LEGO Designer Milan Madge talks about his love of castles and how he tried to cram lots of architectural detail into the new Lion Knights set.
There have been many LEGO castles over the years. Misty-eyed fans recall 6090 Royal Knight’s Castle, the yellow Castle from 1978, the many variants of King’s Castle and from 1992, the Black Knights Castle. Each will have provided countless hours of play for children (and, no doubt, more than a few adults) over the years, but it’s fair to say that in their design, playability always came first.
The new 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle, created to coincide with the LEGO Group’s 90th anniversary celebrations this summer, is likely to join that pantheon of legendary Castle sets. In a recent interview with Brickset, the two designers that worked on it, Milan Madge and Mike Psiaki, talk about how they tried to combine playability with as much architectural detail as possible including the drawbridge, portcullis and dungeon. They also touched on the features that they weren’t able to include.
Milan recalled visiting castles when he was younger. ‘I spent plenty of time visiting castles while growing up and was definitely inspired by the different kinds of drawbridge and defensive features. The drawbridge was actually something we decided on fairly early because this counterweight design was common in reality, but we have somehow never recreated it for a LEGO castle. We thought it would be impossible to integrate because it requires such height, but it became achievable after raising the entire structure on the landscape.’
He went on to describe how, in many castle sets of the past, the drawbridge would be on a level with the ground, which didn’t cause too much trouble for attacking troops. In the new set, however, because the entrance is raised up from the ground, there’s now a perilous drop when the drawbridge is up. In addition, if an unfortunate minifigure happens to be on the drawbridge when it’s raised, they end up sliding directly down to the dungeon in a feature reminiscent of 9516 Jabba’s Palace, where those who displeased the Hutt crime boss found themselves dropping through the floor to become lunch for the Rancor.
While discussing the portcullis, Mike Psiaki jumped in. ‘We actually explored presenting even more defensive features. We had aspirations to include a traditional double portcullis, where attackers could be trapped between the gates, but that would occupy a vast amount of space. Also, the logistics of playing inside an internal room were extremely difficult, so we decided that including something like that would really be going too far.’
One feature that didn’t make it to the final design was an additional curtain wall – the castle wall itself that stretches between the towers. Mike again. ‘We were debating whether an additional curtain wall would be necessary for increased realism, or whether particular sections of the castle would be vulnerable to attack. That actually encouraged us to develop a new 1x4x3 arch brick’.
He talks about how the new arch element helped shape the gatehouse, and continued: ‘Producing that shape without spoiling the narrow proportions was quite difficult though, so we experimented with 1×6 arches, but ultimately decided a new arch was needed. Afterwards, we found ourselves using it throughout the model, so quickly convinced ourselves it was the correct decision.’
Another subtle touch of realism came from an unexpected source when Milan decided to use the new LEGO Dots frame element on top of the castle battlements. Commenting on that design choice, Psiaki said ‘of course we could have just used a tile, but a tile feels a little bit like cheating’ and went on to say that the new element ‘gave a whole new expression’ to the set.
The new castle has 4514 pieces, and will be released on August 8 when it will cost £344.99/$399.99/€399.99. It’s available to pre-order now, from LEGO.com.