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The Summer Joust – LEGO Castle Building Contest

(Written by Geneva – gid617)

The Summer Joust was born in 2016 as a multi-category LEGO community contest challenging builders to bring their best skills to the medieval theme.  With 130 entries in the first Joust, the contest was a decided success and it has continued to be an annual summer highlight for castle builders.

Each Summer Joust runs for two months and has 6 categories. Besides first and second place for each category, there are also awards for the highest scoring entry, the builder with the highest average score across their three best entries, and the entry with the highest presentation score.  Some of the prizes are official LEGO sets, but some are brick-built trophies donated by well-known builders (often frequent participants of the contest) like this trophy below by Jonah Schultz.

Every year, the quantity and quality of castle themed LEGO creations built for the Summer Joust is astonishing, but this year I was especially impressed. So let’s take a look at some of the 2021 Summer Joust winners!

The 12×12 Vignette category is an annual favorite.  Entries are expected to fit the medieval theme, but aside from that size is the only restriction.  With only a 12×12 stud base to work with, builders get very intricate and very creative with their parts usage.  This year Markus Rollbühler won the 12×12 Vignette category.

One of this year’s most unique and exciting categories was Creating an Atmosphere.  Builders were challenged to create a piece that would be instantly associated with an emotion of their choice.  The winner of this category was Caleb Saw with Returning Home.

I was very excited about this category because I knew it would inspire lots of beautiful creations. Sure enough, there were half a dozen masterpieces!  I highly recommend taking a look at all the entries but for now, here’s the second place winner, W. Navarre with Asia.

For several years now, the Summer Joust has included one category focused on a specific culture. This year the category was Asian.  Once again, there were a variety of stunning entries.  Second place was one by First Order Lego with his Golden Clifftop Pagoda.

Another category that brought out a lot of talent was the Monastery category. The first place winner was Joe (jnj_bricks), with Sanctuary.

The second place is so unique and my brother borrowed so many of my bricks to build it, that I just have to mention it. This is “Samye Monastery” by W. Navarre.

For those who weren’t inspired by the realistic Asian or Monastery categories there’s High Fantasy.  The second place High Fantasy entry, “What We Do in the Clouds by Dan Ko, particularly impressed me with its incredibly creative use of little pieces!

Last but not least, every year there is a team category for the Summer Joust.  For this category, 2-4 LEGO builders come together to build 2-4 creations around a single theme.  This year’s theme was called Through the Seasons, and the winning team illustrated the lifespan of a castle, from springtime construction to a final abandoned ruin in winter.

Another team also had a terrific idea; Life on the Edge, a village of dragon trainers living on a cliff.

And that brings our look at the 2021 Summer Joust to a close.  We’ve only scratched the surface of the more than 150 entries though, so there’s plenty more to see in the Summer Joust group if you’d like to dig a little deeper.

LEGO competitions are a great way to challenge and motivate yourself for a new creation. Contests run by members of the LEGO building community, like the Summer Joust, tend to be some of the most inspiring, most friendly, and most exciting competitions.  The winning bar is incredibly high, but the participating community is very friendly and ready to share comments and suggestions with all the participants.  Even if you don’t get inspired to build for the Summer Joust, it’s a great competition to watch from the sidelines.  You can be sure there will be plenty of creations on display that will make it worth your while!

What do you think? Have you participated in or followed the Summer Joust at all?  Are you inspired to  build something medieval or maybe even participate in next year’s competition?   Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • brickmaster August 23, 2021, 12:22 PM

    I’m a castle fan and I didn’t know about this. Thanks for sharing. I checked out the gallery a little bit already and will look at it more closely tonight. Did you participate in the contest?

    • gid617 August 23, 2021, 3:15 PM

      I did! I had a couple fantasy builds, one for the Atmosphere, and my team got an honorable mention in the team category. I didn’t win anything, but I’m happy with the builds I produced. 😀

  • Martin August 23, 2021, 1:09 PM

    Did you say your brother built that monastery?!

  • Emperor P. August 23, 2021, 4:26 PM

    These are amazing! And I love the variety. How do you get to know about such contests? I only hear about the Ideas ones.

    • gid617 August 23, 2021, 5:12 PM

      Hmm… that’s a good question. In this case, I’m a part of the online LEGO community that originally sponsored the Summer Joust (InnovaLUG). One good way to find contests is to follow a lot of LEGO builders, you’ll probably notice when several start posting in similar themes–usually a sign that there’s a contest going on!

      It’s kind of my job to keep tabs on contests though, because I write a monthly contest round-up for BrickNerd: https://bricknerd.com/lego-contests 😉

  • Nofakebricks August 23, 2021, 4:59 PM

    Are these all real builds? Or some of them are digital? Either way, there are so many amazing mocs in this contest. And congrats to your brother! Maybe you can write an article about your Lego building family. 😀

    • gid617 August 23, 2021, 5:15 PM

      These are all real builds–that was one of the requirements for this contest. (Most builder-run contests where there are physical prizes up for grabs are physical-build only.)
      Thanks! That’s a fun idea! 😀 I will have to think about it and see if I have anything to say. 😉

  • yoladiel August 23, 2021, 5:26 PM

    I’m so glad people are still building castle stuff. I like how they included several different categories to pick from. How long did the contest last? How much time did you have for building? I might be interested to enter the vignette category in the future.

    • gid617 August 24, 2021, 10:50 AM

      The contests runs for two months (June-July). I built most of my entries in July though. 😉

  • Okosh August 23, 2021, 5:34 PM

    Okay, so I have a question for you. How do you go about designing a custom project like this? How do you get the idea? How do you decide the size? Do you use a digital program to design it, or just dump out a bunch of bricks and begin building?

    • gid617 August 24, 2021, 11:20 AM

      Those are great questions!
      In the early days long ago (I started MOCing about nine years ago, so for real 😉 ) I would just wing it. I’d sit down with the contest prompt and snap pieces together. Now, I try to have a concrete idea in my head before I start building. This has been really helpful. Sometimes this involves a bit of drawing, but more frequently it is just me standing in my brain walking around an imaginary construct and trying to fill in gaps. 😛
      How do I get the ideas? Well, after nine years of building I have a pretty big backlog of ideas. So I can go to that (Pinterest is a great place to keep track of cool concept art/real pictures/other LEGO builds that you find inspirational), browse around, take into account the contest requirements and so forth. I also have a couple lists, and then there’s a mental list too. 😉 I keep track of concept ideas (say tire swings, frost apoc, a dino jungle–all things I want to build) and also LEGO piece ideas (color combinations, little tablescraps, cool brick patterns, so forth).
      Brainstorming is a skill that develops with use. I feel like I’m pretty good at coming up with ideas (I’m a writer as well as a LEGO builder, so I brainstorm a lot!), but it didn’t happen overnight–the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to come up with ideas on the spot. Also, you’ll frequently come up with multiple ideas once you get going–write the good extra ones down (or pin them if you’re browsing), and you’ll have an idea bank to come back to. Keep in mind too that ideas can come from anywhere. I once read a quote that was something like, “We all pass hundreds of story ideas every day–the good writers notice four or five.”
      That’s true for LEGO building too, and you can train yourself to recognize at least two or three! (And it’s great if you can find a person in your life to spark ideas. My mom is super fun to brainstorm with–some of her ideas are terrible, but they get me going!)
      Size–sometimes the idea involves the size, other times I look at my collection and decide what it’s capable of, other times I just try to visualize different sizes and scales and settle on the one that seems right. And other times, of course, the contest imposes size limits.

      I don’t think I’ve ever used a digital program to design a physical build. I’ve done it the other way around in order to generate instructions, and I’ve also built digitally for a digital product, but physical is my preference.
      I don’t exactly just dump out bricks, haha, I have my collection fairly well sorted. Usually I start with the base of the build, but sometimes I start with whatever is the most important centerpiece, or whatever bit I’m most excited about.
      Again in the days long ago when I started, I didn’t ever rebuild large sections. Now, I’ll sometimes rework sizable chunks of a build if I decided that a certain technique or color isn’t harmonizing with the rest of the creation.
      By the way, I’ve been doing time lapses of some of my builds, so if you want to see what that part of the process is like, you can check out my YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjt_en231onxedg7Toz5ZIA
      That got a little lengthy, but hopefully it was helpful! 😀

      • Okosh August 24, 2021, 8:55 PM

        Thanks for the detailed response! It is indeed helpful, and kind of what I was expecting. It’s all about practice, practice, practice, I guess. 😀

  • Pepper August 23, 2021, 9:29 PM

    I like a lot of these. They are so detailed! Thanks for posting. By the way, Lego recently released a castle, if anyone needs a starter set.

    • gid617 August 24, 2021, 11:24 AM

      Glad you enjoyed these creations! Castle builders are some of the best when it comes to intricate details–they’re always looking for a way to make those big walls special.
      The Medieval Blacksmith is also a great place to start!

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