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.
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.