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Mahjong is a classic Chinese game – and this is the free online version you can play by yourself. Play Mahjong and give your brain a workout.
There are lots of different versions of the game, also known as Mahjongg, but this is the most common online one.
The aim is to match identical pairs of tiles and remove them from the playing area.
However, you can only use tiles that have one of their sides (left or right) fully exposed, and which are not lying underneath any other tiles.
Once tiles become exposed, you can then use them to play.
How to Play Real Mahjong:
Mahjong originated in China. It is quite similar to the popular western game Rummy. It’s a game that involves strategy, skill, calculations as well as an element of chance. The game involves 4 players. It has 144 tiles which are based on Chinese symbols and characters split into 3 categories, simple, honour and bonus. Each player starts with 13 tiles at the beginning of each game. Then, the players take turns drawing and discarding tiles until they have a winning hand including the 14th tile to form 4 melds (groups of 3) and 1 head (pair). The scoring system (or the minimum necessary hand for victory) vary depending on the variation of the game you are playing.
TYPES OF TILES:-
Simple tiles – These are tiles numbered from 1 to 9. There are 3 types of simple tiles, bams (bamboo), myriads (characters) and dots (circles).
Honour tiles – These tiles consist of winds and dragons. The winds include east, south, west & north & the dragons include red, green & white. There is no numerical sequence among these tiles and there are four of each in every set.
Bonus tiles – There are 4 bonus tiles. These include 4 flower tiles and 4 season tiles.
CHOOSING THE DEALER:-
There are multiple ways in which the dealer can by chosen.
1.Roll of Dice – Here each player throws dice and the player with the highest sum gets the “east wind” tile. The next player gets the south wind tile and so on.
2.Random selection – Here all the tiles are positioned face down and each player selects one tile for themselves.
The player’s seating is just like a map. The player with the “east wind” tile sits on one chair. The player with the “south wind” tile sits to his right with the player holding the “west wind” tile sitting across the table and the last seat going to the player with the “north wind” tile. Game play proceeds counter clockwise.
Every tile is placed on a table face down. These tiles are then shuffled. All players are supposed to help with the shuffling using both their hands. There isn’t a defined time period for shuffling or dealing after the shuffle. Also, if a piece turns over while shuffling, you could just turn it back down or wait till the end and turn over all the revealed pieces. After this, every player must stack a couple of rows consisting of 18 tiles each in front of them. These rows must then be moved side by side to make a square. After this the dealer has to throw 3 dice and add the total. We consider the dealer to be the numbers 1, 5, 9, 13 & 17. Then we count counter clockwise and determine the quarter of the wall for each player similarly. The number rolled on the dice is used to count the stacks leftward. Then, each player starts counting from the left of the counted stacks to take their tiles. The dealer starts by taking 4 tiles and each player chooses their tiles in a counter clockwise direction until each player has 12 tiles. After this the players select a 13th tile from the wall. The set up need not be this formal & may differ drastically based on the variation being played. If a player gets a season or flower tile from the wall they must set it aside and take a replacement from the wall.
Each match consists of 4 rounds. Every round consists of at least 4 hands. Every round has 4 winds and every player gets to play as each wind tile in every round. All rounds are named as per the prevailing wind in that round. The East wind is used at the start of every round. The subsequent round would be South and so on. Every round has the player holding the prevailing wind tile as the dealer. The dealer assumes the East wind position in that round. The dealer starts by picking a tile and trying to complete a winning legal hand. If he cannot, he must discard one of his pieces into the centre of the wall of tiles. Then all other players get a chance and do the same. (A player has the option of calling out their tiles as they discard them as well.) This continues until 1 player has a winning legal hand when they must call out mahjong & reveal their tiles.
If the dealer is victorious in one hand or if a hand ends in a draw an additional hand is started where the prevailing wind and seating remain the same as the concluded round. This basically means that a match will never end until there is a definite winner.
Mahjong sets that have wind tiles usually also come with a prevailing wind marker. Sets that come with racks may have a mark on the rack to help identify the dealer in each round. This positioning is important because it influences the scoring when the game is concluded. Each player must always have 13 tiles in his possession when it isn’t his/her turn. This doesn’t include the bonus tiles. The Kong (described below) piece is not included in this number either. If a player has more or less than 13 tiles excluding these, then they have to be penalized.
Essentially, a legal (winning) hand is created when you have a total of 14 tiles that meet the below requirements. You could either get a winning hand from the wall or from a discarded tile. Most games are played with a minimum rule which means the player with the lowest number of points at the end of the game wins.
A winning player’s hand must have 4 melds (a pattern of 3 pieces) and one pair of eyes (2 identical pieces). There are 4 types of melds :-
One is Pong/Pung. They are sets of 3 identical tiles. They cannot contain flower tiles though.
The next type is Kong. Kong’s are basically Pongs but instead of having 3 identical tiles they have 4. A player can declare a Kong at any time during their turn. It is declared by placing 2 pieces face up in the middle & 2 pieces on the end face down. If an opponent discards a tile of which you have the other three tiles, you may steal it and make a stolen Kong. You cannot do this though if you have already made a Pong from the other 3 tiles. But, if you get a tile that could make your Pong into a Kong then you can do so by placing it on top of the centre tile in the Pong, face up. Remember, when Kong’s are formed, players have to take extra tiles from the wall to make up their 13 tiles. Kong’s add to your score at the end of a game.
The third type is called Chow. This is a meld made up of 3 suited tiles which are in sequence. There cannot be any skipping of numbers in between and 9 cannot loop around back to 1. Honours and bonus tiles can’t be used to make a Chow. Discards can also be stolen to make Chows as long as no other player wishes to use it to complete a Kong or Pong. When stealing discards remember, winning always precedes melds.
The last type of meld is known as the Eyes. This is a pair of tiles which are identical. These tiles cannot be declared nor can they be formed using a discard. However, using discarded tiles to complete the eyes is allowed if it will complete your legal hand.
INTERRUPTIONS OF PLAY:-
There are 4 ways in which the above game play could be interrupted:-
Bonus tiles – If a player picks up a bonus tile, it must be announced & then placed at his side. These tiles are not part of a hand but add to your score at the end of the game. A replacement tile has to be drawn after this so that the player again has 14 tiles before choosing which one to discard. This may repeat more than once in a single turn of a player as well.
Melding a discard – When a player discards a tile, other players are allowed to bid or call for that tile to help complete a meld. A disadvantage here is the exposure of the meld to the other players. The player discarding a tile may also have to pay extra points to the winner at the end of the game. The meld is always placed face up. A tile should be discarded after this and play resumes from the right of this player. Here, play gets interrupted and a turn or 2 might skip as well.
Going mahjong – A player that can complete their hand by using a discarded tile of another player must yell mahjong, take that particular piece & reveal their legal hand. The hand ends here and scoring for the game commences. If more than one player needs the discarded tile to win, both player’s scores can be compared and the tile awarded to the better hand or the player closest to the player that discarded the tile could be get it.
Robbing Kong’s – This is a high scoring feature in mahjong. If a player declares a Kong and another player can use this Meld to complete his hand, they can steal the Kong & yell mahjong. This is a rarely occurring feature though.
Scoring in mahjong is very complex. There are a large number of rules for scoring like Classic, Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Shanghai and Japanese scoring. Here we are explaining the Classic Chinese system of scoring:-
When a player wins a hand by going mahjong, first all the players add their basic points up based on the tiles they possess. Melds, pairs & bonus tiles award bonus points.
The winner adds additional points for going mahjong as well as for completing the hand in a special way (if he does).
Players then double their points if they are in possession of rarer melds or certain combination of melds.
If the winner has a rarer pattern or completes his hand through a special way he doubles his base points as many times as the rules advise.
The winner also collects points from all the losers and they proceed to pay each other for any difference in their scores.
The player holding the east wind tile wins or pays double in all these transactions.
There are also limit hands which allot the winner with a maximum score for his hand.