Capital SkirmishersMukk Barovian
Capital fleets in EVE are all or nothing affairs. When one side starts to lose, it cannot order a retreat. It will not be a few guys left behind to die. A hundred Tengus can burn away from a fleet it cannot handle, maybe lose five or ten Tech 3s, and warp off after blapping tackle. 20 supers who have been tackled will win the battle or die to almost the last man. This contributes to the N+1 style of gameplay since capitals are the ships that victory and defeat hinge upon. Do you have 20 supers? Do you want to use them? You better find a bigger group that has a hundred, which is partnered with a blob that has five hundred. Do anything less, and you are going to get stomped.
Battleships used to be in the same boat. When you committed a battleship fleet to the field you were stuck in a field of bubbles for better or for worse. Ships with 400 m/s ABs and 900 m/s MWDs could not outrun 2000 m/s interdictors. This changed with the introduction of the micro jump drive. In modern EVE, a battleship fleet can vacate the premises of a fight in a matter of seconds, leaving behind only those who have been scrambled. Now CCP has announced propulsion modules for capital ships, including the potential for MJDs. If CCP decide to make capital MJDs, how big of an effect will this have on capital fleet fights? And could you unironically haul a capital ship along on the journey of a roaming gang?
Time to Run Away
I can easily imagine a capital fleet retreating under MJD. The FC orders an align. This takes much more time than it would for subcapitals. Ideally the FC waits several minutes for alignment to occur. Capitals tend to bounce off one another for a bit when they first start aligning. If things are going south, he will not have the luxury of time. Given the limited way reps will work, every moment on the field is another potential dead capital. He also will not want to wait long, if the enemy FC realizes the capitals are about to try to retreat, he may order bubbles placed along the alignment. So the align order is given quickly, and pilots will not have much time to comply before the order to activate MJD comes in. Those ships that are scrammed are dead. But chances are not too many have been scrambled. The fleet jumps, scattering about a sphere over 200KM across. The ships that aligned correctly immediately warp to the safe location of the retreat. The ships that did not jump to an emergency exit cyno. Those without jump cap urgently spam warp as hostile interceptors begin sprinting after them over the 100KM gap.
Yes this is a desperate picture, but when the smoke clears, there will not be a dead capital fleet, there will simply be some dead capitals. FC’s careers have ended after losing capital fleets. This is a big deal. People will feel more comfortable fielding capital fleets. People will be happier to put a few capitals on the field when they are not part of the blob. And sometimes this will be a false sense of safety with the result being a capital fleet so overrun that every one of them gets scrambled and the entire fleet welps.
But even if the victorious fleet has only one scrambler, they will be able to grab the titan from the defeated capital fleet and kill it as everything else retreats. The victors get to choose how to deploy the tackle that they have and they are going to choose to grab titans and supers over carriers and dreadnoughts. It is going to really suck to be a super or a titan pilot when the retreat is called. When you are a carrier in a fleet of carriers, and you die because you were scrambled during the retreat it sucks in the same way it sucks to lose a Machariel because the fleet MJD’d and you were scrambled. When you are a titan in a fleet of carriers and you die as everyone else retreats, it blows chunks on a whole new level.
Dread bombs are also going to take on a much less suicidal nature. “Everybody jump. Siege on land. Primary is the titan. OK it’s dead. Siege red. Deagress and cap up. When you are out of siege MJD and jump home. Good luck everybody.” The survival chance of individual dreadnoughts in the fleet will be much higher.
In both scenarios it seems to me like I would rather be in a cheap capital if my survival comes down to matters of chance. ‘Who does the newbie in the Atron decide to scramble?’ The best this seems to do for supers and titans is in generic tackle situations where capital is simply trying to dodge a gank. MJD out of the ‘dictor bubble and run away is a good strategy when the previous strategy at that point was ‘Die with dignity. Hope the ‘dictor screws up while things are going down.’
I have seen people try to roam with capitals in drunk fleets and welp them. Brave did a few runs with a blob of random stuff and a carrier or two. What generally happens is the capital moves slowly, gets into a fight, and sits in one place long enough to get overrun. If the capital itself had decent mobility on the field, and was supported by the right ships, you might be able to use them in a more serious way. For example, a capital with an MJD can open a 100KM gap, It’s fleet could haze the tackle that runs out after it, then it could warp when the slow, heavier elements get too close for comfort. Depending on what speed CCP let MWD capitals reach, a web resistant 700 m/s Nidhoggur burning away from a 1000 m/s fleet with a 100KM initial advantage would take a while to catch. It really comes down to what mobility we can expect out of a capital.
3 au/s is the gold standard for a roaming ship. If it cannot go that fast, it will drag the fleet. More than ever, warp speed is important for finding content, but it also has importance when it comes to getting the drop on someone, and running away from the blob. A carrier or dreadnought with 3 Tech 1 rigs and one lowslot module will be able to reach this velocity.
Alignment time is also an issue. Cycling a capital MWD a single time may help greatly with this. The problem comes in when the capital already has some velocity and needs to achieve a new alignment. It will be possible to handle, but it will not be easy.
Finally, on grid speed is an issue. I have successfully roamed with MWD ships that went 1300 m/s, which is slow. But 400 m/s – 600 m/s as a top speed is much slower than anything I have used before. This is probably a deal breaker. But again, the MJD is going to be our main method of propulsion. Even with faster ships, you can normally loiter where you landed after you activate the MJD. For example I have found that Machariels, which can reach a top speed of 1600 m/s armor plated, spend a lot of time holding position.
I get the feeling that roaming capitals are still out of the question for anyone trying to play the game seriously. But as a novelty joke thing you might be able to make it halfway work the same way that some people have made Drake fleets work in recent times. Grab a shield nano Nidhoggur. Beat some scrubs. Post a youtube video. Declare yourself the fattest nano pilot in the galaxy.
Capitals Kiting Capitals
Roaming may be a pipe dream, but as long as siege makes dreadnoughts immobile, kiting may actually become a thing. At 500 m/s it takes a minute and a half to burn from 0 to outside the range of a dreadnought with short range guns. Even against long range guns, being further away means they will apply less damage, pilots will have to switch to longer range ammos.
The above rests on the assumption that triage and siege will still prevent any movement. Given all the changes that are coming for those modes, CCP may decide to make them more like the entosis link. A ship with one active can move around grid but cannot warp away. The idea saw a little bit of air time at EVE Vegas.
If triage is immobile you may actually face the problem of capital fleets outrunning their support structure. At 500 m/s we are back at the minute and a half mark. If the fleet MJDs for tactical positioning on field, that immediately leaves the triage behind. In that spirit, I have heard theorycrafters speculate about using logistics cruisers. Imagine a 250 man fleet of 180 Archons and 70 Guardians. Dreadnoughts will not be able to touch the Guardians. Guardians will kite out beyond the short range tracking guns very quickly, and they have tiny signatures that capital guns will not begin to be able to handle. The Guardian / Archon fleet could fight dreadnoughts with fighters from across the grid.
Even without taking mobility into account, there is the interesting question as to whether a wing of force auxiliaries or a wing of Guardians is better. Force auxiliaries will provide better reps, but they cannot repair each other, and anything will be able to track them. Furthermore force auxiliaries will be comparatively skillpoint intensive. A group with a large member base may in the future feel comfortable with a bunch of logistics cruisers in place of a fuck you fleet.
Mobility is a key part of EVE gameplay. CCP are going to drastically alter the nature of capital fights by adding some capital propulsion modules. Micro jump drives, microwarpdrives, and afterburners are all up for discussion. CCP have not committed to which they will make available to capitals. Furthermore, CCP may or may not alter triage and siege to allow the capitals using the modules to move around on grid. CCP have not given us numbers, only a vague path forward. So I recommend taking advantage of the situation. CCP claim that the reason they have been so vague is in part to collect feedback before making decisions. That is an invitation to write to CCP and tell them that you want nano-Nidhoggurs or that you hate the very idea. Post words at CCP telling them how you feel about MJD capitals. Complain about align times or try to explain that afterburners are still useful even without helping much with sig tanking because they are a propulsion system that cannot be turned off with a scrambler.
It is a good time to make some noise at CCP with regard to capital mobility.