Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mah Jong

I had an opportunity to play Mah Jong last night with my wife and a couple of friends.

I've got a fairly nice Mah Jong set that a friend brought from China when he visited a few weeks ago.

In all honesty, I'd expected (based on everything I'd been reading) that the game would be a lot more like Rummy. In fact, a fair number of people sneered at me when I mentioned that I had a copy. "It's just like Rummy, only with tiles," they'd explain.

Actually, it isn't. There are some similarities - both are set-building games where you can utilize discards from other players. But the differences outweigh them. For example, players never get skipped in Rummy. All sets are worth points in Rummy - and all hands are scored in Rummy.

Yes, you could theoretically play Mah Jong with cards, but it'd lack ... a lot. It's a very tactile game, from building the Wall to breaking it to actual play.

We used the rules from this book. The book, by the way, is 1/3 rules, 1/3 variants, 1/3 strategy guide.

We had a great time, and will be playing again. In fact, we've scheduled a regular Mah Jong day, because it was so fun.

I need to play it a bit more before I can explain the game here, so I'll be bringing it with me to my regular Wednesday gathering. Hopefully, I'll be able to drum up some interest.


  1. Mah Jong was a very popular game in the British Empire, and was especially played by women.

    Why so? The explanation is quite simple, actually: the other game available was the Bridge, and it was forbidden to talk during a game of Bridge...

    As you might have noticed, women have a tendency to talk... a lot... so they found Mah Jong was more to their liking.


  2. It was popular in the US in the 1920's, as well. It's had a number of resurgences of popularity - I can easily see why, as it's an entertaining game. It does interest me that in the US (and apparently the British Empire as well), it's a social game rather than a gambling game.

  3. Anonymous11:45 PM

    You didn't *really* play Mah Jong if the game wasn't interrupted by a shootout between chinese gangsters. At least that's what I've learned from watching hong kong movies...