By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Peter the Great founded the precursor of the Russian Imperial Guard in 1682, a small group of young men who practiced Western-style military drill and tactics. By 1687 they had become formally organized into two infantry regiments, and when they marched to war against the Turks in 1695 they were stylized as the “Imperial Guard.”
From that time until the First World War, the Imperial Guard fought in all of Russia’s major wars, usually very well, sometimes not so well. While in other countries the Imperial or Royal Guard was usually noted for fanatical loyalty to the regime, in Russia this was not always true. Use of Guardsmen to stage palace coups no doubt undermined the relationship between throne and Guard, but the Guard recruited educated young men from the nobility and gentry. By the early 19th Century, many of these soldiers and junior officers came to hold liberal views at odds with the harsh conservatism of their masters. Guardsmen mutinied in 1820 over their demands for government liberalization, and in 1906 a Guard battalion once again mutinied for pretty much the same thing.
The Guard went to war in 1914 as a small army unto itself: three infantry divisions, a rifle brigade, two cavalry divisions, three artillery brigades and two battalions of Guard sailors trained as infantry. They saw a great deal of action, finally uniting (along with some line units) in a Guards Army. Back home in Petrograd, the depot battalions of the Guard regiments refused to fire on unarmed demonstrators in 1917, helping spark the February Revolution. By the spring of 1918, all of the Guards units had been disbanded. Several were re-formed in 2013 by Vladimir Putin.
Russian Imperial Guard units appear in our Infantry Attacks: August 1914 and in Infantry Attacks: Fall of Empires. They’re usually very high-morale troops, well-led, and amply supplied with artillery.
Ourspecial Imperial Guard set of pieces for our Infantry Attacks games depicts the Guard in a special livery based on the insignia of the Semenovksy Guards Regiment. You can use them with either game. You don’t have to have them – both games come with plenty of regular Russian pieces – but if you’re a real wargamer, you know you have to have these.
There are 88 scorchless, sootless laser-cut pieces in the set. You get more than enough pieces for every appearance of Russian Guards in both games, and enough to field a full division plus supporting units should you wish to create your own massive multi-player scenarios. You can’t buy it anywhere. It's a special sales incentive for Gold Club members who order our new Infantry Attacks games.
Click here to join the Gold Club!
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.