“Dead men walkin’! We’ve got dead men walkin’ here!“
Traditionally in warfare when a soldier dies, their service has (rather obviously) come to an end. Quite aside from the human tragedy involved, this precludes their participation in future conflicts, something considered deeply inconvenient by High Command. However, in the weird war of 1947, death isn’t quite the impediment it used to be! Thanks to the advances in science made possible by Rift-tech, human corpses find a new niche – semi-autonomous terror weapons! Let’s don our lab coats and take a look at the grisly secrets behind these ghoulish soldiers…
On the 28th of July 1944, US forces near Caen were set upon by a new kind of horror, unlike any they had faced before. A shambling horde of walking corpses, clad in tattered German uniforms, fell upon the American soldiers with clawing fingers and gnashing teeth. Tough to kill (although by no means impervious to gunfire), the sheer unnatural terror they inflicted upon the GIs almost caused a rout, and stopped the Allied advance dead (pun intended) in its tracks, giving the German forces the time they needed to dig in. For a time, wild theories abounded as to the nature of these undead soldiers, designated Totenkorps by the Germans. Chaplains were deployed to the front, while Allied scientists scrambled to recover an intact enough specimen to conduct a thorough examination. All the while, the dead kept coming, although over time their terrifying impact was somewhat lessened through familiarity – nevertheless, to inexperienced troops, they were still a potent shock weapon!
Eventually, a shocking discovery was made – the Totenkorps were not the product of the supernatural, but rather the first of the Rift-tech weapons to be deployed en masse. In a brutally simple operation, a neural power pack and ‘re-energiser’ were implanted into the brainstem of a fresh corpse. This would, in essence, ‘jump-start’ brain activity, allowing a horrifying pantomime of life and motion. While the person they had once been was long gone, the corpse did appear to retain some limited understanding of its previous loyalties, and could be given simple orders, such as ‘remain here’ or ‘attack that position’. Fundamentally, German scientists had managed to create the ultimate disposable troops, and ensure that German casualties could continue to serve the Reich. This, quite understandably, caused the Allies to redouble their efforts to deploy their own Rift-tech forces, finally understanding exactly what kind of fight they were in for.
While undeniably useful, the Totenkorps were not without their limitations. As mentioned previously, they lacked any sort of tactical flexibility or initiative, and were incapable of employing any sort of weapon beyond perhaps a broken rifle as a cudgel. They were also slow, shambling into battle, and unable to make effective use of cover. A well-sited machine gun could mow them down like wheat, provided it was supplied with enough ammunition (direct hits to the head being required to fully disable one of the walking corpses) and the crew held their nerve! The disquieting effect of the Totenkorps was not limited to their enemies, either. Rather understandably, many German soldiers were deeply uncomfortable seeing their erstwhile comrades reanimated as shambling husks, and knowing that a similar fate could well befall them after death. As morale plummeted, several German commanders refused outright to serve alongside the Totenkorps, who increasingly came under the fanatical leadership of the Waffen-SS.
With the clandestine transfer of Rift-tech from Germany to their allies in Japan, it was inevitable that the walking dead would make an appearance in the Pacific theatre. In May 1947, a British special forces raid discovered a clandestine laboratory in New Guinea, where Japanese scientists had apparently been able to both speed up the original German process, and overcome many of the initial drawbacks – most horrifyingly, they appeared to be capable of using corpses of any nationality, adding immensely to the psychological impact of the units, which they called the Shibito, and allowing them to raise fresh forces from the aftermath of defeat or victory with equal ease. Frequently deployed as garrison troops on isolated islands (with no need for resupply!), they proved every bit as horrifying and resilient as their German counterparts, and added a bleak new misery to the war in the Pacific for the Allies.
On the Konflikt ’47 tabletop, the Totenkorps and Shibito are an undeniably useful tool for any German or Japanese general with the stomach to field them. Cheap compared to many of the other high-tech forces on the battlefield, they can be fielded in hordes of up to 24 models. While they count as Inexperienced, the Tough special rule means they have a 5+ chance to simply shrug off incoming fire, and they ignore Pins altogether! They also cause Horror, lowering the morale of all units (friend and foe!) around them, while Fanatics means they’ll fight to the last man (corpse?) in close combat. Of course, they are Slow, so a cheap transport such as a truck or repurposed civilian bus is often desirable, but there’s definitely something to be said for the effect that a horde of walking corpses grinding their way up the middle of the table can achieve! They also make fantastic ‘screening’ forces for your more valuable units, absorbing incoming fire and setting off ambushes. For those who have to face them… a cool head and large amounts of high explosives are your friend! Blast them out of existence with artillery or mow them down with autocannons, but make sure you don’t ignore the rest of the enemy army!
Want to command your very own horde of walking corpses? Of course you do – it’d be weird if you didn’t! Pick up a box (or two, or three…) today, and bury your opponents in rotting flesh!
Spooky reading, love the weird war that is Konflikt ’47