Mahjong is a tile-based game invented in China during the rule of the Qing dynasty. The game began to spread across the world at the beginning of the 20th century. It is played by four players, though in places like Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia, a three-player version of the game is also played.
In the 1920s, Mahjong games gained immense popularity in Britain as well as the USA, where new rules were added to the game. An American citizen named Joseph P. Babcock, who lived in Shanghai, started exporting Mahjong sets to the United States from China. He also simplified the game rules to suit Western players by publishing a document titled “The Official American Rules,” which resulted in huge popularity of the game in the Western world. However, in the UK, the game still remains true to the Chinese rules.
Mahjong requires a lot of skill, strategy and calculation, and the role of luck in deciding the result of a mahjong game is insignificant.
A typical Mahjong game involves 144 tiles, which are based on Chinese characters and symbols, with some regional variations. Traditionally, each player receives 13 tiles and then they begin drawing and discarding tiles until they can form 4 melds and a pair with their tiles.
• Every player draws, on their turn, a tile from the wall. In doing so, they need to ensure that the tile drawn is not one of the Bonus tiles. They have to discard a tile immediately after drawing one so that they always have 13 tiles.
• The discarded tiles are to be thrown in the center, and it is optional for players to announce what piece they have discarded.
• Once a tile has been discarded, the next player (counterclockwise) has the option of either picking the discarded tile or letting the next player play their move.
• The game continues until the last player has a winning hand and declares their hand by shouting out “Mahjong” and revealing their tiles.
There are four different ways in which the regular order of play can be interrupted:
1. A Bonus tile (Flower or Season) is drawn.
2. A meld (Pong, Kong, or Chow) is made by adding a discarded pile.
3. Going Mahjong (declaring a winning hand).
4. Robbing a Kong.