In playing Pandemic, I've always played where the cards in your hand are face up - i.e., visible to everyone. It is a cooperative game after all, and looking at another player's cards is easier than asking everyone what they have each turn. Certain actions require you to have knowledge of other player's cards (e.g., Share Knowledge), so it doesn't seem to be prohibited that you do know what cards the other players have.

In watching a video of BoardGameGeekTV playing Pandemic (well, Pandemic Legacy), they keep their hands face down. The Pandemic episode of Tabletop had the players' hands face up. Which is the correct way to play?

  • I always play face up, however, in pandemic is easy to have a single player playing the game for everyone else. If you play with someone like that, play face down so everyone has a say, not the most assertive player Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 12:24

2 Answers 2


Both ways are correct and dependent on who is playing the game and what their skill and preferences are:

When players are getting used to the game they are encouraged to play with their hands face-up to simplify the communication and memory aspect of the game.

To increase the importance of accurate communication and memory and to give everyone something to contribute to the group plan, the players can play with their hands face-down.

From the official rules, p.7


When playing the Introductory game (4 Epidemic cards), place your cards face up in front of you, for all players to see.

  • Only Player cards count towards your hand limit. Your Role and your Reference cards are not part of your hand.

When playing the Standard (5 Epidemics) or Heroic (6 Epidemics) games, keep your cards private, so everyone has information to contribute to play discussions.

  • Experienced groups may decide to play with open hands, if desired, in these games.

Players may freely examine either discard pile at any time

  • 3
    I always play face up. It make the game more of a US v.s. the viruses game and not a competition. We come up with a plan of action, then use our turns to execute that action. I could not even think of how the game would work if we all tried to hide our cards. If we want more difficulty then we add more Epidemic cards. 6 Epidemics is very hard to win against, even with every one working on the same goals.
    – coteyr
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 21:23
  • 1
    I also usually play face up, but when playing with a group consisting of some experienced players and some who are new to the game I prefer playing with hidden cards (showing them when they are drawn, but only talking about them later). In my experience this encourages the new players to take part in discussions rather than just believing the more experienced players.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 7:35
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    The problem we've sometimes found with face up is that an assertive player can end up trying to plan everybody else's go for them, and passive players can feel like they have nothing to contribute. For us it's not a question of having different goals, but of allowing everybody to feel they are contributing towards the team plan.
    – AGB
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 10:49
  • @AlanBuchanan in cooperative games this is sometimes called “quarterbacking”. Some players feel that they are really helping, others are just oppressive. Face-down hands can help to mitigate this but the players themselves need to work to keep communication flowing and prevent one player from just telling everyone what to do. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 12:09
  • The problem with quarterbacking isn't fully solved by hiding your hand as players can still ask what you have in your hand at any time and unless you don't answer them they will still have full knowledge.
    – Joe W
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 21:40

Pandemic Legacy should always be played with cards face up. There are mechanical reasons for playing this way.

In Season 1, there will be effects that trigger as soon as a particular card enters someone's hand. Playing face up all the time makes sure that people don't forget these triggers (even unintentionally).

Season 1 Rules:

in Pandemic Legacy, players keep their hands faceup at all times

Season 2 rules:

Players keep their hands face up at all times.

Normal Pandemic is generally played with hands face down, but you can choose to play with hands face up if you prefer. The reason for face down is usually to prevent one player from having all the information and trying to analyze everyone's turns and tell them what to do. You can choose to share whatever information you want, but you aren't required to do so.

  • What are those mechanical reasons?
    – mmathis
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 13:08
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    I only know season 1 so far, but I added a spoiler with a bit more information about that one.
    – bwarner
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 13:14
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    There are two or three other pandemic variants, Iberia, cthulhu, maybe more that I don't remember. I believe all of these versions stipulate open hands.
    – Matt
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 15:19

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