Since January 2019, Doman Mahjong is a one of the Games you can play in the Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy XIV.1 That’s more than 2 years now! From what I have seen, at least is the West, it had a very rocky path to being an accepted addition to the game. Things definitely got better, but that’s also because of the improvements the “mini-game” got over the past two years. Let’s have a look at what it looks like today.
Final Fantasy XIV
First, let’s get the basics down: Final Fantasy XIV is an MMORPG for Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 where you usually need to both purchase the game and have an active subscription. But if you’re only interested in Mahjong, rejoice: you can play using the time-unlimited trial account. You don’t need to pay at all. Granted, there are some restrictions in place, e. g., not being able to use tells, a. k. a. whisper to someone or not being able to invite other players to join your party. Those restrictions might be a hindrance to playing mahjong. More of that later.
Regardless of what account type you have, you need to make your way through the Main Scenario Quest “The Ul’dahn Envoy”. After that, you can unlock the Gold Saucer with the quest “It Could Happen To You”. Now you unlock Doman Mahjong with the quest “Every Little Thing She Does Is Mahjong”. After that, you can play Mahjong by queuing using the Duty Finder. Or you can play bot games using the NPC tables in the Gold Saucer.
The Visual Experience at the Table
The Mahjong game has barely any animations at all. Drawing, discarding and calling have the minimum amount of animation of them, so you can see what is happening. There are very few customization options: choosing the tile set and the layout.
You can choose between the default set, the Doman Tile Set, which is a Final Fantasy XIV themed set, and the Classic Tile Set, which is what you would call a normal set. The Doman Set has stylized Arabic Numbers for manzu, Namazu for pinzu and Sabotender for souzu. Personally, I like the look of most tiles of the set, I just don’t like stylized Arabic Numbers. People that are proficient in Japanese can happen to actually see katakana instead of numbers.
In 2020, SquareEnix put their set into their merchandise lineup. I immediately ordered it, but due to COVID-19, it took till February 2021 to arrive. If you’re interested to procure it yourself, check out the respective store pages.
- Doman Mahjong Set from Final Fantasy XIV (US Shop Link)
- Doman Mahjong Set from Final Fantasy XIV (EU Shop Link).
No matter if you choose the Standard layout or the High Resolution layout, the information you need is spread over the screen. Some information is redundant due to that.
In the default configuration, the current dora, not the dora indicator, are displayed on the top right, just below the current deal number. It might take a while to get used or unused to it. Final Fantasy calls this dora indicator setting “Doman Mahjong”. In the 5.4 update, the option to Traditional, which show the previous tile as the indicator.2
The wall is not displayed at all. The hand options are to the bottom right: disable non-winning calls, auto win, hints, dangerous tile markers, tile names, and chat.
Since patch 5.4, when called, the called tile is reddened, leaving a ghost tile.2 Before that, a called tile was grey out, also leaving a ghost tile. The new meaning of grey tiles are they were discarded immediately after being drawn (tsumogiri discard).
There is no warning if you might get into furiten when dropping a tile. But it does say that you are in furiten as you are had become so.
In the visuals, there is one quirk I notice: there is no distinction between a called kan (daiminkan) and a kan extended from an open pon (shouminkan). In the former case, there should only be one tile put horizontally, hence why it’s called a daiminkan, a big open quad. In the latter case, there are two tiles but horizontally, hence why it’s called a shouminkan, a small open quad. Here in Doman Mahjong, all kans have the form of a shouminkan, even closed ones.
The Audio Experience
Now, to the sounds and music. The background music is calming, though very stereotypical. But after hours of playing, it gets boring to annoying. I’d love an option to set the music to any music from the Orchestrion, the Final Fantasy XIV in-game jukebox.
The calls aren’t voiced; they don’t need to. That way, you can’t get annoyed by voices you don’t like. The calls instead get a nice short sound effect.
Scoring of a Hand
Scoring is as you would expect. Now might be a good time to mention there are no replays. So if you want to share your big hand, you need to screenshot it immediately. The translations are interesting as well… But then, there’s no real standard for it.
Stuff for Beginners
There’s no proper introduction, and reading the in game guide to Mahjong doesn’t help much. There’s no in-game list of yaku.
If you’re unsure about tile efficiency, you can enable hints which will show directly above the hand options. Which would be a great plus for beginner friendliness if there was a proper tutorial for the game. Also, if you’re not good a reading the river, you can enable the dangerous tiles marker. Which would mark all the dangerous tiles with red and orange marks.
If you aren’t proficient with the Chinese numerals, you can enable tile names which you display the tile names on your tiles in your hand when you hover over them. But sadly only for the tiles in your hand and only if it’s your turn. Alternatively, you can always use the aforementioned Doman set, which has stylized Arabian Numbers that do look like Asian characters.
Let’s have a look at the Mahjong rooms: since the 5.4 update, there two game lengths: Quick Match, which is a tonpuusen, and Full Game, which is a hanchan, not an iichan. That’s how they decided to translate it, don’t question it. Before the update, there were only hanchan possible.
Each game length has 4 rooms: there are two unranked rooms which are only accessible with a Light Party, i. e., you have a group of four. The two room differ in only one rule: kuitan disabled or kuitan enabled. If you are on a free Trial Account, you can’t invite people to a party, but you can join one. You might be limited by that. But that should be just a minor inconvenience, and who but people that I teach to play mahjong and the people that play in my Doman Mahjong tournaments use these rooms?
Then, there are two ranked rooms: Novice and Advanced. You need to be 1st Dan or higher to enter Advanced games. Though due to the relative small player base no one ever queues for Advanced games which can make games quite frustrating for higher ranked players, more about that later.
Other than aforementioned differences, all rooms use the same rules:
- 3 red fives (aka ari)
- players start on 25,000 points
- no return, no placement bonus
- hanchan ends if a player falls below zero points (tobi)
- South 4 Round also ends when dealership doesn’t pass (agariyame)
- open tanyao is allowed (kuitan ari)
- 13 han and above is a kazoe yakuman
- cumulative single yakuman
- double ron allowed, no head bump
- abortive draws for
- no abortive draw for 4 riichi (suucha riichi)
- mangan at draw (nagashi mangan) possible 4
Earlier, I said no one plays in the Advanced rooms. That seems fine, people can just play in Novice rooms, but that has a big drawback that everyone seems to accept: if a 1st dan player looses against three 4th dan players in the novice room, they lose about a lot of ranking points. Even getting 2nd might result in you losing ranking points there. Also, playing an unranked game requires your to put together your own Light Party. As mentioned above, that might be impossible. Fortunately, players just organize themselves for this.
You might want to check out the various communities for that.
- Beginner Friendliness: 4
- Beginner Friendly Tiles (2)
- Seat Wind Indicator (1)
- Robust Guide & Dangerous Tiles Markers (1)
- Useless Tutorial (0)
- Basic Usability: 4/5
- Information Spread Throughout the Screen (-1)
- Extra Usability: 4/5
- No Manual Sorting (-1)
- Audio: 1
- Monotone, stereotypical Asian, gets annoying after a while
- Final Fantasy XIV Tiles (1)
Sum: 13 Points
Based on the resources for players in game, I still can’t recommend playing Doman Mahjong to players how want to get into Riichi Mahjong. But if you’re already into Riichi Mahjong, Doman Mahjong is a good Riichi client embedded into an MMO where you have fun playing games. If you still want to try, do get in touch with the discords I mentioned above. They’ll help. Maybe join one of my tournaments.