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:

Steve Churchill (MCU Reviewer):
The MCU was in the lead for precisely one day – Day 1.  By Day 2, they dropped to second, and there was never a time after this that they felt competitive.  They were mathematically eliminated on day 20, but realistically they had been out since the half-way point, leaving Star Wars and Harry Potter to battle for the win.

In a year when both Harry Potter and Star Wars stepped up their micro-build game considerably (both in quality and piece count), the Guardians never really matched them there.  The minifigure-scale builds were, in a word, terrible.  Two “tool” related builds?

The score tells the tale here – outside of the minifigures the MCU only scored FOUR POINTS.

Those minifigures were the one shining star of the MCU Calendar this year. Every single one of the 6 figures in the mix were a winner on their respective days, including some 3-way battles.  This does, however, bring up a glaring issue – Harry Potter offered 8 figures (counting one “buildable”) and Star Wars offered 7 minifigures (again, one “buildable” figure).  The MCU only had 6, leaving them with the least.  Given that figures are the most prized build (by the reviewers, anyway), this added insult to injury.

Overall, the MCU came with a very disappointing sophomore year.  Focusing on a single sub-theme (the Guardians) seems to have reduced the scope of what they could offer, and as a result a lot of the builds felt forced or off-theme.  Star Wars did the same thing in 2021 with a “Mandalorian” focused calendar, and that hurt them as well.  Let’s hope LEGO learns a lesson here.

Patrick Barnes (SW Reviewer):
This has been my 12th year opening Lego Star Wars advent calendars daily in December, and I truly look forward to opening them during the holiday season. It’s synonymous with Christmas now for me, so I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for them, regardless of how bad they could get.

With all of that in mind, how has this calendar fared overall? Does it recapture that nostalgic experience opening advents quickly before being rushed to school? I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, this has been the best Star Wars advent calendar in years, and arguably its best ever. The days of unexciting weapons racks and unidentifiable micros are over, and I’m happy to say the calendar flexes the $10 cost increase where it counts – bigger micro builds, more minifigures, and fewer “insta-bulk” gifts. Though there were a couple subpar builds, the vast majority of these gifts are worthwhile additions to my collection and phenomenal individual gifts leading up to Christmas. Tie, win, or loss, I’m very proud of how far the Star Wars advents have come in the last few years – they were looking a bit grim for a while there (*flashback to BB-8 in a Santa Hat on a snowboard for the final festive fig*).

From a content point of view, Star Wars drew from a good variety of source material, introducing both new micros and minifigs, as well as overhauling old designs, overshadowing them now two or three times in size in some cases. It is interesting I think how the Star Wars advent seemed to follow a rough chronological release order. We got prequel and Clone Wars builds, followed by a Bad Batch build and some Holiday Special stuff, then Tatooine builds, followed by a couple micro ships, and finally Hoth builds and minfigs. There’s a couple strange things about this scheme, primarily the inclusion of the B-Wing and TIE Interceptor before Hoth builds and the lack of Episode 6 or sequel stuff otherwise. I realize there’s only so many days to cover, and getting the odd micros out earlier may have been convenient for leading from Hoth into the final days, but why include Bad Batch and extremely obscure Tatooine builds if you’re not gonna make it to Endor by the 24th? We even got an AT-ST, but on a white plate, implying it’s on Hoth. Seems like it would make more sense to shorten the Hoth run by a piece of rebel arsenal, maybe drop the V-35 Courier speeder and the Ammo Rack wall, and include a couple builds and minifigs specifically from Episode 6, after Hoth but before the 24th. That’s a real nitpick at the end of the day though; I’m happy to get some more micro, lesser-known stuff as long as the quality is high – not a problem this year!

Thanks for reading this year!! Merry Christmas, and touch base with me on Facebook if you’d like to discuss the calendar or advent competition further!!

Matt Zwicker (HP Reviewer):
I feel like over the past two years of HP calendars, I tend to judge a book by its cover, or in the LEGO world, a set by its box art. Just going by what I saw previewed on the 2022 Harry Potter Advent Calendar box, I wasn’t expecting much this season. In the end, however, I was mistaken- this calendar actually put up some of its best microbuilds to date as well as exclusive figures. As a result, it made for one of the better HP calendars to date, maybe second only to the inaugural calendar in 2019.

In terms of the actual Battle, HP made hay in the mid-game as it typically does, managing to snag 1st and 2nd place points off strong micro builds (gringotts, burrow, dementors, knight bus) or system scale builds (goblet of fire, triwizard cup). Where the calendar really suffered within the context of the Battle was in the head-to-head (to head!) minifigure matchups. Consider this- of three exclusive minifigures (Sirius Black, Voldemort, and Neville Longbottom), HP was only able to produce ONE single point (courtesy a second place finish for Voldemort)! Such was the nature of the excellent competition in the minifigure department from both MCU and SW. It’s really hard to win any battle if a calendar can’t capitalize on its minifigs. The silver lining here was that the minifigures still represented great advent gifts and honestly that’s what it’s all about.

I don’t have much to offer on the board game aspect as I’m not quite the target audience for this. I respect the fact that the designers had a plan (ie. all builds on a colour-coded 2×4 plate, or equivalent) and that the calendar followed a chronological order (for the most part- Moaning Myrtle appeared after the Chamber of Secrets micro, which doesn’t exactly line up). 

In terms of positive changes from last year, we didn’t get a standalone dreidel gift on the 24th, which is required to play the board game. Instead, we got this many days earlier, included with Hedwig the Owl. I think this was a positive change as it paved the way to get Neville Longbottom on the 24th. This is more in line with the other licensed advent calendars who always finish strong with an exclusive, festive fig. I’m glad the designer and LEGO brass implemented this change, so it’s two thumbs up from me in this department.

Speaking of which, my colleagues and I remarked that HP could really do something special if they started incorporating Christmas/festive elements into their figs and other builds. While this is something I have talked about at length in the past, we figure that an IP law or copyright is preventing LEGO from exploring this, as they do with SW and MCU. Unless this changes going forward, that will always present a challenge for HP under our current scoring rubric. Nonetheless, its strengths lie in the design of their other gifts and hopefully they can build upon that in years to come.

A big thanks to special guest reviewer Andrew House for taking on multiple days of HP reviews this year! We hope to see Andrew back again next year, and perhaps some more guest reviewers from NewfoundLUG!

That’s it folks! I’d like to take this time to thank Steve, Pat, and Andrew for their insightful reviews and daily commitment to the Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars during this busy time of year. 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!

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