An Introduction to MA-JAN Video Games.

copyright (c) 2002 BarfHappy

tr.gifEmpire of MAHJONG (japanese)tr.gifMail

Welcome to the Introduction of Ma-Jan Video Games. Ma-Jan also called MahJong or Mahjongg is a verry popular tiles-based game in china and japan.
It is so popular in japan that a lot of "digitalised" versions appeared in arcades and home systems. Nowadays, non japanese people can have access to those games thanks to the emulators breakthroughs... Unfortunatly Ma-Jan is not a game you can easily guess the rules... I am here to help you understand.

  Brief description.

Ma-Jan is played by 2 or 4 players, digitalised Ma-Jan usually is played by 2 players. The rules are the same though. Ma-Jan is, as i said before, a tiles-based game. There are 34 different tiles, each tile is present 4 times in the game. Each player as a hand of 13 tiles plus the current drawing tile. The goal is to manage to complete combinations of tiles before the adversary.
  Tiles overview

There are 34*4=136 Tiles in the game. In Ma-Jan a tile is called HAI. There are 5 kinds of tiles: numbers (MANZU) rounds (PINZU) bamboos (SOUZU) winds and dragons (TSU-PAI)
man1.gif man2.gif man3.gif man4.gif man5.gif man6.gif man7.gif man8.gif man9.gif
These tiles are numbers... from 1 to 9 you should learn those 9 ideograms. You will need to handle them easily in order to play ma-jan.
How to pronounce: i-wan, ryanwan, sanwan, su-wan, u-wan, ro-wan, chi-wan, pa-wan, kyu-wan (this is japanised chinese)

pin1.gif pin2.gif pin3.gif pin4.gif pin5.gif pin6.gif pin7.gif pin8.gif pin9.gif
i-pin, ryanpin, sanpin, su-pin, u-pin, ro-pin, chi-pin, pa-pin, kyu-pin

bird.gif sou2.gif sou3.gif sou4.gif sou5.gif sou6.gif sou7.gif sou8.gif sou9.gif
i-sou, ryansou, sansou, su-sou, u-sou, ro-sou, chi-sou, pa-sou, kyu-sou

These 27 common tiles are called SHU-PAI. As you can see each symbolize numbers from 1 to 9.
The middle tiles 2 to 8 are called CHU-CHANPAI.
The border tiles 1 and 9 are called RO-TO-PAI.

ton.gif nan.gif sha.gif pei.gif haku.gif hatsu.gif chun.gif
4 winds KAZEHAI: ton (east), nan (south), sha- (west), pei (north).
3 dragons SANGENHAI: haku, hatsu, chun.

The tileset RO-TO-PAI+TSU-PAI is called YAOCHU-PAI.

  The beginning

Dices are launched, one for you and one for the adversary. You continue launching dices until they are not equal.
The smallest value wins, wich means the biggest value is the one who starts (starting is not an advantage in ma-jan).
The starting player has the east place (a east wind tile is put in front of him) and in the case of 2 players ma-jan the other player has the south place.
Tiles are then shuffled and given to the players, 3 by 3.
Basicaly ma-jan has 2 playtimes.
  • looking at the tile the opponent has just withdrawn to see if you can do anything with it
  • if nothing can be done then you take the next tile yourself and proceed with it
  • When you start you can t use adversary tile so you just can take a tile in the stash.

    Before going any further i have to explain about SPECIALS
      The Specials

    I bet you ve already checked other web sites about ma-jan to start playing but somehow the computer just refuse to let you win..
    The reason is simple... If you used a tile from the opponent, you MUST have a "special" to win.
    Some games allow you to win without a special if you didn t use a tile from the opponent, some do not...
    I have not yet seen a web site explaining that part of ma-jan...
  • a REACH (RI-CHI)
  • a KO-TSU (3 tiles same) of TSU-PAI
  • a KAN (4 tiles same) of TSU-PAI

  • But before seeing this ... we should have a look at possible combinations you can make...
      The Combinations

    So... you do remember you have 13 tiles in hand plus the last one your opponent withdrew or the one you withdrew yourself.
    Remember... when you have taken a tile from the stash you can t anymore use your oponent's one until next turn... Think carefully before taking your tile.
    So... what to do with those tile ? Combinations !
    Basics of combinations

    First of all, groups can t be mixed, combinations are meant to have only tiles of same groups, you can however have different groups combinations in your hand to win.
    You can either combinate tiles of equal value or in direct succession. You don t have to notify you are doing any group, you just need valid ones for the computer to let you win.
    In a normal condition you have to do combinations of 2 (JANTOU) and of 3 (MENTSU) tiles.
    If you manage to get combinations of only 1 group you get extra points, and lot lot lot if these are TSU-PAI.
    A basicaly winning hand has 4 MENTSU and one JANTOU. If you have a MENTSU in your hand you can t have more than one JANTOU (except if you have done a KAN). But remember that if you have no MENTSU and only 7 JANTOU then your hand is worth more points.
    You can finish your combination with the last withdrawn tile of your opponent this is called a RON.













    You can only have JANTOU of tiles of the same group and same value.

    O These are JANTOU
    man1.gifman1.gif pin1.gifpin1.gif bird.gifbird.gif ton.gifton.gif

    X These are NOT JANTOU
    man1.gifpin1.gif pin1.gifpin2.gif sou6.gifsou9.gif ton.gifnan.gif


    MENTSU is either 3 tiles of the same group having succeeding values (JUNTSU) or 3 tiles of the same group and having same value (KO-TSU).
    You CAN NOT have JUNTSU of TSU-PAI.

    O These are JUNTSU
    man1.gifman2.gifman3.gif pin4.gifpin5.gifpin6.gif sou7.gifsou8.gifsou9.gif

    X These are NOT JUNTSU
    man1.gifpin2.gifsou3.gif sou8.gifsou9.gifbird.gif ton.gifnan.gifsha.gif

    O These are KO-TSU
    man1.gifman1.gifman1.gif pin2.gifpin2.gifpin2.gif sou3.gifsou3.gifsou3.gif ton.gifton.gifton.gif

    X These are NOT KO-TSU
    man1.gifpin1.gifbird.gif pin2.gifman2.gifpin2.gif sou6.gifsou6.gifsou9.gif ton.gifnan.gifsha.gif


    You seldom get all your needed combinations when you receive your tiles... you have to build them. When you only lack one tile to build a JUNTSU, the pair already built is called a TA-TSU and when you only lack one tile to build a KO-TSU, the pair already built is called a TOITSU.

    There are 3 kinds of TA-TSU.

    man2.gifman3.gif in your hand, you need man1.gif or man4.gif to complete your JUNTSU.

    pin2.gifpin4.gif in your hand, you need pin3.gif to complete your JUNTSU

    bird.gifsou2.gif in your hand, you need sou3.gif to complete your JUNTSU


    TOITSU follows the same rules than JANTOU the difference is that it is meant to be completed by a third equal tile (for example if you already have a JANTOU of MANZU and one of TSU-PAI you ll want the JANTOU of TSU-PAI to be a TOITSU because a KO-TSU of TSU-PAI pays more).
    chun.gifchun.gif in your hand, you need chun.gif to complete your KO-TSU
      More about the Specials

    As you know, you have a WIND associated to you. The game board has a prefered WIND wich is the WIND of the player who starts. Usually this is the EAST wind.
    To have a special from winds, you must have a KO-TSU of either your WIND or the gameboard's WIND. If you have same wind than the board then this special is doubled in points.
    You can either create your special with your own tiles or complete one with one of your opponent's latest withdrawn tile (with a PON or a KAN wich we ll discuss later on).

    This is the best part of the game !
  • RON
  • CHI
  • PON
  • KAN
  • NO-TEN

    That is the announce you make to create your special when you have not touched the opponent's tiles. The only requested thing for it is to only miss a tile to win.
    man1.gifman1.gifman3.gifman4.gifman5.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin6.gifpin7.gifpin8.gifsou3.gifsou4.gif man9.gif
    You need a 2 or 5 bamboo to win. You announce your REACH.

    man1-1.gifman1-2.gifman1-1.gif man3.gifman4.gifman5.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin6.gifpin7.gifpin8.gifsou3.gif man9.gif
    You need a 3 bamboo to win but you have used an opponent tile... you CAN NOT REACH.


    That is the announce you make when you announce a winning hand acquired by the tile you have just drawn.
    In video games you TSUMO with the RON key.
    man1.gifman1.gifman3.gifman4.gifman5.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin6.gifpin7.gifpin8.gifsou3.gifsou4.gif sou2.gif
    You won... you can say TSUMO.

    man1-1.gifman1-2.gifman1-1.gif man3.gifman4.gifman5.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin6.gifpin7.gifpin8.gifsou3.gif sou3.gif
    You don t have a SPECIAL... you CAN NOT TSUMO !!! read again the SPECIALS part :)

    ton-1.gifton-2.gifton-1.gif man3.gifman4.gifman5.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin6.gifpin7.gifpin8.gifsou3.gif sou3.gif
    You have a SPECIAL... you CAN TSUMO !!!

    man1-1.gifman1-2.gifman1-1.gif ton.gifton.gifton.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin1.gifpin6.gifpin7.gifpin8.gifsou3.gif sou3.gif
    You have a SPECIAL... you CAN TSUMO !!!


    That is the announce you make when you announce a winning hand using an opponent tile. If the rules allow you to win without REACH, this tile doesn t count as an opponent tile so if you have not used before an opponent's tile you can RON without a special.


    That is the announce you make when you complete your TA-TSU with an oponent's latest withdrawn tile.
    man2.gifman3.gif + opponent's man1-1.gif -> man1-2.gifman2-1.gifman3-1.gif


    That is the announce you make when you complete your TOITSU with an oponent's latest withdrawn tile . Position of the rotated tile varies uppon rules and opponent's position.
    ton.gifton.gif + opponent's ton-1.gif -> ton-2.gifton-1.gifton-1.gif


    That is the announce you make when you make a 4 identical tiles-combination.
    If you KAN from tiles of your own hand with a tile of your own hand it s a ANKAN.
    ton.gifton.gifton.gif ton.gif -> back.gifton-1.gifton-1.gifback.gif

    If you KAN using at least an opponent's tile it s a MINKAN. (position of the rotated tile varies uppon rules and opponent's position)
    ton.gifton.gifton.gif + opponent's ton-1.gif -> ton-2.gifton-1.gifton-1.gifton-1.gif


    This announce is made when the game is over but nobody has a winning hand. You say TENPAI if you only miss 1 tile to have a winning hand.
    Players who say TENPAI earn a bit of points... except if everybody is TENPAI.


    This announce is made when the game is over but nobody has a winning hand. You say NO-TEN if you can not say TENPAI.
      The Dora

    If you look at the screen you ll notice a stash of tiles with one or more returned tiles. These are shown DORA. To gain more points you have to get the complementary DORA in your game.
    Complentary dora is of same group.

    shown value 1 tile -> need value 2 tile
    shown value 2 tile -> need value 3 tile
    shown value 5 tile -> need value 6 tile
    shown value 9 tile -> need value 1 tile
    east wind -> south wind
    south wind -> west wind
    west wind -> north wind
    north wind -> east wind
    white dragon (HAKU)-> green dragon (HATSU)
    green dragon -> red dragon (CHUN)
    red dragon -> white dragon

    DORA are added to the stash depending on the rules (when you do KAN for example)... this permites to acquire more points.