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The rules for Pandemic call for shuffling the Player deck and distributing the initial cards to each player. The remaining 50 or so cards are then seeded with epidemic cards by this rule:

Divide the remaining Player cards into a number of piles according to how difficult you’d like to make the game. Make the piles as equal in size as is possible.

Shuffle an Epidemic card into each pile. Stack the piles on top of each other to form the Player Draw Pile. (If the piles aren’t exactly the same size, stack them so that the larger piles are above the smaller piles.) Put any excess Epidemic cards back into the box.

In practice this is the longest setup step for a game which already has a substantial setup phase. Does anyone have any tips or tricks for getting this done faster?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I've done this in the past, and it tends to work well.

Roughly divide the piles into the # of Epidemics you want (just eyeball the piles, don't count). Stick an Epidemic card at the bottom of each pile. Stack the piles.

This makes each epidemic come up fairly predictably, which helps even out the randomness of the game, but since the piles themselves are rough, it doesn't make it exactly predictable.

Plus, it avoids the silliness of the occasional double-epidemic, which more often than not makes the game easier instead of harder.

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I like this option. I'll have to try it out the next time I play. However, I think I would add a cut of the deck after combining the piles. That way you don't know that the first epidemic is not near the top. It does open up the possibility of a back-to-back epidemic, though. – Todd Sep 9 '11 at 3:17
@Todd actually since the epidemic card will never be the top card, a normal cut will keep the distribution (no doubles) while randomizing the very first. Good idea! – Neal Tibrewala Sep 9 '11 at 15:58
@Neal Oh yeah, good point. I was thinking wrong. That makes it better. – Todd Sep 10 '11 at 15:47
I dislike this approach as it makes epidemics too predictable. Epidemics are not supposed to be this predictable. – Matt Oct 17 '12 at 16:08

We combine dealing and making the piles. Deal a round of cards, deal a couple into each pile, iterate. Then shuffle each pile with an epidemic. Meanwhile, another player shuffles the infection deck and sets up the initial infections.

If we're playing with new(ish) players we have the most-experienced players do the setup so the less-experienced have more time to study their initial cards and the board.

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Multithread! While one player handles the Player cards, another handles the Epidemic cards and the starting diseases.

Also, it's a little faster to set up the Player cards if you calculate the cards per pile before you get going, letting you deal out the piles one-at-a-time.

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