BoardGameGeek » General Gaming » Board Games with Scott 006 - Mah Jong in Depth

Author: snicholson
Happy Chinese New Year!

This week, I take a look at Mah Jong. It's a longer-than-normal episode of Board Games with Scott (22 minutes), as I take the time to explain the game, the tiles, how to buy tiles, and compare Asian to American Mah Jong. (hint: American Mah Jongg is yucky.)

You can view this week's episode at
http://boardgameswithscott.blogspot.com/2006/01/bgws-006-mah...

Next week, I'll go exploring for some Lost Cities!
Fri Jan 27, 2006 1:04 pm
Author: ekted
It's gone now.
Sat Jan 28, 2006 7:24 pm
Author: RPardoe
snicholson wrote:
(hint: American Mah Jongg is yucky.)

Conspiracy removes the link?

Don't think it is bandwidth related as the raw URL (http://boardgameswithscott.blogspot.com/) reverts back to Heroscape (Episode 5). SO for some reason the Mah Jongg ep is "bye-bye". Glad I downloaded the QT yesterday...(ie, it was working then)

Sat Jan 28, 2006 10:03 pm
Author: Jatoha
Crap! I got out my set to have it on hand while I watched this and now it's gone!
Sat Jan 28, 2006 10:14 pm
Author: Ogma
Download the Quicktime here: http://biblio.syr.edu/bgws/bgws006.mov

~Scott (one of the OTHERS)
Sun Jan 29, 2006 6:20 am
Author: snicholson
Weird!

I don't know what happened - the post reverted to "Draft" mode. I'm at a boardgaming event in Niagara Falls, and was adding a note to the blog post yesterday. I wonder if something happened in this flakey connection.

Anyway, it's there now!

http://boardgameswithscott.com

Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:02 pm
Author: Jatoha
Thanks Scott, this is really great. I used to play Mah Jong in high school, but I'd forgotten pretty much everything. This is very useful!
Sun Jan 29, 2006 8:53 pm
Author: Ogma
Scott...

The picture looked MUCH better this time around, but the audio levels were up and down throughout... Maybe there's a way to normalize these levels in future?

Anyway, thanks for another great show and (damn you) thanks for inspiring me to want to buy a Mah-Jongg set!!!

~Scott
Mon Jan 30, 2006 4:01 am
Author: futhee
What the heck is American Mah Jong?

My family has always loved Mah Jong. My grandfather is so good (if you played anything for 70 years, you'd be good too, I guess) that he doesn't even always look at the tiles. He can FEEL it with his thumb, and discard it without looking, knowing he doesn't need it. THAT is a scary opponent to play against.

In my parents' household, Mah Jong is also known as "Take Dennis' Money". Great fun!
Mon Jan 30, 2006 4:57 am
Author: snicholson
Ogma wrote:
Scott...

The picture looked MUCH better this time around, but the audio levels were up and down throughout... Maybe there's a way to normalize these levels in future?


Thanks for the feedback! I'll certainly try - I just went from Imovie to Final Cut Express, which is like going from MSPaint to Photoshop. I'm sure there is a way; I've just got to figure it out.

Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:06 pm
Author: Ogma
Oh, one thing, Scott... At the beginning of this episode, you say:

"These Flowers and Seasons which are down here, and these blank tiles are used for variants and I'll talk about those a little bit later."

While you did later address the Blanks/Jokers, you didn't discuss the purpose of the Bonus tiles! D'oh!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when Bonus tiles are used, the game changes thusly:

1) The wall is now 18 tiles wide (as opposed to 17)

-and-

2) Any Bonus tile drawn isn't added to the hand, it is just laid down, face-up and grants the player 4 bonus points at the end of the game.

Is there anything else to them???

~Scott (another)
Wed Feb 1, 2006 6:38 pm
Author: snicholson
Ogma wrote:

While you did later address the Blanks/Jokers, you didn't discuss the purpose of the Bonus tiles! D'oh!
..
Any Bonus tile drawn isn't added to the hand, it is just laid down, face-up and grants the player 4 bonus points at the end of the game.


No, that's it. They are random bonus points. Some rulesets even make them a double-your-score if you get the one belonging to you. (I thought that was in there somewhere, but it's probably on the cutting room floor.)

I never play with them, as I think it's absurd to have this complete luck element in a strategic game. It's like saying "When you play rummy, if you draw the 8 of diamonds, then you double your score!"

While they are purty, they just don't add anything.
Wed Feb 1, 2006 10:27 pm
Author: Ogma
If you JUST play that they're worth 4 points, I can see them working... I mean, by drawing one, you're not contributing anything to your hand, so at least this way, you get some points out of it.

But I can see that that totally random aspect might be a major turn-off.

Thanks for the reply.

~Scott
Thu Feb 2, 2006 3:47 am
Author: freezing chicken
snicholson wrote:
Happy Chinese New Year!

This week, I take a look at Mah Jong. It's a longer-than-normal episode of Board Games with Scott (22 minutes), as I take the time to explain the game, the tiles, how to buy tiles, and compare Asian to American Mah Jong. (hint: American Mah Jongg is yucky.)

You can view this week's episode at
http://boardgameswithscott.blogspot.com/2006/01/bgws-006-mah...

Next week, I'll go exploring for some Lost Cities!


hello, scott, thanks for making it! i understood most of what you said even though english is not first language. i wanted to ask where i could find more of your episodes? thanks
Thu Feb 2, 2006 8:19 am
Author: snicholson
freezing chicken wrote:
! i understood most of what you said even though english is not first language. i wanted to ask where i could find more of your episodes? thanks


You'll find them all at http://boardgameswithscott.com

Enjoy!
Thu Feb 2, 2006 6:34 pm
Author: gonso75
Hi Scott

Great introductory video to Mah Jong. I own a nice looking set of Mah Jong and enjoy playing it with my wife and parents, its a gret social game. I'm always looking for new set of rules and variant, to make it more interesting.

I have a questiong regarding Kong (4 of a kind). When you have a Kong concealed, how can you declare Mah Jong? you will only have 10 tiles left (including the one you get each turn) so you cant make 3 set of 3 and a pair anymore.

How do you handle this situation?

Thanks

Gonso
Sun Oct 1, 2006 1:13 pm
Author: snicholson
gonso75 wrote:
Hi Scott

I have a questiong regarding Kong (4 of a kind). When you have a Kong concealed, how can you declare Mah Jong? you will only have 10 tiles left (including the one you get each turn) so you cant make 3 set of 3 and a pair anymore.

How do you handle this situation?


As soon as you get the concealed Kong, you declare it by putting it face up. It still counts and scores as a concealed Kong. I flip over the end tiles as to remember it scores as a concealed Kong at the end. Then you take a tile from the dead wall so your hand has enough tiles to make 4 sets of three and a pair.

Sun Oct 1, 2006 1:26 pm
Author: cymric
I play that the declared Kong you drew entirely by yourself is put face down, since noone has a need to know what that Kong is. At the end of the game, you check whether it was indeed a Kong---if someone is cheating, he is ousted from the game. (I've never experienced this in the +/- 1250 games I played F2F.)

What does happen more than often is when someone forgets to take a stone from the Dead Wall. Tournament rules over here say you are responsible for your own game, and if you are not left with a proper number of stones, tough luck, no quick extra drawing. If noone mentions this until after the score has been established, you got away with it. If someone did (FAR more likely), you have a Dead Hand, and can only pay points, not obtain them. The problem is that someone with a known Dead Hand can decide to ruin the game for the others---this happens quite often in tournaments, especially if people are known play-not-to-lose-players. That is why most people quietly allow an extra draw in between turns to pick up the extra tile. I've been in more than one shouting match because of this rule, and it's one of the reasons I quit the tournaments. Rules are simply rules, you don't break them at will, most certainly not while there's a tournament going on.

By the way, Scott, I noticed that you commit heresy in your review by using that weird 'B'-thing for the White Dragon---please use the all-white stone for this noble beast.

And for those who wanted to play with the Seasons: indeed, build a Wall 18 stones long; each Season is worth 4 points; each own Season doubles your score (East = 1, South = 2, etc.); and if you manage to complete a set, your score is tripled. In that case you don't get the doubling for your own Season. I forgot where the extra tile for the replacement Season came from, though... I think it's the Dead Wall.
Sun Oct 1, 2006 3:27 pm
Author: snicholson
To those of you new to the game, the discussion going on here is becuase there are many variants on how to play, and when you play with new poeple, you should talk about the rules you are using.

cymric wrote:
I play that the declared Kong you drew entirely by yourself is put face down, since noone has a need to know what that Kong is.


That does, however, take away the ability for someone to Rob the Kong if that last tile drawn is the one needed for MahJong.

(--as an aside, what I mean by that is if someone pulls a 4th tile that gives them a revealed Kong, and it is the single tile another needs to go MahJong, the other person may Rob the Kong to go out, and that's a Double in scoring.--)

We play a friendly game, so revealing your concealed Kong gives someone a chance to go out if that's the tile they need and also gives a little information to the table, letting them know that a certain tile is out of play.

This would be something to discuss before you start play, as I know that different rulesets guide you in different ways on this issue.





Sun Oct 1, 2006 3:48 pm
Author: gonso75
Thank you guys for the explanation. I'll use this in my next games.

Scott, great blog/vlog!!

Gonso
Mon Oct 2, 2006 8:19 am
Author: Blind Reality
snicholson wrote:

cymric wrote:
I play that the declared Kong you drew entirely by yourself is put face down, since noone has a need to know what that Kong is.


That does, however, take away the ability for someone to Rob the Kong if that last tile drawn is the one needed for MahJong.

I'm pretty sure you can't rob a concealed kong. You can only rob a kong when a player draws a tile which "updates" an open pung to an open kong. Furthermore you can only claim the tile for Mah Jong on the turn it was drawn.

So the way Maarten plays should not make a difference for the robbing rule. I also find it an interesting option which I will try out the next time I play.
Mon Oct 2, 2006 8:46 am
Author: snicholson
Blind Reality wrote:

I'm pretty sure you can't rob a concealed kong. You can only rob a kong when a player draws a tile which "updates" an open pung to an open kong.


Some rulesets allow you to Rob a Concealed Kong for certain special hands. Others don't at all. And even others just have you keep it Concealed no matter what.

For example, at
http://kjmjm.tky.fi/english/majiang/rules/basics.html
it says
"Robbing the kong can't be done when someone reveals a concealed four."

However, at
http://www.mastersgames.com/rules/mah-jong-rules.htm
it says
"a player can Rob a hidden Kong in order to complete the "Thirteen Unique Wonders" special hand."

It does seem that in most rulesets, you can't Rob a Concealed Kong when it is declared for most other MahJonggs. That's something that I didn't know.

If you look at
http://www.4windsmj.com/kb/kb.htm
they have listed 8 different rulesets for MahJongg. It also does some comparisons that can make your head spin if you are new to the game, such as

"It is customary that in Chinese New Style all Kongs are acknowledged as concealed triplets in patterns that assume concealed sets (e.g. Concealed hand). In classical rules only concealed and claimed Kongs are acknowledged as concealed sets, and in Chinese Old Style only concealed Kongs are acknowledged as concealed sets."

The point of all of this? It's difficult to have rule discussions about what is "right" in MahJongg without being specific to a ruleset. It is akin to saying what is the "right" way to play Hearts, when there are a number of variants that people swear to.

Mon Oct 2, 2006 11:10 am
Author: Blind Reality
snicholson wrote:
The point of all of this? It's difficult to have rule discussions about what is "right" in MahJongg without being specific to a ruleset. It is aking to saying what is the "right" way to play Hearts, when there are a number of variants that people swear to.

You are of course absolutely right about this. I maybe should have added something like "as we play it". Still as you also conceded most rulesets do not allow the robbing of a concealed kong.

So as long as all agree upon a ruleset when playing there shouldn't be any problems!

btw Keep up the good work on your blog! Boardgames with Scott has become a primary resource for me in determining if I would like a game. Great stuff!thumbsup
Mon Oct 2, 2006 11:56 am
Author: Steve4nLanguage
Hi Scott and everyone else,

Thanks for the video. I've been playing Asian style mah jong with my 3 kids for the past three years, and we really enjoy it. And like you, we've never completed an entire game! We keep score on paper, just accumulating points, since I don't understand how the chip payment works.

I understand that if Player A goes mah jong and scores, say, 60 points, Players B, C, and D all pay Player A 60 chips. I don't understand, however, how B, C, and D settle among themselves.

Let's say B scored 50, C scored 22, and D scored 8. Is the payment hierarchal like:

D pays C 22
D pays B 50
C pays B 50
B pays nothing (except A, of course)


Or, is it like this:

D pays C 22
C pays D   8 [net 14 to C]
D pays B 50
B pays D   8 [net 42 to B]
C pays B 50
B pays C 22 [net 28 to B]


Or maybe it's some other way and I'm completely off. If someone could clear this up for me, I'd appreciate it. I'd rather keep score with chips than on paper.

Thanks!

Tue Jan 2, 2007 1:58 pm
Author: snicholson
Steve4nLanguage wrote:
Hi Scott and everyone else,
I don't understand, however, how B, C, and D settle among themselves.

Let's say B scored 50, C scored 22, and D scored 8. Is the payment hierarchal like:

Or, is it like this:

D pays C 22
C pays D 8 [net 14 to C]
D pays B 50
B pays D 8 [net 42 to B]
C pays B 50
B pays C 22 [net 28 to B]


This is it. Everyone pays the Mah Jongg player, and then the remaining three players each pay each other. It usually works like this:
A says "I went out with 60 points." (BCD pay A).
B says "I had 50 points." (C&D pay B 50).
C says "I had 22 points." (B&D pay C 22).
D says "I had 8 points." (B&C pay D 8).

Don't forget - whomever is the East wind (dealer) will double their gains and losses, so one player is always asking for and paying double what is requested.
Tue Jan 2, 2007 2:13 pm
Author: Steve4nLanguage
Wow Scott, thanks for the quick reply!

I had to laugh at part of the video, because it reminded me of my family. When I first taught my kids to play mah jong, I was careful to use the correct terminology ("Say 'pung', 'kong', or 'chow' if you can take the discard") but after 3 years they all still resort to "Mine!" Sound familiar?
Tue Jan 2, 2007 2:33 pm
Author: JimPAX
Damn you Scott!

Now I have to spend endless hours researching Mah Jong, and maybe purchase a set! Just when I had set my winter obsession at Bridge. I'm never going to get any work done. . .

Great episode, and keep up the good work.
Tue Jan 2, 2007 3:41 pm
Author: fscher
I have a complete site devoted to mah jongg sets, tiles and accessories. If you are truly interested in getting one, feel free to contact me. I know another site was recommeded, too, but they appear to be sold out of the basic set. I have many more unusual tiles you can see.

http://www.WhereTheWindsBlow.com

Great Video to show the game of Mah Jongg!
Sat Feb 9, 2008 12:39 am
Author: Asmor
snicholson wrote:
However, at
http://www.mastersgames.com/rules/mah-jong-rules.htm
it says
"a player can Rob a hidden Kong in order to complete the "Thirteen Unique Wonders" special hand."


Either I'm misunderstanding the special hand, or that's a joke. It seems to me it's impossible to rob a kong to complete that hand.

If I'm understanding it correctly, the Thirteen Unique Wonders hand requires you to first get 1 of each of the tiles, and then the tile you go out on has to match one of the 13 you already have. So if someone's completing a kong, then obviously you can't have one of those already in your hand...
Fri Apr 2, 2010 8:08 pm