This weekend, China and its massive diaspora observed the Dragon Boat Festival on the 7th of June, so I decided it was a good time to build and review the third set released to celebrate major Chinese cultural holidays.
This is a follow-up to the first two sets, which included 80101 Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner (read my review if you haven’t already!) and were only available in Asian countries, China, Australia and New Zealand which unsettled the global LEGO fan community quite a bit (understatement).
Thankfully, LEGO quickly took feedback to heart, and announced that regional exclusives released from 1 May onwards would be made available globally at a later time, effectively killing the concept of pure exclusivity of regional sets.
The LEGO Dragon Boat Race set was released Down Under and in Asia on 1 May, and will be made widely available around the world at a later date. In fact, if you live in the UK or Europe, you can order one from LEGO.com already. The US are going to get it after 1 July 2019.
Name: Dragon Boat Race
Set Number: 80103
Price: AU$79.99 | US$? | £44.99 – Buy from LEGO.com [US] [UK]
Exclusive to: LEGO.com
Theme: Chinese New Year
Release Date: 1 May 2019 | 1 July 2019 (US) | 1 June 2019 (UK)
The Dragon Boat Festival isn’t as big of a deal as the Lunar New Year to those of Chinese descent. That was true at least for me growing up in Malaysia, I knew it as the Dumpling Festival which revolved around the making and consumption of rice dumplings wrapped in leaves – Zongzi, or as I know it as “bakchang”.
If you lived close to large bodies of water, Dragon Boat races were also commonly held around this time, but were fairly grand in nature.
So yeah, my only real connection to the festival is stuffing my face with rice dumplings, which are amazingly delicious.
Cultural connection aside, let’s jump into the set.
Here’s a look at the sticker sheet. Nothing too offensive, but there are a large number of stickers used for detailing on the boat, as well as fun little bits of detail on the stalls.
Thankfully, they’re mostly quite easy to apply.
One of the most impressive things about this set is the whopping FIFTEEN (15!) minifigures included in the set. For an AU$80 set, this is quite unprecedented and represents exceptional value that you just don’t see these days.
The minifigures are divided into 3 groups – 2 teams of Dragon Boat Race paddlers, and one group of civilians/spectators.
The first group are the civilian and spectators. You get a race judge, 2 flag-waving fans, a little boy and a dumpling stall owner.
They’re made of mostly generic minifigures you’d expect to see in City/Creator sets, except for the dumpling stall owner, who wouldn’t look out of place in a Ninjago set with his Asian conical hat and traditional garb.
The dumpling stall owner is the most interesting out of this group, and I especially love the printing on his torso, and even subtle details like his printed slippers on his feet.
Here are the two teams of Dragon Boat Races, the red and green team. Each team’s outfits are all identical, and they only have differing faces and hairpieces to set each paddler apart.
I found it pretty interesting that the designs of both teams’ uniform are essentially the same, except for the colour scheme and that their sashes are mirrored against each other.
Here’s a look at the back printing of each minifigure.
The colours give them an unmistakable Oriental vibe, and I’m always a huge fan of more cultural minifigure options, so I’m pretty pumped that we get so many of them.
Each team is comprised of a helmsmen who steers the boat, a drummer to ensure that the rowers row towards a synchronised beat, and 3 paddlers to propel the Dragon Boat forwards.
Here’s a look at the red Dragon Boat. The designers have done a fantastic job capturing the unique shape of a dragon boat, with its long, yet shallow body and most importantly, the ornamental head and tail which give it its name.
Here’s how the Dragon Boat looks from the side. It was a lot longer than I expected for a set of this size, and comfortably seats all 5 minifigures, with plenty of space in between them!
At the head of the boat is the drummer, followed by 3 paddlers and the helmsmen at the end, with his extra long oar.
I was most impressed by the Dragon’s head, which is 100% brickbuilt, without relying on any custom pieces.
When I was assembling the head, the creative and unorthodox use of parts brought a huge smile to my eye.
I love the use of the dark red croissant (might be the first of its kind) for the dragon’s nose, the curved piece to give the dragon a “frowny” look, and the lime green flippers for its eyes.
The jaw also moves, so you can choose between an open or closed mouth look.
The stickers used for the side panels of the boat give the dragon its scales, and give the hull some much-needed texture and character.
You can also see that the dragon boat has wheels beneath it, allowing it to roll on smooth/flat surfaces with ease, so you can race them if you wanted too. Unfortunately, they don’t float, so don’t pop them into water.
Here’s a look at the tail, which is quite simple, but I love the pops of green made by the fins at the end.
Here’s a look at the drummer, which leads the paddlers to paddle in unison to the beat of the drum.
The designers put the new Harry Potter wants to great use as drum sticks.
Here’s a look at the green Dragon Boat, which retains the same design, but a couple of different design flourishes here and there.
Like the red Dragon Boat, its green counterpart’s head is also a thing of beauty, with its expressive eyes, and fierce look.
The use of a red telephone as its nose is inspired, and the pearl gold leaf pieces just give it that extra bit of dragon-ness.
I was really impressed with how roomy the boats are. Each paddler has its own seat, and plenty of room to spare.
If you wanted, you could easily squeeze in another 4 minifigures into the boat.
Here’s a look at the helmsmen and the green boat’s tail. The variety of facial expressions of the paddlers, from determined to gleeful faces that injects some real-ness and personality into both boats.
Here are two goal posts, one for each boat you can use to setup races with.
Both Dragon Boats are immaculately designed, and apart from the contrasting colours, I absolutely love that the designers also gave ’em two unique heads.
They were really fun to build, and despite having near-identical structures, it never once felt repetitive at all.
To cap it all off is this wooden dock section, that serves as a place to observe the Dragon Boat race, and give it an extra sense of festivity.
Like the Dragon Boats, this section was a lot larger than expected, and the designers made brilliant use of all the space accorded to them,
There are 3 main sections, a food stall for rice dumplings, a spectator’s section, and an elevated judge’s platform.
I really love that the designers incorporated some water across all three sections, to give it the illusion that this entire section is suspended over water.
Here’s the rice dumpling stall. It has a handy stickered sign on the left, which has a diagram of what the zongzi or bak zang (Hokkien) is made up of, which is essentially a rice dumpling wrapped in leaves.
There is commonly filling in the rice dumpling, and you can expect pork, Chinese sausages, mushrooms, peanuts in the kind I’m most familiar with.
There’s a sign with illustrations of the dumplings, and the Chinese character “zong” in red.
The stall is quite cramped, but there’s a bucket, a pot, and a small section where the dumpling-maker can assemble his sumptuous bak zhang.
For added accuracy, I really like that there’s a cluster of bak zhang hanging from the beams of the stall – these dumplings are commonly held together by string and its very common to tie a whole clump together.
There are two variants of the zongzi – uncooked ones, which are in green, and cooked ones which are in a shade of brown.
To prepare them, you typically have to boil and steam them, which turns the leaves brown.
Here’s a photo I found on Google, which shows you what the real thing looks like.
The glutinous rice is amazingly flavourful and it’s one of my favourite Chinese meal. I really miss not being home where these are made in abundance at this time of the year.
If you want to try a variant of these that should be available all-year round, head to your local Dim Sum restaurant and they should have something called Lo Mai Gai which are wrapped in Lotus Leaves and are the closest thing to zongzi – except that they’re square-shaped, where zongzi are pyramid-shaped.
There’s a small bridge-like area where spectators can watch the Dragon Boat race, which is the perfect spot to place these two flag-waving minifigures.
Last but not least is the judge’s platform, where a surly-looking elderly gentleman dressed in a sharp suit watches the race, and keeps an eye of the trophy.
The judge platform is quite ornate, with a beautiful banner hanging from it featuring a red and green dragon intertwined.
Beneath the judge’s platform is fully-fleshed out water scene, complete with lilypads made out of green paint palettes, some reeds and also a green frog spectator.
I love the ornamental roof above the judge’s platform, which cleverly uses a series of red hot dogs to create a curved effect.
What I like most about this entire section is the generous use of brown elements, and the haphazard rustic construction of the food stall, and even the judge’s panel that give the structure a particularly traditional vibe.
And here’s the entire set in all its glory.
What I liked:
- 15 minifigures is just a wonderfully insane amount in a sub-$100 set
- Brand new minifigure designs for the Red & Green team
- Everything about the Dragon Boat designs
- New printed LEGO zongzi/bak zhang cheese slopes
- Lots of display potential with the viewing platform
What I didn’t like:
- Set still isn’t the easiest to get ahold of
Final thoughts: Like the Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner, this set is yet another amazing celebration of Chinese Culture.
For what you get in the set, especially the whopping 15 minifigures, it almost seems like the set’s price tag is a mistake, but I’m glad that LEGO have kept it at a very reasonable and accessible price.
The Dragon Boat designs are the star of the set – with the length of each boat, and the wonderfully designed Dragon Heads being the standout features.
I also like the wheels attached to the bottom of the boats, which give it an extra bit of playability as you can race them on floors, which kids will undoubtedly enjoy.
I’m also glad that we got printed zongzi/bak zhang elements, which like I mentioned, are my strongest cultural connection to this entire holiday!
I also have a deep love of sets which provide substantial structures, which this set does with the rustic viewing platform for the minifigs to watch the race unfold.
At the end of the day, all the elements of this set come together beautifully for an all-round great experience. The value and the amount of LEGO “stuff” that you get in this set far eclipses the modest pricetag and makes for such a rewarding build.
I knocked a point of the Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner for availability issues, but I’m really glad that the Dragon Boat Race got to see a wide release globally, as well as locally.
It’s still not the easiest set to get your hands on, but with a bit of effort, you too can own the LEGO Dragon Boat Race set and avoid paying inflated price to a reseller.
If you’re in the United Kingdom or Europe, you can order one from LEGO.com and if you’re in the United States, you’ll have to wait till after 1 July to get your hands on it.
Unfortunately in Australia, the set is no longer available on LEGO.com but you should try to check your local independent, Myer, David Jones, or if you’re lucky enough, Legoland Discovery Centre or Bondi LEGO Store which do still have stock at the time of publishing.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed the review.
Did you manage to get your hands on a Dragon Boat Race set, or if you’re in the US, are you planning on getting one? Let me know what you think in the comments section!
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