What is Mah Jongg?

Board games have been around almost as long as humans have had the brainpower to think critically about the world around them. One of the oldest board games ever discovered was found in an Egyptian tomb, and there was no shortage of them in the civilizations that were to follow. Many of these games rely on luck and strategy to beat an opponent and claim victory, which is still true today. In today’s board games, you’ll find common themes and clear revivals of games from the past. One of these ancient games still actively enjoyed today is Mah Jongg.

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Origins in China

Mah Jongg, also known as Majong or Majiang, is a Chinese game played by four players with cards or tiles. There are a total of 144 tiles which belong to 4 “suits.” 36 tiles are in the Circle suit, 36 in the Bamboo suit, 36 in the Character suit, 16 Wind tiles, 12 Dragon tiles, and 8 bonus tiles, which are comprised of 4 Flowers and 4 Seasons. To begin, all tiles are placed face down on the table and are “washed,” meaning they are mixed up by the palm of the hands on the table to distribute the different tiles and randomize the draw. Each player selects 16 tiles, then begins to build a wall in front of them, made up of tiles, as they take turns selecting the ones they want. Players decide on a “dealer” by rolling three dice, and adding up the totals to decide. The dealer is marked by a token to keep track of who is currently presiding, as each person becomes the dealer every four rounds. After each player has their tiles, they place them on a rack in front of them, keeping them out of view of the other players. Those remaining are left face-down, and drawn from in order to make and complete combinations which reward the player with points. Each turn, a player is allowed to choose a tile, but if he wishes to keep it, he must discard one of the tiles he already has. Only 16 tiles are allowed at any one time, unless that player is declaring victory, and is able to play all 17.

The game ends when all of the remaining tiles are taken or a player wins by completing five sets of three tiles and one pair or four sets of three, one four-of-a-kind, and one pair. Victor beware; if a player calls victory, but does not meet the requirements for winning, he must pay all of the other players for claiming so falsely.

Game Variations

Different variations of Mah Jongg are played in different countries, and different rules may be observed; a different number of tiles may be required, depending on the group of players. A full game takes approximately 2 hours to complete. To be a successful Mah Jongg player, an individual must recognize and properly understand each tile and where it fits in with others, much like a poker player is already aware of the possible combinations he has available to him before the river card is flipped. The goal of Mah Jongg is to get the highest combination of tiles, and it is therefore imperative for the players to recognize and identify the sets. Mah Jongg is most similar to the western card game “Rummy,” where suits are combined much in the same fashion to collect points and outscore the opponent.

This article was contributed by Logan Kelso, a writer who hopes to help entertain and educate you. He writes this on behalf of Where the Winds Blow, your number one choice when looking to buy a set of Mah Jongg tiles. Check out their website today and see how they can help you! 

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