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By Tom Sloper
February 28, 2010

Column #442

American-Style Mah Jongg. Recent columns reviewed the Marvelous Mah Jongg card, the "other alternative" mah jongg card. When I called the Marvelous card "the other alternative," you might understandably have wondered what was "the alternative" card that the Marvelous would be the "other" alternative to. Well, that's the American Mah Jongg Association's card, which has been "the" alternative to the NMJL card since 2000. The 2010 AMJA card has just come out. It would have been out sooner but they had a pretty massive blizzard in Baltimore. Let's have a look at it, shall we?

As with the Marvelous card, the sections ("families") have cutesy names. In the interest of full disclosure: I had a hand in the AMJA card. I didn't write it. I "edited" it, which means I advised on the point values and the balancing of the hands on the card. And I have to confess that I was involved in creating the original FRIENDS hand. Lois Madow, the head honcho of the AMJA, had been using the tile symbols on the card to spell out things, and by taking the liberty of using a 1 as an I, I suggested spelling "Friends." Sometimes I wonder if I created a Frankenstein's monster with that one. But I didn't have anything to do with the family names on the AMJA card; that's all Lois. The Evens family is named "Even Steven," and I guess Lois must have a grandchild named Steven, because other family names also incorporate people names, like "Michelle's Good News," for instance. Wouldn't want anybody feeling like somebody gets special consideration, I guess.

The AMJA card requires joker pairs in some hands, keeping a longstanding tradition going. For example, the first consecutive run hand:

JJ 666 777 888 999

As discussed in last week's column, Marvelous has a special rule permitting claiming a discarded joker only for mah jongg. Well, the AMJA card has a special rule permitting claiming a discarded joker only if it's the first tile discarded in a game.

A couple of printing blips in the AMJA card (which I predicted when I was advising on it):



The first of the above is supposed to spell out "wedding flowers" but to me it looks like "wedingf," since there's no space between two single D's. The latter of the above is supposed to spell out "good news," but to me it looks like "God news," since there's no space between two single O's. But maybe I'm too picky.

Apart from the "Mo Jo's No Jo's" family (singles and pairs, the AMJA card does not include spelled-out words in any other sections of the cards.

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

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:

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