Do you know that there are a few types of Mahjong? In that case, let’s look at what they are and how they work. Mahjong has a long history, so it’s kind of logical that more than one way of playing the game exists. Here’s what you need to know to find the variation that suits you best.
Types of Mahjong
Different types of Mahjong make this game even more fun. There are many variations, including adding or removing certain rules and differences in the equipment. Some games use fewer tiles, while others use slightly different tiles. Several versions have extremely complex scoring systems or limit the number of rounds.
There are different Mahjong games, but Chinese Mahjong is the official version. This version of Mahjong was recognized as the 255th sport by the State Sports Commission of China. A single official game was created to integrate the rules of many Chinese versions.
The following are other Chinese variants:
- In Hunan Province, Changsha Mahjong is widely played. Like Wuhan Mahjong, players need to obtain a special Jong consisting of only two, five, or eight tiles. In Changsha Mahjong, winds are forbidden, and special tiles are removed. Every round, winners are drawn for bonuses, usually doubling their score.
- Classic style Mahjong, introduced to the Americans through various names in the 1920s, is the oldest surviving variety of Mahjong. Despite its popularity in the West, few Asians play it. Players can score more than the winner.
- Several Mahjong societies have adopted the Competition Mahjong standard, founded by the All-China Sports Federation in July 1998. The game emphasizes strategy and calculation abilities and has various scoring rules.
- Fujian Mahjong includes 13 tile hands. Tiles can be wild in certain cases. There are no dragons, and the winds are considered bonuses.
- Harbin Mahjong is one of the popular Mahjong games played in northeastern China. It comprises only 108 suits and four red dragon tiles. In order to win, the player’s hand must meet a few requirements and be declared “ready” to earn points, with a bonus tile revealed when they win.
- A more common form of Mahjong, Hong Kong or Cantonese Mahjong, differs in minor scoring details from the Classical Chinese variety. For example, Hong Kong Mahjong rules imply that multiple players can’t win from a single discard.
- Shenyang Mahjong uses 13 hands in a game, and it’s played fast. Shenyang Mahjong requires bamboo, characters, circles, and numbers 1 or 9. Even if some players win the first time they hold their hands, there is no chance of winning since they must pong before they chow.
- Sichuan Mahjong disallows chi melds and uses only the suited tiles. Especially in southern China, Sichuan Mahjong is becoming more popular. The game continues until a winner or a draw is reached.
- Taiyuan Lisi Mahjong is a game where the first four blocks drawn are placed separately in front of the others to win. The blocks can’t be touched until a player has a ready hand.
- Unlike other versions of Mahjong, Taiwanese Mahjong games feature 16-tile hands, bonuses for dealers and recurring dealerships, and multiple players can win from a single discard.
- Tianjin Mahjong has special scoring options, including joker-free, joker-waiting-pair, catch-5, dragon, and joker-suited dragon.
- The popularity of Wuhan Mahjong has grown rapidly in southern China. A unique feature is that a tile can be used as everything called Laizi, and the player must have a set of two special tiles, namely two, five, or eight, to win. Furthermore, special tiles must be discarded in another variation that has become the new trend.
- There are three players in Xiangyang Mahjong. It’s played without winds, seasons, flowers, dots, bamboo, or characters. Any handcrafted item using a 5-tile receives extra points.
Other Mahjong Types
In the following section, you’ll read about American, Japanese, Korean, and South African mahjong
This form of Mahjong has been standardized by the American Mah Jongg Association and the National Mah Jongg League. This game features jokers, the Charleston, and five-tile melds. American Mahjong is therefore considered a separate game by purists. Mahjongg and mah-jongg (with two Gs) are other game variations that are only slightly different in their scoring.
In Japan, this game is a standardized version of Mahjong that can also be found in video games. In addition to the scoring changes, this variant has unique ready-hand and bonus tiles rules. The Japanese version is called Riichi.
The Korean version of the game is unique and suited for three players. The bamboo set is usually omitted. As a result, scores are simpler and the game is faster. No melded chows are allowed, and hands are often hidden.
It’s similar to Hong Kong Mahjong. In addition to the four animal tiles (cat, centipede, mouse, and cockerel), the game also features a set of scoring rules that provide payouts after certain conditions are met (for example, a kong).
South African Mahjong
Playing this game is very similar to playing Cantonese Mahjong. Scores differ slightly. For example, house rules determine how many points can be awarded per hand. Chicken hands (gai wu) are generally considered value hands. You may also use flowers to increase your score based on the house rules.
Depending on the Mahjong game type, it can use jokers and involves hands of 13 tiles (with 84 tiles on the table). Many rule sets can be adapted for three players, most commonly found in Korea, Japan, Philippines, and Malaysia. Usually, it eliminates one suit or tiles 2–8 in one suit, leaving only the terminals.
Japanese vs. Chinese Mahjong
There is a vast difference in strategy. In addition to the basic rules of Mahjong, which require building a hand with at least four sets and a pair, more difficult hand patterns score more points. Japanese Mahjong has several defenses and depths that make it more feasible to play defensively. A strong, fast hand is the best defense in Chinese Mahjong. There are other ways to defend in Japanese Mahjong as well.
Ii-han shibari and furiten make this possible. In Japanese Mahjong, a special rule prevents a player from winning on another player’s discard if they’ve discarded a tile they could’ve won.
Second, there is a requirement for a score. The second element of the game is also present in some Chinese variants, but it’s more strictly enforced in Japanese Mahjong since many hands can’t be opened or their value is greatly diminished when they are. Most open and closed-hand elements in Chinese Mahjong score the same.
Finally, Japanese Mahjong uses Dora tiles. Each round, this tile will flip, indicating which tile will earn bonus points if it’s in your completed hand. Chinese Mahjong uses eight flowers, two for each player. Getting your flower gives you points and collecting sets gives you bonuses. In some Chinese variants, riichi is also prevalent but not as prevalent as in Japanese Mahjong.
By betting 1,000 points, you let everyone know you’re ready to win. You also get some neat benefits, such as flipping more Dora upon winning and getting an extra point if you win within the first turn.
Mahjong is not a simple game, but it can be mastered. So, if you’re up to it check this article to learn the gameplay of Mahjong. It has evolved over time, resulting in many variants. It’s not only found in mainland China but also outside its borders, as the game has become popular in other regions outside China. Furthermore, the game can vary a lot between countries. For example, you could be an expert in China but not Japan. Knowing the differences between the Mahjong variations will make you an expert, though, so keep learning.
Is Japanese and Chinese Mahjong the same?
Riichi Mahjong or Japanese Mahjong is a version of the well-known Chinese game, so they’re not the same. A maximum of four players can play this game. Players compete against each other by completing their hands to win points.
What is the difference between Chinese Mahjong and American Mahjong?
The Chinese version of Mahjong has 144 tiles, while the American version has 152 tiles. As a result, Mahjong sets vary in the American market. American Mahjong also has a specific gameplay, such as the Charleston. Because of the differences, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the types of Mahjong to win the game.