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I have recently started playing pandemic, and was overwhelmed by the amount of rules.

Is there a reduced set of rules, easier to learn and remember but still fun, that can be used by beginners until they get used to the game?

EDIT: My goal is not to make the game easier to win - it is to make the game easier to learn how to play. Instead of learning all rules at once, the team can learn the rules one by one. For example, suppose there are 10 rules (just an arbitrary number). Then instead of remembering all these rules at once, we can start with 5 rules, then add a new rule each play, until we remember and play by all rules.

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    What about the rules made it overwhelming? You might try some simpler games to get used to gaming in general before working up to some more complicated ones. – Joe W Jun 20 at 22:26
  • Agreed with Joe that it's probably easier to start with a simpler game that is fun than to simplify this one while keeping it fun, but if you want to try then here are some suggestions: completely remove event cards and role cards from the game, and then since both of those edits make the game harder as well as simpler, remove one extra epidemic card to make things easier. You could also remove the "Build a Research Station" action from the game, and then give yourself one or two extra free research stations at the beginning of the game to compensate. (I haven't actually tried any of this) – Benjamin Cosman Jun 21 at 0:30
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    Also experiment with different ways of learning the rules if you aren't already - reading rulebook, watching rules video, watching playthrough. – Benjamin Cosman Jun 21 at 0:33
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    Also note that there's a game called "Forbidden Island" which is basically just Pandemic but simpler - if you have reason to believe that Pandemic is your style, then maybe check this one out. – Benjamin Cosman Jun 21 at 0:36
  • @BenjaminCosman this sounds very interesting, I will try this. Thanks! – Erel Segal-Halevi Jun 21 at 11:59
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I don't believe simplified rules exist. For the reference here are the full rules.

This is how we approached it:

First, follow the steps on page 2-3 to setup. Then look at the inset at the bottom right corner of page 3 which says:

Each player turn is divided into 3 parts:

  1. Do 4 actions.
  2. Draw 2 Player cards.
  3. Infect cities.

After a player is done infecting cities, the player on their left goes next. Your hand can have City and Event cards in it. City cards are used in some actions and Event cards can be played at any time.

So what we find useful, is to follow these 3 parts in sequence. To perform part 2, follow page 6 "Draw Cards". For part 3 follow page 6 "Infections".

Part 1, actions is a bit trickier, because a player needs to be familiar with the actions available to them to make choices. All the actions are described on page 4, with an example on page 5.

In my opinion, good understanding of page 4 by all players, is the most important thing that makes the game following more smoothly, because this is where most variations are. For parts 2 and 3 you can simply follow the script in the rule book - there is not much choice there, and after enough times you'll memorise it and have no problems with it.

By studying page 4 on the other hand, you can understand what options are available to you and make those choices that matter.

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Pandemic is indeed a complex game. There is a built-in dial to tune the difficulty though, and that is how many Epidemic cards you add to the Player deck at the start of the game. Rather than trying to change the rules (and likely disrupt the balance), make the game easier - during your first game (or two or three), start with 2 Epidemic cards (or even 1). That should allow you to get a grasp of the rules while still providing a little bit of a challenge. For Pandemic specifically, making the game easier actually makes it a little less complex as you are less likely to encounter some game mechanics.

Fewer Epidemics means you're less likely to cause outbreaks and chain reactions, so don't read about those unless necessary - or just don't even use that mechanic.

Make sure to use the action reference cards, and take things slowly. This is a cooperative game, so keep your cards face-up and make sure to read each card aloud. There is no time limit and there is no rush. The first few games I played took 2 or 3 hours IIRC - not the 45 minutes stated on the box. And as mentioned in the comments, read the rulebook together as a group, watch videos on playthroughs and/or the rules. The rules are available online, so share them (and video links) to your group before game night so players can read through them ahead of time.

I've also found that 3 players is a good group size (2 players makes it hard to contain all the diseases, and 4 means too few turns per player).

All that said, one simple house rule to make things a bit easier is to allow each player to choose their role explicitly, rather than dealing them out randomly. For beginners, I'd suggest one player be the Medic or Quarantine Specialist and one player be the Researcher or Scientist. The first makes the diseases and outbreaks easier to manage and the second makes collecting the cards necessary for a cure a bit easier.

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  • My problem is not the difficulty of winning the game (I don't mind losing the first few games), the problem is remembering all the different rules. In other words, I do not want to make the game easier to win - I want to make it simpler to play. It is true that we can read the book aloud during play, but having a simpler set of rules can provide a better balance between reading and playing: instead of learning all the rules at once, one can learn a new rule each time. – Erel Segal-Halevi Jun 21 at 11:51
  • @ErelSegal-Halevi in this case, making the game easier also makes it a little simpler. Fewer Epidemic cards means you'll probably encounter fewer game mechanics during the game, meaning you don't need to worry about those rules. I'll edit my answer to explain more – mmathis Jun 21 at 21:08

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