Mahjong has a billion rules, each one more involved and complex than the last. You should definitely read up the rules, because there is a lot going on under the hood, but I'm going to teach you ENOUGH rules that you can vaguely grasp what the fuck you're doing while playing a video game version. You don't need to worry about anything else here, because the game will basically take care of it for you.
Almost every tutorial does this, so I'll give you the cliff notes:
- 3 suits, Pin, Sou, and Man tiles. AKA Dots, Bamboo, Character
- They go from 1-9.
- 3 "dragon" tiles. Green, Red, White. This order is lightly important.
- 4 Wind Tiles. East, South, West, North. This order is INCREDIBLY important. Mahjong uses this sequence in EVERYTHING. You need to memorize this. Say the order outloud 50 times in a row, and you should have it down.
Simple tiles are 2-8 of the suits. Terminal tiles are 1s and 9s. Word/Honor tiles are the Dragon and Wind tiles.
There are 4 copies of every single tile, meaning a total of 136 tiles in the game.
At the start of the game, you start with 25k points. Your goal is to get the most points in the game while also being above 30k by the end of the game. You will be dealt 13 tiles at the start of the game. Every turn, you will draw a tile, then discard a tile. You do this until you make 4 sets and a pair.
A set comes in 3 forms:
- Chi / Run = Three sequential suited tiles. IE 123 man, or 678 sou. You cannot make a sequence of the honor tiles. This can only be 3. 2 is too few. 4 is too many. 5 is right out.
- Pon / Triplet = Three identical tiles.
- Kan / Quad = Four identical tiles. This has a huge page about how this actually functions, but don't worry about how this works yet. In fact, if you see the button, ignore it. You shouldn't press it.
Your pair = Any two identical tiles.
Ron / Tsumo = Means you win. Tsumo means you drew the tile yourself, Ron means someone has discarded your winning tile and you call on that. You need a yaku to do this. See below.
In no cases are you allowed to "mix" the suits. You can't make a Pon of 8m8s8p. In absolutely no case are you allowed to make runs out of the Dragons or Wind tiles. They can only ever be triplets, or your pair for the 4 sets and a pair.
You shouldn't do this. But basically if you have 2 tiles of a set complete, and someone plays the third tile, you can "steal" it. You then discard as though you had just gone, and this will shift turn order. This "opens" your hand, making some Yaku impossible to make.
You cannot steal for a Chi except from the player to your left.
You cannot steal to complete a pair unless it's the winning tile.
Priority: Ron > Pon/Kan > Chi
Yaku - What the fuck is a yaku?
Mahjong has a shit ton of poker hands. In Japanese Riichi Mahjong, you are required to have at least one yaku before you're allowed to win. There's a bunch of them, but you'll probably need to consult the chart until you learn them. Feel free to take into slower rooms and practice with the cheat sheet next to you.
Here are some beginner yakus that are good to pick up on so you can get going.
Tanyao "All Simples" - Your hand ONLY has simple tiles in it. Most of the time, you can have an open hand to complete this.
Yakuhai - This is actually a catch-all term for three different Yaku.
Green, Red, and White dragons. If you have a triplet of any of them, they are a yaku each.
"Seat wind" and the "Table wind". This is why the ESWN order is super important. Dealer is always the East seat, and the winds go around in order counter-clockwise. The rounds are counted in wind. The first round is East, the second is South, and if it continued (it doesn't), it would go on like that. When East does not make any points in a round, the dealer rotates to the next player. When each player has a turn as East, the round clicks over. Having a triplet of the table wind or your own seat wind is a yaku each. Doubles if the seat/table wind is the same wind.
All Yakuhai can be open.
Riichi - If you build your hand so you're only one tile away from winning, and you did this without stealing any tiles, you get a delicious free sex button. If you press this, it locks your hand and throws 1000 points into the pot. Whoever wins the round gets any unclaimed riichi sticks. However, in return, you get a yaku, turning any garbage hand into a potential winner, and additionally the game gives you a bunch of opportunities to increase that with some extra conditional bullshit.
Chiitoitsu / Seven Pairs - Exactly like the name on the tin says. It's a special hand that breaks the normal convention. Simply gather 7 pairs. This is kind of hard to make because you cannot call on any tiles, but you should be aware it's a possibility, and it's easy to remember.
You should learn other hands, but that should get you started for now. You must STILL make 4 sets and a Pair to have your valid yaku. The ONLY exceptions to this are yakus called 7 pairs and 13 orphans.
There will be a special tile from the wall shown somewhere. In soul, it's in the upper left. In Yakuza, it's the center of the table. This tile is a dora indicator. The tile that comes sequentially after the dora indicator gives you a bonus han for each one you have in your hand. The dora-indicator sequence wraps around, so 9 indicator means 1 is the dora. This is the only time where you have to know the sequence of Green, Red, White dragon.
It is possible more dora indicators will show up after riichi or people make Kans.
There are also Red Fives. The 5 pin, 5 sou, and 5 man sets each have one of them that are red. They act like dora tiles.
Keep in mind, Yaku != Han. Yaku give you Han, but dora tiles are not yaku, so you cannot go out if all you have is a dora tile or two.
Winning a game by getting the most han
The more han you have, the more points you get. The more points, the better. You want to gather as many han and yaku as you possibly can. However, sometimes the luck is against you. Don't be greedy. If you see someone riichi, you should be careful about what tiles to discard.
If you have previously discarded a tile that could be used to form a valid hand, EVEN IF the tile you've discarded would not have given you a yaku, you are in furiten. If you are in furiten, you CANNOT ron off of another player. You can still tsumo though.
Tiles that are stolen from you as part of Kan/Pon/Chi calls still count for this, and this is why the tile is turned on it's side to indicate who it came from.
If someone plays a tile that you could make a valid hand off of, even if it would not give you a yaku, if you pass up calling ron on it, you are in TEMPORARY FURITEN. Until you have discarded, or until someone makes a Kan/Pon/Chi call, which ever comes first, you are in furiten and cannot ron to win
If you are in Riichi, because you can no longer change your wait up, if someone plays a winning tile and you decide not to call on it, rather than temporary furiten, you are now in FULL-FLEDGE PERMANENT furiten.
There's a shit ton of other things you should learn to fully enjoy the game, but this should be enough for you to click buttons and lose.