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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 rummy, but regardless of your preferred style for this four-person tabletop game, you’ll need a proper set to get started playing.
We researched the best mahjong sets for every variation, considering the number and material of the tiles, age range, portability, and included accessories of each. Our favorites include the Yellow Mountain Imports Professional Chinese Mahjong Game Set for traditional play and the ever popular American Mahjong Set by Linda Li.
Here, the best mahjong sets of 2022.
Best Traditional Chinese Set: Yellow Mountain Imports Professional Chinese Mahjong Game Set
Sturdy, high-quality pieces
Storage case with handle included
Icons are etched into tiles and won't rub off
Does not include racks and pushers
This set from Yellow Mountain Imports uses traditional Chinese characters and iconography, making it our favorite traditional pick.
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.
Users love the high quality and sturdiness of the pieces, ensuring this set will last for a long time. The characters are etched into the tiles, so you don't have to worry about them rubbing off, further adding to the longevity. The storage case has a handle for easy transport and keeps all of the pieces stored and organized easily and efficiently. Note: You’ll need to purchase racks and pushers separately.
Age Range: 14 and up | Number of Tiles: 146 | Material: Melamine tiles and a plastic case
Best American Set: American-Wholesaler American Mahjong Set by Linda Li
Easy to transport
Comes with instructional booklet
Tile trays feel flimsy compared to other sets
For American players, this set is ideal: It comes with 166 solid, scratch-resistant melamine tiles, including six 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 easy transport with tile trays that include lids, quilt wrappers for trays and pushers, and a printed carrying case that comes 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.
Age Range: 16 and up | Number of Tiles: 166 | Material: Melamine tiles and a fabric case
Best Wooden : Verve CULTURE Thai Crafted Mahjong Set
Not as portable as other options
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.
Age Range: 6 and up | Number of Tiles: Not listed | Material: Wooden tiles and a wooden case
Best Budget Option for Traditional Play: Mose Cafolo Chinese Mahjong
Comes with travel case
Storage bag's handle can be flimsy
The second cheapest Mahjong set on this list, this option comes with everything you need for traditional play. It comes with 144 high quality melamine tiles that are engraved with both Arabic numbers and Chinese characters.
Large, solid tiles make for an optimal play experience and also make it a breeze to take in the characters at a glance. The set comes with a travel case as well as instructions (in English) for how to play the game.
Age Range: 10 and up | Number of Tiles: 144 | Material: Melamine tiles
Best Budget Option for American Play: Kai Tai 4 Pushers Complete American Mahjong Set in Aluminum Case
Includes everything needed for play
Convenient carrying case
Instructional booklet is not very detailed
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 (you won’t need to purchase racks or pushers separately). You’ll find this set attractive, sturdy, and convenient, without a high price tag.
Age Range: 20 and up | Number of Tiles: 166 | Material: Aluminum case
Best for Beginners: Yellow Mountain Imports American Mahjong Set
Suitable for both American or Chinese variations
Great for beginners
Comes with various accessories and instructions
Can be difficult to get all of the tiles out of the box
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.
Age Range: 10 and up | Number of Tiles: 166 | Material: Melamine tiles and a redwood veneer case
Best for Kids: Laurence King Animal Mah-Jong
Thick cardboard tiles
Instructions can be confusing
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.
Age Range: All ages | Material: Paper
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 an excellent choice for a classic take on the ancient game. The Linda Li Set 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
Number of Tiles
The number of tiles included in your set depends on the variation of Mahjong you wish to play. Traditional Chinese mahjong needs 144 tiles, while American mahjong includes 166 tiles. These extra tiles often include jokers or blank tiles for replacing lost ones. You can usually play traditional mahjong with an American set, but not the other way around.
Traditional mahjong tiles are made from bamboo, ivory, and bone. However, these materials often discolor or break down over time. More modern sets often include tiles made of plastic, wood, or even paper. These non-natural materials will make for more affordable and more portable sets and tend to last longer over time.
Also, pay attention to the size of the tiles, which can be affected by the material used. For example, some users might prefer larger tiles to more easily see engravings, while others might find thicker tiles more cumbersome.
For homebodies, portability may not be as important of a factor. However, for those always looking to play with new partners in new places, finding a set that is portable is important. Lightweight materials like paper and plastic will be much easier to transport than bamboo or wood. Also, look for options that include carrying cases that keep all of the pieces safe and organized.
If you're planning to play the American version of mahjong, note that traditional Chinese mahjong sets don't often include racks, pushers, joker tiles, or blank tiles.
In Chinese mahjong sets, you'll often find a wind indicator, which is used to indicate a seating arrangement in traditional play. Some sets also include tally sticks, which help with scoring.
For beginners and first-time players, it is also important to find a set that includes helpful instructions. Ones that explain the different tiles, icons, and rules thoroughly and simply are best.
What is included in a traditional Mahjong set?
A traditional set of Mahjong usually includes 144 tiles. The 144 tiles consist of 36 circle tiles in four sets of nine, 36 character tiles in four sets of nine, 36 bamboo tiles in four sets of nine, 16 wind tiles, 12 dragon tiles, four flower tiles, and four season tiles. Two dice are also required for play and are usually included.
Some sets include additional items like a wind indicator, tally sticks for scoring, pushers, and a carrying case.
What version of Mahjong is most popular?
There are many different versions of Mahjong, even beyond American and traditional Chinese. Other versions include European Classical, Taiwanese, Hong Kong Riichi Competition, Japanese Classical and more. There is some discretion on which is most popular. The answer will greatly differ throughout the world. Many variations can be played with an American set, however, so you can try out different tiles, different rules, and different styles.
What is the difference between American and Chinese mahjong?
Traditional Chinese mahjong sets have 144 tiles, while American version is played with eight additional joker tiles and different score cards. In the American game, the first person to match a hand of 14 tiles and thus "call mahjong" ends the game, whereupon tiles are scored and a winner is declared. Chinese mahjong can be played with American sets, but it is important to acknowledge the differences in play, which are usually outlined in instructional booklets included in many 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.
Additional reporting was done by Julia Fields a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more.