Monday, 15 August 2011

Changes coming to LEGO Star Wars Battle Packs

The recent rumour list for LEGO Star Wars threw up a change in the Battle Pack model, and fans are now discussing whether they like their Battle Packs to have one faction in or two. Factoring in a likely price increase, will the change affect sales of this super popular product? Is it wise to try and fix something that isn't broken?

Star Wars Battle Packs were introduced in 2007, when LEGO realised that collectors like to re-create the mammoth battle scenes from Star Wars. But building an army of Clone Troopers by purchasing £20+ sets isn’t easy. LEGO had tried to give us mini-figure packs in the past, but these were nipped in the bud quickly when Lucasfilm pointed out to LEGO that they had the license to produce construction toys, not figure packs. Even the new version of the magnet sets fell foul of this decision.

So to get away with essentially giving us sets of four mini-figures, LEGO threw in a few bricks with the new Battle Packs that build speeder bikes or mini walkers or strange speeder things. The bricks aren’t really all that important, these packs are all about building armies on the cheap. And cheap they are. A collectable Minifigure costs £1.99, whereas a Battle Pack (containing four mini-figures), costs £9.99 even with bricks included. Considering that Star Wars sets are usually much more expensive than standard LEGO, Battle Packs are a great deal. This shows, as they sell. Until the Collectable Minifigures were introduced, the Star Wars Battle Packs were consistently the top selling LEGO line in the UK [source: Toy News].

The first two Battle Packs, Clone Troopers (7655) and Droids (7654) were an extremely exciting idea, especially as collectors had been clamouring for more clones. The Clone Trooper one was a little disappointing, as the troopers were not very accurate to what appeared on-screen in Revenge of the Sith, still based on pre-production artwork for a film that had been released two years prior. The Droids pack was better, as it included four Battle Droids and three (less common at the time) Super Battle Droids.

The following year the classic trilogy had some love, and in my view this pair remain the gold standard for Battle Packs. The Imperial Dropship (7677) contained three Stormtroopers and a Shadow Stormtrooper. As so many scenes in the classic Star Wars trilogy are crawling with Stormtroopers, this pack seemed overdue. The Rebel Scout Speeder (7668) actually debuted a new mini-fig, and included four Rebel Soldiers as seen in the opening scene of A New Hope.
Since then there may have been a few mis-steps, depending on your point of view. The Assassin Droids (8015) was far weaker than its companion Clone Walker (8014) Battle Pack, featuring villains that only pop up occasionally in The Clone Wars TV series. The so-called Snow trooper (8084) Battle Pack seemed to forget the idea of army building. Perhaps that’s why the Rebel Trooper (8083) set performed better, although that still included Zev Senesca. My view is that these packs work based when they are full of basic-level troops. It was the inclusion of AT-AT Driver and General Veers that stopped me from buying many extras of the Snowtrooper Battle Pack. Every time an AT-AT is released it has those mini-figs, why on Hoth do we need them without a big walking machine to pilot?!
The new format for 2012, including two opposing factions in each set, seems to have been met by collectors with some trepidation. But if it means more basic troops and less specific characters, it could be a good thing. Endor Rebels vs Imperials (9489) is will include two Endor Rebel Soldiers, a Stormtrooper and a Scout Trooper. All very army-builder friendly. AT-ST drivers safely left to the AT-ST sets. The drawback of course is that anyone wanting their Imperials to outnumber their Rebels is at a bit of a loss, as LEGO are forcing the battle to be evenly matched.
 So here’s my wish list for two waves of the new Battle Packs. This is taking into account that there tends to be a prequel era/classic era split.
  • Attack of the Clones Clone Troopers (the ones from 2002, but that probably is a pipe dream) vs red (as seen on Geonosis) Battle Droids. When did LEGO last sell us any red Battle Droids??
  • Sand People vs Jawas. I appreciate they never fought, but doesn’t everyone want more of these guys? It would also be a bit of a change from the trooper-focus of most of these sets.
  • Kashyyyk Clone Troopers vs Wookiees. Accurate Clones to the film in this one.
  • Stormtrooper & Scout Trooper vs Ewoks. Clearly this is unrealistic as an Endor set is out in 2012, however we need more Ewoks in the line. My tree village at present is severely under-populated!
Only time will tell how collectors, children and parents respond to the new version of LEGO Star Wars Battle Packs. Until then, the debate will likely continue as to which format is best, and what the ideal Battle Pack set should contain.

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