In-depth Strategy

1. Offense and Defense

Player interaction is very important; a player who cannot see anything other than his own hand cannot graduate from the novice stage. In Hong Kong style, it may be difficult to make big hands when others are going for quick ones, so often one can only follow suit and compete for the small win. WSoM follows the same standard mahjong rules, so it is difficult to win big hands against speedy opposition all the same.
But because the score difference between big and small hands is greater, it is after all worth the difficulty to attempt big hands here. Beating an opponent’s small hand with your own yields only a small swing in the score, so it is often better to forgo that in favor of the chance of winning a big hand. There is also the factor that we are adopting the “New Style” patterns here, which give more chances for attempting big hands; when you can choose one which better fits your tiles, you naturally have a better chance of success!

Making a big hand usually involves sacrificing speed and win rate to get a higher score. This has the effect of giving the opponents more time and more chance to win their hands. If we purely calculate the “expected value” of one’s own income for the won hand, the large difference in hand value would often favor the big hand. However, there is also the risk of losing points to the opponent’s winning hand.

If an opponent has a better hand which is both faster and bigger, it would be very risky to go for a big hand. Hence, when the opponents are going for small hands, one can attempt a big hand with little risk; yet when an opponent shows the threat of a big hand, one needs to be more cautious. If one feels that one can beat the opponent, one can seize the opportunity and deal a heavy blow, but if not, one should consider playing for a speed win. Offense and defense relies on the judgement about the hands of all four players; the best strategy can only be determined with an accurate reading of the opponents’ hands, and their value and speed, as well as one’s own.

2. Two Identical Sequences

Two Identical Sequences is a highly versatile pattern which tends to combine well with other patterns. Typically it combines with category 1 trivial patterns (All Sequences, Concealed Hand, No Terminals) for a hand of 15-25 points.

Sometimes it combines with bigger patterns such as Three Similar Sequences, Nine-TIle Straight, Lesser Terminals, and Mixed or even Pure One-Suit. It can also be built into higher patterns in the series, namely Two Identical Sequences Twice or Three Identical Sequences (or you can pung the pairs into Three Consecutive Triplets). In contrast, “Honor Triplet” has much fewer options for combinations: it can combine with Mixed One-Suit, All Triplets or Mixed Lesser Terminals, or sometimes you kong the fourth tile for 5 points, but it doesn’t combine well with other things.

The combination with the trivial patterns scores quite well, so sometimes you can just aim for a speed win with this, instead of taking the risk to build the core patterns.

3. Handling Value Honors

Compared to some other styles, here Value Honor scores quite well, since the 10 points are better than a trivial pattern. While the simple 10-point hand is convenient, the combination with core patterns (Mixed One-Suit, All Triplets, Mixed Lesser Terminals) increases the hand value by a good quarter or so; two Value Honor triplets would be an 50% increase, which is quite significant.

On the other hand, if you draw a suspicious raw (or semi-raw, with only one copy discarded) Value Honor tile in the late game against an opponent who seems to be making a big hand, you need to be extra careful. If you discard a guest wind to a 40-point win, you’ll pay 70 points, but if you discard a value honor to a 50-point win, that’s a 100-point payment, which is significantly more. If the opponent doesn’t have a big hand, the 10 points for the Value Honor would be shouldered also by the two other players, so it’s not that big a deal.

Once you draw a pair of a Value Honor, it’s mostly a simple matter of waiting to pong it. The exception is if you need the pair for the eyes for a big hand, such as Mixed Lesser Terminals. When you have a single unmatched tile, there would be the question of whether to keep it or not. It’s quite frustrating if you discard it and then draw a second or even a third. Naturally, if you are going for Mixed One-Suit or Mixed Lesser Terminals, you’d want to keep honors regardless of whether they are Value Honor or not.
When you are not going for these hands, you can consider whether you can gain the trivial patterns by discarding the honors (if you can, then there is no need to keep them), and also how much speed you might lose by keeping them.

In the opening game, after throwing away the guest winds and the terminal numbers, it’s usually a good idea to start with throwing those value honors which others have already discarded a copy. Personally, I’ll also throw Dragon tiles before my seat wind. It’s because my seat wind is valueless for the other players, so if others have not thrown them, it probably means the tiles are still in the wall for me to draw.

Also, in case I end up holding that tile for a longer while, it’s a less dangerous discard later in the game.