Variations of play

 OVERVIEW:  The goulash PreparationStopping the swappingPlaying the gameHow wild tiles can be used The game for 2 playersThe game for 3 playersThe game for 5 players

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The goulash

If all the tiles are drawn from the live wall without anyone calling Mah-Jong (or there are no more tiles in the kong box when one is required), then the game is declared a draw and no scores are made.
The game is re-started with the same player as East Wind, but then played in a slightly different way called the “goulash”.

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Preparation

If the set contains jokers then these are used instead of the four 2 Bamboos. If jokers are not present the 2 Bamboos act as jokers and become “wild” tiles (they can stand for any other tile, except a Flower or Season).
The building of the wall and the dealing are the same as the normal game, but then players are allowed to exchange a number tiles they do not want before they start to play (after replacing any Season or Flower tiles with tiles from the kong box).

There are three exchanges during which players try to improve their hands:

1. East swaps with West and North swaps with South
Each player takes three unwanted tiles from his rack and places them face down in front of him. East Wind then swaps his three tiles with those of West Wind and North Wind swaps his three tiles with those of South Wind. The swapped tiles are placed in the racks and the hands examined for further unwanted tiles.

2. East swaps with South and West swaps with North
The above swapping procedure is repeated, except that this time East Wind swaps his unwanted tiles with those of South Wind and West Wind swaps his tiles with those of North Wind.

3. East swaps with North and West swaps with South
The swapping is repeated again, but this time East Wind swaps with North Wind and West Wind swaps with South Wind.

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Stopping the swapping

Normally the swapping must be done, even though a player may actually prefer to keep his tiles. However, there are a couple of scenarios where these exchanges can be avoided:

  1. East Wind is able to go Mah-Jong immediately with the special hand of Heaven’s Blessing
  2. Any player who is one tile away from Mah-Jong and declares that he is fishing, does not have to make any exchanges. However, he must then keep to this hand for the remainder of the game. The remaining players would then exchange tiles in the usual way unless they all agree not bother.

Should either of these scenarios occur during the swapping process, the same rules would apply.

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Playing the game

The game is played the same as a normal game except that “wild” tiles operate and no chows are allowed (unless part of a special hand † ). In consequence, there can be no doubling of the score for having no chows.
† Namely Heaven’s blessing and Earth’s blessing. 
The introduction of wild tiles introduces the chance of more than one player wishing to pung or kong the same piece. In this instance the player nearest the right of the discard takes precedence, unless someone is calling Mah-Jong (in which case, this player takes precedence).

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How wild tiles can be used

Note that there are restrictions on how the wild tiles can be used during the goulash game:

  • Only one wild tile can be used to make a pair or a pung
  • No more than 2 wild tiles can be used to make a kong
  • You can use 3 or 4 wild tiles to make a special hand, but not as a pung/kong of just wild tiles

There is one exception to the above restrictions. If a player picks up a wild tile which would allow him to go Mah-Jong, an additional wild tile can be used to make a pair, pung or kong.

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The game for 2 players

The game is played as normal except that:

  • The players choose to be East or West Wind (using the Wind discs or tiles)
  • No chows are allowed (so there’s no doubling of the score for no chows)
  • No player can go Mah-Jong until his hand contains 4 doubles or reaches 500 points
  • East Wind doesn’t pay/receive double his Mah-Jong score, nor pay/receive double a difference in scores
  • If the player going Mah-Jong has a lower score than his opponent then, after receiving the value of his hand, he must pay the difference between the two scores

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The game for 3 players

The game is played as normal except that:

  • The players choose from three Winds, which must include East
  • No chows are allowed (so there’s no doubling of the score for no chows)
  • When the Winds are rotated, East Wind must always exist and the two other Winds correspond with the seating arrangement
  • When you are playing the goulash, and need to swap tiles, follow this procedure:
    East swaps with the person on the left, then the one on the right
    The other two players then swap with one another

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The game for 5 players

The game is played as normal except that:

  • If tallies are used, they are divided equally amongst the five players
  • The four Wind tiles and a White Dragon are used to determine the Winds, the player choosing the Dragon sitting out the first session
  • When the player who is East Wind doesn’t go Mah-Jong he retires, the Winds rotate and the incoming player becomes North Wind

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