Fight Like a CamelBob Shaftoes
Crossing Zebras is thrilled to bring you Worlds Collide commentator and Camel Empire / Turn Left tournament team member Bob Shaftoes. He joins us and shares his insight into small gang PvP and why it’s EVE Online at its best.In the sandbox world of EVE Online there are countless ways to play. You have your highsec mission runner, your lowsec pirate, and your large coalition foot soldier—to name a few. However, part of the fun in EVE is breaking the perceived career paths, and forging out on your own in a small group. This will be the first in a series of articles I’ll be writing on small/micro gang PvP, and the challenges faced when you embark on such a career. So, first things first: What is micro/small gang PvP? It used to be called small gang PvP, until the goalposts shifted a bit. It usually involves taking a small group of pilots (around five or six), and going out looking for fights. Gangs tend to be extremely limited in size to maximise engageability, and fleet doctrines are carefully chosen to increase the chance of finding encounters with an enemy gang. Most small gangs tend to be of the kiting variety, although you do occasionally get groups that like to brawl. A good example of a brawling small gang doctrine can be seen in Leokokim’s “Rescue Me” video:
Almost all small gangs are geared to fight against much larger numbers than their fleets contain, doing so with a minimum of losses while attaining the ever elusive and mysterious “good fight”. The brand of small gang PvP I will mainly be discussing is from my time spent flying with the Camels of Turn Left. Camel is one of the most successful small gang corps left in EVE. I have participated in a wide assortment of things in my EVE career, from massive sov cap brawls, all the way down to solo PvP in a T1 frigate. I have seen no other corp do what Camel does and I am honoured to get to roam with them every day. If you look at our killboard, the results speak for themselves. We achieve this through a variety of methods—first and foremost being specialisation. The main way in which this specialisation is achieved is through our ship types, fittings and doctrines. All of our gangs are designed to be engageable, while making sure we have the best chance of killing something ourselves. A lot of emphasis is put on pimping out ships and using expensive implants to get the most out of the hulls we use. We will occasionally derp a ship or lose a set of Snakes, but that is the price we pay for doing what we do. In Camel, we also tend to fall into certain specialised roles within a gang. Since we are so practiced in these positions, it almost becomes second nature that we would pick a certain ship when we go out looking for PvP. A good example would be our Keres pilot. I think he has spent almost every single roam in the past two months flying a Keres, and therefore has an extremely good feel for the ship, its capabilities, and how he can get the most out of it. When this pilot is in our gang, he stops being just “another” Keres, and becomes a force multiplier that allows us to fight outnumbered and outgunned. The fact that a person can get good at a role within a fleet is one of the more important distinctions between small and larger scale PvP in EVE. It’s rare for that Keres pilot to matter in a fleet of hundreds, but in our six man gang, he is the key to many of our successes. Here is a fleet commentary video made by Lord Carlos showing another Keres pilot flying in one of our small gangs.
Running with such a small group is not without its challenges, though. Over the past few years, the average sized gang has gotten bigger and bigger. On an average weekend a few years back, you would run into 20 man gangs everywhere in places like Syndicate and Curse—now it’s on the sunny side of 40. Most of these groups have also been getting smarter as time marches on. Where once you would run into the humble newbie Drake/’Cane gang and destroy them with your six HACs, now even groups such as Brave Newbies are flying Eagles and Ishtars, and the average character SP seems to be increasing. Kitchen sinks used to be the order of the day, with mixed gangs very much being in the majority. Now, it’s common to see doctrine gangs, backed up with masses of logistics in very large numbers. There are particular challenges in engaging these fleets with a small gang, but in most cases such groups tend to have more logistics than we have DPS. In Camel, the main way we deal with this is through intel. In an age where killboards API-pull killmails more or less instantly, and Dotlan can give you accurate information on demand, intel gathering before you go out roaming is more important than ever. Nobody likes to have their time wasted. Who would want to go all the way out to that active spot in Branch or Delve only to find 100 Ishtars and 20 logi bashing a tower? Intel can also give you an edge versus that 40 man Thorax gang you encounter while out and about: “Oh, they lost a ship. Oh, that fit has no EM resist. Time to bring out the EM damage drones, lads!” Ultimately, small gang PvP is just one of the many ways to play EVE, and is no more valid or invalid than other gameplay styles such as mining, mission running or sov warfare. But outside of tournament matches, nothing can equal taking on a large fleet, outnumbered and outgunned and coming out with a win. It’s rare for a video game to still give me the shakes after seven years of gameplay, but playing EVE like this definitely gets the blood pumping. If you are interested in trying out some of the ideas and concepts suggested in this article, you should check out Chessur’s new Micro Gang Help channel, where you can get expert FCs to lead you on five to six man roams, and properly experience the good and the bad of small gang PvP in all its glory.