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Monday, March 24, 2014

First Impressions of the New Card

Somehow I knew the card would come today.  My new table was just delivered!  I specifically selected a round table that wouldn't require a back-wrenching stretch to pick a tile.  New table, meet new card.  It's kind of funny that it came exactly one year (March 24) after the 2013 card.
So without further kvelling, here's my third annual side-by-side comparison:

There's one brand new hand in this category and the other four are substantially similar, the difference being 4's take the stage while 3's recede.  The wind hand has been altered to a kong of norths, a kong of souths and a single EW.  Yay!  No more going dead on pairs of Easts!  The third, fourth and fifth hands in this category match the 2013 card.  Change the three to a four and you've got it.  The new hand is interesting.  Two pungs (2's and soaps) and two kongs (1's and 4's)  Will come in handy when your twos and fours don't match for an evens hand!

Some interesting mixups here.  The pattern has been changed on the first hand.  You still need a kong of dragons but pairs of 2s and 4s, pungs of 6 and 8.  Second hand down flip-flops.  Instead of pairs of 2, 4, 6, 8 with kongs of eights, it's now kongs of 2s and 6's in one suit with a pair of fours and two pairs of eights in the second two suits.  FF 2222 44 66 8888 is now out of the rotation.  We had two years with it, so time to go.  The 22 444 44 666 8888 hand has been changed, so beware!  It's now two pairs, two pungs and a kong.  The last, closed hand is the same, and, as I had feared, my favorite 22 44 66 8888 8888 is out and a new hand is in:  222 888 DDDD DDDD in three suits.

Both hands are scrapped in favor of  four flowers with two kongs and a pair of like numbers.

The sevens are back only now they add up with fours, fives and sixes to make 11, 12 and 13.  There's going to be lots of competition for fours.  I would say Four is the new Flower.

None of the quints are the same.  The like number quint is out!  This is shocking since it has been a staple for many years.  We have a consecutive run:  two twos three threes four fours five fives, which we have seen before.  Three consecutive numbers in three suits, and an "any" hand:  Any wind, any number with four flowers.  Which is good because I kept playing that hand anyway even when it wasn't on the card.  Last quint makes up for the like numbers and dragons being taken away - it's any like numbers in two suits with a kong of dragons in the third suit.  Something new, at least for me.  Nice!

The 2013 card had six consecutive run hands; 2014 has seven, all of which are old favorites.  The classic hand appears, though the pattern has changed.  It's two pairs, two pungs and a kong.  Three hands that remain unchanged are 111 2222 333 4444, the "sandwich" hand with the pairs in the middle (Arlene says "Yay") and Four Flowers ones, twos, dragons, which is making its third appearance, I believe.  An old favorite of mine, which I call one-two-one-two-three has replaced one-two-one-two-dragon and is an open hand and the closed hand in consecutive run is a reprise of what our group called "the Margaretann hand" - a consecutive run followed by two pungs of dragons in the second and third suit.

A hand has been eliminated from the odds - it's the pesky pairs hand.  There is now only one closed hand in odds, the combo 111 3 555 555 7 999.   The odds with the dragons in the middle are out, but Ones-nine-dragons has made a comeback in one suit or three.  If you see four nines and four dragons it can only be this hand.  The Four flowers one-three five and five-seven-nine are unchanged, as is the classic 111 3333 333 5555 and its partner in 579.  But there's a mirror image to the pattern in evens with an odds hand that has two pairs, two pungs and a kong in either one-three-five or five-seven-nine.

The biggest change this year is in the wind hands.  We still have six wind hands but two are closed!  And no hand has the complete single set of NEWS.  The first hand is unchanged but the rest are different.  There are three hands that take four flowers; one is four flowers, kong of north, pair of red, kong of south and one is four flowers, kong of east, pair of greens, kong of west.  The closed hand is a play on the like numbers and dragon hands only now it is like numbers and winds:  Two norths, two odds, three souths three like odds, four like odds; and east and wests with evens.  These hands being closed will present a challenge.  Remember the rule:  East and Wests with evens (or greens); Norths and Souths with odds (or reds).  The four flowers and dragons in three suits is still in place.

Last year's 369's I felt were somewhat limited.  I'm a big fan of 369's.  This year they are spruced up a little bit, and although my favorites aren't there (33 666 DDDD 666 99 or 3333 66 66 66 9999) I can live with the selection.  We've got a pair/kong/pair/kong/pair pattern with flowers, 369 and dragon, which is a little different and will take some getting used to.  Interesting, though, that the pattern on the three-six-six-nine has changed, but the pattern in one-three-three-five has not.  Confusion will reign!  It's now two pungs and two kongs in three-six-six-nine whereas it used to be pung/kong/pung/kong.  One-three-three-five is STILL pung/kong/pung/kong so mind your P's and K's!  To make up for the loss of my friend 22 44 66 8888 8888 we have 33 66 99 3333 3333  with the added sweetness of using kongs of 3, 6 or 9.  Still worth x30.  Uh-oh, what's this?  A similar hand, 333 66 999 333 333, also using 3, 6 or 9.  Eeek!  Do I put out four three's or three?  I know this one will cause problems.  The two flowers kong of three-six-nine is out in one suit but remains in three, and the closed hand is the one I've been looking for for a year and just got used to it being out.  Well, I'll get used it it being in again for sure.

All our singles and pairs are old friends.  Pairs of winds with pairs of like numbers return from hiatus. Consecutive run with pair of dragons and odds with like numbers carry over from last year, as do consecutive pairs.  You can't keep a good hand down!  Also returning from an extended vacation are FF 224688 224688 and, since there was no 369 pairs hand last year, 336 33669 336699 fills the space where 998 99887 998877 used to be.  And, of course, we have our Big Hand, pair of flowers with 2014 in three suits.

So now you know - and if you've read this far I would like to ask a question.  How do you celebrate the new card?  Do you have anything special that you do?  This year I think I will start a new money jar and throw in my winnings just to see if I could make a living playing mahjongg.  If you don't have a New Card ritual - start one!  It's not unlike new year's eve when the card comes out so send up a cheer when yours comes in the mail.

Happy mahj!