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Subject: Easy to learn, variable endlessly rss

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Paul Szilagyi
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Mhing, Published 1982. Why review such an old game? There are two very good reasons. One is that I love this game, and you need to know about it (!) while there are still copies (last I checked, which was not long ago, as my wife and I have considered giving a copy of this as a gift) available via eBay, or similar outlets. The other is I just discovered the 'Geek, so now it's my turn to share something with YOU all. So, lets's get to it.

Depending on which game you're more familiar with, Mhing is a sibling of either Mah Jongg, or Gin Rummy. The game is played by arranging cards into either Triplets or Sequences, which then combine to form scoring combinations. Thirteen cards are dealt to each player, but 14 cards make up a completed hand, as you don't discard before going out.

Here are the game's statistics:

Mhing:

Players: 2-6
Recommended Ages: 10-Adult (this is flexible)
Playing Time: 15-45 Min.(Unfortunately, so is this)

So? What makes Mhing so fun?

To start off with, the game in and of itself is beautiful. The cards are beautifully illustrated, in keeping with the classic Mah Jongg theme, and come in five suits. The first three are Bamboo, Characters, and Dots. These are more traditional suits, numbered 1-9. However, each of the nine Characters cards carries a unique portrait. (Nice)

Then there are the four Winds Four each. (North, East, South, and West. Again, each unique and distinguishable by climate) and three different types, 3 each, of Dragons (Neat!) pictured in their own elements, by color. Beautifully done! Finally, there are 8 bonus Flowers (two each of four types), and 6 Wild (Mhing)cards, again featuring a dragon. Who doesn't love dragons? Even the card-back is attractive in a lively red and gold Koi fish-scale pattern. 150 cards in all.

The presentation is flawless, but where Mhing really shines is in the scoring, which brings us to:


Scoring:

Techincally, the game is scored by 'credits', with each Combination scoring 1, 3, 5, or 8 Credits, depending on how difficult it is to make. 1 Credit =2 points. 2 Credits =4 points, and with each successive group of credits, the point value doubles. However, starting with 5 Credits, the credits themselves are grouped in threes (i.e. 5-7 Credits =32 points, 8-10 Credits =64 points, etc.)The game lists the highest scoring hand for you at a whopping 41 Credits for 131,072 points! There's even a handy chart included in the instructions for how to capture this monster score, but you'd never get there in a real game, trust me.

On the other hand, my wife and I routinely score in the 20-22 Credit bracket (good for 1,032 points), which gives you an idea of why play-time is so flexible. It's all in what you're willing to play for (or how long your opponent is willing to put up with your high-scoring ways)! How do you get those credits? Well,


How To Play:

As mentioned at the outset, each player holds 13 cards in their hand, and a completed hand is 14 cards. This breaks down into 4 sets (either Triplets or Sequences) of three and a pair. Admittedly, this is a lot. However, it's really not that difficult to hold, and if you're used to playing Pinochle, you've actually lost a few cards, giving your hands a much-needed rest.

Pinochle comes up again in that scoring cards in one combination doesn't prohibit you from scoring them again in another. Take the following example...

Example:

Say you had a hand that looked something like this:

2-3-4 Dots, 1-2-3 Characters, 5-6-7 Characters,
7-8-9 Bamboo, and a Pair of Red Dragons to finish.

Wonderful. You've scored "Sequences Only", 1 Credit (2 points).
But, with just a LITTLE extra effort, you could have swapped out that 1 of Characters (often called Man, for short) for a 4, creating 2-3-4 Characters, which scores you an additional credit (for a total of two) for "Double Sequence", with your 2-3-4 Dots.

Beginning players are often encouraged to start by only going for 1 Credit hands (not counting Flowers, which are worth 1 Credit apiece), and they take almost no time to put together. However, it shouldn't take too many hands before you start going for more.

For instance, experienced players would try (read: wait) to get two sets of the same sequence ( 2-3-4 Dots, 2-3-4 Dots) for "Identical Double Sequence" which scores 3 Credits PER OCCURENCE. Or again try (wait some more) to get each sequence to be above or below 5 (i.e. 5-6-7, 7-8-9 etc.) for the 5 Credit "High/Low". Don't wait too long though...

Speaking of which, it is possible to go out (Mhing) without scoring any points at all! Simply collect a complete hand of 4 sets and a pair which doesn't happen to fall into any of the 18 possible scoring combinations. And, believe it or not, this is sometimes a good thing!
Here's why:

Strategy:

The rules state that only the person who 'goes Mhing' first scores ANY POINTS WHATSOEVER. (Remember that 41 Credit hand? Any idea how long it would take to put together??) Consequently, while Mhing does rely somewhat on luck, (it's possible to draw a really bad or an excellent hand), as in all the best card games there are really an infinite number of effective strategies available.

The cards themselves often tell you which of the 18 Combinations they are best suited for. Got a bunch of low cards? Give that "High/Low" a try (it works with Triplets as well). Mostly Dots? Why not try the 3 Credit "One Suit With Honors", or be brave and go for the 8 Credit "One Suit Only" (no 'Honors' (Winds or Dragons) allowed).

Even if you've got nothing in any kind of a group, THERE'S A HAND FOR THAT! Two, actually. The 3 Credit "Nothing Connects", which follows a simple 3-away rule, or it's big brother the 8 Credit "Nothing Connects with All Honors", which is the same thing but must include at least one example of each of the 3 numbered suits, plus one each of the seven (don't go back and count, trust me) 'Honor' cards.

This last is a particular favorite of mine, as I'm often in that starting position. Incidentally, this hand must be made without using anyone else's discards, as there's a unique rule regarding discard-claiming at work. In order to claim someone else's discard, you MUST be using it in a Triplet or Sequence (or possibly to 'go Mhing' immediately), the set is then immediately laid on the table as proof. This is the only time that cards are ever laid down by a player before they go out. This rule gets even BETTER in multiplayer games, where players can claim a discard out of turn to 'go Mhing', make a Triplet, or make a Sequence, in that descending (and tiebreaking) order. In case of an absolute tie, the player closest to the discarding player gets it, but play then proceeds to the left of the player who claimed the discard. Effectively skipping anyone in between him and the last player. See why you might want to go out quickly?

Multiplayer games often become frantic (and sometimes frustrating) battles for discards, or just to put together a decent hand and go out before some 1 Credit punk beats you to it. Or worse, does the same for NO credits! The potential for screwage is great, and is enjoyed by all. The more the merrier, though, as this game plays just as well with two as with six, you just have to adjust your strategy appropriately.
*see "House Rule Alert" below...

Finally, there are some

Extras and Final Thoughts:

The presentation is completed by the following:
Rulebook:
5 pages of rules, with pictures! (Neat.)
(Can be summarized in 5 minutes, I guarantee it) followed by:
1 Page of Illustrated Examples(Handy,) showing how to combine scoring,
and
2 Whole Pages of Frequently Asked (by the not-so-quick) Question's
PLUS
6 Full-Color, Illustrated Scoring Guides. (Useful like you would NOT believe!)
1 Black and White Gummy-Pad of Scoresheets. Easily copied.

And, as an added bonus:

1 Lovely (o.k., not really) Plastic Tray to hold your cards.

House Rule Alert:
Upon further review (2 Years later), we've decided that multiplayer games (especially those with more than 4 players) really benefit from having a minimum-credits-required rule. Four Credits is a good starting line, as it gives everyone a little breathing room while they try to put together a hand that scores some serious points. Of course, if you get carried away with reaching too high, you'll still be left out in the cold, even at four-credit-minimum.

To Sum Up:
In conclusion, Mhing is a wonderful game. It's absorbing and complex but it's so easy to learn (just use those example hands in the book!) and soon enough you'll be playing with any group as if you'd been playing for years. Plus, you'll only get better as time goes on.

What's more, Mhing is a very social game. Between watching your opponents to see how quickly they discard (might be time to wrap it up when each card gets a two-second glance followed by a slight roll of the eyes...) being THIS CLOSE to a colossal hand yourself, every hand is an opportunity to talk about what you were going for, how close you came, and what you're going to do to the guy who went out.

Mhing plays great with two (90% our games are just that), but is fun and frantic for all six possible players. Don't want frantic? Take a little time, slow it down yourself... we've played many a game with the inlaws over the kitchen table, talking about other things and (for the most part) letting the game go as it will, the hands dictating the strategy instead of the other way around.

Mhing: give it a try. You'll be rewarded again and again.

-ZZ






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Wot!
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Playing Mhing or Mah Jongg should be made compulsory.
My most gaming fun has been playing Mah Jongg with the whole family (which does not happen very often, as we live spread around the country).

I bought Mhing off eBay as a substitute but I haven't managed to get people to play. I am interested to see it is viable as a 2-player ... so maybe I need to be more persuasive with my wife!!!!
 
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Alan Kaiser
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Mhing is a great two player game just not quite as chaotic as with more players. It is probably my favorite non trick taking card game. It's very easy to teach and simple to pick up. Being able to evaluate your initial hand against all the different scoring possibilities quickly might take a game or two. Great game.
 
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Skip Maloney
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Nice to see this game pop back up on the radar. I wrote about it almost two years ago in a 'General Comment' post on the Mhing page. Though it was suggested by 'lorna', that it isn't nearly as good or tactily as pleasant as Mah Jongg, to which it is closely related, it stands on its own and is a great game. The learning curve is a little steep as newbies struggle with discovering and implementing strategies for specific hand combinations that will earn them points, once or twice through the game usually takes care of that. . note to manufacturers. . get this back out on the market. In the current 'board gaming is growing everywhere' environment, this re-issue would almost certainly make you some money.
 
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Alfred
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I have to agree, it is a great game, especially with 3 players in my opinion.

I was lucky to be able to pick up a copy for myself at a thrift store last year as it's long OOP. So indeed... a re-issue would be in order, even if it means 'modernizing' the stylishly beautiful graphics to catch a new audience.
 
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Ben Smith
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hey Paul. Welcome to the Geek!

I too used to like Mhing but nowadays there are so many incredible 2-player games on the market it just doesn't get any play. Given you like the game of Go I would suggest any of the games in the Gipf series, I think you will agree they are destined for greatness. Lord Of The Rings The Confrontation is good. I would dearly love to recommend Advanced Squad Leader but figure you're probably not ready for wargames yet

Ben
 
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Alan Kaiser
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The thing about Mhing is that it is very 'nonthreatening' for lack of a better word. Many people, especially older folks, grew up with card games and maybe still play regularly. For most people like this, a boardgame is just not something that will ever interest them. Cards is a different story however, cards are more familiar, more accessible. Anyone who's played rummy can understand this game but it opens up an avenue to different games that might not otherwise ever be considered. Of course, with my game playing friends, this is just not a game that will ever hit the table. However, my mom (definitely a nongamer) loved it. I've also introduced other nongamers to this game and it's always worked well. From this point I can then bring out other card based games like many of the Kosmos 2 player games if I want and I don't get as many complaints.
 
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