Posted Mon, Jan 31, 2011 by The Mittani
Planning the conquest of a conquerable region is the rarest art in Eve Online, shrouded in more obfuscation and uninformed idiocy than even forensic counterintelligence. Only a handful of individuals at the highest level of alliance warfare have had an opportunity to try their hand at it; the vast majority fails, and the hundreds or thousands of pilots who follow them suffer for it. A single successfully planned war can create a reputation that lasts for years, and the failures follow would-be sky marshals forever. Because war planning is something only a handful of players get to do, there is no manual, no accepted order of battle; we see the same novice mistakes repeated on a monthly basis across New Eden.
Early in the conquest of Fountain (which is in its final stages, as I pen this) I found myself dealing with an eager young allied fleet commander who wanted to give his advice on how we should be managing the campaign. He had never planned a war, but felt that our selection of targets was wrong; there was nothing I could point him to in order to disabuse him of his notions, save for a rather vulgar laundry list of regions which I’ve had a hand in conquering. It was during this cringe-worthy moment that I decided to write this guide. While the vast majority of readers will never be in a position to put this to direct use, it should at least help correct some of the fundamental misunderstandings that both many fleet-level players and untested sky marshals have about the nature of nullsec war.
We speak here of ‘war’ as a contest between alliances fighting for sovereign space. Scuffles in empire using the Concord ‘corporation war’ mechanic or knife-fights between small gangs in NPC nullsec where no territory can be captured do not interest us. War is not for nice people, even in an internet spaceship game; War is about destroying the bonds of friendship and companionship that hold an organization together. It is by definition an act of cruelty.
War between alliances for conquerable space has changed drastically in tactical details since 2006, but the strategic principles remain virtually identical regardless of the old POS-war mechanic or the Dominion sov system. This is because war for conquerable space is a test of organization against organization; the ultimate goal is to keep your own alliance’s pilots logging in and fighting, while discouraging your adversary’s pilots from doing the same. This process is based on human psychology and is independent from the tactical details of the game mechanics, which is why the signature events of nullsec war, such as the failure cascade, remain unchanged despite innumerable patches and tweaks.
What is War, Really?
War in EVE is not about battles between fleets or even capturing territory. Battles between fleets and territory changing hands are byproducts of war, of course, but the real purpose is to annihilate the enemy’s capacity for resistance in all forms. Once resistance is eliminated, what battles remain can be won easily and territory taken as an afterthought. Many wars begin with a stalemate of battles won and lost and systems traded until one side finally breaks their enemy’s will, whereupon the enemy implodes.
Hold Nothing Back
Breaking the enemy’s will takes many forms, both inside the game and outside of it. This includes attacks on logistics, attacks on sources of income, propaganda wars, the espionage metagame, scamming, griefing, character assassination, major fleet battles as well as small gang harassment. Any alliance going to “war” but intending only to fight in battles and contest territory, ignoring the other aspects of war, may still be able to defeat an inferior organization and shatter its will, but will be hamstrung against an equal opponent who is willing to use every available weapon.
Attack the Weakest Link
When choosing targets to strike, always attack the place where the enemy will have the least defense. Usually this begins with attacks against subordinate entities such as ‘pets’ or renters associated with the primary target. The client states of a bloc, particularly those who don’t own their own space, are populated with pilots who are not interested in a war, yet can provide significant support in a fleet if properly motivated.
When fighting against Lotka Volterra’s ‘Southern Coalition’ in 2007, the Redswarm Federation focused on LV’s satellite allies in Veritas Immortalis and Knights of the Southerncross, cascading them long before going to war on LV’s home territory. Atlas Alliance, which inhabited virtually the same territory as Lotka Volterra, fell in the same way: its client entities (Gentlemen’s Club, Cult of War, Honorable Templum of Alcedonia) were stripped away, and then the center collapsed. Similarly, when invading Fountain in 2011, the Deklein Coalition and its allies focused their attacks on the renters of IT Alliance such as Talos, Black Star Alliance and Blade long before any assaults began on IT Alliance territory.