There are few games as ubiquitous in China as Chinese Mahjong. Like chess in the west, you’ll see it played everywhere; but today Chinese Mahjong is played everywhere, not just in China. Chinese Mahjong is an incredibly popular game, and with good reason. It’s hugely entertaining to play, while at the same time coming with lots of benefits to playing in the long and short term. But Chinese Mahjong can also be tricky to learn, so today we’re going to break down everything you need to know about the Chinese game Mahjong. Let’s look at how to play Chinese Mahjong.
Chinese Mahjong is a four-player game in which the aim is to create sequences of tiles in order to score more highly than your opponents. At the outset, Chinese Mahjong may appear excessively complex and impenetrable. This is far from the case, though, and in reality, the game is very easy to pick up and learn at first. Traditionally, Chinese Mahjong is played with 144 tiles; 108 of these tiles are the common suited tiles, and there are 28 honors tiles.
All tiles are shuffled in the center of the table face down, and once the shuffling is done, players make 2 rows of 18 tiles stacked 2 tall on top of one another. These tiles are then moved together, forming a wall in the center of the table. Each player is assigned a position of prevailing wind, with the east wind being the dealer and the player who goes first. There are several ways wind directions can be decided, but usually, this is done simply by all players rolling a dice and whoever rolls highest is the east wind.
Games of Chinese Mahjong consist of four rounds, and wind position is changed between players for each new round. Play continues until all players have played as the dealer. The basic loop of the Chinese Mahjong play is that each player picks up a tile from the center of the table on their turn; they can either discard the tile, use it to make a sequence out of the tiles they already have, or swap it for a tile in your hand. Your hand must always have 13 tiles total.
There are a lot of ins and outs to the game that you will pick up as you go along, but with the basics covered, let’s turn our attention to the rules of Chinese Mahjong in particular.
The Chinese Mahjong rules are as follows:
These are all the rules you need to know to get started playing. Next, let’s look at more advanced strategies for winning.
Chinese Mahjong is, again, a game that’s generally pretty quick to pick up. It’s truly mastering it that is the hand part:
As you play more and more, you’ll learn the game of Chinese Mahjong on a deeper level and all of these things will become second nature to you.
Are there any other variations of this game, then?
There are many variations of Chinese Mahjong, some which change entirely the way the game is played, others which are just slight variations in terms of the rules.
Mahjong is played across the world today, but it is particularly popular in eastern Asia. The most common variation is the Hong Kong rules, which is generally the version played throughout China today and the traditional version of the game. There are, though, multiple versions in China you might encounter; the older, “classical Chinese” Mahjong, Changsha Mahjong which is played widely in Hunan, or Harbin Mahjong played in eastern China.
The game is also played in Vietnam with some differences in the rules, and this is also true of Thailand, Korea, Japan, and other places. The differences are often subtle, such as the introduction of the “ready hand” or richi of Japanese and Korean Mahjong.
For many of us, when we first think of Mahjong, the game that initially may come to mind is not Chinese Mahjong at all. Mahjong solitaire is a single- player game which, while it uses the same tile set as Chinese Mahjong, is entirely different in how it is played. This is a solo game in which the player must find matching tiles in a given layout, with some tiles only being available for play as the game progresses.
This game was developed primarily for computers in the late 20th Century, though it was naturally based on Chinese Mahjong. Try playing a new version of Mahjong - Mahjong Solitaire.
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