# Pandemic's difficulty seems to rest on the placement of the first epidemic card in the deck

It's impossible to get an outbreak until the first epidemic has occurred.

As such the placement of the first epidemic in the player deck has a large effect on the game. If near the bottom, it allows the players to go through several turns before the game starts become risky. At that point they may have already cleaned up most of the disease cubes and largely mitigated the risk.

Now of course, having more epidemic cards in the deck increases the chance that one will be near the top. Also - if one isn't near the top, then it means that there's a higher concentration of later on.

However this does still seem like quite an unkiltering dynamic of the game, where a large amount of how the game goes is down to luck.

The question is - does this dynamic have a significant effect on the game, and how can it be mitigated?

One option I've considered, is that you might shuffle all except one card into the player deck, and then take the top 10 cards off, and without looking, shuffle the last one in. So there's guaranteed to be an epidemic in the first 11 cards.

• From memory, I believe you are supposed to split the deck in to four and ensure that there is at least one epidemic card in each of those four decks. Shuffle these decks seperately and then put them on top of each other to create the main deck Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 1:36
• Agreed, although if you want the game to be a little more predictable (especially with kids or beginners), I tend to just put the epidemic in about the middle of each stack. This also might be useful if you want to try to win the 6 (or 7!) epidemic game. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 15:49

According to the official instructions (page 3), the player deck is prepared by first splitting it into multiple piles of roughly-equal size (one pile per Epidemic card) and shuffling exactly one Epidemic card into each pile. These piles are then stacked on top of each other.

So even in an easy 4-Epidemic game, there will guaranteed be one Epidemic card in the top quarter of the deck (which, being a 59-card 57-card 49-card 48-card reasonably-sized deck, would be within the first 15 12 cards or so); this could be on the bottom of the top quarter, yes, but it's impossible for it to be anywhere near the bottom of the deck. And even if it is on the bottom of the top quarter, it wouldn't affect the concentration of the remaining three at all, since they're shuffled independently into the second, third and fourth quarters of the deck respectively.

So far as concentration is concerned, the absolute worst case scenario is that you'll get two Epidemic cards in a row; one from the very bottom of its quarter, and the second from the very top of the next quarter.

So while yes, exactly where the first Epidemic occurs in the deck could have a significant effect on how the rest of the game plays out, it's not near as problematic as you've presented as long as the deck is prepared properly.

• And I guess if you wanted you could adjust the difficulty or make it more interesting by changing the sizes of each of the subdecks. Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 3:51
• @dwjohnston Adding epidemics is a pretty solid method of adjusting the difficulty; I'd try that before messing with it on your own. Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 4:01
• Also, teeny note, the 59 cards includes all the epidemics; in easy mode it's 57. Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 4:23
• you deal-out cards to each player BEFORE shuffling-in the Epidemic cards.. this is 8-9 cards removed from the deck, meaning each "quarter" of the deck is more like 12 cards, not 15 Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 17:28
• There is still the case where an Epidemic is drawn in the first round before the initial 3 cube cities could be visited, and then these go back on the top and all outbreak. This does make the rest of the game challenging. Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 6:14

It seems that you are not shuffling the location deck correctly.

You are supposed to split the deck as evenly as possible into piles, one for each epidemic, and ensure that there is one epidemic card in each of those four decks. Shuffle these decks separately and then put them on top of each other to create the main deck from which you draw.

While an early Epidemic card can really heat things up and deprive you of the reprieve the group needs, the # of Epidemic cards and # of players are just as important. In fact, playing with only 2p is roughly the equivalent of one difficulty level easier vs. 4p games. For example, a 4p game with 4 Epidemic cards (Easy mode IIRC) is roughly the same as a 2p game with 5 Epidemic cards.

And make sure you shuffle the cards in piles, with each pile containing only 1 Epidemic card! If some of the piles are a bit uneven, the rulebook tells you to arrange the smaller piles at the bottom of the deck, in your favor.