Twice each week, local Mahjongg enthusiasts converge on the Basehor Community Library for some friendly competition. Coming from both sides of the state line, participants agree that the time they spend together is filled with fun.

Mahjongg, a strategic game played at tables of four players with tiles containing various symbols, was being played in China as early as the mid-1800s. It was brought to the United States in the 1920s and played by servicemen in World War II. Because the tiles have symbols, even men who didn’t speak the same language could engage in a game of Mahjongg.

The group started meeting five years ago when Suzie Fehseke thought it would be a good fit for Basehor.

“In 2010 I moved from Arizona where everyone plays Mahjongg,” she said. “However, in Kansas it was not well known. The Basehor library offered me the opportunity to start a group and now five years later, we have over 40 active players that play twice a week.”

The adult co-ed adult league meets Mondays from 5-8 p.m. and Fridays from 1-4 p.m. New members are welcome, but it is important to know that the online version of Mahjong is different than the in-person league play of Mahjongg with tiles. When new members sign up to play, they get an introductory course and sit with experienced players until they thoroughly understand the game. The Four Winds Mahjongg League pays homage to a collection of Mahjongg tiles.

“It’s good for the mind or it drives you crazy,” laughed longtime player Ellen Gray.  

Each year, Mahjongg players purchase a new playing card through the National Mahjongg League, NMJL. The cards show what types of tile combinations will be used that year and what the corresponding point values are. Similar to rummy, runs and sets of tiles are used in combination with joker tiles to create winning Mahjongg hands.

“Playing Mahjongg can be addictive, so you have to be careful,” said player Gina DeRossett.

Each league may designate a local charity to receive a portion of the cost of the new yearly Mahjongg cards.  In the past, the Basehor Community Library group has contributed money to the Basehor food pantry, Basehor’s children’s library and Paws for Freedom which provides service dogs to assist people with daily living. The first-year donation to the library children’s fund was $150 and was used to purchase musical instruments. Last year’s donation was $180 and was put toward supporting the library’s Reading 1,000 Books program.

“Mahjongg is more than a game played with tiles. It brings people together to make a difference through fellowship and the love of the game. This league has been a labor of love for me. We’re more than just a Mahjongg league, we are a family,” Fehseke said.

Beth Kornegay is a freelance writer covering news and events in the city of Basehor. If you have a story idea, email her at gabi_kansas@yahoo.com