Mukk Barovian is a much better FC than I am. Of all the PL FCs he runs the most similar fleets to those I have the most experience leading, but he does so on a whole other level. My esteemed colleague on CZ and alliance-mate manages to do the kinds of fleets I did for Waffles at my peak but for PL itself, which for those who don’t know requires orders of magnitude more effort and competence.
Why do I mention this? Because he manages to surmount almost everything I talk about here and effectively ignore it. He gets over the problems I discuss in this piece by huge personal expenditure of ISK, mad consistency, experience and some crazy voodoo FCing magic. He is one of the best skirmish FCs and theorycrafters for such fleets in the game and I hope he writes a response piece to mine, explaining some of how it all works.
Anyway, enough of Mukk’s member in and around my person, let’s get onto the meat (no pun intended) of what I want to talk about.
Generally speaking, big, fuck-off, scary groups like Pandemic Legion or the Imperium don’t roam with their full, mainline fleets. Today, we’re not talking about the fleets that show up to timers, the fleets that are rage-pinged when a super gets tackled or any “all hands on dick” fleet. I want to talk about roams.
Roams are how most young FCs learn the ropes. You take usually 5-30 guys out and look for a fight. When it goes well, this is my favourite type of fleet. I don’t know what I’ll be facing, where I’ll be facing it or who I’ll be shooting. Sure, I may have an idea of who lives around me and what they might have at their disposal. It’s not the sort of fleet where i’m waiting on intel for two hours to see whether or not we have to stand down after sitting on a Titan, or these days a wormhole, after 30 minutes of meaningless platitudes about how it totally won’t be blueballs this time.
“All good FCs will tell you that 95% of winning the fight happens before the first shot is fired.”
I love roams in active space, the uncertainty, the on-hand hunting for intel, the sheer importance of each and every scout and going out into the black with your friends not knowing if you’re coming home obliterated, victorious or with no action at all. Some people like arranged fight, which is fair enough for them, but that’s like only having the desert of a five course meal to me. You lose out on having only moments to size up an opponent, having to make decisions based on incomplete information, trying to play mind games against opposing FCs or scouts in order to get the upper hand in the eventual engagement. All good FCs will tell you that 95% of winning the fight happens before the first shot is fired.
However, for shots to be fired, the other guys usually need to willingly take the fight in the first place. Especially in lowsec, without the availability of bubbles, if the other guy doesn’t want to fight you it’s not that hard to haze whatever tackle has been laid upon them and leave. Sure, killmails might happen and a lot of content-starved FCs would take this as a victory, but to me it’s so unsatisfying to watch 90% of your opponents leave.
Make them want to fight you
So, in order to really have a brawl, you need people to want to fight you. If you tackle their super or reinforce their money moon they’re going to bring everything they can get, and it may not be the fight you want. You’ve made them want to fight you, but they want/need to wipe the floor with you and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Tackling a ratting carrier can actually be good middle ground (unless it’s in Deklein) as they have much less EHP than a super and thus the response time needs to be much quicker, but ratting carriers (broadly speaking) rat in carriers because backup is not too far away.
There are two really good ways to get a cool fight with a roaming gang. The first is the domain of people like Chessur and the elite micro gang communities. They fly crazy blinged out Orthrus with snakes and all that stuff and everyone knows it. They rely on who they fight either not knowing that they’re going to get dunked or believing the sheer numerical difference will matter. “It’s just 3 guys, we have 20, how hard can it be to catch them?”.
It works, anyone who has seen the micro gang videos from Chessur and Suitonia will see it’s a great way to get fights. Further, they poke and prod their ships, going on the edge of being out of position, to attempt to make their opponents believe they’ve slipped up, so they want to capitalise on the situation, leave the safety of their undock or rep range and instantly get nuked. This approach requires an intimate knowledge of the exact capabilities of both your spaceship and your opponents, as well as being an exceptional pilot. My ability with the first is better than it used to be, but I am still far from the second as anyone who watches me stream solo PvP will be fully aware of.
So here’s the other method, how I did it, for what success I had as a roaming FC – note this is not an original idea. I learnt it from Kil2, now CCP Rise, and it’s used around EVE by loads of different types of groups.
Look weak, fight strong
Somewhat similar to getting out of position, just bring ships that people think they can kill easily. Bring less used hulls or those generally thought as worthless, but put a lot of theorycrafting into how you want to engage, how to eke the maximum potential out of what on face value is a terrible hull choice by common wisdom.
Ships with notable tank, tons of EWAR, T2 logi are all force multipliers which will make your fleet orders of magnitude stronger, but also orders of magnitude less likely for an opposing FC to engage. One great way to get a fight if you bring all of that stuff, is to hide all your reinforcements in a station, logged off, one jump out, on a Titan; but it will have the result of entities being less willing to engage you in the future. See “PL syndrome” where whenever someone with a PL tag roams solo or in a small gang, half the region will dock up because they assume we all have cynos fit (which, of course, would never happen ~wink~).
You should have a general knowledge of who lives nearby when you’re roaming, and approximately what they can bring and what doctrines they favour should pings be sent out. You should be aware of what doctrine your fleet composition will influence them to ping for. Similarly, if you’re the one seeing a roaming gang coming towards you, if you don’t want them to just warp off and leave as soon as you undock, after all the effort of getting everyone logged in and in their ships, you need to at least appear engageable.
As I’ve gone on and on about before I used to love flying a Thorax fleet as my go-to armour brawler instead of the more common Maller. Everyone knew a Maller was tanky as balls, they’d seen it over and over again and were sick to death of facing them, and probably flying them too. The Thorax comp was far more squishy, but it had more DPS so it was more likely to trade too. This brings me onto a super important point for engageability and the likelihood of a “good fight”.
Defense vs Offense
Let’s say you’re trying out a new T1 battlecruiser comp in lowsec, say Hurricanes and you have 15 dudes flying them. What’s an appropriate amount of logi? Well, you’ve got five guys in your logi channel and they can either bring Augorors or Guardians. Guardians are the obvious choice right? Maybe not. For sure, Guardians will make you super tanky, but you’ve also vastly reduced the number of fleets you can face with who you can have a good fight with. Let’s think of the hypothetical opponent; whereby the fight is pretty even and the winner wins because of good target calling, piloting and general decision making. First and foremost the FC of the opposing fleet needs enough firepower to believe he can break five Guardians. A gang of that ability, assuming a fairly standard ratio of DPS to logi, will very easily tank 15 Hurricanes. So you’re either in a fight where you have no hope of breaking reps, or reps hold super easily and a) you win the fight which is essentially a gank or more likely b) the opposing FC recognises this and doesn’t bother to form or engage you.
Let’s look at an example; BALEX used to roll around in lowsec, hugging gates with a fleet of mega-tanked Sacrileges and a whole bunch of Guardians. Every single FC knew that in order to break that they’d need a ton of dudes, and as soon as BALEX saw that ton of dudes they knew that they would have very little impact on what was coming to face them and they’d almost instantly be wiped out, so they’d just de-aggress, jump and leave. This is all of course assuming BALEX were looking for good fight, not just waiting for the less experienced to engage them and get free kills. As a result, they missed out on a slew of potentially really fun fights for both sides on their evening roams.
“When building your composition, seriously think about whether or not your own DPS would be able to break your own logi chain.”
When building your composition, seriously think about whether or not your own DPS would be able to break your own logi chain. If there would be no hope, then even if your opponent brings an “equivalent” fleet, you’re permanently stalemated. If they bring enough to kill your logi then you’re going to be wiped off the field. The same goes with loading up on ECM, damps or any other of what are commonly referred to as “force multipliers”. All of this of course is thrown out of the window when you’re just looking for killmails or a hard win, and don’t get me wrong, goodfights can result from this. When each entity happens to have equal force to bear in that given moment of engagement, it can result in some of the most fun and exhilarating fights in EVE.
I have decided to call this the First Law of Roaming (because I’m a pretentious fuck and it’s my article, so there):
In order to receive a good fight, you must first offer a good fight.