Spellcraft: A New Take on an Old Favorite

Spellcraft re-imagines the classic game of mahjong for a new generation of players. Easier to learn, faster to play and more convenient to transport, complete with a new engaging theme!

Mahjong is played by more than 120 million people worldwide with over 30 variations. Similar to Rummy, players compete to collect sets according to their suit, number or type. Spellcraft transforms an abstract classic into a thematic experience where spell casters race to combine magical elements to craft the most powerful spells.

We created Spellcraft in order to expand the mahjong community by making it easier to introduce new players to the game. Our goal was to remove potential barriers to learning and playing, while retaining 100% of its rules and strategy.

We are grateful to have benefited from the guidance and assistance of several top mahjong organizations, professional players and countless serious and casual lovers of the game from around the world.

The Details

First and foremost we didn’t (with one teaching exception) create a new game here. That’s been done to death. We simply created a new set of tools to make learning any version of mahjong both easy and fun. Spellcraft can be used to play nearly all major variants of mahjong.

So what did we do? Well, first of all, we focused on the game pieces. In researching mahjong’s history we found that it originated as a card game and became a tile game later. Returning it to its roots as a card game made a lot of sense, but that was only the beginning.

We also wanted to make the game more approachable and naturally appealing to those who haven’t played it. To do that we needed a theme. After discussing (and in some cases testing) several different themes we ultimately decided on spell crafting. We also wanted our design to be immediately translatable to anyone that already plays mahjong and for anyone that learns Spellcraft and wants to transition over to tile play.

Our approach to the game, and our attention to the smallest of details, resulted in a product we’re quite proud of.

So how exactly does Spellcraft help? There’s a rather long list of benefits we designed into the product or added after much testing. Here are some examples:

  • The card design results in a set that’s far less expensive to own.
  • A set of cards makes the game far more portable and lightweight.
  • Cards also make the game quicker to get into a game, to start the next hand and to put away at the end of a session. There’s no need for dice rolls or to build a wall of tiles. You just shuffle and play.
  • Our card imagery and suits are designed to be as intuitive as possible while retaining a familiarity to their tile counterparts. Mahjong sets have three suits that are identified mainly by their colors; green, blue and red. Spellcraft also has three suits, a green Plant suit, a blue Gem suit and a red Beast suit.
  • Our “winds” and “dragons” are designed similarly but also have a different background to set them apart from the suits. There are four Elements (Air, Earth, Fire and Water) and three familiars (a green Toad, a white Owl and a black Cat).
  • The cards each contain iconography that’s immediately understood by players of nearly every culture and most cards include unique flavor text that, while it has nothing to do with game play, adds to the immersion and interest.
  • The theme allowed us to resolve a number of confusing elements for new players. Our green suit, for example, is completely uniform unlike most tile sets that have a green 1 that doesn’t match the look of the rest of the green suit. Our Elements (the winds) are instantly identifiable to even the most novice of players.

That’s just a small sampling of several dozen enhancements we’ve identified. Each mahjong variation benefits from different elements of Spellcraft.

If you’re a fan of Japanese Mahjong, called Riichi, we’ve even taken the time to streamline and theme the various valid sets and hands possible. For example, “All Simples” becomes a spell we call Humble. Check out our “Spellbook” for a complete list. By the way, we also created a Basic game (and associated spellbook) that gets new players into the game quickly while also setting them up perfectly for more advanced play in short order.

What’s In the Box?

The exact contents of Spellcraft are still being determined but every game will include:

Owl Card

164 high quality cards including:

  • 108 suit cards made up four copies of cards ranked 1 through 9 of three unique suits (Beasts, Plants and Gems). Each card has its own flavor text and imagery taken from mythological history. Your spells will combine ingredients like Eye of Newt, Mandrake Root and bits of Emerald.
  • 16 Element cards, four of each core element of Air, Earth, Fire and Water.
  • 12 Familiars (spellcasters’s pets and accomplices), four of each. They are the Black Cat, the White Owl and the Green Toad.
  • 8 magic Mirror cards replacing Jokers in American play.
  • 12 Stars cards representing the constellations that replace the flower and season tiles.
  • 3 Red 5 cards (one of each suit). Used in some gambling versions.
  • 4 Element Indicator cards (used in some variants to help identify which element a player is associated with that hand.)
  • 1 Prime Element card (used in some variants to identify the major element of the hand.)

Each game will also include several thematic “counters” used in many versions of mahjong.

We are also considering offering optional items like modular card racks (that snap-together to form a full-sized card rack, but easily come apart to fit in the box), laminated spell books (for Japanese-style play) and much more.

We hope to complete Spellcraft‘s design in the coming months at which time we’ll then plot its course for production.