Questions about preparing to play

OVERVIEW:  Building the wallsThe kong boxNumbers of tilesWindsDirection of play


Building the walls

Q. I have some tiles left over after I have built the 4 walls. Why?

A. You have probably not removed the spare tiles.

Unless you have made a mistake with the length of the walls – they are 18 tiles long – the most likely explanation is that you have not removed the 4 spare (blank) tiles. These are often the same as the White Dragon tiles. Sometimes, as well, there are 4 joker tiles (which are only used when you play the goulash).

Q. Is there a correct rule for how the corners should touch?

A. I believe the right side of the wall should be on the inside

When I was constructing my website I looked at the 2nd edition of “Mah-Jong (Know the Game)” by Gwyn Headley and Yvonne Seeley (which gives the official BMJA rules) and found that some photographs showed the overlap of the walls so the right end is inside and some the other way around. The explanation for building the walls just said, “The walls must touch in the corners…”.

So I referred to A. D. Millington’s book, “The Complete Book of Mah-Jongg” – generally cited as an authoritative text on classical Chinese Mah-Jong (from which the BMJA rules derive) – and found the following:

“By tradition, the walls are pushed together so that each stands in at the right end, and out at the left. This arrangement is of no consequence as far as the play of the game is concerned: but it is one of the formal ceremonies which give Mah-Jongg its character. The walls represent the walls of a Chinese city, and their formation into a neat and tight-fitting square is said ‘to keep the devils out’ “.

The 3rd edition of “Mah-Jong (Know the Game)” – published after my website had been constructed – had new photographs, but again with the variation of overlaps and no specific instructions on this matter.


The kong box

Q. How should the loose tiles be placed on the kong box?

A. Pick up the 2 tiles from the start of the kong box (the end nearest the start of the live wall) and place the bottom one down first and the top one beside it, going anti-clockwise.

Q. Which loose tile should I pick up?

A. If there are two, the one nearest the end of the live wall. (i.e. The one that was on the top row)

Q. What happens if someone picks up another bonus tile from the kong box when replacing one from the deal?

A. He immediately picks up another tile from the kong box

Note: The next player waiting to replace his bonus tiles should make sure that the previous player has finished his exchanges before he makes his.


Numbers of tiles

Q. How can I check if I have the correct number of tiles in my hand?

A. After the deal you should have 13 tiles – 14 if you are East Wind

During play, count off the tiles in threes and there should always be one left over



Q. What Wind am I?

A. Count round anti-clockwise from East – South, West, North

If East Wind is on your left, you are South Wind. If East Wind is on your right, you are North Wind. If East Wind is opposite you, you are West Wind.


Direction of play

Q. Is everything done anti-clockwise?

A. Nearly everything

This is done clockwise:

  • Counting along the wall to determine where it is to be broken (before dealing tiles to the players)
  • Picking the tiles from the wall to deal to the players
  • Picking the next live tile from the wall

These things are done anti-clockwise – East, South, West, North:

  • Counting which wall to break
  • The order in which players are dealt tiles
  • The player whose turn it is next
  • Exchanging Flower or Season tiles after the deal
  • Determining who takes precedence if more than one person declares Mah-Jong
  • Changing East Wind
  • Changing the prevailing Wind

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