Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Here is another review I wrote that was originally published in Games & Puzzles magazine in 1978. The game was published by Footloose... I suspect a company named specifically for the marketing of this product.
Another spin-off of the Jaws cult, Man-Eater! is a very attractively presented chase game where one player takes on the role of a man-eating killer shark attempting to devour the four swimmers which are moved by the other player/players whose objective is to reach the shore in as much of one piece as possible.
Movement is on a colourful board depicting a rocky coastline and divided into 227 numbered hexagons. At each turn, the player controlling the shark secretly writes down the number of the hex to which he intends to move. This may be up to four hexes away but it could be the same hex as he is currently on. There is a lapse of realism here: the one factoid most people know about sharks is that they must constantly swim or they die (most breeds of shark need to swim to force water through their gills for their respiratory system to work).
The player or players controlling the swimmers moves them each a distance of up to 2 hexes, and the player controlling the shark reveals his move and places the shark piece accordingly. If the shark lands on the same hex as a swimmer, the swimmer is swallowed whole. If the shark lands on a hex adjacent to that of a swimmer, the shark takes a bite and the swimmer detaches a leg, continuing to move only one hex per turn. Swimmers losing both legs merely drift one hex in the direction of the shore. Dice are used if a swimmer lands on a hex depicting a Red Herring, which offers one of twelve instructions, half of which are favourable and half unfavourable.
The scoring system presents probably the game’s most macabre element. For each swimmer, players score three points for reaching the shore intact, two points for reaching the shore with one leg, and one point for reaching the shore legless. The player controlling the shark scores one point for each leg removed, one point for each legless swimmer swallowed, and three points for each whole swimmer swallowed. The rules do not quote the rate for swallowing one-legged swimmers, but most logically this should probably be two points.
The game’s greatest fault is in attempting to be more than a two or at most three-player game. In any game, the only thing worse than being eliminated is the chore of sitting around waiting for everyone else to finish the game. At least one swimmer is almost certain to be eliminated at a very early stage, and more often than not at least one swimmer reaches the safety of the shore at a relatively early point in the game. This means that in a five-player game, very successful or unsuccessful players tend to have very short games and spend most of the time waiting for others to finish. At its best, Man-Eater! is a two-player game of shark versus swimmers, preferably played over two rounds with the roles reversed so that scores can be most fairly compared.
All of the playing equipment is very appealingly presented, the playing board and the shark piece being particularly attractive. Nevertheless, one bloodthirsty variant worth trying is to substitute jelly babies for the swimmer playing pieces, enabling the shark player to really get his teeth into the role!
(Review by Selwyn Ward)