Syed ArhamSyed Arham06.04.2024

    Mahjong Solitaire – How Do You Play It?

    Mahjong Solitaire main

    If you’ve ever found yourself watching a Chinese gambling movie or have recently watched the hit film Crazy Rich Asians (2018), you might have noticed a peculiar game being played by the characters. This game, featuring small tiles adorned with various designs, is none other than Mahjong, a game with a rich history dating back to China’s Qing Dynasty in the 19th century.

    As the world became more interconnected, Mahjong found its way to American shores. It wasted no time capturing the attention of board game enthusiasts, and in 1981, a computer programmer named Brodie Lockard immortalized the game in the world of computerized Solitaire by designing a variant known as Mahjong Solitaire. While it bears the name of its multiplayer predecessor, Mahjong Solitaire is a unique one-player game. Interestingly, it draws inspiration from another ancient Chinese game known as the “Turtle.”

    What makes this game truly stand out is that it doesn’t make use of the traditional 52-card deck. Mahjong Solitaire is instead played with a set of beautifully designed tiles, which often prove to be daunting for newcomers. Its exoticness, however, is the reason why this game caught my eye for the first time, and from that point onward, it was almost certain that I wouldn’t rest until I mastered this Solitaire variant as well. Now, I will impart all that I’ve learned to you and all the other Solitaire enthusiasts who wish to add Mahjong to their collection. By the end of this blog, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to get started with Mahjong Solitaire!

    How to Play Mahjong Solitaire?

    How to Play Mahjong Solitaire?

    Seeing all the tiles laid down in an unsymmetric pattern can have any Mahjong Solitaire newbie scratching their head. The learning curve for this game is very steep – you’ll have to spend considerable time in a short period of time to get a good grasp of the game. But the best part is that the entire learning process is not fun and satisfying! So, without further ado, let’s have a look at how this game is set up.

    Game Setup

    • The game makes use of 144 tiles. These tiles can generally be divided into four categories:
      • Suited tiles are similar to the suits in a deck of cards. There are three suits in Mahjong Solitaire – Circle, Bamboo, and Character. Each suit has tiles numbered from one to nine, and there are four tiles for each number. After doing the math, we should have a total of 108 suited tiles.
      • Honor tiles don’t belong to any suit. However, they’re also divided into Wind and Dragon tiles. The Wind tiles represent the four directions – North, South, East, and West, while the Dragon tiles usually come in three types: Red, Green, and White. 
      • Bonus Tiles consist of the Flower and Season tiles. These don’t belong to any suit and can be paired with any other tile.
      • Jokers are present in some versions of the game, like the American Mahjong Solitaire variant. These tiles can be considered to be wildcards, meaning they can represent any tile in the game. 
    • These 144 tiles are carefully arranged in a specific pattern that often resembles a five-layered pyramid. Setting up the layout is a long and tedious task, and most players resort to playing the online versions where the computer bears the burden of performing this task. Here are a few commonly used layouts:
      • The Spider layout is the classic version, and as you may have guessed, it’s named after its resemblance to a spider. Four legs extend out from the corners of the pyramids, providing a balanced layout.
      • The pyramid layout shows the tiles arranged in the shape of a pyramid. This version is considerably more challenging than the Spider variant since it’s much trickier to find matching pairs.
      • The Square layout is the much simpler version of the game’s layout, as it involves arranging the tiles in a square shape. It’s a great choice for beginners who are still learning the ropes of the game.

    Regardless of what layout you end up choosing, the rules of the game remain the same. Here’s a quick yet comprehensive overview of the game’s rules.

    Game Rules

    • The objective of Mahjong Solitaire is to clear all the tiles from the board before the timer runs out or before you exhaust all possible matches. 
    • To remove tiles from the board, you need to find and select two matching tiles that are identical and open.
    • A tile is considered to be open if it doesn’t have any other tiles on its left or right slides or on top of it.

    Believe it or not, that’s it! That’s all there is to this seemingly intimidating game. But don’t be fooled by the simple rules, as keeping an eye on 144 tiles for the most optimal matches is not an easy feat and requires tons of practice to get good at. It took me a few months of non-stop playing before I was able to confidently make matches and win this game. Luckily, you won’t have to spend this much time figuring out how best to play this game, as I have listed down a couple of tips and tricks that would surely give you a headstart!

    Tips and Strategies for Winning at Mahjong Solitaire

    Despite being a timed game, Mahjong Solitaire demands patience and relaxation from its players. If you ever feel like rushing to make matches, know that you’ve just ruined your game in a thousand different ways. While practice is the best teacher for learning Mahjong Solitaire, make sure to keep in mind the following strategies the next time you line up those tiles:

    Monitor Open MatchesKeep track of how many open matches remain (on a notebook). Aim to keep this number as high as possible throughout the game.
    Be Cautious While Matching TilesWhen choosing tiles to match, prioritize those that would unblock the most tiles once they’re cleared.
    Clear Top and Corner Tiles FirstClearing a match on the top will unblock the tiles underneath it. Clearing matching corner tiles will allow you to match the horizontal tile rows that are often very difficult to remove.
    Use Hints WiselyA lot of online Mahjong Solitaire games have a hint feature. Make sure to use them when stuck, but be mindful that they might not always recommend the best matches and might eventually cause you to lose the game.
    Patience Is KeySometimes, the best strategy is to wait and not rush into making matches. This can open up better opportunities later in the game.

    Are There any Other Mahjong Solitaire Variants?

    Given how Mahjong Solitaire is the brainchild of a single computer programmer, you must be wondering if the legendary game of Mahjong has inspired other variants. If this is so, then you’re absolutely right! Here are a couple of Mahjong variations that you might be interested in reading about!

    American MahjongDeveloped in the early 20th century, this variant introduced the wildcard ‘Joker’ cards.
    Japanese MahjongThis variant uses 34 different types of tiles and notoriously excludes the season tiles found in the original Mahjong. Instead, it uses ‘richii’ and ‘dora’, which add an extra layer of strategy to the game.
    Shisen-ShoAlso referred to as Mahjong Connect, this Japanese game allows you to pair two tiles that a path can connect with no more than two angles.
    Mahjong FlipIn this variant, when two tiles are matched, they flip around and have to be matched once more before they are finally removed from the layout.
    Triple MahjongIn this game, you have to match three identical tiles instead of two.


    Tried and tested over time, the legacy of Mahjong continues through the game of Mahjong Solitaire, attracting thousands of players each year. So, if you’re ever looking to have a relaxing time, make sure to light up some Chinese-scented candles, make some tea, and enjoy a good game of Mahjong Solitaire!

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