Recently, I’ve been trying to play all the unplayed games in my collection. So, the other day I decided to crack out Mahjong. This is the game I had half played once or twice some time ago, but never really understood. Well, that was soon to change…


Mahjong is a rummy-like set collection played with tiles, for 4 players. The aim of the game is to collect a certain combination of cards, upon which you will announce “Mahjong”. The game is fairly complex, with many variations, that all share a common base.


To start off, I decided to play a simplified version (no scoring) with my three little sisters. at least if I didn’t enjoy it, then they would, and it would be a nice game for me to play with them (to add to the 27 others to play with them). Well, it was a hit, and two of them really enjoyed it… So we played again, and again and again. Every time we played, I would read up on, and introduce a few more rules. I began to find little tactics here and there, and slowly began to appreciate the game more and more. [If you like, I’d recommend reading up a bit on some rules]


Now Mahjong does have a problem, which is it’s barrier to entry. It has a really fiddly set of set-up rules, is played anti-clockwise (which messes with my head, but I like the challenge), and a myriad of rule sets and variations. However, by this point, I was really intrigued by the game, so I was happy to spend hours and hours reading up, thinking about and watching videos on the different variations.


Now here’s my problem: Technically, this game isn’t a good game. It’s limited to exactly four players, it’s full of complex and arbitrary rules and lastly, but mostly importantly, it’s really much more random than I’d normally prefer. Yes, I know certain rule sets mitigate this, but it’s still a big part of the game. I never really liked rummy either…

All these elements normally add up to a bad game, or at least a mediocre one. But for some bizarre reason, I really enjoy this one (I even once considered that I might prefer it to Go… but that heresy has somewhat abated). The game plays fast, the tiles are lovely, and it’s full of decisions and suspense. This game is a very social, lovely game, and I highly recommend it!


PS: For those of you who are wondering what rule-set I currently prefer, it’s marginally Zung Jung, though I want to try them all. I’ve played Hong Kong, and watched loads on Richii… I might even try the American version!


3 thoughts on “Mahjong

  1. 88frank

    My eldest brother, Bobby, had a mahjong set. I think he got it on his travels during the war. On the other hand he was very fond of auction sales so he might have picked it up there. I remember he once came home with a whole lot of umbrellas. They lasted the family years.

    I never learnt to play it though but they were beautiful white tiles. It was before the days of plastic so they must have been made of bone – or possibly ivory.

      1. 88frank

        Nah! He never played it. He was a collector of all sorts of objects. He liked collecting silver and he bought a lot of items at Hatton Garden in 1940 when dealers were getting rid of their stock because of the bombing.

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