Well, we are excited to land ourselves with the Sembo Block H20 Strategic Stealth Bomber (202197) Building Set and review it. In my other review of the Wekki The Puppet, we mentioned that there are several reasons why one would choose brands other than LEGO. This set presents two reasons: firstly, it is military hardware themed which LEGO will not do, and secondly, affordability.
The Sembo Block PLAAF H20 Strategic Stealth Bomber (202197) Building Set is a LEGO-compatible set from Sembo Block’s Aerospace series which features PLAAF aircraft. It’s not listed on its website but it is already being sold in China. It contains 1,163+ pieces and features a couple of newly molded elements just for this set. Every single piece is used for building aircraft. There is no fancy flight stand or display plaque which makes me wonder if it reality is an officially licensed set. The set includes five minifigures which include two pilots in flight suits, two pilots in uniform, and a marshaller.
The set comes in a printed box with an integrated handle which, for the uninitiated, is kind of a China thing. Within, there are two open carton boxes containing the 4 individual baggies plus one baggy of minifigure parts. The open carton boxes prevent the individual baggies from swooshing around too much when in transit. Within each baggy, it has several smaller baggies.
This part is what it differs from LEGO by miles, well, in a good way. I don’t how to describe it but as a seasoned LEGO builder, you will immediately notice that each bag contains elements that are pretty similar or are related, if that makes any sense. I used to sort them by type before the build but for this set, I don’t have to do that, and yet parts are easy to locate.
The set comes with a booklet that contains information on the actual aircraft. Last but not least, there is a small plastic bag dedicated to stickers and it has a lot of it. Not just any stickers, though. They are transfer stickers which offers absolutely no room for mistakes. The sticker application is the less fun part of the build.
Much like LEGO UCS’, the instruction booklet is presented like a collectible with basic technical details of the Chinese strategic stealth bomber. There’s obligatory instruction on how to use the removal tool as well as how to read the instructions specific to Sembo Block. While JMBricklayer highlights the current blocks, Sembo Block outlines the current block in red. The colors on the instructions are clear enough to allow differentiating between shades of gray and blue. Finally, unlike JMBricklayer, Sembo Block does have a parts glossary.
The Build Time
It took me almost 7 hours to complete. A large was struggling with applying the stickers. Transfer stickers are very delicate. It tears easily and once it is set, it’s set. There’s no way you can redo it. I accidentally tore a few and I had to painstakingly piece them back together which bumped up the build time.
This is a 99% stud not on top (SNOT) build. The set has a solid internal which results in a very solid build. So solid that you can hold it like a boomerang, and shake it violently but nothing will fall out. I haven’t seen the H20 photos yet but from the glimpses I had, I did say the shape and form are spot on. The heat signature-reducing air intake and exhaust and diffuser have been recreated through a combination of brick elements and stickers.
The designer also included adjustable flaps but I thought it (the flaps) could be sleeker instead of being blocks. Anyhow, the aircraft’s aerodynamic form has been recreated too with details in the form of stickers. The combination works super well. So much so that the completed build looks more like a scale model than a brick build model. Kudos for that.
The build also includes an opening bomb bay which has room for two brick-built gravity bombs and four air-to-air missiles. Also included are three steerable landing gears with rubber tires. The landing gears can be stowed away and concealed completely into the aircraft’s body. Unfortunately, though, it does have a flight stand to enjoy this landing gear-free look.
Speaking of the underbody, the details weren’t spare either – not that it has a lot of details to begin with. It is smooth as the aircraft should be, accented by appropriate warning labels.
The cockpit cover and the top tail section are special molded parts with prints on them which is a nice touch. The cockpit cover can be removed to reveal a simple cockpit setup with a printed instrument panel and a flight yoke. It has a space for one minifigure. Though clearly, this is a non-scale cockpit. This bomber would have at least two pilots.
Besides the stickers, my other gripe is the removal of the cockpit cover. Removing is not easy. Another con I observed is the landing gear component/under the nose. It can be popped out easily when removing the cockpit cover.
- Very solid build with well-structured internals
- SNOT build
- Accurate design (to our knowledge anyway)
- Value for money
- Too many stickers
- Transfer stickers are a pain to apply and unforgiving
- The nose/landing gear assembly easily pops off when removing the cockpit cover
- Fingerprint magnet
The quality of the plastic bricks is not great, to be honest. You can find sprue marks, sometimes in obvious spots. But given the price of this set, I think it is fair trade.
I may have pointed out as many cons as the pros but still, I’d recommend it to LEGO enthusiasts who are into military hardware. But here is the thing; this little big guy is not available from the Sembo Block website. As far as I know, it is available only in China.
If you are savvy in shopping on the Chinese ecommerce website taobao.com [CH], you may be able to bag it for 116-120 yuan which is about 16-17 US dollars. That’s right. It is that affordable.
Images: Mike for Mikeshouts.com.