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There are several variations for how to play mahjong, from the traditional Chinese play to an American version that resembles the card game gin rumm. But regardless of your preferred style for this four-person tabletop game, you’ll need a proper mahjong set to get started playing.
As you consider which mahjong set is right for you, keep in mind the material the tiles are made from, the design and colors on those tiles, and whether or not the game comes with racks, pushers, and other accessories. Material and design can play a heavy factor in your game experience—for example, some users prefer to play with larger tiles, while others might find thicker tiles more cumbersome. Also important: Pay attention to the number of tiles (some variations on the game require more than others). Some sets are well designed with portability in mind, while others are best kept at home.
Take a look at some of our favorite mahjong sets.
Best Traditional Chinese Set: Yellow Mountain Imports Professional Chinese Mahjong Game Set
Age Range: 14 and up | Number of Tiles: 146 | Material: Melamine tiles and a plastic case
This set from Yellow Mountain Imports uses traditional Chinese characters and iconography. It’s a great option if you’re interested in playing the traditional Chinese version of the game. But, if you’d prefer to play the American variation, this set does not have enough tiles.
Within this mahjong set, you’ll get 146 sturdy tiles made from scratch-resistant, lightweight melamine as well as dice and a wind indicator. This bundles in a small vinyl case, making this a great portable option for games on the go.
Note: You’ll need to purchase racks and pushers separately.
Best American Set: American-Wholesaler American Mahjong Set by Linda Li
For American players, this set is ideal: It comes with 166 solid, scratch-resistant melamine tiles, including 6 spares (both jokers and blanks).
This set also includes double-purpose racks and pushers as well as dice, a bettor, and money chips. The whole set is designed for transport with tile trays that include lids, quilt wrappers for trays and the pushers, and a carrying case that’s very reminiscent of Vera Bradley bags that come in various styles.
Plus, if you’re relatively new to the game, you’ll appreciate the instructional booklet, which contains ample information on the rules and strategy of the game.
Best for Wooden Tiles: Verve CULTURE Thai Crafted Mahjong Set
Age Range: 6 and up | Number of Tiles: Not listed | Material: Wooden tiles and a wooden case
Unlike many of the other mahjong sets on this list, this set by Verve Culture (a female-owned company that curates homemade items crafter by local artisans) features wooden tiles. The ornate tiles, as well as the wooden box, are handcrafted by artisans in Thailand.
This mahjong set marries function and design. You'll notice that each tile features a Chinese symbol, either known as a Simple, Honor, or Bonus.
Best Budget-Friendly Option for Traditional Play: Mose Cafolo Chinese Mahjong
Age Range: 10 and up | Number of Tiles: 144 | Material: Melamine tiles
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option for traditional Chinese play, this set—which comes with 144 tiles engraved with both Arabic numbers and Chinese characters—is a great option.
Large, solid tiles make for an optimal play experience and also make it a breeze to take in the characters with a glance.
The set comes with a travel case as well as instructions (in English) for how to play the game.
Best Budget-Friendly Option for American Play: Kai Tai 4 Pushers Complete American Mahjong Set in Aluminum Case
Age Range: 20 and up | Number of Tiles: 166 | Material: Aluminum case
This budget-friendly Kai Tai Inc. set comes with 166 tiles that are engraved and then painted. The tiles are a bright white shade, which helps to make them easy to read.
The set also includes four racks, chips, dice, and a wind indicator, as well as an instruction manual. A handy aluminum case fits all of the game’s contents.
You’ll appreciate the convenience of this set: Everything is included that you’ll need to play the game (so you won’t need to purchase racks or pushers separately). You’ll find this set attractive, sturdy, and convenient, without a high price tag.
Best for Beginners: Yellow Mountain Imports American Mahjong Set
Age Range: 10 and up | Number of Tiles: 166 | Material: Melamine tiles and a redwood veneer case
This set from Young Mountain Imports comes with 166 tiles, which means it can be played with either American or Chinese mahjong rules. That makes it ideal for anyone who’s somewhat new to mahjong and may be interested in learning both variations.
The tiles are made from melamine and are engraved with both Chinese characters and Arabic numerals—this too can be helpful for a beginner audience, who may be unfamiliar with the characters.
The set also comes with wooden racks with pushers, other key accessories like dice and a wind indicator, and an illustrated instruction booklet to get new players started with a good understanding of the rules and strategy.
Best for Playing With Kids: Laurence King Animal Mah-Jong
Age Range: All ages | Material: Paper
Mahjong, which is a four-player game, is ideal for families to play together. But if you’re concerned the characters on the tiles may make it feel unapproachable for young players, consider going with this option, which uses cards in place of tiles. As well as being kid-friendly, it’s ideal for beginners and anyone who wants to travel with the game. On the cards, you’ll find beautiful illustrations featuring animals from throughout Asia. The gorgeous design of the cards and attractive packaging of the box also make this game an ideal gift.
Finding the best mahjong set is situational to your skill level, preference of play, and familiarity with the game, but we consider the Yellow Mountain Imports mahjong set (view on Amazon) an excellent choice for a classic take on the ancient game. For American play, the Linda Li set (view at American-Wholesaler) is a popular brand known for the American variation and comes in a cushioned, decorative bag for travel.
What to Look for in a Mahjong Set
Tile Size and Design
It's all about preference when it comes to sizing, but some players find that it's easier to play with larger, thicker tiles that clearly portray each character. On the other hand, some players find that large tiles make the game more cumbersome. Generally speaking, different variations will determine tile size—for example, American mahjong tiles are typically smaller than Chinese mahjong tiles.
Number of Tiles
Depending on which variation you play, you'll notice that some sets include more pieces than others. Traditional Chinese mahjong sets use 144 tiles, while American sets include eight additional joker tiles, racking up a total of 152 pieces.
Mahjong can be played anywhere, and several mahjong sets already include a carrying case for this reason. Smaller pieces and sets might make commuting a little easier, and these are often cheaper than full-sized sets.
Why Trust The Spruce?
After years of playing dominos and rummy, Madeleine Burry is fascinated by the game of mahjong. Burry scoured internet reviews and other online resources to create this list of featured products. She’s written for The Spruce since 2019, and you’ll also find her writing at many other online outlets, including Apartment Therapy, Prevention, Health, and Livestrong.