Note
that throughout this description, the players are
referred to as he. This is simply for the purpose of
making it read easier and does not reflect any bias
in the way that women play the game (I have lost many
a game to a woman in my time).
Note
also that although this may seem confusing on the
first readthrough the game is simulated by the
computer program so that you can see the processes
that go on.
Tiles / Cards
There are three suits, Circles, Bamboos, and Numbers.
Each suit has four each of the values 1 to 9  this means
that there are 36 tiles in each suit. Therefore there are
four 1 Circles, four 7 Bamboos and so on. In addition to
this, there are some extra sets of four tiles: the four
winds  East, South, West and North (making 16 wind tiles
in all); and, three dragons  Red, Green and White
(making 12 dragon tiles). This basic set is the 136 tile
set that is used in the Japanese game and is the one used
in my program.
Some extra cards are usually added to the 136 tile set
four season cards (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter) and
four flowers (in my set, they are Bamboo, Chrysanthemum,
Orchid and Plum). Some sets also include further
additional cards but the 144 tile set is the one most
often found in the game sold in most shops (in the UK
anyway).
Object of the
game
Each player is dealt 13 tiles. An additional tile is
picked up at the beginning of each turn so that the
player has the opportunity to make four groups of three
tiles and a pair. If this can be done, that player has
won that game.
Playing the
game
The whole game of Mah Jong is played as 16 games, four
east wind games, four south wind games, four west wind
games and four north wind games. In each game, a banker
is declared (in some versions, the person who is the
banker stays the banker throughout the whole set of
games) and they deal out the cards. If a banker wins a
game, then an extra game is played. If for example, in
the third east wind game, the banker wins, then an extra
east wind game is played so that there are then five east
wind games. There are no limits on the number of extra
games played in this way so twenty or more games may make
up a whole game of Mah Jong.
Preparation
Each game is played by shuffling up the tiles and
making a four wall structure, each wall being 18 tiles,
piled two high so that each wall contains 36 tiles. These
walls are then arranged so that they make a square. This
procedure is analogous to shuffling a deck of cards.
Each player then throws a dice and the highest scoring
is the banker. The banker then throws two dice and counts
around the same number of walls. He then throws them
again and counts from one end of the chosen wall the same
number of tile piles. He then takes this pile out and
puts the two tiles on top of the wall at the end
continuing in the direction he was counting  this is
called the rear. This procedure is analogous to cutting a
deck of cards.
After this, he takes two piles (four tiles) at a time
and deals them out to each player in turn so that each
player receives three piles. Then he gives each player an
extra tile and himself two. This means that each player
has 13 tiles and the banker has 14. This procedure is
analogous to dealing the cards. These reflect the games
origin as a paper card game as opposed to the tilebased
game that it is today.
Each player then sorts their hand out and any seasons
or flowers are laid out and for each one placed down,
that player takes either of the two tiles at the rear (or
the remaining one if just one is left). When both tiles
at the rear are taken, two more are taken from the end of
the wall to replace them. If a player has four tiles of a
kind (for example four 3 bamboos) he places these down
(one tile facing upwards and the rest facing downwards)
with the seasons and flowers and takes one from the rear.
After this, each player has 13 playable tiles and the
banker has 14. If the banker cannot make a wining hand
from the tiles he has, he chooses one tile to place down
in the middle (where the discarded tiles are placed) and
then it is the turn of the next player. Everyone now has
13 tiles in their hand.
Playing
Each player is trying to make a hand of four 3 of a
kinds and a pair. If he gets a 4 of a kind, this is
placed down and an extra tile is collected from the rear.
Normally, a player would take his turn but if he can pick
up a discarded tile from the middle to make a three or
four of a kind or, if he only needs one tile to win, to
make a pair, he can do so out of turn. In the case of
making a 3 or 4 of a kind and without finishing the game,
play returns at the person next in turn after the person
who picked up therefore it is possible to miss a go if
the person after you picks up before you get your go.
Normally, a person picks up a tile from the end of the
wall (not the end with the two tiles on it) or from the
middle and places the tile in their hand, making pairs, 3
and four of a kind. They then take a tile that they don't
want and place it, face up, in the area in the middle of
the walls so that people can see what it was. If someone
can pick it up (either because it is their turn next or
because they can make a 3 or 4 of a kind or the pair to
win the game) then they can only do so before another
tile is placed at the end of the discarded tile row. When
the discarded tiles fill a row in the middle, that row is
turned over and it is up to the memory of the players to
remember which tiles have been placed down.
If you have a pair in your hand and you see a tile
discarded, you can pick up out of turn to make a 3 of a
kind but you must display this hand straight away (all
tiles facing upwards). If you pick up a tile to make a 3
of a kind from the wall, you can keep it in your hand so
that you can make a 4 of a kind if you are lucky. If you
have a 3 of a kind in your hand and you pick up a tile
that has been discarded, you must display it straight
away and pick up a tile from the rear. The 4 of a kind
that you have just made is called a visible four of a
kind and is placed with all four tiles facing upwards.
If you have a 3 of a kind in your hand and you pick up
a tile from the wall, you must display it straight away
(you cannot make a 5 of a kind and if you have a 4 of a
kind in your hand, you cannot collect enough 3 of a kinds
to win) and pick up a tile from the rear. The 4 of a kind
is called a hidden four of a kind and is placed with only
one tile facing upwards.
If you pick up a season or a flower, you need to put
it down straight away and pick up another tile from the
rear.
In addition to collecting tiles that are the same as
each other, you can also collect runs of the same suit
(such as a 3, 4 and 5 circles). These do not gain any
points but they will count as equivalent to a 3 of a kind
as far as going out is concerned. If you have 4 runs and
a pair, you go out and, although you don't score many
points, nobody else does.
Eventually, you or someone else will get enough runs
or 3 or 4 of a kinds and a pair to go out (finish). In
this case, the person who goes out is the only one that
scores any points.
There are some special hands (the wriggling snake  1
and 9 of Circles, Ten thousands and bamboos, one of each
wind, one of each dragon and any one the same as those
mentioned already to make a pair) and there is a special
procedure called Conquering The Four of a Kind whereby if
you need a particular tile to make a run to go out and it
is used in a 4 of a kind, you can take it to make the
run.
