Comparison of The Longest Day and The Battle for Normandy

This was written in response to a request by someone on BGG for a comparison between the two mothers of the Normandy Campaign games. I played The Longest Day from 1988 to about 1994 off and on throughout those years. We played multiplayer campaigns. We would play until around the 1st or 2nd week of July then reset. I also played TLD off and on solo over the years. It was, until The Battle for Normandy, my favorite wargame of all time. I purchased The Battle for Normandy approximately 2 years ago. Spent a considerable amount of time playing it solo on my table, playing it solo on vassal, dabbling with it at conventions and playing a full campaign ftf on Vassal/Skype. It is, in my opinion, the best game on The Normandy Campaign ever and currently my favorite war game.

Unit scale is very similar. However TLD breaks certain units down where TBfN leaves them at battalion level. Mostly it involves Flak and Artillery formations. TLD also has more minor formations like garrisons and such. 

Map scale for TLD is 2187 yards to the hex. TBfN is 1250 yards to the hex. 

ZOC: TBfN has a hard ZOC. TLD has no zocs other than units on hills and in forts.

SUPPLY: TLD supply is handled with supply units, for both sides, that have to be landed/entered on the map for both sides and assigned to HQ’s. HQ’s then spend supply for combat. Units have to trace supply to a supplied HQ’s of their formation/organization to be in supply for movement and combat. TBfN abstracts supply in form of points on a track. Supply is spent for combat only (including bombardment) and only the Allies have supply. Supply for movement is a trace to a HQ of the units formation/organization, where the HQ can also track a supply line to higher HQ which can trace off map/to beachhead.

AIR and NAVAL: Air in TLD is handled with air counters to place for interdiction or bombard. Carpet bombing is allowed also. Naval uses points for bombardment. Only Allies have air and naval bombardment. TBfN has air points that are assigned to different roles, including interdiction, combat support and bombardment. Germans have flak points to use against interdiction. Flak units adjacent or in the hex of combat support missions have opportunity to shoot down or abort support missions. TLD does not have German flak defense against air missions.

INVASION: Both games handle the invasion extremely well. Both use scatter diagrams for airborne invasion. I like the way TBfN handles it a little better, but both are very well done. The amphibious invasions are also both very cool. My one complaint against TLD is that the coastal guns shooting at the landing formations inflict a hit on every unit in the stack if they get a hit. Getting it usually boils down to rolling a 5 or 6 on 1d6. A lucky string of German rolls can flip entire stacks along a beach landing site. I like how TBfN breaks the invasion down to companies, implements drift on the first phase, and really gives it a tactical feel. One or two lucky rolls isn’t going to sink the invasion.

Combat is similar with divisional integrity requirements, combined arms effects and shifts for terrain and weather. Speaking of weather, it’s huge in both games, as it should be in any Normandy game. Both games have a mech move phase. Both games use a replacement system to rebuild units. TBfN uses silhouettes for mechanized units and NATO symbols for non-mech. TLD uses the German Army symbology for all the units in the game. It takes awhile to get used to the German symbols, but I know they really grew on our group that played this extensively back in the day.

Final Verdict. Well I own both games. I think TBfN replaced TLD as the best Normandy Campaign game ever. I love them both. Although I will keep TLD, I do wonder if it will ever see the table again. If you’re in the market and trying to pick one, go with TBfN for many, many reasons. In print, less cost, designer support, up to date graphics, easier rule set, less errata, smaller counter density. If you just want to own a classic of yesteryear then go ahead and buy TLD.Image


5 thoughts on “Comparison of The Longest Day and The Battle for Normandy

  1. Tom,

    I have both games unpunched and ready to go so I appreciate your comparison and review. But I have a few questions: How do the two compare for historical outcomes in large and small engagements? Which has the better set of scenarios? Have you played the TBfN expansion yet? Any thoughts on it? How do the OOBs compare?

    Thanks in Advance!

    • Historical outcomes: I think they both do a credible job historically in the early part of the campaign, but I’d give TBfN a slight edge. I’ve yet to see an early Allied breakout in TBfN and I have seen it more than once in TLD. Of course in those cases in TLD the units that broke out ended up being isolated and eliminated by the Germans. I think in both games as the game progresses the historical accuracy probably starts to wane. Although, another edge to TBfN is that artillery isn’t as dominant. In later stages of TLD the Allies just obliterate the German lines with the stacks and stacks of Corps artillery they have. In TBfN the Allied ground forces still have to do the dirty work. I know I mentioned in some of my AAR’s on BGG for TBfN how the game’s mandatory combat rule makes controlling certain locations very important. Small battles occur over several days in a struggle to control areas on the map that are covering terrain and prevent a side from being in the position of attacking or backing up a hex row.

      I would say the scenarios are standard fare for any Normandy Campaign game. Cherbourg, Omaha, Cobra, Goodwood, etc. I have the expansion and have played some on Vassal, did a wee bit of playtesting for Dan Holte, but not much. What I really like about the expansion is the addition of breakdown units for special type units beyond just armor and infantry. So now anti-tank gun units and mechanized infantry have their own breakdown units, which will really, really benefit the German player. The expansion maps make a huge game even more huge. I think I would play with the standard maps until Cherbourg falls then add the expansion maps.

      I am by no means an OOB expert. I think that both games though do an excellent job with the OOB’s. As mentioned above they are very similar, unit scale identical, except for flak and artillery units. I think the different formations; airborne and armor divisions especially perform like they did. Neither game uses morale or elite status for divisions which would probably add some significance to how some divisions perform. TBfN has an optional rule that can be used to apply divisional status, but it just adds complexity and fiddly-ness. Without special rules for it though divisions like 12SS, Pz Lehr, 1st ID and 101st Abn still make their marks in the game.

  2. Enquiring minds ask: Thank you for the comparisons, was wondering if you have any thoughts on SPI’s Atlantic Wall and DG’s Operation Cobra versus the two aforementioned games. What about GMT’s June 6th, Rhino Game’s Decision in France, and 3W’s To The Far Shore? Know some of the games deal only with Normandy post-invasion, but just thought I’d inquire.

  3. Very interesting comments by all. This is my first post here. I have set up TLD probably about a hundred times and played through the first few weeks many times. While I agree that the first turn of invasion is very dicey for the Allies in TLD, it makes it more of a “game” than a “simulation” in that the German player has a chance to win early on and the Allied player cannot take initial success, or even a game worth playing out, for granted. It is very nerve racking to play that turn from the Allied seat! Sometime I will probably invest in TBfN but for the time being TLD remains my favorite game of all time. The components, I would point out, have lasted extremely well under heavy re-playing, especially the maps, which are mounted. A few questions: Does TBfN include the 319th Infanterie for the German to optionally commit to Cherbourg or other defense? And what about railroads; are they active in TBfN? Finally, my first glance at the above photo seems to suggest that TLD has more roads on the map and more named locations. But it is hard to tell for sure. Thanks for the contrast/comparison writings.

  4. I can’t really comment on any of those as I haven’t played them. Maybe others in the class can comment on them. I have played Normandy ’44, which is an excellent game, but a completely different scale. I have also dabbled with Breakout Normandy, but didn’t care for that system. Honestly, before Normandy ’44 and The Battle for Normandy, I pretty much would just play TLD when playing this campaign.

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