Six weeks ago, when I went to the Mid-Maryland Celtic Festival in Mt. Airy, Maryland, I made a stop at Dollar General on my way home. I had bought a Celtic art print at the festival, I needed a frame for it, and Dollar General seemed like a good (and inexpensive) place to get a frame. I browsed the store a bit, picked up a bottle of V-8 Splash Strawberry Banana (which I can’t find anywhere else), and in the toy section I found some off-brand LEGO that I didn’t even know existed — Hasbro’s KRE-O Dungeons & Dragons: Fortress Tower.

When I say that I didn’t know it existed, I mean that I had no idea that there were KRE-O Dungeons & Dragons sets. I knew there were Transformers sets (I have several), Star Trek sets (I have several of these, too), Battleship sets (I have none), even some city and zombie sets. But Dungeons & Dragons? No idea whatsoever.

It was twelve dollars. I went ahead and bought it. It’s not the first off-brand LEGO castle I’ve bought; that would be the True Legends Castle Clash, which I picked up a year and a half ago at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. Castle Clash was a massive, 1000-piece set. Fortress Tower was a smaller, 200-piece set.

I’ve built KRE-O before. I’ve been impressed with the look and feel of the KRE-O bricks. The bricks have heft, there’s a tactile quality that compares favorably with LEGO. I’d put KRE-O in the top echelon of off-brand LEGO.

When you open the box, you find everything you’d expect to find in a LEGO box — baggies of bricks, an instruction manual, a sticker sheet.

The instruction manual looks a lot like a LEGO instruction manual.

The bricks, when dumped out on the table, look like LEGO. There are some slight differences, like the way some of the studs look; one stud, for some reason, is always hollowed out. The bricks don’t have what I’d call “LEGO colors”; the grays are different, the blues are really different. But someone looking at these would probably not notice the difference.

The Fortress Tower is a three section build — a castle wall, a rocky wall, and a castle tower. The three sections can be swapped around. The first section to build is the castle wall. It’s essentially a pre-built wall on top of a grassy section, which you then build a crenelated wall atop the pre-built wall.

The rocky wall section has a small dining table, complete with a plate. Not shown is the rubbery fish for the plate.

Then you put the pre-built wall on top of the base, then top it all off with a few layers of bricks to hold it all together.

The third and final section is the castle tower.

When the three sections are built, they snap together — the castle wall and the rock wall sections are joined by snap pegs, and then the tower sits on top. The wall of the tower, which is another pre-molded piece, can be rotated backward as if damaged, and the crenelated crown can be removed, also as if damaged in an attack.

From the rear, there’s a little dining area for knights, and there’s a goblet. Perhaps it’s even a grail that the silly Engligh kug-nigguts are looking for.

There’s also a catapult to build. And four minifigs, too. Two knights and two orcs, I believe. I haven’t built the minifigs, yet.

Finally, I put the stickers on the fortress and the catapult. The instructions indicated doing this as the sections were built, but I generally leave this step until the end… assuming I affix the stickers to my LEGO (or LEGO-ish) builds at all. I don’t always; sometimes I don’t think they’re necessary. I’m not sure, except for the dining plate, that they were necessary here, but they did give the finished model some character.

As I mentioned, the model snaps together. While it’s easy to remove the tower and the crown, as they rest in place (snugly!), getting the wall section and the rock section apart is more difficult. The snap pegs don’t have a lot of give to them, so when you try to pull them apart it’s quite easy to break the rocky section apart. Definitely take the tower off first, before attempting to pull the two sections apart, and don’t be surprised if you have to rebuild part of the overall model once you have the walls separated.

The KRE-O Dungeons & Dragons: Fortress Tower is a nice enough model for what it is. It’s not particularly challenging, taking all of about twenty minutes to put together. It doesn’t have a great deal of character on its own. It also feels incomplete even when finished; I could see having two or three of these and linking the sections together to construct a castle that’s larger and more substantial if you needed something to complement your LEGO Lord of the Rings or Mega Bloks World of WarCraft sets. It’s probably not worth it for the bricks alone if you’re not interested in the pre-designed model; there aren’t that many useful bricks to be scavenged here.

I’m not disappointed that I bought Fortress Tower by any means. But there’s not a lot to commend it (unless you want a fairly inexpensive build), which is probably the reason why I’d never known about KRE-O Dungeons & Dragons.

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