Chinese Mahjong Online

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.

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. 

Rules of Chinese Mahjong 

The Chinese Mahjong rules are as follows: 

  1. There must always be 13 tiles in your hand. Whatever you do on your turn, you must end up with 13 tiles at the end of it; when you take a tile from the center or when you claim one from another player, they must either form a sequence or be swapped for a tile you already have. 
  2. Players are given scores based on the particular value of a hand. The value of each hand varies slightly depending on the kind of sequence you’ve played and the tiles themselves. The “hands” that you can play in Chinese Mahjong are the key to winning. 
  3. You score points by forming what are called pongs, kongs, and chows. We’ll look shortly at how you can actually form these, but first, a pong is a set of three identical tiles, a kong is a set of four, and a chow is a sequential run of tiles in the same suit. 
  4. All sequences are formed during another player’s discard. When it is your own turn, it’s mostly just a decision of whether to keep or discard the tile you pick up. You must make your sequences, that is your pongs, kongs, and chows, from the discards of other players. 
  5. If the dealer wins the hand, then another hand is played in the same round. A different player other than the dealer must win the hand in order to progress the shifting winds. 
  6. The Chinese Mahjong game typically uses bonus tiles, which are the flower tiles and the season tiles. These tiles are not part of your ordinary 13 tiles. 
  7. To win with Chinese Mahjong, you must have four sets of three tiles plus a matching pair. A winning hand, then, is made up of four melds and a pair. 

These are all the rules you need to know to get started playing. Next, let’s look at more advanced strategies for winning. 

How to win Chinese Mahjong 

Chinese Mahjong is, again, a game that’s generally pretty quick to pick up. It’s truly mastering it that is the hand part: 

  1. Never make moves blindly; always have a plan for where you are going. Chinese games Mahjong take place over the course of several hands, but it’s important you have a sense of what your strategy will be over the course of the game. If you play blindly, moment to moment, you’re very unlikely to get far. 
  2. Keep your strategy flexible as the game progresses. While it’s really important to have a strategy, it’s also important not to stick to it when it’s not working out; be prepared to change things up. 
  3. Think carefully about what other players are doing. It’s very important in Chinese Mahjong that you pay attention not just to your own game, but to the people around you. Seeking a pattern in what they’re doing is vital to beat them; you can guarantee they’re watching you! 
  4. Don’t take the first discarded tile. No matter how beneficial it might be to you, taking the first discard is a great way to give yourself away to the other players. 
  5. Avoiding sectioning off your tiles in your hand and leaving gaps. Leaving gaps can be helpful to new Chinese Mahjong players to think about what you’ve got in your hand, but again it can give your strategy away to the other players. 

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? 

Variations of Chinese Mahjong 

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. 

Other regional rule variations 

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. 

Mahjong Solitaire 

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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