Preparing to play

 OVERVIEW:  Distribute the tallies  ⇒  Determine who is North, South, East and West Wind  ⇒  Determine the prevailing Wind  ⇒  Shuffle the tiles  ⇒  Build the walls  ⇒  Break into one wall  ⇒  The kong box  ⇒  Deal out the tiles  ⇒  Select out any Flower or Season tiles


Playing aid

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Distribute the tallies

Before the first session each player is given 2,000 points in tallies.
If tallies are not available then each player can use a score sheet, marked with two columns showing payments and receipts.


Determine who is North, South, East and West Wind

First session

One of each of the four Wind tiles (or Wind counters) are placed face-down and shuffled.
Each player takes one of the tiles and then takes the seat appropriate to the Wind selected.
The clockwise order is North, West, South, East. This is a little confusing as West and East are opposite to the compass we are used to.
In Mah-Jong, one gets used to starting with East then moving anti-clockwise, rather than clockwise, to South, West and North.
Being East Wind is important because that player always pays or receives double the score when Mah-Jong is declared (as explained later).

Subsequent sessions

If the player who was East Wind declared Mah-Jong or the game was drawn, then there is no change.
If another player declared Mah-Jong, the Winds rotate in an anti-clockwise fashion so that the player who was South Wind now becomes East Wind, and East Wind now becomes North Wind, etc.
(When only 3 are playing East Wind always exists.)


Determine the prevailing Wind

The prevailing Wind (also called the Wind of the round) always starts as East Wind.
It can change, but only in a long game of at least 5 sessions. If you collect a set of the prevailing Wind your score is doubled (as explained later).

Changing the prevailing Wind

The prevailing Wind only changes after everyone has been East Wind (determined as explained above). It then becomes South Wind.
When everyone has been South Wind (again determined as explained above) the prevailing Wind becomes West Wind. And eventually, North Wind).
The game officially ends when everyone has played as the prevailing North Wind !


Shuffle the tiles

Put all the tiles (minus any blank and joker tiles) on the table, face down. The players who are North and South Winds then shuffle, or “wash”, them.

The shuffling is called “Twittering of the sparrows”, from the distinctive noise it makes. 
Mah-Jong literally means “The game of the sparrows”.

When East Winds thinks that the tiles have been shuffled enough he says “Pow!  (meaning “Start”).


Build the walls

Each player then builds a wall, two tiles high and 18 tiles long. Each wall is then moved to the centre of the table until they meet.

The wall symbolises the Great Wall of China
The four walls must touch to prevent Dragons or evil spirits entering !


Break into one wall

Determine which wall to break

East Wind throws 2 dice to determine which wall to break. Starting with the wall in front of East Wind, count anti-clockwise.

Determine where to break the wall

The player who sits where the count ends then throws 2 dice again to determine where in the wall the break is to be made. Add the numbers from the two throws together.
Starting from the right end of the wall, count towards the left. If the end of the wall is reached continue counting into the next wall.

Pick up the two tiles at the break point – the two tiles are called loose tiles – and put them on top of the tiles immediately to the right of the break so that the top-most tile lies furthest away from the break point.
The tiles on the other side of the break point are the start of the wall. So when tiles come to be dealt from the wall it will be in a clockwise direction.


East Wind throws 6 then counts anti-clockwise to locate the wall in front of South Wind. 
South Wind then throws 8. The sum of the two throws is 14. So he counts clockwise along the wall starting from his right.

If the sum of the two throws is greater than 18 then the count continues into the next wall.
Dealing begins from the start of the live wall. E, S, W, ,… E, S, W, N … etc.


The kong box

At the end of the wall the last seven pairs of tiles (including the loose tiles) are moved away from the rest of the wall. These detached tiles are called the kong box or dead wall.
Its function is to provide replacement tiles for kongs, Flowers and Seasons. The loose tiles are taken in turn (the furthest from the end first) and replaced from the end of the kong box as required.

The session ends in a drawn game when the last tile in the live wall (the one before the kong box) has been taken and played without Mah-Jong being called. This is called a “Wash-out”. Note that the kong box is never replenished from the live wall. If the kong box is exhausted and another is required then the game is drawn.


Deal out the tiles

East Wind receives 14 tiles and the other players 13 each.

East Wind deals out the tiles starting with himself. Tiles are dealt (by East Wind) four at a time, beginning at the start point. This is done three times, dealing to East Wind, South Wind, West Wind and North Wind in turn. At this point each player should have 12 tiles.
East Wind deals out one more tile to each player following the same dealing sequence. He finally takes one extra tile for himself.
Each player then arranges his tiles in the tile rack so they cannot be seen by anyone else.

This shows the state of the game just after the tiles have been dealt


Select out any Flower or Season tiles

If anyone has any Flower or Season tiles then these need to be laid on the table and replaced by tiles from the kong box.
East Wind starts this process, followed by South Wind, West Wind then North Wind.
Should another Flower or Season be picked from the wall then this is laid out too, and replaced immediately from the kong box.
(Other players should be careful to allow each player time to do this, before claiming their tiles).

This shows the state of the game just before the first tile is discarded by East Wind

Also see questions on Preparing to play

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