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).