Here are some important points to look for in Pai Sho tiles:
The actual tile images: When thinking about the designs used in Pai Sho tiles, the first thing that comes to mind is the actual pictures on the tiles. Look at the various tile designs used when playing online at The Garden Gate to see that there are multiple sets of designs you can use to play different Pai Sho games. Similar to how you could choose between different styles of chess pieces, so too can you choose between different designs of Pai Sho tiles. Look at the designs offered by different shops and think about which ones you like the most.
The design philosophy of the pieces: Different than the images used on the pieces, how are the pieces designed? How do the pieces tell you who they belong to? Many tiles use a border/ring around the edge of the tile as part of the design to easily show this, and this kind of detail can really give the tiles a more professional look and feel. The highest quality tiles have a great design built in (besides just color of the materials used alone) to give a player’s tiles a consistent look and feel.
Note for Skud Pai Sho, there are Red and White Basic Flower Tiles. Some sets of designs will easily distinguish between Red and White Flowers by making sure that no matter the engrave style used, the Red Flowers have dark/engraved petals and the White Flowers have light/un-engraved petals in their designs. This is a very nice plus for a set of designs, so think about whether or not you’d like that when looking for a set of tiles. Be sure to take note of the design philosophy tiles use.
The Vescucci design tiles are different in that they do not directly distinguish red/white flowers this way, but still have a consistent design philosophy that does not confuse the flowers. I do not recommend tiles that have an inconsistent design philosophy that confuses red/dark flowers and white/light flowers.
Engrave Styles: I use the terms “standard” and “inverted” to describe engrave styles. Standard engrave style is when the image is engraved on the tile, and inverted engrave style is when the background of the image is engraved. Understand the difference so you know what options and possibilities are available when considering a set of tiles, as you may find that you prefer one style over the other.
Image Quality/Resolution: Laser-engraved wooden Pai Sho tiles can be engraved in any level of quality for the detail of the images. Similar to a photograph’s resolution, a low quality engraving will end up looking pixellated or blurry, where a high quality engraving will be clear and crisp.
Materials Quality: Wooden Pai Sho tiles could be made of plywood or solid hardwood. Solid hardwood will be higher quality material.