The flagship set of The LEGO NINJAGO Movie line has had a lot of folks wondering whether or not it is compatible with the Creator Expert modular building line – Brick Fanatics has investigated to find out the answer
Like many other fans of the modular building series, I was immediately intrigued when pictures of the biggest set in The LEGO NINJAGO Movie line, 70620 NINJAGO City, were first released. Aside from being mesmorised by its incredible level of detail, awe inspiring size, and clearly high quality, I was interested for another reason – could it be added to my Modular Building layout alongside 10243 Parasian Restaurant or 10251 Brick Bank?
Excited to investigate this possibility, I did so pretty much as soon as I had finished building 70620 NINJAGO City. I found that it is possible, but making it look good will require some modifications.
Designers at the LEGO Group clearly had modulars in mind when designing this set. 70620 NINJAGO City is built on the standard 32 x 32 baseplate, just like all of the Creator Expert sets except for 10255 Assembly Square. It also includes the well established pin and hole connection points, employed by every modular so that they can be joined together at the base. NINJAGO City also follows the same basic layout of a modular building, with a sidewalk in the front and structures starting eight studs back from the edge of the baseplate.
Taken together, all of this means that 70620 can technically be joined with any existing modular. However, basic compatibility does not mean that it is a pretty marriage.
There are two major issues which prevent 70620 NINJAGO City being joined to another modular an easy connection. The first, and possibly most glaring, is height. Modular buildings observe a strict one tile above the baseplate height for their sidewalks. Indeed, almost any modular calls for the sidewalk to be constructed in the first pages of the instruction book because they are always the first layer.
The sprawling metropolis of the NINJAGO City, as seen on screen, rises from sea level with the lowest levels consisting of saltwater canals snaking between the buildings. This topography is reflected here with the lowest layers of 70620 being devoted to water. Of necessity, its first level walkways rise above that water – between two and three bricks tall. Accordingly, while it can join up to a modular such as 10232 Palace Cinema, the sidewalks are at very different levels with no transition between the two.
The water itself is the other major problem. I was hoping that the water level could easily be passed off as a decorative feature, like a fountain or small fish pond in front of a building, but this is not the case. First, as noted in the review, an amazing illusion of depth in the water is created by layering clear blue tiles on top of a variety of different coloured plates. While an amazing visual feature, it means that the tile water level starts one plate above the baseplate instead of being joined directly to it. Therefore, the water is a tile higher than a standard modular’s sidewalk. Some sort of edge would need to be added otherwise, in the real world, water would run everywhere.
This also prevents the set from sitting nicely alongside other modulars around the back. Most modulars have a sort of ‘back yard’ area at the rear of the baseplate. Only a few, such as 10255 Assembly Square or 10224 Town Hall have been built right to the back of the the baseplate. 70620 NINJAGO City devotes much of its rear to water. While it looks amazing on its own, the border is jarring when joined with other structures. As with the front, an edge of some sort to contain the water would need to be added as a modification, should one wish to join the set to a modular layout.
While some modular buildings include balconies, and most are topped with a rooftop level, none come close to what is packed into 70620 NINJAGO City. A full wraparound walkway at the street level is included, that abruptly ends in a free fall when joined with an adjacent structure. While easily remedied by an ending guardrail, the walkways stand out and look noticeably odd when this is done.
The rooftop level looks a bit better as it is intended to be fully self contained. While it towers above all other such buildings except for 10224 Town Hall, modulars are often different heights, so this is not a jarring visual.
So – is it a modular?
70620 NINJAGO City shares a lot of similarities with the LEGO Creator Expert modular building line and can be joined with any of the previously produced structures. As outlined in this feature, the connection is far from seamless. In light of this, it is intriguing that designers chose to make this massive set compatible at all. Instead, it implies that perhaps there will be more sets like this one, joined in a similar way to the existing modular line, but compatible instead with each other. With the quality of 70620 NINJAGO City, this is something to root for – a series of these types of structures forming a city block would be absolutely amazing. If the LEGO Group are not going to get around to it yet, then fans should start brushing up on the style used here and start getting creative…