Beginner's Lesson 5
Play a minigame to put what you have learned into action. We will start by using just 1 of the 3 suits of number tiles to make hands of 5 tiles. The recommended number of players is 2-4.
To complete a hand of 5 tiles, you need to make 1 set and a pair. Just like with a normal hand, the set has to be a triplet or a sequence. You can use whichever suit you like, but starting with the pinzu tiles is recommended for ease of play.
At the beginning of each hand, everyone should shuffle the tiles facedown and then draw 4 tiles to make up their starting hands. From there, each player will take turns, going counter-clockwise. Each turn consists of a player drawing a tile from the pile of facedown tiles, then discarding a tile faceup in front of them. The objective is to get your hand to a state where you just need 1 more tile to win!
A hand that just needs 1 more tile to be completed is in a state called, “tenpai”. For example, a 4-tile hand with a pair and a kanchan would be tenpai, as it just needs to complete the sequence with the tile in the middle of the kanchan to win. A 4-tile hand with 2 pairs is also in tenpai, as either pair could be made into a triplet to complete the hand; this is called a “shanpon” wait.
Once you have a tenpai hand, you just need your winning tile to appear. You can win by either drawing your winning tile or if someone else discards your winning tile. If you draw your winning tile by yourself, then you declare, “tsumo”! If you win by claiming someone else’s discard, then you declare, “ron”! Then, you get to open your winning hand for everyone to see.
This minigame will help you practice some of the most basic mechanics of mahjong. As you become more comfortable building a hand of 5 tiles, you can increase the challenge and try to complete hands of 8 tiles (2 sets and a pair). You can also add 1 more suit to practice using multiple suits. Souzu tiles are recommended (just remember that the bird is the 1sou!), but you can try using manzu tiles if you feel adventurous.
Once you have mastered this minigame, move onto the next one, “Mahjong Lite”, which we will cover in the next lesson.