Mahjong: The Perfect Blend Of Luck, Skill, and Strategy

Mahjong is a game of great fun that requires more than just skill. Players will draw tiles to try to complete matching sets, drawing and discarding them at will until they have a perfect mahjong. While Mahjong is similar to the card game Rummy, its use of traditional Chinese characters,  symbols, and its focus on the directions of the wind elevate it beyond just your average game.

Mahjong goes all the way back to the Qing dynasty in China, but it’s since spread throughout the world. For every country in the world that Mahjong is played in, there is a unique regional variant. But while the rules and scoring methods may differ slightly, Mahjong always relies on the same blend of luck, skill, and strategy to win.

Simples, Honors, and Bonus Tiles

The goal of each round of Mahjong is to get what is called a mahjong, which is when you get four sets of three tiles and one pair of matching tiles. A set of three is called either a “pung,” which is three of the same tile, or a “chow,” which is three consecutive numbers within the same suit. The pair, however, must always be two identical tiles. Because you start the game with a hand of 13 tiles, you must achieve your mahjong by drawing the 14th tile you need to complete your set.

Although different regional versions of the game may vary, Mahjong is normally played with a standard set of 144 tiles or cards. The tiles are split into three separate categories: simples, honors, and bonus tiles. Within the category, there are three different suits that are each numbered from 1 to 9. The simples suits are dots, bamboo, and characters.

The honors tiles have two different suits: winds and dragons. Winds are separated into the four compass directions, while there are three different colors of dragons. Lastly, there are two suits of bonus tiles: flowers and seasons. These have four of each. The bonus tiles are special in that, any time you draw a bonus tile, you don’t add it to your hand, but set it aside to be used to boost your score in the event that you win a hand.

Hands, Rounds, and Matches

The game of Mahjong begins with all the tiles getting placed face down on the table and shuffled. Players will then stack a row of 18 tiles with two tiles in each stack in front of them. They then push the rows together to form a square wall, after which they cut the deck based on the role of a die and each takes their hand of 13 tiles. Players then go around the circle drawing tiles from the wall and discarding their own tiles into the center of the table for other players to draw.

The way that this tile or card game is played is through a number of hands, rounds, and matches. There are at least four hands within each round and four rounds within a match. During each hand, one of the four players gets to take the position of dealer. If the dealer wins their hand, then they get to go again as dealer for an additional hand. Once all four players have taken their turn as dealer, then the round ends.

Explore the Beauty of Mahjong

Mahjong is playable by 3-4 players depending on which rules you’re playing with. It’s suitable for ages 8 and up, so it’s an excellent tile or card game to use to teach younger players about strategy. Mahjong has a playing time of around 2 hours, so it’s definitely a special event any time you sit down to play a match with friends.

Because Mahjong requires you to have a bit of luck, many players think that where they sit, how they hold the pieces, and even what they wear can influence the outcome and help them win the game. Whether you’re an experienced Mahjong player or you’re learning it for the first time, you’ll be sure to appreciate the rich and beautiful history of this game. Buy Mahjong today and may the winds blow in your favor!

Azul: Channel Your Interior Decorator

If you’re a fan of art or interior design, then Azul is the game for you. Set in the lavish palace of King Manuel I of Portugal, Azul puts your interior decorating skills to the test to see who can build the best pattern for the palace walls. You’ll have a blast with the delicate, intricate little tile pieces as you pick and choose which ones will help you make the best design. An expert combination of aesthetic appeal and complex strategy, Azul is a masterpiece of a game.

The Beauty of Azul

Perhaps the best part of the game of Azul comes from its origin story. Azul is based on azulejos, which were white and blue ceramic tiles introduced to Spain by the Moors. When the Portuguese King Manuel I was on a visit to the Alhambra palace in Southern Spain, he couldn’t help but be captivated by the beauty of these dazzling tiles.

In fact, he was so overcome by the beauty of these azulejos that he instantly ordered for his own palace back home in Portugal to be decorated in the same way. This is where our game begins, as you the player become the tile-laying artist charged with embellishing the king’s royal walls.

Collecting the Tiles

Azul is incredibly simple to learn, setup, and play, so you’ll be able to dive right in. Players start with their own individual boards and scoring markers. A ring of discs sits in the center of the table, each holding four randomly drawn tiles and one white tile for players to choose from. Players will take turns pulling tiles from one of the discs and adding them to their boards.

When you select the tiles, you must choose all of the tiles of that color from the disc to add to your board. You’ll fill in each row of your board with one color at a time. If the row is full by the end of the round, then you can move it onto the patterned scoring wall on your board.

Building Your Pattern

This is where the game gets interesting. You get to choose how you place the tiles to decorate the palace, with certain patterns and sets scoring you extra points. This part of the game allows your inner artist to come out as you try and earn as many points as possible while still building something of beauty.

Beware of taking tiles you cannot use, however, as this will harm your score. If there are no free rows in which to place your tile or you’ve already completed a row with that color title, then you’ll earn negative points. 

The key to the game is to make sure you’re able to fill the rows on your player board while planning out your long term strategy for decorating the palace. The game ends when the first player completes an entire row in their patterned scoring wall.

Azul Spinoffs

Azul has two spinoffs that have similar gameplay but employ different yet equally beautiful components. Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra turns you into a window-builder as you craft an elegant stained glass window of your own design. This game comes with beautiful double-sided window panels that offer an infinite number of potential combinations.

Azul: Summer Pavilion tasks you with decorating the king’s summer pavilion, a task which was never actually completed in real life. This spinoff offers a bit more complexity to the game that can make it a worthy upgrade for fans of the original Azul.

Azul: Embellish To Your Heart’s Content

Azul is playable by 2-4 players, so it’s definitely best for small groups or for one-on-one games. It’s suitable for ages 8 and up, mostly because of how simple the game is to play. However, it’s definitely got enough complexity that adults won’t tire of it.

Playing time for Azul lasts 30-45 minutes, which allows you to get a hang of the game in case you’re interested in playing multiple rounds. All in all, Azul is the kind of game you’ll want to play multiple times in order to nail down your winning strategy. Buy Azul today and let your artist be free!

 

Dive Into the Beauty of the Moors with Azul

Azul is the perfect game for art-lovers and strategists alike.  Set in the royal halls of a Portuguese palace, this game pushes you to embrace the interior decorator inside of you in an effort to please King Manuel I with your tile-laying skills.  With gorgeous tiles and fast-paced gameplay, Azul is a beautiful game that you won’t soon forget.

The Story of Azul

The highlight of Azul comes from its wonderful theme and intriguing backstory.  Azul is named after “azulejos”, the beautiful white and blue ceramic tiles that were first introduced by the Spanish Moors.  When the Portuguese king Manuel I visited the Alhambra palace in southern Spain, he was captivated by these stunning tiles and demanded that they be used to decorate his royal palace back home.  As the player of the game, you’re one of the tile-laying artists tasked with the challenge—are you up for it?

Pieces of the Game

Azul also stands apart from the crowd thanks to its gorgeous playing pieces.  Each player gets their own playing board fitted with a tile wall and score tracker.  The tiles are made from a shiny and attractive resin that makes placing them on your board incredibly satisfying.  The game also comes with several different tile repositories, which are cute little decorated disks that hold the tiles you have to choose from.

All of the components of the game are made from sturdy and attractive materials that make Azul a game of supreme elegance.  Instead of using flimsy cardboard or peeling stickers, Azul really invests in the visual and physical elements of the game.  You’ll remember Azul for years to come thanks to their impressive attention to quality and detail.

Laying the Tiles

The game goes on round by round, with players taking turns collecting the tiles from the repositories and placing them in a row.  Players will take all of the tiles of the same color from a repository, continuing until all of the tiles have been collected.  At the end of each round, players will then be able to take tiles from the row and use them to fill their board and win points.

You can earn points for placing the tiles in specific patterns or completing certain sets on your playing board.  You’ll have to choose your tiles with care, however, as any unused tiles will cause you to lose points and move further away from winning the game.  

Azul Sequels

Azul has come out with several sequel games that expand on the premise of the initial game without losing any of its artistic splendor.  In Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, players lay down windowpanes in a beautiful stained glass window instead of building an intricately tiled wall.  The translucent pieces and double-sided player boards are even more beautiful and fun to play with than the initial game.

Azul: Summer Pavilion is another sequel game inspired by history, although this one is based on a story that never came to be.  After King Manuel I completed his royal palaces, he ordered the construction of a summer pavilion (but died before it began).  In this sequel game, players take on the roles of master artisans who lay tiles, build stars, and earn bonus tiles for special tasks.

Build Your Pattern and Please the King with Azul

Azul is suitable for ages 8 and up, with simple rules that you can explain in a matter of minutes.  It can be played by 2-4 players, which makes it well suited for small groups and families.  Because the game has such a unique aesthetic element to it, it’s the perfect romantic game for a date night or anniversary.

Playing time lasts 30-45 minutes, but it’s fun enough that you could easily play a few games back to back without getting bored.  In a world full of unimaginative and aesthetically lazy games, Azul really stands out for its attention to detail and its unique theme.  Players will have an excellent time stepping into the role of artists and creating their own beautiful picture.  After only one play of this dynamic game, Azul will have you considering a career in interior design!

 

 

How to Play Azul

Tsuro: Paths that Lead to Enlightenment and Fun

Few games include such beautiful tokens or such a heartbreaking story as Tsuro, the 2004 tile-based game that has drawn in countless players.  With simple and fast gameplay and an entertaining background story, Tsuro is a board game that will stand out in your mind for years to come.  As the board fills up and the small carved tokens follow their winding roads, Tsuro is sure to leave you desperate for another round.

The Story Of The Dragon

One of the most beautiful parts of Tsuro is its Asian spiritual theme, as the lines that you travel along are meant to represent the roads leading to divine wisdom.  The story behind Tsuro is that of a Dragon and Phoenix tasked with overseeing these paths.  One day, Ares drove the Phoenix away and turned the Dragon into a war general.  Now the Dragon seeks to follow the winding paths back to his true love, the Phoenix.  Can you help him succeed?

Laying Down The Line

At the beginning of the game, each player is given a token that must follow the path to enlightenment.  Gameplay involves laying down tiles in front of your token to keep it on the board and continue its path.  After you lay down a new tile on the 6×6 grid game board, you will move your token as far as the path takes you.  The more tiles you lay down, the faster the board begins to fill up, leading you down a path that may be your downfall.

The End Of The Road

The aim of the game is to try to keep your token on the board longer than your competitors.  The way to do this is to use strategy to ensure your token follows the correct path while you try to divert the other players’ tokens to force them out of the game.  If you reach the end of the board or end up running into someone else’s token, it’s game over for you.  Only the wisest and most strategic can achieve true enlightenment.

When there are three or more players, the Dragon tile is used to help extend gameplay.  Once you run out of tiles, the next player takes the Dragon tile to signify that they will be the first to draw from the deck of unplayed tiles left over by eliminated players.

Alternate Editions of Tsuro

Calliope Games published Tsuro in 2004, and have since created many different versions and spinoffs of the game.  The first was called Tsuro of the Seas, created in 2012.  This fun spinoff adds new boat-shaped player pieces as well as dangerous daikaiju tiles that will automatically remove anyone who lands on them.  This spinoff game also comes with a larger game board measuring 7×7 instead of 6×6.

Veterans of the Seas is an expansion of Tsuro that adds four new types of tiles.  These tiles range from whirlpools to tsunamis that require you to roll a die to avoid.  There’s even a Star Wars themed spinoff called Asteroid Escape, which takes the water bound game and launches it into outer space.  Instead of riding boats and navigating around whirlpools, you’ll be flying spaceships and dodging asteroids!

Tsuro: The Game of the Path

Tsuro is a beautiful and simple game that is easy to learn.  Suitable for ages 8 and up, Tsuro is a great way to introduce your kids to board games that have a story behind them, which are often much more memorable and entertaining than simple games like Scrabble.  Game time also lasts around 15-20 minutes, which means that it’s not too much of a time investment to work in a game or two in an evening.

Tsuro also fits anywhere from 2-8 players, allowing you to enjoy the game both with a large group at a party as well as an intimate night in with your partner.  Inspired by the romance of the Dragon and the Phoenix, Tsuro is sure to ignite the romantic passions of lost love—just so long as you don’t knock the other player off the board first!  Dive into Tsuro and follow the path to divine wisdom and enlightenment.

 

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