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Meet Mahjong

Meet Mahjong

Photo of the game box for Meet MahJong

By ChristieLyn Diller

A game of mahjong typically contains at least 144 tiles, including those with “suits” (dots, bamboos and characters), as well as “winds” and “dragons.” Each of four players selects tiles and builds sets based on an annual card, and continues until one player builds a winning hand out of a series of sets using a combination of luck and skill.

Confused? Cara Weiss ’91 understands.

Driven by her love for the complex game, a passion passed down by her mother, Cara has spent nearly 20 years trying to make mahjong easier for her others to understand. This year, she’s done it.

The self-described serial inventor developed the board game Meet MahJong, released in October and now available from retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Sales are so strong that she's already on her second print run, just in time for the season of gift giving.

“All along I wanted to do this for my mom. She taught me and knew my kids would like it,” Cara said, “When I finally got the call that someone wanted the game, I heard a voice from my mom saying, “Cara, you did it.””

Growing up, Cara watched her mother, Myrna Jacobs Weisberg, play the American version of the classic Chinese game. When she became a mother herself, Myrna taught her the game, which she has played almost weekly ever since. When Cara’s children became the watchers the idea for a simpler version of the game emerged. And while it was Myrna’s lifelong ambition to teach her grandchildren the game she died in 2004, before she was able to.

In her memory, Cara forged ahead with prototype after prototype, all while running Save the Date, LLC Events; an event planning business she established with fellow Terp and husband Joel Weiss ’91, in 1995.

She brought her prototypes to toy fairs and literally knocked on doors before trying out for the TV series “Shark Tank.” With each obstacle she tweaked her design until piquing the interest of ThinkFun, a Virginia-based learning company.

Then on her birthday in March 2020, after six months of contract negotiations, Cara signed the paperwork with ThinkFun to kick-start production—or so she thought. The COVID 19 pandemic shut down supply chain systems worldwide, and production of Meet Mahjong came to a halt. Smartly, she had added a provision allowing her to revisit the agreement if there was no movement within a year.

With Cara’s occasional oversight, ThinkFun spent the next year reworking the game, ultimately settling on one game with two game play options - a Chinese version and an American one. Both versions hold to the traditional concepts, but with simplified rules, making it an approachable option for anyone eight years old and up who want to pick up the game. It would be several more months until the game was ready for testing with kids and families, which introduced some cultural concerns with the simplified game concept. Ultimately, the original Mahjong suits would be reintroduced to Cara's game, prioritizing the authenticity of the game over simplification. The resulting game is now available for purchase.

“When I put my mind to something, and I know it's going to work, I’m adamant!” she proclaimed, with the confidence of knowing she had fulfilled her mothers greatest dream.

Her advice for fellow Terps? Keep at it, but be cautious. “If you believe in it, it will happen, no matter what other people say,” she said, while also cautioning fellow enTERPreneurs to be realistic about expenses and the time needed for innovation. “Maybe don’t quit your day job just yet.”

For now, Cara is taking her own advice. She’s got five or six more ideas brewing in her inventions folder, just waiting for her to retire, if she ever does.


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