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By Tom Sloper
January 12, 2020

Column #733

American Mah Jongg (2019 NMJL card). The 2020 newsletter from the League arrived in my mailbox (as expected) last week. A few things worthy of comment:

There are numbers on the Q&A rulings!! This means when I say "look for it in the 2020 newsletter," I can make it easier for you to find it! This seemingly minor detail is a huge improvement. I sincerely hope that all future newsletters will number the Q&A rulings similarly. The game designer in me appreciates good UX.

#2: Nice statement of the "conflicting claims" rule, putting to rest the concern I initially expressed about the danger of "slam-exposing," by labeling such behavior "poor sportsmanship." I love that!

#5: Addition to what can get you called dead: Redemption Out of Turn - Player redeemed a joker when she could not account for 14 tiles. As per FAQ 19M, a player must have 14 tiles on her rack before she may redeem a joker. Now it turns out you can be called dead if you didn't have 14 tiles before exchanging a joker.

#6: When you misname a tile, and somebody claims the discard based on what she heard (never bothering to actually watch the play as it happened), it was already known that the caller is out of luck if the tile was misnamed by the discarder. According to all previous rulings, the discarder was required to then correctly name the discard. But now the League has said that the discard "may" be correctly named. I think that's a mistaken choice of word there. I adhere to rule 6(a) on page 17 of the official rulebook: the current live discard's name must be spoken (and in my opinion, it is solely the discarder's duty to speak it).

#12: Ruling on calling oneself dead lifts a little of the fog from the previously stated rule. Based on Q&A #12, if you call yourself dead, you are indeed dead (but it wasn't a smart move to do that). Nevertheless, I insist that you aren't dead unless others can confirm it based on what's visible to all players.

#13 resolves what should happen in a conflicting claim situation in which one player started to expose but another player was claiming for mah-jongg. It had not been previously stated in print that a claim for mah-jongg holds sway even if another player had begun to expose. I'm amending FAQ 19i to include this new clarification.

#14 states more clearly what was already known. The ambiguous term "miscalled" is apparently now to be always understood as synonymous with "misnamed." Or could it still be used to refer to a player who erroneously called for a discard? I hate ambiguity!

The "New Rule" beneath #16 was stated in November on the National Mah Jongg League's website (the FAQs page), but this is its first time in print. The penalty for either side who was wrong in a death challenge is now 50¢.

As always, I urge every player to buy the card directly from the League so you receive the newsletter. The newsletter is the best source of new rules. Also always read the back of a new card, and visit the NMJL's FAQs page every year.

* "UX" means "user experience."

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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. Hit me with your best shot!

Join Johni Levene's popular Facebook group, "Mah Jongg, That's It!" for lively conversations about American mah-jongg and all things mah-jongg.

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 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).

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