Between the guided tour and the online tutorial, Four Winds Mah Jong teaches you how to play competitive mah-jongg. Essentially, it's rather like a game of rummy, wherein three players get 13 tiles and the dealer gets 14, discarding one. You form a hand with one pair and four groups of three tiles, either matching or in sequence in suit. Each run of three is called a chow. Three-of-a-kinds are called pungs, and four-of-a-kinds are kongs. You can only claim a discarded tile if you can immediately form a chow, a pung, or a kong.
The guided tour leads you patiently through a couple hands. Once it finishes, though, the new game penalizes you for incorrectly claiming a tile, which seems harsh. The music sets a mood, although we would have liked a more serene color scheme. When you start a new game, you can set options such as which set of rules to follow. The downloadable Flash tutorial teaches you about game variations and tile suits. The trial version deals only two hands per game, but we found that enough to get us interested. Fans of mah-jongg solitaire should try Four Winds Mah Jong.
This traditional Chinese game for four players (human or computer) has a wide variety of rule options, including more than 20 fully customizable rule presets: Chinese Classical, Old Style (Hong Kong), New Style and Chinese Official, Japanese Classical and Modern, American Classical and Modern, Australian, and several European versions. The game supports 16-tile Taiwanese mah-jongg and 11- or 12-tile mah-jongg with virtual jokers. The game has gorgeous graphics, moody sound, and excellent playability. The registered version comes with 12 alternative themes and several alternative tile sets, and it supports user-defined themes and custom tile sets. It includes a comprehensive help file explaining in detail all rule options, and a Flash tutorial is available as a separate download. Multiplayer games are supported via DirectX and can be played over the Internet or LAN (up to four human players and 10 spectators), or direct cable (up to two human players).