Mah Jongg with Your Mishpucha: Social Distancing Edition

mah jongg

My husband and I play Maj regularly with another couple from our temple. We are, at best, cheerfully mediocre. We don’t play for money; we play to connect, eat See’s bridge mix, drink wine and amiably trash talk each other’s Maj acumen. Needless to say, we were bereft when the order came through to shelter at home.

“How can we survive without Maj?!?” we wailed. Endless texts ensued about options. Happily, my husband, aka Mr. “I Love To Search The Internet” found us a solution: Realmahjongg.com. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial (no credit card info required to sign up, $5.99/mo after the free trial) and that’s it – you’re ready to start throwing out those cracks, bams and dots.

It’s not perfect and there is no audio or visual of the other players, so we set up a simultaneous Zoom call so we could watch each other drink wine and continue our kibitzing during the game. Still a little weird, but better. You can’t really study the other players’ faces (did he just wince when I threw out that green dragon?) or watch their body language (why did she just move six tiles to the other side of her rack?!?). but over time, we got used to it and fell into our old rhythm of banter, gossip and random conversations with each other’s daughters when they wandered through the room(s).

Some Tips:

  • To play with a group of your choosing, one of your foursome needs to start a game. Then the other three players can search by username and request to join the game. If you don’t have four players, the computer will play with you.
  • You must already have a Maj card to play (if you don’t know what this is, you probably should NOT attempt this …). You have the option to choose which card you want to use.
  • There are three game speeds. Start on “slow”. We started with “medium” and the site got impatient with folks very quickly. I got thrown out of the game during the Charleston because I was taking too long to figure out what tiles to pass. When I got back into our game, the AI had taken over and passed a key tile that I had hoped to use to build a hand. (You can imagine how well that went over) During the game, whilst you are pondering a move, the screen will suddenly start flashing an “Are you there?!?” message and, if you don’t move your mouse – out you go. The “slow” setting mitigates a lot of that, although it will still happen. Think of it as the cranky floor monitor in your temple Maj tournament.
  • Set up a group call via Zoom, FaceTime, etc. so you can interact with each other during the games. Otherwise, how can three of you speculate about what hand the fourth person is playing and make snarky comments when someone throws a joker? (I did mention that we were cheerfully mediocre, didn’t I?)

Is the online game perfect? No. Is it worth trying. Absolutely! It will allow you to continue playing with your mishpucha so what’s not to love?

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Martha Kokes

Written by Martha Kokes

Martha Kokes loves her job as Director of Marketing Communications at the OFJCC. When she’s not collaborating with the most amazing team and colleagues ever, she lives in Burlingame with her husband/resident IT guy, her two talented and patient daughters (not normally but they are sheltering at home at the moment and there are random shoes ALL over her house…) and the Best Dogs Ever, Leo and Max.

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