(All artwork property of Games Workshop, used without permission on a non-profit basis)
In this article, I’m going to be looking specifically at the Imperial Guard/Astra Militarum/whatever you prefer to call them. When coming up with a backstory for your IG regiment (assuming you are making your own homegrown regiment instead of using one of GW’s existing units, like the Cadians), obviously you will need to come up with fluff for things like the planet they come from and its society, the regiment’s structure and doctrine, the major characters, etc etc. One essential aspect that binds all of these factors together, however, and can help inform you when writing them, is the name of the regiment. The name is, in many ways, the label on the tin: the first thing that gives clues to whoever is reading your fluff what the army is about, what they do, what the character of the army is, etc, and in that regard will say a lot about your army.
One thing that I always found interesting about the Guard is their naming structure: while some armies have flashy, dramatic names for their subfactions (ie the various Space Marine chapters and Chaos legions, with names like “Salamanders” or “Night Lords” designed to inspire awe and/or fear), or names that just revolve around the name of a particular planet or family (ie T’au Septs, Eldar Craftworlds, Necron Dynasties), the Imperial Guard have a much more formalized, approach. A regiment’s name is usually the number of the regiment, followed by the name of the world they are from, and the particular name of their fighting force. Hence, you get names like the “12th Cadian Shock Troopers,” the “572nd Krieg Siege Regiment,” etc etc. When coming up with a name for your home-grown Imperial Guard army, it’s not enough to simply come up with a name for their homeworld and call it a day (although naming their planet is always a very important step): you may in fact need to come up with a formal name for the regiment itself. Hopefully, this article will help with that. And as you will hopefully see, the name of your regiment will do a lot to help you fill in the gaps of their background– what kind of world they come from, what their combat doctrine/culture is, etc.
Note: throughout this article I will be referencing actual regiments found on Lexicanum, and providing links where applicable. However, every once in a while I will throw up an example made up by me as well, which I will denote with an asterisk. (*)
-Heavy Infantry/Shock Troopers
Cadian Shock Troopers
–Elysian Drop Troopers
-Minervan Tank Legions
-Orn’s World Militia
-Sarpoy Mechanized Cavalry
The 41st millennium is a universe drenched in anachronistic antiquity, with futuristic technology juxtaposed at every turn with gothic aesthetics and culture. The Imperium is a setting that features spaceships that look like cathedrals, and knights jousting in giant robots, and fashion, architecure and decoration that ranges from the early twentieth century to medieval times. As such, it makes sense to indulge in that antiquity by using a suitably old, or even ancient name for your regiment. As long as there has been human history, there has been a history of warfare, and that history has produced a long list of military formations and roles across dozens of cultures (as any history buff or Total War aficionado will tell you). By the same token, the Imperium is a huge place with a huge variety of cultures, many of which, conveniently enough, are similar to those of ancient Earth (hence why you end up getting things like Space Vikings and Space Mongols). The Imperium is a huge place with seemingly limitless possibilities in terms of cultural or social divergences, or historical allusions, so your imagination really is the limit.
One good source of inspiration is to simply open a history book (or appropriate Wikipedia article) and find a good name from there. The best part is, given the wide and diverse nature of the Astra Militarum, any era of history is open for you to explore, be it the Napoleonic Wars, the battles of ancient Greece and Rome, the various wars of feudal Japan– the history of the world is your oyster. Going down this route really is, not just a great opportunity to come up with a unique name for your regiment, but to get an idea of what kind of wonderfully weird, historically anachronistic planet they come from.
Some examples of historical units whose names you can steal…er, borrow…include:
-Shield-Maidens (if you want to go for an all-girl, Norse-themed regiment)
-Hussars (bonus points if they are Winged Hussars)
Notable examples in lore:
-Maccabean Janissaries/Byzant Janizars
Some military units have culture-specific names, which you can either use in their entirety, or alter somewhat to reflect how that culture has morphed in 40,000 across the stars:
–Knovian Gharkas (which appears to be based on the actual Gurkhas)
-Rudinav Kazaks (made up by me, but based on Russian Cossacks)
Sometimes, Imperial Guard regiments are raised from a particular strata of a world’s society. For instance, in some cases, only the elite and the upper-class of society are inducted into the Guard, and may see such an induction as a privilege of their status. Other times, though, the Guard regiments will be inducted from the lowest of the low, with the poor being drafted up en mass and sent off to foreign battlefields either to pay off their debts, to earn freedom (if their particular world practices slavery), to earn pardons (if they are prisoners, or come from a prison world) or simply because they are deemed expendable by their rulers. In either case, the social status of the regiment would be reflected on their models, with an “aristocratic” regiment getting fancy wargear, uniforms and colours, while a “lower class” regiment would be much more drab in appearance. Either way, in those instances the name of the regiment will indicate their social status.
Notable examples in lore include:
In other cases, social role need not necessarily be dictated by social class. Sometimes, if a particular industry is dominant on a planet (such as mining, or hunting, or logging, etc), then most if not all of a regiment’s Guardsmen may be recruited from said industry– so, for instance, you could have an entire regiment of miners, or huntsmen, or loggers, or fishermen, etc etc, which might be reflected in the name.
-Huntsmen of Araloth*
UNIFORM OR WEAPON
In some cases, you have Guard regiments literally named after their equipment, gear or weapons. This has a historical context, as “the So-And-So Rifles” was a common regiment name used throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and, given again the antiquarianism of the Imperium, would be an all too suitable name for a quickly-raised, easily deployed regiment of infantry. On the other hand, a regiment could have a distinctive uniform or weapons from which they borrow their name, be it the “RandomPlanet Silver Helms” or the “Nowhereland Axes”, etc. This could also be a great way to tie your regiment name to your army’s appearance, particularly if you have a distinctive paint scheme or modelling theme going on.
BECAUSE IT SOUNDS COOL
In many cases, your regiment’s name doesn’t have to owe anything to its battlefield role, or to military history, or to the society that it came from. Sometimes the simplest way to name your regiment is to answer the question, “What sounds cool?” And that is perfectly acceptable– if it is an awesome sounding name, then don’t worry if no real military unit, past or present, would use it– this is, after all, a big universe, with things that will stretch belief a lot more than an outlandish army name.
In some cases, a regiment will have a unique nickname. This nickname can be just about anything, and could come from a wide variety of sources: for instance, the regiment could have an animal that serves as their mascot/totem/etc (ie, “the 23rd Tallarn Desert Tigers”). In other instances, they may be named after a particularly illustrious commander (ie “Mercer’s Marauders”), or after a reputation they have, for better or for worse (ie, “the Ork-Slayers” if they have a high success rate against the Orks, or the “Leadfoots” if they use a lot of tanks…or are just very slow-moving). When in doubt, you could look to real-world examples as well, such as “the Screaming Eagles,” “the Princess Pats,” etc. For further reference, here are some links with examples of famous nicknames in the British,US and Canadian armed forces.
Examples in lore include:
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS:
In case you’re still struggling to come up with a good name, there is an easy, catch-all solution that can work for any Guard army, no matter what their background, or their composition or role, or homeworld, or any of the other factors we have covered. Ready?
That’s it. When in doubt, simply call you army “the [Homeworld] Guard.” It is short, simple, and to the point, but still looks good on paper. At the end of the day, it identifies the regiment as part of the Imperial Guard, as yet one part of the vast armies of the Imperium, and that alone still says quite a bit about your regiment.
Ultimately, though, at the end of the day, it’s your army, and you will have the final say in what to call your little plastic dudes/dudettes. Hopefully, though, this article will have given you some ideas on how to pick a good name for your force.
Some extra sources that may help you come up with a decent historically-based name for your Guard army:
Infinity– Infinity (you know, that other miniature wargame) has actually pulled out all the stops in coming up with interesting unit names for its various factions, including (or rather especially) unit names lifted not just from Western/European history, but also from Asian, African and Middle Eastern lore. Their store or wiki may be worth a browse just to pick up interesting names.