviewer): In the end, the MCU couldn’t keep the momentum it started with. Some odd choices (the BBQ and table) and questionable micro builds (Hovercarrier and Quinjet) hurt the MCU in matchups.

Harry Potter was relentless this year, with EVERY fig being unique, and by including new prints – two things no advent calendar has done before. Additionally, the board game theme really seemed to help Harry Potter, since there were no microbuilds included.

All three calendars suffered from spreading good builds across multiple days, a precedent I could do without for future years.

Patrick Barnes (SW Reviewer): If you had asked me a year ago if a Mandalorian-themed Lego Advent Calendar was a good idea, not only would I have agreed, but I probably would have stockpiled the inevitability amazing advent calendar. However, this year the calendar detailed what happens when you pull your source material too thin, while still trying to check the boxes of a conventional Star Wars advent calendar.

Automatically, the glaring inclusions in the advent this year are the 5 or so days we received weapons racks, as well as the stud-shooter targets and some obscure, mid-scale builds like the Tusken Ballista. Having a fifth of the advent dedicated to these TLG-designed builds really stung, as they took away from other builds potentially way better, or other minifigures.

And on that note, that was another department the calendar was seriously lacking in; figures. Though finishing strong as Star Wars does, the calendar (outside of IG-11, Mando, and Grogu received in the final week) is surprisingly skint on minifigures, and the ones included would arguably have been included regardless of the theming. It really lacked one more solid, pseudo-rare figure that was difficult to find otherwise; it’s probably IG-11 this year, but compared to Bespin Guards and Cloud-Car Pilots received in the past, it seems weak.

To touch on this aforementioned theming again, a huge problem I noticed this year was how many days were Imperial designed. While this qualifies for “Mando themed”, it seems super lazy to spend 10/24 days on designs that, again, would have qualified for most any calendar. The Scout was a great inclusion, but otherwise the Imperial stuff was mixed for me.

Overall, while it was a great trial run this year, I hope next year if Lego decides to release a restricted-theme Star Wars calendar, it can do the theme justice. Otherwise, I would be fine to return to a broad calendar like in the past, or even a game-style calendar like HP received this year.

Matt Zwicker (HP Reviewer): This is the third year for the Harry Potter Advent Calendar, and second year that we’ve run a seasonal “battle” (for fun) on NewfoundLUG.ca. I’m glad MCU entered the battle this year as it made each day a bit more entertaining with more points to be had.

The box art for this year’s HP calendar was a little deceiving. I didn’t expect it to perform as well as it did. I wasn’t a huge fan of last year’s (2020) calendar, as I thought they stuck to the Christmas/Yule ball theme a little too much at the expense of other great offerings from the 4th novel/film.

This year, it was refreshing to see HP not rely heavily on Christmas themes which are pervasive in each of the novels/films at some point. Interestingly, while we had a year one themed calendar in 2019, we went back to year one this time, albeit with a purpose- to build our way to Hogwarts chronologically. I did appreciate this approach and telling the story of the film through each day. That brings me to the game-board- obviously this is a value-add for kids and teens, as it gives them something to do once the calendar is complete. It also allows the builds to survive a little longer before being parted to the bulk bin. Having a designated space on the calendar box for each build was also neat, and I give TLG credit for this new idea.

That said, while the majority of the characteristics of this calendar were a plus (e.g. game board, storyline, unique figs, scale builds) there were a couple drawbacks. I think excluding Hagrid from this calendar is a massive oversight- if we’re gonna talk about the journey to Hogwarts, he is so instrumental in Year 1 especially prior to Harry arriving at Hogwarts. A white bearded, festive trench coat wearing Hagrid on Day 24 would have been the perfect ending to a great calendar. Speaking of which, HP continues its trend of finishing out calendars poorly as they’ve done in the past. The spinner device on Day 24 was a sad ending to an otherwise great calendar. I would have preferred to get this on Day 1, so we had it in our hands and out of the way- not on the “best/last” day of the calendar. Oh well.

All in all, I think I’d rank this year’s HP calendar second all time, just behind 2019 but ahead of 2020. I’ll be really curious to see where they go with next year’s calendar, and if they tackle “year two” with a game board approach. That would have a lot of potential in my opinion.

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

One.Day.Left. With only a single point separating MCU and SW, let’s see how the race for 2nd plays out as we open THE FINAL DOORS of each Advent Calendar:

Day 24- MCU

Steve: For the last door, the MCU presents us The Infinity Gauntlet!

There’s not much “build” here but it looks great. The Gauntlet comes with a full sprue (4 gems) for each of the 6 colours of Infinity Stones, which is a great find. These extra gems also allow us to finally decorate the tree from day 23.

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Day 24- SW

Patrick: Receiving Grogu on the 22nd meant Mando wasn’t far behind, and even better, he’s dressed up for the festive season like Grogu! The final day of the advent gives us our second exclusive, festive figure, featuring The Mandalorian in a festive, red scarf. Unlike Thor from the MCU calendar, Mando actually has this part printed on an existing torso, making it unique to this advent calendar. While this isnt the most impressive day 24 Star Wars figure we’ve received, the fact its our second exclusive figure in 3 days makes up for it. The prints are crisp and clean, and although its a bit shocking were STILL receiving an all-black head underneath the helmet, its excusable for a figure with a helmet so cool, it isn’t being removed anyway.

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Day 24- HP

Matt: Well, we’ve somehow made it to the end and I have to say I’m just as surprised as my other reveiwers that HP took the victory by Day 21 this year. More on that later. Let’s see how they finish off the calendar.

Day 24 brings us….a spinner? Man, this is about as anti-climatic as it gets. The spinner is on the box, but  I was hoping to get it yesterday at the latest, setting today up for one more minifigure. But alas, we get it now. It’s too bad that the designers decided to save this for last, but I suppose the logic was now that the entire “game board” is complete, the spinner is the final thing required to “play.” I will say that it does function and I was able to get mine to spin on its top for a good 20 seconds. That said, to me, it’s a really disappointing final gift. Also, my printing on the spinner was WAY off, definitely falling under the category of a misprint.

All in all, HP is lucky it earned enough points for the overall win earlier because the last few days unfortunately lived up to previous calendars, leaving a lot to be desired. I’ll go more in depth about this in our final thoughts article later this evening, but for now, this is a definite flop.

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Verdict

It’s an easy win for Mando and SW today- a festive unique minifig should always be the cherry on top of any advent calendar. In 2nd place, MCU with the Infinity Gauntlet and healthy does of infinity stones. In 3rd, HP, with an underwhelming gift to cap off the calendar.

As such, we have a tie for 2nd, with the final scores being:

HP- 28

MCU- 22

SW- 22

Stay tuned for our final thoughts article to wrap things up!