Rummikub vs Mahjong

Is Rummikub just an American-style Mahjong? Well, not exactly. While both games use tiles, the tiles and components that they use are different. They also have different rules. Continue reading below to find out more about the differences between Rummikub vs Mahjong, and which game that is generally better.

What you can find out from this article include:

  • The origins of Rummikub and Mahjong
  • The components and tiles used in each game
  • The gameplay rules of Rummikub vs Mahjong
  • How the tiles are scored in each game
  • Which game that is generally more fun and interesting

Rummikub: Overview

Rummikub is a tile-based game which borrows various elements from mahjong, rummy, dominoes, and chess. You can take a look at the differences between Rummikub vs Rummy here. At the beginning of the game, you get a set of tiles. You need to get rid of your tiles by melding. The first player to get rid of all their tiles wins the game.

According to Wikipedia, this game was designed by Ephraim Hertzano for his family in the 1940s. He then sold the game door-to-door and in small shops. Eventually, the game was licensed to other countries and became very popular. Rummikub became a bestselling game in the US in 1977, and the Official Rummikub Book was published in 1978.

Initially, the Official Rummikub Book explained three different versions, which are Sabra, American, and International. However, most Rummikub games nowadays are based on the Sabra version. In this version, a player wins when they are the first to get rid of all their tiles. The winner gets a positive score based on the sum of all the other players’ remaining tiles. Meanwhile, each loser gets a negative score based on his or her own remaining tiles.

Rummikub: Components and Setup

One important difference between Rummikub vs Mahjong is that they use different tiles and components. In this section, we will see the components and setup of Rummikub first.

In total, Rummikub has 104 number tiles and 2 joker tiles. You will be able to use a joker tile to substitute any number tile when melding. A meld should consist of three tiles or more. Melds can be in the form of runs (multiple tiles of the same color in sequence) or groups (three or four tiles of the same number). Note that a group should not contain two tiles of the same color.

There are 4 different colors/suits of number tiles: red, blue, orange, and black. Each suit consists of two copies of 1 – 13 tiles. At the beginning of the game, all the tiles are shuffled. Then, the tiles can be put inside a bag or spread across the table in a face-down position.

To decide who goes first, every player picks a random tile and reveals it to the others. The player with the highest tile starts first. The play will go in a clockwise direction. The tiles are then returned into the pool and shuffled again before each player takes 14 random tiles into their rack.

Rummikub: Gameplay

The gameplay of Rummikub vs Mahjong is considerably different. These two games have different rules on melding. In this section, we will see the gameplay of Rummikub first.

On your turn, you always need to deploy an initial meld with a minimum total value of 30 before you can do any other thing. When using a joker, it will assume the value of the substituted tile. However, if you can’t make any initial meld, you have to draw a tile from the pool, and your turn ends.

After deploying an initial meld, you may play one or more additional tiles, either to make new melds or adding tiles to existing melds on the board. If you choose not to play any additional tile, you need to draw a tile from the pool. Finally, your turn ends and the next player may proceed.

When playing the additional tiles, you are allowed to manipulate the existing melds, as long as the tiles in the final result are valid. For example, if there are already red 3, 4, 5 on the board and you have red 2, black 5, and orange 5, you can recombine them into a run of red 2, 3, 4 and a group of red 5, black 5, and orange 5.

This mechanism makes Rummikub very interesting. There are many ways to play the tiles, and you need to be smart and creative in manipulating those tiles in order to win the game. Even so, the overall gameplay of Rummikub is still quite easy and simple to understand, and there is a degree of randomness that allows beginners to stand a chance against experienced players.

Mahjong: Overview

Mahjong is one of the most famous tile game in the world. It first came up in the Qing dinasty of China. Since the 20th century, it has spread to many countries around the world. There are now many different variations of Mahjong due to regional influences. However, they all still share a similar core concept.

In Mahjong, you start with 13 tiles. Players take turns drawing and discarding a tile. The goal of the game is to be the first to build a winning hand by using the 14th tile that is recently drawn. A regular winning hand consists of four sets and a pair, but there are also a few special hands that you can build to win the game.

A standard Mahjong usually requires four players. However, some variations allow three players. Similar to games like Rummy and Rummikub, Mahjong is a game of skill, calculation, and strategy. Even so, there is a moderate level of randomness and chance. Hence, you need to be able to adapt your strategy as the game progresses.

Mahjong: Components and Setup

One important difference between Rummikub vs Mahjong is that these games use different tiles. In Mahjong, there are a higher number of tiles used, which have more different types. At first, the different tiles may seem to be confusing, but they are pretty simple once you know them.

As mentioned above, there are many different variations of Mahjong, some of which use different sets of tiles and rules. However, we will focus on the most basic version of Mahjong here.

There are 136 tiles in total, which consist of:

  • 36 Character tiles, with four copies of 1 – 9 tiles.
  • 36 Circle tiles, with four copies of 1 – 9 tiles.
  • 36 Bamboo tiles, with four copies of 1 – 9 tiles.
  • 16 Wind tiles. There are four copies of 4 winds: East, North, West, and South.
  • 12 Dragon tiles. There are 4 Red dragons, 4 White dragons, and 4 Green dragons.

Additionally, there are 4 Flower tiles and 4 Season tiles, but they are optional. If you use these tiles, the total number of tiles becomes 144. These optional tiles give bonus points when drawn.

At the beginning, you need to determine the starting dealer. In Chinese tradition, this is done by shuffling four different Wind tiles face-down and dealing them to the players. The players then sit according to the tiles that they get, and the player with the East tile becomes the starting dealer. However, modern players simply use dice to determine the dealer.

Mahjong: Gameplay

Your goal as a player is to get a “mahjong” or a winning hand. A mahjong consists of 14 tiles that are arranged in four sets and one pair. A set can be in the form of “pung” (three identical tiles) or “chow” (three numbers of the same suit in sequence), whereas a pair is two identical tiles.

After determining the seating and dealer, all the tiles are shuffled. Each player then builds a wall of 34 tiles, face-down, which are arranged to be 17 tiles long and 2 tiles high.

Next, the dealer rolls the dice to determine how many tiles from the right of their wall to start dealing. For example, if you get a 6, then you have to start dealing tiles from the seventh tile from the right edge of your wall, in a clockwise direction. Each player gets 13 tiles, but the dealer starts with 14 tiles. The dealer then discards one tile, and the play starts from the player on the left of the dealer.

Before starting your turn, you need to wait a few seconds to allow other players to claim the recently discarded tile. There is a priority order for claiming the discarded tile. First priority goes to the player who can complete a mahjong by claiming the discarded tile, then the player reveals the winning hand.

If none can complete a mahjong, a player who can complete a pung may claim the tile by saying “pung” and revealing the two matching tiles in their hand. After calling a pung, the player must reveal the completed pung and discard a different tile. The turn then goes to their right.

If none claims the discarded tile for a pung, you can proceed with your turn. Now, you may claim the discard tile only if you can form a chow. If you do this, you need to call “chow” and reveal the completed chow, then discard another tile. Otherwise, you need to draw a new tile from the open end of the wall. The turn then goes to the player on your right.

The game ends when a player finishes a mahjong. However, if the wall is depleted of tiles before any player forms a mahjong, the game is considered a draw. When playing with multiple rounds, you can set a particular number of wins to determine the champion.

Rummikub vs Mahjong

BrandCarcassonneTicket To Ride
Key features- Designed by Ephraim Hertzano in the 1940s - Uses 104 number tiles of four suits and 2 jokers - First player to get rid of tiles wins - Generally easier to understand- Came from the Qing dinasty of China - Uses 136 tiles of three suits, plus wind and dragon tiles - First player to form a "mahjong" wins - Relatively more complicated and difficult

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In general, Rummikub is more recommended. It is easy to understand, so most people can pick it up quickly. The rules are rather simple, but the tile manipulation allows a great depth for strategy. On the other hand, Mahjong is way more complicated, so new players may find difficulties to grasp the game.

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