Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Guard Factor

 Rout of the French Old Guard

One of the first figures I ever bought was a metal French Imperial Guard infantryman.   That was more than 45 years ago, but I can still remember the excitement of picking him out of the wooden tray in the Hinton Hunt shop in some London arcade.

That was before I discovered that for every guardsman there should be about 1,000 line infantry.   I never reached that proportion, but I did buy at lot more line infantry.   That did not stop me increasing my Imperial Guard element.  But the proportion gradually reduced and is now about 1 to 10.

Each time I replaced one manufacturer by another, I also replaced my Imperial Guard.   Hinton Hunt replaced by Minifigs.  They in turn were replaced by Connoisseur and finally Front Rank.  

When 15mm were added to my collection the Imperial Guard were amongst the Minfigs army.   And when they were replaced by AB, part of the purchase included the Imperial Guard.

I even collected a 6mm Heroics and Ros army.   And of course that also included the Imperial Guard

But throughout the 40 odd years my French guardsmen spent most of their life gathering dust on the shelf.   They very rarely made an appearance on the wargames table.  And when they did it was difficult to find a role for them.

The correct role is in reserve.   But I have found that reserves play little part in wargames.   They should, but they don’t.  

When I started my latest campaign I was determined to find a role for them at last.

There are six French armies in the campaign.   Each has four corps.  

In my collection of figures there is one Old Guard corps and one Young Guard corps.
In the campaign the Old Guard forms part of the First French Army.   The Young Guard forms one corps in the other three Armies in France.   They are not included in the two in the Pyrenees.

There are no supermen in my wargame armies.   Both Old and Young guard are slightly better than a line corps, but only slightly.   Their corps commander is Gifted, rather than Average or Poor.  But that is the full extent of their superiority

So I was quite pleased when the Old Guard made a rare appearance on our table last week.   They had the role of attacking a large town, held by a Prussian corps.   The Prussians were the best of the four corps in their army, and were well suited to the task.   In addition they held a strong defensive position, and the French had a very restricted approach area.

And, as luck would have it, the French were not favoured by the dice.

The result was a French defeat.

I must confess that I was quite pleased, as this seemed to confirm that I had got the balance about right between elite and average troops.   Had the dice been a little more generous the French would have won. 

I wonder how many other wargamers get to use their attractive guardsmen.   And more important how they perform when they are placed on the table.


Ray Rousell said...

There's just that something about the French Guard!

thistlebarrow said...

True, there can't be many Napoleonic wargame armies without at least one French Old Guard unit

Sun of York said...

I have two second hand Old Guard units in 15mm Essex, Some guys in blue greatcoats that double as Young Guard (also Essex) and some Middle Guard Old Glory figures that are still in their undercoat.

Interesting question how often they get used. Close to never for the Old Guard and frequently for the blue greatcoats, but rarely as guard. Not sure why that is. I normally play historical games and while the Guard is often featured, it hasn't been my figures taking the field. That might change.

James Fisher, FINS said...

Doing games based on the battles of the bicentennial anniversary years has seen the guard come out more often, although, interestingly, the game with the greatest involvement to date was our re-fight of Eylau.
In the rules that we use the Guard are rated the same as other nation's guards, one better than grenadiers and two better than line. At Eylau they beat off Russian grenadiers, but it was by no means a certainty!