Reach Mahjong: The Only Way to Play Review

Hello everyone. I apologize for being late this month on the review. It’s gotten very cold here and as the temperature drops, so does my ability to think straight and accomplish things in a timely manner. Starting this week, I’m choosing a bit of a different pace. For the next few months, I’m going to try to review as many books and resources in English as I can. While most of the books that I’ve reviewed thus far are manageable for people who even don’t speak Japanese, I know it can be annoying to be looking through a resource and not be able to comprehend every part of it. Mahjong is a complicated game enough as it is right? So to kick off the first English book review for the website, I chose to review Jenn’s book.

Reach Mahjong: The Only Way to Play by Jenn Barr
This book is designed with many audiences in mind. It seems to be written as a complete manual not only to learn how to play mahjong, but also understand the state of mahjong in Japan, as well as get enjoyment out of mahjong on many different levels. This book will not only teach you how to play, but also why to play, where to play, and how to have a great time doing it. The book seems to be written in two distinct sections: the section for people who don’t know what to do and the section for people who do know what to do. The former will advance the potential player from newbie to knowledgeable, and the latter will advance the knowledgeable to an advanced level.

Reach Mahjong: The Only Way to Play is a joy to read because it feels more like a conversation than a guidebook. While reading through the book, one can really feel the heart put into the words. Mahjong is a hard game, and because there are so many rules, it can’t help but have an intimidating rule section filled with diagrams and tables and stuff that’s impossible to grasp at first. Jenn’s book, though, seems to understands that and does everything it can to break the tension with random jokes, suggestions, and pick-me-ups throughout that while seem small, really help keep the reader interested. There are many pictures and quizzes thrown in to check comprehension, as well as provide a much needed change of pace along the hard road of mastering the basics of mahjong.

I mentioned at the beginning, one of my favorite parts about this book is it appears to have been written with many different audiences in mind. The first half of the book is a straight rule book and user manual. There are many examples, diagrams, and pictures to help you along every step of the way. This section is hard no matter where you get the information from, but the pictures and diagrams really do provide a good understanding of what is being discussed. Everything you need to know is here, broken down in a good logical order starting from the first time you break out your new shiny set of tiles, up to where break your friends hard by hitting 3 hidden doras off of a last discard win.

The second half of the book aimed at people who may already know, or have some knowledge of the basics is a section I particularly enjoyed, because it accounts for every kind of player. Are you interested in house games? There is a section for that. Want to keep things interesting with side bets? There is a section for that. Can only get 3 players together? There is a section for that too. There is also a strategy section particularly enjoyed and found quite a few things I could take away from. The only things I kind of missed from the book is an index in the back and one more extra set of easy reference tables on the last few pages, but even without these, it only causes an extra few seconds of debate amongst your game.

Comprehension Difficulty
There is no Japanese in this book beyond the key terms and glossary section. All of the Japanese terms are represented using romaji so everyone can easily comprehend.

Using this book is a lot like having a conversation with someone. You can really get the sense of someone guiding you through your first stages of the game. It’s an accomplishment that few guide books seem to be able to achieve. The book is oozing with personality and good information. If you are looking to get into the world of Reach Mahjong, there is no better place to start than right here.

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