LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum review

76218 Sanctum Sanctorum reaches across the LEGO multiverse to combine the Marvel formula with modular buildings – but will those ambitions lead only to madness?

From the moment 70620 NINJAGO City borrowed the modular building format in 2017, we’ve been aching to see the LEGO Group expand its own template to its superhero themes. That dream was finally realised last year with 76178 Daily Bugle, which – in hindsight – was the first in what’s seemingly now an annual subtheme of Marvel modular buildings.

The cinematic stars have now aligned, even unwittingly, to create the perfect climate for 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum to join 2021’s towering skyscraper. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’s multiple pandemic-prompted delays saw it finally arrive in cinemas earlier this year, providing the LEGO Group with the perfect excuse to modularise the superhero’s Sanctum Sanctorum.

It feels like low-hanging fruit in terms of subject matter – who among us hasn’t hoped for a modular version of this location, or perhaps built our own? – which means 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum will really need to go that extra mile, delivering above and beyond expectations. Let’s see which of Doctor Strange’s possible 14,000,605 futures this set belongs to…

— LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum set details —

Theme: LEGO Marvel Set name: 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum Release: August 1, 2022

Price: £214.99 / $249.99 / €249.99 Pieces: 2,708 Minifigures: 9

LEGO: Available now

LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum review 1

— LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum build —

The challenge with turning the Sanctum Sanctorum into a modular building – the clear design brief for 76218 – is threefold. First, it’s already been done so many times in the fan community, especially in the wake of 2018’s 76108 Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown (also designed by Justin Ramsden, as luck would have it); second, it doesn’t enjoy the same design freedoms that allow the LEGO Group’s traditional modular buildings to flourish as they do – there’s an existing template to work from, where accuracy and authenticity are paramount; and third, it still needs to be consistent with other modular buildings despite those limitations – especially if you want it to successfully land with its multiple target demographics.

That’s a lot of pressure to place on a single set, and particularly in a theme that’s frequently driven by its minifigures (at least for the adult market). But if ever there was a concept that seemed simultaneously like an enormous challenge and an open goal, it’s surely a modular version of the Sanctorum. This is a build many of us have wanted for years – and some of us have even had a go at ourselves. So how does the official version stack up?

Well, maybe ‘stack’ is not the right word – not really. You’ll be doing your fair share of brick stacking across what’s a surprisingly breezy build (split over a whopping 18 bags), but like the best modular buildings, 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum blends the basic building blocks of LEGO design with intricate and engaging techniques, inventive solutions and expert part manipulation.

Essentially, it’s all the most enjoyable elements of putting together a modular building, distilled and funnelled through a superhero lens. The Sanctum’s unique exterior architecture is realised through novel use of both classic and newer elements; interior furniture is anchored to walls in increasingly clever ways, offering both decorative and structural purpose; and inside and out the building is littered with details, mini-builds and stickers that bring the entire scene to life. Bar perhaps the decals (or the extent of them, at least), we could have written exactly the same about 10278 Police Station, 10297 Boutique Hotel and so on.

Just on those stickers – there are an eye-watering 47 to apply across 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum’s 2,708 pieces, but they almost all make sense in the context of the set. If you’re buying this solely to add to your modular city, and care not one jot for Marvel, you can leave the stickers off and easily assimilate it into your layout. They only really begin to grate on tiny pieces, like the 177a building number on a 1×1 tile, or the three identical ‘Law Times’ newspaper stickers on 1×2 tiles (surely those could have been printed, given their quantity?). Oh, and on the inside of three panels, which are always a nightmare to apply. (But at least they’re not curved panels.)

Those panels do at least have good cause to exist, contributing to one of two interactive functions baked into 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum. Round the back of the building, you’ll notice a pair of air vents protruding from the wall, suggesting Doctor Strange is big on air con and little on the environment. But these serve a secret purpose: they aren’t fixed in place, and can instead slide across the wall to manipulate the panels concealed within the second-storey bookcase. Swing open the door that sits between the books, stickered with the Seal of the Vishanti, and you’ll be transported to the mountains, desert or an otherworldly dimension (depending on the position of the vents).

The second interactive feature brings customisation to the Sanctorum. As you progress through the build, you’ll leave three large and very noticeable gaps in the walls of each of the floors, only to be filled in with the last bag of bricks. These come together to create three separate panels: one with a portal for our minifigures to step through; one with a billboard for a Captain America exhibit at the Bricksonian Museum (fun!); and one that features Gargantos (of this year’s 76205 Gargantos Showdown) peeking through another portal.

All three of these panels are completely interchangeable across the three storeys (with a little rotation of the billboard, depending on where it sits), offering multiple display options within a single build. It’s an intelligent addition that instantly stands 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum apart from all the custom Sanctorums out there, while also imbuing this otherwise largely unassuming building with character beyond expectations.

Those expectations were perhaps set by last summer’s 76178 Daily Bugle, which faced the challenge of making a dull grey skyscraper interesting (and succeeded, for sure). 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum takes its cues from the action-packed display of the Bugle’s exploding window, and to an extent its very many minifigures, and offers a building that sits just as happily alongside the newspaper office as it does the LEGO Group’s own modular buildings.

For better or worse, that also includes the alleyway around the back of the Bugle, which continues here. It makes sense for a straight building that touches the edges of the baseplates on parallel sides, but 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum is a corner building that only reaches the threshold of its 32×32 plate on a single side. It gives the building a relatively small footprint (especially for the price), so modular building veterans may need to adjust expectations slightly going into the Sanctum. For sheer volume, this is no 10251 Brick Bank, 10232 Palace Cinema or even 10297 Boutique Hotel.

Speaking of this year’s modular building: the colour scheme of 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum is incidental, but almost unfortunate, given its sand green and nougat combo matches 10297 Boutique Hotel nearly beat for beat. You won’t mind too much, though, because it works so well in both models (and is obviously necessary in the Sanctum) that they still look pretty good together, and even better with a couple more modular buildings in between.

And if you’re planning to display this by itself, or maybe just with 76178 Daily Bugle? The LEGO Group has catered plenty to your section of the demographic Venn diagram, too: mostly through its sticker sheet, but also through some of its sub-assemblies, 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum is absolutely bursting with references and details to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a Shawarma ad, Infinity stones in the dumpster, and simply Shamballa – the Sanctum’s Wi-Fi password – on a 1×2 tile), and just a few original gags (a box marked ‘Wong’s stuff, secret’, Monkie Kid’s staff on the wall and a fire extinguisher in a display cabinet).

It’s these details that keep 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum as engaging as possible throughout its relatively brief build, and – combined with the expertly-realised architecture – meet the level of authenticity and accuracy that a set like this demands. It’s everything you’d expect of a modularised Sanctum in 2022, and then some.

Bonus: 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum also deftly fixes a mistake with 76178 Daily Bugle, which places one of its 1×2 bricks with Technic hole a single stud over from where it needs to be to connect with other modular buildings. As illustrated by YouTuber Ashnflash, the Sanctorum incorporates a 1×4 brick with three Technic holes, allowing both buildings to connect as per their instructions.

Given how simple a fix it would be to move the brick in 76178 Daily Bugle over to where it needs to be, this is maybe an unnecessary acknowledgement of the skyscraper’s error, but it doesn’t detract from 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum, so… why not?

— LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum characters —

As the first LEGO Marvel modular building, 76178 Daily Bugle has set a high bar for minifigures in this subtheme. A little too high, really – its blistering 25 minifigures (19 of which are exclusive) are a record for any Marvel set, and by contrast, 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum’s nine characters feel lacklustre.

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That’s not only through quantity, but quality, too. The number of minifigures would have been easy to forgive in isolation, because where the towering skyscraper of 76178 Daily Bugle is a relatively plain backdrop designed to be brought to life by its characters, the Sanctorum is a more architecturally-interesting building in its own right. Overcrowding it with minifigures would have robbed it of some of its aesthetic value.

But given that much smaller number – and with one eye on 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum’s price tag – it’s difficult to see why the LEGO Group has taken the shortcuts that it has in places. With a mix of minifigures from Avengers: Infinity War and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, there was a clear opportunity here to deliver definitive versions of these characters.

Spider-Man, Iron Man and Doctor Strange are all as detailed as ever, and arguably fulfil the potential offered by the set’s price point, but Scarlet Witch’s plain arms and legs are massively underwhelming in a set this size, and at this cost. (Especially when we’ve had a far superior version in a blind bag for £3.49.)

Mordo, Dead Strange and Sinister Strange are all decent enough, albeit each lacking in at least one department, and will surely be worth a fair chunk of change post-retirement. Ebony Maw is just as uninteresting as he was in Infinity War, but c’est la vie. In short, this is one LEGO Marvel set you’ll be buying for the building before the minifigures. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing…

— LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum price —

The price of 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum at third-party retailers in the UK suggests its RRP of £214.99 / $249.99 / €249.99 already includes this summer’s price increases, and was originally set at around £189.99. (So presumably somewhere in the region of $199.99 to $209.99 in the US.) That would have been a far more palatable price for a set that, while fitting in with them, doesn’t feel quite as meaty as a modular building.

There are things like the licence fees, minifigures and graphics to take into account, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that this just doesn’t quite satisfy at full price, particularly with its reduced footprint next to sets like 10278 Police Station and 10297 Boutique Hotel, and its diminutive scale next to 76178 Daily Bugle. Still, with discounts already in play, it’s sure to find an audience among LEGO Marvel and modular buildings collectors alike – as well it should.

— LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum pictures —

— LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum summary —

76218 Sanctum Sanctorum packs a lot of ambition into its 2,708 pieces. It’s targeting a huge cross-section of LEGO fans, aiming to satisfy all three segments of the Venn diagram that includes Marvel fanatics and modular building collectors. The price tag required to meet those goals has also placed a lot of additional weight on its shoulders, however – and for any other set, or perhaps in any other universe, these ingredients might well be a recipe for disaster.

But not for this set, in this universe. There are small niggles to bear, sure, but they’re not impossible to overcome: you can swap in your own, more detailed Scarlet Witch minifigure from last year’s 71031 Marvel Studios; and you can swerve the price tag by leaping on to one of the discounts already out there in the wild, or snagging it during a double VIP points promo (or with a gift-with-purchase) at LEGO.com.

If you do, you’ll be left with a set that not only embellishes any budding LEGO city layout – whether you’re a Marvel fan or not, because those stickers don’t need placing – but also taps into the very best builds that the Modular Buildings Collection has to offer, all through the lens of a Marvel model that’s jammed with details and references inside and out. If you’re yet to leap aboard the LEGO ICONS subtheme, though, be warned: 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum so effectively distils the experience that you’re going to want them all.

Simply put: consider those ambitions achieved, with a little sorcery from Billund…

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— Alternatives to LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum —

If this review hasn’t convinced you to add 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum to your modular layout, consider instead catching up on any traditional modular buildings you’re missing, like this year’s 10297 Boutique Hotel. And if you have already caught up, there are plenty of alternative builds on Rebrickable to justify buying extra copies.

From a Marvel perspective, there are tonnes of sets also worth your time right now: you could punch further up with 76178 Daily Bugle, or for an eclectic mix of sets with a similar total budget, check out other summer 2022 releases 76217 I am Groot, 76216 Iron Man Armoury and 76223 Nano Gauntlet.

— FAQs —

How long does it take to build LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum?

LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum splits its 2,708 pieces across a total of 18 numbered bags, so you’ll never have too many parts out at once – and that means a relatively quick build. Expect 15 minutes per bag, so around four and a half hours total.

How many pieces are in LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum?

There are 2,708 pieces in LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum, which is 988 fewer than 10297 Boutique Hotel and 1,694 fewer than 76178 Daily Bugle. You do also get nine minifigures for your money, though.

How big is LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum?

LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum stands just over 32cm tall, 25cm wide and 25cm deep. That’s the same depth and width as the LEGO Group’s modular buildings, sitting on the same 32×32-stud baseplate.

How much does LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum cost?

LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum is available now and retails for £214.99 in the UK, $249.99 in the US and €249.99 in Europe. It’s likely the LEGO Group’s summer 2022 price increases are already baked into that RRP.

Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

2 thoughts on “LEGO Marvel 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum review

  • 07/08/2022 at 21:07
    Permalink

    Great review. I excited to build.it myself. Got 1 question though, about the contents of the box. You said it has 18 bags, is that wit duplicate numbered bags and are there any other contents beside the 18 bags, groundplate, 1 unnumbered bag and book?

    Reply
    • 08/08/2022 at 08:53
      Permalink

      Just the one bag per number, so 18 bags in total, and you’re spot on with the contents – 18 numbered bags, one unnumbered bag, instruction book (wrapped in plastic) and baseplate (sleeved in cardboard).

      Reply

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