The website you visited includes a game of Mahjong Solitaire, that is a version of the game that can be played by a single player. However, this solitaire game comes from an ancient Chinese game of the same name, which is played usually by four players. The game is somewhat similar to Rummy but instead of cards it is played with 144 tiles similar in shape to domino tiles. Unlike dominoes and similar to cards, Mahjong tiles are divided into suits and a few other groups: dragons, winds, plants, and seasons (or princes). Traditional Mahjong can be played both as pure entertainment or as a form of gambling. The game tiles can also be used for telling fortune, similar to Tarot cards.
The game is very popular around the world and there are a number of countries in which Mahjong competitions are being held. Every country has its own rules, and so players play differently depending on whether they are in China, Japan, United Kingdom, United States and so on.
To start the game, players need two regular dice (with six sides) and, optionally, tile racks for each player so that players do not see each other’s tiles. As mentioned above, the game tiles are divided into suits and other groups. One of the groups are winds, and there are four of them: East Wind, West Wind, North Wind, and South Wind. At the beginning of the game, four wind tiles must be prepared and the players draw one tile each. The player who has the East Wind tile chooses where he sits at the table. The player who has the West Wind tile sits on the other side of the table and the players with the South Wind tile and the North Wind tile sit to the right and left of the player with the East Wind respectively. This may be confusing, because this is opposite to how geographic directions are actually related to each other. The player with the East Wind tile is privileged during the game, but after each round the East Wind designation moves counterclockwise and the player who was previously the South Wind becomes the East Wind. The game cannot be finished until all players had a chance to be the East Wind player at least once – otherwise the game would not be fair.
Once players have taken seats, the tiles are shuffled and each player draws 36 tiles and uses them to build a wall which is 18 tiles long and 2 tiles high. These walls are then connected to make one square-shaped wall, also called the Great Wall of China. Then, the East Wind player rolls the dice to determine who is the person to break the wall. This person in turn rolls the dice again to determine where the break in the wall will occur and removes the two tiles from this location and places them on the wall nearby. The wall is then partially dismantled, starting at the just-created hole and each player receives 13 tiles except for the East Wind player who receives 14 tiles. If a player has any of the seasons or plants tiles, then he or she immediately places these tiles in front of him or her and takes the same number of tiles from the wall.
During the gameplay, the players replace their tiles by placing them on the table and drawing from the tiles placed there by other players or from the wall. The precise rules for how exactly this goes on are complicated and you can read more about them on Wikihow or on Master’s of Games website.
The objective of the game is to collect three triplets of identical tiles or a quadruplet and a pair of identical tiles. Whoever does that first, says “Mahjong!” and the round is over. Then the points are calculated and various combinations of tiles are scored. For example three or four identical tiles or a sequence of three tiles of the same suit all receive certain number of points. The player who said “Mahjong” receives from each player the number of points he scored for his combinations and each other player pays to the other players the difference in their score except for the East Wind player, who always pays and receive double amounts.
Here you can watch a quick guide on how to play traditional Mahjong:
Here you can watch a bit longer tutorial video:
And here you can watch how professional players play:
Can I play Mahjong online?
Yes. There is a number of organizations that offer online games. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find them because when you type “Mahjong” into Google you get results almost exclusively about Mahjong Solitaire. It may be better to type “Mah jongg” instead. Anyway, here is a list of a few links that should help you begin your online adventure with traditional Mahjong:
- Official National Mah Jongg League Internet Game
- I Love Mahj
- Real Mah Jongg
- Mahjong Time
- Mahjong Friends Online
Can I play Mahjong in person?
Yes. You just need to find an appropriate online community. Alternatively, you may look at forums where you may find people willing to meet and play. Here are a few links that may be helpful:
- Mah Jong @ meetup.com
- Mahjongg @ meetup.com
- Where is my Mahjong Community? (Places to play)
- Mah Jongg Groups
- Mahjong Community @ facebook.com
- Mah Jongg, That's It! @ facebook.com
- Mah Jongg Network @ facebook.com