Two of the biggest complaints about this game seem to be the disparity in difficulty based on the number of players and players feeling uninvolved when they get eliminated. Here's an idea to kill two birds with one stone.
Write six names on the roster sheet regardless of the number of players. They can be the names of the players, friends and family, or any other random name you like. (You can write fewer names if you want a more difficult game.)
Shuffle the supply deck and deal out 20 cards among all players. Some players may receive more cards than others -- this is fine.
All other setup is the same as described in the rules.
All other gameplay is the same as described in the rules with the exception of what happens when a player dies.
When a player dies, they select one of the names from the roster. They erase the name and write it on a tombstone on the back of the card as normal.
That player is NOT eliminated from play. They keep all of their Supply and Trail cards and continue to use them to keep the party moving down the trail.
The game ends if the last name is erased from the roster.
This should give all parties an equal chance of conquering the trail and keep everyone in the game and participating.
Darius I – 73rd Great Khan of the Illustrius Barbarian Horde, Duque San Lorenzo, Marquis de Feltón, Chief of the Zayante, Baron von Whaleyland, Lord Kennedy
Just tried most of this variant and it played very well (we won! but barely – two people left but both would have died if we had played one more round). We changed one thing, though: we played with 3 players and, instead of 20 cards, we only distributed 18 since 6 * 3 Supply Cards = 18. In the end, I think this actually made the game too easy still. Simply having 6 people to kill rather than 3 probably decreases the difficulty enough. Since none of us die, there is no exchange of cards upon death, so that makes the game a tad bit more difficult, but still easier overall. In the end, though, I think we all preferred this version a lot since we all stayed in until the end and cards that cause players to skip turns have more impact.
One other potential option: instead of giving players Supply Cards at all, the cards could be pooled together. That would probably make the game too easy, but it's just a thought. I mean, in the original game, each player didn't exactly have sole access to the supplies – they are the entire party's supplies.