When LEGO introduced the Ninjago theme back in 2011, no one could have guessed that it would come to be one of the company’s most popular themes. Ninjago celebrates its 10th anniversary and is now getting its largest set yet. 71741 Ninjago City Gardens. At 5,685 pieces, it’s the fifth-largest LEGO set ever, and the third entry into the cyberpunk modular buildings collection known as Ninjago City. Ninjago City Gardens is a series of high-rise buildings that contain all aspects of city life. It houses restaurants, an arcade and dojo, as well as apartments. There are also 19 minifigures. UKPS274.99.| CAN $399.99 | UK £274.99. Let’s see how this one stacks up to the previous Ninjago City sets.

The LEGO Group provided a copy of the set to The Brothers Brick for review. TBB will not be covered or praised if they are provided with products to review.

The box and its contents

The LEGO Ninjago Movie was released on September 22, 2017. It received a poor reception and quickly faded from the minds of all Ninjago enthusiasts. For most of the rest of the LEGO fan community, its most memorable contribution was 70620 Ninjago City, which was released shortly before the film and along with the rest of that Ninjago wave bore the movie’s branding. A mere nine months later LEGO released 70657 Ninjago City Docks. The Ninjago Movie branding on this box felt outdated and fans wondered if Ninjago City modular buildings would end. The third set has finally arrived after a gap of two and a half years. The Ninjago Movie logo has been dropped by LEGO, and the box now bears the Ninjago Legacy symbol. The Legacy marque was reserved for sets that re-imagine early Ninjago sets. However, Ninjago City Gardens sets can use it. trend too, since it’s not based on any previous set. (Another 2021 Ninjago Set, 71742 Overlord Dragon also has no predecessor. Oddly, it’s also not part of LEGO’s new 18+ branding, which we’ve already seen cross between themes with even Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series sets getting the treatment in addition to Creator Expert sets. Instead, the Gardens bears a more accurate 14+ age recommendation (after all, the 18+ rating is purely for marketing rather than a true description of the set’s difficulty).

 



With 5,685 pieces in Ninjago City Gardens, only 4 other LEGO sets have ever had more pieces: the brand new 10276 Colosseum, the Star Wars UCS 75192 Millennium Falcon, the Harry Potter 71043 Hogwarts Castle, and the Creator Expert 10256 (or 10189) Taj Mahal. The box is large in both height and depth. Like most large sets, some of the bags inside are in an inner plain white box, and to its credit, LEGO has sorted them so that everything you need to get started is in this white box–something we’ve long noted that LEGO should do. Bags 1-11 and the baseplates, instructions manuals and sticker sheets are all found in the inner box. All the other bags are located inside the main box. You’ll likely have to dump out everything to get started, but you won’t have to sort through all the bags; just grab the white box and go.

There are 43 bags total inside, spread across 26 numbered steps. Plus, one additional bag with large elements. It’s quite a sight to see it all spread out. It’s a challenging proposition.

 

The instruction manual can be divided into three separate booklets. Like Ninjago City Docks, there’s no behind-the-scenes content at the start of the instruction manual. Even though this set isn’t part of the new 18+ branding that LEGO is rolling out across themes, it would benefit from that treatment. There is at least a two-page spread at the start that gives names to the city’s various buildings and provides a translation guide for Ninjago’s script. You’ll also find a free Ninjago elements “poster”Sandwiched between the manuals. It’s a fun freebie, but is printed on extremely thin high gloss paper, and feels more like a cover sheet than a poster.

 

Ninjago City Gardens, a bustling cyberpunk capital, is filled with all kinds of signage. Sadly, though, almost none of them are printed, which means you get not one but three hefty sticker sheets containing the 66 stickers you’ll apply throughout the build.

As for parts, there’s only one altogether new element to be found, and it’s an odd one. This unusual-looking piece is used as a decorative accent on Ninjago City Gardens’ support pillar on its first level. But its true purpose is as an escalator chain link for minifigures and minidolls, and it’s slated to appear in March in the Friends set 41450 Heartlake City Shopping Mall, which features a full escalator. Ninjago City Gardens only contains two of them, so I created a miniature escalator using the tread link, which connects with the escalator links.

Other than that, recolors are the only new element. There are many. I won’t list them all, but here are a few that caught my eye. Technic Gear Rack housing, which is available in sandblue, is first. There’s just one in the set, and it’s used for the first-floor column that those escalator links attach to, and it’s used as a structural element only, not as part of a mechanism. There are also a significant number of the new 3×1 inverted arches that first hit the scene just a few weeks ago with 10278 Police Station, where they showed up in tan and light grey. They arrive here in black, and you’ll get 28 of them.

Then there’s the 1×3 brick with curved sides, which was used for the printed face of Dr. Fox from the Unikitty theme in 2018, but hasn’t been available outside of that. Here you’ll get just one that’s dark grey and unprinted, though it is covered with a sticker to become a TV. One update that’s sure to excite fans is the classic 6×5 leaf, which gets not one but two useful new colors added to the lineup: lime green and yellowish green, and you’ll get 10 in each. Finally, there’s the Ninjago weapons multipack, which showed up in bright green. It is also found in the Ninjago 71735 Tournament of Elements set, which was also just released.

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The last bit that’s notable is the 1×2 trans light blue tile, which notable only because of its quantity. With the 1×2 tile making up the water that fills the canals, the three Ninjago City sets claim the top three slots for sets with the largest quantity of this piece. However, Ninjago City Gardens has a slight edge over the water-focused Ninjago City Docks with a staggering 328 pieces. The majority of them are contained within a few pre-sorted bags. Now, let’s get to building.

 

The build

Unlike Ninjago City Docks, the two baseplates that make up Ninjago City Gardens’ foundation are kept distinct and modular, allowing them to be rearranged. The build starts with the main structure on the 32×32 dark grey baseplate, and only moves to the smaller island shrine on the 16×32 baseplate once the main build is complete. The water is treated with a pattern of green-black tiles beneath the tiles. One of the small islands can be seen in the back corner. Hidden details include the piping running from the foundation to the culvert. You can see some of the piping in the final model, but it is not visible behind the structure. The bit behind the culture can only be seen through a small opening in the sidewalk. But it adds a nice touch of realism to know that the drainpipe is actually connected to something, even if you can’t see it.

Right off the bat you’ll get your first taste of tedium placing down the trans light blue 1×2 tiles. You have to be exceedingly careful to place them correctly, because if you lose the pattern you’ll quickly get into trouble and end up with the last piece not fitting. There are some beautiful details on the island, including a small tree with green claws to hold needles. The Technic pin connectors are hidden behind the small stonework lanterns.

Once the foundation has been removed, and the base of the large tree that dominates the corner of the city, the rest of the block is highly modular. Each room is a mini-build that can then be stacked onto the model. The first building to be placed is Ronin’s Pawn Shop, with some hidden treasures beneath the floor. The Ninjago City Gardens first floors are separate buildings, which sit at opposite ends to the foundation’s L-shaped base. The structures will join higher up.

The Pawn Shop is filled with bookshelves, weapons, paintings, and other goodies.

Despite the fact that most of these buildings are small, they are complex builds and often use innovative techniques. In a 5,600-piece set that is certain to take you days to build, there are far too many clever bits to point out all of them, so I’ll just touch on some of the highlights, starting with the unnamed restaurant that occupies the other half of the bottom floor across from the Pawn Shop. It has a complicated design to use the book’s curved back cover as a serving counter.

Despite its small footprint the restaurant still manages fit a stove, sink and a few other details.

 

Ninjago City Gardens goes one step further in interest building techniques. The modules are not rectangular, unlike the previous sets. The first few floors are constructed perpendicularly, but their inner walls are angled so that they face each other. The rooms on the lower levels have irregular shapes because of this.

 

The Tea Room with Tea Time Balcony and the Ninjago Fan Flat are located on the second floor. Another round window is featured in the Tea Room. This time, the panes are made using the Technic motorcycle brake disc. It adds a steampunk/techno feel to an otherwise very traditional module. The Ninjago Fan’s flat is appropriately packed full of Ninjago collectibles, from a tiny Destiny’s Bounty on the shelf to a bedspread covered in ninjas.

 

After the first two floors are stacked, it’s time for the lower sidewalk to connect the buildings. Even the big L-shaped slab of grey plates has a surprising amount of detail, with lots of signage and even a hanging microscale model for the Ninjago Fan’s flat.

 

As we’ve come to expect from Ninjago City modulars, the roofs are a treat, and a chance for the designers to show off clever innovations. Among the most interesting one is found on the Ice Planet Ice Cream Shop on the third floor, and it’s made of stacked cleavers, with the cleaver blades making the flat roof tiles. And while it’s relatively simple, the rounded front window on the shop is a wonderful touch.

The shop’s interior is no less impressive, but it is packed with incredible detail in a small footprint. Meanwhile, the back of ice cream shop has one of the most unusual roofs, made using video game controllers.

Next door, Chen’s Noodle Shop has a small cook station, menu board, and just enough room for a table.

Along with Chen’s Noodle Shop, the Ice Cream Shop makes up the third-floor structure. The tree will extend to the third floor and connect to the walkway. It is easy to see the general shape and size of the buildings.

 

The upper level of the tree is connected later on in the process, but let’s look at it now. The tree’s lower half is made with Technic support columns and standard bricks and arches, while the outer limbs are connected with clips. I found that the lower-level limbs were too heavy for the clips, and they didn’t like to stay where I’d position them, falling back to a drooping stance at the slightest bump. It works perfectly. The upper portion of the tree uses brown tails from animals to create a tentacle-like spread. The treetop can be attached once it is attached to the walkway module.

 

The fourth floor is where it all comes together–literally. The fourth floor consists of a single structure that spans both buildings. It houses the Ninjago Museum of History in the majority, while the Student Flat occupies the left corner. The center section of the building is built on a clever diagonal, with the outward-facing wall of the museum built as a self-contained unit that’s slotted into the rest of the building. The wall is a marvel of LEGO geometry, but it’s just as entertaining as the relics within. Minifigure angular stand make great spotlights for the displays. The center display case, which holds the dragon’s hilt, is the best detail. The bottom of this case is a treasure-box bottom. But instead of a standard treasure chest lid, a windowpane is slotted into the hinge–a connection I’ve never encountered before.

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Once the wall is complete, it can be inserted into the museum.

The museum has a neat design with a lobby with a rotating rack for postcards, a cash register, and turnstyle, while the displays have a variety of splendid micro builds from through Ninjago’s history.

The museum’s Student Flat is filled with as much detail as its museum. The outside is covered with a mix of green tiles to create a brickwork effect. While the interior has many household items, it’s made of a mixture of green tiles. My favorite detail is the window planter. It uses an upside-down skirt to create a small planter box.

The interior is equipped for an artist student, with a small workspace with a paintbrush and easel, desk and a few other details.

Finally, there’s just the top floor and tower to assemble. The rooftop zen garden and teahouse can be seen to the left. Although it’s one of the simplest buildings, it does feature another clever roof made of black treasure chest lids. Beneath the roof there’s an orange space helmet, which I believe is standing in for a bell, though I’m not positive.

The Tea House has its secrets, however. There’s a safe set in the base of the building, holding a single cheese slope. I’m not clear what the treasure is, but it’s a great detail regardless.

There’s also a flying bike that attaches to the Tea House by way of a transparent rod.

 

In the middle, the museum’s open atrium features a domed glass roof with a brilliant dragon skeleton hanging from the rafters. The module’s side is adorned with a flowering tree.

 

Then on the right side, there’s the ninjas’ hangout. The ladder at the back retracts upwards to block unauthorized entry, while the outer wall contains a slot for a movie posters. There are several options for movie posters, just like the two sets from Ninjago City. The extra is stored in a tower cubby.

The hideout is loaded with fun, including an arcade machine and video game console, recliner, recliner, and even telescope out on the balcony. It has some of my favorite furniture. The arcade machine also functions. The Technic pin can be flipped “joystick” causes the printed 1×2 tile ninja warrior inside to jump up, “attacking”The dragon.

A huge koi hangs outside the lair. It is a lovely structure all by itself.

Finally, there’s only the tower left. The tower has a very minimal interior–there’s room inside only for storing the extra movie posters, and a seat with a few computers as the ultimate ninja control room. The build is intricate and complex with large wedge slopes that create a diamond pattern on its outside. The upper level of the tower is rotated 45 degrees, allowing the slopes to interlock and creating a very distinctive look that’s one of the defining traits of the set.

 

Finally, there’s just one thing left for the main build, and that’s add-on balconies. Ninjago City is a modular design, so the walkways must connect when they are placed next to one another. This was solved by the original Ninjago City set, which included a removable fence piece at each end of the walkways. Ninjago City Gardens goes a step further and includes a few purpose-built endcaps that make the city look complete when it’s on its own, while being easily removed when placed next to another building.

With these in place, the main structure for Ninjago City Gardens has been completed.

And that means it’s time to start on the second baseplate! The Temple Island begins with the laying of the black and white plates that will be under the water tiles. You can also see here that there’s a large cavity in the middle of the island beneath the temple. Although there’s no particular use for this given in the set, it’s a perfect hiding spot for treasure. You can pop the temple off for easy access.

 

The Temple Island comes together quickly, though even more than on the main building, you’ll need to watch carefully how you place the 1×2 water tiles, because there are a lot of them. The segment keeps up Ninjago City’s modular system by including the Technic connecting pins on tiny stone footings. Obviously, there’s no overhead walkways to connect on this section, but it the lowest level walkways do line up properly.

And now, 5,685 pieces later, we’ve got Ninjago City Gardens in its entirety.

The model as it is completed

There’s not a lot I can say about the model as a whole that I haven’t already touched on, but one thing is worth going back to look at, and that’s the roofs. As I mentioned in the review, Ninjago City buildings have a reputation for having clever roof designs. The gardens turn that dial up to 11, with nearly every roof being unique and different from the previous ones. I found 11 different black tiled roof designs. The temple next door adds another.

 

The whole set is easily broken down into 18 pieces. (I forgot the temple on the island in the photo below). This means that the entire set can be used as a playset. It allows you to access every part of the build. I don’t know how many kidsThe range-topping $300 Ninjago set will be available, but those who purchase it (and a few adults for that matter) will be captivated by how easy it is to tell stories through the multi-level set.

Ninjago City Gardens is a modular series so many fans will likely own the previous sets. How do the gardens fit into the existing lineup? First, I tried. “official”Place them in the release order, from left to right. It looks splendid and makes an impressive city considering that we’re only looking at three LEGO sets here. Of course, combined they’ve got over 14,000 pieces, so it’s no wonder they’re impressive.

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The sidewalks are perfectly aligned and the buildings have a beautiful ramshackle look that is rich in history and layers. Despite loving Ninjago City Docks, I’m less keen on the way the skyline dips down so low in the middle. It removes the Kowloon vibe of cyberpunk, which both models embrace. I prefer the way that the original model is joined with Ninjago City Gardens to form a dense block. The docks could be attached to one of the backsides.

The minifigures

Ninjago City Gardens provides many citizens. LEGO says there are 19 minifigures when you include Scoop, the robot janitor. By any fan’s estimation, though, there are 21 minifigures, not counting Scoop, thanks to several minifigures built into the scenery. Let’s take a look.

The Sensai Wu’s golden Sensai Wu is first. LEGO has been including special golden minifigures in a number of Ninjago sets this year to celebrate the theme’s 20th anniversary, such as 71736 Boulder Blaster. Like the others, Sensai Wu doesn’t fit into the set itself, but is more of a collectible bonus like getting a baseball card in your cereal. He comes with his own display case complete with a Ninjago 10-year anniversary tile.

 

For the regular minifigures, let’s start with the ninja crew. All six of the main heroes are included in this set, though they’re not all from the same time period. For example, Lloyd is the younger version of Season 1, while Cole and Nya are wearing street clothes from more recent seasons. All six have heads that are double-sided and alternate expressions.

 

 

There are many regular townsfolk in the cast, many of whom have appeared on previous sets or on the TV show. Christina the Ninjago Fan (in her green Lloyd hoodie), is one of the newcomers to this set. About now I should admit that I am not a Ninjago expert, and don’t regularly watch the TV show or keep up with the plotlines of the sets, so I’m not going to attempt to go into detail on them. Likely, if you care about the backstory on these characters, you’ll know them better than I do. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the characters as being interesting townsfolk whether or not you know their names. The box provides names for the entire cast. Let’s kick it off with  Kaito, Eileen, Tito, Christina, and Misako, Lloyd’s mother. Only Kaito and Christina have double-sided heads, with alternate expressions.

Next we have a crew full of professionals. First, there’s Cece the jewel thief, whose flying hoverbike is perched near the top of the city. Then there’s an unusual character that some of you may recognize from his own line of City sets and movies, before he was introduced to the Ninjago universe recently. He is the same character that he was in the previous Ninjago set, which is also identical here. Then there’s Hai from the Ice Planet Ice Cream Shop, along with Mei. Hai, like all of them, has alternate expressions.

 

Last but not least, we have a ragtag bunch that includes two long-standing Ninjago characters: Ronin (whose pawnshop occupies the first floor of Ninjago City Gardens), and the Mechanical with a huge buzzsaw. Then there’s Scoop the janitorial robot who cares for Ninjago City, and Sensei Wu’s dog. Scoop is a great brick-built design that utilizes a baby carrier stuffed with trans red 1×1 plates for the face.

 

These are the official minifigures that are included in the box. However, I have mentioned earlier that there are a few more. A stone statue of Zane stands on the Temple Island, a caricatured Asian minifigure who’s the figurehead for Chen’s Noodle Shop, and Jay’s blue suit, which just has a blank head inside.

Conclusion and recommendation

It can be difficult to summarise some LEGO sets. We will make recommendations on whether you should wait for a sale or buy it. But Ninjago City Gardens is one of those delightful sets that makes my job easy in that department, because no matter what angle you approach it from, it’s an excellent set. If you’re a Ninjago fan, it’s chock full of great references and history and gives us the biggest slice of Ninjago City yet. If you’re not particularly a Ninjago fan, but love sets with a complex and engaging build full of novel part usages and clever details, then Ninjago City Gardens is the best minifigure-scale example in LEGO’s current lineup.

And if you don’t care about either of those things and just want more LEGO for your own build, then Ninjago City Gardens still has you covered. The price-per-piece for the set’s 5,685 elements comes out to just $0.05 per piece, making this set a staggeringly cheap bargain that’s surpassed only by the likes of oddball sets such as 31201 Harry Potter Hogwarts Crests. And unlike a mosaic set whose element variety leaves something to be desired, Ninjago City Gardens has an enormous array of pieces–the inventory in the manual spans 10 pages! If you can afford to drop $300 on a LEGO set, you’ll find few ways to get more bang for your buck.

But ultimately, Ninjago City Gardens isn’t great because it’s a good parts pack. It’s great because it’s clear that the design directive for LEGO Designer Markus Rollbühler was to make an excellent set the way a fan would–with care given to the details and nothing spared if it meant a better result. This is what we should be looking forward to in the next ten Years of Ninjago.

71741 Ninjago City Gardens UK PS274.99.| CAN $399.99 | UK £274.99. It is an exclusive product of LEGO, but it may be available from third-party retailers on Amazon and eBay.

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