How To Set Up A Mah Jong Game

Many people don’t know how to set up a Mah Jong game and are intimidated by the many steps involved. But the set up is exactly that: a lot of steps that are easy to understand. Follow this guide to set up a Mah Jong game quickly and easily.

  1. Get four players. A Mah Jong game requires four players.
  2. Playing pieces. There should be 144 tiles, three dice, and one rack per person.
  3. Suit tiles. The first set of tiles is suit tiles. There are three kinds: dots, lines, and characters. Each suit is numbered one through nine and has four of each in their specific suit. For instance, in the dot suit, the number two is represented by two dots, the number three by three dots, and so on. Because each suit has four of each number, this means there are four number one tiles, four number two tiles, four number three tiles, etc. The same applies to lines and characters.
  4. Honor tiles. There are 28 honor tiles in a Mah Jong game. The first is represented by a dragon. There are four red, four green, and four white dragon tiles. The second honor tile is the directional wind tile. There are four East, four West, four North, and four South tiles, each with an E, W, N, or S in the corner. The bonus tile is the last kind of honor tile. They are inscribed with flowers and are numbered one through eight.
  5. Determine wind assignments. Each player rolls the dice to see who goes first. The lowest number starts and will be East. From there, assignments move counterclockwise, so the next player after East is called North, then West and South.
  6. Tiles. Place them face down and shuffle them on the table. Each player selects 36 tiles, placing in front of them one row of 18 and a second row of 18 on top. Each stack of tiles is called a wall. The space in the middle where discarded pieces will be placed, otherwise known as the Well.
  7. Choose a wall to attack. Whatever number was initially rolled with the dice is counted counterclockwise among the players again, starting with East. The last person counted will be the first to have their wall attacked.
  8. Attacking the wall. Using the same number from the dice, East counts right to left on the attacked wall of tiles. East takes the two stacks of tiles next to that number. Example: If an eight was rolled, East will count around the table counterclockwise eight spots, ultimately landing on North. Then East will count eight tiles from right to left on North’s wall. East will then pick up the two stacks of tiles (four tiles total) beside it. Another way to think of this is that East will take stacks nine and ten after counting down to stack number eight.
  9. Distributing tiles. East divvies up the four tiles counterclockwise, one to each player. The next player counterclockwise to the wall being attacked then takes the next two stacks and distributes them to the players. In the example above, that would be South, who takes stacks eleven and twelve. This repeats around the table until each player has gone three times and has twelve tiles.
  10. End of distribution. East draws one last stack of tiles (two tiles) from the next section of the wall. At this point, East has fourteen tiles. East then deals one last tile to the other players, giving them a total of thirteen tiles.
  11. Racking tiles. Each player now racks their tiles so only they can see what they have.
  12. Discard bonus tiles. If East has a bonus tile, he must show the other players right away by placing it face up beside his rack. He then draws a new tile. This repeats for every player, starting in the opposite direction from the wall that was attacked.

Knowing how to set up a Mah Jong game isn’t that difficult. It simply takes getting used to the designs on the tiles, knowing what they represent, and knowing how to arrange them to start. Soon, you’ll be able to set up a Mah Jong game anywhere, any time.

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