The new card is here. Because of copyright issues I cannot actually show it - but that is as it should be - League rules! However, I can give an overview, compare and contrast and create a new job title for myself - mahjongg card critic. Move over, Leonard Maltin.
This year's production has Flowers making a spectacular comeback. Thirteen hands have flower kongs, making a flower very valuable indeed. Save them for the old joker squeeze play!
Only ONE hand with a pung of dragons. And it's my favorite from the 2010 card! Here I thought I had kissed it goodbye at the old card funeral game, but surprise, surprise, it's the only like number hand on the new card, and they even put the spaces in this time. Lots of dragon kongs, though, which is a change from 2010.
Many old favorite hands have returned - the "bookends" with pairs in the middle, a wind hand with four flowers in the middle but, unlike 2009, it's closed. The old standby FFFF 1111 2222 DD, has been around for awhile now, a fallback hand for all seasons. It appeared in the cards for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008. It took a break in 2009 and was back for 2010 and now 2011. I wonder when that hand first appeared. It must be older than I am! During the '90s it wore a different hairstyle, FF 1111 2222 DDDD, but it's still the proverbial supporting character hand I fondly know as One-Two-Dragon.
What's gone are those pesky double soap hands. No more e-mails asking: Can you call for a soap in 2010? And no more NEWS! Only two EWs, the rest are straight pairs, pungs and kongs (and one quint). But we do have pairs of 1's. Pairs of 1's in the 2011 category, as well as in like numbers, consecutive runs, odd numbers, singles and pairs and you can also use them in one of the quints (think 1123). For the Big Hand you will need three pairs of 1's, which I think is harder to get than four soaps, don't you?
We've got some math hands again, so make sure you know how to add to seven. This time the pairs are part of the problem, not the solution, and it looks like kongs of 7 will be very popular in bams, craks and dots.
So what do we know so far? Well, try not to pass flowers or 1's. If someone exposes three wests or three easts they are dead. If someone exposes four 1's, there are at least seven hands they could be going for. That's going to be tricky. Four dragons - nine possible hands. Yikes!
The card is a quint-essential NMJL card. It evolves and revolves in ways that we will not fully appreciate until we have played it enough to learn all the switching mechanisms, subtle cues and judgment calls that go into the card's creation. Let us pause to thank the Ladies who Play and spend hours and hours all year long testing the new card to make sure that it is sufficiently challenging and engaging to be worthy of being called this year's card.