The Löwenstein Castle was designed by Raziel Regulus (who has a number of MOCs here), and was the largest MOC offerred through the recent BrickLink AFOL Designer Program.
AFOL Designer Program
Most readers would already be aware of this joint BrickLink and LEGO program. Similar to a kickstarter project, a number of MOCs were produced after their funding had been secured. TobyMac has reviewed The LEGO Story set already.
Normally, a review of a LEGO set would help readers decide if they should buy it or not. In this case, there were only a limited number of boxes produced for each set and they were only sold for a short duration. You can still buy some of them in the after-market but at huge markups. For example, the Castle is currently going for about US$400 whereas I purchased mine for US$200. Makes you wonder how many of the orders were purely for resale purposes.
This review has been a while in the making:
- 22nd February - I pre-ordered the Löwenstein Castle which qualified me for free shipping (a big deal being in Australia)
- 19th May (approx) - Castle has sold out (maximum of 2500 copies)
- 20th June - Notified that the Castle has been shipped to me
- 30th June - BrickLink stops sales
- 10th July - Castle delivered and building commenced
So it took about 5 months from pre-ordering to being able to build the thing, and by then no-one else could buy any. I wonder if the short duration was stipulated by LEGO, or BrickLink. It seems strange to stop selling them at all. Although, they were being sold directly by BrickLink rather than one of their stores so I guess they were competing with themselves in a fashion.
Given that BrickLink produced their own boxes/instructions, they are a little different to what your would normally get from LEGO. The outer cardboard box was the exact dimensions of the inner box so there was no padding. It also contained the BrickLink logo on the sides. The inner box was wrapped with a cardboard sleeve which opens up into a scene to be used for play.
Each box has an identifying number, mine is #435.
The bags of parts were numbered 1a, 1b, 1c etc, although the instructions only ever refer to them as 1, 2, 3 etc. So I guess that was just to assist BrickLink with the packaging process.
The instruction booklet is ring-bound so the pages are not damaged when turning. It has the usual introductory comments about the program, the designer, and the MOC.
The instructions themselves closely resemble what you would get in a LEGO produced book, except the quality of the printing seemed a bit "off". I had a lot of problems distinguishing colors during the build - admittedly at night time under fluorescent lighting. However, I think the main problem was the mixing of very similar colors within steps. This is something LEGO seem to avoid when designing their instructions.
Some examples of the colors:
To make things a bit easier, the steps that only used one of the close colors would include this small legend:
Again, this is something the LEGO produced instructions actively avoid. Numbered bags do not normally contain very similar colors like this.
Build - Section 1
The build consists of a number of separate sections which all come together at the end. This helps keep things practical, but also improves it's playability when done.
The first section consists of the main portcullis gate and a small spire.
Immediately, the build feels different to any official LEGO set. It feels more dense - more parts are used to achieve lots of little details. There is also plenty of sideways building too. The portcullis gate can be opened and closed via the racheted gear + lever which is neat.
The completed section:
Build - Section 2
The next section contains the main courtyard and the base of the tall spire.
The base includes some hidden sections which are a nice touch.
The courtyard includes a water well above the frog populated swampy area beneath the castle. It also has a latrine whose waste empties outside the castle walls.
Lots of nice small details on the exterior walls to be found, including some "fertilizer".
The final section:
Build - Section 3
This section starts off with some out-of-place red bricks. At first I thought they were used to join the sections together, but it turns out they are just to keep the bottom of the build flat and stable and are temporary. I wish I had realised that earlier and ditched them completely as they drove me mad. I don't build on a flat surface - I tend to pick the model up to add parts, and of course to take photos. Every time I touched it, the red bricks would fall off.
Similarly, there are loose parts like the fruit bowl and rocks in the bucket above the drawbridge which would constantly fall out while handling the build. Just ignore those steps and add the loose parts in at the end.
The drawbridge is used to connect to the top of the staircase in section 1 and can be moved up and down manually. The bedroom and shield is nicely designed here.
The finished section, without the red bricks which still stands perfectly fine. The sloped rooftops are not connected, but rather just sit in place making them easy to fall out.
Build - Section 4
The last section to be built is the tall tower, consisting of lots of sideway building and also a lot of fine detail hidden away inside.
Now, the different sections are joined together via clips:
The finished build:
If you like this castle, you're in luck! There is an entire 2nd half of it waiting to be built if you buy the parts yourself. MOC-24877 Löwenstein Castle Expansion is a 1600+ parts addition by the original designer. It fills in the back of the model and adds some extra rooms to this one.
The Castle model itself is pretty awesome to look at, and contains lots of attention to detail. The build was understandably different to an official LEGO one and it definitely felt more like other professional MOCs I've built - in terms of the parts usage and quality of the instructions. Overall, it was an enjoyable build with a pleasing result.
Given it's size and fragility in some parts, it's more of a display piece than one meant to endure heavy playability.
You can't buy it at the original price anymore, but it is still available in sealed condition at some buyers. Alternatively, grab the BrickLink inventory and use Rebrickable to see what parts you are missing. Sorry, we are not going to add it to our database as it is not an official set, and Raziel is currently unable to add it as a MOC due to LEGO/BrickLink terms.