Simmons Castle

After some friends gave us a wonderfully sturdy butcher-block table, I finally had a building space big enough to begin construction on my first castle. It was a great opportunity to use all the castle pieces I'd accumulated over the years. I'm most proud of the fact that other than the baseplates, I had no advance plan for the layout. It all came together quite nicely!

The main complex was built across two Royal Castle baseplates with the one from the Adventurers jungle set in the middle. The layout around the castle developed out of my hazy recollection that the villages usually grew close to the castle because they were the source of the comings and goings of many travellers. These travellers would have to pass through the village first and hopefully spend a few gold pieces on their way.

With all the open space around the castle, I built a reservoir because I ran out of green baseplates and the rivers running under the castle needed somewhere to flow.

The reservoir mainly serves as a fish hatchery, so it needs a guard to protect against poaching. Is that the right term? I know you can poach a fish once it's been stolen, or can you only poach deer and such? ANYWAY! The fish are sold in the market which you'll see next. Soldiers can take the rope bridges across the marshlands to attend archery practice at the rear of the castle.

I wanted to have some kind of farmers market, so I used most of my log bricks in this venture.

Here you can see a fishseller, a wine merchant, and a roast turkey leg stand.

On this side we have another wine merchant, a lovely sausage lady, and a hawker for exotic sea delicacies.

Upon seeing my castle, a friend immediately suggested that the display needed a town drunk. So, here's Geoff. *burp*

Next to the market are the fields where local peasants plant vegetables and grains.

I used all my round trees to fashion the avenue leading up the front gate. I also used tiles sprinkled here and there to suggest the tracks of many horse-drawn carts. You can also see the royal family returning from their hunting grounds. Why are they wearing their best finery to go hunting? Hey, if you're the King and Queen of the realm, you have fancy dress for every occasion!

Returning from a hard day's hunting, the Royal Family anticipates a lively evening of mead and meat. Huzzah!

The portcullis was quite a design challenge. It took awhile to figure out how to arrange the vertical and horizontal slats so that there would be spaces between them and yet the width would still be an even number of studs (thank heaven for 1x2 single stud tiles!). I also had to have the spears at the bottom. KERCHUNK!!

Here's the little checkpoint station with a guard. You stop here after proceeding through another portcullis (standard dark gray one-piece kind) and a set of regular brown castle doors. Once your scrolls are checked and cleared, you can proceed further into the courtyard. The ramp hides a secret!

I remembered that some castle entrances were built with thin, vertical slots on both sides so the archers could pick off attackers. On the right you can see that the ramp's secret; it folds up to reveal a storage area.

At the top of the ramp, you may notice a handle on the floor in between stacked goods. What could it be for? Hey, every castle needs a secret entrance, and the stairs molded into the Royal Castle baseplate were just begging to be used somehow.

The front tower has three levels, two of which are guard rooms. I was jazzed that the decorated Harry Potter walls fit here. The middle level has the winch for the rear portcullis while the top level has the winch for the front gate.

As you make your way to the top of the ramp, you come to the combat training area. Here, soldiers in the King's army practice dueling as well as offensive and defensive tactics with dummies and targets. After the combat arena you come to the royal garden where the Royal family can relax and smell the flowers.

Here I've removed the garden so it can be seen more clearly. I was going for an arbor-ish feel with the hanging vines and I was able to use some of my animal life as well. I especially like the frog on the bench.

I built the courtyard so that the combat pit, royal garden, and dining hall could be removed so that the underground river system could be more easily seen. I was able to add a small pier and guard post.

On the right you can also see the castle storage bins on either either side of the garden opened. I'd originally wanted to use the four pits in the Adventurer baseplate as dungeon cells, but then I decided to get away from the combat aspect and concentrate on daily life. So I filled the pits with black, yellow, red, and blue round 1x1's to represent coal, grain, apples, and fruit, the basic necessities!

Despite doing their duty in the dark, these two soldiers appear to be having a good time!

Here are two shots of the dual rivers underneath the castle. The second river has a giant spider guarding a secret entrance. What's hidden there? We'll come to that later.

Here you can see the main guard towers that protect the long sides of the castle. The upper levels are patrolled by archers, while the guards on the bottom watch for thieves attempting to slip past the gates to the underground river system.

The leader of the archers has his own pet hawk, who patrols the skies, looking for danger approaching from afar.

Here we are at the main building, which is divided into several levels. The first floor is a spacious dining hall, followed by a wizard's cabin and more guard towers.

I wanted the wizard in residence to have his own private laboratory and home. Below are four wizards having a heated discussion about the ebb and flow of evil in the kingdom.

I used every color wizard hat I have to create these four master mages. I like the Snape head and hook hands on the black wizard. He's kind of a mysterious rogue who even carries a sword in addition to his jeweled scepter.

I made the wizard's cabin removeable for closer inspection and here you can see the Tudor walls, smokestack, and the chrome telescope that's used to read the stars for portents of danger.

I made the roof removeable as well but I also needed to take out the front wall so that the interior could be easily photographed. On the right is a set of drawers, in the middle is the crystal ball with a baby dragon in the fireplace behind it, and on the right is a cabinet of potions. In the other picture are the spare wands and the key to the door. How does the wizard open the locked door with the key inside? Why, magic of course!

With the wizard's cabin and another platform removed, we are able to see the spacious dining hall below. I love the stained glass behind the King and Queen's thrones and the banners hanging from the ceiling.

I was very pleased that ladders provide access to almost every level. If a minifig were so inclined, he could climb from the courtyard to the tallest guard platform using the ladders. No areas are unreacheable except the wizard's cabin, but that's what magic brooms are for!

I built the main dining hall on a 32x32 gray baseplate so that it could be removed easily, just like the royal garden and the combat pit. This is a view looking forward so you can see all the space inside the courtyard and more importantly, what the giant spider is guarding at the secret entrance under the hall. Treasure!

Gold doubloons and chests of gems and jewels. *drool* This great wealth is guarded not only by a monstrous spider, but also by spells. If you manage to defeat the spider you must then know the spells that will open the doors to this wondrous hoard. Study your magic, thieves, if you have any hope of purloining the riches that lay within (and watch out for the rats!).

After I finished the castle, I wanted to create a carriage to carry personages of royal significance. Using the Wolfpack set as inspiration, I built this, and just like in the Wolfpack set, there's a secret storage space under the carriage.

Ok, so the doors don't provide the easiest access (they open right over the rear wheels), but what the heck. Just wanted to show the little throne upon which her royal highness takes her repose on long rides between castles.

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