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I've played a couple of Pandemic games with 2, 3 and 4 players.

From my point of view, the game should be harder with only 2 players since it will be more difficult to get a medic and both players will have to stay virtually close to each other most of the time in order to share knowledge, therefore cover less ground.

On the other hand, with more players, obviously the deck will run out faster.

From my experience our group WIN/LOSE ratio is very similar and does not depend that much on the player count.

Is it really harder with fewer players?

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4 Answers

Actually, I've found that it's easier with fewer players. My husband and I play two-player games with six epidemics and win about half our games, but when we play with two other (competent) players five epidemics gives us that win rate and six is hard.

While, with fewer players, you have fewer roles in the game, that's offset by not having so many other actions between your turns (that can completely change the board and thus your plans). Some roles work better the more turns that role gets, e.g. dumpster-diving abilities and once-per-turn special actions. You'll run through the deck at the same rate no matter how many players there are.

The medic is not necessary, and sometimes having that role in a two-player game is counter-productive. Remember tha the goal is curing diseases; it's easy for the medic to get so pre-occupied with the board that he doesn't contribute enough to cures. Medic as one of four roles is great; medic as one of two requires restraint.

In our games we deal two roles to each player and let the player choose one (consultation is allowed). That hasn't hurt our two-player games even though the medic will only be an option about a third of the time.

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+1 I agree with all your points and I strongly agree with you paragraph about the medic. The crux of the game is the logistics of card swapping, not cube clearing. –  Chris Kent Nov 17 '13 at 0:52
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The main thing you lose with fewer players is maximum hand size, so you cannot hold as many cards at once. This can make it harder to get the cures if the right colours don't come up. However, it is generally easier to avoid outbreaks, since you only have 2 people you will tend to have the right person's turn faster after an epidemic. With 2 people you will need to choose your roles manually I think, since some roles, EG Dispatcher, are pretty worthless with only 2 people and some EG Medic are practically mandatory.

You get the same number of player turns regardless of the number of players, since the starting cards is 2 for 4 players and 4 for 2 players. Trading cards seems about the same difficulty with 2 people as you have less turns to wait at the trading location, but less options for meeting up. Research stations make meeting up pretty easy as long as you can both build them near where you are. Or a Charter flight out of a city you hold will let you meet up anywhere to swap that second card.

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One of the biggest factors that makes it easier with fewer players is that you can organise the cards you need to get together much more quickly - the 5 cards you need for a cure will be distributed between 2 hands rather than 3 or 4, and if you have the right combination of roles/event cards you can transfer those cards in 1 or 2 player-turns (and hence only having to worry about the infector and epidemics twice) instead of needing to co-ordinate across 3, 4 or more turns.

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So far my wife and I have only played two player games. Both times we eradicated the yellow disease and it gave us the breathing room to focus on finding the rest of the cures. The trick is to make liberal use of your special ability and don't forget about research station to research station travel. That ends up being the most effective way to get around the board without having to discard crucial cards.

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