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Genre: Board & Card
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G4

Mahjong Tradition
November 30, 2006 | Michael Scarpelli

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MahJong Tradition has a very clean look
There are tons of mah jong games out on the gaming market today, but the vast majority are mah jong solitaire titles, which is about as far from actual mah jong as playing Bejeweled is from actually owning jewels.

MahJong Tradition from XIX Software throws its hat into the ring with an honest-to-goodness mah jong title. While the game captures the feel of mah jong gaming, it seems that part of the reason for the dearth of traditional mah jong titles is not because gaming developers are missing out on a ripe market, but because the experience of playing mah jong just doesn’t translate all that well to the computer.

I will liken the game of mah jong to poker, and I think it’s a fairly accurate analogy. Both games can be played for money and are a group game that involves a lot of luck and some expert strategy at reading how one’s opponents are playing the game. The game lasts longer than poker, and is played in matches consisting of four rounds, but a lot of effort is put into trying to determine what kind of hand your opponent is building, all the while trying to predict what cards may be coming up so that you can determine how best to build your own hand. But enough generalities… here’s how mah jong goes down and why it can be problematic on your Mac.

MahJong Tradition takes care of building the mah jong wall for the gamer. In the real world, though, a “wall” of tiles is built up by the players so that it has four sides. This is the wall from which all new tiles in the game are pulled. The players then take their tiles from this wall to form their initial 13-tile hand. This is kept hidden from the other players, Scrabble-tile style, just as all the wall tiles are hidden by being kept face down. Gameplay proceeds with the first gamer taking a tile from the wall, and then discarding a tile from their hand. That tile is up for grabs for other players to claim for a set of tiles (a.k.a. a meld) from their hand. If no one can claim it, it’s gone and the next player starts with a fresh tile from the wall. Things continue that way until all the tiles are gone or until someone declares “mah jong”.

How to declare mah jong? There are many ways. The tiles are broken into suits, much like a deck of cards. There are three numbered suits: bamboo, circle and character. Each tile has numbers from one to nine and is differentiated by the way those numbers are represented (bamboo, circle, or characters). There are also tiles representing the east, south, north, and west winds (four of each). Finally there are the dragon tiles: white, red, and green which have four apiece in the deck. Some decks have an optional flower set of tiles, but not MahJong Tradition. Tile sets can be claimed by the gamer based on the discard of an opponent, or based on the fresh tile they are offered from the wall on their turn. These are the basics. Now for the complicated stuff.


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