Martian Mah Jongg

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Martian Mah Jongg
by Stephen & Jill Rogers
A rummy game in the style of Chinese Mah Jongg
:Players Players: 2 - 4
:Time Length: unknown
:Complexity Complexity: High
Trios per color: 5
Number of colors: 10
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: 10
Five-color sets:
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
One six-sided die (d6) and one eight-sided die (d8).

A screen for each player (RAMbot screens work well)

Setup time: 5 minutes
Playing time:
Strategy depth: Moderate
Random chance: Some
Game mechanics:
Theme: Matching and collecting Icehouse pieces
BGG Link:
Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2987

Martian Mah Jongg is a game that is very loosely based upon Chinese Mah Jongg (the rummy game, not the solitile game commonly called Mah Jongg in America). In this game, players use guile, deception and memorization in order to collect certain groups of pyramids before their opponents do. The game makes heavy use of screens, both as a way of masking what a player currently possesses from the other players, and as a way of increasing the game's randomness.

These rules are complete as of 5:25 PM GMT Fri Jun 16, 2006.


For each individual hand, the object of the game is to be the first player to successfully complete the three Mah Jongg piles (Chow, Pung and Kong), and to score as many points as possible in the process. For the entire game, the object is to be the player with the highest number of points after the last hand has been played out.


Under development

This game is currently under development, in the Playtesting stage. Feedback is strongly encouraged! Feel free to give comments on game design or structure on the talk page.


These general setup rules are used at the beginning of an individual hand, except for Rule # 5.

  1. Begin by dividing up the pyramids by size and by color, placing each unique type of pyramid into its own stack. Place stacks of the same color beside each other, and stacks of the same size beside each other. Number the non-opaque stacks from 1-8 (Alternatively, you can use this color scheme: Red = 1, Orange = 2, Yellow = 3, Green = 4, Blue = 5, Cyan = 6, Violet = 7, Clear = 8. All that really matters is that each non-opaque color used corresponds with an outcome on the d8).
  2. Take a small pyramid from each stack, and nest them within a medium opaque (black or white) pyramid, Shuffle up the positions of these pyramids, being careful not to expose the small pyramids within.
  3. Give each player one small white and one small black pyramid. Each player places these pieces behind their screen. Set any remaining white and black pyramids aside; they will not be used in the rest of the game. In a two-player game, give each player two small pyramids instead.
  4. Have one player roll the d8, and take a medium pyramid of the indicated color. Do this twice. Next, take a medium pyramid out of the eight non-opaque stacks. Take all ten of these medium pyramids and nest them within a large opaque pyramid. Shuffle up the positions of these pyramids, being careful not to expose the pyramids within.
  5. Each player rolls the d8 in turn. Highest roll is "East Wind" and gets to begin the game. In the event of a tie, the highest rollers roll again; this continues until a clear high-roller is established.
  6. Beginning player then rolls the d8 and picks up a large pyramid of the indicated color (which begins the Kong Pile). Players do this in turn. Next, players roll again, picking up a medium-sized pyramid (beginning the Pung Pile). Finally, this is done one last time, with players picking up small pyramids (beginning, and technically completing, the Chow Pile). If for any reason an indicated pyramid is unavailable, that player must roll again until a valid pyramid can be picked up. The pyramids a player receives are placed behind their screen and are not revealed unless a player picks up a discard or until a player goes out.
  7. When the last player has picked up their final Chow pyramid, the game may begin.

Game Play

Players play in turn, going clockwise, beginning with the beginning player. On a player’s turn, the player rolls the d6 and d8. These dice will indicate which color and size pyramid the player may pick up, with the d8 roll corresponding to a specific color and the d6 indicating the specific size. If the indicated pyramid is not available in the global stash pool, the player loses their turn. If this happens four times in a row, a "dead hand" is declared and the hand ends, with no scores tallied.

On a 1-2, the player must pick up a small pyramid of the color indicated by the d8. The player places the piece behind their screen, where the other players cannot see it. Next, they may select any one of the opaque medium-sized pyramids and place it behind their screen, being careful not to reveal the piece hidden within. With these pieces behind their screen, the player may choose to do one of the following options:

  • They may elect to keep the piece they drew from the pile. The player puts the opaque pyramid back with the other opaque pyramids, once again being careful not to reveal what was under the pyramid. They may then discard a pyramid if so desired.
  • They may elect to keep the piece underneath the pyramid. The player simply swaps the pyramid they drew with the pyramid hidden by the opaque pyramid. The opaque pyramid is then put back with the other opaque pyramids, once again without revealing what is hidden by the pyramid. The player may then discard if so desired.
  • If a player possesses any small black or white pyramids, they may opt to replace the pyramid underneath the opaque pyramid with one of these pieces. A player may only keep one of the small pyramids they drew; the other pyramid must be discarded in this case. Small whites and blacks, like other small pieces, may only be hidden underneath medium opaque pyramids.

On a d6 roll of 3-4, the player does the same thing as they do on a roll of 1-2, except they draw a medium-sized piece from the pile and a large opaque pyramid., following the same general rules.

On a d6 roll of 5-6, the player picks up a large pyramid of the color indicated. A player can swap out the large pyramid from their Kong pile (thus changing their honor color) or add the pyramid to their bonus stack. If a player already has four large pyramids in their bonus stack, they have the option of exchanging the pyramid for one in the stack or discarding the pyramid. If the pyramid is exchanged, the old pyramid must be discarded.

Discarding, Kong and Pung

If a piece, regardless of its size, is discarded by a player at the end of their turn, it returns to the global pool. At the time of the discard, the player must say the name of the piece they are discarding (acceptable phrases would be something like "small orange", "Cyan drone", or "Red 3-pointer"). If a player is not discarding at the end of their turn, they'll simply say "go" to the next person.

When a piece is discarded, another player may instead interrupt the game to pick up the discarded pyramid. To interrupt the game, a player must call the name of the stack in which they intend to use the pyramid - either "Kong" or "Pung". The player making the discard must then hand that discard to the player who called for the piece; that player takes the stack called an exposes it. For the remainder of the hand, that player must leave that pile out where everyone can see it. A player may only call Kong or Pung if it completes that pile for that player. The player who called for the piece now discards or says "go". The player immediately to the caller's left goes next; this supercedes the normal turn order.

A player is allowed to go out on a Kong or Pung call; itstead of Kong or Pung, they call out "Mah Jongg!" as they normally would (see the rules on Going Mah Jongg). In this event, they first must expose the pile they are completing before revealing their completed hand.

If more than one person wants a particular discard, a set of "priorities" will determine which player gets the piece. Players calling Mah Jongg have first priority, then Kong, and finally Pung. If two players are making the same call, then the player with the highest priority (starting with East Wind and going around the table counterclockwise) gets the piece.

Opaque Small Pyramids

Black and White small pyramids (collectively known as opaques) are one of the types of pyramids that can be hidden underneath a medium opaque pyramid when drawn. Individual black and white small pyramids come with a small point penalty, which is applied against a player if they still possess these pieces at the end of the hand. However, a player can score some significant bonuses for collecting entire sets of opaque pyramids. A player that manages to collect all of the small opaque pyramids of one color (either white or black) scores a double at the end of the hand. A player that manages to collect both color sets in their entirety scores three doubles.

Small opaque pyramids can never be discarded, under any circumstances. If a player attempts to discard a small opaque pyramid, any player can point it out. For the remainder of the hand, the player who attempted the discard must play with their pieces exposed (their Pung and Kong piles are considered exposed for scoring purposes). If they do manage to collect a scoring set of opaque pyramids, they are not allowed to score for the bonus.

Going Mah Jongg

A player may go out (by declaring "Mah Jongg!") at any time after they fulfill the basic requirements. A player must have the following combination of pyramids to go Mah Jongg:

  • A single small pyramid on their Chow Pile.
  • A "bush" - a small pyramid stacked on top of a medium pyramid - on their Pung Pile.
  • A full "tree" on their Kong Pile.

A player may go out at any time they have this combination of pyramids, but may be a good reason for them not to so, namely to try to gather more pyramids of their honor color (thus increasing their score).

When a player goes out, the hands are scored. If the winner of the hand was East Wind, then that player remains East Wind for the next hand. Otherwise, East Wind passes counterclockwise around the table. East Wind always starts the hand.

Players may play as many rounds as they like, allowing each player to be East Wind at least once (at least one round must be played for a full game). At the end of the final hand of the final round, the scores are tallied up, and whoever has the most points wins the game.


Scoring a game of Martian Mah Jongg, to put it mildly, is convoluted. Newcomers to the game are strongly encouraged to a more conventional scoring system until they become more familiar with the scoring rules.

The value of a player's hand is not set into stone until someone goes Mah Jongg. At that point, if the player indeed has the pieces they need, everyone must reveal their hands as they are. Any exposed pung or kong piles should be tipped over to signify their exposed status for scoring purposes.

The player who went Mah Jongg sets the honor color for the hand. Look at the large piece in their Kong pile; the color of that piece is the honor color. Any player who has pieces of that color in their hand can score extra points for combinations that include that color.

Players tally up the value of their hand using the scoring table below, using the following restrictions:

  • Only the player that goes out can count points for pairs.
  • A player only scores the bonus for no honor pieces in their bonus pile if they have four pieces in their bonus piles.
  • Any doubles a player earns are applied after the rest of their hand value has been tallied. Doubles are cumulative (so a player who earns five doubles in the course of a round would have a hand value 32 times (2*2*2*2*2 = 32) the base value of their hand).
  • A player who has all of one color of opaques does not suffer the point penalty normally associated with those opaques. They are still penalized, however, for having opaques of the other color (unless, of course, they've managed to collect all the opaques).


 Any two matched pyramids..................2 pts


 All chows.................................0 pts


 Exposed Matched pung......................2 pts
 Exposed Matched honor pung................4 pts
 Concealed Matched pung....................4 pts
 Concealed Matched honor pung..............8 pts


 Exposed Kong, no matches..................2 pts
 Exposed Kong, 2 matched...................4 pts
 Exposed Kong, 2 honor matched.............8 pts
 Exposed Kong, all matched.................8 pts
 Exposed Kong, all honor matched..........16 pts
 Concealed Kong, no matches................4 pts
 Concealed Kong, 2 matched.................8 pts
 Concealed Kong, 2 honor matched..........16 pts
 Concealed Kong, all matched..............16 pts
 Concealed Kong, all honor matched........32 pts

Bonus Pile

 No honor pieces...........................2 pts
 One honor piece...........................4 pts
 Two honor pieces..........................8 pts
 Three honor pieces.......................16 pts
 Four honor pieces....................One double


 Each small opaque in hand................-2 pts
 All small whites.....................One double
 All small blacks.....................One double
 All small opaques.................Three doubles

Hand Bonuses

 Going Mah Jongg...........................8 pts
 No honor pieces in hand...................8 pts
 Winning piece drawn.......................2 pts
 Solid color hand.....................One double
 Solid color honor hand............Three doubles
 Original Hand.....................Three doubles

Special Hands*

 Golden Rooster..........................100 pts

A player's hand value is not what they earn/lose for the hand, so do not add that value to their score directly.

Special Hands

If players so desire, they can play with special hands. A special hand is one wherein a certain configuration of pyramids is reached during the course of the game. These hands generally have a low probability of occuring, and thus have a high hand value when they occur. Players are encouraged to make up their own special hands. Only one has been included in the scoring table above, the Golden Rooster. This is a point bonus given to a player who goes Mah Jongg with a small yellow pyramid.

Scoring Procedure

The player who went Mah Jongg earns the number of points of their hand from each of the other players. If that player is East Wind, they earn double the value of their hand from each of the other players. Otherwise, the player that went Mah Jongg collects double the value of their hand from East Wind. Essentially, non-East Wind gets four times the value of their hand added to their score, and East Wind gets six times their hand value.

The remaining players have the value of the winner's hand subtracted from their score (and double that amount if the winner is East Wind).

Once the winner's hand has been settled, the remaining hands are settled. The remaining players compare the value of their hands to one another individually. Whoever has the higher value hand scores the difference in the point value between the two hands, while the player with the lower valued hand must subtract that difference from their score. If East Wind did not win the hand, any points scored or points paid are doubled once the difference has been calculated.

Once all of the hands have been settled, the scores can finally be calculated and play can proceed to the next hand, if another hand is to be played.

Developer's Notes

While I'm presenting this game here as Martian Mah Jongg, this is only its Icehouse name. It's actually being developed for use in one of my novels (imagine that, someone wanting to write a full game for a novel...). The official name of the game is unknown at the moment, but it will function as described in this file (I think the pieces are supposed to be hollow cylinders instead of pyramids, though).

This game has been playtested a few times, though with no more than 2 players. We've got the scoring rules fairly well in place, though I would like to get a few more special hands out there before I'm willing to call the rules said and done.

I'd like to try the game out with fewer stashes (how many people out there actually own ten Icehouse stashes, anyway)? This may change the dynamics of the game substantially (the d8 would have to be exchanged for another dice type, for starters).

A sample game may be in order. Some pictures for this game are absolutely necessary. I'll post some as soon as I am able to. An example of scoring would probably be useful as well.