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Brick Breakdown: Lord of the Rings Ship

(Written by William)

In this Brick Breakdown series I review official LEGO sets, from the perspective of looking at interesting building techniques we can all learn from. Today we will be looking at the #79008 LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush. You can check out the previously discussed LEGO building techniques found in official LEGO sets at the end of this article. 🙂

#79008 LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush Review

When I first heard about the #79008 LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush set it took me a moment to remember where a pirate ship fit into the story of the Lord of the Rings. Then I recalled the ghosts and Peter Jackson’s cameo in the movies and it all came back to me. Frankly, there are very few scenes the ship appears in, especially when you do a marathon of watching all the movies in their extended editions. At any rate, LEGO Lord of the Rings gets a pirate ship in its line-up; giving a fantastic addition to the series, while still leaving plenty of options open for future sets. Now let’s get to the interesting LEGO techniques used in Pirate Ship Ambush set!


It’s pretty obvious that a ship will need some very “un-square” elements to create a realistic design. That is why LEGO made the specialized hull pieces for the base of its ship. However, when the front and back sections of the hull need to be raised, LEGO designers don’t always use the specialized elements. The reason for this is because it allows for more opportunities to create small distinctions from ship to ship. This however also presents a new problem; many of the LEGO pieces that could potentially work are not sloped exactly to fit a ship. Therefore, you need to engage in a bit of deceptive slope-work.

#79008 LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush

Essentially, you figure out what is the most important angle for the parts to be in to make the ship look good, and that becomes the primary characteristic you design around. In the LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush set the front and back sections of the ship use inverted slopes to point to the ends of the ship, leaving a very odd squareness to the sides. This is where knowing how to work with LEGO slopes comes in handy.

#79008 LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush Side View

One way to use this LEGO technique is to add context around the imperfect slopes. In this case, LEGO designers sandwiched the slopes in between some highly specialized elements, then masked what they could to hide the imperfections. Finally, they distract the eyes with all the various detail-work; wings, blades, shields all vying for your attention, while taking your eyes away from vaguely shaped bottom. Taken to this extreme, they make an awkward design look completely appropriate.


Making a LEGO ship looks simple at first; have a boat-bottom, rudder, steering, and a mast with a sail and you’re done, right? Well, that can work, but it won’t look as impressive as the ship of someone who has done their homework. Let’s look at the finer details of the LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship to get an idea of what I’m talking about. For starters, this is a pirate-ship. However, it is not a ship from the golden era of real pirates, rather it is from a fantasy-realm where technology is not as advanced. Hence the lack of cannons for example. However it does have some pirate-ish details; it has a ram on the front made for attacking other ships. It also has low side-walls, which is a common modification that pirates make to aid in boarding. It’s highly armored with very little reserved for trade or passengers. And it looks like it is built for speed. How can we tell? Well, it has a very shallow hull and the sails have no rigging – all indicating a smaller, lighter ship. But there are three sails; more than a ship this size would have, giving it speed. If compared to a 1700’s real pirate ship, this would probably be classified as a modified pinnace – a longship that was made for shallow waters and maneuverability. It really could not handle long voyages or go in deep waters.

#79008 LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush Back View

Remember how I mentioned it was important that The LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship is a fantasy throw-back? It makes sense that their ship design is not built for long ship trips since the technology would not be as readily affordable. Also, the mercenaries this ship was taken from were said to primarily engage in coastal raids which fits the boat’s design. Another signature feature of this ship is the triangular sails. Most pirate ships utilize a square sail for greater hauling power. Even modern sail-boats use two triangular sails connected to a single mast. This ship has three different masts which indicate a fairly inefficient design – again indicating a cruder technology.


It is often the case that LEGO does not have the exact piece you need when it comes to specific angles. The solution for this tends to come from creative applications of various building techniques. Like utilizing slopes for their most important angle then deceive the viewer’s eye from the imperfections.

As for LEGO ships, every little detail paints a distinct characteristic of how that ship is used. A lot of guns may indicate a warship or pirate ship based on their number. Of course that many guns also represent a heavier ship which would require more sails. This in turn will suggest the need for certain amounts of rigging and so on. The bottom line is that a good LEGO ship could be slapped together real quick, but a great LEGO ship will require some planning and adding logical and realistic details.

Buy LEGO Lord of the Rings Sets

So what do you think? How do you like the LEGO building techniques in the LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush set? Do you like LEGO ships? Have you experimented with making your own? Did you pay attention to providing realistic details? Feel free to share your own experiences, tips or ask questions in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the other reviews in this series:

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Chi-bacca August 13, 2013, 10:41 AM

    Will, these brick breakdowns are awesome! Keep up the great work!

  • legostuff71 August 13, 2013, 1:08 PM

    The only one reason why I didn’t buy the pirate ship ambush , it didn’t have a captain cabin. There’s a prison in it’s place.

    • Håkan August 13, 2013, 1:40 PM

      Should be easy to fix, if that’s the only reason?

  • Will August 13, 2013, 1:21 PM

    No fear about more Breakdowns. The Admin is buried in them. ;D

    As for the lack of a Captain’s Cabin, I know what you mean. You’d think given its size compared to other ships it would. However that is one reason why I talked about the details of ship building. Given the class of this ship, it is not likely to have a Captain’s cabin. Being a coastal raider class it shows that the Captain has not reached the level of success yet.

    Of course if your shelling out this kind of money on a single set I think I’d prefer a bigger ship. Since this ship was built based on the license they went away from the large ship design and made it a slaver ship.

    Granted you could redesign the prison into a Captain’s cabin fairly easily. My biggest complaint though is the masts. If you have pretty much any other LEGO ship, the masts feel poorly constructed.

    Though I will say, boy did they put the details in this ship. Sometimes it feels more decorative than functional. I think it gives a nice change of tempo to the various LotR sets.

    It’s just sad that this and the Duplo ship are the only ships currently in LEGO’s line up.

  • Micho August 13, 2013, 2:28 PM

    I love this ship and like I’ve mentioend before I will get it at 50% off and will convert it into Sao Feng’s ship from POTC to go along with my Black Pearl and Queen Anne’s Revenge

    • Meneldur son of Garamar August 13, 2013, 6:29 PM

      That’s a good idea. Are you a AFOL, Micho? BTW, you’re lucky to have both Queen Anne’s Revenge and the Black Pearl. I have no POTC sets whatsoever. 🙁 Well, have fun MOCing.

      • Micho August 14, 2013, 12:51 PM

        Yup, I’m a 31 years young AFOL. Oh man, did I struggle to find a QAR for a good deal, I finally ended up finding two and sold one to a friend. It’s funny because POTS is the first theme that I was able to collect every set, except for a couple of polybags.

  • Chi-bacca August 13, 2013, 3:21 PM

    Well tonight’s my last night in Ibiza-I’m leaving tomorrow morning 🙁
    Overall I enjoyed it (as usual 🙂 ) and still have 15€ left and i’ll most probably convert it into pounds and get the mandalorian speeder. (I have the other £10 already- I found it on the street a couple of weeks back and no one was around so….. Yoink 😀 ) is it a good set?

    • Håkan August 14, 2013, 4:51 AM

      Finding money on the street, it’s a good thing. And instesd of keeping it, you unselfishly chose to boost the nation’s economy. 😉 Very good!

      • Chi-bacca August 14, 2013, 10:34 AM

        LOL 😀
        Turns out I’ve got another fiver so lucky me 🙂
        Oh and I realised I can get the stagecoach so that may be a buy 😉

        • Håkan August 14, 2013, 6:13 PM


          It’s been a while now since I last found any bills on the street…

          • Chi-bacca August 15, 2013, 5:43 AM

            That tenner was my first and I had to be quick-my friends were with me 😀

  • Fikko3107 August 13, 2013, 4:52 PM

    A quote from the designer video that explains somewhat LEGO’s rather odd decision to base a set on such a vague scene:

    “We know this ship didn’t appear much, but we decided to got ahead anyways cause, well, kids love pirate ships.”

    It’s something like that anyways.

  • ninja of stealth August 14, 2013, 12:16 AM

    great post! I’ve never been into pirates, I know some of you a are all “what?!” but I’m all, “yes, it’s true” also I’ve never been a huge fan of LEGO ships, for example: the destiny’s bounty, “not, that impressive.” I just never have liked them. Just being honest, not cheesy…

  • Ike August 17, 2013, 6:11 PM

    is there any clever technique for getting around a lack of normal bricks? I am building a small castle and don’t have enough regular blocks, but lots of special pieces. (P.S. I got the new Lego Mindstorms teacher’s set for my birthday. yay!)

    • admin August 18, 2013, 9:41 AM

      How about using SNOT techniques? (Studs-Not-On-Top). For example; instead of using bricks to build up the walls you could use plates sideways. Or you could make an evil castle or a castle in ruins, then you could use pretty much anything to create the textures. There are several examples on flickr. 😉

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