Let’s begin this review of LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle – a quite fantastic LEGO set released to celebrate the LEGO Group’s 90th anniversary – with a quote from Mad Men’s Don Draper, on nostalgia:
“Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound’. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”
LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle is that carousel, it’s that twinge in your heart. It is such pure LEGO nostalgia, packaged so perfectly in 1980s-inspired box art, wrapped up in such a massive piece count of 4,514 LEGO bricks, dizzyingly lost within a ridiculous roster of 22 minifigures and delightfully explored across all number of fascinating details and features built into it. This is a LEGO set that will draw you in as the adult fan of LEGO that you are today and transport you straight back to your childhood to play once again as that child that first fell in love with LEGO.
— LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle set details —
Price: £344.99 / $399.99 / €399.99 Pieces: 4,514 Minifigures: 22
— LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle build —
10305 Lion Knights’ Castle stands apart from almost every other LEGO set currently available, and actually most that have come before. Most obviously and quite literally this is for the immediate facts about this set, and there’s a size, piece count, minifigure count and price here that are all rolled into one of the LEGO Group’s largest minifigure-scale sets ever produced. But 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle stands apart also for just how skilfully and consistently – across a mammoth 4,514 pieces – this behemoth of a brick creation plays with that sentimentality we all feel for LEGO and, in particular here, for LEGO Castle.
This is the largest minifigure-scale LEGO Castle set ever, expertly designed to the very high standards we have come to expect in 2022, produced within an almost unlimited budget of quantity, size, variety and more. It’s a LEGO castle that all of that can produce, pulled together with that clean, modern aesthetic of current LEGO design, measured against an engrossing (and time-consuming) build process and faceted with all sorts of fun details.
Importantly, and in relation specifically to its purpose as the lead LEGO set so far released this year to mark the LEGO Group’s 90th anniversary, it speaks to that nostalgia we all feel for LEGO Castle, for all those charming (and much smaller) yellow, grey or black castles we spent ages staring at in the toy aisle or were lucky enough to take home and build ourselves.
This is all that modern LEGO building in 2022 represents and is spectacular for, presented and packaged so expertly with that respect and affinity for LEGO Castle that many of us first felt as long as three or four decades ago.
As a build (and as expected for the piece count and scale of model here), 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle demands a lot of time and patience to put together, spread as it is across 26 sets of numbered bags. It is also best considered as two separate builds, each with one of the two booklets of instructions dedicated to them, each as one half of a completed, final castle. In many ways when considering the cost of this beast of a LEGO set, it’s a curiosity to know if releasing the castle in two halves was ever considered, particularly for how strong each half works as its own fortified structure on the outside and snapshot of medieval life on the inside.
As it is, with two halves of one gigantic castle, 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle is an extensive and truly complete LEGO building experience. Importantly too, for all the grey that is involved here, it is only towards the back-end of the construction that anything begins to feel remotely tedious, with bursts of colour, detail and medieval insights here and there built in and around the various stages of raising those huge, grey walls.
And for what is primarily the one shade of grey too, 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle’s exterior design remains particularly engaging for two key reasons. The first of these is through the sporadic use of masonry bricks to add texture, and the subtle but smart ways that aspects such as the embrasures (tall, thin openings) and crenelated parapets (tops of the walls) have been built into the walls of the castle. These are the most obvious and identifiable features to a castle’s structure and design, and how they at once sit as part of the wider model and still draw your eye helps to give the LEGO model a real authenticity.
The second key strength to 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle’s exterior design, in spite of the one colour, is in the various angles that the entire structure is built across, with changes in direction and grid lining coming several times around the outer wall. There are certainly squared-off sections to the building as needs be, but the all-round construction follows a curious, more rounded foundation that so cleverly changes the aspect and appearance of the castle depending on what angle you look at it from.
And from any angle, 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle is imperious and impressive to take in, serving as both a one-of-a-kind tribute to LEGO castles that have come before, and very much reminding you that nothing like this has actually ever come before.
This is the ultimate LEGO castle because of more than just its size and impressive exterior. The two halves split apart and open up to reveal an immersive and detailed interior packed with rooms offering all sorts of insights into medieval life. From the large kitchen and oven through to the music room, dining room, royal chambers, watermill-and-millstone and armoury, every room is put together with details to enjoy and interact with and that you may not even realise are remarkably true to life in such a castle.
Even the size of the latrine, squeezed as it is into the third floor with little room to fit between, is accurate to how toilets were generally designed in castles, when space was at a premium. Arguably, the only room missing is the biggest – a great hall of sorts. Something for customisers to create as an add-on build, perhaps.
That aside, there is so much space and activity happening within the castle that your large population of minifigures included is more than busy, and your decision for whether to display the castle open or closed is really very tough. The exterior is huge and domineering, offering up an impressive defensive fortification to intimidate any attacking enemy. The interior is warm and packed with life and activity. That all this is within the same LEGO set is testament to how, even with a seemingly unlimited number of bricks to play with, the LEGO design team haven’t wasted a single one.
And those portcullis and drawbridge play features are way more fun than you would expect, particularly because – inadvertently – there is a way to set it up so as to drop the gate down and have it automatically pop the drawbridge up into a defensive position. As it is in considering the intended functionality of being able to ratchet up the portcullis and drawbridge separate to each other, both work so smoothly and sit as excellent examples of the all-round care and attention that has gone into creating the ultimate LEGO castle in 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle.
— LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle characters —
There are just the 22 minifigures included in 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle, and with such a quantity there’s barely a complaint to be made. For a set this large, it takes a character count this high to populate it and, furthermore, the selection made available here offers variety, colour, charm and play to really help tell the story within the set – one that is reminiscent of stories past from the LEGO Castle theme.
Black Falcons are back, this time interestingly with black helmets returning too, while the new Forestmen/Forestpeople make a second appearance of the year after June’s gift-with-purchase 40567 Forest Hideout. The main attraction of the set, though, is in the updated design for the Lion Knights. Derived from their blue-and-red design dating back to the 1980s and early 1990s, they follow the same, modernised design as the rebooted Black Falcons and are just as stunning as a result, albeit a little easier to target with arrows for just how bright they are. If there is one imperfection to pick out – and we have to for the price of the set – it’s in the depth of the red printing on the Lion Knight minifigures’ legs not quite matching the red of the torso.
That aside, this is some line-up of Castle-themed characters, fittingly unrivalled – just as the castle is – to anything that has come before in the theme this pays tribute to.
Part of the appeal, though, is admittedly in the sheer quantity of them – line up nine of these in a row and that’s a formidable defence of such a formidable castle, just as you’d want it, and just as it was in the LEGO Castle sets of 30 to 40 years ago. Anyone missing? Perhaps a ghost would have really capped off the line-up.
And then there’s the impressive collection of shields that come in this set. Do you recognise them all?
— LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle price —
LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle comes in at an eye-watering £344.99 / $399.99 / €399.99. Particularly in the current climate (and with consideration to price increases that maybe took this set up to this amount from perhaps what a year ago could have been, say, £275 to £300), that’s an inaccessible amount for anyone to be able to go and pick this up on a whim.
Yet, 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle isn’t the sort of LEGO set you pick up just because you collect LEGO or because it’s new or nice. 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle is such an all-round amazing celebration of how great LEGO can be, it’s a deep dive into exactly what LEGO ICONS’ highly-talented design team are capable of, and it’s all that rich feeling and sentimentality you hold dear for LEGO Castle wrapped up in the one, big box.
10305 Lion Knights’ Castle is an outstanding LEGO experience where money is not the object at play. It may take many months to save up for 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle, but the reward for doing so is so very special and unique to you that there’s no need to think twice when you come to that moment to spend hundreds on just one LEGO set. The mortgage can wait.
— LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle pictures —
— LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle summary —
LEGO ICONS 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle marks the LEGO Group’s 90th anniversary celebrations with a big bang – not only is this set a marker for everything that LEGO design in 2022 stands for, and not only is this an amazing realisation of one of the largest ever minifigure-scale LEGO sets released, but this is also that twinge in your heart, and that carousel that takes you back in time to your childhood and to that time you first fell in love with LEGO.
10305 Lion Knights’ Castle is that special kind of LEGO set that will not only leave a lot of people amazed, but will also offer every single person who builds it a LEGO experience unique and personal to them, and their journey with the brick. There’s no better way to celebrate an anniversary than to make everyone feel like they are invited to the party.
This set was provided for review by the LEGO Group.