Those who like playing Mahjong Solitaire on the Internet may find Riichi Mahjong an exciting alternative. It can be played both online and offline and doesn’t require you to set up the tableau for a long time. Moreover, while Mahjong Solitaire can have unwinnable hands, Riichi Mahjong is more similar to card games, so you will earn a few scores and have fun anyway.
Below, you will find a detailed explanation of the Riichi Mahjong rules. We will discuss the elements of the game, the process, moves, and winning strategies. Read on and learn the basics of Mahjong!
This game is also called Japanese Mahjong, it is a variation of the renowned Chinese Mahjong game. Riichi Mahjong includes four people playing with 136 tiles of several suits. During the game, players draw and discard tiles to build certain groups of tiles and make winning sequences.
Mahjong Riichi takes its name from one of the elements, riichi, which means a player has almost completed their winning collection of tiles. Note that this game is relatively more difficult compared to other Mahjong variations, so it may take time to learn all the specifics. However, we are here to help you, so let’s start with the main elements—the tiles and their types in Riichi Mahjong.
Riichi Mahjong provides two options for the gaming experience. The first one is playing it together with three friends, family members, or just Mahjong fans offline. If you want to play alone to kill some time, you can also play Riichi Mahjong online. The rules remain the same for both settings, so we will review them below without distribution between online and real-life games.
There are five types of tiles in Riichi Mahjong. Some suits are more extensive, others contain fewer tiles. These are the following:
The initial goal of every Riichi Mahjong player is to create a specific collection that contains groups of identical or sequential tiles, which are called melds. Out of the final 14 tiles, there are usually 4 groups of 3 tiles and a pair. There are a variety of melds and a number of the final hands that are considered winning. Below, let’s review the most basic options.
Riichi is one element of Riichi Mahjong used in specific situations. To call Riichi, a player has to have a winning hand and also fulfill other requirements. For example, the player didn’t call any tiles from other players or needed just one tile to complete a collection. It is important that once you call Riichi in the second scenario, you can’t select from a variety of tiles or wait for the perfect tile to appear during several moves — you only have one chance.
Riichi is a valuable move in Riichi Mahjong as it brings many points. However, if the move appears unsuccessful, the same amount of points are lost, so you have to be careful about that. During non-beginner games with complex strategies, other players may also make moves to prevent you from getting the needed tile, so calling Riichi is a serious strategic decision that should be balanced.
Aside from drawing tiles from the wall, you can call a tile another player discards. You can do it only before the next tile is drawn during the game. In Riichi Mahjong, if you call for a tile, you also have to open the sequence it completes in your hand. Note that it is advisable for beginner players to keep their hands concealed. When calling a tile, you can also call ron, which means you need just one tile to complete a winning hand.
The most important thing to learn about Riichi Mahjong is the variety of melds you can compile. There are three main types, based on which you can create a winning hand:
Note that in Riichi Mahjong, unlike many other variations, your completed group of tiles can only be considered winning if you have yaku — a zest of your collection. Yaku is a specific group of tiles that make your hand unique or a specific way of arranging your tiles. For example, you have a yaku if:
There are many other yaku rules you can follow, you can learn them while playing Riichi Mahjong and gaining experience. Each yaku comes with its own scoring value, so you can focus on more profitable ones when establishing your strategy.
The whole process of playing Riichi Mahjong can be divided into three parts: setting up the tableau correctly, making sequences of tiles, and calculating the final scores. Each of these stages has peculiarities. But with due attention and some practice, you will grasp the idea.
The Riichi Mahjong game starts with building 4 walls and dividing 136 tiles into equal groups. Each wall has two layers, 17 tiles in each. All the tiles in the walls are placed face-down. The walls form a square with space in the middle. Once the wall is built, each player draws 13 tiles, starting from the corner.
Once everyone has their 13 tiles concealed from others, the Riichi Mahjong game begins. Typically, the beginning is similar to the Chinese Mahjong. Every player gets a name for the game based on cardinal directions. First, it is important for the order, meaning the first move is made by a person recognized as South, sitting on the right of East, and then the round goes counterclockwise. Second, these names are important for scoring. If you have the Winds corresponding with your cardinal direction, you get more points at the end of the Riichi Mahjong game.
Here is how the process itself goes on:
Scoring in Riichi Mahjong is the most tricky and complicated part of the game. Those who play Riichi Mahjong online have a huge advantage since a computer will calculate their scores automatically. However, if you play with real tiles, you have to know the basic things about the final calculations.
Scoring in Riichi Mahjong is based on the so-called han. You get a specific number of han depending on the elements of your hand and a few other aspects. These include the following rules:
Based on the number of han, you get a certain amount of points. For example:
In Riichi Mahjong, a dealer always gets about 1,5 times more points than other players.
Riichi Mahjong is definitely not the simplest game to grasp, even though it has many similar alternatives you might already know. It has specific rules for making a winning hand, different scoring rules, and a variety of other features. Still, you will master it through practice, and this is where our simple tips will help you.
Even if you are a beginner, get used to keeping all your tiles together. Professional Riichi Mahjong players even have specific strategies of attacks and defense, and the tendency to reveal your plans is the worst habit you can develop in this case. Once drawing or taking a suitable tile, place it exactly where it belongs in your tiles’ sequence. Also, don’t make gaps between the groups of tiles.
You don’t have to remember all the winning combinations from the very beginning of your Riichi Mahjong journey. Start with learning the main types of collections, such as chii, pon, and kan, and focus on gathering them. Of course, during the first several games, you will miss unique sequences due to lacking information, but you will strengthen your overall understanding of Riichi Mahjong. Once you learn to create simple collections, you will be calmer and more focused on trying to compile more difficult ones and look for yaku, unique elements of Riichi Mahjong.
This tip is closely linked with the previous one. The simplest melds in Riichi Mahjong are the ones created with tiles from bigger suits, such as Pinzu, Manzu, and Sozu. While there are only 16 Winds and 12 Dragons, each of the above-mentioned suits has 36 tiles. So, you have more chances to create winning groups using them.
Due to this feature of Riichi Mahjong, it’s recommended for novice players to focus on bigger suits. If you get a single Wind or a Dragon, it would be wiser to discard them shortly and focus on simpler sequences. However, with time and practice, you can build more complex combinations.
Here, let’s first explain what dora tile is in Riichi Mahjong. When the game starts, players can flip a tile on the third side of the wall, and that tile becomes a dora indicator. Consequently, the next-ranking tile is considered dora. For example, with a dora indicator of four Pinzu, five Pinzu will be a dora. The purpose of dore is to bring you extra points.
In the case of dragons, on the other hand, there is a particular order, where the green dragon follows the white one, then it is a red dragon, and the white dragon follows the red one again. Moreover, there might be several dora during the game. With the Wind tiles, their order is the same as the players of the game have.
If you draw tiles ranking in the middle of the suit, such as 4s, 5s, or 7s, they give you bigger flexibility in making sequences than 1s or 9s. Take this to your advantage and prioritize these tiles, especially when learning Riichi Mahjong.
Find answers to all your questions about Riichi Mahjong.
Even though they have similarities, being the games of the same group, they also have important differences. The main one lies in the final objective of the game. In Chinese Mahjong, a player should simply get the winning hand. In Riichi Mahjong, it is not enough. The winning hand should also contain yaku, which is a unique sequence, a specific collection of tiles, or anything else that makes your hand special. In addition, there are differences in melds, their names, and their scoring. However, if you know how to play Chinese Mahjong, learning Riichi Mahjong won’t be that difficult.
Yes, you can use the same set for Riichi Mahjong. Still, note that this Japanese version requires fewer tiles: 136 instead of 144. You should remove the bonus tiles with Flowers and Seasons to play Riichi Mahjong according to the rules.
Traditionally, Riichi Mahjong requires four participants. However, even two or three players can have a good time playing it. You will follow the same rules, but the game may take less time.
Riichi Mahjong requires much time to learn tiny specifics, but the basics can be simpler to understand. You can start by learning the types of tiles, the most common combinations, and the most important scoring rules. With time, after playing dozens of games, you will become more skilled, establish a basic understanding, and will be ready to dig deeper.
If no one wins Riichi Mahjong, the game is considered to be an exhaustive draw. When it happens, everyone reveals their tiles and calculates the available scoring. Sometimes, there might be a decision to share the points equally among players or divide the sum of scores into respective parts. For example, 3000 points for those having better hands and 1500 for those who struggled to combine good sequences. However, it is not the end of the game since you can go for the second round!