Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

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Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by wavemotion » Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:48 am

Okay, so after two months of scouring local gamestores, various local gaming discussion groups, etc. I've managed to find 12 interested people for a Riichi Mahjong club. We will have our first meeting at my house on 3-Nov-2012. My wife is kindly providing a Japanese menu, various oriental teas and some ambiance. I've got plenty of equipment but my main task that day will be to bring everyone up to speed on the Riichi rules. Two of us have 95% of the rules down. Another two have played the Mahjong mini-game in Yazuka 4 (PS3) and feel at least somewhat comfortable. Most of the rest have played some flavor of non-Japanese Mahjong in the past though 2 have not played any form of Mahjong at all.

I'm going to put together a Power Point presentation along with a single page Player Aid to get people up and running for the day. I'm going to reduce the rule-set for this first meeting - letting people know that I'm trimming some of the rules to make this more enjoyable for the group as a whole... we can introduce those additional rules in the future should this go well.

My current thoughts:

:arrow: Teach them the basic shape of winning hands (4 sets and a pair or 7 pairs... I'll avoid 13 Orphans).
:arrow: Teach them the basics of play - Draw, Discard, Pon, Chi, Kan (and for now I'll simply call the melds that those actions form: Pon, Chi, Kan though I understand that's not technically right), Ron and Tsumo. I'll try to avoid English here so they get used to the Japanese terms.
:arrow: Teach them the basics of declaring Riichi/Reach. I think I'll simplify the Furiten rules slightly and say that you can't claim any tile in your discard pond and expand upon it later.
:arrow: Teach them the basic Yaku and provide them a list of the more common Yaku for our first session. I'll skip Yakuman limit hands for now. I'm going to totally avoid mini-points - and just calculate every hand at 30fu.
:arrow: Teach them about open and closed hands... and why keeping it closed can be good.
:arrow: Teach them about dora and the concept of han/fan.
:arrow: Teach them etiquette of building the wall, drawing, discarding, play rotation, continuances, etc. I'll skip teaching any defensive play or folding techniques so they can experience the fun of just "going for it". Hook em first.
:arrow: I'll skip odd cases like 9-Tiles-9-Types and will not worry about any sort of Chombo penalties for this session.
:arrow: We will be playing round-robin (after the tutorial) so we will mix up the tables throughout the day with a little discussion between games.

Any well-meaning suggestions or comments are welcome!

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by Shirluban » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:57 pm

wavemotion wrote:Most of the rest have played some flavor of non-Japanese Mahjong in the past
Was it some Asian rules or American Mahjong?
Every non-american rules share the same base, so if they have learned one of them they should already know a non negligible part of your teaching session.
American Mahjong are based on a similar looking but fundamentally different system. It's players are not only raw beginners for any other mahjong rule, but they also may have to un-learn some things.
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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by wavemotion » Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:26 pm

Shirluban wrote:Every non-american rules share the same base, so if they have learned one of them they should already know a non negligible part of your teaching session.
American Mahjong are based on a similar looking but fundamentally different system. It's players are not only raw beginners for any other mahjong rule, but they also may have to un-learn some things.
One girl spent a summer in China and so I'm sure it was some flavor of Chinese Mahjong. The others played so long ago that they claim only 'I remember it being rummy-like' so probably won't have to unlearn very much.

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by Barticle » Sat Oct 13, 2012 2:07 pm

Cool, good job on getting a group together. You have a couple of weeks to build another two tabletops! ;)

Looks like you have a good plan. Gemma previously posted some tips here: http://reachmahjong.com/en/2011/10/teac ... #more-3415

Makes sense to keep things simple and introduce new elements in a logical order. Also for the more experienced players to do a couple of demonstration games. The newbs can use your set with the Arabic numerals until they learn the number/wind kanji.

I'd want a good supply of chopsticks and/or napkins if combining food and mahjong sets!

Am intrigued by the ambience. I wonder if you can pick up a field recording from a mahjong game/parlour...? :)

Aha, you can! http://www.cnngo.com/hong-kong/play/hon ... ape-018484

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by Kyuu » Sat Oct 13, 2012 5:03 pm

You, sir, are the man. 8)
wavemotion wrote: :arrow: Teach them the basic shape of winning hands (4 sets and a pair or 7 pairs... I'll avoid 13 Orphans).
:arrow: Teach them the basics of play - Draw, Discard, Pon, Chi, Kan (and for now I'll simply call the melds that those actions form: Pon, Chi, Kan though I understand that's not technically right), Ron and Tsumo. I'll try to avoid English here so they get used to the Japanese terms.
:arrow: Teach them the basics of declaring Riichi/Reach. I think I'll simplify the Furiten rules slightly and say that you can't claim any tile in your discard pond and expand upon it later.
:arrow: Teach them the basic Yaku and provide them a list of the more common Yaku for our first session. I'll skip Yakuman limit hands for now. I'm going to totally avoid mini-points - and just calculate every hand at 30fu.
:arrow: Teach them about open and closed hands... and why keeping it closed can be good.
:arrow: Teach them about dora and the concept of han/fan.
:arrow: Teach them etiquette of building the wall, drawing, discarding, play rotation, continuances, etc. I'll skip teaching any defensive play or folding techniques so they can experience the fun of just "going for it". Hook em first.
:arrow: I'll skip odd cases like 9-Tiles-9-Types and will not worry about any sort of Chombo penalties for this session.
:arrow: We will be playing round-robin (after the tutorial) so we will mix up the tables throughout the day with a little discussion between games.

Any well-meaning suggestions or comments are welcome!
When I do the teaching sessions, I pretty much go over that exact same list... except for the bottom two; and I agree on omitting defensive play. New people are not ready for that aspect of the game. Heck, I throw out scoring all-together in order to focus more on hand development. When people are more comfortable, then I throw the points right in.

In the future, it'll be good to have an easy, basic hand out ready for people to reference -- especially for some who'll struggle to read the Kanji 1-9 and the winds. Oh yea. Eventually, you'll have to explain the use of Wind seating and the significance of the East (dealer) position.

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by wavemotion » Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:26 pm

Barticle wrote:Cool, good job on getting a group together. You have a couple of weeks to build another two tabletops! ;)
No way! :D I briefly thought about it. Then decided it wasn't worth the rather involved effort. Plus I don't have much suitable scrap wood for the project.

I did have a bit of wood leftover from the last project and managed to make some push-sticks. I don't think these are very common with Japanese Mahjong but I like using them to straighten my hand or the wall during building. They are stained an English Jacobean and covered with a Krylon clear coat for durability (and so they slide/glide nice on most surfaces).

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by mrrrx » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:18 am

I haven't played in real life, so you can take my suggestion with a grain of salt, but I can at least speak from my online learning experience:
When I started playing online I only knew riichi and yakuhai. I would riichi and then when I won I would see the names of 4 other yaku fly across the screen and think "oh I got those too? Neat!". That was how I started learning and recognizing more yaku.

Unfortunately, the computer can't score real-life games for beginners (well I guess you could use a phone app or something), but I would think that even if you simplify the scoring, beginners will not score their own hands correctly because they'll miss yaku. If you're willing, it might be better to be a dedicated person that scores all the hands (with fu points) and name the counted yaku and where the fu points come from and how the scoring table works. That way, the beginners don't have to worry themselves about anything other than making a valid hand (using the simplified strategy and few yaku you present), but they can also get a peek at how the full legit scoring works. Also I think if you win and get points you didn't expect to get, it encourages you to learn more.

From playing online mahjong with beginners the #1 thing that I think causes problems/frustration is calling tiles without a yaku (or when they have a yaku that only works when closed). So some emphasis might be due there. But that might be because there's a big shiny button every chance you can pon with online mahjong, wheras you'd have to actively call out in real life mahjong, so maybe there won't be as much of a problem.

Also I used (and still use when I forget) this PDF with all the yaku on it, it's pretty easy to understand and ready to print out. I think credit goes to a fellow named drob on osamuko:
http://touhou.net/up/mahjong/yaku%20overview.pdf

Nice job getting 12 people, I wish I still lived in MA to be able to join in.

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by wavemotion » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:57 am

mrrrx wrote:When I started playing online I only knew riichi and yakuhai. I would riichi and then when I won I would see the names of 4 other yaku fly across the screen and think "oh I got those too? Neat!". That was how I started learning and recognizing more yaku.
My story is very similar...

I might be the only person who can properly score in the group. My wife is a close second though both of us are still prone to missing an occasional scoring element ("oh, right, all simples as well!"). As you say, the computer won't miss those.

I think when a game ends at any table, we'll pause other games and go score the hand as a group (I'll take the lead). Others can see how it was scored and if I make a mistake there are a couple of others who might catch missing scoring elements.

The scoring will largely be downplayed during the first session anyway. I am going to use point sticks only because they are cool and have a nice tactile feel which enhances the experience of playing.
From playing online mahjong with beginners the #1 thing that I think causes problems/frustration is calling tiles without a yaku (or when they have a yaku that only works when closed). So some emphasis might be due there.
Agreed. And similarly I fully expect someone to declare Ron/Tsumo and not actually have a Yaku in their hand. Haven't decided if we simply allow it (scoring nothing but starting a new hand) or make that player's hand dead.

Thanks for all the comments and well-wishes so far, folks!

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by Iapetus » Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:26 pm

mrrrx wrote:When I started playing online I only knew riichi and yakuhai.
That's how I would start teaching new players to the game. Tell them to keep their hand closed and riichi, unless they can get a yakuhai pon. This will teach them the basics of both an open hand and a closed hand, without the risk of a no-yaku situation. After they've gotten used to playing, they can start learning other yaku and try using them.

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by gemma » Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:09 pm

My experience in teaching people is that pinfu seems to be the most difficult hand for people to grasp. All the other hands are pretty obvious looking, especially if you play card games. After just letting people enjoy making hands, I then teach pinfu first. Then we play a few sessions where they only need to gain pinfu hands to win.

Scoring is a whole other world of pain... Again, I simplify it for the beginning and just say they get one counter for each yaku they have or something similar. I'm always worried that by showing them a scoring table, they'll decide it's too hard.

The most important thing is to have fun. Even if they're not playing real mahjong to start with, if they're having lots of fun, they'll keep coming back.

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by Tom Sloper » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:28 pm

wavemotion wrote:though 2 have not played any form of Mahjong at all.
This is the biggest problem you face, and I didn't see anyone address it. Those two people need to know the basics of Asian mah-jongg before the session. You need to give them a lesson beforehand, or you'll be teaching them during the session, instead of eating Japanese food. Teach them about the tiles and how a basic hand is formed (even non-yaku hands), then break yaku to them when you break yaku to the other non-riichi players.
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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by wavemotion » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:37 pm

Thanks guys. Yes, the two totally new players are a challenge. One is far enough away that I can't really do much in the way of teaching beyond what I did in my invite email. I asked each player to watch this 1 hour video (it's part 1 of 4 but covers enough basics that I'd be happy if they only knew that much). I don't know how many will watch it - but these are at least interested folks who answered my call so... maybe. I will say that all of these players have been to our local New England Unity Games boardgaming convention and are well versed in German/Euro board and card games. So I'm hopeful they will be fast on the uptake.

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by Kyuu » Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:03 pm

Indeed. Whether y'got total beginners or experience players, the #1 thing you're looking for is interest and willingness to play.

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by wavemotion » Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:21 pm

Okay... My Power Point presentation for teaching the basics of the rules is almost ready. I have also put together a Player Aid sheet for the day. It's simplified Riichi Mahjong but still presents enough of the core elements to get us going in the right direction. I hope.

You can see the one page summary here(it's based on my Video Mahjong Cheat Sheet).

Comments are welcome.

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Re: Mahjong Group Assembled! Need Advice on Rules...

Post by wavemotion » Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:15 pm

And here is a sneak peek at my presentation talking points
Image
I need to add additional detail on being Furiten and a few other examples... but it's close.

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