I admit, if I was seeing Feng Shui 2nd edition for the first time, I would probably think it was a pretty good game. When I compare it to First Edition, I can’t help being disappointed. Here are some of my issues, the ones I have worked out in my mind, (vs ones I am still mulling over and may decide are not problems after all).
Fortune. It is always nice to have clear, cool things that an Archtype can do which makes them better in their particular area than other types of characters. It is good to have Martial Artists who are better than Scrappy Kids and Everyman Heros at Normal Fighting and Scrappy Kids better at Deceit and Intrusion than straight Martial Artists and so forth. In First Edition, Fortune was one of those things, you had the Everyman hero whose Fortune was 10, the Scrappy Kid, Gambler and some species of Transformed Animals who were in the 8-6 range and pretty much everyone else was between 0-2. That was what made those characters special. Now, everyone has Fortune, of some sort. True, many of the other types have to spend them for the best uses of their special Shticks, but just because there is another way to spend Fortune doesn’t mean that that is the best way to spend Fortune Points. A Mutant has just as much Fortune as a Everyman Hero, and it is easier for the Mutant to control regaining Fortune (causing impairment in Named Foes) than it is for the Everyman Hero (completely run out and you have a 1/3 chance of getting them all back and a 2/3 chance of being out for the rest of the night)
Shticks that use Fortune Points: Almost all shticks that use Fortune points seem suboptimal to me. For instance, there is a Mutant shtick that increases your defense by +1 for a sequence but costs a Fortune point and a shot. Is that better than being able to add a fortune dice to a roll? There are some circumstances where a +1 bonus to defense is better, but most of the time, it seems the fortune dice is more useful as a fortune die.
Death Checks: If you want your players to do cool things, you need to make it hard for them to die. If you do crazy things and you die, then you play more cautiously next time. If acting cautiously doesn’t increase your survival odds, the universe seems unjust. First Edition gave everyone a pretty comfortable margin between getting knocked out and risking death unless your fellow players helped you and being actually dead. Second Edition doesn’t. Does that make the game mechanics match the source material better? Maybe, but I would rather have players who approach the game with gusto and not match the material than have them approach the game with caution and not match the material for that reason.
Junctures: My understanding is that the 2056 juncture evolved from one that was originally conceived by the author to what it became in Seeds of the New Flesh. However, I always loved the politically correct, repressive world that was Buro, and the post-apocalyptic world that replaces it seems pretty bland. It also doesn’t really fit into the Chi War, if you are trying to take over sites and change the future into something else, making the last juncture a place with no sites makes it suboptimal location to put your faction’s effort into. No reason the Ascended don’t just put nukes with timers under the locations where the Simian Army are congregating. That wouldn’t work against the Architects of the Flesh, as their control of chi in their juncture would protect them, but since the Simians don’t have any chi in their era, they are at the mercy of forward planning.
1850 Juncture vs 1870: I am not sure why grabbing sites in the Wild West and Reconstruction South isn’t as interesting as 1850. It seems like the Guiding Hand would be hurt in the long term, as those who would have been recruited to be Innerwalkers are no longer young men, they are now Innerwalkers or dead, and the only ones available to recruit are those who were not good enough last time.
Pop Up Junctures: How the factions react to pop up junctures doesn’t make sense. How did the Ascended win? They went through a pop up juncture and took control of sites when it closed and no one could interfere with them. It seems that the Four Monarchs best strategy is to find a pop up juncture to a period with lots of magic, invade in full force and take control of the whole world once the juncture seals itself off. That is such an obvious strategy, it doesn’t make sense that at least one of the Monarchs has not done so. So, with pop up junctures as common as they are purported to be, why are there still four Monarchs?