By Fred Manzo
The Creature That Ate Sheboygan is a great old SPI game designed by Greg Costikyan (with art work by Redmond A. Simonsen and Charles Vess) that was published back in 1979.
According to BGG: Sheboygan is a “fabulous game where one gets to ‘wreak havoc with the monster of your choice.’ You design a monster (Godzilla, Mothra, The Really Big Slug, etc.) and then try to destroy as much of Sheboygan as possible; the opponent scrambles civilians out of the way, then sends in the police and eventually the Army. Great fun!”
We’ve played it off-and-on for years, although we’ve converted the paper, chit and pencil version into a miniatures version and moved it to a semi-mythical Manhattan. (There is also a Vassal version of the original these days). The original production values are pure 1970’s pocket edition game quality but the rules and their flexibility always produce a great, fun, quick game.
We gave the National Guard player 60 points and the Monster player 40. The first thing you do as either player is design your forces outside the knowledge of your opponent. For the National Guard each type of unit costs a set amount of points. For example, copters cost 1 point but only have an attack strength of 1. But National Guard tanks cost 6 points and have an attack strength of 6, and John who played the NG side opt for 10 of them.
Each point the creature player spends on the other hand, gets him one point of offense or defense or movement or building-breaking power. It’s up to him how his 40 points are spread around. Although some of his points can be used to buy special powers such as “Fire Breath” or “Lightning” or “Radioactive” powers (that interfere with NG unit co-ordination on the attack) or “Jumping” or “Flying.” But the more powerful the special abilities the more expensive they are. So fundamentally a creature has 5 ways to spend his points: Offense, Defense, Building Breaking, Movement and Special Abilities. If you spread them out evenly you will lose, but if you concentrate them all in one or two areas you will leave yourself open to defeat if your opponent guessed correctly and countered correctly.
(This step shouldn’t be rushed as it’s the heart of how well you will do throughout the game).
One of the creatures big advantages is that when a NG player takes losses due to combat, he loses whole units, but when a creature takes losses he loses some of the points that make up any of his abilities (but not the special abilities). So a creature that has to take 2 losses after a defeat may, for example, decrease his attack strength by one and his speed by one. When he gets to zero in all his variable abilities he losses. But the NG player may have to take a whole tank as a lose and so lose a 6 point vehicle for a 1 point hit.
The National Guard player has tanks, police cars, artillery, infantry, firemen and fire boats, helicopters and civilians. Each has certain strengths and weaknesses. And if you play without type limits certain combinations really are unbeatable. For example, say the National Guard player decides to pick 60 helicopters? They only have 1 attack point true but, on the other hand they only cost 1 point, they have unlimited stacking and their Line-of-Sight is never blocked by tall buildings. So they would be able to cross the river and attack with 60 points. Even if I had a creature that specialized in defense with an defensive strength of, say, 10 he’d still be outnumbered 6 to 1 when they attack. Of course, if I counter-attacked and eliminated, say, a copter he’d still have 59 points to attack my creature a second time at 5 to 1. So the game is susceptible to becoming unbalanced at its extremes.
This time I played the monster and decided to start with a traditional Godzilla type creature. But I provide him with “Fire Breath” and “Lightning,” which is his only ranged weapon. The remaining points were divided between his Attack Strength, Defense Strength, Movement Allowance, and Building Breaking ability. I felt that this division allowed me to produce the most damage, as I could try to set 3 fires with my “Fire Breath” during movement, I could attack up to three buildings and I could attack one National Guard unit after I stopped moving. Now, while this all sounds great in theory it didn’t turn out that way as dividing your point into so many categories just dilutes all of your abilities. For instance, I gave Godzilla 6 movement points, but John’s tanks have a 5 movement point allowance and as there are 10 of them they can swarm me after two or three turns if I stop spending the max to move. I gave my monster “4” Building attack points but a small building has a defense of “2” and a large building as a defense of “4.” As Building Breaking points can only be used once per turn I then had to decide if I wanted to conduct 2 one-to-one attacks on 2 small buildings or one 1-to-1 attack at one large building. And as “Fire Breath” only succeeds on a 1 thru 3 I’d probably only start one or two fires a turn anyway. Of course, once the fires start John receives 5 firemen as reinforcements and they can usually snuff out a fire before it spreads. Now I could have let Godzilla stick around to protect the fire from the firemen but then the tanks would overwhelm him. So my choice of weapons for Godzilla didn’t work out well at all in the first game.
So Creature is a great old game, but it is susceptible to being broken. For example, 10 tanks that cost 6 points each have an attack strength of 6 and move 5. That’s enough firepower and speed to corner any creature unless he uses the river barrier trick, and how many times can you do that? On the other hand without some limits you could design a creature with no attack or defense strength and a large building breaking strength and super speed. If the creature is defeated you would just take off the necessary points from his destruction powers or lower his speed from, say, 25 or 23 and go about destroying more buildings at the other end of the board until the National Guard showed up, after which you race to the other end of the board and repeat.
Maybe the next time we play we’ll set limits on some of the abilities and the number of each kind of unit a NG player can pick. But we will definitely try again as it was great fun.
Vassal module for Creature