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Old 2009-06-07, 15:41   Link #1
Malintex_Terek
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Japanese Mahjong Thread

By popular demand, this shall be AnimeSuki's mahjong thread. Feel free to ask questions or stage games from here.

This is going to be rather haphazard at first given that I've got finals later this week, but here are some helpful topics for the beginner and expert alike. I'm going to edit it through the day today.

Rules

Setup

There are 4 players to each Japanese mahjong game. The players sit at each side of a square table, designated as a house, which come in four flavours ordered as such -



西東

The houses are the Ton (東), Nan (南), Xia (西), and Pei(北). The order is read from the 東 and proceeds clockwise (i.e., after 東 discards a tile, 南 is the second house to draw). The dealer, or person who gives out the tiles and draws first, is always the 東 house. There are two types of rounds. In a tonpuusen, each player gets one chance at dealer, with the houses rotating clockwise after someone who is not dealer wins. If the dealer wins, he/she has an option to exercise renchan, which is where the dealer donates 100 points to the point pond to remain as dealer for another round. A hanchan is basically two tonpuusen back to back, but in the second tonpuusen the round wind tile rotates to the next house in the sequence (usually 南).

By convention in English-speaking communities, instead of referring to the houses as "Ton House" or "Nan House" we just call them East, South, West and North. This is to reduce confusion since each house has an associated wind tile which is called by the names Ton, Nan, Xia, Pei.

Tiles

Japanese mahjong is played with 136 tiles rather than 144, meaning unlike Chinese, Hong Kong, and other variants there are no flower bonus tiles. The tiles are all arranged in 4 walls of 2 stacks consisting of 17 tiles, and are placed in front of the players. Tiles are organized into four suits: Pin (circles), Sou (bamboo), Man (characters), and the Honour tiles. The formal name for Man tiles is Wan, and they are used interchangeable. Honours are officially called juhai but more often than not they're called either fanpai or yakuhai, which actually refers to a specific subset of juhai and specific han, which will be discussed later.

Where can I play?

Tenhou.net

http://tenhou.net/0/?L7447
http://arcturus.su/tenhou
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HOLY CRACKERS! SAIGAR 2008 IS HERE!
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Last edited by Malintex_Terek; 2009-06-18 at 03:48.
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Old 2009-06-07, 16:08   Link #2
Vexx
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I've got this book: The Red Dragon and the West Wind, which focuses on Chinese and American Mahjong but also discusses Japanese-style Mahjong. I've not yet found a book in english that focuses on Japanese-style rules.

So any book recommendations for Japanese rules would be appreciated. My son happened to trip across a year 1924 wooden tile set of mahjong from China ($1 garage sale) -- so we're mucking with that before we decide whether to shell out the big bucks for a modern set.
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Old 2009-06-07, 16:42   Link #3
Malintex_Terek
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There are no good Japanese mahjong books in English, nor strategy guides for that matter. This is because there are very few cultural centers for Japanese immigrants that maintain traditions from the first immigrants - people forget the game or have no opportunity to play and introduce new people. Since the vast majority of people who play in English-speaking countries are Chinese or Jewish, very little material has been published in English for that sort of material.

Dutch is a different story, though.
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Old 2009-06-07, 16:47   Link #4
Deathkillz
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$1 for something as ancient as that? *Faints*

I myself has only picked up on Chinese mahjong after begging my friends to teach me how to play. Such an addictive game too as once I got the hang of things we just carried on playing for 10 hours straight.

The japanese version seems to have a lot more rules than the chinese version (making it more complicated with the amount of hands allowed) and quite a nightmare of a scoring system too...I still need to learn it myself but there's noone to teach me this time round
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Old 2009-06-07, 17:21   Link #5
Rias
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That website is pretty good...you don't have to sign up for much and there's a good number of players.

I've been searching for a english site that lets you play Japanese rules of MJ...which I could never find
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Old 2009-06-07, 17:25   Link #6
felix
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Quote:
Where can I play?

Tenhou.net

http://tenhou.net/0/?L7447
Is "Japanse Mahjong" Flash by GameDesign (english) the Japanse variant or just a name for it, since I can't yet get my head around (all) those pesky kanji tiles. There are no flower tiles, so it should be close just want confirmation.
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Old 2009-06-07, 17:38   Link #7
Malintex_Terek
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deathkillz View Post
The japanese version seems to have a lot more rules than the chinese version (making it more complicated with the amount of hands allowed) and quite a nightmare of a scoring system too...I still need to learn it myself but there's noone to teach me this time round
Scoring itself isn't a beast in and of itself, but determining rankings at the end (A +44, B +13, C -16, D -41) is the tough part.

Typically, the more complex the rules are, the less of a factor luck is and so the "easier" the game is.

In my view -

Chinese Classic: 90% skill, 10% luck
Chinese Modern: 75% skill, 25% luck.
Japanese Classic: 50% skill, 50% luck.
Japanese Modern: 40% skill, 60% luck.
Hong Kong: 10% skill, 90% luck.

Hence, why I prefer the "Japanese Classic" style of mahjong (pre-Red 5's, Head Bump versus Double Ron) seen in Akagi and Tetsuya. It allows for all players to have a random chance of winning, and their skill make up the difference from there.

Japanese style is the most balanced between rules/luck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rias View Post
That website is pretty good...you don't have to sign up for much and there's a good number of players.
#mahjong@rizon.net manages that particular lobby. We have a bot in there called "7447bot". To bring down people from IRC into the lobby to play, make sure your chat is ON ("/chat ON") and type in a request.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rias View Post
I've been searching for a english site that lets you play Japanese rules of MJ...which I could never find
Prior to late 2007, the de facto website of choice for play was MahjongTime. However, MahjongTime isn't what it used to be and has a number of problems associated with it, the least of which is requiring payment. I don't think that'll be a huge deal for the people at AnimeSuki, but the rates for registration on ron2 and Tenhou are much more reasonable (equivalent to $5 a month for unlimited play) versus the play-per-game aspect of MahjongTime.

The only advantage MahjongTime offers over Tenhou is in-game chat, which is why #mahjong was founded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cats View Post
Is "Japanse Mahjong" Flash by GameDesign (english) the Japanse variant or just a name for it, since I can't yet get my head around (all) those pesky kanji tiles. There are no flower tiles, so it should be close just want confirmation.
No, that is a computer-opponent flash game.

You're playing against real people in Tenhou.
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Old 2009-06-07, 17:39   Link #8
Christen
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http://www.reachmahjong.com

Should be able to get you started if you don't know how to play yet. Everything else will be experience.
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Old 2009-06-07, 17:46   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malintex_Terek View Post

In my view -

Chinese Modern: 75% skill, 25% luck.

Hong Kong: 10% skill, 90% luck.
Oh really? Why is there such a gap?
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Old 2009-06-07, 17:54   Link #10
felix
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Japanese Mahjong set,

. .

. . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

(images use imageshack links so easy copy/paste)

Gamplay Combinations
  • Pon (ie. pong/kōtsu) means 3 of a kind, eg. with the normal tiles or using honor tiles
  • Kon (ie. kong/kantsu) means 4 of a kind, eg. , or with honors
  • Chii (ie. chow/shuntsu) means 3 in a row, eg.
  • Eye (ie. jiÓng/toitsu/pair) means 2 of a kind,

Gameplay winning hands
The last tile when you complete your hand will not require a discard so even though you have 13 tiles, you will have combinations equivalent to 14 (if not more with Kon's).
  • 7 toitsu, all different.

    eg.

  • 1 & 9 out of each set, and all honors, and extra tile that forms toitsu with any of which

    eg. +

  • 1 eye + 4 Pon/Chii/Kon; this is the basic patter and has many combinations.

Disclaimer: I'm very much unexperienced so if I goofed it please correct me. Thankyou.
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Old 2009-06-07, 17:56   Link #11
felix
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malintex_Terek View Post
No, that is a computer-opponent flash game.

You're playing against real people in Tenhou.
I'm asking if its accurate. I don't want to play against real people when I'm at total newb level. (lol)

*oh great now I forgot what I really wanted to ask*

edit

Oh right, umm,

1. Is there a difference in value between the three 1-9 sets?
2. Is there a basic hint as to what I need so as to not be forced to fully conceal the hand and call riichi to win with a 1 toitsu 4 set?
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Old 2009-06-07, 18:10   Link #12
Rias
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malintex_Terek View Post

Prior to late 2007, the de facto website of choice for play was MahjongTime. However, MahjongTime isn't what it used to be and has a number of problems associated with it, the least of which is requiring payment. I don't think that'll be a huge deal for the people at AnimeSuki, but the rates for registration on ron2 and Tenhou are much more reasonable (equivalent to $5 a month for unlimited play) versus the play-per-game aspect of MahjongTime.

The only advantage MahjongTime offers over Tenhou is in-game chat, which is why #mahjong was founded.
I remember Mahjongtime...but I also remember that the engine (at least for japanese MJ) was written badly. It had several bugs that made playing on ti frustrating.
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Old 2009-06-07, 18:48   Link #13
Malintex_Terek
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Thanks Cats, I have some smaller tile graphics stored away somewhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deathkillz View Post
Oh really? Why is there such a gap?
Chinese Classic is the original game from which all variants stem, except America which all but threw out the rules for CC. Chinese Official is a modern derivative of Chinese Classic, but it still preserves a lot of the rules.

Hong Kong almost has no rules. When there are fewer rules, there's more possible winning hands so the game becomes more unpredictable and one has less control over the flow. In terms of winning, I think of HK as just a step up from slot machines.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cats View Post
I'm asking if its accurate. I don't want to play against real people when I'm at total newb level. (lol)
That flash game is the best computer-opponent Japanese mahjong game you can find on the internet, and is the best practice outside of real players. Some of the terminology is a bit weird, but otherwise it's a great tool to use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cats View Post
1. Is there a difference in value between the three 1-9 sets?
Game-play wise, no. The designs are meant to represent different amounts of coin though, with Wan > Sou > Pin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cats View Post
2. Is there a basic hint as to what I need so as to not be forced to fully conceal the hand and call riichi to win with a 1 toitsu 4 set?
I'm not sure if I understand the question, but 4 sets and 1 pair is the only winning combination with the sole exception of the Chiitoitsu (7 Pair) hand.

You can Riichi if your hand is completely closed (no calls), you have enough points, the game isn't in its last round and you're in Tenpai. You can't Riichi any other way, the hand must be completely closed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rias View Post
I remember Mahjongtime...but I also remember that the engine (at least for japanese MJ) was written badly. It had several bugs that made playing on ti frustrating.
There's a laundry list of problems with MT, which why I advise to not even bother. The social structure of the place also ruins the gaming experience.
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Old 2009-06-07, 19:13   Link #14
Deathkillz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malintex_Terek View Post
Chinese Classic is the original game from which all variants stem, except America which all but threw out the rules for CC. Chinese Official is a modern derivative of Chinese Classic, but it still preserves a lot of the rules.

Hong Kong almost has no rules. When there are fewer rules, there's more possible winning hands so the game becomes more unpredictable and one has less control over the flow. In terms of winning, I think of HK as just a step up from slot machines.
It is common for HK players to use a "3 fan minimum" rule to play which ups the game in skill imo.

Also what comes into play are a lot of special rules such as those which determine how one should play a hand when sitting in "x" wind of "y" round so potentially there is a lot of chaos and additional information to remember ie if you are sitting in east seat and the round is east and you have a pon of east tiles then that is 2 fans added to the winning hand.

HK style doesn't allow for a combination that consists of pons and chows in different suits so that again makes it more difficult to play and a winning hand of only chows of different suits are given 1 fan (meaning you are still missing 2 for a winning hand).

And I don't think there are more possible winning hands in HK mahjong than Japanese mahjong...the options available to HK players aren't that many when you play with the "3 fan minimum" rule so there is hard to win with quick, cheap hands unlike the Japanese counterpart.

It is a little unfair to say that it is pure luck and lol at the slot machine comparison
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Old 2009-06-07, 19:31   Link #15
Malintex_Terek
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Increasing the fan requires more skill and patience, but the game as a whole becomes easier since it becomes a lot more predictable to figure out what people are aiming for.

Example, if we set the minimum fan to 13, what would everyone be aiming for?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deathkillz View Post
HK style doesn't allow for a combination that consists of pons and chows in different suits so that again makes it more difficult to play and a winning hand of only chows of different suits are given 1 fan (meaning you are still missing 2 for a winning hand).
That's only a factor in Chinese Classic/Official, dual suit Pon and Chi aren't allowed in JP either. In fact, aside from the scoring (which HK holds in common with CO), Riichi and Dora, HK and JP have the same rules.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deathkillz View Post
And I don't think there are more possible winning hands in HK mahjong than Japanese mahjong...the options available to HK players aren't that many when you play with the "3 fan minimum" rule so there is hard to win with quick, cheap hands unlike the Japanese counterpart.
I don't know if 3 fan is standard or not, but all the HK games I've played were 1 fan minimum and that lead to ridiculous hands like an open pinfu without even a tanyao.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deathkillz View Post
It is a little unfair to say that it is pure luck and lol at the slot machine comparison
Sorry about that.
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Old 2009-06-07, 19:37   Link #16
Mystique
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I dunno if it's cause of "Saki" that has brought Japanese Mahjong to light, but I've been caught up in this world a little bit over late 2007/early 2008, when trying to fansub a anime series called
"Lengendary Gambler Testsuya"

We got ep 1 and 2 tl'ed, edited and TS'ed but after months of searching I couldn't find a TC'er who was incredbly knowledable about the game and could interpret between the two languages.
Then luck had it, I find a TC'er but no longer have a translator, we we have all the raws and kara and scripts and I've made a .pdf file explaining the rules
"Mahjong for Idiots" basically xD
Page 1 is here:


(was needed for myself as well tbh, lol - Feel free to criticise M Terek if there are some off points, although this had been run past another professional Japanese Mahjong player when i was designing this page)
- But at present that project is stalled, it may resume if I find the "one" to help get us back on track someday.
Quote:
The tab menu at the top of the screen gives viewers easy access to RM’s partner sites: MahjongMart and Yakitori Online. MahjongMart (http://mahjongmart.com/) was founded in October, 2007 by Jenn Barr and Andy Barzaghi to provide authentic Japanese Mahjong sets to locations outside of Japan. Yakitori Online (http://yakitorionline.com/) is the busiest online forum founded by Andy Barzhagi in June, 2007, dedicated solely to the Japanese version of Reach/Riichi Mahjong.
Sadly yakitori seems to be down or the guys are no longer running it, but as the quote says, they were solely dedicated on bringin Japanese Mahjong to the Western world and it was through those guys that i was gaining assistance

Anyways, I played a children's version of this (Pahjang?) - using the Disney set back in October xD
Gave me a simple rundown of what this game is about, on a basic level in terms of concept, it's not too dificult ^^
..
Just when they start using all kinds of 'sets' when they wanna 'tsumo' (draw) - theeeeen it begins to get complicated
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Last edited by Mystique; 2009-06-07 at 19:54.
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Old 2009-06-07, 19:59   Link #17
Malintex_Terek
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Wei-Hwa Huang's website was what I originally used to learn, but as one would expect there are some errors and it's very out of date. It's still a good reference site, though.

As for Yakitori Online, it went down because the owner wasn't getting loads of cash from would-be Japanese mahjong players. It wasn't a very helpful website either, partly because most of the "meets" were conducted at ron2. I only attended one of those "meets"...and ended up winning.
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Old 2009-06-07, 20:01   Link #18
Deathkillz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malintex_Terek View Post
Increasing the fan requires more skill and patience, but the game as a whole becomes easier since it becomes a lot more predictable to figure out what people are aiming for.

Example, if we set the minimum fan to 13, what would everyone be aiming for?
Being able to predict what a person is aiming for doesn't make it easy for you to win with a hand and that is the point to mahjong anyway, you try create situations where you can set up a win that gives a minimal chance to others. I can deny others of the tiles that they need but how does my hand come about then if that is all I'm concentrating on. I have said that doing a "3 fan minimum" ups the game a little but that doesn't mean that you limit your own options to anything but the pure minimum ending hands. Outside factors like collecting your own wind tiles and whether you have any flower tiles come into play that complicates matters so even a cheap 1 fan chow only hand can win if you satisfy other conditions.

And I'm talking about a sensible minimum which seems to be the norm
Quote:
I don't know if 3 fan is standard or not, but all the HK games I've played were 1 fan minimum and that lead to ridiculous hands like an open pinfu without even a tanyao.
From what I've heard, it is standard (amongst casual players at least...no idea if everything goes for serious tournament type settings).

ps...saiGAR 2008? you need a new message change
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Old 2009-06-07, 20:05   Link #19
Mystique
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malintex_Terek View Post
Wei-Hwa Huang's website was what I originally used to learn, but as one would expect there are some errors and it's very out of date. It's still a good reference site, though.

As for Yakitori Online, it went down because the owner wasn't getting loads of cash from would-be Japanese mahjong players. It wasn't a very helpful website either, partly because most of the "meets" were conducted at ron2. I only attended one of those "meets"...and ended up winning.
Yeah, it was made over a year ago, I'd need to update the link on that 'help file' and check a few notes to bring it up to date again, but I assume the generic concept and the names are correct for most part, which should be able to get the ball running for newbies hopefully.
Especially when one begins hearing fun things like:

Tsumo! Rokusen toushi!
Tsumo! Baiman!
Chii Toitsu Tenpai


- To name but a few
Thanks for the update on the yakitori website tho. ^^
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Old 2009-06-07, 20:24   Link #20
bayoab
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malintex_Terek View Post
Scoring itself isn't a beast in and of itself, but determining rankings at the end (A +44, B +13, C -16, D -41) is the tough part.
That's much easier to do than the actual game scoring. It just requires knowing:
a) What the point payout score is (Usually 30000(30) for 4, 40000(40) for 3)
b) What the first place bonus is (Usually +20000(20))
c) Any rank based penalty or bonuses (Ex: Gamedesign uses a +/-10000(+/-10) penalty/bonus. First gets a +20000(+20) bonus, Second +10000(+10), Third -10000(-10) penalty, Fourth -20000(-20))

Calculation is very easy:
(Variation a: )
Round your points to the nearest thousand and divide by one thousand.
Subtract the payout score (/1000) from that value.
Apply any penalties or bonuses.

(Variation b: )
Round your points to the nearest thousand.
Subtract the payout score from it.
Apply any penalties and bonuses.
Divide by 1000.
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