Mini Golf Designer Preview

Something about mini golf has always drawn me in. It’s the only form of golf I enjoy and adding a 12-foot windmill to a putting green is always a plus. When we were approached about checking out Mini Golf Designer, I had to say yes!

Mini Golf Designer is a tile laying game that puts you in control of building out your very own mini golf course. Anyone can slap down a tee box and a hole. It takes a real pro to arrange a course in a way that pleases clients and doesn’t cause deep regret by the end of the game.

Players choose one of three course layouts that are dealt to them in the beginning of the game. Think of this as a box that you have to keep your design in. During a round, players draft a new tile from a row that also determines player order. If you’ve ever played Kingdomino, this process is very fluid and straight forward. The tiles on the left of the rulers have less value while the tiles to the right are usually the ones everyone wants.

A player can jump to the front of the line by placing their marker on the bench to the left of the tiles. This means they will skip taking a tile in order to pick first in the next round. Doing this too often can allow other players to finish their course before you.

After drafting a tile, players add them to their course following the placement rule that the new tile has to be linked to an already existing tile (orthogonally or diagonally). This can create some terrifying gaps that you’ll work to close over coming rounds.

The par of a hole is determined by the sum of the numbers on the red flags that make up the hole. When a player has finished their course, they can collect bonus tiles worth 3 points a piece until the other player(s) end their game.

Making the Clients Happy

Points are awarded in lots of ways. Staying within your course layout card gives you points. You’ll receive points for keeping the par of a hole within a certain range. You’ll even earn points for the number of people who appear on the tiles on your course.

At the start of the game, two client cards will be revealed that give points for meeting specific criteria. You’ll have to impress one female and one male client that everyone is competing to earn favor with. Mini Golf Designer even has an advanced mode where players are trying to fulfill promises to clients that only you get access to throughout the game.

Planning for Fun

Like many tile laying games, Mini Golf Designer requires you to have some level of spacial reasoning. While there were times when I was waiting for a certain piece, nothing could take away the excitement of completing the perfect hole. I got a genuine rush when a plan came together after a handful of uncertain turns.

I love the top-down view of these tiles and the sheer variety that comes in the game. This prototype has 256 tiles that have personality and style. If you’ve read my game reviews previously, you know I can be tough on the art style of a game. I can’t say that I love the art on the client cards, but the hand drawn style absolutely works on the actual game tiles.

The mini golf score cards keep track of the par count on each of the 9 hole you build on your course. Players use colored acrylic cubes as they aim for just the right par number on each hole. Ideally players are aiming for holes with a par of 3 to 5 in order to receive 2 bonus points for each one in this range.

There is an economy to Mini Golf Designer that I absolutely love. Creating an insanely difficult hole will actually penalize a player while the player who never takes a risk will struggle to win a game. Because there are a dozen client cards, each game will have different goals that players are shooting for. This adds a lot to the replayability.

Final Thoughts

Mini Golf Designer is a game that my wife and youngest daughter really enjoyed playing. The puzzley aspect of the game was something that kept us engaged every time we sat down to play.

In the advanced scoring rules, there are bonuses and penalties that are awarded with how well you do against your opponents. In a two player game, this seemed just fine and didn’t seem to be a big factor in deciding the victor. As the player count rises, we struggled with a “runaway leader” issue. If a player took a couple first place victories in the advanced scoring, this often made it incredibly difficult for anyone to catch up. To be honest, this scoring doesn’t seem necessary for our family. The basic scoring was just fine and didn’t impede our enjoyment of the game one bit.

Even though I’m a fan of the theme this game is derived from, I actually think it’s a really well put together tile laying game. Every time I play Mini Golf Designer, I have to step back and look at what came together during the course of the game. Compromises are always made and risks have to be taken to create something great. Even when my course looks like a hot dumpster fire, I still have a blast with the game.

Mini Golf Designer is being funded through Kickstarter now through June 18, 2020.

Thematic Games provided us with a prototype copy of Mini Golf Designer prior to their Kickstarter campaign. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.