Joining the HordeMelos Exelion
I joined EVE on the day of the Battle of M-OEE8, which ended in a decisive defeat for the Imperium, and a stunning victory for what would soon be known as the MoneyBadger Coalition. I spent the next several days finding my feet and worrying over which group to join. I was here for the War, but to fight it, I’d need to join an alliance. It was going to have to be one of the alliances on the side of the “Good Guys,” because the friends I’d dragged back to resub for EVE had no intention of fighting for the Goons. In any case, the Goons and their allies were in full retreat back to Saranen, and it seemed like a poor time for a new player to be attempting to join their side.
Ultimately the choice came down to Pandemic Horde (PH) and Dreddit (I hear they may be recruiting?). In the end I picked Horde because with TEST’s antics on reddit I thought PH might be slightly more mature (yeah, about that), they had a cuter logo, and their entrance requirements were limited to an ability to find Pandemic Horde Inc. in the corporation menu, and then click, “Apply,” and then “Accept,” as seen in this helpful video from the “JOIN HORDE” chat channel.
From application (I initially typed “Goon Spy” as my reason for joining, then backspaced and entered “Grrr Goons” instead) to acceptance took maybe two minutes. Following the instructions, I delayed clicking accept until I had jump clones seeded in several locations around highsec and lowsec, which took me most of a day (this also gave me time to get setup on Horde’s forums, and get the chat and Mumble services working). These jump clones would allow me to “fast travel” around New Eden, and since Melos Exelion the Gallente Navy Academy rookie had a lot fewer enemies than Melos Exelion the Pandemic Horde newbean it was safer to get them into position before flying Horde’s cute little flag.
Finally, I jumped through the Khanid Kingdom of Amarr, docked up at some flyspeck border station, and painted the baby Mongol virus onto my ship, which was a pre-requisite for Horde actually allowing me to dock in their stations. It was the 1st of April, which seemed somehow appropriate. With my IFF properly set to REKTD, I took a deep breath and into nullsec and on to Horde’s capital system of A2-V27. Due to warnings of Russians waiting in ambush on the gate from lowsec I took a wide detour around through Brave Newbies space and came in safely through the back door.
A2 lies in a region of space to the south east of New Eden, which is occupied by several alliances with non-invasion pacts (NIPs), meaning they don’t try to take each other’s turf, but they do continually skirmish with each other in what is called the Querious Thunderdome. All members of the Thunderdome have “good fight” privileges, and the combat is intended to be fun for everyone.
On Horde’s forums there are timers that show upcoming missions, and what is called a “Skybean Roam” was going out from A2 only a few minutes after I arrived, so I waited for that, eager to get involved in my first Horde fleet. It was not at all what I expected. The Horde Skybean program is for training new Fleet Commanders (FCs). The FC-in-training leads the fleet, while an experienced Horde director hands out free ships and sits in the “backseat,” advising the FC if necessary, and debriefing him after the fleet. The director also fields any questions from the masses of Horde newbeans who inevitably make up the bulk of the fleet, freeing the FC to concentrate on running the actual mission. Because the ships are cheap, free and insured, all the ‘beans in fleet actually stands to make money if they die, which removes much of the pressure on the FC.
All in all it was both extremely chill, yet highly professional – a mixture I have rarely seen, in games or in real life.
The atmosphere on Mumble for the fleet I joined was relaxed, with the leaders encouraging questions while providing clear answers. All in all it was both extremely chill, yet highly professional – a mixture I have rarely seen, in games or in real life. I was deeply impressed. We skirmished a little with Brave Newbies, while I learned about aligning and fleet warps, managing my overview and fleet history, and taking and making broadcasts. That last training session nearly ended in disaster as the FC broadcast himself as a target by way of example, at which point several members of the fleet locked him up and opened fire! He then hastily demonstrated how to broadcast for healing reps, as our logistics ships kept him alive while he calmed down several over-enthusiastic recruits. After the fleet was over, the backseat FC invited all the Newbeans to stay in channel while he explained exactly what had been going on, and fielded any questions that might not have been answered during the roam.
While in Querious I eagerly followed news of the war on reddit and the various EVE news sites, and also listened to The Mittani’s state of the Goonion address where he stated his intent to avoid major fleet battles and conduct an asymmetric campaign of delaying and denying fights, while attempting to exhaust and crack the vast coalition now arrayed against him. Except that coalition didn’t yet include me. I was still down in Querious, on the other side of New Eden from the war!
Two days later, on the 3rd of April, Horde’s leader Gobbins (I think of him as Khan Gobbins), posted a global announcement. Horde had been in Querious for the previous two weeks to rest and regenerate (although jump clones had still allowed Horde to field the fourth largest MBC fleet in the Battle of M-O), but now Horde was redeploying it’s full strength back north to the lowsec system of Okagaiken. Training was over. I was going to war.
Sound the Horde Horn
Okagaiken was one of the locations where I had already pre-seeded a jump clone, so moving there was easy enough. The advance elements of Horde were hitting the ground running, and I was immediately able to join fleet roams heading out across Imperium space. I was handed the first of several free Talwar missile destroyers which – after starting off in stylish art deco Gallente ships – looked to me like a solar powered garbage scow.
At this time in the war the “Fortress Fade,” of SpaceMonkey’s Alliance (SMA) was collapsing while Fidelas Constans was grimly holding the line up in Branch. Most of the fleets we encountered on our roams only briefly engaged before retreating, and most of our kills came from hunting isolated ratters and evacuees in the Goon home region of Deklien, who were still fairly plentiful at this time. I managed to get my way onto several ratting battleship killmails, any of which probably cost more than they entire fleet that did them in. The fact that we caught any at all rather surprised me, since our entry into a system was never covert, and local chat would immediately become swamped with the sound of the Horde Horn.
୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨ SOUND THE HORDE HORN ୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨ SOUND THE HORDE HORN ୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨ SOUND THE HORDE HORN ୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨ SOUND THE HORDE HORN ୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨ SOUND THE HORDE HORN ୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨ SOUND THE HORDE HORN ୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨ SOUND THE HORDE HORN ୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨
After the first few roams we started running into interdictor bubbles at some of the gates, some put down by TEST, some by Horde, and some by GoonSwarm. Occasionally there would also be a cloaked stealth bomber camping one of these gates, which would fling a bomb our way as we went by. None of these attacks caused any of the roams I was on any serious damage, and often the bombs would miss wildly. Fortress Deklein was something of a disappointment.
On one roam our scout called out a bubble on a gate where we knew a stealth bomber was lurking from a previous attack. The FC brought us out of warp several hundred km back from the gate. “Load scan resolution scripts.” He said. These would speed the time our ships took to lock onto a new target. “Now prop mods on, guys, fly in slow and stupid. Slow and stupid.”
We did so, approaching the gate in a mass of contrails, our blazing microwarpdrives increasing the damage we would take from any warhead and making us an irresistible target. Suddenly a stealth bomber materialized 30km away releasing a bomb at us. “Bomber, take him out, prop mods off.” The FC said leisurely.
The bomber instantly exploded under the fire from several dozen fast locking destroyers, and it’s bomb flew harmlessly past us. “Bomb doesn’t hurt if the bomber dies.” The FC said, a little smugly. “Fly stupid, fight smart. That’s my motto.”
Flying cheap, free ships, Horde fleets often departed Okagaiken with no intention of returning.
On that roam all our ships returned, which was somewhat unusual. Flying cheap, free ships, Horde fleets often departed Okagaiken with no intention of returning. I tuned into Mumble coms for one fleet that had been almost completely wiped out in a spectacular whelp (the infamous “Strategic Thrasher Reserve” fleet) [https://www.themittani.com/news/intense-fighting-fade-tribute-and-pure-blind], and hearing those now back in station egging the sole survivor on with escalating promises of tens of millions of ISK if he made it back alive, while a rival faction soon broke in offering lesser amounts of money if he whelped as gloriously as they had. The lone Newbean ultimately made it back after running several blockades and escaping a prowling White Legion fleet, and earned himself a cool 200 million ISK.
Although enemy resistance was sporadic, the Horde presence in Deklien didn’t come without its dangers. In EVE alliances that are on friendly terms will set positive standings with each other, which turns ships blue on a player’s screen. Although a coalition with a unified purpose, most of the MBC are not actually “blue” to each other, and instances of friendly fire were and remain rife. Although the Imperium and its allies all show as a hostile red on screen, many of the MBC show as a suspicious grey to each other, which most of the time in Nullsec still means shoot on sight.
On one roam deep into Deklien we were sitting on a gate in a fleet of Talwars when a neutral suddenly piped up in Local Chat. “Hi, in the middle of your fleet, gonna drop cloak, OK?”
“OK.” The FC responded in Local, and then in Mumble, “Neutral decloaking. He’s friendly, no one lock him up.”
A neutral frigate decloaked. Half the fleet immediately locked him up.
“Hold your fire. Hold your fire.” The FC said over Mumble.
A wall of missiles erupted from several destroyers, instantly blotting the poor frigate from existence.
“Fuck you all!” Screamed the neutral, over Local. “This means WAR!”
“GODDAMN IT GUYS!” Said the FC, “Control your murderboners!”
A minute later an alert beeped, and another member of the fleet spoke up, clearly grinning into his mic, “FC, it’s Killah Bee, he wants to speak with you. Now.”
Killah Bee is the campaign commander for Pandemic Legion, and probably the closest thing the MBC has to an Eisenhower. There was a moment of silence on our Mumble as words were no doubt spoken elsewhere, and then the FC returned.
“OK guys, we’ve got a new destination. Papa PL wants us out of Deklein for a while.” And with that the impending internal fracture of the MBC into civil war was once again averted.
The FC then spent the next few minutes explaining to confused Newbeans that while normally Horde is a Not Blue Shoot It (NBSI) organization, in Deklien we would be strictly Not Red Don’t Shoot (NRDS). [http://i.imgur.com/GRjMM54.png – credit TheSloof] “No no,” he reassured us, “We’re not in trouble. PL just wants us out of the house for a while, so we don’t start a fight with the in-laws.”
After that it was back to Fade. I missed the battle of X36Y-G by half-an-hour due to a lunch date, which turned out to be the last major battle in Fade before its conquest by the MBC. With the Goons bottled up in Saranen, activity plummeted, and I began to wonder if I’d missed the war.
Nevertheless, there was still some entosising to do, and plenty of abandoned SMA Player Owned Stations (POS) to destroy. Lacking the skills to fly the Ferox battlecruisers I bought a Merlin tackle frigate I christened “Warluck,” and brought it along, serving mostly as a scout. I learned how to DSCAN, how to link the results in chat, how to spiral in on a target when closing to tackle, and what the call “spread points” means.
I also learned that Horde entosis operations and POS bashes can be very raucous affairs. One FC was particularly adept at keeping pilots entertained during the long missions, forming conga lines, doing scavenger hunts, and offering various prizes for various small tasks. Overall it made the fleets entertaining, even when nothing happened. Then with Fade in our hands the Horde was on the move again, relocating to the nullsec system of O1Y-ED, and the station proudly renamed, “HORDE TRIUMPHS IN FADE.”
VFK by Today
As Horde settled into its new staging system, missions into Deklein shifted from free roaming hunting to the grittier work of entosis and sov warfare. On the evening of 11 April I joined a fleet very publicly advertised as “BURN VFK!” VFK was the legendary old capital of the Goons which I’d heard about occasionally in my previous readings on the history of EVE. No longer an important military centre, it still held vast symbolic significance, as the slogan “VFK by #Date#” had been the rallying cry for a number of ultimately failed offensives against the Goons. It would also be a useful staging point for attacks into the heart of Deklien, and would serve to lock down the personal assets of many old-time Goons if they chose to resub.
Hopping in my trusty Merlin Warluck, I joined the VFK-bound entosis fleet. As we approached our target, scouts reported an Imperium fleet with over 100 ships including 70 Hurricane battlecruisers waiting for us on the in-gate. There was no way our fleet of 120 odd destroyers and frigates could match that, so we took a hard left turn and led them on a chase down into Pure Blind. At some point they broke off, and we started entosising systems in Pure Blind. I later heard the Imperium fleet was engaged with the Spaceship Samurai force, who suffered heavy losses in the process.
After that, their scouts found us again, and we engaged them in the O-N8XZ system, on the L-TS8S gate. We dropped out of war a few hundred km back, and considered our doom. Being a fleet mainly of PvE Thrasher fits, we expected it to be a pretty one-sided engagement. Suddenly about half-a-dozen interceptors warped out of the enemy fleet and landed right on top of us, probably with the intent of the rest of their fleet warping in after… except someone in the enemy fleet chose that moment to pop an interdictor bubble, trapping the rest of their fleet! I imagine there must have been a great deal of cursing in Imperial coms as we gunned down all the suddenly isolated interceptors.
Our part in the plan was to play the bait, but it felt pretty good to have played it so well.
Then as the bubble dropped we warped past the enemy who were furiously burning out of it towards us, and crashed the gate. It turned out the other side was full of enemies as well, and caught in another interdictor bubble engaged and tried to make a fight of it. I tackled an Imperium battlecruiser (even though he clearly had no intention of going anywhere) and opened fire with my little machineguns, maybe scratching his shields. The lopsided battle ended quickly as the rest of the Imperial fleet jumped back through the gate and wiped us out. We’d all died, but cheering broke out on coms after the FC told us that while we were distracting the enemy, Pandemic Legion had taken the VFC IHub. Also we learned from TEST afterwards that they caught the Hurricane fleet that destroyed us and inflicted heavy losses on it. Our part in the plan was to play the bait, but it felt pretty good to have played it so well, and even gotten some kills against a massively superior enemy force (ISK positive boys!) in the process.
Wanting to see how this all ended, I headed out solo for VFK on the night of 13 April when the rest of the system was up for conquest. I spent the next few hours floating around the system, taking potshots at passing rookie ships. I’d warped in to the station to kill an Ibis rookie frigate when suddenly it popped a cyno. In spinning balls of redshift, one, two, three enemy carriers suddenly emerged literally right on top of me! In a panic I warped to the sun, but the Carriers had no intention of engaging and all immediately docked up. Regaining my courage I returned and lurked a few hundred km off the station, wondering if I was going to see my first carrier battle soon, but a few minutes later all three of them undocked and jumped clear of the system, departing just ahead of a massive TEST and NCdot force. The operation concluded without resistance, and VFK shortly fell into the hands of the MBC. And I was there!
A (Small) Part of History
My first two weeks in Horde were some of the best I’ve ever had in a PvP MMO. For me, Horde was a totally unexpected community of expert teachers, fun loving and fearless leaders not willing to let the possibility of defeat cripple them with indecision, and hilariously varied and invariably eager fellow pilots. The professional in me who once trained new soldiers in real life couldn’t help being impressed.
Not only had I learned so much about the game, but I’d also gotten to take part in a key event in the history of EVE’s online universe in the process. And I hadn’t had to grind my way up to level 50 or 100 or whatever before the game decided I was ready to do what I really wanted to do and murder other players (online of course!). It had let me dive right in and get myself all bloody right from the start. And some of the blood wasn’t even mine!
In the end though, all this was still just the warmup. The first half of April was a series of relatively easy fights, against an enemy who was still reeling. A more serious and prolonged test of Horde and its eager Newbeans was just on the horizon, as a new battle for Fade was about to begin…