How to Play Tile Games
Learn how to play different Mahjong games.
How to play games from the Domino family.
Rules for the popular family game Rummikub.
Strategy and rules for classic Scrabble.
Rules for Tile-based Games
Tile games are a wide variety of different game types, named after their main medium of play. Tile-based games use rectangular pieces as the main gameplay element, and depending on the game type, can be a single or multiplayer experience designed for teamwork or puzzling. Popular tile-based classics are Dominoes, Mahjong, and many more exotic options. All these games use tiles of a certain variety.
Japanese Mahjong, also known as Riichi Mahjong, is the most recognizable of Japanese tile games, being as popular as the classic Go among adults in Japan. Riichi Mahjong has a reputation for being the most complex form of Mahjong, and for good reason. Unlike its Chinese counterpart, Riichi Mahjong delivers a more complex experience, where every action carries consequences. One badly-thought-out discard early on in the game may result in you forfeiting your win completely. A full rules guide can be found in our Japanese Mahjong guide.
The undisputed king of Chinese tile games is Mahjong. Mahjong tiles are almost as recognizable as poker cards, and for good reason. The classic 4-player game has managed to find a place in cultures both Western and Eastern. The classic version is a game about deceit, where you slowly build up a hand of winning tiles, stealing tiles from your opponents when needed. Different regions add different rules to keep the game interesting. A more complete explanation of how to play Chinese Mahjong can be found in our regular Mahjong guide.
Tile Puzzle Games
Tile puzzle games tend to be single-player affairs, though certain manage to add in a multiplayer element. These games force a player to find patterns or possible matches, and to make decisions regarding what steps to take. One can consider these games similar to Solitaire, where there is a solution behind a layer of problem-solving. Popular tile puzzle games are Shisen-Sho, 15 puzzle, and Tangram dissection puzzles.
Tile Matching Games
Match tile games are a popular game, especially in video-game form. One of the most popular examples is Mahjong Solitaire, where Mahjong pieces are arranged in elaborate patterns, and the player is required to remove matching tiles, pair-by-pair, to clear the board. Simple rules are often enforced to prevent overly easy gameplay, such as preventing certain tiles from being cleared unless certain conditions are achieved.
Word Tile Games
The classic word tile game is Scrabble, where tiles include letters. The goal of the game is to use the letters to form words on the board, with certain hard-to-use letters being worth more. The board also includes certain point modifiers, which introduces a layer of strategy. Arguably one of the most popular tile-based classics out there, Scrabble is an international sport, gaining traction due to its unique blend of chance and strategy. Other popular games include Anagrams, Take-Two, Bananagrams, and UpWords.
Number tile games are unique to dominoes, and involve the use of tiles with numbers on them. The most prominent is the classic Rummikub, which incorporates elements from Rummy and Mahjong. Each player plays tiles that sum up to a certain point total, and repeats until the tiles are depleted. These games test board awareness to the limit, requiring players to always be aware of the possibilities and resultant sums. Other variations on the formula include games based on dominoes, like for example Triominos.
Tile Laying Games
Tile-laying games are simple, enjoyable experiences that can be experienced individually or as a group. One of the most popular games of this type is Carcassonne, where players layout the map using tiles with pictures of landscapes. Simple rules with tough decisions have made this game popular with families everywhere.
Hexagonal tiles are rare, but they do exist. Hex tiles allow for more elaborate tile configurations, and are seen in games such as Six, Hive, Tantrix, and Hellas. These games range from puzzlers to strategy, and use the special matching characteristics of hexagonal tiles to allow for more intricate board states.
Memory tile games will be familiar to anyone with childhood experience. Memory games involve tiles placed face down, each tile having 2 duplicates. The goal of the game is to successfully unveil all tiles, pair by pair. If the two tiles flipped over are not a match, they are both turned face down for a repeat process. These games are commonly played in video game form, with most being aimed at kids. However, more complex versions are used for
Tile board games are an umbrella term covering board games that involve the use of tiles. The novelty and durability of tiles make it an excellent choice for family board games for the weekends. The most popular board games ship in boxed form, though certain games use the readily available Mahjong and Domino tiles for ease of access. Popular games include Qwirkle, Tsuro, and Alhambra.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most versatile tile-based games?
Dominoes and Mahjong are probably the most versatile, with the former being cheaply available at stores in every town. The latter, with its heavier tiles, might carry a heavier price tag. However, both unlock a world of possibilities.
What are tiles made of?
Depending on the tile game in question, tiles can be made of natural or synthetic materials. Classic Domino tiles and Mahjong tiles are made out of wood/bone or ceramics respectively. However, modern tile-based games use a form of durable synthetic plastics for long lifetimes.
How many players do I need to play?
Depending on the game rules, player counts can range from 1-4, sometimes involving teams of 2. Mahjong involves 4 players with no teams, and competitive domino variants can involve 4 players in teams of 2.
Are there ways to play tile games online?
You can play nearly every well-known tile game online using simulators. Mahjong is extremely popular online, even allowing you to challenge real people for high stakes. However, certain more proprietary games may only be accessible in physical form.
What are the keys to winning?
Most tile games, whether puzzle or competitive-based, involve a degree of strategy. In puzzles, sometimes a wrong move can result in an unsolvable board; and similarly, in the stricter competitive games, a wrong decision can cost you the round. If there is no turn timer, think out your moves to the best of your ability, ensuring that it is the best decision.