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Subject: 16-tile mahjong with New Style rules? rss

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Robert Garcia
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Hey guys,

This mahjong format has been increasing in popularity where I play (in Hong Kong). It is basically 16-tile Taiwanese Mahjong, with the same base + tai scoring system, but with some changes which I will detail below.

I know we have some designers here like Alan Kwan and I would be really interested in what you guys think about how the scoring and gameplay elements affect the 'fun'.

Self-pick scoring
My friends originally played with Taiwanese original of 'self pick collects score from every player'. This is terrible. I tried to get a less terrible version and we are using 'self pick collects half from every player' which is still bad but not as bad!

Patterns
The biggest difference from traditional Taiwanese 16-tile mahjong is that it has a lot of New Style patterns. For example, pure straight, mixed straight, three color runs, same color double run, five types, one voided suit, tanyao, etc.

I think the patterns are positive overall as they have lots more opportunities for skillful decisions.

Here's a sample pattern list (Chinese only). In general, 5 faan is worth the same as 1 dai:
http://www.hkwebsite.com/twmj/TWMJsummary.htm


Bonus payments
There are bonus payments for various things. The most common are:

Bonus for a concealed kong
Bonus for a complete set of flowers
If all four of the same tile are discarded consecutively, penalty for the originator (some rules are three in a row only)

Do these add much to the game?

Sticky
Not sure what the right word is. When you lose and pay someone, instead of giving them the points directly, they are in a limbo of some sort. For example, player A loses 16 points to player B. They remain there until player B fails to win the next hand. But:

1) If player A wins from player B or wins by self pick, he can claw back half of those points. So in the above example, B would only get 8 points.
2) If player B wins from player A again or wins by self pick, the points are multiplied by 1.5. So in the above example, there would now be 24 points in the limbo zone.

My question here is: Does this add more to the game than it subtracts?


Subtitle
Overall, the game plays very quickly, like Taiwanese 16-tile mahjong, but with the scoring variety of New Style. It's possible to play defense in rules where self-pick is not rewarded so much, as well.

With a group of people with widely varying skill levels, we want the lesser skilled players to win occasionally as well. For those, we add the crazy stuff (self-pick wins 3x, bonus payments large relative to average win size, etc). For another group of more serious players we scale those down and have smaller self-pick payoffs. It is great fun as a luck-heavy game. Just wondering whether it works as a more skill-testing game, too!

Also: what does 16-tiles add to and subtract from the strategy space compared with 13-tiles?
 
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Alan Kwan
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garcia1000 wrote:
Self-pick scoring
My friends originally played with Taiwanese original of 'self pick collects score from every player'. This is terrible. I tried to get a less terrible version and we are using 'self pick collects half from every player' which is still bad but not as bad!


The best resource against self-draw inflation is my book, chapter 8, which exposes the erroneous historical origin of the rule. The book is in Chinese (and English is under work), but that chapter's English version is already available. Let me know if you can't find it.

Quote:
Bonus for a concealed kong


Scoring for triplets/kong has been present since Early Classical, with the most points for concealed kong. So there is nothing particularly wrong for rewarding a concealed kong, provided that it is kept in balance with other things.

Quote:
Bonus for a complete set of flowers


This is in fact a traditional rule for the flowers, carelessly omitted by HKOS players (probably due to mis-propagation).

Quote:
If all four of the same tile are discarded consecutively, penalty for the originator (some rules are three in a row only)


This is a rule arbitrarily taken from Uno, and adds nothing to the game. If you want "excitement", just roll dice and pay off.

Quote:
Sticky: Does this add more to the game than it subtracts?


It adds more gambling excitement. But the limbo bet constitutes a large "disguised basic points", which encourages speed wins and discourages pattern-building, contradicting the purpose of pattern-building in New Style. (Chapter 24 of my book.)

When there is a significant amount in "limbo", the relevant players will just want to win as fast as possible in order to win the limbo bet, and they won't care about the value of the current hand.

Quote:
With a group of people with widely varying skill levels, we want the lesser skilled players to win occasionally as well.


Even very strict skill-based mahjong, such as Zung Jung or all-uniform scoring mahjong, involves enough luck (inherent luck in "luck of the draw") that the less skilled players can win quite sometimes - as long as the rules for "how to win" are simple enough to be understood. [*1] (The expert's skill difference would show only in the long term.) Adding excessive inflation elements is not needed, and particularly makes a bad initiation lesson for the novice. (You imprint the misconception that mahjong is just a lucky gambling game with little skill involved.) If you teach a new player tripling self-draw inflation such that he thinks that it is the "norm" for mahjong, how are you going to un-teach that?

[*1] Some versions, such as Modern Japanese and Chinese Official, add in excessive rules complexity to trap the novice, and the novice can't win those unless he at least knows the rules well.

Quote:
Also: what does 16-tiles add to and subtract from the strategy space compared with 13-tiles?


It has pros and cons. I think it has an overall negative effect in pattern-building, since the extra tiles tend to make it too difficult to achieve certain patterns (those which require all tiles to conform to some criteria, such as One-Suit and All Triplets), upsetting the balance and shifting the game too much towards other patterns (those which require part of the hand to contain certain sets), ultimately reducing its pattern variety (making the game more monotonous).

Hong Kong people has this point mixed up. 16-tile was developed in Taiwan under the Classical/Old Style environment, for the purpose of spicing up that game. New Style was originally developed outside Taiwan under the 13-tile environment, for the purpose of spicing up this game. These developments are like heading off in different, perpendicular directions, and actually don't mix very well. But for most Hong Kong people, their contact with New Style originates from a book about Taiwanese 16-tile (since most other books on New Style happen to be in English, which HK people loathe reading), and that's why 16-tile New Style is so widely propagated in Hong Kong (and many HK people even think that the New Style patterns are an attribute of Taiwanese mahjong).
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Robert Garcia
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Hi Alan,

Thanks for your reply! I looked up your site and read your chapter on Taiwanese mahjong, and it answered a lot of the questions I had.

Self-pick - I think self-pick should pay the same as win on discard, but I'm having trouble convincing people to change. The best compromise I've found so far is that win on discard pays 2X, while self-pick wins X from each other player, AND there is a "rake" on self-pick wins. This rake is distributed to the players at the end of the night.

This method reduces the self-pick bonus to something like 125% of a win on discard.


Limbo bet - I agree, "disguised basic points" is the right way to look at it. So, speed wins are encouraged when a limbo bet is in play. There is also the other side of it, though, which is to penalize you for discarding to the limbo player. So that counterbalances the speed play slightly.


Skill levels - We play pretty long sessions (usually 10-12 hour sessions) and keep track of the scores. With the skill-rewarding ruleset, the best players win like, 80%+ of the time. This is probably a function of the large amount of games played, though. I think inflation elements are bad when they affect gameplay too significantly, but we are experimenting with having the bonuses for concealed kong and flowers be larger.

We have actually found that a large "basic points" leads to the more skilled players winning MORE. The biggest weakness of the bad players is that they play inefficiently, and so they are ready slower than the good players. So a smaller basic points makes the bad players win more. I have no idea whether this is common, though.


16 tiles - It definitely shifts the emphasis towards partial patterns like three color sequences, and away from things like half flush. But, is this simply a question of the half flush/all triplets hands being undercosted in the scoring system? I feel that all triplets is slightly undercosted, because either it is easy to pong (honors, terminals), or else you cause major disruption when you pong a middle tile. Mixed-one suit and pure one-suit are majorly undercosted, though. But this doesn't seem like something that is a systemic flaw? I mean if the values were changed, I would definitely go for the bigger hands sometimes.

At the moment the only 'big' hand I go for with regularity is the "7 pairs and a triplet" hand. It is fairly costed, but more significantly, it is superb on defense. If you are paying attention at all and have a reasonable skill at reading discards you should basically never be discarding to someone else's hand until you are ready.

I know Zung Jung scoring is based on combinatoric frequency. An unrelated question I have is, do the point values also account for risk? For example if you are going for mixed or pure one-suit, you are taking on bigger risk because you have to discard all dangerous tiles in the other two suits, and you can't switch easily. But if you are going for three colors, you can play defense while still keeping your pattern.

Anyway, I think if the only concern is that it makes some patterns too hard, that is not a significant detriment, because we can just rebalance the scoring system. Also, why doesn't 16-tile mix with New Style?

Thanks for taking the time to respond!
 
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Robert Garcia
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Hmm... actually, one voided suit, all chows, no terminals are "whole hand" type patterns and they work well in 16-tile too. 'All types' works well also. Maybe it is just a problem with a few specific patterns.
 
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Alan Kwan
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garcia1000 wrote:
Self-pick - I think self-pick should pay the same as win on discard, but I'm having trouble convincing people to change.


Shock them by telling them what I say in my book: 'Tripling self-draw inflation has never been an intended reward, but rather a historical error due to a combination of mis-propagation of rules by the novice, and a harmful side effect (which directly contradicts the very purpose of the very rule which caused that effect).'

Simply put, players who advocate self-draw inflation simply do not know that mahjong could and should be otherwise - ignorance caused by 'collective amnesia'.

Quote:
Limbo bet - I agree, "disguised basic points" is the right way to look at it. So, speed wins are encouraged when a limbo bet is in play. There is also the other side of it, though, which is to penalize you for discarding to the limbo player. So that counterbalances the speed play slightly.


The caution is against discarding to the win, which is a different issue entirely from the issue of "speed win vs. big pattern hand". For example, doubling the payoff of the current hand between relevant players would have the same effect on encouraging caution, without the effect of disguised basic points as the limbo bet. (The Classical East-doubling rule is better than the limbo bet in this sense.)

Quote:
We have actually found that a large "basic points" leads to the more skilled players winning MORE. The biggest weakness of the bad players is that they play inefficiently, and so they are ready slower than the good players. So a smaller basic points makes the bad players win more.


There are many different skills in mahjong, and they depend on the rules in use. Quick ready is a skill, building big pattern hands efficiently is a skill, and striking a good balance between the two is a (deeper) skill (but is not properly rewarded in most versions except Zung Jung). Random inflation elements help the weaker player win more; that's a given. Smaller (or none at all, as in Zung Jung) basic points increase the significance of all other elements, including both random inflation elements and proper pattern scores. (Most New Style versions other than Zung Jung tend to have balance problems in their pattern selection and value setting that the pattern scores behave more or less like random inflation elements, though.) Any version of Taiwanese tends to be overly heavy in basic points (both explicit and disguised) already, so the players are indoctrinated with the mindset that "good player = fast winner"; under that preconception, of course higher basic points will favor the "better" player more. (It's just a circular definition, a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

Quote:
16 tiles - is this simply a question of the half flush/all triplets hands being undercosted in the scoring system?


HKOS is the living proof that increasing pattern values alone is not an adequate solution to problems (inadequacy) in the pattern set. Even with the One-Suit patterns and All Triplets increased to 3 faan, the higher encouragement for attempting these patterns have not brought about an adequate increase in their success rate, and the game remains dominated by small hands; eventually the players resort to the 3-faan minimum requirement to give the game enough spice (even though it is actually an atrocious rule which totally ruins the game's playability).

Zung Jung is very intricately balanced, with its 5 core patterns (One-Suit, All Triplets, Three Similar Sequences, Nine-Tile Straight, and Lesser Terminals) at comparable frequencies. I presume that with 16 tiles, the three-set patterns are going to occur significantly more than the entire-hand ones; balancing the pattern values may produce fair rewards, but won't adequately make those patterns succeed more frequently. The result is a game dominated by a smaller set of patterns than the 13-tile game. The issue here is variety, which isn't adequately repaired by adjusting pattern values.

Of course no one yet is aware of any problem in 16-tile New Style, because about every version around is practically focused so much on speed (with high explicit & disguised basic points and such) that no one even cares.

Quote:
At the moment the only 'big' hand I go for with regularity is the "7 pairs and a triplet" hand. It is fairly costed


Irregular patterns tend to be overly rewarded in most systems (chapter 28 of my book). Most players are not aware of the problem; even Chinese Official does it.

7-pair type hands are probably much easier than most players think.

Quote:
An unrelated question I have is, do the point values also account for risk?


Among patterns with different shapes (i.e. beyond comparing similar-shaped patterns such as Three Similar Sequences and Nine-Tile Straight), the combinatorial multiplicity has limited meaning, and must be interpreted with reservations. The comparisons between Mixed One-Suit and Three Similar Sequences are very intricate in many ways. Mixed One-Suit (and All Triplets) are more dependent (i.e. bottleneck) on starting material, while the success of Three Similar Sequences (and Nine-Tile Straight and Lesser Terminals) are more dependent on getting the later tiles. That is, there are more starting hands which give a 'fair' chance of success for the New Style patterns than the Classical ones, but there are more starting hands which give a 'high' chance of success for the Classical patterns than the New Style ones. (I've heard of players who are unaware of this point falling into "Lesser Terminals group-think".) In other words, you are more likely to fail with a 'good' starting hand for Three Similar Sequences than with a 'good' starting hand for Mixed One-Suit (while you are more likely to succeed with a 'mediocre' starting hand for 3SS than with a 'mediocre' starting hand for One-Suit).

In terms of "risk", I don't think there is a very significant difference. Although you have a few "free" tiles in the 3-set patterns, late in the hand one usually has little freedom in withholding safe tiles without mostly abandoning one's own big hand. (How otherwise? Break your fourth set? Or break your pair?) The 3-sequence patterns do have the advantage that it is often easier to change direction and win a small hand when your big hand isn't advancing well (especially over players who attempt Mixed One-Suit with mediocre hands by hanging on to single honors; single honors are very inefficient tiles for the purpose of quick winning).

The "7 Pairs" hand is undoubtedly the safest in that sense, because it contains 2-tile sets (i.e. pairs) rather than 3-tile sets, hence giving the player a lot more freedom.

Quote:
But if you are going for three colors, you can play defense while still keeping your pattern.


In practice, breaking a set or the eye pair late in the hand sets one back by so much that one is effectively out of the race.
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Alan Kwan
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garcia1000 wrote:
Hmm... actually, one voided suit, all chows, no terminals are "whole hand" type patterns and they work well in 16-tile too.


Naturally, as they are all very easy patterns in 13-tile (and should be worthless or almost so, as they are in Zung Jung), and still easy enough in 16-tile. They require you to make easy hands (instead of difficult ones, which patterns are supposed to do).

There are about 10 times as many sequences as there are triplets in the 136-tile set. (Chapter 3 of my book.) Taking into account that there are about twice as many opportunities to get the third tile to complete your triplet than to complete your sequence (the rules for pung and chow), we can assume a 5:1 ratio. Hence the All-Sequence hand requires that you use the 5/6 portion of sets to complete your hand; an extra 5th set is just one more 5/6 requirement to fulfill.

No Terminals allows you to use 5/7 of the possible sequences (and 21/34 of the triplets and pairs, but triplets are the minority).

One voided suit allows you to use 2/3 of the suit tiles. (Players typically throw out unmatched honor tiles first thing in New Style.) In 16-tile game, with Mixed One-Suit the shortage of usable tiles is becoming a significant factor which reduces the hands' multiplicity (the 5th set is more likely to require duplicate tiles used in the other sets, and duplicate tiles mean reduced multiplicity for a reason similar to that it's harder to roll 1-1 than 1-2 on two dice) far beyond the 1/3 factor of usable suit tiles. With one voided suit, the duplication factor doesn't really strike home yet. So the pattern is just somewhat more difficult in the 16-tile game than the 13-tile game, unlike Mixed One-Suit which is a lot more difficult with an extra 5th set.

Quote:
'All types' works well also.


The original justification (reason of existence) of the "Five Suits" pattern relies on the fact that a regular hand consists of 5 sets (counting the eye pair as a set for here): every set is in a different suit, hence the hand is of a certain kind of 'consistency' and difficulty. Considering that, it should be inappropriate to apply the pattern to hands which consist of more than 5 sets (such as "7 Pair" hands, or the 16-tile game), since that is out of line with the pattern justification. (Chapter 20 of my book.)

In other words, the pattern is broken when applied to the 16-tile game.

Quote:
Maybe it is just a problem with a few specific patterns.


It's the other way round. It is okay with certain "patterns" because they are overly easy (as worthy patterns) in the first place.
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Robert Garcia
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I just played again on Saturday with friends. I didn't manage to get them to use Zung Jung rules but I learned a lot about the main barriers to changing, and maybe some suggestions to make it easier.

Also, I was browsing the internet and here's a pretty nice English language site which gives basic strategy tips for Zung Jung: https://sites.google.com/site/minnesotamahjongclub/strategy

I believe most standard Mahjong techniques should work with Zung Jung as well, since it encourages claiming discards.

I will post more about my findings once I gather my thoughts!
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Robert Garcia
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Okay here goes!

Players: Players are pretty experienced and have been playing for many years. Previously started playing 13-tile Hong Kong Old Style with 3-faan minimum. Found it boring, switched to 16-tile New Style thing that I mentioned previously. Varying skill levels but I'd say pretty decent (e.g. we all know how to hold important tiles if needed, and to roughly know which tiles are more dangerous to discard)

I mentioned the Zung Jung system and explained it briefly. Here are their main concerns, coming from a 16-tile New Style background:

Main concerns
1. We really, really love "listen". "Listen" is basically Riichi in Japanese rules, except there's no need to put out an indicator and it can be done after you've claimed discards. You get a higher score in return for telling your opponents you are ready, and more importantly, you give up the chance to improve your wait or improve your patterns.

2. They don't really get the par score thing when someone else wins on a discard. It would be nice if somewhere there was a brief explanation of why the par score is good, and its effect on gameplay.

3. We are concerned that the game might be too defensive. I read some other BGG posts which said Zung Jung wasn't defensive enough, which seems strange to me. It looks like defense might be too easy since not only can you read from their discards and their calls, but the limited amount of high scores means you can know what they are going for and just avoid those discards?

4. We don't really like the dead wall rule. We prefer playing until the wall is completely empty. What is the Zung Jung explanation for dead wall?

5. We prefer multiple-win to interception rules, in the case where multiple players can win on the same discard. There's the element of "You know that tile is dangerous, if you discard it you should bear the consequences."

6. This is the biggest concern: We love the greater action of 16-tile. Having 16 tiles means it is much more likely that a random draw will improve your hand since there are more tiles. With 13 tiles if you get a disconnected hand it really sucks because it'll take you forever to draw enough good tiles to match, and calling tiles just ruins your hand quality further. This is rarely the case in 16 tile.

We realise that 16-tile is not traditional, but that is okay with us because it is simply more fun. 13-tile just feels too slow.


Things that weren't actually problems
Next, some things that I thought would encounter resistance, but were no big deal.

1. No bonus for self-draw. Maybe because I mentioned it previously, but everyone generally accepted this.

2. Rule of same-turn immunity. This took a while to explain, but they basically just saw it as a less restrictive version of a "can't win if you had the opportunity in the same round" rule.

3. Passing the deal even if you win. I explained that it makes session lengths more predictable, and they were fine with that.


Changes I'd make to official Zung Jung rules
Here are some changes I'd make. I am not saying that these are 'better' rules. They are strictly to make it easier to transition from our current style.

1. Add points for "listen". Not sure how many points to give this.

2. Remove the patterns: Nine gates, final draw, final discard. Also, remove the maximum limit. Reason: Fewer things to learn

3. Include points for prevailing wind. Remove the dead wall rule. Use multiple-win rule instead of interception rule. Reason: Matches our current ruleset, so there's fewer things to learn.

4. Remove points for Kong, but allow open Kong to be counted as concealed triplet. Reason: Matches our current ruleset, and hopefully it doesn't change scoring too much.

5. Use the flower points. 5 points for matching flower, 0 for non-matching, 10 bonus points for complete set. The reason for 0/5/10 is due to rule 6.

6. Chicken hand worth 0 points. Divide all points by 5. Reason: Easier to pay immediately instead of writing down the scores with the lowered point values.

Would really appreciate any comments on the 'main concerns' part, especially #1 and #6, and also on the changes part, whether they are crazy or bad or ok or whatever!!
 
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Chris Schumann
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Thank you for the kind words about my articles, Robert. I hope to put up some real strategy tips some day, but most of my group still doesn't even keep score yet.

I'll chime in with my two cents after Alan Kwan has a chance to respond, but I know the dead wall is one issue he does not have very strong feelings about. I'd imagine that with 16 tile hands, it's very useful to get 10% of the tiles back into play.

Above all, remember Zung Jung is really a set of house rules that you can change as you like if your group just plays each other. It would only make a difference if you want to play with other groups or in the World Series of Mahjong tournament (or perhaps play Zung Jung online some day).
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I'll kick in my two cents, just for fun.
garcia1000 wrote:
1. We really, really love "listen". "Listen" is basically Riichi in Japanese rules, except there's no need to put out an indicator and it can be done after you've claimed discards. You get a higher score in return for telling your opponents you are ready, and more importantly, you give up the chance to improve your wait or improve your patterns.

I have not yet studied the dynamic elements of mahjong: How calling tiles affects the statistics. I have some ideas, but I'll feel more comfortable once I get some numbers to back up or refute my intuition. Personally, I like the idea of making a ready claim, but I fear its main effect is to make other players fold. I find that undesirable, but if people in my group wanted it, I would start at a value of 5 or maybe 10 points, and play at that level for several games to see how it works.

Another thing you might do is if someone discards into a ready hand is to make them pay for the table.

Quote:
2. They don't really get the par score thing when someone else wins on a discard. It would be nice if somewhere there was a brief explanation of why the par score is good, and its effect on gameplay.

The par (as I call it) or standard score is meant to encourage going for patterns. If someone gets that score or less, you are not penalized for discarding into their hand. Therefore, you can go for more points instead of just going out very quickly.

Quote:
3. We are concerned that the game might be too defensive. I read some other BGG posts which said Zung Jung wasn't defensive enough, which seems strange to me. It looks like defense might be too easy since not only can you read from their discards and their calls, but the limited amount of high scores means you can know what they are going for and just avoid those discards?

ZJ is not defensive compared to Riichi, as there's no furiten or sacred discard rule. ZJ gives the balance to the player to decide whether to try to complete your own hand, or to keep tiles that you think others need.

Quote:
4. We don't really like the dead wall rule. We prefer playing until the wall is completely empty. What is the Zung Jung explanation for dead wall?

I believe there are two parts: The first answer is that it is the tradition from Chinese Classical. The second answer is that it helps tile counters... if you know there is a red dragon in the wall, then the more the wall disappears, the more sure you are that it will come out.

Quote:
5. We prefer multiple-win to interception rules, in the case where multiple players can win on the same discard. There's the element of "You know that tile is dangerous, if you discard it you should bear the consequences."

Feel free to play that way, but you'll have to come up with a payment scheme for it that either accommodates or removes the standard score. I think this was added to make the game follow modern ideas of fairness and what people expect out of games today.

Quote:
6. This is the biggest concern: We love the greater action of 16-tile. Having 16 tiles means it is much more likely that a random draw will improve your hand since there are more tiles. With 13 tiles if you get a disconnected hand it really sucks because it'll take you forever to draw enough good tiles to match, and calling tiles just ruins your hand quality further. This is rarely the case in 16 tile.

We realise that 16-tile is not traditional, but that is okay with us because it is simply more fun. 13-tile just feels too slow.

Having never played 16-tile myself, 13-tile feels plenty fast to me. It would also seem more difficult to me to design patterns that make sense when you have 5 sets and a pair, except patterns that would be very much more difficult to attain than the current ones, and made even MORE difficult because 12 extra tiles are used up before play even begins.


Quote:
Changes I'd make:

You can remove anything you like, but you should be aware of how it changes the game. My personal feelings:
1. Ready I talked about above.
2. Removing Nine Gates would have virtually no impact. I like last tile bonus, and you don't really have to remember it, since it's not something you can actually go for.
3. Prevailing wind: Not a big deal, but it introduces the double wind. Suddenly, going out on a single wind triplet is a 20 (or whatever) point hand. Not awful, and VERY fast.
3b. Remove dead wall: I would like to do this myself!
3c. Multiple wins in one hand: In a tournament or league, this could be crippling and very un-fun.
4. Kong changes: I would not change them. If you want to keep your triplets concealed, have some self control and do it yourself, and be rewarded accordingly.
5. Flowers: I'd leave them out. They add nothing to strategy and slow the game down. I think it's strange you like these, but don't like the last tile bonus.
6. Chicken hand worth 0 is great if you're playing for money, but I would instead have a 5 point minimum score, as in the first two World Series of Mahjong tournaments.
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Alan Kwan
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The way I see it, most of the changes to Zung Jung people are suggesting (not only here, but virtually everywhere I've seen) are because people want to make the game closer to what they're currently playing - and unknowingly further away from what I call the 'original design intent' of mahjong as the game was originally conceived. Because most people have no idea what the early form of the game was like.

For example, eliminating the dead wall, adding the prevailing wind, adding riichi, and allowing multiple winners are all changes which at least mess up the game as much as they add to it. Few nowadays know that the prevailing wind was a controversy which got quite some opposition when it was first introduced; the disputes in Japan were especially better documented.

In the case of multiple winners, its proponents apparently are all unaware of the fact that it is a skill to play to block your lower seat (and to play to dodge your upper seat as well); among experts interception is more often a result of skillful playing than a random event. Let's say South is building a big hand, and East can read that and plays to intercept him.

With interception rule: West and North, if they can clearly read what is going on, can discard to let East win and end the hand.

With multiple-winner rule: West and North cannot discard their tiles, so it comes down to pure luck as to whether East or South draws his winning tile first.

Only players who are not strong enough to read and dodge their upper seat would vote for multiple-winners.
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Robert Garcia
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Hey guys,

I think we are maybe talking a bit at cross purposes here. Of course any deviations from the official ZJ rules are going to change things! And Alan seems like a pretty competent designer, so any deviation is probably going to worsen the game.

That is not the main point of why I want to do this. The reason is that it's hard to get others to try out a completely new way of playing all at once. We are having fun with the current ruleset. Many of the flaws with our current ruleset, we have become accustomed to it. So they don't see much need to change!

Time for a terrible analogy. Not long ago, the iPhone dominated high-end smartphone sales. As the new entrant, there's two main ways you can compete. You can be like Android, and make something that feels similar, so that people's switching costs are lower. Or you can be like Windows Phone, and make something that may be objectively better, but which is different from what people are used to. This is a more difficult strategy though!

So what I mean is, I am asking what about those changes I proposed: how much do they detract from the game? If it is a big, fundamental change, then probably no go. If it's a minor thing, we can gradually merge to the official ruleset as people become more comfortable.

The official ZJ site has recommendations for making the game more casual, and also for teaching it for children. I think something helpful would be a recommendation for people from a Riichi background, HKOS background, etc. etc. You might have a great ruleset, but you still need to make it easy for people to try!

Edit: I found an iOS app that has free online play with a ruleset very similar to the one we're using. Chinese only though. It's called "對戰麻雀".
 
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Robert Garcia
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So! I spent a bit of time thinking about this.
Probably one reason for the lower amount of Zung Jung games compared to other formats is that other formats benefit from network effects of having a large userbase. So if we want ZJ to spread more, we need to make it easy to transition.

Therefore!

I made these 'conversion kits'. It should lead to a game that is slightly worse than pure ZJ, but much easier for people to transition into them. Once they are familiar with the new rules you can go from there to pure ZJ directly.


Riichi to Zung Jung

This one is pretty easy. Main thing is the additive scoring, not multiplicative.

Recommended changes:
1) Add new rule "Ready". Like Riichi, can only be done when concealed, but no need to put in a 1000 wager. Gives 10(?) points.
2) Add new pattern "All Green". 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 bamboos and Green Dragon. Limit hand of 400.
3) No par payment of 25 on a discard. Discarder pays all.
4) Less strict furiten rule. You cannot win on discard if the same tile is in your discards. E.g. you are waiting on 1,4 bamboo, there is 1-bamboo in your discard. You can win off another person's 4-bamboo, but not 1-bamboo.

That's it! The only new things Riichi players need to learn are the additive scoring system, and Three Consecutive Triplets.

As soon as possible, ditch the furiten rule. The other three changes can be made slowly.


HKOS to Zung Jung

HKOS is pretty simple, so this one needs more things cut.

Recommended changes:
1) Remove pattern "Identical sequences" (all four of them).
2) Remove pattern "Small Three Similar Triplets", "Three Similar Triplets".
3) Remove pattern "Three Consecutive Triplets", "Four Consecutive Triplets".
4) Remove pattern "Seven Pairs".
5) If they had been playing HKOS with a 3-faan minimum, add minimum limit: 5 points.

The two most important new patterns are kept: three similar sequences, and nine-tile straight. Slowly add in the new patterns, probably in the order listed above.


Shanghai New Style to Zung Jung

Uh.. dunno yet. I'm trying to make 16-tile new style but the 16-tile thing is really very different because it changes the relative values of patterns.

Do you guys think this stuff is even useful though
 
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Chris Schumann
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I did a little work on the combinatorics on mahjong you can see here:
http://mahjong.wikidot.com/analysis:combinatorics
 
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Robert Garcia
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Nice!

Do you have any combinatorics for 16-tile hands?

 
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garcia1000 wrote:
Nice!
Do you have any combinatorics for 16-tile hands?


Thank you!

I don't. As it turns out, I seem to have misplaced the code that generated these numbers, so I suppose I'll have to write the whole thing again.
 
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garcia1000 wrote:
Probably one reason for the lower amount of Zung Jung games compared to other formats is that other formats benefit from network effects of having a large userbase. So if we want ZJ to spread more, we need to make it easy to transition.

It seems to me that your group likes how you currently play. There's nothing wrong with that!

I think it is already easy enough to transition for anyone who actually wants to. ZJ was my fourth mahjong style (after Chinese Classical, Chinese Offical, and Riichi), and by then, I found it very easy to learn.
 
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garcia1000 wrote:

So what I mean is, I am asking what about those changes I proposed: how much do they detract from the game? If it is a big, fundamental change, then probably no go. If it's a minor thing, we can gradually merge to the official ruleset as people become more comfortable.


If you're playing 10 to 12 hour sets of Mahjong already, I'm not exactly sure why you're trying to change up the game that you and your group currently play! (edit: I guess whizkid beat me to it!)


I agree in theory that Alan may have developed a better game, but if you and your group don't enjoy it, then in practice his game is a worse game for y'all.

I'll freely admit that I prefer 3-point minimum HKOS largely due to nostalgia. But hey, HKOS taps into something in my personal history that ZJ never will....
 
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garcia1000 wrote:

Riichi to Zung Jung

Recommended changes:
2) Add new pattern "All Green". 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 bamboos and Green Dragon. Limit hand of 400.


Strike this. I don't mind people house ruling ZJ to make it 'easier' for their group, but this one is totally superfluous. Perhaps you don't know, but All Green has next to zero weight in Riichi.
 
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aaarg_ink wrote:

I'll freely admit that I prefer 3-point minimum HKOS largely due to nostalgia. But hey, HKOS taps into something in my personal history that ZJ never will....


Well, for my case, Zung Jung scratches a 'gaming itch' 3-faan HKOS never, never will ...
 
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honestly i do not see any need for a conversion kit. a good japanese mahjong player should have realized the following problems of it:

1. once someone declares reach, you have to give up your hand unless you are really close to ready or having a ridiculously huge one-card-to-ready hand. and this reach would add a lot of expected points to your hand even if you are playing the competitive rules. 10 points in ZJ for reach would actually means 1-fan or 2-fan for smaller hands while i guess you are not retarded to do that for your sealed one-suit. this would actually means buffing the smaller hands and nerfing the bigger hands, contradiction to the author's intend.

2. "discarder pays all" system seemed logically fine at the beginning but if you get into japanese mahjong well, you will find that unluckily dealing into a 1000 hand in the 6th discard of the 3rd game of south may be (with quite a high probability) disastrous. removing the ranking and nerfing "discarder pays all" system do solve this problem.

3. we have a lot of implications for furiten rules but most of them are not very useful except that you will not lose to the player who discard the card you are going to discard. theories like "a discarded 5s means 8s is relatively safer" is pretty close to a joke. chances are you will deal into someone else's hand, manage to escape somehow by luck or still lose it. most modern japanese theorists suggest that playing a pure strategy of straight attacking or defending would actually make you better off. so i do not understand how furiten is going to help people out but limiting strategies in pon and chow. see how it is stupid to force them to win on a 4s when they have "all terminals and three colour runs" which, by the way, i think we really need a combo discount on this.

personally, my group who plays japanese for 1-5 years has no problem transitioning to ZJ and we even get addicted to it. despite we might go back to japanese for some time if we decide that we are too fed of ZJ for that moment. my advise would be: its only a game after all. and a game is for fun. if people decide that they like japanese or hkos more, just let it be. there are like some millions of people (i wanted to use the i-word here) who like monopoly more than dominion or even bang!, you do not and have no ways to 'correct' them all. if they find it fun, dun distrub them like a missionary.
 
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Zung Jung has an explicit purpose. Being what I call 'pattern-building' mahjong, it aims to reward each hand reasonably accurately according to its beauty (consistency) and difficulty. If that is what you look for in a mahjong scoring system, I would say that you could stop wasting time with other systems, and just dive straight into Zung Jung. Because IMO Zung Jung excels in its purpose, and is far above other popular systems in that aspect.

But if you don't care about that aspect, there are the other systems which offer different things. Hong Kong Old Style offers simplicity above all else - though it is sorrowfully inadequate in the pattern-building aspect. And the 3-faan minimum requirement rule just makes it worse, spoiling the game's playability for the sake of some sad imitation of real pattern-building fun. Yet if all you are looking for is simplicity - and the ease of propagation to certain targets that brings - you need look no further than HKOS. Or if you are easily satisfied by the fake thing, and don't care about looking for the real thing, then by all means play 3-faan and get whatever enjoyment you get out of it.

Riichi offers a highly defensive game (not just because of "discarder-pay-all", which can be used in Zung Jung as a semi-official variant, but also because of the threat of frequent and easy high-value hands) with its own (peculiar) brand of strategy and tactics. But its hand values are the results of historical habits (or rather, ahistorical modifications to the original game, though that can be said for most other existing systems as well) rather than careful calculation and balance, and are often (if not usually) not reflective of the actual beauty and difficulty of the hand. 'Beauty' here means in terms of common-sense feelings - proponents of riichi would have their sense of beauty twisted to fit its values, such as seeing a "Concealed" "Pinfu" "No Terminals" hand as more "beautiful" than a hand with Nine-Tile Straight, but exposed. Also, you can have an exciting gambling game if you add in the recently-popular mix of excessive inflation elements (such as ura-dora, ippatsu, and red fives) - although those elements would be seen as excessively random and degrading by the experts of 20 years ago.

MCR also offers its own (peculiar) brand of strategy. With its atrocious payoff scheme (super high basic points, and self-draw inflation) the hand values are way off, but the game does offer a limited sense of pattern-building fun as a "speed-win game but with 8-point minimum". It also enjoys the status of being "official", although with limited acceptance and recognition (and even unstable support from its originating country/body). It is ultimately rather shallow as pattern-building mahjong, but if you are not looking for a deep pattern-building game, and prefer MCR's qualities instead (especially its "officiality"), then MCR would be for you. (The strategies surrounding the "speed-win game but with 8-point minimum" are better classified as rules complexity than game depth, yet there is a bunch of albeit peculiar stuff in there, and some people do like that sort of game - perhaps for the sense of superiority in knowing a game which others struggle with.)
 
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Alan Kwan wrote:
It is ultimately rather shallow as pattern-building mahjong, but if you are not looking for a deep pattern-building game, and prefer MCR's qualities instead (especially its "officiality"), then MCR would be for you. (The strategies surrounding the "speed-win game but with 8-point minimum" are better classified as rules complexity than game depth, yet there is a bunch of albeit peculiar stuff in there, and some people do like that sort of game - perhaps for the sense of superiority in knowing a game which others struggle with.)

Speaking for myself, I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment of learning and playing MCR. It is my second-favorite style to play, and it's what I choose when I play on my phone simply because a good Zung Jung game is not available.
 
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