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Tile Games

An essential feature of playing-cards is that each card has a face and a back: the faces have different motifs, typically suits and numbers or ranks, while the backs are all the same. Card games rely on the fact that cards can be face up so that all players can identify them, or face down so that only the back can be seen and their identity is unknown, or held by a player so that only the holder can identify the card by its face while the other players can only see the backs.

Similar games can be played with tiles or tablets made of wood, bone, plastic or other materials. Provided that all the tiles in the set are the same size and shape, and have motifs on just one side, they can be used in the same way as playing-cards. Whether tiles or cards are used for a particular game is largely a matter of convenience and tradition.

  • Domino games are probably the most widespread and familiar type of tile game. The two-ended design of dominoes makes them particularly suitable for connection games, where they are used to build a layout with touching ends matching. However they can also be used very much like playing-cards to play trick-taking, draw and discard, fishing and other game types.
  • Tile Rummy games are normally played with numbered tiles, using colours instead of suits.
  • Mah Jong is essentially a type of tile rummy played with Chinese money cards in tile form.
  • Solitaire tile matching games are probably a relatively recent invention, in which tiles are removed from the accessible edges of a layout in matching pairs with the aim of emptying the layout.

The close relationship between card and tile games is illustrated by the fact that it is possible to obtain playing-cards in tile form and dominoes and mah-jong sets in playing-card form, for situations where players find it more convenient to replace cards by tiles or vice versa.

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This page is maintained by John McLeod (john@pagat.com).   © John McLeod, 2020. Last updated: 14th June 2020