A Band Apart Goes to WarSanders Schmittlaub
It’s not just the big fish that are taking part in the current war, Sanders is here to tell us the story of how his alliance, A Band Apart, got involved. – Niden
A Band Apart isn’t exactly a well-known alliance in New Eden compared to some. Numbering just under 650 members, we’re barely a blip on the map compared to the likes of PL or NC. Indeed, most of the publicity we get comes from our founder/CEO, Rixx Javix, who runs the rarely visited EVEOGANDA blog. He’s also put out a few (hundred) ship posters that the community has raved about, and CCP felt so strongly that they went ahead and merchandised eight of them.
Beyond that, we are an alliance who treat EVE as a game – our members play when, how, and where they want. We have no mandatory anything (yes, that’s right. No CTAs, no activity requirements, comms are optional, and even group play is only ‘recommended’). We live by a set of rules that revolve around the mantra “Don’t be a dick.” All in all, a group of more passionate and skilled casuals cannot be found in New Eden.
With all of that said, it came as a bit of a surprise when ABA declared we would be deploying to Venal to join Allied forces in the campaign against the Imperium in Tenal. I personally had a lot to do with this deployment – I suggested it, arranged it, started it, and am leading it. ABA may only be three very busy days into the invasion, but enough has happened to merit an article.
How did this all start? It had a lot to do with Salivan Harddin’s running average of around twelve battle reports a day over at EN24. Two weeks ago, just following the crushing Imperial defeat at Hakonen, the thought began to form that ABA pilots might have a good time joining in on one side or the other for a few weeks. I asked the leadership what they felt about this, and the response was decidedly ‘meh,’ so I dropped the subject for the moment. Fast forward to last week, and the Imperials had been dealt a steady list of defeats and setbacks since Hakonen, culminating in hostile raids deep into Imperial space and the loss first loss of sovereignty.
I decided it was time to look into deploying again. I asked Rixx and Joffy to contact people they knew in lowsec Voltron to see if any would be interested in an ABA fleet helping out every so often, just as a friendly third party. Joffy put me in contact with Suas of The OSS later that day.
What Suas told me was different than what had appeared in the EVE media up to that point. He said the Imperium was backpedalling, and Allied forces were advancing across six separate regions. The short version of a long conversation was that ABA would be welcome to participate in the invasion of southern Tenal if we were interested. I told him that I would get in touch with everyone and see if the interest was there for a deployment.
This would not be our first foray into sov nullsec. We had tried (and failed spectacularly) last November when ABA attempted to take a small pocket of sov in Scalding Pass, which ended in an evacuation that was arguably the smoothest part of the entire foray. This was due in part to our own incompetence with sovereignty, and partly due to the conditions placed upon us by our erstwhile allies (it’s really hard to fight a hostile force when they can retreat to a station that you aren’t allowed to attack). This foray would be different though – we had allies, an objective, and experience to draw upon, plus staging in the Guristas region of Venal meant we wouldn’t be pinned between a rock and a hard place.
With that in mind, that night I put out a few feelers in ABA Slack. Surprisingly the response was excitement and questions of when we would be deploying. The next day I contacted Suas again and told him that ABA would be willing to deploy, and that we would likely bring around 20 pilots. Information was shared, and on Friday I sent out a mail to the alliance with the deployment information.
Saturday morning rolled around, and I woke up to find our new Imperial Invasion Slack channel had bloomed from three aspiring invaders when I went to bed to more than forty. Pilots were racing to Venal in Interceptors and Covert Ops, everyone wanted doctrine info, blue status, comms info, and twelve other things, and they wanted it all NOW.
As it turns out, getting standings sorted for 39 Alliances at the same time is a herculean task, and a bit of a mess. For those who have never tried diplomacy in New Eden, find your corp/alliance diplomat RIGHT NOW and thank them for all their hard work, especially the stuff you don’t see. Things are now getting sorted by people who are far better at this sort of thing than I (Google Spreadsheets are a wonderful thing), but for a while there it was nearly as exciting avoiding allies as it was hostiles.
The next big thing that needed sorting was doctrines – Allied groups had few fleet ships up on contract, so participating in the big battles would be a simple case of looking for a ship on contract, buying it, and boarding it. For ABA fleets, I talked to the OSS and they offered to run a few jump freighters down to staging for us (thanks for that). It was suggested we use a Caracal/Osprey doctrine for medium gang, and Svipul/Scalpel for small gang. The majority of ABA pilots found these fleets favorable, so two Jump Freighters’ worth of ships and modules were dispatched from Jita.
Compared to blue status and doctrines, getting everyone sorted with comms info, getting Jabber set up, registering for forums, and in-game chat channels was a breeze. Slack made everything easy – with a simple pinned message everyone would get the information they needed to get set up.
The one downside to the entire deployment was word that the Allied forces in Venal used Siggy rather than Tripwire. Since a fair number of ABA’s numbers were being provided by NJED (our wormhole corporation), one of the tasks we had been set to by Allied leadership was scanning wormhole routes from the local area to other sections of the warzone to facilitate fleet movement, and to hisec to facilitate movement of supplies. Groans were heard when I said they had to use Siggy, but we’ll rise above and get the routes logged.
Once all that was sorted, I had the opportunity to sit down and actually participate in a TRI StratOp in the area of OE-4. It went well, right up until my laptop remembered it was old… and promptly decided I didn’t need to run my Tengu’s afterburner, or move with the fleet at all for that matter. By the time I got it working, it was a bit too late and I found myself firmly between my fleet and a high speed, close range Imperial alpha doctrine.
Still, I got some kills and remembered pretty quickly how large fleet combat worked out in null. When the fleet got back to staging, I volunteered to reship into a Basilisk as we set up to bridge back into the combat zone. We undocked, warped to the POS holding the Titan, and while I was busy giggling about “Oh my god, it’s a Titan!” I was… promptly scrammed by the tower and killed as the fleet bridged (protip: you can’t use a titan bridge while scrammed). Good times, and apparently no, I am not eligible for SRP from that no matter how nicely I ask. Back to getting standings sorted, right after I stopped giggling about the whole incident.
Fast forward to Sunday, and more ABA pilots are arriving every day. Standings are (mostly) correct for the area. A flash form netted me my first carrier kill ever, and I even got my ass saved by the FC telling a friendly fleet to stop trying to murder me as I warped back to station afterwards.
Overall, the first weekend of ABA involvement in the campaign has went as well as could be for how quickly we tossed ourselves into the fight. Morale is high, fights are amazing, and the groups we are working closely with have been great. I’m having an absolute blast getting ABA deployed out to null and getting everything sorted. I’d especially like to thank Suas of the OSS, Garst of TRI, and Jarack of HAX for working to get standings sorted and ABA pilots out in fleets so quickly. I look forwards to working with (and far more likely, under) them all in the coming weeks and months as the Allied juggernaut burns its way towards Deklein.