happyponyland.net / Mahjong


Mahjong is a board game originating from China. It is usually played by four players using plastic tiles. The objective of the game is to achieve "mahjong" by arranging tiles in valid scoring combinations, while trying to predict the other players hands to avoid discarding tiles they can make use of.

Note: This is a completely different game from Mahjong Solitaire (the classic computer game where you pick pairs), even if both use the same tiles.

Mahjong is intellectually challenging, but also a means of cultural exchange and a fun way to meet people. The thing I enjoy the most is the frustration of drawing a really poor hand and thinking "what am I ever going to make of this?", followed by the satisfaction as it gradually improves and resolves to perfection. You also don't need to be super skilled to do well in a game; sometimes you just get a lucky hand. However, if you want to play on a higher level you must learn to make the best of poor hands as well.

Culturally mahjong serves much of the same purpose poker does in the west; it is strongly associated with gambling but is also played in a familiar, casual setting. Mechanically it is quite different, however, being more similar to rummy. While poker is mostly linear (four of a kind always trumps full house), mahjong is multi-dimensional and most hands are composed of many different scoring elements. Another difference is that while there are many psychological aspects to it, you cannot win a mahjong game only by bluffing; you must always present a valid hand.

Mahjong has spread and diversified over the years and many rule variations exist. Many countries have their own local rules; in eastern Asia different regions - and almost every house! - seems to have their own interpretation. In the west there are three major rulesets in use today:

"This page is under construction"

I'll be adding more content over time. I'll also try to include more pictures.

Beginner Topics

Intermediate Topics

External resources ("Links")

My personal mahjong history

My first exposure to mahjong was through a computer game in the 90s. It used the Hong Kong rules and I never figured out just how to play. It still piqued my interest, but growing up in a rural area there was no way to experience it for real; I couldn't even get hold of any tiles! There were no shops carrying such a game, and ordering it from abroad was not an option.

In the mid-00s I stumbled upon a mahjong set in a chinese import store and bought it right away, but I still didn't have anyone to play with. It lay unused for many years. In 2013 I finally got in contact with other players.

Since then I have been playing regularly. I mostly play casual games but sometimes also competitively (here is my EMA ranking, if you are curious). I don't have any strong preference for any ruleset over another; currently I play mostly riichi and sometimes MCR, but I'm willing to try out new variations.


The monochrome mahjong font used on this page was made by Yoshiki Kita.

You may use the content of this page for non-commercial instructional purposes, but please attribute it to me (Ulf Åström / http://www.happyponyland.net/mahjong/). Please don't archive or mirror this material in other places online; just link to my page instead. You can also contact me.