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Posted on Mar 28, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“O God, Thy Sea Is So Great and My Boat Is So Small” ― John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage PT- 109” Board Game Review

“O God, Thy Sea Is So Great and My Boat Is So Small” ― John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage PT- 109” Board Game Review

By Rick Martin

Profile in Courage PT-109   Board Game Review.  Publisher: High Flying Dice  Games   Game Designer:   Rod Bauer  Price  $11.95 with unmounted counters or $17.95 with mounted counters

Passed Inspection:  Easy to learn, great fun to play, company is very responsive to questions, unique subject matter, nice graphics, good replayability, solo game

Failed Basic:   typos cause some confusion, the PT boat template isn’t used to its maximum effectiveness, needs a fuel tracking chart

Profile in Courage: PT-109 is a terrific little solo game.  It is a tactical look at the legendary operations of John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 during July and August of 1943 during the Japanese attempts to reinforce Munda in New Georgia.  This boat, PT 109, became so associated with JFK that a swimming pool float toy of the 109 was produced in the 1960s (I know this because I still have my PT 109 swimming pool toy that I got when I was 4 or 5 years old!)


American PT boat operations were predicated upon the relatively small size of the boat (approximately 80 feet), high speed (41 knots or 47 mph by the book) which was actually lower due to the growth of barnacles on the hull resulting in an average real world speed of 36 knots, and its use of 4 torpedoes and multiple machine guns and even cannons in hit and run attacks.  In reality, the average real world speed of the PT boats made them somewhat slower than the average Japanese destroyer which made destroyer popping missions somewhat more challenging.

Like most High Flying Dice Games (HFDG) products PT-109 comes packed in a zip lock bag with a 4 page rule book, one 11” x 17” map, one PT-109 display, 24 mission and event cards and 23 counters.  The counters are unmounted in the $11.95 version and fully mounted on the $17.95 version of the game.  The player will have to bring his own 6 sided dice to the party.

The game sequence is as follows:

1 Rendova Event Phase

2) Mission Determination and Deployment of Japanese Units

3) Build the Card Deck per the Mission

4) Prepare your PT Boat

5) Japanese Units Move

6) PT 109 moves

7) Attempt to Establish Contact and, if Contact is Established Combat Actions

8) Return to the port at Rendova and Calculate Your Score

The turn sequences are resolved in Rounds (the first four above) with each of the four game rounds being broken in to 10 turn sequences (five to seven above) and then the Return to Port phase ends the Round.

The Rendova Event Cards cover everything from damage to the PT boat while fueling (which happened to me on my first game) to Japanese air strikes on the port!

The Mission Cards define what your objectives are for that Round.  Missions may be to sink a Japanese destroyer, rescue a downed airman or just cause general mayhem to the Japanese.  There are five missions included.

The Mission Cards also instruct the player on the types of Japanese units you may encounter, the starting locations of the Japanese units on the map and the composition of the other Mission Event Cards.  I found sorting the cards to be somewhat challenging as  all the different types of cards have the same back side so you have to look carefully at the face of each card to determine the type of card it is. The cards are color coded on the face side to help sort them out but a stamp on the back saying something like “Mission Card”, “Rendova Event Card”, etc. would have been helpful especially for color blind gamers.

The Japanese units have a chart on the board which shows how they move and what the results of the move may be.  The directions are given in number of squares and then North, South, East or West.  The game board does need a graphic overlay of a compass rose on the map since the Japanese Contact Counter movement is predicated upon moving North, South, East or West.  As it is now, the player just has to assume that West is left, North is up, etc.

When you outfit your boat, you’ll purchase supplies such as medical kits, ammo, extra fuel and even an improved 37mm cannon to mount on the PT boat template.  Crew positions are marked but not represented by counters.  I think that this game should be expanded with crew members to place on the PT boat template as well as skills for the crews, hits to individual crew members, etc.  I have my fingers crossed for such an expansion.

Your PT boat only has 30 units of fuel.  Each unit of fuel will move you one square on the board.  Unfortunately a fuel tracking chart is not included so you’ll have to use either the turn point chart to keep track of your fuel or, as I did, a 20 sided and 10 sided die.  You may be able to purchase extra fuel storage to help your range out.  If you run out of fuel before returning to your base on Rendova, you’ll suffer the indignation of having to be rescued and towed.  This will result in a loss of Victory Points.

As you attempt to intercept the Japanese, you attempt to pilot your boat in to a square with a contact; If you move in to the same square as a Japanese Contact Counter, you then draw a card and see what the contact is.  It may just be a missighting or it may be a Japanese ship – either a patrol boat like yours or a barge or cargo ship or it could be a destroyer.  If combat occurs, the card you drew will then have die roll options which dictate the flow of the encounter.  For example, if you encounter a Patrol Boat, you roll 1d6 and, per the card, it initially results in either the PT boat suffering a hit resulting in either a casualty to your crew (if Kennedy is killed you lose the game!) or damage to your boat or your boat being destroyed or you may damage or destroy the enemy boat.  Unfortunately, a typo on the Japanese Patrol Boat card has the enemy patrol boat being “destroyed” on a 1 to 4 or “destroyed” (again) on a 5-6.  Errata has been released stating that 5-6 should read “damaged”.

If HFDG were to release an advanced game or an expansion to this, I would love to see a tactical combat system in which the battles between your PT boat and the Japanese ships could be fought out instead of resolving the encounter by die rolls on the cards.

Medical Kits are included to help defer crew casualties but the rules don’t address how to use them but this was addressed in the errata though.

Once you achieve your mission or have to turn back owing to damage or crew losses, you return to base and assess your Victory Points.  Your boat gets repaired and crew replaced if necessary.  I did find the lack of events on the way back to your port to be somewhat anticlimactic.  I ended up drawing an event card on the return trip of my third and fourth missions just for fun and to see if I could survive.  I did and won the mission by sinking a Japanese destroyer!

The game is great fun!  It is perfect for the new gamer as well as old seadogs like me.  It can be played in an hour or so and doesn’t take up too much space.  It is the perfect game to take on a trip.

Don’t let the errata dissuade you from playing it and, if you have a question not covered in the errata, HFDG has great customer support and gets back to you within a day or two to answer your questions.  They got back to me the same day!

There are a few other barnacles on the bottom of the boat.  The cards refer to the enemy by an unfortunate abbreviation which was used extensively as a pejorative back during the war to refer to the Japanese.  Rod Bauer, the game’s designer, told me that he tried to find a suitable abbreviation that would fit on the limited space on the card and that this was the overriding factor for the choice of the abbreviation.  I found the abbreviation to be “uncomfortable” from a 21st Century perspective.  It certainly may alienate some gamers like me who have many close Japanese friends and it may especially alienate gamers in Japan who may want to give this game a try.

The game could be expanded upon with new missions and a much more in-depth combat system.  I found the PT 109 deck plan to be underutilized in the game as it is now.  I would prefer being able to have an advanced version of the game where I can assign crew to each position, track their skills and casualties.  This could easily be the patrol boat version of “Target for Today” with expanded mission and event cards.

None-the-less, Profile in Courage PT-109 is a great game and for the price of less than $20 you really can’t go wrong!  What are you waiting for sailor? Set full speed and ready torpedoes!


Armchair General Rating: 91 %

Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 to 5 with 1 being Poor and 5 being Perfect for Solo)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!  Rick is also the designer of Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.