Mahjong Pre-Game: Get to know your tiles & setting up - Oh My Mahjong

Mahjong Pre-Game: Get to know your tiles & setting up

Step into the lively world of Mahjong where the pregame is equally as important as the game itself! In this blog post, we'll teach you everything you need to know before you get your game on, from getting to know your tiles to setting up for gameplay. Get ready to dive into the fun and fascinating realm of Mahjong with all the tips and tricks you need. Let the Mahjong madness begin! 

What materials do I need to play Mahjong? 

Before you can set anything up, we first need to get the goods. The essentials for a group of four include:  

-one set of tiles

-one rack/pusher for each player   

-one National Mah Jongg Card for each player 

Though not entirely necessary, we also recommend the following products:  

-playing mat 

-large zipper bag for holding tiles 

-Let’s Rack and Roll bag for holding and protecting racks 

-tile shufflers 

-large tote bag for carrying all the goods

You can also simply check out Oh My Mahjong’s Starter Kits which include ALL the goods for a discounted rate!  

Get to know your tiles!  

Before you embark on your game, it's important to familiarize yourself with the tile set you're working with. Each set is unique, and understanding the tiles' characteristics is key to a smooth gameplay experience. 

While every set has its own nuances, there are common elements that can serve as a guide. This knowledge acts as a foundation, allowing you to play confidently on any set you encounter. Let’s learn about these commonalities.  

When it comes to distinguishing the different tile suits, a little knowledge goes a long way. Let's delve into the world of tiles and unravel the secrets behind the suits. 

First up, we have Craks, where "Crak" is short for "character." These tiles typically feature Chinese characters and are predominantly red. To make it stick, think of a vibrant firecracker – just like a firecracker is red, Craks follow suit with their fiery hue. 

Moving on to Bams, these tiles often showcase bamboo and are predominantly green. It's a straightforward association – if bamboo is green, Bams are too. Imagine a lush bamboo forest, and you've got the visual cue to spot those green tiles. 

Last but not least, we have Dots. These tiles typically boast some form of circular design. To remember this, think of bubbles or dots, and keep an eye out for any circular patterns. It's a simple yet effective way to identify the Dots amidst the tiles.  

Now let’s learn about identifying the Dragons in a set. Starting with the Red Dragon, notice how its color often aligns with the Red used in Craks. It's a visual pairing that can help you quickly spot this fiery Dragon amidst the tiles. Similarly, the Green Dragon shares its color with the predominant green of Bams. Keep an eye out for the seamless blend of color in these Dragons. Now, let's talk about the White Dragon, often referred to as "Soap." Picture this Dragon in the shape of a rectangle, resembling a classic bar of soap. To make it memorable, imagine that bar of soap covered in soap suds or bubbles. This visual association effortlessly connects the White Dragon to the suit of Dots, where circular designs and bubbles take center stage.  

Flowers often have the biggest variance from set to set. In fact, the term "Flower" can be a bit deceptive, as these tiles can feature a myriad of images ranging from Chinese legends and transportation, such as boats, to various plants and architectural elements.  What adds an extra layer of intrigue is that many sets incorporate numbers 1-4 on Flowers, along with partial season words like SUM or WIN. However, in the context of American Mahjong, it's crucial to understand that these numbers and seasonal words are irrelevant. In American Mahjong, a flower is a flower is a flower—meaning, despite their different appearances, all Flowers represent the tile.   

The Wind tiles are typically easy to recognize, as they most often have N, E, W, or S on them.  If you are playing with a traditional set, the Chinese character for these tiles will be black, instead of a red like the Craks.  

Finally, make sure you know which tiles are the JOKERS! You do not want to miss out on these lucky tiles!  Jokers are also typically easy to recognize as they have the word “Joker” most often written on the tile.  

Setting up 

Now that you “know” your tiles, it’s time to set up.  When playing with the usual four players, we prefer a square card table or round table that is large enough to fit a playing mat, but small enough to where we can all easily reach the tiles.  Though it might sound trivial, it is not pleasant to have to stand to reach your tile when playing.  

We always recommend playing on a mat, so begin your set up by putting your mat on the table. This will help with the noise of the tiles and makes them slide nicely.  Once you have your mat down, dump the tiles out and flip them face-side down.  Give them one more quick shuffle with your hands once all of the tiles are face-down.   

Then begin building your walls.  If playing by NMJL rules, each player will need to build a wall 19 tiles long, double stacked; therefore totaling 36 tiles each. If playing with extra tiles such as blanks or extra jokers, adjust the length of the wall to ensure that all tiles are out of the middle and put within someone’s wall. Remember that these are not your exact tiles, and instead they will be dealt during the game to all players.  Therefore, if one player has a slighter longer wall than another player, that is okay and will not affect gameplay.  

In conclusion... 

Whether you're a novice navigating the tiles for the first time or a seasoned player seeking to refine your skills, we hope you've found the insights and tips shared here to be both informative and enlightening. 

Understanding the tiles is a crucial step toward mastering the art of Mahjong, and we're confident that armed with this knowledge, you're well on your way to becoming a Mahjong Maestra. By taking the time to familiarize yourself with the characteristics and symbolism behind each tile, you've laid a solid foundation for strategic gameplay and, most importantly, for enjoying the experience to the fullest. 

As you embark on your Mahjong adventure, remember that mastery is a gradual process. Patience, practice, and a willingness to learn from each game will undoubtedly propel you forward. Before you know it, you'll be orchestrating moves with the finesse of a true Maestra, captivating your opponents with your strategic prowess. So, gather your tiles, set up your game, and embark on this captivating journey.