Step-by-step instructions on how to play Pandemic Board Game. This wonderful cooperative card game is a race against the clock to save humanity. Pandemic is still today held up as the gold standard for cooperative games of characters working together to reach a goal. It absolutely has icon status and it deserves it. This is our definitive guide to how to play Pandemic.

FOR MORE: Pandemic Page | Pandemic Review | Games Like Pandemic | Buy Pandemic on Amazon


Do you have what it takes to save humanity? As skilled members of a disease-fighting team, you must keep four deadly diseases at bay while discovering their cures. You and your teammates will travel across the globe, treating infections while finding resources for cures. You must work together, using your individual strengths, to succeed. The clock is ticking as outbreaks and epidemics fuel the spreading plagues. Can you find all four cures in time? The fate of humanity is in your hands!

In how to play Pandemic, you and your fellow players are members of a disease control team. You must work together to develop cures and prevent disease outbreaks, before 4 deadly diseases (Blue, Yellow, Black, and Red) contaminate humanity.


Time Needed: Approximately 45 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play pandemic the popular cooperation race against the clock board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Place The Game Board
To kick off how to play Pandemic setup, you need to take the large gameboard and place it in the center of everyone.

2. SETUP | Put Out Tokens
There are colored translucent cubes to signify the four different viruses that will spread. There is also a slightly bigger set of white cubes that represent research stations. Put these in accessible piles in the playing area.

3. SETUP | Add Research Station to Atlanta
Put one of the white research station cubes you just put out onto the board in the city of “Atlanta”. The home to the center for disease control and prevention.

4. SETUP | Place Green Outbreak Marker
Find the plus map looking green icon. This is the “outbreak marker” which should be placed on the “0” space to the left of South America near the bottom corner of the game board.

5. SETUP | Put Out Cure Marker Tokens
At the bottom of the board there are four beaker spots that you fill with a colored token when that particular disease has been cured. Put these tokens under each spot for now.

6. SETUP | Put Out Infection Rate Token
Find the green circular token with a hazardous materials symbol on it, this is the infection rate token. At the top right of the board is the “infection track” place the infection rate token on the leftmost “2” spot.

7. SETUP | Put Out Infection Cards
Find the stack of cards with the green backs. These are the infection cards. Shuffle them into a face down stack on the “infection deck” spot in the top right corner of the board just above where you just put the infection rate token.

8. SETUP | Flip And Trigger First Infection Cards
Flip the top card up and put it on the “infection discard pile” to the right of it. This will reveal a city on the board and it will be in one of the four virus colors indicating which type it is. Take three of those color cubes that you put out earlier and place them in the shown city. Do this two more times for a total of 3 total flipped infection cards. Then you do this again (another three cards) but you only put 2 of that color cube in each flipped city. Finally do another 3, each with only 1 cube of that virus color (this means 9 cards flipped total).

9. SETUP | Shuffle And Distribute Role Cards
Some of the final remaining cards to be dealt with in the how to play Pandemic setup are the role cards. Each person is going to get one giving them a special ability and personality. Shuffle these up and randomly deal each player one.

10. SETUP | Move Pieces Into Atlanta
Your role will have a color piece in the top right corner of the card which indicates your player color. Take your corresponding token and put it in Atlanta to start.

11. SETUP | Distribute Player Deck Cards
The light blue cards with the plus on the back are the player cards. Set aside all the cards labeled as “epidemics”. Shuffle the rest and deal them out to players based on count (2 each for 4 player, 3 in a 3 player game and 4 each in a 2 player game.

12. SETUP | Lay Out Epidemics
Take the “epidemic” cards you just set aside from the player deck and lay them out. Based the difficulty level you want, you set out a certain amount. All 6 for the hardest, 5 in a standard game and 4 in a beginner introduction.

13. SETUP | Put Out Player Cards
Divide the remaining blue plus backed player cards into even piles to be placed above each of the epidemic cards. Shuffle the epidemic card into each pile and then place each stack one on top of each other. This assures an even distribution of epidemic cards throughout the deck. Put this deck on the designated space on the board. This is the final setup step in the how to play Pandemic guide before grueling gameplay.

14. SETUP | Determine First Player
Everyone looks at the player cards they were dealt. Whoever has the highest city population out of all their cities (it is listed on the card) is the starting player. This is the final setup step in the how to play Pandemic guide before grueling gameplay.

15. GAMEPLAY | Step 1 | Perform Actions
Here you will perform up to four different actions and there are eight different types (move, learn, destroy, trade, etc). These are all listed on the handy reference cards available. These can be repeated and they can be done in any order. See Actions below. It is important to note that each specific role ability, that everyone has one of, will affect some action of actions in some way.

16. GAMEPLAY | Step 2 | Drawing Cards
Draw 2 player cards from the top of the light blue plus deck. If you cannot draw what you need right here, you lose. (This doesn’t necessarily mean drain the deck, just that you cannot draw here). As you can see in the actions, these player cards help you do things like travel and cure diseases. You have you each step with a max of 7 cards.

17. GAMEPLAY | Step 2 | Drawing Cards | Epidemic
If one of the cards you draw here is one of the 4 – 6 epidemic cards in your deck, play it and do the three steps on it. (1) move the infection step marker one space to the right, (2) “infect” which means taking the card on the bottom of the infection deck and flipping it up into the infection discard pile. Add three cubes of that disease in that city. If eradicated you add none, if you would be above three cubes, only go to 3 but an outbreak happens. If you can’t place you lose. And (3) “intensify” which is where you shuffle the already discarded infection cards and put them back on top of the deck.

*Remove the epidemic card from the game and do not draw a replacement. It is possible to get two of these, then they would happen back to back.

18. GAMEPLAY | Events
One of the other types of player cards you may have in hand are yellow “event” cards. These can be played by any player at any time (except in the middle of something else resolving). These give useful things and do not take up any action points. When finished, put in the discard pile like anything else.

19. GAMEPLAY | Step 3 | Infections
Look at where the infection rate token is on the “infection rate” slider. It should be a 2, 3 or 4 depending on how many epidemic cards you have hit. Flip that many cards from the infection deck into the discard pile and “infect” those cities. Add 1 color cube token of that disease, if it goes over 3 an “outbreak” happens, if you can’t place you lose. If the disease was eradicated, nothing is placed.

20. GAMEPLAY | Outbreak Happens | Move Outbreak Marker
Move the green plus compass-like marker on the outbreak track down one space. If this marker ever reaches the final space, you lose.

21. GAMEPLAY | Outbreak Happens | Put Down Cubes in Surrounding
Wherever the outbreak took place, take a cube of that disease color and add one to every surrounding city (anywhere there is a direct connection).

22. GAMEPLAY | Outbreak Happens | Trigger Additional Outbreaks
When placing these cubes in surrounding cities, if there ever is an instance where one of these goes into a city that already has three cubes of that disease, an outbreak also happens there. Finish the original one you are doing and then do additional outbreaks one at a time until they have finished or you lose.

23. GAMEPLAY | Next Player Turn Repeat
After these three steps have been completed, the turn passes to the player to their left and they repeat it all over again. This continues until either a win or loses condition has been met.

24. LOSE | Outbreak Track Reaches Final Space
If the green marker makes it to the bottom of the track, you lose.

25. LOSE | You Are Unable To Place Disease Cubes
If there is ever a scenario in how to play Pandemic where you have to place a colored cube on to the board, and there are none left, you lose.

26. LOSE | You Cannot Draw Player Cards
In the drawing step, if any player in unable to draw the required two cards, you lose.

27. WINNING | Cure All Four Diseases
If you cannot outrace the three losing conditions and cure all four of the diseases, you and your team will have won the Game.



Drive / Ferry – Move to a city connected by a white line to the one you are in.

Direct Flight – Discard a City card to move to the city named on the card.

Charter Flight – Discard the City card that matches the city you are in to move to any city.

Shuttle Flight – Move from a city with a research station to

Build a Research Station – Discard the City card that matches the city you are in to place a research station there. Take the research station from the pile next to the board. If all 6 research stations have been built, take a research station from anywhere on the board.

Treat Disease – Remove 1 disease cube from the city you are in, placing it in the cube supply next to the board. If this disease color has been cured (see Discover a Cure below), remove all cubes of that color from the city you are in. If the last cube of a cured disease is removed from the board, this disease is eradicated. Flip its cure marker from its “vial” side to its “ ” side.

Share Knowledge – You can do this action in two ways: give the City card that matches the city you are in to another player, or take the City card that matches the city you are in from another player. The other player must also be in the city with you. Both of you need to agree to do this. If the player who gets the card now has more than 7 cards, that player must immediately discard a card or play an Event card (see Event Cards on page 7).

Discover a Cure – At any research station, discard 5 City cards of the same color from your hand to cure the disease of that color. Move the disease’s cure marker to its Cure Indicator. If no cubes of this color are on the board, this disease is now eradicated. Flip its cure marker from its “vial” side to its “ ” side


  • You do not draw a replacement card after drawing an Epidemic card.
  • You may Discover a Cure at any Research Station — the color of its city does not need to match the disease you are curing.
  • On your turn, you may take a card from another player, if you are both in the city that matches the card you are taking.
  • On your turn, you may take any City card from the Researcher (only), if you are both in the same city. Heavily missed in how to play Pandemic.
  • Your hand limit applies immediately after getting a card from another player.


  • 1x Game Board
  • 7x Role Cards
  • 7x Pawns
  • 59x Player Cards
  • 4x Reference Cards
  • 48x Infection Cards
  • 96x Disease Cubes (24 each 4 colors)
  • 4x Cure Markers
  • 6x Research Stations
  • 1x Infection Rate Marker
  • 1x Outbreak Marker


We hope you can now say you know how to play Pandemic. This cooperative race against the clock is an icon. It is still held up to today as the gold standard for games about different characters working together to complete a goal. The game is hard to beat but it is a not too intense ride along the way so you do not tend to mind. This game has been out for some time and still holds up today. This has been our step-by-step guide to how to play Pandemic.

Tagged in: