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Mah Jong - The Sparrows


We have an active Mah Jong group, and we play usually twice a month.   From time to time we arrange taster sessions, for Horizons members.



WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Mah Jong is a game for 4 players (although it can be played with 3), and is played with a set of 144 tiles.  These can be picked up either from the "wall", or in certain circumstances from a discard, and then a tile is thrown out.   The winner is the first to lay on the table a completed hand (called "going Mah Jong").   This isn't a team game - it's everyone for themselves!


THE MAH JONG SET
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There are 144 tiles in a set:
THREE SUITS - circles, bamboos, and characters, numbered 1-9 in each suit and 4 of each tile.
THREE DRAGONS - red, green and white, with 4 of each tile.
FOUR WINDS - East, South, West, North.  Again, 4 of each tile.
GARDENS - 8 tiles, comprising 4 seasons and 4 flowers.  These affect the scoring but aren't used in play.

THE GAME OF MAH JONG IN BRIEF

THE AIM OF THE GAME
To win as many points as possible over the whole session.

MORE ABOUT THE GAME
Mah Jong is a game similar to rummy or Rummikub.   It is a very tactile game played with attractive tiles, which enhances its enjoyment.   The basics are fairly easy to master, and beginners can play with experienced players before long - and still win!

  • All players start off by build a wall with the tiles, known as The Great Wall of China.
  • Each player takes their tiles, and places them in a rack.
  • Players in turn pick up a tile from the wall, or sometimes one discarded by another player.
  • Discard one you don't want.
  • When you have a complete hand you call "Mah Jong".  There are several hands to try for (there are many combinations of tiles that make up a winning hand).   However, you only need to learn one to start off with.
  • Scoring is by exchange of tallies or counters.
  • Everyone mixes up the tiles ready for the next hand.   This is quite noisy, and is called "twittering the sparrows" - probably because it makes a similar racket to noisy birds!  As Mah Jong means The Sparrows, this is probably why it's so called.
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A FEW NOTES
It's much easier to show you how to play, than describe in a book or website. So don't be put off by what you read and hear!

There are several variations of the rules for Mah Jong - every book you read, and every "expert" you talk to will tell you something different.  In our group we play by rules written by Max Robertson - this is a westernised version of the game.   We've made a few changes to the hands in our repertoire, which we think improves the game considerably.

We can give Horizons members lots of help and advice, including our various "crib sheets", showing you the various hands.




 
 
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