I have had French Imperial Guard in my collection right from the start. The very first figures I bought back in 1970 were a mixture of French Guard Grenadier, Scots Greys and British Royal Horse Artillery. All were Hinton Hunt 20mm figures. All were bought because of their attractive uniforms. This was long before the countless internet forums and web pages with endless information about orders of battle, uniform details and how to organise your wargame army. It would be a year or more before I learned that for every guard grenadier you should have about 1,000 line infantry!
Over the years my French Imperial Guard has been replaced as older figures were replaced by new ones. 20mm Hinton Hunt was replaced by 20mm Miniature Figurines. They were replaced by 25mm Miniature Figurines, then 28mm Connoisseur and finally Front Rank.
When I duplicated my 25mm collection with 15mm they included Miniature Figurines Imperial Guard. They in turn were replaced by 18mm AB Figures.
Later still a 6mm Heroics and Ros army was added to the collection, and of course they included French Imperial Guard
Despite this mass of French Guard is various scales and by so many manufacturers, they rarely made an appearance on the wargame table.
Most of my wargames over the past 20 years have been produced by one campaign or another. Although the French Old Guard would be included in the order of battle, I can’t remember actually using them on the table. Or if I did they must have remained in reserve.
They were used each time I set up a wargame based on Waterloo. Perhaps four or five in different scales over the years. But again I do not remember them playing a critical role.
For the past five years my PBEM campaign has produced most of my wargames. The Imperial Guard have been part of the order of battle, but often commanded by me in my joint role of umpire and both CinC. They have never featured in a battle/wargame.
Recently I decided to include both the Old and Young Guard in the armies commanded by the PBEM players. First French Army would have the Old Guard. Second, Third and Fourth French Armies would have a corps of Young Guard. This would ensure that my attractive guardsmen would at last feature in the many wargames provided by the campaign.
So I was delighted that in my latest wargame, the battle of Roermond, the French Old Guard at last got the opportunity to show what they could do.
Under my rules there are no supermen. The Imperial Guard have slightly better morale, but slightly worse skirmish and firing ability. This gave them an advantage, or disadvantage, of just 1 or 2 on each dice throw.
They were tasked to attack the 1st Prussian corps. To do so they had to advance through Prussian canister. Then they had to skirmish, and finally charge home against massed musket fire.
The supporting Guard Artillery pounded the Prussian lines. The Guard Chasseurs charged and broke the Prussian hussars, and in turn were routed by the nearby Prussian squares. Finally the Guard Infantry closed with the Prussian line. The Old Guard Grenadier brigade broke and routed. But the 2nd and 3rd brigades pressed on and finally broke the Prussian line.
For once the “little tin men” performed exactly as you would expect them to. Far too often dice would control the outcome. It would either be a walk over, or they would break and run with 10% or 20% casualties. But this time they slugged it out, absorbed heavy casualties and finally won the day.
It was a most satisfying wargame, and one which proved the wisdom of including the “elite of the elite” on the wargames table on a regular basis.
You can read the full battle report on the Campaign Diary Blog here