Playing Mahjong Solitaire – Part 3 of 3

In Part 2, we talked about how and when tiles can be eliminated.

The aim is to keep eliminating pairs of tiles until none remain. At that point, give yourself a high-five — you’ve won the game.

So, how do we lose, then? We lose by getting blocked — when there are still tiles, but we cannot find a pair to eliminate.

How do we avoid such a calamity? Well, sometimes we can’t. But sometimes, we can, by carefully choosing which tiles to eliminate.

1. Choice of Three
When three matching tiles are playable, and we can choose which two to eliminate. The two you choose to eliminate will change the course of the game. Different tiles will be exposed, which will allow different moves to be made subsequently.

2. Choice of when to eliminate tiles
Most of the time there are more than one pair than can be eliminated. You may be tempted to think it’s all the same, and it couldn’t matter which pair you remove, but it does matter. How? Well, it affects which tiles underneath become playable.

Take the following example:

remove-options-1

Here, the 1 Circle could be eliminated.

But wait – so can other pairs. We could also eliminate South Wind:

remove-options-2

Is there any difference? Well, look at what happens if we eliminate the South Wind:

remove-options-3

Now we have a choice of three 1 Circle. Removing the newly-exposed 1 Circle would expose a season. This could make a difference to the outcome.

So how are you supposed to know? Well, it’s not easy. Sometimes, we can see what tiles are coming. Practice and experience helps.

Other times (depending on the layout), tiles are completely covered, and we have absolutely no idea. Then we either need to make a lucky guess, or else we replay or backtrack (using undo) to play the game a different way.

But isn’t it cheating to use Undo?
Well, some people think so. If you don’t like using undo, that’s your choice. But we know that plenty of people like to replay the same deal, making different choices, to see if they can find a way to win. It’s up to you!

Layouts
I just mentioned layouts – let’s talk about them some more.

So far we’ve seen the default (“traditional”) layout. It’s a really nice layout. But you can probably imagine, there are many, many other ways you can lay out tiles.

Here is a small selection of the layouts available in Dogmelon’s Mahjong solitaire:
layouts

Yes, layouts can be designed to make nice little pictures.

Some layouts are easier than others. Generally, the more tiles you have playable, the more options you have, the less likely you are to get blocked.

Be wary of layouts where most of the tiles are covered!

As for which ones are more fun? Well, that’s for you to decide.

Tilesets and Taxing Your Brain

Dogmelon Mahjong Solitaire contains different tilesets. I find some sets easier to play with than others. For me, the most difficult ones are where tiles ‘look the same’.

Have you ever noticed that things look ‘the same’ when you’re unfamiliar with them (think: a set of twins, a litter of puppies, a row of houses, unfamiliar writing, and so on). Then when you become more familiar with them, you can distinguish between them easily, and wonder how you could ever have mixed them up?

It seems to me that the more unfamiliar — or foreign — the tiles are, the harder your brain has to work to recognise them. When your brain is working hard on that, it seems to spend less attention on finding matching pairs.

At least, I have definitely noticed my play speeding up as I become more familiar with the tiles.

I don’t mind the idea of making my brain work hard, as long as I’m still having fun (it needs the exercise, to be honest).

Hints

I want to talk about one more feature in Dogmelon’s Mahjong: hints.

Turning on hints helps you to find playable tiles. I prefer to play with hints off. For me, part of the challenge is to scan the tiles, looking for matches.

However, I know that many people love hints.

Strong Hints
The basic hints, which we now call ‘Strong Hints’, are the default hints we’ve had in our game since day 1.

Here’s how hints look in Dogmelon’s Mahjong Solitaire:

hints

They are about as subtle as a sledge-hammer. When you enable hints, all playable tiles are blue.

I used to really dislike hints, because I felt they turned the game into a simple game of “click the blue tiles”. However, I’ve come to realise that playing with hints on only helps with the searching for matching pairs.

Hints do not get rid of the strategy, because you still need to choose which tiles to remove, and when.

Local Hints
In the newer versions of Dogmelon’s Mahjong Solitaire, we’ve introduced a more subtle type of hint. This allows you to get a small hint when you really want one, without turning hints on. We call this a ‘Local Hint’.

The problem with turning hints on, is that it shows you every single possible move.

With local hints, you hold down on a tile you’re interested in, and the game will show you if there are any tiles that match. This way, you can get a much smaller hint. I use this sometimes when I’m having real trouble finding a matching tile. When I start to go crazy, I use this feature to help me.

Here’s how it works:
Apr-26-2016 15-27-37

A Final Word
If you’re already a solitaire player, Mahjong Solitaire makes a nice addition to your iPhone or computer.

It may not necessarily replace your regular solitaire game (although it might!), but it may supplement it.

Mahjong gives you a new challenge and forces your brain to think in new ways. That’s got to be a good thing.

Apart from that, it is just plain fun.