Tired of playing all the same board games on family game night? Mix things up with a classic like mahjong, a tabletop game that uses tiles to make matches. The game requires strategy and a bit of luck to win, so it’s a great option when playing with family or friends. The game’s tiles, which often feature traditional Chinese characters, are beautiful to look at, too.
Our top choice, American-Wholesaler Inc. American Mahjong Set, is a longtime fan favorite for its engraved tiles and convenient carrying case for playing on the go.
What to know before you buy a mahjong set
Mahjong set versions
All mahjong games use tiles. The game calls for collecting matching tiles or several in a consecutive series, but there are different types or versions that determine the number of tiles included and their design.
Classic Chinese mahjong sets contain 136 tiles, including 28 honor tiles. The tiles all showcase Chinese characters. Hong Kong sets also contain 136 tiles but use some different scoring rules. Japanese sets are known for their beautiful tile artwork and are widely used in mahjong tournaments.
Korean mahjong sets only have 104 tiles but features a version that allows for three players. Modern American sets contain 152 tiles, including some honor tiles, which expands playing options. Taiwanese sets include 144 tiles and have a few different rules from the classic Chinese version. Some mahjong sets are three-player sets, which contain 110 tiles and allow for quicker games.
While these are the major types of mahjong sets, you can also find variations among them, with different numbers of tiles or playing rules. Some sets are versatile enough to play multiple versions of mahjong simply by removing tiles. Consult the product description to see if a set you’re considering can be used to play the mahjong version you prefer.
Mahjong tiles are made up of a white front portion, which contains some type of character usually captured in black. The tile’s back is colored and has a certain amount of depth, so the tiles can stand upright for players to read. Many mahjong tiles have a green back side, but you can also find options in other colors or even those with transparent or glittery backs.
Most mahjong tiles are made of plastic, but authentic sets may contain tiles made of bone, ivory or bamboo. These tiles are more durable and attractive, but you pay more for them.
What to look for in a quality mahjong set
While the type of mahjong set you buy is probably most important to your enjoyment, you should also consider the tile artwork. Many sets are decorated with intricate artwork, with colors and designs that make the game a true work of art. If your mahjong set’s looks are a priority, compare a few to see what type of tile artwork you prefer.
Some more affordable mahjong sets are made with thinner tiles. They don’t stand up on their own, so you need racks similar to those used for Scrabble tiles to hold them. If you opt for a set with thinner tiles, check that it includes racks to use during the game.
Most mahjong sets include a case for holding the tiles and other pieces to make it easy to transport the game. Some sets include lightweight tote-like cases, while others have heavier, more durable hard-sided cases.
If you regularly travel with your game, you’ll likely want a more durable case. For storage alone, a lightweight material case is usually sufficient.
Cost of a mahjong set
Most mahjong sets range from $25-$200. You pay $25-$75 for a basic beginner set with thin plastic tiles. Pricier kits with bone or ivory tiles can range from $75-$200, while the most elaborate sets can go for more than $200.
Mahjong set FAQ
Can I find a mahjong set with numbers instead of Chinese characters?
A. Classic Chinese mahjong tiles usually feature Chinese characters, which may be confusing if you’re not familiar with them. Other mahjong sets have numbers that may make it easier to play the game.
Can I play more than one version of mahjong with the same set?
A. Some sets are versatile enough to be used for more than one version of mahjong. If you want that versatility, make sure to buy a set with extra tiles. You can then remove tiles for the version you want to play. Keep in mind that no set will be able to accommodate every type of mahjong.
Do I need a special table to play mahjong?
A. You can find mahjong tables with a lip along the edge to hold tiles, but it’s not necessary for gameplay. Any table, including a card table, makes a suitable playing surface for mahjong. You can also buy a specially designed mahjong mat to set out on your table when playing.
The best mahjong sets
Top mahjong set
What you need to know: A truly high-quality set that stands out among the competition for its artwork and quality.
What you’ll love: Features lovely engraved tiles. Includes an attractive, lightweight storage case with a zippered pocket. Comes with accessories, including tile racks.
What you should consider: Some users find the tiles to be somewhat small.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top mahjong set for the money
What you need to know: An affordable set for those who prefer traditional Chinese mahjong.
What you’ll love: Offers an authentic Chinese mahjong game experience. Tiles are engraved and made of long-lasting melamine. Comes with a folding case.
What you should consider: Can’t be used with Western mahjong rules.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Stands out for its hard protective case that keeps the mahjong tiles safe.
What you’ll love: Comes in a durable aluminum case that offers excellent protection. Includes all necessary game accessories. Backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
What you should consider: Some buyers report the set arriving damaged.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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