I was delighted when I first spotted this little gem. I’ve always had a weakness for carrying around select bits of LEGO, and this cute kit includes many of my absolute favorite new 2018 Friends elements. Even when I later saw pictures of the five other Friends pods (one featuring each girl), this set still felt special – like a micro sampling of the Friendship House, which unifies the characters. The LEGO Company seems to have special thoughts for this pod too, as it’s been packaged and distributed differently.
My set arrived, in new condition, from a third-party seller. Unlike the other Friends pods, this one is not under a plastic blister, mounted on a card, ready for retail sale. Instead, it is sealed inside a heavy-duty polybag. On the front, I see the new logo and art for 2018 Friends plus writing in eight different languages.
On the back is a choking hazard warning, written in no less than thirty-three different languages! There's also an illustration of Stephanie in a sporty outfit, as she will be the included minidoll.
A few cut notches, at top and bottom, assist in tearing the bag open. It uses a heavier weight plastic than the polybags I typically find in U.S. store checkout aisles. Inside, we find: a folded double-sided instruction sheet plus the purple pod. A bag of parts is stored inside the pod.
Examining the pod, it notably lacks any way to attach LEGO elements to the exterior. But clearly there was thought about matching up with LEGO SYSTEM measurements. For example, the 2x4-sized base accepts studs (though it has no clutch power) and a 1-stud wide plate can be wedged into the hinge area. The recessed circle's diameter is also significant.
There’s a nice lenticular image sticker on the front face of the pod. Vertically tilting it towards you, or away from you, alternates between two pictures. The straight-on view displays the new Friends logo, while angled views reveal the revised-for-2018 girls doing their group “hands-in” pose. Note: this feature is a little different on the character-focused pods, which alternate between this group pose and an individual portrait of the featured girl. So, if you are a serious Friends collector, you may want this unique pod!
The pod’s back face is left blank, and a flattened top and bottom allow for vertical stacking. It has a slightly-weak but effective latch and employs a click-hinge of sorts. Opening the pod, we find a sealed, clear plastic bag of parts tucked inside. After opening this bag, let's look at the parts...
So many goodies here! I love 2018’s new Friends elements. Here we see numerous signature bits from the Friendship House , including: Rumble the hamster, the notepad, pizza, new flower and leaf parts, and the new mug design. However, our pod includes the Friends character Stephanie, who does not appear in that set. It also brings in the new Heartlake City Park map (printed tile) found in the five 2018 HLC park sets. These pieces are all great for adding to your other Friends sets or using in your own creations. They present a wide sampling from this wave of sets.
The one part I see as available exclusively in this set is the minidoll torso with printed “I [heart] HLC” (Heartlake City) t-shirt. For me, this element alone was more than enough reason to acquire the set. I look forward to using this part with other minidolls in my own creations! I was hoping we would see it again in this year's second wave of sets (maybe at the resort?), but I don't see it yet. I would be delighted if this torso were released with other skin tones too, so Andrea and Olivia can wear their city pride also. Perhaps, in a future set, we will find Emma screen-printing these shirts for her friends!
Unfolding the instruction sheet, this page is not a standard size that I’m aware of. It’s 20.3 cm x 27.5 cm (roughly 8" x 10 7/8"). But the paper is nice and thick, which I appreciate. Comparing it to the sheet included in my copy of Emma's Photo Studio Pod , you can see there how thinner paper allows some show-through of imagery from the back side. Also, because Emma's pod was packaged differently, that sheet arrived folded two more times (to fit inside the pod) and thus is more wrinkled.
But let's get on to building! The instruction's steps seem unusual in that they tell us to build the figure last, instead of first. But everything is clear and simple to construct. There were no spare parts, when completed (true also in other pod sets I've built).
Inside the pod’s right half stands Stephanie, dressed in casual clothes, seemingly ready to hop out and explore. On the left half, a variety of accessories are mounted to a wall, including binoculars, a map, a list, and treats. I would have liked to see some brickwork on this wall (those medium nougat tiles, so characteristic of the Friendship House). But, honestly, there isn't much space to spare here.
Rumble sits on a shelf, in the center of a rotating turntable. I’d like to imagine that this is meant to be one of those running dishes (like a spinning bowl) for hamsters to get their exercise. “Go, Rumble!”
I did get one surprise: Something I'd been unaware of from looking at online pictures alone... There is a secret stash of leftover pizza, under the map! … Gosh, I wonder how long that’s been there! And how do those toppings not fall off? Stephanie looks surprised too.
I do wish the build felt a little less like random parts; and instead favored a more significant and specific construction with function. But space for modeling here would be tight if the set is to remain assembled while the pod is closed up, as happens now. (Mental note: This could make for a fun future building challenge for myself!) It helps to think of this kit as more of a "sampler pack," for someone who has never been exposed to the Friends line.
Check out this wonderful 6x6 round plate (below) in medium lavender! I was delighted to discover that it can be safely removed by grabbing hold of an attached plate and giving it a quick tug. This part is also available now in Emma’s Photo Studio Pod , but no other sets, that I’m aware of. It can be returned to its original spot by simply pressing it back into place. I included this part in my piece-count because it can be removed. The 1x2 medium lavender plate, however, seems to be glued into the pod, so I did not count it.
This big round plate fits nicely atop the closed pod. There, you can build your own imaginative play-scene, perhaps to spruce-up your desktop workspace. I re-used parts from inside to imagine Stephanie out on a nature hike... and then later having picnic with Rumble.
Packing up my pod, I feel myself wishing for the exterior to have a hole in it somewhere, allowing for attachment of a cord or ring. That way, I could clip it to my backpack or purse. But I imagine LEGO had a reason for not including that (nor any strong element connections). I’d guess they are hoping to avoid loss of your precious parts, should the pod get knocked about or open accidentally – preferring instead that we safely stow our LEGO elements, by tucking this inside a pocket or backpack. This is probably smart. Admittedly, if sending this pod to school with my son, I’d be tempted to add a rubber band around it – just in case!
Overall, this is a wonderful little set. The pod idea is fun, for sure. Back in the 1990’s, after I’d seen Playmobil do something similar, I’d crafted my own series of little pocket-sized LEGO kits, featuring female characters with various hobbies and occupations. So this concept is right up my alley. If you get a chance to grab one of these sets, I highly recommend it!