Playing Mahjong Solitaire – Part 2 of 3

In part 1 we learnt about the tiles. We learnt how they are organised, what they mean, and even some history.

Now it’s time to learn to play.

Before we start, just a reminder that we are not talking about the traditional game of Mahjong that is usually played by four players, which is more complex and arguably a much deeper game.

We are talking about the Single Player Solitaire game, played with Mahjong tiles.

Essentially, Mahjong Solitaire is a tile elimination game. The aim is to get rid of all the tiles on the board. It’s actually a very simple game.

Tiles are eliminated in pairs. For a tile to be eliminated, it must:
(i) be playable,
(ii) match another playable tile.

Let’s look at each of these.

Tiles Must Be Playable

For a tile to be playable, it must:
– have no tile covering it,
– have a free (unobstructed) long edge.

No Covering Tile
For a tile to be playable, no other tile can covering any part of it. Let’s have an example.

part2-tile-covered

In the screenshot above, there is only one tile (the highlighted 1 Character) that is uncovered. Every other tile you can see is fully or partially covered. (Did you recognise that playable tile? Don’t worry if you didn’t – it’s just practice)

One thing to be aware of: because tiles are stacked on top of each other, we can’t put the “camera” exactly above the tiles. To show depth — important to see how high the tiles are stacked — the game’s camera is offset on a slight angle. This can make tiles look like they are obstructed but they are not:

part2-tile-covered-2

In the above picture, the yellow-highlighted tiles are all uncovered, even if some of them may look partially covered. If you looked from directly above, you would see that none of the highlighted tiles has any other tile covering any part of it.

Note: some of the highlighted tiles are still not playable, because they are ‘blocked in’, as described in the next rule.

The tile must have a long edge unobstructed
Each tile is rectangular. This means it has a long edge and a short edge. In case you’ve never seen a rectangle before, here’s what I mean:

part2-tile-edges

At least one of those long edges must be completely free, and not touching any other tile.

So, if a tile has another tile on both the left and the right, it is not playable. Again, an example:

part2-tile-playable

Matching Tiles
Well, this part is easy. Let’s start with the exceptions:

Seasons and Flowers
– Seasons can match any other season. There is one of each season in the set.
– Flowers can match any other flower. There is one of each flower in the set.

If, like me, you sometimes have trouble telling the flowers from the seasons (with some tile sets this is harder than others), the color of the number and characters is usually a big clue. You can review part 1 for an example.

Everything Else
All other tiles: suit tiles, dragon tiles, and wind tiles, can only match identical tiles. There are four of each in the set.

Variation: Four Rivers
Another variation of Mahjong Solitaire is called Four Rivers. It has different rules about when tiles can be matched. I’m not going to confuse things by describing it here – that’s a future article. For now, just know that it exists.

Summing up
In part 2 we have covered the rules of how tiles are eliminated.

In part 3 (the final part), I’ll talk about some strategy, some features in Dogmelon’s Mahjong Solitaire, and finally I’ll make some personal observations on playing Mahjong Solitaire.