Hanchan 「半荘」 encapsulates one game of Japanese mahjong. A typical game involves two rounds designated as East and then South. Even if a game ends early, such as when a player falls below zero points, then it is still considered to be a full game. For shorter games, players may play tonpuusen 「東風戦」, or East only games.
Without any player falling below 0 points, the shortest game possible is 8 hands. Of course, the shortest game possible can end in just one hand. After that, games can be of varying lengths depending on the number of dealer repeats and other game results.
Typical games begin with the east round, or tonkyoku 「東局」. After that, the game moves into the south round, or nankyoku 「南局」. If necessary, it can go into the west round, or shaakyoku 「西局」. During the game, a dealer indicator is used to either mark the initial dealer or the current dealer. It also shows the current wind round of either East or South.
Renchan 「連荘」 are additional hands, by which the wind seating do not rotate. Under English terminology, a renchan may be considered as a "bonus hand". This is possible when the dealer wins a hand, an abortive draw occurs, or the dealer is tenpai at exhaustive draw. This is a clear advantage to the dealer position, with the ability to continually retain the dealer position given the two conditions. Comebacks are very much possible and doable from taking advantage of the dealer seat.
In the event when the wind seating does not change, then the honba count increases by one. For each honba, the hand value for any player is increased by 300 points. To mark honba, the dealer uses a 100 point stick to mark the number of renchan currently. The points are used as markers only temporarily and is not spent by the dealer. When the dealer seating rotates via a hand winning, the dealer receives the markers back. A game cannot end with a renchan on board. A seat wind rotation is part of the end game criteria. Under specific conditions, this honba count is able to increase even during a wind rotation.
- Hanchan in Japanese Wikipedia