As these things go, I’ve been playing a fair amount of 1825 in the past 6 months or so, and been enjoying it.
I bought 1825 Unit 3 mainly because a) I’m a completist and b) it helps cover the numbers well beyond 4 players (so if you were to play with 5 players, Unit 2 plus Unit 3 would be a good choice, where Units 1 and 2 don’t quite add up right it seems to me). But Unit 3 is also playable by two players.
18xx games are generally not very amenable to 2 player games. Especially on the 1830 side of the family (1830, 1856, 1870, 2038, 1835), the loot-n-dump is such an ongoing threat that you would simply never buy an opponent’s stock, which would take a whole interesting element out of the game. But if any of the 18xx games could support 2 players, 1825 would be it. Without the huge stock market risks, you’re free to make interesting investment choices.
I actually ended up liking it more than expected. The initial companies seem rather well balanced, so one player won’t be at an obvious geographical disadvantage. There are lots of interesting choices in the middle game, with 3 minor companies and one major company available to start in different areas of the board. This is the first time I’ve played 1825 in which the minor companies really made a difference, and I like how they work (you get to pick the par, unlike most companies which have a fixed par, and they are capitalized incrementally – getting cash as shares are sold – all of which makes for interesting cash-management decisions).
I used to play 1830-style games quite a lot in college, but rather rarely since. I’m happy that 1825 has helped me rediscover them. I like the blend of onboard tactical decisions and the investment decisions. I like how well-balanced all the mechanisms of the game are when compared to the classic 18xx games – investment is important, tactics are import, cash management is important, and you need to balance long-term strategy against immediate needs, but all the elements seem much more equally important than in 1830 or 1870, where so much seems to revolve around the simple acquisition of a permanent train. And, of course, the length is far more sensible.
It’s possible that 1825 will play out more rapidly than the meatier and more wide-open 1856, but until then, 1825 seems to have taken its slot as a favorite “heavy” euro.