The Front Lines of World War BeeMukk Barovian
Many people who don’t even play EVE have again seen this game bubble up in the newsfeeds. Something exciting happened in a system called M-OEE8. There was a group called The Imperium, the Clusterfuck (CFC), or mockingly Those Bee Guys. And then of course there is all the EVE jargon, acronyms, and shorthand. Something exciting is happening, but it’s hard to tell what. Then there are the players, who haven’t shown up on the imperial doorstep. There are the players who only get a small view of what’s going on because they have other time commitments. Curiosity about the war zone is high.
“The tactical minutiae is only interesting when it informs the reader what combat is actually like.”
This is my perspective on what it looks like in the trenches, hopefully intelligible to outsiders and noobies. I belong to the Money Badger Coalition, MBC for short. Don’t expect unbiased reporting. Also don’t expect highly technical details. I’m trying to capture the feeling of what it’s like out here. The tactical minutiae is only interesting when it informs the reader what combat is actually like. The last few days have been a hectic swirl as the new situation comes into focus. Serious fighting with the MBC as a coalition has only been taking place for a little over three weeks, although months of skirmishes and smaller brawls have lead up to this. This report is mostly concerned with what the last few days have been like.
My group, Pandemic Legion is currently staging in a solar system called X-7OMU. It’s a central point of the Imperium’s space. And there are a lot of us, not just Pandemic Legion, but many coalition members who are all contributing. If I start trying to name everyone important I’m sure to leave people out. I’m going to try to avoid names. (Disclaimer: there are a huge number of people on the ground doing good work. If I only name a few I leave deserving groups out in the cold.) We have our heavy war machines here, our supers and our titans, which are collectively called supercapitals. It is important to note, that over short distances, within range of a few solar systems or so (5 light years) this heavy equipment is very mobile. In EVE, capital ships can make jumps kind of like what you see in Battlestar Galactica. They can go anywhere in one solar system to a navigation beacon in another within range. The navigation beacon is normally provided by a ship already there. As in Battlestar Galactica once capitals have jumped there is some delay before they can jump again.
Jump range is important because the Imperium have withdrawn their fighting force to a system called Saranen. This system is on one far side of their empire. It is within five light years of our current staging system. Positionally this means that both sides are virtually staring at each other over a small trench. Either side can launch a raid across that trench in an instant.
Capital Ship Raiding
There are many examples of the Money Badgers launching surprise attacks. The process starts quietly with just a few trusted people poking around and looking for a victim. These scouts try to find enemy supercapitals that are in vulnerable locations. These large ships are typically put into a kind of dock by placing them within the protective forcefield of a player owned structure (POS). They cannot fight from inside, and they cannot be attacked. However they can accidentally drift out, or in a more sinister turn, a spy can quietly eject them from safety. A supercapital can also find itself in danger when it is caught in transit.
“Tackling is term for using electronic warfare to prevent someone from using their warp drive or jump drive.”
When the skirmishers find a target, they swoop in from hiding and ‘tackle’ it. Tackling is term for using electronic warfare to prevent someone from using their warp drive or jump drive. It stops them running away using FTL systems. They have to stand and fight. Or at least run away using slower than light propulsion. At the same time this happens, the attackers’ commanders send pings out to the line members. Each group informs its members that something is happening. “Log in. Join voice coms. Something is happening.” This is the moment that a grunt is first informed that battle is about to begin. In the case of these raids, he would need to log in instantly to show up. Show up five minutes late and the opportunity is gone.
This is because the skirmishers have lit a ‘cyno’, the aforementioned navigation beacon that let’s jump drive capable ships immediately arrive. The result is incredibly unfair. One victim in an expensive shiny ship may find himself suddenly under attack by 20, 50 or 100 enemies. Under concentrated fire he may explode in a minute or so. Even a very tough capital ship melts pretty quickly when so many people shoot at it. By the time the tackle has been made and the cyno has gone up, the victim is probably already dead. His only hope is to somehow slip away, to break the tackle, before reinforcements arrive in numbers.
As this happens the defender’s leaders begin to send notifications to their own members calling for them to form a fleet. Sometimes if a raid is made with a small number of pilots it is possible to save the victim. Often it’s not about saving the victim but exacting revenge. How many members of the raiding party can you kill in retaliation before they get away?
In practice the Money Badgers have had it all their own way. We will eventually mess up, but for now we have executed several successful raids, starting with the attack on this Imperium Hel. The Imperium has tried once with capitals, and they failed to kill the target Hel-class supercarrier.
Damn Lucky Hel
The Imperium attack occurred on April 8th around 23:00 UTC. The Hel was travelling to X-7OMU by a gate from the adjacent system L-TS8S. The first group to engage it was a large Imperium subcapital fleet. The MBC had enough time to form and save it because his alliance members Psychotic Tendencies. quickly reinforced him with another 10 supercarriers. The problem that we faced is that jump drives do not let a pilot jump from one place to another within the same solar system. The Imperium forces had seeded the battlefield with warp disruption bubbles. What this does is catch a ship warping onto the field at the edge of the bubble, instead of where he intended to arrive. Our forces would not have arrived close enough to save the target. We got around this by jumping to L-TS8S near the gate he had travelled through, and using the stargate ourselves.
As this was happening more enemy fleets were arriving and 11 Imperium dreadnoughts jumped into attack. Dreadnoughts are comparatively cheap capital ships with very high damage on board guns. They are often sent on suicide missions because of their cost effectiveness.
It turned out the Imperium dreadnoughts were not enough to kill the Hel before they were destroyed by Money Badger capital ships. It survived with 30% of its hull hitpoints left. More MBC fleets arrive, and the Imperium forces had to retreat. Here is the battle report.
Within the last couple days the Imperium has been massing large numbers of stealth bombers. These ships have almost no hitpoints, but they can cloak and they do a lot of damage. Bombers do not have an on board jump drive, but a black ops battleship can open a portal for them to travel to a cyno beacon. They seem to be turning to these ships as a cheap low risk doctrine for the same kinds of raids as described before, using numbers to try to make up for quality.
This has resulted in some carrier kills. I doubt they have enough firepower to kill a Supercapital but we will see.
Living under the constant threat of this kind of raid can be harrowing. Any moment something could go wrong. And since dying this way is normally the result of a mistake you made yourself, a moment of carelessness or inattention, your friends may become angry at you for losing the ship. You can be mocked and humiliated if you mess up. Sometimes EVE players are not nice people, even to the guys on their own team. This is particularly the case if you were the guy who “fed” a supercapital to the maws of the enemy.
“Raiders put immense amount of time into slowly and carefully hunting targets, waiting for the moment to pounce.”
On the other side of things, raiders put immense amount of time into slowly and carefully hunting targets, waiting for the moment to pounce. And there is nothing quite so satisfying as hearing the urgent call that your allies have tackled a ginormous shiny spaceship somewhere. EVE generates things called killmails, which are reports of ships that were destroyed; who participated in destroying it. EVE players keep track of these things at places like zkillboard. Showing up even in a minor role on a particularly expensive kill is considered a mark of success in the game.
The ritual now involves smugly posting about the victory on our subreddit.
This is one sided at the moment. During the one shot Imperium forces took, they were too slow to commit enough powerful equipment to the field to win. By contrast MBC attempts have been swift, brutal, and relatively unopposed.
Space Fortresses and Headshots
You may be asking yourself right now, “If the MBC can make the Imperium run from a fight, why can’t they just storm over the trench and blow up whatever fortress the Imperium is living in?” In EVE jargon, destroying the enemies staging location is called a headshot. A successful headshot pretty much wins the war, particularly if the attacker can cut off any retreat.
However in this case, both sides have learned to live in NPC-owned stations. By the game mechanics, the NPCs allow anyone who wants the ability to dock in their stations and store equipment. (Supercapitals and titans cannot dock in these stations.) NPC stations cannot be attacked, conquered, or destroyed.
This has defined the war area for a while now. Long before the Imperium’s military might was challenged small skirmishers harassed their space from safe harbor inside or just outside their territory. The major attacking groups formed up in safe harbors. And the Imperium central staging system was moved to a safe harbor. The result is that neither side can force a single battle that would win the war for one or the other. That kind of battle is still possible, a supercapital fight between the two sides would probably count, but commanders from both sides would have to actively decide to engage. Imperium propaganda right now says that they refuse to engage in a serious capital ship fight.
On the other hand, some day to day living in the Imperium made use of conquerable stations. Imperium territory was vast. A handful of places stood out as markets and communities. MBC has been slowly targeting the more important locations, and in the battles over these places, flooded them with overwhelming numbers. This was the kind of event that happened in M-OEE8. Except that M-OEE8 was a bloody brawl. If you are an outsider here to read about EVE, you were probably drawn in by an article such as this one. The footage linked is from the battle over M-OEE8. Since then, Imperium forces have not tried to directly engage MBC forces gathered to torch these locations.
Terror on the Roads
Losing conquerable stations slowly creates a crisis as individual refugees attempt to make their way out of the contested areas. Small groups of MBC and loose affiliates lay in ambush along all the routes, and the soil is soaked in blood, metaphorically. Straggling Imperium capitals face a near impossible task trying to move south toward the main staging areas. Many of them have died in the attempt, such as this poor sod. The roads are not safe to move a supercapital across. The pursuit evasion game is high stress, high adrenaline, high stakes for both the hunters, and the hunted.
The last time I got attacked moving a titan far from home I fought my way out and survived, but my hands were shaking and I was shouting at myself for the mistakes I made that got me into the mess. It’s the next best thing to full on fight-or-flight panic.
Main Imperium Capital Fleet
Actually right now the Imperium faces a somewhat dire situation. As I said, supercapitals cannot dock in stations. Instead they hide behind the safety of POS forcefields. When they log out, if they have not been engaged in recent combat, the ship is removed from space. When they log back in, they reappear in the exact same place they left. The main staging system for Imperium supercapitals is a system called 93PI-4. This is one gate jump from Saranen.
There is currently a struggle going on in 93PI-4 over control of the moons. A POS can only be placed in orbit around a moon. This means there are a limited number of locations to place one. Imperium POSes have been destroyed and replaced by MBC ones. The process of killing a POS is to show up one day and shoot it until it runs out of HP, then show up the next day at a specific time and shoot it again until it is dead. The second timer is a game design choice intended to allow the defenders time to plan a defense. So far the Imperium has not been able to save their POSes. They control 1 of the 38 possible POS locations in 93PI-4. MBC control most of the rest.
“Getting out is going to require a coordinated breakout that is almost certainly going to be compromised by spies.”
This creates a very dangerous situation for supercapitals logged off there. An MBC POS will engage an Imperium supercapital if it logs in where the Imperium POS was. Getting out is going to require a coordinated breakout that is almost certainly going to be compromised by spies. If an Imperium leader was dumb enough to try, he would certainly end up in a capital ship battle. Right now, he would probably lose.
The Imperium supercapital fleet is only safe as long as it stays logged off. It cannot even reposition or engage in fast raids. As I said before, Imperium propaganda has stated that they are basically going to keep the ships trapped there logged off until the enemy goes away; basically until the war is over.
CSAAs Space Shipyards
Since the Imperium has placed its subcapital assets in a safe NPC port and logged of its supercapital fleet, MBC has turned to other vulnerable assets to attack. The most valuable of these are POS structures called CSAAs. These are the shipyards in which supercapital ships are constructed. They are relatively fragile as fixed structures go. Once construction has begun, there is no way to abort and retrieve all the composite materials.
The Imperium is not so stupid as to start new construction during a war that is going this badly for them. The problem they face is that construction takes a while and the war is recent. The active CSAAs that are being destroyed come from before things turned so badly south for the Imperium. Virtually no useful defensive efforts have been made to save these structures. As costs go, losing a CSAA building a supercapital is quite expensive. A bit less than losing a combat ready supercapital because of the expensive equipment added to the base hull after construction.
The Dark Shadow of the MBC Capital Umbrella
“The MBC can use its capital fleet with impunity, confident in winning any engagement it chooses to.”
Given that the Imperium is now struggling with conventional battles, and has hidden away it’s supercapital fleet, they face a serious problem. The MBC can use its capital fleet with impunity, confident in winning any engagement it chooses. The area this capital fleet can quickly reach is referred to as its capital umbrella. Within this area, which includes the Imperium staging system, any serious resistance that crops up can be quickly attacked with capital ships. Imperium FCs who do fight now have to worry about using slower formations that cannot escape the capital ships. This hamstrings their ability to field battleships, which are the toughest, nastiest subcapitals. They mostly have to use cruisers and battlecruisers to avoid getting dropped, which are faster and weaker than battleships. Being weaker they tend to lose more fights. And the circling of the drain continues…
Skirmishing in the Trenches
Again and again I talk about Imperium strategic impotency. They are losing the big battles. However there are many small skirmishes going on. Some of them over control of useless stretches of land, but other fights have real value. Right now valuable skirmishes are happening over the existence of the Imperium’s roads. That is, there are player built utilities that are very similar to gates. The owner can use them to go from place to place along the paths that have been laid out. As long as the roads exist, these utilities called jump bridges, Imperium forces are faster on foot than MBC forces relying on gates alone. Every night, currently late US time zone and very early AU time zone, these structures become vulnerable. Rather than being big lumbering battles, both sides have been sending out small skirmishing groups to fight.
The Imperium has fielded a mix of cruiser-class Caracals, which are dirt cheap, fast, long ranged, and accurate; battlecrusier class Hurricanes, which are cheap, have some mobility, and hit hard at moderate ranges; and interceptors, which are immune to some forms of tackle, and can evacuate very quickly.
If skirmishers that are dirt cheap and easy to disengage in sound kind of weak to you, you would be right. However the Imperium is able to field quite large groups of skirmishers. In practice this kind of fighting has had the best results for the Imperium. It has not been as one sided. MBC pulls out some wins, the Imperium pulls out some wins. Both sides find an enormous number of stragglers to shoot at. Fights bubble up constantly at different locations. There are small squads and huge formations. The five systems strung out like a line between X-7OMU and Saranen are particularly bloody, as groups advance and retreat.
The current game mechanics make fighting for control of the many less important systems a long, grindy affair. You don’t win once for the day, or win a couple battles. It goes on and on and on… a never ending ebb and flow. This provides an opportunity for a very different kind of fighting style from the large formations, and constant content for those logging in. There’s the challenge of pursuing weaker forces and forcing them to fight; the thrill of dodging more powerful enemy fleets or the disaster when you don’t; and the complex RTS like nature of coordinating with many allied groups to be able to come together at the same time to win engagements.
Another aspect worth noting are the unaligned small groups. They tend to be focused on attacking the Imperium, but they will shoot at anybody. Travelling across the battlefield alone is very dangerous.
The skirmish situation occasionally turns bad for the Imperium. Sometimes they get pushed back to walls of their castle. And even though the castle is safe, barbarians at the gates can shoot the unfortunates who choose to peek over the wall or somehow stumble out said gate. (This happens more than you would think.)
At times there are flurries of activity on the Imperium station; groups of attackers, or defenders sallying forth to fight on their own doorstep. Every day on the undock a few basic capital ships die to MBC titan doomsday weapons, instant single point guns that do millions of points of damage in a single hit.
As the distress of the Imperium becomes more apparent, additional outsiders jockey around the station. It’s not uncommon to see two groups fighting over the privilege of camping outside the Imperium station. Wrecks of unfortunates litter the area.
The nature of the war changes across the time of day. For one, Imperium sovereignty is currently set to be vulnerable from late United States timezone to early Australian timezone; an EVE timezone being the evening hours for that location when a player with a job is likely to have free time to show up to play.
An example of this variance is European timezone being busy, hectic, and dangerous because of the sheer number of people online. Changes in play can occur because a group is stronger at one timezone than another. On the most personal level, MVP commanders may only show up and be active at certain times because that is when they can play. A daily pattern begins to emerge and a veteran would be able to predict the likelihood of certain events occurring merely by the time of day.
r/Eve; The Propaganda War
On Reddit every day now, more leaks of high level discussions in the Imperium leadership emerge. The Imperium leader makes another statement that sounds like an insane dictator hiding in a bunker as his empire burns. He picks a fight with a game developer, or taunts opponents while planning to stab allies in the back. There are purges and defections. The Imperium mouthpiece spits out deranged propaganda.
The core reason the MBC uses reddit is because it serves as an effective platform for distributing useful information. In between the propaganda and the shittalk, reddit is still the absolute best place to go on a daily basis if you want to be informed. This is the top post, stickied there for a while now. That article covers political maneuverings and important events that have happened. I strongly recommend reading it if you want to know more about the context and overall swing of the war.
As It Is
If you’re not here you’re missing out on something great. Given how things are snowballing, I do not know how much longer the party can last. That’s why I’m out on the field as much as I can be, hogging the beer and loving the content.