4 epidemic cards in the pile are easy in Pandemic. 5 cards - it is interesting. Our win / lose ratio is about 50% with 5 epidemic cards. But I can't imagine how to play with 6 epidemic cards. Are you just very lucky to win this way, or are there are some strategy secrets I still don't get?

Btw there is a 7th epidemic card in the expansion "On the Brink".

Is there anybody who usually plays (and wins) with 6 or 7 epidemic cards on the pile? What's your secret?

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    Related: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/2372/… Commented Sep 7, 2011 at 21:13
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    Anecdotally, the one time I played Pandemic one player knew how to play and the rest of us were newbies - I assume we were playing with 4 or 5 epidemic cards. Basically the the owner of the game made all the decisions for everyone and we defeated the epidemic without breaking a sweat. I thought it was a bit pointless! I would have enjoyed it MUCH more if the task had seemed closer to impossible. But maybe I'm just a boardgames masochist? Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 10:29

11 Answers 11


We play with six epidemics most of the time and win about half our games, which is a good ratio for us. My husband and I play a lot of two-player games, but we also play with three and four players and use six epidemics unless we have beginners.

We use a house rule of dealing two roles per player and letting the players choose. Discussion is permitted.

The key to playing with six epidemics, in my experience, is to be ruthless in not wasting actions. Yes, that isolated city with three cubes will have an outbreak soon; absorb it if you've got spare capacity so you can focus on getting the cards together for a cure or attacking bigger problems. It can be tempting to say "while I'm in the neighborhood anyway why don't I...?", but you should always look at whether there are more pressing demands first.


My wife and I have a house rule to let us choose the number of epidemics after we see what roles we get. We usually play "If we have a Medic then 6, otherwise 5". That keeps the challenge ratio at a good spot in all cases.


My group played with six once, and had virtually no problems; at no point were we even worried we might lose. On the other hand, the last two times we played with five cards we lost miserably, so I don't think the sixth card is as big of an upset as you're expecting. I'd recommend just trying it to see how your group does; a lot depends on if you get two epidemics close together and what cities they hit

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    We have tried to play with 6 cards few times. Once we have even won :-) But there was only luck, not strategy - cards were mixed comfortable. I'm interested if anybody plays with 6 cards and could win at least 33% of games.
    – Pawka
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 20:57
  • @Pawka It's possible we just got really lucky; we're 1 for 1 right now and haven't tried it again Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 20:58
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    I suggest don't try, you got very good ratio. Keep it :-)
    – Pawka
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 20:59
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    I've also won with six in a cake walk but been destroyed by it many more times. I think it mostly comes down to luck. I've also had horrid luck run the other way and lost with only four while trying to teach newbies.
    – Tycho
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 21:35
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    @Tycho The first time we played (with five, if I recall correctly) we had back-to-back epidemics :) Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 21:36

As others have pointed out, it is possible to get a reasonable win percentage with 6 epidemic cards. However, I would like to add that the strategy changes considerably between 4 and 6 epidemics. Besides being ruthless with actions, as another answer pointed out, you should also keep in mind that because epidemics come more often, you will get fewer new cities and cities that you've already seen more often. In my old group, we found that counting cards pretty much made the difference on legendary difficulty. It's not too hard to keep track of the probabilities of an epidemic hitting on the next turn, or when you're getting near the end of the cities that you've already seen. By counting cards you have a better chance of assessing what is urgent and what isn't. Sometimes a city will have 3 cubes on it, but will get buried under a lot of other cards, and you know that you don't have to worry about it for a while.

  • One group I played with stacked the cubes differently depending on whether that city's card was in the discard or draw pile, to keep track. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 15:23

Ahh Pandemic. There's quite a bit of luck involved. Hitting back to back pandemics can screw you over even in a 4 epidemic game...

Since we got the hang of it we've never lost a 5 epidemic game. So we've been thinking about tackling the 6th card. A big factor in the game are the roles you get. Some combinations just aren't that useful while other simply rock. My suggestion would be to choose your roles and see what combinations suit you most and then try with one of those...


With 5 players, we're able to win with 7 epidemics + Virulent/Mutation about half the time. In the last game we played, we were short one action and therefore lost by decking ourselves (lame!). Note that having 5 players isn't really an advantage -- it mainly just makes you more likely to deck yourself before you get 4 cures.

We tend to do better if we draw a good balance between role types, where we have at least one of the three major categories: movement/coordination (e.g. Operation's Expert and Dispatcher), treatment (e.g. Medic and Containment Specialist), and cure-finding (e.g. Scientist and Researcher).

Most of all, though, you need a role in the movement/coordination category -- it's just so expensive to get around the board normally.

I don't like to recommend variations I haven't tried, but you can probably reach 7 more easily if you give yourself more choice in starting roles. For example, during setup you could allow each player one chance to discard her role and draw again.


It is never possible to guarantee a win in pandemic, even with 4 epidemics. However, I have played rather a lot of 2 player pandemic with 7 epidemic cards from the 'on the brink' expansion, and my win rate was above 40%. But the guy I played with was also very, very good, and we were using the "Brettspielwelt New Assignment" rules, which is that all players may change their roles when the card is played.

Boardgamegeek thread on that errata

We also used the Brettspielwelt system where every player plays with their hands faceup, which may not be the best way to do it but I think that house rule is best because all it does is speed up communication.

Some games we tried to play where only one player could change their role, but it probably would have dropped our win rate below 33% (but not below 25%).


We win roughly 70-75% of the time we play, even with 6 epidemic cards. There is a small bit of luck to it. For instance there was a game where the cards were not shuffled well and we drew 5 epidemic cards in the first two rounds. We survived them all, but after that we got crushed.

It's all about calculated risk and playing to the best of the abilities of your role. You really need to do what your character does. Just last night we had a Contingency planner and (having a blank on the name but the guy who can build research stations) and the people that were playing those roles literally were making contingency plans and construction plans, respectively.

We find that you need to always know what cities are in the infect discard pile, so that you always know which places are the biggest risk if an epidemic comes up. You need to start your trading planning after the first round. Whoever happens to have the most cards of a color is most likely the one to cure that disease. Sometimes you even need to allow an outbreak to happen to reach a more important goal. And you have to be making logical guesses as to when the epidemic cards will be drawn, like if you haven't drawn one in two rounds, then it's probably coming really soon. That way, you can calculate the risk of any cities that have 3 cubes based on what's in the infect discard pile.

It's a really deep calculated risk, team strategy game. We usually discuss for like 10 minutes per round and have everyone's turn planned out for each round and then we alter the plan slightly based on the cards that are drawn.

  • "the cards were not shuffled well and we drew 5 epidemic cards in the first two rounds." - This is not poorly shuffled. This is incorrectly set-up. The Epidemics are supposed to be distributed amongst the piles, even at the highest level you cannot get more than one epidemic in the first two turns if playing correctly.
    – Jontia
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 11:39

My experience has been that when we lose, it's normally by running out of cards. So while we haven't played with six or more epidemics, I'm not sure it would make a huge difference; if anything, it might help by keeping the cubes a little more concentrated early on.


One combo that can easily tackle 6 or 7 epidemic cards is Scientist/Researcher. Just stay in Atlanta, swap cards and discover cures. I think it could do 8 comfortably or almost-comfortably as well.

The deck is 48 cities plus 5 events plus 6-8 epidemics, or 59-61 cards total, of which 8 are in the opening hands. So it's an epidemic every 51/6 or 52/7 or 53/8 cards, which is 8.5, 7.42 or 6.625; in the worst case, by the second epidemic you'll have drawn 13.25 cards, let's say 10 cities and 1 event, plus your initial 18, for a total of 18 cities. Most likely you have at least two cures by then and are well on your way to a third. Only move to 3-cube cities for treatment. Note that bottom-draws are guaranteed to not have any cubes already so long as you haven't had an outbreak yet.

In the easy (6-epidemic) case you'll have 15-16 cities and 1-2 events by the second epidemic, plus the initial 8 (or 7-1), for at least 22 city cards. An even spread is ~5 of each color, so you'll probably have at least three cures. Then emergency cleanup is almost trivial.

Another combo that works well is Medic plus Operations Expert. There you do the opposite: focus almost all your energy on removing cubes and only incidentally swap cards. Building up a network of research stations will make transportation easy; the OE should build one in each of his first five turns, and probably spend cards flying to the most valuable cities (those with 3 cubes, those with two that are far away from other research centers, or perhaps in places where you need to swap cards). It'll be a much more defensive game, but I found it fairly easy. Note that with more epidemic cards, the disease is concentrated on fewer cities due to the more frequent reshuffling (at least early; you also get to higher infection rates more quickly, which pulls in the opposite direction).

I wrote a fairly extensive analysis of Pandemic. Please read the other answers to that question first; they cover more basic stuff.

  • I have a really hard time picturing you winning by just sitting in Atlanta and trading cards. Do you have a "script" of a game where this actually worked, or are you just basing this on your math calculations? By the second epidemic, you have likely had 4 outbreaks, and even if you tried to go stop some at that point, you're unlikely to be able to cure enough to avoid 4 more within a turn or two.
    – bwarner
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 16:51
  • "Stay in Atlanta" is more like guidelines. You have to go out a bit, but you're likely to come back again. If you're a bit lucky, one of the initial 3s is close to Atlanta, and it only takes one turn walking there (and one turn back). In that case, sure, clean it up when you're not busy trading cards. If there's an isolated 3 far away, say Chennai, you can probably just leave it alone. Even if it outbreaks after the second epidemic, and you bottom-draw a neighbor on the third epidemic, it's only 3 outbreaks. And by that time, you're almost done and have the time to do damage control. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 16:20
  • I'd still like to see an annotated game in which this worked with 6 epidemics. My experiences have not been anything like what you describe.
    – bwarner
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 17:04
  • One thing I completely forgot in my analysis: with the scientist, you only need 4 cards of each color to find a cure, so with 18 city cards it's possible to have four cures, very likely to have three. With 22 city cards, it's extremely likely (I haven't actually done the math) that you'll have four cures. With two event cards, it's a 90% chance you'll have at least one of Airlift, Government Grant and Resilient Population which will neutralize one threatening city. If you're lucky, you get GG and can relocate to the disease-heaviest area. Have you tried playing somewhat like I suggest? Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 20:21
  • I think annotating a game is a bit too much labor just to prove a point to a Stranger On The Interwebs, but if you know a free online implementation, I'll be happy to play a game with you. I saw Quill18 play online on the youtubes, youtube.com/watch?v=DFd-oh1fYMs; that might be one to track down. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 20:33

My mom and I played just yesterday and I snuck in 6 cards without her knowing.I was actually too lazy to separate the piles and everything so I randomly put them in and got 4 right off the bat which was nice because it was uninterrupted playing. We found all 4 cures before the last two but by the time we finished the board was covered in cubes. My first hand I drew 4 red cards andred was cured in the second turn so that was lucky. It was funny my mom said "I'm glad all the epidemic cards are gone." after the fourth one to which I said "ha ha remember you love me, WE CAN DO IT!!"

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    Mixing them in like this is against the rules. If you shuffle right (with 4/5/6/7 piles) only 2 epidemic cards can be back to back. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 8:06

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