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I've recently bought Pandemic, and really liked the game. But since the basic game is only 2-4 players, I ordered the expansion "On the Brink", which brings it up to 5 players.

Is there a rules variant that would let me play with 6 players?

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I have tried 6 player, and will confirm that a rules variant (or lowering of difficulty) is very important. With so many people, any one person is very slow to react to anything - it may well take 5 turns before the Medic can clear out that danger zone, plenty of time for horrendous epidemic timing. I don't have any suggestions though; we always play something else with 6. –  Mag Roader Dec 6 '10 at 3:07
    
@Mag Roader: Thanks - what variant rules have you tried? (I'd like to hear about those that worked, as well as those that didn't!) –  scraimer Dec 6 '10 at 6:02
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5 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I haven't seen recommendations for six-player, but I can't think of a reason it can't be done. I think the only thing that needs to be decided is the size of the players' starting hands. 4 and 5-player games start with two cards. You could either go with two or drop it to one. I'd probably stick with two. Beyond that I think you can just play. There's nothing in the game that will break by having six people.

That said, I'm not sure how well it will play. The consensus is that the game gets harder with more people, but fortunately it's very easy to tweak the difficulty in Pandemic. You can decrease the number of Epidemic cards, increase the Special Event cards, or allow players to choose their role, each of these will make the game easier to beat.

If I were going to try it, I'd probably go with two cards for the starting hands, four epidemic cards, and I'd put all 13 Special Event cards in. I'd see how that goes and then tweak it from there.

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Thanks! Especially for "Harder with more people" - I was worried that it gets easier with more people, like Arkham Horror. –  scraimer Dec 6 '10 at 5:59
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You might also find that the downtime between each player's turn is too long. See ire_and_curses answer to my question here: boardgames.stackexchange.com/q/1688/159 –  Todd Dec 7 '10 at 4:21
    
I find that in fact it DOES get easier with more people, but only because you get more special ability combinations. With only 2 players, you have a good chance of having a useless set of specialties that don't work well together. Can you imagine winning with neither a Medic nor a Dispatcher? But the flexibility of the players is significantly offset by the increased number of infections. –  gomad Dec 10 '10 at 18:43
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The thing that makes it harder is that you burn through the cards a lot faster, hitting the epidemics more quickly, but each individual role (like Medic) still takes the same amount of time to reach and fix a problem area. –  lilserf Dec 12 '10 at 18:25
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I would recommend buying a second copy of Pandemic and just playing seperate 3-player games.

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Or you could get 6 decks of cards and everyone could play solitaire. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Dec 9 '10 at 23:14
    
What an excellent idea! Thanks, BlueRaja! :-P –  scraimer Dec 10 '10 at 7:20
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Pandemic is a great game with tremendously elegant mechanics. Matt Leacock did fantastic job of using the infection deck and the draw deck as sequencer/timers. This careful mechanical design is precisely what makes it difficult to expand the game to six players.

(thinks for a while)

Okay. Here's an idea that should let you play with as six players (and possibly more):

• Assign roles to players at random. Deal out cards as if playing with five players. Also give each player an "action" token.

• When it's your turn, you can spend your action token and take a turn, or pass. If you do not have an action token, you must pass. If you pass, your entire turn (including the infection phase) is skipped.

• When no player has an action token, every player gets an action token.

You might need to tweak the starting hand sizes, but this little hack just might suffice.

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Wow - that's a great idea, which sounds easily adaptable to other games too! Thanks! –  scraimer Dec 22 '10 at 7:26
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I just played for the first time and thought of a way to add an additional role to the game. Have someone play the actual disease.

10 card maximum in hand Draw rate is 3 cards "actions" or infecting is = to the infection rate. The epidemic cards can be split 50% into infection draw pile and the other 50% into the player draw pile.

This does a few things for the game. 1. Makes the "players" more discreet of their plans. 2. Difficulty will rise with more players. 3. Allows for an additional player to be added. 4. Brings a different style of play to the game. Strategies etc. 5. Can be modified further to add more "diseases", or "players" to the game.

This is all still a thought in process as I literally played for the first time tonight.

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The Bio-Terrorist component of the official expansion has an element to this: boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/40849/pandemic-on-the-brink I like Pandemic a lot, but the fact that one person can plan out and dominate the game is my least favorite part. For repeated plays, it definitely needs something to make each player more independent (whether a game feature, or just everyone resisting the urge to chime in with the best option). –  Daniel Richnak Apr 11 '12 at 0:01
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The problem with 6 players is that one of the losing conditions of Pandemic is running out of time (via empty Player Card Deck). With more players that deck becomes used up faster. I wouldn't try six players without somehow enlarging the player deck. Perhaps if you buy another set of player cards and then add more Infection cards.

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