Today I'd like to talk about the minifigure quantities in LEGO Castle sets.
Example 1: 375 Castle from 1978
4 Knights on brick horses
The original minifig scale Castle includes an amazing number of figures.
Example 2: 6080 King's Castle from 1984
4 Knights on horseback
Example 3: 6085 Black Monarch's Castle from 1988
4 Knights on horseback - 2 with barding!
Example 4: 6086 Black Knight's Castle from 1992
4 Knights on horseback - 2 have barding and armor!
These next 3 sets still have a large number of figures. Plenty of knights to go on adventures, plenty of archers to watch the towers, and enough soldiers to defend the castle. 6086 mixes things up a little bit by replacing two of the soldiers with a ghost and a spy/prisoner/bandit, but it still provides plenty of things to play with.
Example 5: 6090 Royal Knight's Castle from 1995
1 King on horseback with barding
2 Knights on horseback
Slipping a bit here. Dropped one figure, and the Skeleton, while cool, always feels like a cheap substitute for a real figure.
Example 6: 6097 Night Lord's Castle from 1997
1 Bat Lord - I guess their version of a king
1 Knight on horseback
1 Spearman on horseback
1 Royal Knights Figure
This is where it really drops off. Again, one of them is a skeleton. While including an enemy faction figure like in 6086 adds some play options, there is no longer any army-like feel. No longer are there multiple knights, multiple archers, etc. The variety is interesting, but a few extra common figures to make the special figures feel special would have been nice.
For a while, 8 became the new 12. King Leo's Castle in 2000 had 8 minifigures. Castle of Morcia in 2004 had 8 minifigures. Then, possibly due to fan feedback, the minifigure counts went back up a little bit. Castle of Morcia in 2005 had 9 minifigures. King's Castle Siege in 2007 had 10 minifigures! Troll's Mountain Fortress in 2009 (if you count the Trolls) had 10 minifigures!
Unfortunately, this positive trend was short-lived.
Example 7: 7946 King's Castle from 2010
1 King on horseback with barding
1 Enemy Archer
1 Enemy Spearman
1 Enemy Swordsman with Armor
The Castle itself is nice, but we're back to 8 figures. 2 Archers and 2 Soldiers to defend a castle of that size, no Knights to go exploring, and 3 completely pointless enemy figures who have no hopes of taking over the castle by themselves. I mean, the enemies don't even have a siege weapon, a rope, or a ladder! It looks like the result of a company trying to cut corners. If the enemy soldiers can't put up any kind of fight, leave them out and include more good guys like in the older castles. Finally, a castle of this size should never have just one horse.
Example 8: 70404 King's Castle from 2013
1 Knight on horseback with barding and armor
3 Enemy Soldiers
Here's the third set named King's Castle. Good news: The enemies have a siege weapon this time! There is a Knight! There are two Archers! Bad news, the minifigure count somehow dropped again, there is still only one horse, and there are no melee soldiers at the castle. Honestly, the place is woefully under-manned. The only positive is that the bad guys have an almost fair fight.
Currently, the flagship LEGO Castle set has significantly fewer figures than the well-loved classics, and half of what was included in the original castle 36 years ago. There are also far fewer horses. I understand that a lot changes in 36 years. Inflation, the shrinking middle class, new horse design, increased complexity in minifigure manufacturing, design, printed surfaces, etc. However, LEGO was always promoted as a toy that was about quality, no matter what. The old castles had gates bursting with knights and walls covered with defenders. Today, people spend all that money on a big castle and don't even have enough people to put one guy on each tower.
Please find a way to include more figures in your large castle sets. A couple knights, a few more soldiers. Trust me, kids love this stuff.
Rocco J Carello