Ever since the debut of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in 2003, the Black Pearlhas become one of the most iconic pirate ships in popular culture and an inspiration for ship builders and pirates fans worldwide.
Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, one glimpse at her pitch-black sails and ebony hull is enough to make your knees wobble and blood run cold! For you know when you see a ghost ship, a trouble is on the horizon… in other words, Undead Pirates!
LEGO 4184: The ‘Official’ Black Pearl
In 2011, The LEGO Group licensed and launched the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean theme and, as expected, one set was dedicated to this infamous ship. When it was finally released, instead of unbridled glee, the reception within the AFOL community was met with an echoing thud! Something was amiss!
While enthusiasts and collectors frantically praised its notable features, no matter how small and insignificant, a generous number of fans remained undazzled by a LEGO set with a mere 804 piece count and two clunky masts, lacking any further similarity to the vessel Black Pearl of the same name.
Yep… almost the same (that is immense ‘almost’)
To make matters worse, the Pearl was released just a year after the 10210 Imperial Flagship, a formidable vessel which capture hearts with a fantastic design and a whopping 1664 piece count – a record for its time, and in contrast more than double of the Pearl.
In short, The LEGO Group knows how to achieve impressive design, but in the case of the Pearl they simply choose not to, and this prompted a call to action for builders worldwide to build a design which would grant the legendary ship justice.
Today, the accumulated number of the Pearl MOCs worldwide is staggering, and in this review we will investigate a notable design by the builder BrickMOCBay.
A few extra parts can make all the difference in the world of MOCs, but is it any good?
Trivia: the original name of the ship during production of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl was The Wicked Wench, based on the ship in Disney park attraction, but it eventually evolved into, The Black Pearl
Box and Content
The package arrived from China to the EU in 12 days with no visible physical damage. It was hand delivered by courier of DPDgroup, an international parcel delivery service (a major Plus)
They also provided the tracking number (Plus), and on shipping details rated the package at weight of 3.1kg/6.9lbs, which was later confirmed on the standard weight scale. The box was wrapped in two layers of bubble wrap for added protection
The carton box lacks the beautiful artwork of official LEGO products which we’ve taken for granted grown accustomed
Some say the beauty comes from the inside… and in this case the cheap plain box stores 2,800 lovely building pieces. Don’t judge a box by its cover
The instructions come in digital form on a USB drive with a copyright notice. Whether this is Plus or Minus, it depends. On the plus side we are saving the forest by not printing out 272 pages of instructions, but on the other side… physical instructions are convenient to have
The majority of parts are packed in unnumbered plastic bags, with no clear system of grouping, other than colour and part type
Comparison shows that the blue and bluish gray are on par with LEGO, while the reddish brown is close but not entirely the same. The lattice comes in yellow instead of pearl gold
The bow piece came with several minor and one major scratch on the side. Upon closer inspection minor scratches were also found on the black mast
Other notes regarding the parts:
Due to trademark, the minifigure torso which serves as the figurehead on the bow, is not included.
Printed parts were not included, so no T-Bone steak or treasure map for us… ARRRRGGGGGHHHH!
The crab is listed as tan but arrived in yellow. Later we received information that it’s not available in other colours.
Sails are not included, which could be forgiven if there was a graphic template inside the building instructions with diagrams and dimensions to make your own sails out. But alas, there were none!
One bag of 35x black 1×6 tiles was missing. After reporting the problem it was promptly sent and delivered 8 days later, free of charge with a sincere apology.
All other parts came in the right quantity, or even an extra piece or two. (Plus)
Building instructions consist of 275 pages. They are simple, straightforward and almost entirely easy to follow. Visual part-list is also included on the last several pages
On one occasion (step 73) it was not clear where the two 1×1 plates go?? Two pages and steps later the mystery was luckily solved when we got the view on the bow from a new angle
To maximise playability and ensure an easy access to every corner of the hold, the ship is divided into four sections, which in theory, should be easy to remove and reassemble
1. The Lower Section
This was the cause of the first small annoyance; the red 2×3 bricks and blue 2×3 corners came all in black while building instructions indicate otherwise
The quality of third-party manufacturers bricks and plates is surprisingly good! They connect and stay connected
The hull of the ship is packed with guns and barrels; what else could a pirate desire, except maybe gold?
The ship’s bow accommodates the kitchen and more barrels. You can’t have enough rum on a pirate ship
Next annoyance… The cones came hollow without X grove which makes them impossible to attach to Technic axles. This is a minus
Due to the trademark the minifigure torso, which should serve as the figurehead, is not included! Luckily, an old black torso and a helmet borrowed from a castle theme came in handy
2. The Main Deck
The floor of the main deck looks nice, but it’s utterly flimsy. Two plates are hanging there on barely two studs, even though there was enough room for extra support from below
The main deck cannons have a cool design, but what is not cool is the recurring problem of hollow cones which can’t be attached to the axle
The remaining build of the main deck went smoothly without problems
The three masts and the bowsprit, significantly less clunky in contrast to the LEGO Pearl
Once assembled the whole deck is sturdy, just as long as you know which bricks and plates you must avoid touching at all costs
3. The Captain Cabin
We can only guess what the 2×2 tiles on the Captain’s table should represent, maybe a map and…? Well, let’s leave that to our wild imagination
Complete side section of the cabin is intended to rest on one hinge plate which is a cause for small alarm. We will see how that idea works out…
The overall curves and angles of the captain’s cabin are nice and reveal no major gaping holes
Only one hinge plate is a poor solution. The side sections can be opened half-way out (until their back-side collides with the stern). To compound the issue, the other ‘free’ side has no way of ‘clicking’ with the rest of the cabin, which results in flimsy and constant opening sides. ARGG!
4. The Poop Deck
Small, but notable annoyance is the ship’s immovable wheel which needs to be raised by at least one 1×2 plate to allow a free run
Fully accessorised stern
The antennas fit quite nicely into the Poop lanterns, and the overall look and feel is nice
With the mizzen mast attached the Poop deck is finished and ready for final assembly
The Finished Model
The ship looks impressive and formidable, no argument there, and we can only wonder how much better it would look in the company of the full sails, ropes and the cursed crew
Only when you have it in your arms, you start to grasp the real size of it. In one word, it’s BIG. Way bigger than the official Pearl… but, as we have seen, it does come with a minor set of issues
While on the subject of issues, the antennas under the rigging are a nice idea, but these parts are known to quickly become loose, and soon enough they all start to point down
Next, the Poop Deck rests completely on the cabin’s tiles, with no firm connection, not even with one stud. This is fine as long as you intend to use the ship for showcase, rather than play
As for the cabin and the main deck, once attached to the lower section it’s better to leave them connected as they are not sturdy enough to survive wear and tear of constant separation
Issues aside, we can easily picture the spacious main deck as the main stage of numerous battles between pirates and soldiers. This MOC looks promising enough for many hours of playtime
The Score: Giving a final score is never an easy job. Sets and MOCs can be judged on so many different levels; how good is the build, does it have hidden features, is the box nice, is it overpriced, what about playability etc.
Despite its gaps and issues in several areas, overall this is a GOOD set.
Can it be improved? YES! But have you ever built a LEGO set and thought “oh my…this is perfect just the way it is?” C’mon, even Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl could be improved (perfect as it is).
The Issues? All the structural issues are really not that huge and unfixable, even an 8-year old could find a way to add several plates here and there to improve support. And the sails? One playful afternoon with paper and scissors could yield fantastic results in this area. Some of us ‘ship-lovers’ could go a step further and use those paper templates to produce a set of real nice cotton sails. No torso for figurehead? Are you really saying that this is the deal-breaker, and you don’t have somewhere a spare black torso?
The Price: At $250 the price per part is 9c, and anything under 10c is good value.
The Honest Question: Imagine you were a kid again, and your dad asks you:
“Would you rather have this cool pirate ship which is not LEGO, but sure looks like one and is compatible with other sets you have, or would you rather have nothing this year, as LEGO does not release pirate ships anymore (let alone big ones like this)?”
I would say YES! What about you?
About the Builder…
With a background in engineering and passion for large scale models, BrickMOCBay is an expert digital builder who found his home in Pirate waters where he has made several impressive big ship MOC designs. He is also a member of the Playwell-Bricks designer team, a group of highly talented individuals who design and produce incredible projects of all shapes and sizes at the clients request.
If you like his Black Pearl, we invite you to visit his Instagram or Facebook account, and gaze your greedy eyes upon his entire MOC fleet.
What Do YOU Think?
Now that you’ve read a review on a set produced by a third-party manufacturer, what are your thoughts? Are the Classic Pirates CRAZY for reviewing non-authentic LEGO? Or does the Black Pearl and AFOL designed sets have potential? Should MOCs only be built from authentic LEGO? Or do non-authentic brands have a place?