Pandemic varies vastly in difficulty depending on the number of players. Does anyone know of any custom rules that make it more even?

  • 3
    There seems to be differing opinions on this, so could you elaborate on how you think the number of players affects difficulty?
    – Todd
    Commented Dec 14, 2010 at 17:42
  • Most times I've played, it been with 4 or 5 players. Is this why we get our a**es handed to us all the time? Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 8:25
  • @Todd, it gets much more difficult with more players. @keithgrant, yes, play with 2 or 3 and it'll be easy. Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 8:41

12 Answers 12


Pick up the On the Brink BGG expansion.

The forums at Boardgamegeek state that it definitely eases up the difficulty of the 4 and 5 player versions as well as providing more options.

  • I agree; particularly if you're choosing roles, as it provides some more flexible choices, and one good fix to an existing role. However, it's an expensive buy just for that; most of the expansion provides variants that make things harder...
    – Tynam
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 17:43

You could for example always play with the same amount of pawns. If you have 3 players everyone gets a pawn for themself and you have to discuss what happens with the 4th. Considering there's already a lot of discussion on what to do with your own pawns it's not going to be much of a problem...

  • But what happens with the cards of the faceless players? Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 7:48
  • I suppose you could share them amongst everyone. Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 9:53
  • 2
    I'd probably place them in a separate spot. Just play as if there where a 4th player - just one who doesn't play on his own.
    – Kempeth
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 7:52

Allowing players to choose their roles, rather than having them assigned randomly, is one way to lower the difficulty. The players can choose roles that they prefer to work with and that have better synergy.

  • But it makes it a more limited and repetitive game. Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 2:51

A big part of the variation in difficulty is the fixed number of event cards. In the base game, you play with 5 event cards in the deck regardless of the number of players. If you pick up "On the Brink" there are more event cards, so you play with 2 event cards in the deck per player. This seems subtle but I've found that it smooths most of the effect of different numbers of players (assuming you are good at coordinating).


Consider making the epidemic cards predictable. Space them out as stated in the rules, but always put them at the bottom of each pile. This keeps the fun of dealing with the challenge, while enhancing the requirement that players work together to handle what they know is coming. It does make it easier though, in general, due to this predictability.

  • 2
    In my experience, it's the timing of the first epidemic that has the most significant impact on difficulty. The others don't matter as much as long as you have a chance to get on top of the outbreaks early on. Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 17:53
  • 1
    Timing and position of the first outbreak are crucial. If you don't like putting the card always at the bottom of each pile, consider always shuffling into the bottom half of each pile. This is no more work than the regular way, and keeps randomness while preventing early wipe-outs.
    – Tynam
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 17:44

I found that a nice touch is to not shuffle the top stack of cards when mixing in the epidemic cards. In the first stack, place the epidemic card at the bottom and shuffle the rest normally. This just lets you get a leg up on the game at the beginning while leaving the rest of the game unchanged.


2 things to make the game a bit easier.

1) once a cure is found any player can cure a city of all diseases for only 1 action

2) shuffle all the infection cards back into the deck when an Pandemic occurs (may be to big of a change)

  • 2
    First one would make the game slightly easier and could be a nice touch, but the second one would break it entirely. Since you will always draw an epidemic card that puts the infection discard pile on top of the draw pile every several turns, this keeps the tension up that those cities will keep getting more cubes. If you shuffled the entire discard pile, you'd be drawing many cards for the first time after an epidemic, putting them on places with no cubes yet and not threatening outbreaks at all, which is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen (going on already infected cities :). Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 22:07
  • Number 1) is the actual rules.
    – Jontia
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 10:26

My group feels that Pandemic is easier with fewer players, so as player count goes down we increase the epidemic count to maintain the challenge level.

Other adjustments will depend on how you think the difficulty changes. In player counts that you consider harder, try dealing out multiple roles and letting players choose, or try choosing play order only after seeing roles and starting cards. For player counts that you consider easier, reverse these decisions.

On the Brink adds some variability and complexity. I'm not sure if (after you get past the learning curve of any new variant) it adds difficulty, but it might.


Normaly, you can trade city card on the city of that card. So, I suggest that you can trade city black card on a black city, blue one on a blue city, yellow on yellow and red on red. That way, you still restricted but it'll be easyer. It'll make a donw grade for the Researcher but... your choice.


In a 4 player game, you can make sure the researcher is in play for one of the players, and deal the other 3 roles from the deck. I have played with almost every combination of roles (with 2 and 4 players) and the researcher has significant advantage and is very difficult to win with 4 player without her.


If you're playing with 2p, use the next difficulty level in terms of # of Epidemics. For example, if you play 4p on "Easy" (4 Epidemic cards), then with 2p, play on "normal" (5 Epidemics) to get the same effect of difficulty.

If you have On The Brink expansion, rather than adding another Epidemic, consider adding in the Virulent Strain. The rules for that is only 1 page long, so you should be able to learn it in no time. Mutation Challenge is more involving even if it's still only 1 page as well.


I have a number of variations that I like, but I may not use every variation every game. I like the On-the-Brink expansion, but these rules are not specific to it.

Roles: Cures & cards (Researcher & Scientist); Treatments/prevention (Medic & Quarantine Specialist); move/build (Operations Expert & Dispatcher); and misc for everything else. For a 4 player game have at least one of each the first three types.

First research station (instead of Atlanta): When dealing the initial infected cities include 4 (instead of 3) cities with 1 cube; the first research station can go into any the of cities with 1 cube and all the players start there. If there are disagreements, the player going first decides.

Preparing the deck: (1) Put one event card in each the piles with one of the epidemic cards; any remaining cards are shuffled in as normal. (2) If there are extra player cards after put the same number cards in each pile, they go on the top of player deck to delay the earliest epidemic card.

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