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The Chinese are invading Japan—with a thrilling tile-based game that involves luck, patience and strategy! Learn the Japanese variant of this age-old favourite, Reach Mahjong.
Mahjong stormed the world with its ornate tiles and exhilarating gameplay. Similar to other trends, the classic table game gave birth to numerous variants depending on the region where it is played. In Japan, the variation is called Reach Mahjong. This variant has unique features in the form of riichi and dora that makes the game more interesting.
The basic rules of the classic game still apply in Reach Mahjong. It requires 4 players and forming a winning hand usually comprises of 4 melds and a pair.
The first step in mastering the exhilarating game of Reach Mahjong is familiarizing yourself with the tiles. The Reach variant of mahjong features 136 tiles. These tiles are divided into two: the Suit and Honour tiles which are further divided into the following subclasses:
There are 3 types of Suit tiles: Pin, Sou and Wan. Additionally, these tiles are also divided by value, with the 1st and 9th tile being terminal tiles and tiles 2-8 grouped as inside tiles.
There are two types of Honour Tiles: Wind and Dragon.
A game of Reach Mahjong starts with each player drawing each of the 4 wind tiles. To do this, you must mix the 4 Wind tiles and the White Dragon tile and deal them face down. The player who picked the White Dragon must take the last tile for himself. You will then take your seats based on the opposite direction of the cardinal winds in the compass.
If you managed to pick the East Wind tile, you will then need to roll the dice and start counting counterclockwise starting from yourself. The player who lands the count will then need to repeat the process. The player who lands the count will be the East Wind player with the other players taking the other seat winds counterclockwise.
If you manage to become the East Wind player, you will be the oya or parent that will deal the tiles to other players. The oya will then take a special tile that marks him as the first dealer of the game.
The players will then need to place the tiles face down and shuffle them around the table. You and the other players will then randomly pick 34 tiles to create a 17 tile long, 2 tile tall wall to create a square pattern.
After this, the oya will then roll a pair of dice to determine which wall to break. The oya will then start counting clockwise starting from himself to determine which player’s wall will be broken.
The oya will count the stacked tiles clockwise depending on the number of the dice and break these tiles from the wall. From here, the oya will count clockwise to seven from the right side of the broken tiles effectively isolating 14 tiles that is called the dead wall.
The first tile on the count will be flipped upside to be the dora indicator of the game. The dora is basically a bonus tile that can add more points in your winning hand. The remaining tiles on the dead wall can also be a dora indicator depending on how the game goes.
The oya will then take the first 4 tiles nearest to the dora indicator with the others following in a counterclockwise direction. You will continue this until each player has an initial has 12 tiles. You will then need to divide the last 4 tiles of the wall. The East player takes the exterior top tile, the South player takes the exterior bottom tile, the West player takes the interior top tile and the North player takes the interior bottom tile with each player having an initial hand of 13 tiles.
The players will take turns drawing a tile from the wall and discarding one from their hand until the form melds and pairs, starting from the oya. Unlike other variants, Reach Mahjong requires players to arrange their discarded tiles in front of them to properly score the winning hands based on the yaku or conditions that affect their scores.
Reach Mahjong is usually played for up to 2 rounds but it can have more rounds. A new round passes the oya title to the players at the right of the East Wind player. In addition, score sticks will also be distributed. There are 4 types of score sticks (tenbou): 100, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 points. These score sticks will be used to determine the winner at the end of the game.
The main goal of Reach Mahjong is forming a winning hand of 14 tiles comprised of 3 to 4 melds depending on your chosen play and a pair. You can have the following tile formations if you meet the specific conditions below:
Pair - You can form a pair by having two tiles of the same suit. A pair is always required in a winning hand.
Triplet - You can form a triplet by forming a meld comprised of 3 tiles of the same kind.
Sequence - You can form a sequence by forming a meld of 3 consecutive tiles of the same kind. You can only form a sequence with Suit tiles.
Quad - You can form a quad by forming a meld comprised of 4 tiles of the same kind. Choosing a Quad oriented play comes with special rules.
One of the mechanics of Mahjong is the drawing and discarding of the tiles to form a winning hand. This lets you have close and open melds while playing. A close meld is a triplet, sequence or quad formed with your initial hand.
On the other hand, an open meld is a triplet, sequence or quad formed with at least 1 discarded tile. Forming an open meld forbids you from discarding the tiles you used in this combination. Additionally, taking a discarded tile from other players require you to shout calls depending on the meld you are about to form.
Chii - You must shout chii when taking a discarded tile to form a Sequence meld. You can only make a chii play if the player on your left discards the tile. Additionally, taking a discarded tile for a Sequence meld requires you to reveal this combination to the other players with the rejected piece on the side placed vertically beside you horizontally placed tiles. The chii is the weakest call in Reach Mahjong.
Pon - You must declare pon when taking a discarded tile to form a Triplet meld. Taking a rejected piece requires you to reveal its meld on the other players and place it horizontally beside your vertical tiles depending on the position of the players that discarded it. The pon is more powerful than chii.
Kan - You must shout kan when taking a discarded tile to form a Quad meld. Forming a quad with a discarded tile requires you to reveal the combination to other players and place the discarded tile horizontally beside your vertical tiles. Calling a kan requires you to pull a replacement tile from the dead wall to form a proper hand and reveal another dora. The kan is equivalent to pon.
Agari - You must shout agari when taking a discarded tile that will let you form a winning hand. The agari is the most powerful call in Reach Mahjong and takes precedence before other calls.
Yaku is one of the most important concepts in Reach Mahjong. These are tile combination requirements to win the game. Similar to poker, some winning hands are better than the others. Each yaku has a corresponding score or han that will be calculated after the end of the game through point tiles. Most winning hands can satisfy multiple yakus allowing to have more hans.
Riichi - You can satisfy a riichi if you only have one missing tile for a winning hand and the most common yaku of the game. You can choose to declare or not declare you riichi. A riichi is equivalent to 1 han.
Ippatsu - A yaku that requires you to declare riichi. You can satisfy this yaku by receiving a winning tile without a call from another player. Ippatsu grants 1 han.
Pinfu - A winning hand that is comprised of sequence melds and a pair. Winning with a pinfu will score you 1 han.
Iipeikou - A winning hand with two identical sequence melds. Having an iipeikou will grant you 1 han.
Haitei raoyue - A winning hand completed with the final tile from the wall. Winning with a haitei raoyue will reward you with 1 han.
Houtei raoyui - A winning hand won with the last discarded tile. Utilizing this yaku will reward you with 1 han.
Chankan - A winning hand completed with a stolen tile using a Kan call. Chankan will score you 1 han.
Tanyao - A winning hand formed with internal tiles only. Satisfying this yaku will grant you 1 han.
Yakuhai - A winning hand formed with at minimum of 1 type of dragon or wind tile. Each type of tile awards 1 han.
Daburu Riichi - A riichi satisfied with the initial dealt hand. This yaku grant 2 hans.
Chantiyao - A winning hand formed with at least 1 terminal or honour tile in each meld. Satisfying this yaku will reward you with 2 hans.
Sanshoku doujun - A winning hand with 3 sequences that have the same value in three different suits. This yaku will score you 2 hans.
Ittsu - A winning hand with a 1-2-3, 4-5-6 and 7-8-9 sequence melds in one suit. This yaku will score you 2 hans.
Toitoi - A winning hand comprised of triplet melds. Satisfying toitoi will score you 2 hans.
Sanankou - A winning hand formed with closed triplet and quad melds. Completing this yaku will grant you 2 hans.
Sanshoku doukou - A winning hand with three triplet melds of the same number. This yaku grants you 2 hans.
Sankantsu - A winning hand completed by making three kan tile calls. This yaku will grant you 2 hans.
Chiitoitsu - A special winning hand formed with seven pairs. This yaku will score you 2 hans.
Honroutou - A winning hand formed with terminal and honour tiles. Satisfying this yaku will grant you 2 hans.
Shousangen - A winning hand formed with with 2 types of Dragon tile triplets and pair of the last Dragon tile type. Completing this yaku will grant you 2 hans.
Honitsu - A winning hand comprised of one type of suit tile and dragon or wind tiles. This yaku will score you 3 hans.
Junchan taiyao - A winning hand comprised with melds that has at least 1 terminal tile. Satisfying this yaku will grant you 3 hans.
Ryanpeikou - A winning hand comprised of a duo of two identical sequence melds. Completing the requirements of this yaku will reward you 3 hans.
Chinitsu - A winning hand formed with one type of suit tile. This yaku will reward you with 6 hans.
Aside from regular yakus, Reach Mahjong also features yakumans. These are special tile combination requirements that cannot be combined. Because of this, yakumans directly reward you with point tiles instead of hans. The point tiles rewarded by yakumans depend on the point limit of your game. These yakus can reward you with the most point tiles.
Kazoe yakuman - A special class of yakuman that can be satisfied by forming a yaku combination that scored 13 hans or higher.
Kokushi musuo - A winning hand comprised of thirteen different terminal and honour tiles along with an extra terminal or honour tile.
Suuankou - A winning hand formed with four different types of close triplet melds and a pair.
Daisangen - A winning hand formed with triplet or quad melds of all Dragon tile types.
Shousuushii - A winning hand with three different types of Wind triplet or quad melds.
Daisuushi - A winning hand comprised of 4 different types of Wind triplet or quad melds.
Tsuuiisou - A winning hand formed with honour tiles only.
Chinroutou - A winning hand formed with terminal tiles only.
Ryuuiisou - A winning hand formed with internal Sou tiles and/or Hatsu tiles.
Suunkantsu - A winning hand completed by making 4 kan tile calls.
Tenhou - A winning hand that can you can only form if you are the dealer. This requires you to have a ready winning hand before you discard his first tile.
Chiihou - A winning hand that can only be formed if you are a non-dealer player. This requires you to have a ready winning hand with the first tile draw.
Nagashi mangan - A special kind of yakuman that judges your discarded tiles instead of your winning hand. You can satisfy this yakuman if you only discard honour tiles that was never called by other players.
After the game ends, all yakus and yakumans are tallied to reward the players with the corresponding score sticks. The hans from yakus will be added to the hans from using dora indicated tiles in winning combinations. The player with the most score stick value wins.
The Japanese certainly gave a unique twist to this old Chinese favourite! The addition of new concepts such as riichi and dora will entice you because of the extra strategy you need to apply to win the game.
Japan is home to more games with potential to conquer the world. Learn the colourful Menko or show your inner wordsmith with a game of Uta-Garuta.
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