Garthe’s first Column – Value Tiles & All Simples

Mahjong Mahjong Mahjong. So you think you want to dive into the exciting, seedy, seething, frothing at the mouth world of Mahjong. Well I’ll tell you: watch out. Few escape unscathed. My ex-girlfriend regrets ever explaining the rules to me as the game achieved near girlfriend status for me after about 10 minutes. There is no known cure, besides a new girlfriend, but as afflictions go it’s a pretty good one.

How do you play, you may ask. The game is basically Rummy, but with Chinese tiles. In Mahjong, you’ll have 13 tiles in your hand, and your completed hand will usually have 14: 4 3-tile combinations 3-tile runs or groups (3 or 4-of-a-kinds) and one pair. However, you need to make certain combinations of runs and sets in your hands to be able to win. We call those hands “Yaku” in Japanese, or “hand-points” in English. As soon as your hand qualifies for at least one “hand-point” you can Mahjong (go out)(the Japanese is あがる-agaru).

So that’s the game in a nutshell, and Jenn and I have put this site together to help you wade through the rest of the quagmire. You’ll need to remember a few odd rules here and there but the starting point is going to be remembering the hand points. This week, we’ll start with two of the simplest, Value Tiles and Simples (inside hand), to make it easy for you to put some winning hands together. A word of warning however: you’ll have a hard time quitting, once you start. So I recommend finishing your work now. There’s a lot of fun ahead of us.

Value Tiles: 1 Hand Point
Value Tile (yaku-hai in Japanese) is probably the simplest and easiest to create of all the hands. It is simply a hand including one set of 3 of the same value tiles in your hand. It is also immune, meaning that you may steal (chow, bump, kong) any of your hand’s tiles from other players’ discards including the value tiles themselves. Value tiles consist of the 3 Dragon tiles: Red, White and Blue; the current wind for the round: east or south; and your seat wind for the current hand. A set of 3 of any of those tiles would constitute a value hand. Remember, all Value Tiles are Honors but not all Honors are Value Tiles!

Value Tiles ex.1
Round: East
Seat: South
1 crack1 crack1 crack4 crack5 crack6 crack1 bam2 bam3 bamEast WindEast WindEast Wind8 dot

Winning Tile:8 dot
Since the Round-Wind is East, East counts as a Value Tile in this Hand.

Value Tiles ex.2
Round: South
Seat: North
7 crack7 crack7 crack8 crack8 crack8 crack7-bam chowed6 bam8 bamwest windwest windred dragonred dragon
Winning tile:red dragon

Since the Red Dragon is a Value Tile and this hand has 3, it is a Value Hand. However, since it is the Round-Wind is South and the Seat-Wind is North, West is NOT a Value Tile and having three would not give you a hand point. Therefore, to go out on someone else’s discard, the discard must be the Red Dragon.

All Simples: 1 Hand Point
Also known as an Inside Hand or Two thru Eight (tanyao in Japanese) is also quite simple. It is just a hand consisting entirely of tiles between 2 and 8. In other words, it contains no 1, 9 or Honors. In most games it will also be immune, meaning again you can steal from other players as they discard.

Simples Tiles ex.1
Round: East
Seat: East
2 dot2 dot2 dot5 dot6 dot7 dot3 bam4 bam5 bam6 bam7 bam7 bam8 bam
Winning Tile:7 bam

Simples Tiles ex.2
Round: South
Seat: West
2 crack3 crack4 crack5 crack5 crack bumped5 crack7 crack4 dot5 dot6 dot3 bam4 bam5 bam
Winning tile: 7 crack

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