Friday, 9 February 2018

Frostgrave: Genie in the Bottle

Ragner leads his men into the city...
We returned to the icy precincts of Frostgrave this week. Reading the rules background, I can't help feeling there is a Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting here. I'm mulling over in my head what a map of Frostgrave would look like! But to the action. Last time my adventurers / looters, led by the soothsayer Ragner MacDervish, got a bit of a mauling from a rival band of goblins and orcs, but redeemed themselves near the end when their goblin apprentice was slain. Sadly, that was through no skill of mine, but the luck of the dice or, er, Skeggi Boozehound's axe.

Poor old Skeggi is resting up, as he was wounded in the last encounter. The party has discovered an abandoned library and have made that their base of operations. With Skeggi recovering, they have started looking around for more magical texts, but to no avail so far.

To replace Skeggi, Ragner decided to hire a second man at arms, as the party needs a bit of combat muscle. In addition, a new dog was purchased to replace the one killed in the last encounter. Let's now get to the action.

We played Genie in the Bottle this time, in addition to which for the first time we made use of Ulterior Motives, a deck of cards which, I suspect, was inspired by Malifaux. It gives the sides additional, secret objectives which can bring them further benefits. Ragner's was to get to a trap door which would open a magical vortex, but at the same time grant an opportunity to find some additional loot.

Tracker encounters some giant rats!
The centre of the field was dominated by an ancient mansion, and to the right was a large, icy ridge on which stood an abandoned inn. I split my party into two - Ragner took the right with a man at arms, a tracker and the zombie he raised before the game. His apprentice, Nordgrint, took the left with a second tracker and the pack of dogs. This seemed to work well.

The game was defined by a number of key phases in the action. In phase one, I was able to secure two treasure chests, and assigned my man at arms and a tracker to remove them. The man at arms was my best fighter, and all he needed to do for this game was climb onto the icy ridge, pick up a chest, and man handle it off the field.

My party got into the mansion first. I posted a tracker there with a bow who tried his best to stop the goblins grabbing the chest that sat in the gateway to the mansion's grounds. He managed the kill one goblin early on, but it was not enough to stop a second goblin from finally making off with the chest.

My other tracker found another chest guarded by a zombie, which he and the apprentice Nordgrint managed to dispatch. Nordgrint sent the tracker home with the chest, but he was ambushed on the way by giant rats. He shot one with his bow as they closed in on him, and killed the second with his staff, then picked up the chest again and left.

My pack of hounds proved their usefulness once again. This time I used them to get in among the goblins, and particularly to go after their witch. In this game you really need a weapon that can harass the enemy and stop him from doing things. However, I was also aided by the fact that almost immediately the goblins had found the lamp with the genie in it. The genie was keeping them occupied and their apprentice was having trouble casting anything. He was a poor stand in for his predecessor!

The squigg tackles the genie while a goblin grabs the chest.

The goblins came up with a good solution for the genie by setting their squigg on it. The squigg kept the genie occupied, allowing the rest of the goblins to get on with business. Later on he used a zombie to distract it as well. These were good tactics as the genie was invulnerable to normal weapons, and neither of us has much, if any, magic that can more than distract a creature like this.

Dogs get in among the goblins.
Back in the mansion, which was filling up with mud as the goblins bombarded it with mud spells, Ragner climbed to the roof, where he was more exposed than I expected, but there was a treasure chest up there. Unluckily for him, two orc archers were up on the icy ridge to his right. He was also in sight of the trap door which was on the same ridge, and he had a potion of teleportation in his pocket. It looked so close!

Frostgrave is a great game because it inevitably faces the player with hard tactical calls. Here Ragner was confronted with the choice of whether to risk all and use his potion of teleportation to get to the trap door before the goblins, or grab the chest on the roof of the mansion. It was as tough call. The trap door sat on the ridge, and Ragner would have no support from the rest of his party. My mind was made up for me when the soothsayer was hit by an arrow from the orcs, costing 75% of his health. He promptly downed the potion, teleporting off the roof with the chest to eventual safety.

Meantime my dogs had caught up with the goblin witch, forcing her to use her potion of invulnerability to keep her safe from their fangs. The goblin apprentice continued to struggle to distract the genie with various spells - I wasn't sure what he was trying to cast, but the curses from the other side of the table told me it was not going well.

With two chests off the table and a third on its way, it was time to begin withdrawing my troops. Both Nordgrint and the second tracker left the mansion, stumbling through the mud that was now knee high on the ground floor. The dogs covered their retreat but were gradually picked off. However, that's what they're there for. They're fast and cheap.

We emerged the victors this time, with the majority of the chests. We've also picked up a couple of grimoires which include spells Ragner can learn, and a magic crossbow +2! Counting the final cost, we had one dog killed outright but the rest of the pack will recover quickly. It's now time to ponder whether we buy a second dog or look at recruiting someone who can shoot a crossbow. Both trackers are fair shots with their bows, but a marksman would be an interesting prospect. The dwarf Skeggi is recovering and should be able to rejoin the party for our next foray into Frostgrave!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Thieves of Shem - to the Square of the Green Peacock!

Bagwa Grey Tusk
We left our heroes the survivors of a brutal fight in the Square of the Silversmiths in the craft district of Belthaar, a Shemite town on the edge of the Red Waste. Asantha and Baphtor the Red had met in a knife fight with Jahwar, a Shemitish street gang leader, whom they had almost stabbed to death, only managing to restore him to something resembling life with a healing potion. The sorcerer Bagwa Grey Tusk was lost, seeking Baphtor, while Borderlander Rigby Gathorn had been left to finish off the remnants of Jahwar's gang on his own. We pick up the story as Asantha and Bapthor return to the Dirty Dog inn with the unconscious Jahwar...

Arriving at the Dirty Dog, Baphtor was able to bluff his way past the night watchman, claiming that Jahwar was drunk (helped by the fact that the Shemite had been stabbed in the back). Upstairs in his room, Baphtor and Asantha frisked the brigand for some coins, then tied him to a chair. The duo sat up, keeping an eye on Jahwar, but eventually, exhausted by their battle, they both drifted off.

Baphtor awoke in the morning as Bagwa returned to the inn, having searched fruitlessly for the Zamoran thief. Asantha, however, was missing. There was no sign of her or the ancient dagger she had had in her possession. Bagwa and Baphtor questioned the inn keeper who said that Asantha had left around six in the morning, that he had spoken with her, but she had ignored him and simply stalked out of the inn.

Mystified, the two set about interrogating Jahwar. The rogue tried to threaten and cajole his way to freedom. Judicious application of hot wax to his face led him to admit that Taziz had stolen the dagger from the tomb of a wizard called Ikhtanabu Xul, a powerful sorcerer who had once dominated Belthaar, but had died many years ago. His tomb was rumoured to also contain treasure. Jahwar explained that Ikhtanabu had an apprentice called Arakshat, a magician who had since fled Belthaar but who had asked Jahwar to locate the knife that belonged to his master. Arakshat communicated with Jahwar via courier, and Jahwar said knew not where Arakshat now dwells, but did not think he was in Shem. He also revealed that his gang regularly meets in a drinking den with a red awning on the Grand Plaza, and that surviving gang members might rendezvous there.

Threats and bribes were not enough for Jahwar to win his freedom, however, and eventually he was brutally murdered; Baphtor pulled a hood over his head and cut his throat. The body was concealed under the bed.

Meanwhile, Rigby was searching for Asantha.  He finally learned from the owner of a fruit stall that Asantha favours, that the Argossean was spotted that very morning heading in the direction of the Square of the Green Peacock. Rigby set off for the square, which was small, nay compact, with a building with mighty iron doors at one end, and what looked like the entrance to a temple, complete with a pillared portico, on the eastern side. He investigated the temple, and discovered the entrance to a kennel with several caged guard dogs that barked at him.

Leaving the inn, Bagwa and Baphtored started looking for Asantha. Eventually, they asked the very same tangerine seller, who pointed them in the direction of the Square of the Green Peacock. The store keeper also mentioned that he had seen Asantha keeping company with a surly northerner. Bagwa knows the square, as it holds the entrance to the city's catacombs, and the Shrine of the Keepers, the cult tasked with mummifying the dead of the city and interring them in the catacombs. He also said he had heard dark rumours that some of these priests are actually ghouls in disguise.

Entering the square, they noticed a street magician performing near the south-west corner, but it was the shrine and the entrance to the catacombs that grabbed their attention. The square was busy, but the two made for the shrine for a closer look, at which point they spotted a surly northerner retreating down the steps of the shrine, pursued by the noise of dogs barking. Poor Rigby almost walked straight into Bagwa, whom he recognised instantly from the night before.

[At this point the GM went to make a cup of tea, leaving the players to catch up and decide what to do next.]

Baphtor the Red scouted the front of the shrine, and noted the locks on the doors, with three doors leading off the portico, along with the entrance to the kennels. A cunning plan was then hatched. Baphtor and Rigby loitered on the steps of the shrine, while Bagwa challenged the street magician across the square to a contest of illusions. He eventually - after a couple of aborted efforts - moulded a paving stone into a statue of a peacock, creating a considerable stir and distracting most of the people in the square (and earning himself four Renown points for his public display of magic). With the ruckus going on across the square, Baphtor made up the steps and tried to surreptitiously pick the lock to the main entrance to the shrine, which he succeeded in doing, although not before being spotted by the plain clothes cult member in the square, set there to keep an eye on the entrance.

Baphtor and Rigby entered the shrine and found themselves in a torch lit hall, facing a priest armed with a quarterstaff and wearing purple robes and a skull mask. He immediately challenged them, and their situation was made worse by the entrance of the watcher from outside, who accused them of picking the lock. Baphtor made a solid Influence roll, explaining that they were just looking for their friend, and claiming that he suspected she had been subject to some kind of foul sorcery. He asked for the high priest to be summoned, and the guard went to fetch him, leaving the other acolyte to keep an eye on the intruders.

Eventually the high priest arrived, wearing a gold skull mask no less, and listened to Baphtor's claims of magical kidnapping. He said he had not seen Asantha, and that really, this was not their responsibility, and could Baphtor and Rigby please leave the sacred precincts? Baphtor then changed tack, and explained that he had another friend who had sadly expired from alcohol poisoning only last night. Would it be possible to bring his body to the shrine for burial? The high priest said that not only was this possible, but in fact compulsory. Baphtor was provided with a purple shroud, and instructed to bring the body to the shrine immediately.

Leaving the shrine, Baphtor saw the young acolyte watching them warily as they walked back across the square. At a signal from Baphtor, Bagwa wowed the onlookers by animating his peacock statue, making it walk across the square, up the steps of the shrine, and roosting on the portico, where it melded with the stone of the shrine. The acolyte fled indoors.

The thieves left the square, returning to the inn, where they wrapped Jahwar's body in the shroud, and carried it through the streets back to the square. Returning to the shrine, they were met by a masked priest who showed them to the morgue. While Rigby and Bagwa were nauseated by the stench of the bodies here, Jahwar was laid on a slab. The priest told them it would cost 50 silver pieces to have Jahwar interred in the catacombs, or alternatively it was free to have him cremated. No contest really. Jahwar would be ash by dawn.

With dusk approaching, Baphtor suggested they repair to the Great Plaza for some cheap wine at a certain drinking den with a red awning. Here they spotted a young man whom they last saw in the skirmish in the Square of the Silversmiths, when he had shown a clean pair of heels as Rigby was busy bashing in the head of one of his comrades.

When confronted by the grinning Bagwa, the youth admitted he was part of Jahwar's gang, but did not know who the courier was that Jahwar had used to communicate with Arakshat. He did tell them that Arakshat had been just one of Ikhtanabu's apprentices, but that the rest had all been killed in the infighting that broke out after Ikhtanabu's death. Intimidated by Bagwa, the young fellow agreed to show our heroes Jahwar's hovel in the warehouse district. Ransacking it revealed Jahwar's stash of 140 silver coins and some letters written in code on parchment.

Night was falling over Belthaar. It was time to return to the Square of the Green Peacock, only this time a nefarious plan had been hatched. Approaching the square, the thieves were discomfited to discover the entrance to the catacombs was guarded by four skull-masked priests with two of the guard dogs. They explored a side alley, and using Rigby's climbing kit, got access to the roofs of the buildings on the west side of the square. From there it was a simple matter to reach the roof of the entrance to the catacombs. Baphtor located some loose tiles, and started removing them. Below, their lamplight shone into a large, pillared hall, from which led tunnels to the catacombs of Belthaar....!

This campaign is being played using Mongoose RuneQuest (1st edition, 2006). The setting is Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

A private contractors campaign for Delta Green?

Going where the Feds cannot tread
This is a slightly different angle for a Delta Green campaign in which the agents need not be part of Delta Green, or where DG could be brought in as a protagonist.

The 'agents' are all employees for a recruitment firm based in Miami that specializes in hiring what is laughably referred to these days as 'security consultants'. It is a small business, but with strong links to the US government, particularly the Army and potentially the CIA. At least one of the player characters ought to be ex-special forces.

The important thing here is that all the PCs are retired from active military service. They are all employees or directors of the same outfit. I should emphasise that this is a small operation with a limited balance sheet. Permanent employees should be no more than half a dozen, including an office assistant.

The company relies on the network of its founders, both in the US military and intelligence communities, but also with foreign governments and particularly those in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. The firm makes its money from recruiting contractors for service in global hot spots. Most of the work involved is relatively routine - guarding oil refineries in Libya, for example, or providing additional security for a Fortune 500 CEO's visit to Azerbaijan.

Occasionally the company may be considered for off-the-books work, funded by the CIA, where serving US military personnel would be a liability.

For doing all this work, of course, the PCs are well remunerated. They will likely live in large mansions in Florida, drive fast cars, and date glamour models. They will not seek publicity, however, as their patrons would frown upon this. The security world is a shadowy one at the best of times.

Of course, the agents work for themselves. They are not really even agents. Hence, they don't need to worry about getting fired (Delta Green Agent's Handbook - page 80). Because most of their work is taking place abroad, much of it at the behest of the US government, prosecution is less of a threat, as the Federal government will be averse to unwanted publicity surrounding the activities of government-funded contractors.

There are other challenges, of course. First off, the PCs are not actually employees of the US government. This means they cannot rely on the same level of resource as DG agents operating inside the US. PCs don't have the option to requisition resources (DGAH 86-87). That's simply not on the cards. They instead will have to rely more on their own resources, or calling in the occasional favour. Operating abroad means that overseas connections may also be able to provide the required equipment and resources and the company can draw on its corporate resources - for example that undeclared Bahamas account - to fund operations.

But what about the Cthulhu Mythos?

All well and good, but what about Cthulhu? This is where the company becomes the possible cats paw for Delta Green, using it as an asset to look into 'situations' abroad where DG has not got the contacts or the agents on the ground. Indeed, the contractors could be classified as DG friendlies, fed intel when required, but kept in the dark most of the time.

I ran a Cthulhu Vietnam campaign where the PCs began as just grunts in the field in 1966. By the end of that campaign, not only had they encountered plenty of odd activity in both Vietnam and Laos, but they had also made contact with a DG operative inside US special forces. They were effectively set up for further operations for DG in Vietnam. This is also a good way to get characters involved in events in the 1960s and 1970s. A Handler could take a similar tack with PCs starting a campaign in Iraq or Afghanistan in the 2000s.

Another possible campaign kick off point is my adventure Operation Prospero, which I've run several times at conventions, but which would make an ideal campaign starting point. Here the client is a pharmaceutical giant rather than the US government.

The Handler can really take this in one of two directions: the PCs can either be already aware of possible supernatural threats from previous encounters, or could stumble into something in the course of a commercial contract. One idea I had was for the Handler to write down the details of a Mythos encounter on index cards, one for each PC, and let the players choose them at random. This may also include details of an interaction with a DG cell.

Careers-wise, only certain background training will apply for this campaign. Ex-military and special forces personnel are the obvious ones, also ex-CIA officers. Beyond this, characters with a background in security and law enforcement might fit well or those with some kind of criminal experience. Good examples include a hacker, or a former drug smuggler who enjoys a wide network of contacts in Central America and the Caribbean. Another possible idea for a PC is a journalist now working on the firm's publicity and sales, but they are more likely to be a contact or resource.

As a final note, I've picked Miami as a default, but this company could just as easily be operating out of a small office in London's West End and feature former UK military and intelligence personnel.


Most published DG operations are set in the US and feature domestic investigations and are therefore not suited to this kind of campaign. Others presume that the agents are actual employees of federal government agencies. However, there are a few which might suit contractors rather than vanilla DG operators.

The now defunct DG fanzine The Black Seal issue  #3 (2004) featured a mission called The Spiraling, which saw agents going into Congo for Project Pisces; it could easily be adapted for US-based contractors. There is also an excellent adventure in Burma in The Esoterror Fact Book from Pelgrane Press which, although written for Esoterrorists, could easily be converted to DG.

Several other adventures written for other games, like Agents of Oblivion and The Laundry can also be adapted very easily for DG contractors.

This is quite a recent idea for me and will require some development. Further thoughts on contractors when they occur to me.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Thieves of Shem - a new RuneQuest campaign

Eastern Shem, the township of Belthaar, somewhere to the east of Shushan, on the borders of the Red Waste. Four heroes are converging on the Square of the Silversmiths at midnight, for a rendezvous with dark destiny...

  • Rigby Gathorn, a thief from the Border Kingdom, seeking his fortune in the more arid lands to the south;
  • Asantha Arking, a spy from Argos, on a secret mission for a cartel of nobles but with an eye to make some profit for herself;
  • Bagwa Grey Tusk, a sorcerer from Punt, a dabbler in the dark arts, exiled from his homeland for sacrificing several villagers in an effort to lift a curse;
  • Baphtored of Shadizar, another thief, this time from Zamora, which he has fled having robbed a religious sect (more on that later!)

Rigby Gathorn, of the Border Kingdom
Rigby and Asantha got off to a bad start, when Rigby tried to steal from the Argossean spy and was almost killed. She spared him, but he owes her. Meanwhile, Baphtored and Bogwa became friends and drinking buddies when they met by chance in an inn of ill repute in Belthaar.

Rigby has been in Belthaar for a while, doing some thieving, and has fallen in with Taziz, a local thief who has whispered of his plans to take things up a notch and do some tomb robbing. Rigby has got wind that Jahwar, a local gang leader and fence, is planning to double cross Taziz when they meet to discuss the sale of some of the loot Taziz has uncovered. Concerned, Rigby enlists Asantha's aid and they head to the rendezvous point in the Square of the Silversmiths, in Belthaar's craft district.

It is midnight when they arrive on the north side of the square, and all is quiet. The shops that line the square are shuttered and silent. In the centre of the square, torchlight illuminates Jahwar and four of his henchmen standing over the still form of Taziz.

We go straight to action as Asantha sights and shoots with her crossbow, but the shot goes wide. The thugs don't notice this as they are focused on the sound of chanting coming from the southern edge of the square. Here a muscled black man is chanting and gesticulating. Jahwar sends two of his men to investigate just as the stone paving in front of Bagwa (for it is he!) begins to take shape.

Rigby takes advantage of the distraction by sneaking up on a third thug and putting him down, breaking his arm with his warhammer. He then gets into a fight with the fourth thug while Jahwar seeks to flee down a street to the east. Asantha spots this and gives chase - the two scurry off into the dark.

As the first two thugs bear down on Bagwa, Baphtored comes tearing out of the shadows (03 on his Stealth roll) and cuts one thug across the face, knocking him down. Next to them, Bagwa has conjured some kind of strange figure composed of stone, although it does not seem to be doing much, other than glowering. Still, it is enough to obstruct the thug, and gives Baphtored time to kill him too.

Baphtored now spots Asantha leaving the square and decides to give chase; Bagwa abandons his conjuring and lumbers after the Zamoran, but he's slow on his feet and quickly loses sight of his drinking buddy, becoming lost in the maze of darkened alleys and side streets. Behind them Rigby is left to deal with the last thug, which he finally does, but not before he takes a sword slash across the abdomen. One of the fallen Shemites staggers back to his feet, and seeks to flee, but the northerner is too fast for him and kills him outright with a blow from his hammer.

Asantha pursues Jahwar through the craft district, never losing sight of him, and manages to catch up with him, seeking to stab the fleeing rogue before he can escape. She forces the fence to turn and defend himself. He is using a short sword, but in the other hand he is clutching a silver dagger etched with black runes. As they duel, Baphtored arrives and joins in. Asantha gets behind the Shemite and calls on him to surrender. Jahwar declines, but not long after he drops his sword while parrying an attack from Baphtored and it skitters away behind the Zamoran, leaving Jahwar with only the ornate dagger. Seeing the knife the gang leader is holding, Baphtored asks for the obviously antique weapon instead, but Jahwar refuses. Finally, Baphtored bluffs the Shemite into agreeing to pay to be allowed to go in peace, and then grapples with him as they attempt to shake on it.

The wrestling match is unsuccessful for Baphtored, as Jahwar proves the stronger, and breaks free, leaping to try to climb up a nearby house. As he jumps, to haul himself up onto a window sill, he is brutally stabbed by Asantha and blacks out from pain and blood loss, collapsing in a heap in the street. Seeing that Jahwar is dying, Baphtored reluctantly pours his precious healing potion between the Shemite's teeth in order to keep him alive.
Jahwar the Shemite

He then introduces himself to Asantha. It turns out that Baphtored is a friend of Taziz, and was asked by the thief to attend on his midnight meeting with Jahwar, as Taziz suspected a possible double cross. Baphtored also heard from Taziz that he planned to rob a tomb and that he saw the potential for further such robberies in the future. Asantha takes the dagger that Jahwar has dropped.

The pair carry the unconscious Jahwar back to the inn where Baphtored and Bagwa are staying. Meantime, Rigby is looting the bodies in the square before the watch arrives. Sadly, he notes that young Taziz has perished from his wounds...

This campaign is being played using Mongoose RuneQuest. The setting is Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age. More as and when it happens.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Book of the Month: A Gentleman's Game, by Greg Rucka

Readers may already know Greg Rucka from his graphic novel, White Out, about murder in the Antarctic, which was subsequently turned into a feature film by Dominic Sena. Like White Out, A Gentleman's Game features a strong central female character, in this case Tara Chase, a Minder for the UK's Secret Intelligence Service (aka SIS or MI6).

Tara Chase first made her debt as a character in the comic series Queen & Country, the first two collected volumes of which I would highly recommend. Rucka wrote the script for these, although I have to say the art was so-so and the third volume was really inferior to the first two. In it Chase is a Minder, basically an operative for MI6 who stays in London but then is sent overseas to carry out special operations for the Firm which its on site agents are not trained for. Frequently this involves assassination, but not always.

Deadlier than the male.
There are always three Minders on stand by in the comics, and by the time we reach A Gentleman's Game, Tara has been promoted up to Minder One, making her the senior operative. Unlike Queen & Country, A Gentleman's Game is a novel, so there are no pictures to look at. Given the unprepossessing art in the comics, this is no great loss.

AGG was published in 2004, which makes it somewhat apocryphal, as it begins with a terrorist atrocity on the London underground, perpetrated by a trio of suicide bombers. The similarities with what actually happened in July 2005, a year later, are disturbing, right down to one of the same subway stations - King's Cross - being targeted.

AGG picks up where Queen & Country left off, with Tara now in the Minder One hot seat as the UK government considers its response, and eventually alights on a plan to assassinate a radical cleric in Yemen. However, the book is not just about Chase, but also tracks the progress of a young English Muslim convert, from religious scholar in Egypt, through to his translation into a jihadi in Saudi Arabia. The two plots run parallel with each other, although the two characters' lives intersect only twice.

AGG is a gritty book - the turf wars between the various foreign intelligence agencies are colourful, to say the least, as is the ongoing rivalry between SIS and the Secret Service (aka MI6), inevitably leading to a violent clash at Ashford International station.

It is a well-written book, and the politics and motivations of the factions involved ring true to me; AGG spends a lot of time inside the jihadi groups in Saudi and Yemen, and Rucka, an American, has obviously spent a lot of time reading up on them post-911. It is a little dated however - only three years after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden is still alive and the war in Iraq is ongoing.

There are no James Bond antics here, no gadgets. Warfare is carried out frequently at close quarters - a .22 pistol is preferred for an assassination to anything bigger in one case, and in another someone is killed with a rolled up newspaper! Having said that, when you're outnumbered 40 to 1, nothing beats a Claymore mine.

The Minders in AGG are a closely knit team, perhaps too closely knit, and seem to worship their boss Croker, who spends most of his time chain smoking and drinking malt whisky in his office, that's when he's not getting into fights with his bosses, or trading information with Angela Cheng, the head of CIA station in London, who herself has little better to do than keep tabs on MI6. British intelligence is generally presented as being buffeted between the whims of Downing Street and the commercial interests of UK companies in the Middle East, not to mention the desires of the CIA.

In all this Mossad emerges smelling of roses, as they initially pick up vital information on the location of the target, which they try to trade for a follow up hit on an Egyptian terrorist. The Israelis are painted by Rucka as the most reasonable of a bad bunch, generally cooperative, keen to get results, under-financed and generally frustrated by the constraints imposed upon them by the Americans. The Mossad agents Landau and Borosovsky steal the show as a double act, and ought to get their own series on the strength of this outing.

The Minders themselves are an odd mix; Croker admits they are hard to find, and that those most qualified for the job are frequently bright enough to decline it. Not all come from a military background, some have criminal records, and they're not above a bit of burglary, vandalism and other riotous behavior in their spare time. Rucka portrays them as psychologically messed up, highly trained but largely expendable human weapons who can be plausibly denied if they end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. This translates itself into individuals with an on again, off again relationship with their superiors, and a limited life expectancy in the field.

Is it worth reading? I'd say only if you read the comics and like those enough to continue. If not, then don't bother with A Gentleman's Game.