Mah Jong is originally a Chinese tile-based combination game for four players. Card game versions of the tile set are also called Mah Jongg.
The tile deck or card deck consists of 144 pieces:
- the numbers One to Nine in three suits (Dots, Bamboo, Characters) – each four times (108 in total)
- three Dragons – each four times (12 in total)
- four Winds – each four times (16 in total)
- four Flowers
- four Seasons
The ranking of these symbols in Mahjong tiles is as follows: Bonus (Flowers and Seasons) > Honors (Winds and Dragons) > Bamboo > Dots > Characters. Within each of these groups, the ranking is based on the number or type of symbol.
The first dealer is determined at random; in the following rounds, this position moves in clockwise order.
After shuffling, 36 cards are placed face-down in front of each player in 18 stacks with two cards each. These are called walls or lines. Then the players receive 13 hand cards each, setting aside any bonus cards (Flowers or Seasons) and drawing replacement tiles from the face-down cards in clockwise direction.
The dealer starts playing by drawing a card from the wall in clockwise direction in order to complete melds. If drawing does not complete a legal hand, they discard a card face-up in the middle of the table. The other players have an opportunity to seize the discarded tile; if no one takes it, the turn continues to the next player in counterclockwise direction.
Depending on the ruleset, complete melds are kept in hand or placed on the table before discarding in the turn.
Valid melds in Mah Jong are:
- Eyes (or Pair): two identical tiles
- Pong: three identical tiles
- Kong: four identical tiles
- Chow: three tiles in sequence of the same suit
Play continues in this fashion until one player successfully collects legal winning hand and calls out “Mah Jong” while revealing their hand. This player is the round’s winner. A winning hand consists of 14 tiles which must be placed in five melds as explained above. One of those melds must be a pair. A minimum score may also be applied to the winning hand.
After the round ends, the winner receives points for their melds, if they meet a minimum score. Some bonus points for bonus cards and winning circumstances may apply. Then, the next player becomes dealer and prepares the following round.
A game consists of four rounds, and in Mah Jong, you will usually play four games to complete a match. The player with the highest total score wins.
There are many variations of Mah Jong, so the rules and scoring can vary. It is recommended to use a comprehensive rulebook or learn from experienced players!