Battle: Well and Truly JoinedThe Scouring of Delve: before we really ramp up here to all the juicy recent carnage and E-drama, please permit me a brief history lesson. The heartwarming tale I’m about to tell starts with the annihilation of the administrative entity formerly known as Band of Brothers and its reformation as KenZoku. All that’s pretty much public record, and if you haven’t heard about it, you’ve been living under a rock.
What you might not know is that in the immediate wake of BoB’s sovereignty evaporating, the Goons picked up and moved, declaring that their old home was open to whoever wanted it. They then jumped into Delve with both feet, declaring that it would be their new home come hell or high water. Along with the Goonian invasion, many of the rest of EVE’s barbarian hordes were at the gate. An alliance motivated largely by hatred of KenZoku (henceforth referred to as the Anti-Kenny Alliance, or AKA) poured into Delve. They met relatively week opposition from the Greater Kenny Coalition, henceforth referred to as the GKC.
The fighting that transpired was some of the strangest that I’ve ever seen. For week after week, Allied cap blobs roamed Delve, smashing Kenny towers like drunked gorillas in a Waterford Glass store. These blobs were actually so massive that dreads were ordered not to enter siege and sub-cap pilots often found themselves sitting in stations, spinning madly, while the heavy lifting was done elsewhere.
During that time, an unknown but substantial number of Kenny cap and supercap ships were bubbled into the PR- station and the system itself became a permacamp largely lead by the Goons… with all that entails. Local was lolcal, NC pilots found themselves using Goon TS, and while many, many towers and faction towers all through Delve were melted down to slag by Alliance forces, the PR- camp held.
To be sure, there were sporadic fights and roaming gangs, but PR- remained an iron cage to hold Kenny forces in, which Kenny ‘trimmed the fat’ or ‘hemorrhaged members’, depending on who you choose to believe. For roughly a month the cage stayed intact, and Kenny was forced entirely out of Delve, with many of their Coalition’s members getting pushed back off their patches of turf around the main cleansing of Delve.
Barbarians At the Gate: for NC forces in particular, this situation brought an interesting dynamic. While cap pilots had all the blood they could drink, many regular, non-cap pilots were, simply, bored. Roaming ops and ‘busywork’ ops were created s that those who weren’t smashing POS’s would at least have something to do.
Along with that, the camp in PR- undoubtedly brought back some bad, bad memories for some NC pilots. The Tribune reported extensively on the conflict in and around VFK and its eventual fall. Perhaps the most important dynamic of the conflict, the friction between the greater NC and IRON forces was focused on.
Now, nothing like that level of animosity developed in Delve, but for many NC pilots, being asked to permacamp a system with the only real movement being switching safespots? And added to that, the tempo of war consisting of numerous ‘urgent’ ops followed by blueballs as the anticipated breakout was never even attempted?
Well, it took a toll on morale, as can be expected. Some NC pilots, lacking any real hope for significant PvP engagements, took to ratting in Tenal during slow times and flying to or clone jumping down to Delve for ops or when it looked like there may be actual explosions going on somewhere. I’m talking about the NC here because that’s what I witnessed first hand, but I can’t imagine that the participation rates for everybody else stayed at or near peak. One of the hardest activities in EVE is to maintain a state of constant combat readiness over long periods of time. Periods of time which are typified by vast amounts of waiting around and then are punctuated by brief, frenzied combat.
It’s no fun.
So, after roughly a month of PR- being a solid cage which kept the Kenny forces in, the numbers in PR- dropped low enough that the GKC was able to mount a successful breakout operation. Calls for reinforcements echoed over AKA jabber, TS and in-game chat channels and pilots rushed to the combat zone. However, the AKA forces in the theater of engagement were unable to hold PR- and were largely tasked with running engagements and interdicting chokepoints in order to prevent GKC reinforcements from having free reign of the area.
Reports are still sketchy, but it’s certain that many GKC dreads, motherships and a handful of titans managed to escape from PR- that day. AKA pilots attempted to pop some of the retreating cap fleets as they tended to be scattered through the process of cyno-jumping, but as far as I’m aware most if not all of those targeted caps managed to get into POS shields before being wiped out. Kenny was back in the war.
But the damage had already been done. Sov 3 was upon most of Delve, with it ticking over or about it tick over in Goon controlled space. While the camp in PR- fell, it ended up falling at a good time. If GKC forces had managed a breakout a week (or several weeks) earlier, things would have been seriously different and the AKA would have been forced to fight a war on two fronts or at least split their firepower and FC’s between offensive and defensive ops, instead of simply steamrolling POS’s and settings up their own logistical network to support their sovereignty claims in Delve.
So it Begins: with GKC forces having liberated themselves from the PR- cage, the AKA knew that they’d be getting a fight, somewhere. And most likely it’d be happening sooner rather than later. That fight came about when 49-, in Querious, was subject to GKC attentions as several towers were anchored and Allied sovereignty was to be put to the test.
Things came to a head on March 15th when 49-‘s local count spiked above 1400 (yes, you read that right, more th an one thousand four hundred pilots). Combat was lagtastic with ‘rubberband’ warps, desynchs and massive delays for switching ammunition types and/or reloading. Many of the AKA forces who entered the system did so via titan bridge, and as a result the initial stages of the battle were marked by numerous pilots who failed to load grid or had some wonky weirdness plaguing them when they finally did load.
Over the course of the fighting (which lasted for many hours) GKC forces tended to maintain numerical superiority and while sub-capital kills were roughly equal for both sides, AKA fleets did not fight as a unified whole in all cases and the NC fleet, in particular, saw its support stripped away after several hours and without orders to cyno out, its cap fleet took significant losses. Close to a dozen cap ships were reported lost, with the majority being dreads. Total losses in the battle were eventually listed as 600+ ships. A number that, when you think about it, would in and of itself constitute a massive battle anywhere else in the game.
Goon sources have, however, claimed that even as the battle was being lost, they managed to knock out EXE’s jump bridge link, scoring a blow for logistical warfare. Whether or not this is accurate, and whether or not it will have any noticeable effect on EXE’s ability to fight and refit easily? Well, that’s anybody’s guess and I won’t comment on it, you can make your own minds up. I will say that GKC forces performed superbly and carried the day after initial fighting in 49-, and their victory there proves that they’ve still got teeth.
But, win or lose, the fight has if anything, re-energized some of the AKA forces. Now there are real battles to be had, CEO’s can be expected to be having their “come to Jesus” discussions among their corps as the AKA goes back onto a full-bore aggressive war footing.
That isn’t to say that victory (or defeat) are preordained for anybody at all. If GKC forces are able to maintain a beachhead in 49-, they’ll be within jump range of 9CG- as well as systems from which they can set up as staging grounds. If the AKA doesn’t manage to hold the GKC to 49-, Kenny and friends may very well be able to push back into Delve.
Fortress Something Delve Awful: things don’t end there, however. Within a very short time, unless something truly momentous happens, we’ll be back at “Fortress Delve”. But this time, it’ll be the barbarians who’ll be manning the barricades and swinging from the chandeliers while the forces of Imperial BoB have to throw themselves against the walls while contending with jump bridging, cyno-jammed defenders, and a foe who’ll have record high morale.
During this time, Kenny will (largely) be living off of its stored ISK and asset reserves. Their dyspro moons are gone. Or perhaps worse (for them) than gone, now in Goon hands. BoB was supposedly in possession of one of the largest T2 BPO and production networks in the game, and vast coffers. Once, back in the days of “we didn’t want that titan anyways”, we were told that even massive cap thefts and PvP losses wouldn’t matter as they could be absorbed easily.
Whether or not that was true then is anybody’s guess. Whether or not it’s true now will be proven in the trial by fire that’s to come. If GKC forces can keep the pressure on and replace their losses, they’ve got a chance. Undoubtedly at least some of their individual pilots have private stores of ISK and ships, and can afford to lose and replace substantial combat damage up to and including multiple dreads. It’s also highly doubtful that Kenny member corps have lost the entirety of their war chests, and they may very well be able to afford a war of attrition for the foreseeable future.
The coming conflict will almost undoubtedly turn on the three main dynamics of EVE alliance warfare: resources, logistics, and most importantly morale. Resources are an unknown quantity with the AKA forces seemingly having the advantage. GKC forces, on paper at least, should have enough titan bridges and carriers to make logistical concerns less than an urgently pressing matter. That, of course, leaves morale as the determining factor of the conflict, as always.
If GKC forces can maintain cohesion, they may very well be able to claw their way, through trench-warfare, back to a domain capable of supporting the vast economic drain of a grinding PvP campaign. If they remain dedicated they’ll be able to have participation high enough to provide serious challenges or outright overwhelm AKA forces if the AKA gets sloppy and/or lazy. Hell, with a strong enough core of morale and dedication, we may even see them withdraw to lick their wounds and launch a surprise attack at some point in the future.
Things, at this point, are simply up in the air, and the AKA forces are no more immune to the whims of chance than the GKC. This is a critical time in the war, and if AKA forces lose motivation, or have to respond to massive attacks on their own home systems outside of Delve, the tide can easily swing in the other direction.
We still have yet to see the full might of whatever capital ships Kenny managed to salvage from PR-. The fighting in 49-, in fact, was marked by a distinct lack of grid-filling pretty lights. What will happen when (or perhaps if) the GKC decides to commit the bulk of its cap fleet is up in the air. If history has shown anything though, such decisions have to be engaged in very carefully. Too few caps on the field and it has a perversely invigorating effect on enemy forces, as pilots will X up and travel for several regions in the hopes of getting on a mothership or titan killmail. A fleet that’s seen as “too large” can easily find itself simply running out the strong stores on enemy POS’s and having to schedule alarm clock ops to finish the job. A fleet that’s large enough to defend itself but not so big that it scares off opposition, still has to deal with the possibility of massive losses if the vagaries of combat shift against their favor.
Up until now the fighting in 49- has consisted of massive GKC battleship/support fleets, but no real cap ship combat. When and if that changes, we’ll undoubtedly see a new phase of the war.
We’re living in interesting times.
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