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By Tom Sloper
January 28, 2018

Column #696

American (National Mah Jongg League). A new rule book is out (or is it?*); the League's booklet, Mah Jongg Made Easy (MJME), has been revised for 2018. A bunch of new text is added, and I needed to see if any of it changes what I've written in FAQ 19 or in my book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind. Here's what I found:

1. At last, the Confucius story is relegated to myth, and researched history is acknowledged. (P. 3.)

2. I was pleased to see that Heavenly Hand has been named and codified. (P. 12.)

3. Conflicting claims for a discard can be contentious. Page 19 says the player to the discarder's right gets the tile for exposure "unless the other player has started to expose their tiles." That means a player can "slam-expose" to shut out a simultaneous claim from the next-in-line, but page 14 says "when exposing, it is preferable to place the called tile on top of your rack before" exposing the set from your hand. This is what Debbie B asked me about on Jan. 19 on the Q&A bulletin board. The upshot, I suppose, is that slam-exposing is legal but, well, not very nice.

4. When someone declares mahj erroneously and a second player throws in her hand, and subsequently a third player goes dead, that third player pays the surviving player twice the value of the third player's hand. (P. 16, rule 4.) This was a previously known rule; this 2018 change is just a correction to the misleading wording of the 2013 handbook.

5. A question I've gotten more than once is whether it's legal for a player to stand any of her tiles on her card rather than have them resting on the rack. P. 17 rule 3 puts that to rest; the tiles must be "in or on" the rack "at all times."

6. A rule on p. 18 identifies who gets penalized when a misnamed tile is claimed for an invalid exposure (it's the player with the invalid exposure; she's dead). That's not news. What's noteworthy (for me) is the way the word (or word fragment) "call" is used to mean two entirely different things in the same sentence.

7. On p. 20 there's a list of ways a player can go dead. It starts off reading just like FAQ 19-AA, but the last two ways differ (picking out of turn, and picking from the wrong end). I'm updating FAQ 19-AA and the RDWW errata accordingly.

8. A typo that I mention only because the typo can confuse some readers. Atop p. 26, transitioning from talking about 5 players to talking about 6 players, it should say "As per 5 handed, 6 handed..."

*Is MJME in fact a "rule book?" That question was asked in the "Mah Jongg: That's It" Facebook group on January 18 by Lana Tuller, who objected to Bee Germain's reference to MJME as a rule book. A while after posting the question, Lana reported back: "they said it is just an instruction book. There is no official rule book." I say, "just saying it's not a rule book doesn't make it not a rule book." It's a rule book.

To see what was changed in the previous (2013) rulebook revision, see Column 667

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Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book about the American game, including official rules not in the outdated official rulebook. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND every player should have a copy of Mah Jongg Made Easy, the official rulebook of the National Mah Jongg League (see FAQ 3 for info on mah-jongg books).

Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.

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