Mahjong is a traditional Chinese game that dates back to the 19th century. You might be looking for games like Mahjong because you grew up playing this game. Or perhaps you recently discovered the intricate beauty of Mahjong and are looking for more games like it.
This list of 10 fun games is made up of other abstract strategy games. These games will get you scratching your head and puzzling over what move to make next.
Whilst many of the world’s classic board games like Chess and Checkers are abstract strategy games, this list will offer a range of games, from old-school to brand new, and give you plenty of options if you’re looking for games similar to Mahjong.
10 Games like Mahjong
Gordon Hamilton’s sleek board game Santorini is the perfect remedy for anyone looking for games like Mahjong.
Santorini is a quick, 2-4 player game that is simple enough for kids to enjoy whilst offering plenty of strategy for seasoned gamers. Working in two teams, players take on the role of an ancient Greek god or goddess who are helping to build Santorini and competing to become its patron.
Each team has two builders that they can move around the board and place building pieces on an adjacent tile. Once a level one building is placed, builders moving into that square will move up onto the building. The building pieces are stacked and the first team to reach the third level wins the game.
And keeping in theme with the real city of Santorini, players also have blue domes, which they can use to ‘cap’ buildings and prevent the other team from ascending onto. Santorini is a wonderful abstract strategy game that players of all ages and levels of experience will enjoy.
Azul is a hugely popular abstract strategy game – it even won the coveted Spiel des Jahres award in 2018.
Designed by Michael Kiesling and with gorgeous art by Philippe Guérin and Chris Quilliams, this 2-4 player board game is sure to excite art-lovers along with anyone searching for games similar to Mahjong.
In Azul, you are an artist tasked with beautifying the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora with colourful tiles. You will score points by placing sets of tiles that match or meet a certain pattern’s criteria – but wasted tiles incur a penalty.
Fans of Mahjong will find plenty to love in Azul and will come to adore this simple but rewarding board game.
Already know and love this game? Check out our list of games like Azul!
If you’re searching for games like Mahjong, Shimpei Sato’s Onitama could be your new favourite. Onitama is a lovely, 2 player abstract game in which players move five pieces – their ‘master’ and four ‘students’ – around a 5×5 board.
The aim of the game is to either capture your opponent’s master by landing on him or to get your master to the centre tile on your opponent’s side of the board. The master and students are moved according to randomly drawn cards that illustrate the movements you can make on your turn.
Each player has two movement cards face-up and there is also one movement card between players, which is swapped with whichever card you used on your turn. Onitama is deceptively simple – anyone can pick up the rules but this game is packed with strategy.
DVONN is another deceptively simple abstract strategy game that anyone looking for games similar to Mahjong will get a kick out of. DVONN is a 2 player game designed by Kris Burm and it is played on a long hexagonal board with 23 pieces each plus 3 DVONN-pieces.
Players begin by placing all their pieces, starting with the DVONN-pieces, freely across the board. You will then take turns to move your pieces around the board by stacking them onto other pieces.
Only pieces that are not completely surrounded by other pieces can move and you must move your piece(s) as many spaces as are in its stack – for example, a single piece must move one but a stack of two pieces must move two.
At a certain point, your stacks will get too tall to make their necessary move. You must also keep an eye on the red DVONN-pieces, as any pieces not connected to a DVONN-piece are removed from the game.
The game ends when neither player can move and points are scored based on the stacks you control (your coloured tile is on top) by the number of pieces in those stacks. DVONN is simple but rewarding and is a great abstract strategy game for any pair of gamers.
Nova Luna, designed by Uwe Rosenberg and Corné van Moorsel, is a brilliant abstract strategy game for 1-4 players. If you’re searching for board games similar to Mahjong, you’ll enjoy the easy but elegant mechanics of Nova Luna.
The board, a beautiful baroque ring with art by Lukas Siegmon, depicts the changes of the moon. Around the board are certain ‘recipe’ tiles that can be removed and placed in front of you.
The number on the recipe tile determines how far you move round the board and then the recipes are fulfilled by placing the required coloured tiles next to them.
Once part of a recipe is fulfilled, you place your token on it and the first player to get rid of all of their tokens wins. Nova Luna is a quirky puzzle that can be played quickly but with plenty of tension.
If you love the beautiful Mahjong tiles, you’ll be sure to adore Dragon Castle. This 2-4 player game is designed by Hjalmar Hach, Luca Ricci, and Lorenzo Silva and has elegant artwork by Cinyee Chiu.
The ‘Dragon Castle’ is made up of stacks of tiles and on your turn, you can choose two matching tiles that can be slid out of the castle.
You then place these tiles on your own board to build your own castle. Points are scored for groups of tiles in your castle that are the same colour and once you’ve scored your tiles you then flip them over and you can start building on top of them.
Another option on your turn is to take just one tile from the ‘Dragon Castle’ and sacrifice it for a shrine. Shrines can be placed on top of your scored tiles, and the higher the stack they are placed on the more points they score. Dragon Castle is simple, elegant, and you will love building your castles with these gorgeous tiles.
Players looking for games similar to Mahjong are sure to enjoy Dragon Castle.
Tak (2nd Edition)
Tak is another fun addition to this list of abstract strategy board games like Mahjong. Tak is a 2 player game designed by James Ernest and Patrick Rothfuss and takes its name from the paper-and-pencil game tic-tac-toe. But Tak is far more rewarding, of course.
Each player has a pool of ‘stones’ that can be placed on the board flat or upright. The first player to make a line of flat stones across the board wins.
To move around, flat stones can also be stacked onto other flat stones and, similar to DVONN, the number of spaces you can move is determined by how many stones are in your stack, but you also have to drop off stones as you move.
Upright stones, however, cannot be stacked and act as a barrier to your opponent. Tak is inspired by a game imagined by Rothfuss in his fantasy series, The Kingkiller Chronicle, and brought to life by him and Ernest.
It’s a clever, puzzling little game that fans of abstract strategy board games similar to Mahjong will get plenty of enjoyment out of.
If you love Mahjong’s perfect blend of simplicity and strategy, Quoridor could be the next addition to your collection. Designed by Mirko Marchesi, Quoridor is a quick and simple 2 or 4 player game.
The basics of Quoridor are: you are trying to move your pawn to the other sides of the board and prevent your opponent from doing the same by placing walls. Each turn you will either move your piece one space or place one of your walls.
You can never fully block your opponent, but tactical use of walls is key to winning the game.
Mahjong is over a century old, but if you really want to get old-school, why not try out Shogi? Shogi, also known as ‘Japanese chess’, is a 2 player abstract strategy board game that is at least 600 years old.
It shares many rules with Chess – to win you must checkmate your opponent’s ‘king’ and you have several different pieces with different move rules. Shogi is played on a larger board (9×9) and has flat pieces, some of which have no equivalent piece in Chess.
Other differences in Shogi are – captured pieces become yours to play and you can ‘promote’ certain pieces by getting them within three squares of your opponent’s side.
If you’re looking for games like Mahjong, Shogi is a centuries-old board game that has endured for its rich and strategic gameplay.
If you’re searching for games like Mahjong, you will be fascinated by Kory Heath and Andrew Looney’s Zendo. This 3-5 player game is great for families but enough of a head-scratcher for even the most seasoned gamers.
Zendo involves coloured pieces in pyramid and block shapes. One player will be the moderator and has a secret rule for what sort of structure should be made out of these pieces – for example, it must contain no yellow pieces and at least one pyramid.
The moderator then builds a correct structure and an incorrect structure as the first clue.
Players then take it in turns to build their own structures and either ask the moderator if it is correct or have all players guess if it is correct. If a player guesses correctly they get a ‘guess’ token, which they can use to win the game by correctly guessing the rule.
The perfect balance of puzzle-solving, logic, and fun, Zendo is a fantastic abstract strategy game.
Love guessing games? Check out our list of more games like Guess Who!
Games like Mahjong are popular all over the world and loved by gamers young and old. This list of abstract strategy games offers a glimpse of the wealth of wonderful board games out there.
All of these games can be enjoyed by families, friends, and regular gamers as they encompass what makes abstract strategy games so great: simple but rewarding.
Are you looking for more games similiar to Mahjong? Have any recommendations that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!