An Auspicious Dynasty: Modding Dragons and Diners

Chinese New Year is just around the corner, and the LEGO sets celebrating it are already available. And like fireworks, these sets come with a bang! They are wonderfully designed, filled to the brim with details, and are a buy partswise.

But what else can you do with them? Today we’ll take a look at the sets as they are intended to be built as well as how you can mod them to fit whatever theme you like. So let’s get this party started!

A Family Reunion

Let’s start with taking a quick look at 80113 Family Reunion Celebration. It comes with a whopping 12 minifigures. The building experience was quite fun, because of all the details it has: the stove that puts those upside-down turntables to good use, a staircase that looks better than ones in most of the modulars, and even the first ever hanging turkey like it is a roast duck. There’s even a neat aquarium that can be seen from both the inside and outside and a toilet in case the food doesn’t sit right.

There are also a few minor drawbacks. There are two instruction booklets because of a lot of very tiny steps showing the placement of one part. While this is intended for slightly younger builders, LEGO is simultaneously looking for ways to reduce its environmental footprint—one booklet could be easily doable. There also aren’t enough of those new gate elements! Another thing that bothered me a little bit was that there weren’t any stairs to reach the rooftop dining area. I felt that could have easily been added too.

But I must say that this set might be even better than a modular. It’s more detailed, has more minifigures and accessories and best of all it comes at a very decent price at around $130 US.

Year of the Dragon

Next up is 80112 Auspicious Dragon. Honestly, the build tends to be a bit boring at first because the instruction book is more than half dedicated to the base the dragon sits on. While it completes the set as a whole, it felt a bit unnecessary to put that many parts in just a base. Once the dragon’s feet were in place you start building the rest of it in clever pieces you connect with ball joints.

But where the dragon shines are the printed elements. I also loved the prints—no stickers for me is always a win! The eyes are beautiful, and the printed plaque that states “Auspicious Dragon brings good luck” looks stunning as well. Though to be honest, looking at the dragon again, I’m not that fond of the printed dragon scales—it feels like decorating the dragon with pineapples. But enough talk about the sets, let’s have a bit of fun with them.

Sleeping In Stone

The dragon is such a solid design that I thought that a statue version made of what looks like rock would be awesome. So while building the original, I simultaneously started building my statue version as a color swap. I didn’t have all the right pieces, but that made it more fun to experiment with other parts a bit. And now I just imagine the dragon sitting there, sleeping in stone waiting to wake up when New Year starts!

Another observation: the dragons are quite static. The tail, tiny legs and the head are movable but the body can’t be stretched. Adding hinges or more ball joints could solve that if you would like more posing possibilities. The dragons can stand on their hind legs if you try hard enough, though it takes a bit of balancing.

While building 21342 The Insect Collection, I noticed that several parts could be interchanged with ones form the dragon. The eyes are such great prints and work well on other creatures, I just had to try! Or might it be that we are dealing with a shapeshifter?

But enough of the dragon. Now let’s see what we can do with the restaurant.

Restaurant to Royalty

Seeing the Family Reunion Celebration set it instantly made me think of Chinese history. Well maybe a bit more towards Chinese fantasy. So I made a few adjustments and turned it into a well-guarded house of a Chinese Lord from whatever dynasty you prefer.

I’m a big fan of coming up with new minifig combinations. In this case, it was a bit hard. There’s a lot of classic Japanese armor, helmets and so on made by LEGO, but not really Chinese. So while browsing reference pictures (and movie shots) I decided to use the Alamut Guards torso and helmet, Dastan’s legs, Eomer’s shield, and Ninjago armor and spear. And I’m quite happy with the result and how it mimics the look of Chinese soldiers in reality.

To make sure the streets didn’t appear abandoned I added a goat herder, a rich lady, and a tax collector. I tried to stay true to the original market stalls by keeping those but I used less bright colors. (Does it count as #goatflexing if they are all the new ones from the current CMF series?)

For the archers, I also looked at reference material and I often came across archers with hats. The closest thing that looked similar was the bagpiper’s hat which fit quite well!

I removed the reception desk and added a general’s outfit, which is kept clean and in excellent condition by the servant.

Of course training is an important part of the life of a soldier, so daily training in the dojo is mandatory.

While the Dragon Head is originally intended as a minifigure costume headpiece, I thought it would work perfect for holding a sword or spear. Which it did, but I choose for it to be a scepter holder because of the tiny space I placed it in.

On his throne sits the Lord. I finally used the CMF turkey tail, which I bought for a purpose just like this to mimic the back of a chair. Of course the Lord is accompanied by a guard and also his wife. Gotta love those Monkie Kid wigs with the little crowns!

Modding or Playing?

Overall, it was fun modding both the Auspicious Dragon and Family Reunion Celebration sets. It was truly a blast. But I’ll tell you a secret… it’s the first time I’ve done something like this. I usually buy sets for display or just for parts. I haven’t “played” with a set and made it my own since I was a kid.

Fair warning, modding your sets is addictive and lets you be creative in a controlled space. I might just do this again with other sets as well—even if they don’t have a dragon in them. Which set would you like to give a makeover?

DISCLAIMER: These sets were provided to BrickNerd by The LEGO Group. Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Which is better, the colorful dragon or the stone grey version? Let us know in the comments below.

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