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Why is the original Pandemic set for up to 4 players when there are 5 role cards?

  • Not a direct answer but I've had fun playing the game with 5 people (though still choosing from the modern 7 roles). It affects the balance a bit but not in a consistent way (more turns in a round hurts you, but higher variety of roles helps you). Don't be afraid to try with 5 and tweak as you find the bias. – Mark Peters Oct 5 '15 at 16:04
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When the game is started the roles are shuffled together and each player is dealt a random role. Having more roles then players allows for some greater variations in the game as you will not always get the same roles in every game which can change how you play the game. You can see in the rules how it deals with the extra roles. Also it should be noted that in the current edition there are 7 roles for 4 players in the base game.

  • Additionally, the game feels slower the more players you have - for example Tom Lehmann mentioned here that 6 players was definitely bad in terms of down time between turns in testing. – Cascabel Oct 5 '15 at 0:21
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After you play the game a number of times, you'll notice that the combination of roles affects the flow of the game. The 5th role increases replay value and prevents the game from becoming too repetitive.

Pandemic has expansions, however, which allows for more players. One such expansion, "Pandemic: On the Brink", has 5 players and includes 7 new role cards.

The base game and subsequent expansions rely on additional role cards -- as well as other added game mechanics -- to keep the game interesting.

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