Combat Mission vs Steel Division: Normandy

Combat Mission and Steel Division: Normandy both provide an orthographic view over a WWII tactical battleground. This review compares various aspects of both games.

Disclaimer: As of the writing of this article, Steel Division is still in Beta.


Squad Level Action

I feel more in touch with the squads when playing Combat Mission, and have much more empathy for my squads when they’re under fire. I try very hard not to squander them. Steel Division feels more like a numbers game and that I’ll be able to replace squads as my available refresh points allows.

Winner: Combat Mission.


Play by Mail (turn based gameplay)

Combat Mission has this ability whereas Steel Division doesn’t. Combat Mission’s PBEM capability is made easier with the use of CM Helper.

Winner: Combat Mission.


RTS Game Speed

Combat Mission provides both RTS as well as turn based gameplay. In Steel Division, I can slow the game down to my level of play, so that it doesn’t have to be a click-fest. Although I appreciate both turn and RTS in Combat Mission, it would be nice to be able to adjust the RTS speed.

Winner: Steel Division.


Online Matchmaker

Steel Division has one, whereas Combat Mission players have to use a 3rd party VPN client, such as LogMein in order to play live H2H. The only advantage of the Combat Mission method is that we don’t have to rely on Battlefront’s servers to be online for those games.

Winner: Steel Division.



The only scenarios available in Steel Division are (or will most likely be) in the campaign. Steel Division also supports meeting engagement style skirmishes only. Combat Mission, on the other hand provides a wide range of scenarios as well as Campaigns and various types of skirmishes, such as attack, defend and meeting engagement.

Winner: Combat Mission by a mile.


Scenario & Map Creation by Users

Combat Mission provides an excellent scenario editor as well as a map builder. With Combat Mission, you can re-create a wide variety of WWI based actions. None of this is available with Steel Division.

Winner: Combat Mission by a mile.


Difficulty Settings (vs AI)

Steel Division has a difficulty setting, whereas Combat Mission has a ‘Force Adjustment’ setting, but only with Quick Battles (aka skirmishes), and not for scenarios. There is a skill setting in Combat Mission, but you can easily lose scenarios even on the Basic Training setting.

Winner: Steel Division.



I’ve found that I can sit down and play Steel Division for a longer continuous period than with Combat Mission. With Combat Mission, I have to think and carefully plan each turn, whereas Steel Division allows me to slow down the game while allowing continuous gameplay.

Winner: Steel Division (at least in my books).


Terrain and Effects

In the earlier versions of Combat Mission, such as Beyond Barbarosa, I really felt like I was protected by the terrain, because when I moved a unit, the tool tip indicated what the target terrain actually was. I understand that the modelling in Combat Mission is quite complex, but I just don’t get quite the same level of comfort without some sort of visual feedback. In Steel Division, the shield for the units changes to yellow or green, so we do get some idea as to how protected the unit is.

As for hills and valleys, Combat Mission offers a wide variety, whereas the world appears to be flat in Steel Division.

The maps in Steel Division are beautifully handcrafted, and look much better than Combat Mission, however the Map Editor in Combat Mission allows designers to create an infinite variety of terrain, which I’ll take any day of the week.

Winner: Combat Mission (thanks to the map editor).


Navigating Around the Screen

Edge of screen: When I hit the ‘back wall’ in Combat Mission, I can’t slide along that wall, I have to move forward and then continue scrolling. Steel Division allows you to slide along the back wall, which is MUCH more preferable.

Hint: rotate the map and then try sliding along the ‘back wall’.

Rotating viewpoint: Steel Division allows you to rotate the screen with the middle mouse button (and doesn’t appear to be configurable). I prefer using the right mouse button as in Combat Mission.

Changing pitch: Combat Mission allows you to change pitch, again with the right mouse button, while Steel Division doesn’t allow you to adjust pitch.

Winner: Combat Mission by a hair.



To me, the gold standard for map zoom is Supreme Commander. It’s just excellent to zoom in/out all across the battlefield. On the other end of the spectrum lies Company of Heroes, where you can barely see beyond your headlights. Both Combat Mission and Steel Division handle zooming seamlessly. Steel Division has even improved on the zoom over its predecessor, Wargame: Red Dragon.

Winner: Draw.


Unit Movement

Combat Mission provides a wide range of options when moving units. For infantry alone, there’s Move, Quick, Fast, Hunt, Slow and Assault. Both games do, however support multiple waypoints.

Winner: Combat Mission.


Map Edges

The map edges in Combat Mission continue to look like something from 10+ years ago. Your map is suspended in mid-air, while the mountains in the background were rendedered in 256 colour VGA graphics. They’re absolutely horrible. The map edges in Steel Division look pretty good.

Winner: Steel Division hands down.


Target Audience

As Captain Kirk once said, “Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young, Doctor”. I feel the same can be said for Steel Division. Whereas Combat Mission probably appeals more to the traditional Avalon Hill game players, Steel Division is probably more appropriate for younger players.

Winner: Depends on your gameplay.


So Much More

There’s so many other things I could compare, such as the TO&E and detailed gameplay that I could go on for pages. Needless to say, both games should provide the player with a much better entertainment value than going to the stadium to watch your favourite professional sports team.


Final Verdict

If you’re looking for an excellent WWII style RTS, then Steel Division is an excellent choice. It also has several improvements over it’s predecessor, Wargame: Red Dragon.  If, however, you’d like to feel at one with WWII squad and company level tactics, and don’t mind a bit of interface quirkiness, then you should really give Combat Mission a go. . . or, as in my case, you gotta catch ‘em all.

Winner: Draw.

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