How to Play
|Just like any other game, the goal of playing is to
win. In order to win in mahjong, your goal is to make a complete
hand before your opponent can. A complete hand consists of 4 sets and a pair.
Initially at the start of each round, you and the opponent are
each dealt 13 tiles. 99.99% of the time, the opening hand isn't a
hand that you can actually win with. It is just a bunch of random
tiles, some useful and some not. During each turn, you have the opportunity
to draw a new tile and discard another. Turns alternate
between you and the opponent. Fundamentally, you want to discard the
useless tiles and keep the ones you need. Ultimately, your goal is
to turn your hand of nothing into a complete hand that can win you
the round. This is, for simplicity sake, how the game of mahjong
|In mahjong there are a variety of different tiles
available for play. Essentially 3 different types of tiles
exist: numbers, winds, and dragons. There are 3
sets of numbered tiles that go from 1-9: characters, bamboos, and
dots. There are also 4 different winds and 3 different dragons. A total of 34
different tiles and 4 sets of each, making a total of 136 tiles.
Character Tiles (MANZU):
First step in learning mahjong, memorize the characters. Numbers 1-3 isn't so bad but the others can be confusing if you've never
seen them before. Play more, and you will eventually memorize
it all. It isn't that difficult a task so don't worry.
Bamboo Tiles (SOUZU):
Note that the 1-bamboo tile is always a picture of a bird.
Dot Tiles (PINZU):
Numbered tiles 1 and 9 are known as Terminals. Numbers
between 2 and 8 are known as Simples.
The sequence above is: East, South, West, North.
The sequence above is: White Dragon, Green Dragon, Red
Dragon. Much more easy to remember these than the winds since they
are color coated.
Wind and Dragon tiles are known as Honors.
|At the start of the match, a pair of dice is
rolled. The roll of the dices determines who goes first. How it is
determined varies from game to game. For some, each player rolls a
pair of dice. Whoever has the highest number goes first. Sometimes a
pair of dice is rolled only once. If the dices add up to an even
number, the opponent goes first. If it adds up to an odd number, the
player goes first. In real 4-player mahjong, it is considered a
disadvantage to be first because as the starter, you are also the
dealer. Payoff disfavors the dealer if anyone else wins. And the
likelihood of someone else winning is pretty high. A 3 to 1 ratio
basically. In 2-player video mahjong, it is only you against a
single opponent. The starter is still the dealer but the
disadvantage isn't as extreme as in real mahjong. In fact, I would
say that it would be an advantage being the dealer, because you earn
more points as dealer, than if not.
Each player has a wind associated with them depending on their
seating position around the table. The starter or dealer is usually
the East wind. The next player is the South, the third West, and the
last North in a counterclockwise manner around the table. However,
in video mahjong, there are only 2 players. In this case, the
starter or dealer is the East wind and the other player at the
opposite end of the table is the South wind. The prevailing wind of
the round is the dealer's wind at the start of the match. However, wind
association and prevailing wind may change during later rounds as the match progress.
Anyway, after the dices are rolled and the starter is determined,
then the real game begins. Each player is distributed 13
tiles. Say you start first. The only thing you can do in
the opening round is to draw a tile; well unless you have a Kong,
but more on that later. To draw a new tile you press the N
button. Now you have 14 tiles.
During your turn you can do a couple of things such as declare
Reach, Pon, or Mahjong, but again, more on that later. Say you
can't do anything, which is often the case. So in order to end
your turn, you need to discard a tile to return your hand back to 13
tiles. Once you discarded a tile, your turn ends, and the
opponent's turn begins. She will draw a tile and if she cannot
do anything, she will discard a tile as well. Once discarded,
her turn ends and the cycle starts all over again. Now it's
your turn and the process is repeated as above until someone wins or
if there are no more tiles left to be drawn, in which case there is a draw.
So basically one player draws a tile, and then discards a tile. The opponent does the same.
The process is repeated over and
over again until someone declares mahjong or all the tiles run out. It's
CAN DO DURING A TURN
|There are several different things that can be performed
during each turn:
- You can draw a new tile (what you will be doing the majority
of the time).
- You can declare Chi using the opponent's latest discarded tile.
- You can declare Pon using the opponent's latest discarded tile.
- You can declare Kong, using the opponent's latest discarded
- You can declare Kong, once a new tile is drawn.
- You can declare Reach, once a new tile is drawn.
- You can declare Mahjong once a new tile is drawn or by using
the opponent's latest discarded tile (In this case, you don't have to
discard since you just won)
- You can discard a tile, once a new tile is drawn (what you will
be doing the majority of the time).
Before I explain any further, I now need to explain what a
mahjong is and what all these weird terms are.
AND REVEALED SETS
|Anytime when you play a card game versus other
people, you want to make sure that the opponent does not see your
hand in order to increase your chances of winning. You want to
keep it a secret until the very end. The same applies to
mahjong. You always want to have your hand concealed,
so as to not let a win slip by. You never want to tell your
opponent what you have. So in essence, a concealed set is a
set that is not revealed to the opponent, until you mahjong. Yet there are certain times in the game where you must reveal
certain parts of your hand in a given situation. One
situation, of course, is if you get a mahjong and win. There are 4
other times that you must reveal it as well:
- If you declare Pon using the opponent's latest discarded tile.
- If you declare Chi using the opponent's latest discarded tile.
- If you declare Kong using the opponent's latest discarded
- If you have a Kong in your hand.
I haven't mentioned this before, so I'll mention it right
now. You can create a set using an opponent's discarded
tile. You can only take it if you need that tile to
complete an incomplete set that is missing only one tile. To
declare Pon using an opponent's
discard, for instances, you must, initially have 2 of the required tiles to
complete the set. You cannot have just one of them.
However, you can only use the latest discarded tile that was just discarded to end the opponent's turn. Using an
opponent's discard means that you cannot draw a tile for yourself
during that turn as well. So if you have two 4-dot tiles for
instances and the opponent just discarded a 4-dot tile, you can, if
you want, declare Pon using the Pon button to complete that set. The same thing applies with Kong, except that you need 3 of the
required 4 to make it.
Declaring a Pon, Chi, or Kong with an opponent's discard will
cause that set to become a revealed set. When revealed, it is
place away from your regular hand and faced up so the opponent can
see. It looks something like this:
You can have a hand entirely of revealed sets. It's not good to
do point-wise and can get you into a possible non-winnable situation but it can be done.
As stated above, if you have a concealed Kong in your hand, you must declare it to the opponent if you want to make it into a set. You must declare it in order to draw another tile again so that you can still complete your hand. Making a Kong will create a situation in which your hand now becomes one short of a tile to make a complete hand. Drawing a new tile makes up for the additional tile used to make the Kong. Think about it for a bit and you'll begin to understand why. Also, when you make a Kong, the new tile drawn is not drawn from the regular pile but from the dead pile.
though, the set is revealed to your opponent, it is still treated as
if it was a concealed set. Below is a screen of what happens
when you declare Kong:
The placement of the tiles may seem rather odd, but
that's just how it is. Don't worry about it.
As you can see from the screen, after the Kong was made, a new tile was drawn.
note is that if you have a revealed Pon in your hand, you still
have the chance to make that Pon into a revealed Kong if the
opportunity presents itself. Say that you have a revealed Pon of
7-bamboos. If you draw another 7-bamboo tile during one of your
turns, you can declare Kong and change the revealed Pon into a
revealed Kong. However, you cannot use an opponent's discard to
change that Pon into a Kong. The reason being is that no sets can have
more than 1 discarded tile from the opponent.
CAN DO DURING A TURN (CONT.)
|Here's a more detail outlook on what exactly you can
do during a turn:
1. At the start of your turn, you
- Draw a new tile. Go to step 2.
- Declare Mahjong (Ron) if the opponent's latest discard completes your hand. Round ends.
- Use the opponent's latest discard to declare Chi. Go to step 2.
- Use the opponent's latest discard to declare Pon. Go to step 2.
- Use the opponent's latest discard to declare Kong. You will be able to draw a new tile after. Go to step 2.
2. After drawing a new tile or taking the opponent's discard, you now can do one of the following:
- Declare Reach. You must discard the unneeded tile for Reach to take place. Turn ends.
- Declare Mahjong (Tsumo) if the new tile drawn completes your hand. Round ends.
- Declare Kong. You will be able to draw a new tile once more. Repeat step 2.
- Discard a tile. Turn ends.
Now on to Reach.
Declaring Reach is not required to win. It is optional.
One benefit of Reaching is to gain 1 Fan or a double in score in the
end if you happen to win the round. A consequence of Reaching is
that you become limited in what you can and cannot discard.
You can only declare Reach when you need only one
more tile to go out. The expression "to go out" is just another way of
saying "to declare mahjong". I use this
expression quite often in the other sections, mainly, for convenience.
Plus, it sounds much nicer. Also, you can only declare Reach if your
hand is entirely concealed. You cannot declare it if you have any
revealed sets in your hand.
Reach can be declared after you have drawn a new tile. When you declare Reach, a tile needs to be discarded. The remaining tiles left needs to be a hand where the addition of another tile will allow you to go out. Also when you declare it, a Reach stick is place on your side of the table. The significance of the stick is discussed further in the scoring section. The stick looks like a long white stick, with a dot in the middle. A picture of it can be seen from the image above in the previous section.
The tiles that are in your hand after Reach is made can no longer
be discarded during later turns. You can only discard the newly drawn tile during each turn there after.
Also, after you declare Reach, you are still able to change any
Pon in your hand into a Kong if the tile needed is drawn by you.
Declaring Mahjong is to win the round. You
can declare mahjong once you make a complete hand. You can go out
two different ways. You can go out with a drawn tile that is drawn by
you or you can go out with the opponent's latest discarded tile.
Declaring mahjong with a drawn tile is called Tsumo.
Declaring mahjong using the opponent's latest discard is called Ron.
|Two situations can occur at the end of a round. The first is if someone
In this case that person wins
the round. On the other hand, if no one goes out, and there are no
more tiles to be drawn, the round ends up in a tie and points may or
may not be rewarding for certain players. Usually the round ends
after each player has drawn and discarded 18 tiles.
Let's say, for example,
that at the end of the round, your hand requires only one more tile
to go out, while the opponent needs two or more. In this case, you
have Tenpai, while the opponent has No-Ten. Neither hand is scored since they are incomplete. However, you are rewarded a certain amount of points, while the
opponent gets her score deducted by the amount you gained. The same can occur the other way around.
But, if neither of
you has a hand in which you need one more tile to go out, No-Ten for
both, then no points are rewarded
to anyone and a new round begins. If both you and the opponent have
Tenpai, it remains scoreless as well.
|Declaring Mahjong wins you the round. But in
order to win the match, defeat the opponent and move to the next,
you often need to win either a series of rounds or eliminate them
point-wise. Some games require you to win a certain amount of
rounds to move on. Others require you to eliminate them
point-wise. Most mahjong games implement both. Whichever
of the two you do first wins you the match.
Games requiring you to win a series of rounds to advance to the
next opponent usually require you to win 3 to 5 rounds. For many games, the opponent strips one article of
clothing for each round you win. The opponent loses the match
when she cannot strip no more. You lose if you lose a certain
amount of rounds as well.
Other games require you to win by points. Both you and the opponent
first start out with an initial amount of points. When someone
wins the round, their hand is scored depending on how good the hand
is. Those points are added to the winner's score and deducted
from the loser's. Whoever's score reaches zero first loses the