|By Tom Sloper
March 31, 2013
American Mah Jongg (2013 NMJL card). The new card is here. So, herewith: a bit of analysis, with a special focus on any questions people are likely to ask me in the coming year. Like, y'know, are there any "gotchas"?
2013 - The second hand seems to have spaces between the ones. I'm sure the League meant the ones to be a kong (not four singles) but I betcha people will ask me about that. I've already gotten a question about the fourth hand; a player wanted to know how the hand could be made in two suits. I replied on the bulletin board that a dragon pung could simply be the same suit as the 2013; a pung could even be soaps. Note that this year, "2013" is always shown in one color (the zero is not always blue). That's a first.
2468 (Evens) - The old three-pair hand is in third position again, and the two-pung two-kong hand (a structure we see every year and always in 2468, Consec., Odds, and 369, with only slight variations year to year) is in the form pung-kong-pung-kong this year (last year it was pung-pung-kong-kong). There's only one dragon hand in Evens this year.
Like Numbers - Two hands, this year. The hand with dragons is back, thank goodness. Note that this time, it's a concealed hand. That means that there is, once again, no exposable dragon pung on the card. If you ever see someone expose a dragon pung, call her dead.
Quints - That "tricky" three-number run hand (quints matching the pair in the run) is still there, in first position. Invariably, that confuses somebody.
Consecutive Run - The most powerful hand on the card, the two-pung two-kong hand, is back in its rightful place (just beneath the five-number run), after being consigned for two years to third place. And the three-pair hand is back (hand number four; the three-number run, with three pairs in the middle).
13579 (Odds) - Other than the first hand, the only option that includes all five odd numbers is the fifth hand. The bottom hand permits only lows or only highs this time. Interesting new variation on the hand; its structure (kong-pair-pair-pair-kong) echoes the structure of Consec. #4.
369 - Look at hand #5; it clearly shows a kong of nines (and it says in the parenthetical, "Kong 9s"). Inevitably, someone will ask why it says that. The reason is because hand #6 permits 3, 6, or 9, and this parenthetical is to clarify that the kong in hand #5 must be 9 only.
Singles and Pairs - See hand #6; even though it says "these nos. only," somebody usually asks me if that hand can be made some other way. And, as mentioned earlier, the 2013s in the bottom hand are all single-color. I bet numerous people will ask if G can be used with bams instead of soap, even though it clearly says in all red capital letters (at the upper left corner), "WHITE DRAGON IS USED AS ZERO '0'. IT MAY BE USED WITH ANY SUIT. (CRAKS, BAMS OR DOTS)" But some people never read!
Biggest gotcha? Probably 2013 #2. But we'll see.
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Question or comment about this column? I often, um... intentionally... "miss" something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.
Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.
Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules: http://sites.google.com/site/mahjrules/.
© 2013 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.