Monday, November 7, 2011

Hell on Wheels Review

Last night I watched the premiere of "Hell on Wheels" on AMC. I watched it in the hope that it might offer some inspiration for my games of Malifaux. I enjoyed the pilot and here is my review.

The lead is a gunfighter named Cullen Bohannon (played by Anson Mount). Without giving too much away, he was a soldier who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. We are not told much about him, but he appears to be on some sort of revenge mission that leads him to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where the Trans-Continental Railroad is beginning to be built. Colm Meaney plays Thomas Durant, a rail baron. He is the titular bad guy, but in a neat soliloquy he mentions that without him, America would never be truly great. Elam Ferguson (played by Common) is a worker on the railroad and an emancipated slave on Bohannon's crew. There are fights, drinking, a baptism, and a raid by Indians. The train is pretty cool as well.

The revenge theme is pretty clear from the very beginning and provides the basis for several character's motivations.
There is also an element of self-preservation and desire for power. Durant, in particular, is motivated by the opportunity he has been given to make something great while also making an incredible fortune.
There is no supernatural element in the show. This series is being played as a straight Western with no magic, voodoo, or steampunk whatsoever.

Here is where I think that some Malifaux inspiration can be found. The conflicts we have seen take place in several different settings. On the plains, we see a campsite attacked by Indians. I had not thought to make a setting like this, but it would be perfect. There were several wagons, a couple fires, and a bunch of straight-sided canvas tents. This kind of battlefield would give a good mix of cover, breakable terrain, and lanes of fire.

There is also the semi-permanent work camp around the rail line. I like the idea of a section of unfinished rail, piles of dirt, stacks of ties, and half wood, half canvas shacks. The wagons being used are also distinctive. The preacher and his band even have a wagon with a steeple on the back.

The soundtrack is worth a look. I have several of the songs featured on the show, and all would make a good Malifaux soundtrack.

Despite the lack of any magic or steampunk elements, I think the show can help get you in the mood to Malifaux. It is pretty dark, gritty, and has an acceptable level of violence. I hope the show takes off and does well!


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