Lowlife: The Pendulum of WarNiden
It has been said the best way to unite a people is to give them an enemy. In some cases the word ‘unite’ can be replaced with ‘control’. What ever the case, the effects cannot be denied. The Roman Empire thrived when it conquered enemies and faltered when it could do so no longer. The French nobility unwittingly unified the people in revolt. Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into WWII.
In EVE Online, Factional Warfare it is no different; the militias are to a large extent driven and defined by their enemy. An endless interstellar tug-of-war, where all sides will both pull and relent, but each dependant on the other for the game to persist. For what is a warrior without an enemy to fight?
The pendulum of war
“It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking.”
– Julius Caesar
Every organisation has its hierarchy. While the rank-and-file engage in one conflict after the other, others observe from an elevated vantage point. Veterans of countless campaigns spread across months and years of fighting know well of the pendulum; its motion and measure. While some merely observe, others manipulate the phenomenon to their advantage.
It is very seldom one side assumes complete war zone control, and there are reasons for that. A militia is strongest right as the pendulum changes direction, from one side to the other. The previously winning side will often have grown fat and lazy, riddled with farmers and those with little experience in fighting. Their militia weakens in resolve, for they have no obvious threat to motivate them.
Their adversaries, although fewer, will be combat hardened and used to battling bad odds. They will be fighting for their homes and hungry for revenge – two most powerful motivators. Thus it is often quite violent when the pendulum changes direction. Unbeknownst to many outsiders, it is often a carefully orchestrated event.
The point of no return
“When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Fighting a strong force that is advancing head on is military suicide. The time to strike is when the enemy is sufficiently spread out and relaxed. Many of their best fighting forces will have found other activities to engage in and the militia will be spread out. Even then it is wise to first exploit the enemy’s weak points using guerrilla tactics.
Some strategists are even willing to go so far as to starve the enemy of fights and plexing activities by not engaging them and avoiding offensive plexing. Eventually the systems cannot be plexed further and the farmers will leave for greener pastures. All the while their opponents bide their time in ‘fortress’ systems, waiting for the time to strike.
“No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
It all starts with taking less obvious systems. They seem of less tactical value and the enemy will be slow to muster forces to defend them. Small fleets of fast frigates quietly chip away until the a system is close to vulnerable. Using large forces for these operations is a mistake, as they will draw too much attention to themselves and warrant a much more swift and decisive response. Once a system is vulnerable however, the strike must come fast and hard. Militia leaders will coordinate these attacks until there are a sufficient systems to go for a push to tier two.
The push is the flashpoint at which the pendulum reverts its motion. A date and time is set and orders are sent down the ranks. The militia will position themselves across the entire region they control and simultaneously ‘dump’ the loyalty points required to upgrade systems – whereby the next tier is achieved in a matter of minutes. It is not uncommon that individual pilots contribute loyalty points to the equivalent of hundreds of millions of ISK. Anyone who has done it before knows that it is well worth the sacrifice however.
A key event happens at this time; the farmers come out – both domestic and nomadic – by the hundreds, and start plexing like clockwork. Any militia worth their salt will use the subsequent days and weeks as an opportunity for an all-out offensive. The best ships will be brought out and an aggressive campaign to take key systems will be launched. Doctrines will be enforced and everyone will be expected to step up.
Aggression and speed are key factors in this strategy. The enemy must be broken before they have time to react and adjust.
“I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.”
– Exodus 23:27
What follows is the militia wide campaign to conquer as much territory as possible. An experienced leader knows that his forces thrive when they are fighting and will always seek to use this momentum. Forces will dispatched to tactically significant systems, but most commonly avoid fortress systems.
As its territories grow a militia must watch its flanks however. Just as forces are assembled for the front-line fighting, they must also be assembled to defensive plex. It is a difficult thing to motivate, as it is often tedious and boring. Many veterans have in fact developed very creative ways to entertain the troops, moving time along as they run down backwater plexes, scaring off the occasional war target.
At the end of a successful campaign lies the final challenge – one that will ultimately fail. Keeping a dominant hold of a warzone is an increasingly difficult thing as the militia becomes complacent. Many EVE military thinkers argue that it is wise to allow the enemy a few select systems so as to keep the troops entertained and keen with a trickle of fights.
Others yearn for complete domination, the ever coveted one hundred percent zone control. It is a double edged sword however. A militia that has exhausted all avenues of conquest looses it’s most basic motivator; the enemy.
The end and the genesis
And so the ever moving pendulum is set to resume its endless toil. Sometimes it swings shallow and quickly, sometimes wide and grinding. But it always swings.