By Geoffrey C. Grabowski.
As had become nearly de rigeur on this sort of thing, I might as well say that I actually bought my copy of Feng Shui, though I should note I've had the writer's guidelines for the game for a couple of months now. I'm not married to, sleeping with, on the payroll of or even particularly close friends with anyone from Daedalus, though I was introduced to Robin at Origins last year.
Enough with the disclaimer already. Review time.
Everone is really hyped, negtively and otherwise, over hte graphic presentation, so I'll start with that.
The cover looks like a Rifts book. Really. Someone pointed it out to me sitting beside the Rifts section and I had to go up and scan around to see exactly which book it was. This might be intentional, and, yeah, I was hung over and had only gotten three hours of sleep the night before. Now, I love seeing Tom Waits kicking the tar out of someone, and getting Rifts players to pick up the game isn't a bad idea. If the cover style wasn't an intentional move to get the game picked up by Rifts players, then if there was ever a place that needed a serious shot of Ting Ting going full out, it was that cover.
Internal illustrations are okay. Much better than most of the ones in Underground, and with none of the smearing present in my copies of both Underground and Castle Falkenstein. Some of them are very good. Some of them are... not. Still, this may reflect the fact that my personal tastes run a little more towards Besson and Anime Martial Arts than towards HK.
The layout and backgrounds are good. There's one page I found jarringly difficult to read (the background looks like pitted chalk) but everything else was enjoyably readable. Thankfully, however the game is comparable to Underground, it does not have the trademark Underground 1" sidebars.
The rules look to be workable and quick. I caught the hang of them while literally asleep on my feet, hung over and trying to prepare to run a totally different game. The writing is very nice, and has the easy, casual style I've come to associate with R. Talsorian and Atlas Games books. The overuse of exclamation points, so much a problem with a Certain Other Game Firm (does 3d2x12.347 damage!!!!!!!!), was avoided.
I came in really wanting to dislike the archetype-only chargen system, but can't. Within the genre, it makes sense, and I don't feel that, after I've seen the six infamous 'missing archetypes' and gained some experience with the rules, adding any I feel to be missing will be too terribly large a problem.
The background looks like a nice excuse to have every possible form of action movie all rolled into one strange and highly kinetic monster. I've already thought of several ideas for extended campaigns based around it. The background is also very easy to ditch if you want to run a more conventional action game. I'd complain it's another conspiracy oriented game, but that's such a staple of the genre I can't really bring myself to be bugged.
Yeah, I left my realism at the door, but M1911A1s are .45s and not 9mm, and all the clones are .45s too.
Some basic idea of 'how many mooks does it take to...' would have been handy also. Obviously, I'm going to figure it out in about two fight scenes, but starting off with some idea of how many nameless thugs it takes to make the 'average' (if there is such a thing) Feng Shui party member miserable would be nice.
On a scale of one to five stars:
Rules: (5: Over the Edge, 1: 1st ed. EPT)
Background: (5: RuneQuest/Ars Magica, 1: Traveller: The New Era)
Art: (5: Heresy Cards, 1: Early FASA Products)
Last modified: June 7, 1996; please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.