The Jaded Gamer

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The Noble Art Of Wall Building

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
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While Mahjong tiles are nice to play with (and far preferable to cards for me) it does necessitate a different approach to the problem of the shuffle.
Since this is the oddest and most ritualised part of the game, I thought I would cover it a little here for anyone interested (and so I can send this description to anyone interested in playing in the future so they know this in advance.
It would be possible in theory to simply randomise the tiles and pick at random, but the shuffling is actually done in the following manner, an upshot of which is almost total inability to cheat or stack the deal (which would completely break the game):
1.       The tiles are mixed by all four players in the middle of the table (known as the “twittering of the sparrows”, for the noise the good sets make)
2.       Each player makes a wall in front of themselves, 17 tiles long and two tiles high.
3.       These four walls are pushed together to form a square (or other four sided shape, depending on the country)
4.       The wall is broken – a pair of tiles is selected to be the first draw by rolling two six sided dice and counting each wall in turn (a total of 3 on the dice would mean the wall opposite the thrower) then rolling another two dice and adding this total to the first. This total is the number of tiles from the right hand side of that wall the start tile is.
5.       The deal (and play) goes anticlockwise, each player taking a pair, starting at this break, until they have twelve tiles in front of them. Then the first player takes the next single tile AND the top tile from the pair two stacks away (which he would take in a minute anyway), and the other players take the next single tiles. The first player jumps ahead like this in the draw to speed things up.
The back end of the wall is usually split off (the “dead wall”) to remove some tiles from the game (so you cannot be certain if the tile you need is available) – I believe this usually totals 12 or 14 tiles. This is equivalent to the Haggis in Haggis for example. We play with a 14 tile dead wall, but I need to reread the Zung Jung rules to see if this is correct.
Now the game is set up. This sounds long winded but is actually an excellent method of shuffling almost impossible to cheat, since you do not know where the game will start and only have shuffle control over a quarter of the pieces. It doesn’t take much time at all once you get used to building the walls.
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