Here continues the Strongblade Zombie Survival Manual. In my last post, I spoke about the effectiveness of swords in a zombie apocalypse. Today, I’m going to talk about the effectiveness of heavy things that can crush bone to bits and spatter blood in a twenty-five foot radius. That’s right. Get your maces and mauls out, because today, I’m talking about bludgeoning implements.
I look away from the portcullis and kick at the fiends advancing on this side of the gate. They fall upon me with their ungainly weight. Pin me to the stones and pull at the plates of my armor. They are clever chickens, these demons. They know they cannot hurt me until my armor is off.
Two of them pull at my helm with both hands. The strap at my chin bites into my flesh. My sword is still trapped in the head of a demon. I cannot find the [blade]. I flail with my hand, striking a swollen arm. It is like punching dough. The strap tightens against my chin and creaks. Either the rivet holding it to my helm will break or my jaw will. I strike at the demons with my hands, pull at them, scratch at their flesh with my gauntlets.
More and more of them tug at my armor. I kick a gourd-nosed monster in the face three times, crushing cartilage and tearing flesh, but it continues to pry at the greave on my left shin. The greave snaps off and the creature falls backward holding it in two misshapen hands. I swing wildly at another demon with my fist. It is a good blow. An astounding blow. So powerful that it causes the monster’s head to explode in a cloud of blood and bone and flesh.
I made a demon’s head explode.
I look at my gauntlet. There is no blood on it. I look back up at the creature as it falls sideways. A man in rusted chain mail stands beside me. I did not make a demon’s head explode. He did.
The man swings something heavy and black and another demon head erupts. The pressure on my helm ceases. I glance back at the portcullis. It is up at about waist height. The demons outside make no attempt to enter.
“Get up!” The man in the rusted mail holds a flail. His entire body lurches as he swings the spiked ball in a slow, wooshing circle.
– From THE SCOURGE:NOSTRUM by Roberto Calas
There is nothing more satisfying than pounding a human skull with something blunt and heavy. The thud of metal on bone. The warm spray of blood. The beautiful vibrations in your hand and the grunt of your victim as his (or her) body crashes to the ground. An exhilarating experience.
Or so I’ve heard.
Think about the times when you are most frustrated. Those moments of mindless, infantile rage. Do you feel like slashing something at those moments? Stabbing something? No. You feel like going PC-load-letter on the nearest inanimate object. You feel like picking up something heavy and hulking out with it. It’s an innate desire in humankind—the urge to crush. That urge is your primal self. And, in a zombie apocalypse, you should listen to your primal self. Because blunt objects are, arguably, the best choice when dealing with the hungry dead.
It is difficult to penetrate a human skull with a blade, but hammers and maces and mauls were designed to do just that. When only a head-shot will do, you can’t go wrong with a bludgeon. And one of the best all-around bludgeoning tools is:
Advantages: Fast, excellent penetration power, light, often equipped with a spike for added lethality.
Disadvantages: Wide swinging arc, small striking area.
No one could possibly fault you for bringing a war hammer to a zombie battle. Well, they could, but you have a war hammer in your hand, so they probably shouldn’t. And even if you didn’t have a war hammer in your hand, they still wouldn’t say anything because the war hammer is a damn good choice. (Although if you didn’t have one in your hand, they would probably fault you for not bringing a killing implement to the zombie apocalypse. So, really, you can’t win with these people. Haters gonna hate. And stuff.)
Let’s start by getting our definition’s straight. When we talk about a war hammer, we’re not talking about the thing Thor uses (called Mjolnir, if we’re getting all technical and stuff). We’re talking about that thing to the left. A European war hammer from the late middle ages. Light, fast and lethal. It’s loosely related to the poleax, which I’ll talk about in a later post.
There are two types of war hammers. The long-handled ones, used by footmen against mounted opponents, and the short-handled ones, used in the lethal duck-duck-goose games played by horsemen against foot soldiers.
Because of the slow swing and long haft of a horseman’s hammer, it is not as effective against the hungry dead (unless you are mounted, in which case you should probably just ride the hell out of Dodge). What I’m referring to is the footman’s hammer. A thing of zombie-crushing beauty. Light, fast, heavy. It was made to penetrate steel helmets, so what chance does a rotting skull have? The head is a one-pound block of iron or steel, usually with four raised points at the front to focus the power of your blow. And if that doesn’t do it for you, just flip it over and pound with the steel spike on the back. And once you’ve finished off the hungry horde, you can always use the spike to open a can of Hi-C or Hawaiian Punch. Ahhhh. Apocalyptically refreshing.
The drawback to a war hammer is the same as most bludgeons: You need room to build up the momentum necessary to crush bone. So, when the dead close in, your hammer becomes far less effective. And that’s when you’ll remember the second drawback: It’s difficult to kill yourself with a hammer when the demons start tearing chunks out of you with their teeth.
Okay, assuming you haven’t adequately prepared for the zombie apocalypse (we tried to warn you), and you don’t have a war hammer handy. Below are some other Bludgeoning items you might want to consider.
Advantages: Fast, good penetration power, light, sometimes flanged or spiked for added lethality.
Disadvantages: Wide swinging arc, small striking area.
Maces have been symbols of power for hundreds of years. Show the zombie horde your power. And when I say that, I mean, hit them in the head with a flanged mace like the one to the left. Maces are close brothers to the war hammer, in the dysfunctional Pulveration family. Except that the striking points—even on flanged maces—are not as focused as on a hammer. But if a war hammer is not an option for you, then reach for one of these beautiful instruments of zombie annihilation. And show the zombies your power.
Advantages: Monstrously effective at killing, coolness factor off the charts, Builds muscle and endurance.
Disadvantages: Wide swinging arc, extremely slow speed, wielder becomes exhausted quickly.
Mauls are the sledge hammers of the Middle Ages. Massive, powerful, intimidating. You can get a bloody nose just by looking at them. One blow will completely obliterate a head. Zombies are mindless, but even they are afraid of mauls. So, a perfect choice, right? Wrong. While a maul will give you high marks for style, its heavy weight and slow swing will put you on the menu after two or three swings. Exhaustion comes quickly with a maul, and an exhausted survivor is what we like to call “dinner.” Or worse.
Advantages: Excellent penetration power, style points, builds muscle and endurance.
Disadvantages: Wide swinging arc, slow speed, risk of self-injury.
In the second book of my trilogy, The Scourge: Nostrum, a man who calls himself Praeteritus uses a flail to fend off the hungry dead. A flail is a spiked metal head connected to a handle by a short chain, Like a maul, the flail gives him high marks for style. Unfortunately, the flail requires a lot of room to use effectively. Add to that the amount of energy required for each swing and you have a tool that kills you faster than your opponents.
Advantages: Better than using your hand.
Disadvantages: It’s a club.
Don’t. Just don’t.
Advantages: Fast in hands of well trained wielder, good range.
Disadvantages: Very poor penetration power, wide swinging arc
The staff, cudgel, or quarter-staff is a decent choice against unarmored humans, but a poor one against zombies (whether they have armor or not). A staff can crack a skull on a skilled strike, but who cares about cracking skulls? Your opponents have loose flesh dangling from their faces. Some of them don’t have any damn noses! (And, you might ask, “If they don’t have any noses, how do they smell?” And the answer to that, of course, is, “Terrible.”) To kill the hungry dead, you have to get past the skull, into the brain. And a staff is not effective at doing that.
I’ve included a diagram that details each of the items discussed above, their strengths, weaknesses, and overall effectiveness. The higher the rating number, the more effective. Print it out. Study it well. Keep it with you always. Keep it safe. Your life may depend on it. Or you may have to jot down someone’s phone number and not have paper available.