UCS dead

Has the LEGO Ultimate Collector Series died a death?

While the AFOL community writhes in disappointment following the announcement of the new ‘Ultimate Collector Series’ Hoth set, I am left wondering what’s gone wrong. The reasons people feel so let down are well documented and Rich, normally a stout supporter of exclusive high-end sets has already vocalised his feelings on the subject.

There are two issues at stake here for me and I’m going to separate them off first. Whether or not the set is labelled as UCS, there’s always the question of value: Is it any good in its own right and is it worth the money? That’s not what I’m concerned with; a set doesn’t, after all have to be good to be UCS, nor does it have to be good value. So I’m looking at that little gold label and I’m wondering: What makes a UCS set ‘UCS’? I have a feeling I know, in fact I have a feeling most of us do but nailing it down in black and white is different to feeling, so let’s take a look at this ‘pretender’ and see where it goes.

I made some remarks in my UCS Slave I review over a year ago that there were elements of play features slipping into what was supposed to be a hardcore display model and I remember feeling that some of them just didn’t need to be there. I forgave them those minor issues though because the rest was so utterly beautiful. It is this that makes me mindful of what I think should be the single defining feature of a UCS set: big isn’t good enough, it must be beautiful, it must look impressive, like a sculpture. I’m with Rich on this one; a UCS set should sit on display and look like a work of art. I think it’s pretty clear that the new Hoth set doesn’t really ‘meet the bar’ on that one.

I’m going to interject for a moment because I’ll tell you what I think it does look like… The replacement for the recently retired Death Star playset. Lots of figures, lots of features and plenty of action to be had. You might argue that the Death Star was a single unit, not a jumble of 4 different sets riddled with loose pieces, but I would say that that only goes back to how good the set is, as for what it it’s trying to be, product-wise, it looks to me like it’s just the new ‘biggest playset’. It should be noted that 10188 did not have a UCS badge on it.

So from where I stand, there’s two ways of looking at this Hoth set; either it’s a really bad UCS set, or it’s a big playset with a UCS badge on it. I know which way I’m leaning and I think it’s the second, and more worrying of the two. The more I look at this set, the more I think it just isn’t a UCS set at all, it’s so far from everything else that’s carried that brand that LEGO can tell me it’s UCS all they want, I don’t buy it. What I would buy is that they were working on the replacement for the Death Star and someone maybe realised that they don’t have a follow on for Slave I and the TIE fighter so they decided to ‘fill the gap’ by putting a gold badge on this one.

It’s all looking a bit ‘oh dear’ to me but the more I look into it, the more confused I get. The LEGO shopping site doesn’t use ‘Ultimate Collector Series’ as a tag and it’s only mentioned in the description for the TIE fighter, not Slave I. It’s the designer videos where the term is used the most though and and it’s noticeable that neither the Tumbler, nor the Helicarrier are mentioned as UCS sets in their videos. Most AFOLs might well consider them both to fall into that category though, so is the community guilty of assigning it to sets that it doesn’t actually belong to? Perhaps the community has, to some degree, expanded and taken to heart what was once a loose tag into a solid and respected theme. If this is the case, why wouldn’t LEGO want to cash in on that community-driven buying power and slap a gold badge on anything over the £100 mark.

Either way, the fans have reacted quickly and with solidarity in their voice, and the damage is done.

Is the UCS brand dead now? I don’t think so, but wounded? I would say yes. LEGO can go two ways with this now as I see it; if the next UCS set is a proper hardcore AFOL model of something new like a GR-75 Medium Transport or Nebulon B cruiser, or blow our sock off with a large static brick-built Rancor, then well we’re all-in and we just won’t look at the bottom corner of that Hoth playset anymore. But if it’s a ‘Battle of Endor’ with a bunker and some trees, a separate shield generator and host of Ewok minifigures, I fear you might as well change ‘UCS’ to ‘JABS’: Just Another Big Set and AFOLs will be left remembering when the Ultimate Collector Series used to mean something to them.

Our faith tilts on the edge, which way will it land?



  1. Keith

    Great article Luc –

    I was going to get sucked in but reading on various threads that the UCS Hoth was a glorified 4 in 1, LEGO can do one.

    I have a chap at work who I bounce these things off – and he is hardcore SW and LEGO – and has been equally disappointed as well with the farce.

    On the bright side, I have saved myself £219 – “every cloud…………”

  2. Ferg

    Surely ‘Every cloud…’ would be a UCS Bespin set. 🙂

    Was it one of the magazines Bricks or Blocks (or the Star Wars special) that tried to nail down what a UCS was? They didn’t have much luck either.

    Hoth looks a lot like a playset to me which is no bad thing if you have none of the Hoth stuff already. I think the disappointment comes from the fact that it offers little that’s new and the little gold badge. But you’ve covered this above.

    And it’s the badge and the timing that is the problem. If it was a big playset, then releasing it two months after Xmas doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And if you’re going to call something the Ultimate Collector Series, then you have to take care to aim it at the collectors; certainly the price tag has been! And that’s who seem to be most disappointed. Likely they wouldn’t have much cared for a 4 in 1 reissue and there’d have been some comments (but it’s a bit like complaining that Lego have brought out another police station) but they’d’ve moved along and it wouldn’t have drawn as much negative attention. But the collectors were expecting something more and this didn’t live up to expectations at all.

    For me, though, this ‘reissue’ seems to be the second one I’ve seen in the last 6 months, with the Winter Village and now this. Is this the start of a more worrying trend…?

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