Wednesday, September 7, 2016

When are Guards not Guards?

Oh no! minus 3 on morale we are under attack from REAL Guards!


The dreaded 'G' word is the cause of many an animated disagreement amongst the wargaming fraternity. It is interesting to consider why it creates such polarization of opinion. It is most likely to be a shortened version of body guard and probably dates back to ancient times with units such as the Praetorian Guard who protected important Roman personages.

I will be hunted down like a dog for even thinking these MAYnot be real Guards!

Certainly elite units with excellent fighting capabilities have throughout the ages carried in their title the word Guard. Unfortunately wargamers appear to have developed a somewhat Pavlovian reaction to it and on its appearance automatically assume that troops bearing it should receive multitudinous bonuses for shooting, fighting and morale.

Garde Suisses? What plusses should we give 'em?

It is in my opinion a relative and not an absolute term. Within an army units carrying the title were probably better equipped, may have been better trained and better led but that assessment was in comparison to the other units in their own army. That Guards in different armies should be assumed to be of the same superior quality is a quantum leap assumption and does not stand up to any detailed scrutiny.


I have little doubt about this unit's classification!

As an example Napoleon's Garde Imperiale had Young, Middle and Old Guard units. Gamers seem to have minimal resistance to treating these differently. Try however to suggest that the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Foot Guards (Coldstream) are not 'Guard' and you'll have a fight on your hands!

Karolinian Swedish Life Guard of Foot... is this a safe bet?


This piece is concerned only with the span 1680 - 1720. During this period many units with the title Guard existed - In France the Maison du Roi (six battalions of Gardes Francaises and four of Gardes Suisses) plus the mounted Grenadiers, Musketeers, Gensdarmes and Chevauleger. In England the King's Foot Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Foot Guards and mounted Life Guards. The Dutch had the Gard te Voet, Gard te Paard, Gard Dragonders and Friesland Guards, the Danes the Garden til Fods and Livgard til Hest, the Swedes the Livgard of both Horse and Foot plus the Drabant Corps, the Russians had the Preobranzhenskoi and Semenovskoi Guards - seven battalions in total, the Saxon-Polish Kingdom had both Saxon and Polish Foot Guards and so the list goes on.

Now then, is a Saxon less Guard like than a Swede? Saxon Gardes - same factors??


The question is - should all of these units be of equal status on the wargames table and without xenophobia becoming an unpalatable obstacle, how do we justify such an assessment or a differentiation?


1st Foot Guards - same quality as the Dutch and French? Who decides?

Many Guard units were kept as a reserve or performed ceremonial duties.  Many line units will have accrued far greater campaign experience. Unlike the Napoleonic period where Guards were often battlefield reserve troops the late 17th century saw Guard units assume hazardous frontline duties.

Guard is in their title so, does it follow they get the bonuses? Who decides?


My assertion is that with one or two exceptions the title Guard should not automatically confer the most superior modifiers for shooting, combat and morale. At most, it may provide a morale bonus based on self perception and conceit rather than proven battlefield performance.

Now then, shall we just call them Veteran as they are only dragoons?


In new material which we will publish over the coming months our recommendation is that only the Dutch Foot Guards on the Williamite/Grand Alliance side carry all the associated advantages relating to Guard. On the French side there is a strong case for many of the Maison du Roi units (but not necessarily all) to receive the upgrades. For some, our suggestion that all other units carrying the title in the western theatres should not receive the full panoply of upgrades may be difficult to accept and so the easy option is to ignore it and carry on.

What? you want these to be Guards too?

As a parting shot, I offer as calibration the two battalion regiment of Irish Foot Guards serving James II in Ireland between 1688 and 1691. This unit would first have deployed in anger before the walls of Derry in 1689. It had, up to that point never seen action in a major battle and possibly done nothing more than police Dublin. Admittedly it was lined up beside and was facing units who themselves had never been in action before either... is it worthy of lots of plusses for shooting, fighting and morale?

Oh! and these as well? Are they handing the label out to everyone then?

If your answer is.. of course not, then follow your own logic stream and apply it to.... (insert name of your pet Guard regiment).


25 comments:

  1. Saxon Guards ..in GNW.. are only Guards by Name...not even Elite IMHO..The only unit of that area which I would consider Guards are the Garde du Corps Cavalry! Eventually the Chevalier Guard too.

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  2. Oh Barry,
    I think you have opened up Pandora's box, in the same way that questions about tricorns and pike.putting my soft hat into the ring I think you have nailed the point especially regarding the 1680's to the 1720's. With the influx of raw recruits into the English army after the witch hunt for Catholics and the reverse in the Jacobite army, the overall experience level will have drastically reduced
    Mark S

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  3. Well, I've never been one to shy away from the odd controversy Mark!
    I am hoping to smoke out a few prejudices haha!

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  4. Are the Swedish guards still guards?

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  5. Personally I think if you are refighting a historical battle then see how well these troops performed and rate them accordingly taking into account factors that may have affected them to make them perform as they did.

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  6. "done nothing more than police Dublin." As though that's a drink of water!

    Seriously though when your commanding officer with his half pike runs his opposite number through and then you stand up to troops who fire three shots to your one you might be a bit special.

    In general though a good point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Challenging lazy thinking by wargamers is a bit of a mission for me (not suggesting that applies to you of course! It is a general point). It is interesting to see the way the parallel thread I started on tmp has developed though. Infer what you will.

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  7. An excellent post and one well deserving consideration. There are units in the WSS that were called "Guard" but were unable to carry that designation with the same eclarity as other nations. I'd also agree with your assessment that such elite units saw more action than their equivalents in the Napoleonic wars. Need to go away and think this through before upsetting too many of many fellow players.

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  8. Like Paul above I am now in "thoughtful mode" as you raise some interesting points that I'm sure many of us have considered in the past then filled away in the back of our minds as too hard :-/

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  9. I think that the problem lies herein:
    'Guard' is a relative term contingent on the comparison it draws. Many wargamers tend to think in absolutes. This is not an inevitable consequence of the hobby, rather a product of some of the people it attracts.

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  10. Excellent post, Barry! I think you're spot on with the term "Guard" in the late seventeenth century - it is very relative, and all part of the crazy fun of that period. Speaking personally, I'd make a strong case for the Garde Francais to be on the "guards" list - but in the end, it doesn't really matter. In a campaign, and on the tabletop, you can (and probably have had) had endless fun calling units "guards", describing the finery of the uniforms and pedigree of their officers, and watch the gleam in the players' eyes as they lead the Flemish Guards of the Governor of the Spanish Netherlands forward into a firestorm they are singularly ill-equipped to deal with. "Well, they LOOKED like they were the business....". ;)

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  11. I do like your suggestion of giving some "Guard" units a morale bonus for their self-belief on carrying the King's Colours or just for having the special guard epaulettes....but I do agree that Elite status should be much rarer in armies than just applying the label to all Guards...Can't wait to see the upcoming publications :)

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  12. Well, we are pretty much done with the rules and the play test feedback has pointed to us being on the right lines with all of the changes which is very encouraging. Clarence and I are working on photos and layout now. Nice to know that you are looking forward to it, so are we!

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    Replies
    1. I am definitely waiting impatiently for the 3rd edition of BLB....very impatiently! Thanks for your hard work Barry, you and Clarence are true inspirations! :)

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  13. Well, allegedly there was a Guards Battalion (No names no pack drill boyo) that was considered to be the least effective infantry unit on that campaign. Brave but seriously unfit in a number of ways...

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  14. That campaign being Operation Corporate...

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    Replies
    1. well, that looks like a 50-50 ball...... with the oval object sitting in the RED half of the field :)

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  15. Bah, Hilton, everyone seems to agree with you... I thought you were controversial. Go back to taking shots at Marlborough...

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  16. Maybe all the closet +3ers are keeping their heads down Clarence. I once remember playing in a large Napoleonic game and a player argued that the Old Guard should not be forced to rout under any circumstances (he was in charge of them obviously). He was adamant that is should not be permitted under any conditions or casualty level. Clearly they were Les Cyborgs de la Garde

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  17. So you met George Jeffreys then?
    That was his attitude when we were play testing his variable bounds set of rules way back in the late 70's at the Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh. If a situation ever arose where a Guard unit broke he would immediately rewrite the rule and play the move again. But it was good training for gaming with you 8-)

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  18. I don't re write the rules, you do!
    Anyway, you know the chap in question. It wasn't Hanging Judge Jeffries it was a property magnate with political connections who has an interest in insurance :) (like underwriting fires at tram depots :) :)

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  19. احصل على افضل تامين لممتلكاتك ومؤسساتك العامة والخاصة مع اكبر شركة حراسة امنية واقوى افراد امن فقط تواصل معنا الان
    http://www.guards-security.com/

    ReplyDelete

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