Every once in awhile an idea comes around that is so damned exquisite that it must be not only done but continually refined and revisited until it is beaten to death…and even then is still cool. One day a couple of years back a big group of the Alamo Gamers guys all gathered around the table at the Grindhouse designing Secrets of the Third Reich zombie rules. Once we had determined that zombies were to be weaponized and controlled in a limited fashion, John piped up and queried, “what if we had a zombie strapped with explosives that was detonated from afar?” Much hilarity ensued as we immediately put the notion to test. We frantically emailed Andy Cooper of West Wind across the pond about the idea and he responded immediately with the following sketch:

So the notion of the Zombie Bomb was born. At the time, 9/11 and the rampant suicide bombings in Israel were much closer than they are now so we all felt a bit nervous about the idea but somehow, it was really okay for zombies to be explosives delivery devices. It would put the poor bastards out of their misery anyway and would surely be better for their unfortunate victims than having their brains eaten or guts gobbled while they still lived. The image below is of the most excellent Zombie Bombs that Andy Cooper of West Wind designed and produced for Secrets of the Third Reich, painted by yours truly (you understand now why guys like Alden are doing the painting for Incursion :-)). These are the very first of their kind, are the progenitors of the Bomberzombies, and all further permutations of the concept yet to come!

Zombie bombs were designed by the SWD to act primarily as assault engineers. They are tasked with blowing fortified bridges and emplacements as well as tackling enemy armor. Their usefulness does not however end there. They are first and foremost, weapons of terror. They are sometimes fitted with biological agents such as V-gas canisters, reactor rods for dispersal of radioactive elements, high explosives, and even common pathogens such as the black plague, killing influenza strains and other airborne killers that are strengthened in this time of madness where antibiotics are worth their weight in gold. The zombies don’t mind.

Another time as we gathered about the Grindhouse design table, John said, “wouldn’t it be most excellent if these guys were like seriously giant walking bombs, like naval mines”. I giggled, “like explosive Weebles? Naval mines with little zombie appendages sticking out?”. He said, “yeah man, exactly”. At this point we were laughing so hard I was dribbling beer out of my nose. Not sure if it was the idea that was funny or the twelve-pack I had downed during the design session but anyway we were off and running. Well, along comes Incursion in May 2008 and then we’re not laughing so much. It sounds like a hell of an idea. What better to tackle Allied destroyers and aircraft carriers? Guided mines. That meant that Gibraltar would need a high bandwidth pinger to control these guys and that high frequency heavy transmission would be the allies first clue that something serious was down in the depths.

Into the picture steps Dan Pacey. Dan’s done a bunch of work for GW and is a fantastic concept artist and a hell of a zombie sculptor, bless his heart. The Grindhouse crew is utterly merciless in its internal criticism. Poor Dan would draw something super cool and we would all tear it to shreds. Everything any one of us writes, draws, or sculpts is subjected to the most intense, soul-searing, god-awful criticism known to human-kind. I think you folks would be shocked at the hell we put each other through in the pursuit of excellence…all in a spirit of comraderie though. We’ve all become accustomed to it and I think the product says that we’re doing the right thing. Anyway, here comes Dan doing the first Bomberzombies in the “Weeble Method” (tee-hee):

We were all feeling a bit goofy about the concept but that’s never stopped us before. We posted up a couple of the “Weeble Methods” on the forum and got a pretty mixed reaction. A number of folks said “Hell yeah!” but enough folks expressed restrained support that it was clear a new direction was needed. Dan does the back bomb! The sketch below is of a more realistic version of the Bomberzombie than the Weeble. These sketches really show off his technical proficiency and are incredibly characterful. None of us felt that this was quite there despite the endearing nature of the vignettes.

Dan Pacey vindicated! Dan’s first rough sketch back in Spring of ’08 was of a zombie totally laden with explosives and the first glimpse of the fist detonators. None of us really “got it” but after all the Weebles and the backpack bomb, I guess he’d had enough of our knuckle-chewing and hand-wringing and did one incredibly evocative sketch that sold us all on the concept. Dan Pacey wins. The gut bomb and ragged face he drew are only part of the picture however. The other really innovative bit is the prosthetic detonators that are the Bomberzombie’s fists that are a recurring theme thoughout his sketches. This turns the BZ into a true “Panzerfaust” which translates to “tank-fist” in German. Works well against ship hulls below the water line too! The first image is Dan’s very first concept sketch followed by the very grainy bit that finally became the Bomberzombie:

Next comes the most talented Keith Lowe’s technicolor rendition of Dan Pacey’s final concept. Keith has been tasked with illustrating all of the concepts of the design team in a cohesive and immediately recognizeable format as dictated by Tears of Envy. He is a hell of an artist as well as being a really talented concept guy himself. We’ll give him more space to talk later but he did Ilsa von X all on his own and Seth and the others were all so taken by it that Seth made Ilsa in Green Stuff and John, Agis, Tom, and I wrote her into the game. This is just one example of how the team works. We’re a dynamic black box of ideas and only the best stuff stands…but I digress.

So finally we have Dan Pacey’s most excellent Bomberzombie masterpiece sculpt painted by Alden Miranda. The unique character of this model is self evident. You can really feel this poor guy’s sadness and malevolent disposition. Seth Nash then stepped in to do a conversion of Dan’s original and threw an even more irreverent twist on it. By slightly hunkering the model down and giving it both a steel skull and a raging open-mouthed silent scream, he has made something quite special. Mean Machine anyone?

We all know that zombies are the bacon of wargames because EVERYone loves that stuff. Well, if that’s the case then Bomberzombies are breaded, chicken fried bacon with white gravy on the side :-)

Thanks for reading. As I or others on the team find the time, we hope to share more insights into our design process with all of you.

Jim