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4 games you can play instead of Mahjong this Chinese New Year

Some of us can spend hours at the table, washing Mahjong tiles through the wee hours. Not me though. I get tired after a full round of it — the back aches from sitting too long, and the brain fog that comes with guessing the next tile that is going to be thrown out. Not forgetting that awful feeling of a losing streak… So it’s time for a change. 

If you’re looking for game recommendations that are inclusive, easy to pick up and playable with four or more players this Chinese New Year season, here are four other games that are guaranteed to be as addictive as the classic game of Mahjong.

  1. Pictionary (Board game/Online)

Go old school with the all-time favourite board game, Pictionary. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, the rules are simple: In a pair, one person has to draw a picture without any letters or numbers, and the other has to guess the word. Absolutely no gestures or clues are allowed while drawing, as tempting as it may be. You are to guess the word purely based on the drawings done by your opponent.  

Generally, a minimum of four people (two teams of two) are required to play the game. Depending on whether a the board game or point system is used, you either have to reach the end of the board or accumulate the most number of points, and the winners get the ultimate prize — the sweet feeling of victory. You can also change up the rules (e.g. shortening the drawing time from 1 minute to 30 seconds, allowing “rhyming” rules where you can draw something that rhymes with the actual word) to control the level of difficulty.

This game is great because you don’t actually need to know how to draw (in fact, it will probably be quite more entertaining if you don’t), and sometimes telepathy between two people goes a long way. 

If you’re on a budget, you can generate pictionary words online here, which also has more details on the rules and the point system. Otherwise, get the board game (which I recommend) for the full, tangible experience of joy and sweet frustration.

  1. Charades (Phone app)

This is another classic party game that has withstood the test of time. The premise is similar to Pictionary, except now you have to guess the word based on gestures alone. 
There are free sites online that you can use that classifies words based on difficulty level for all ages and abilities. The mobile application Charades! (available on the Apple AppStore and Google Play) categorizes words based on themes, like animals, movies, modern day pop songs, and will automatically keep score so you don’t have to.

While there are no fixed rules of the number of people playing, I recommend more than four people split evenly into two groups, with each person taking a turn to guess. This gives a few people a team gesturing to one person, which can be helpful for difficult prompts that require out-of-the-box ways of thinking.

  1. Magic maze (Board game)

Magic maze is a cooperative board game where players work together to commit a heist. The plan is to steal weapons from a shopping mall and help the four characters escape before time runs out. 

Players are given cards that indicate the specific directions (North, South, East or West) they can move the character figurines in, and some players will be given special roles (opening maps, teleportation and traveling on an escalator). Players must only shift the figurines within their permitted role, map out the shopping mall, help the four characters steal their corresponding weapons simultaneously, and finally escape through their corresponding exits.

Sounds easy? Here’s the catch: you’re not allowed to speak or give visual cues throughout the game. To alert another player that they should be moving a figurine, you’ll have to place a gavel-like stamp in front of them, and wait for them to figure it out This might require a good amount of patience as it can get really frustrating at times. You’ll also have to move figurines to specific locations to flip the hourglass, which prevents time from running out.

While the game recommends four players for the best experience, it can be played with up to eight people with repeated roles. The rules take a while to get used to, but it pays off and is an extremely fun and interesting bonding experience for all players involved.

A more comprehensive tutorial can be found here and you can purchase the board on Shopee, which comes with the full rules and modified versions you can play.

  1. Big Brain Academy (Nintendo Switch game)

If you have a switch, this one’s for you. Big Brain Academy comes with a series of puzzle games that test your mental mettle. The brainteasers are divided into five categories: identify, memorize, analyse, compute and visualise. From memorising numbers and images to popping numbered balloons in the correct order, the games are nicely varied to test different parts of your the brain.

The multiplayer mode allows up to four at one time, and players race against each other to complete the task as quickly as possible. While the games are relatively straightforward, it gets they can get surprisingly intense, such as when everyone is trying to identify an animal as it comes into focus from a heavily pixelated image.

A big thing that sets Big Brain Academy apart from other party games is that the difficulty level is adjustable for each player. This means everyone can compete against each other while also challenging themselves, which is great when players are of different ages and abilities. It’s the perfect family party game, and you can find out more about it here.

Maegan Ong

Nanyang Tech '23

Communications undergraduate. Mug collector, picture taker, life liver, laugher, lover.
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