Friday, July 4, 2014

Karl Kopinski: Zombicide Special Guest Box Impressions

Karl Kopinski steps into Zombicide!

Although this blog was created primarily to document our ongoing modeling projects for miniature-based gaming, we also wanted to use it to talk about and showcase artists.  Towards this end, I have never missed an opportunity to extol the skill of Karl Kopinski.  Although he has since returned to freelance work, Kopinski created a name for himself during the 7 years he spent working in the Games Workshop art department.  With an incredible eye for detail, tempered with both proportion and perspective,  his work infused a vitality and realism into Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 that has not been surpassed or equaled since his departure.  So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that Guillotine Games, creators of the wildly successful zombie board game Zombicide, commissioned Kopinski to design two survivors (and their zombie counterparts!) for use in the game!

Just a small selection of Kopinski's work, each injecting his own unique vision into Warhammer 40,000.

I have to be upfront here, I have never played Zombicide, but being an avid board game player, I have considered picking it up a time or two.  The game is a cooperative one where players take control of a host of survivors, guiding them to complete a series of missions while being assaulted by zombies at every turn.  The game has had two successful Kickstarters (and is currently running a third), the first to produce and publish (via CoolMiniOrNot) the original game, the second and third to publish new stand-alone games/expansions.  During their second Kickstarter, they introduced the brilliant idea of commissioning notable artists (Special Guests) to design their own survivors (along with zombified versions of them) for use in the game.  They had an impressive showing with their first three Special Guest boxes, recruiting the likes of Adrian Smith and Kevin Walker.  But what really made me take notice was the inclusion of Karl Kopinski. True to form, Kopinski’s designs completely overshadowed those of all of the other survivors, Special Guest series or otherwise.

The contents of the box, all 4 figures, datasheets, and plastic clips for tracking in-game progress.

So when I saw that my local game store recieved the Zombicide Special Guest Boxes, I knew I had to pick it up and see how Karl’s designs were transitioned to miniatures.  The box contains two characters, Angry Mary and Red Cap Ben.  Karl eschewed the cartoon/comic book style of the other Zombicide characters, and instead opted for his characteristic realism and detail.  His simple designs speak to the grim reality of the game, with normal people being pulled into horrible situations, one after another.  Ben, with an understated, well-worn jacket and a flask tucked into his belt.  Mary in SWAT fatigues, high combat boots, with a boxy thigh holster, and a kydex sheathed straightblade.  But the most striking element of the characters are their faces, both capturing so much emotion. For Ben, a steely, calculating gaze framed by a grizzled unkempt beard.  And for Mary, pursed lips and doubting eyes in a sinuous face.  Better still are the disheveled faces of their zombie counterparts; cross-eyed and slack-jawed, vacant and breathless.

Angry Mary brings back good memories of playing Resident Evil with Jill Valentine!

Mary's tactical gear made an excellent transition into plastic, none of it exaggerated due to the small scale. 

They even realized the flayed right wrist in the in the plastic!

I was really interested to see how the pictures would translate into plastic models, and was pretty amazed to see how well they were realized.  A surprising amount of the detail present in the illustrations transferred to the sculpts (clearly done on a computer).  Ben’s flask is still there, held tightly behind a belt of shotgun shells beside a blued automatic.  The wrinkles in his pants and knit of his cap all made it onto the model. Mary’s combat boots are laced up the front, and tactical harness snug against her.  Their weapons, particularly Mary’s MP5K, look fantastic, from the ghost sights to the characteristic foregrip.  The zombie versions even feature tattered clothing, clawed hands, and hanging flesh.  All of this is more impressive when you consider that the 28mm figures are not heroic scale, like Games Workshop, and therefore maintain anatomical proportions. The plastic is durable and holds detail well, not quite as sharp at GW plastics, but still very good.

I was amazed how much of the grim determination and grit of the illustration was conveyed into the model.

They effectively captured the shambling gait of the recently deceased.

Although 28mm, the Zombicide models are not heroic scale like GWs'. 

At $25 retail, the Special Guest box is a little expensive, but this is easy to forgive due to the high production values, and more excitingly the artist’s contribution to the game.  Each figure also comes with a cardboard data sheet for use in the game (along with a little plastic clip to mark the survivor’s progression in game).  Ultimately, I am really happy with how much effort was put into bringing Kopinski’s artwork into model form.  It would have been easy for Guillotine Games to simply rely on the artist’s fame to sell the kits and put minimal effort into them past commissioning the artwork, but I am happy to say that is far from the case.  I am now more tempted than ever to wade into the mayhem of Zombicide, with Ben and Mary side by side, feeding shotgun shells into a trusty pump-action and thumbing a machine pistol to full auto.

- Eric Wier


  1. Nice little review. The minis are hand sculpted though :-) as are all Guillotine Games miniatures to date.
    Pictures of original sculpts on BoardGameGeek:

  2. Good to know. That makes the models even more impressive! Particularly when so many companies are switching over almost entirely to digital renders.

  3. I'm getting this myself. Two great looking survivors here :D

    I've not played Zombicide yet, but the sting in my wallet tells me I will be doing so soon.... ;)

    1. Yeah, they are super cool models, some of the best of Zombicide, and that is saying a lot! The game can certainly be taxing on the wallet, so many expansions... :)