Sins of a Solar Spymaster #84: The Tribute War
The war for Tribute and Vale of the Silent between the Clusterf*ck Coalition (The CFC) and the Dotbros (containing Northern Coalition., Black Legion., Nulli Secunda, and Ev0ke) raged without pause between its outbreak on August 1st, 2012 and November 23rd, when the last system in Vale fell to the CFC. Unlike almost every other sov-war taking place under the onerous Dominion sovereignty system, the Tribute war did not see one side break and be swept away within two weeks, which was the ignominious fate of recent conflicts in Branch, Tenal, and the grossly underwhelming Southern Coalition defense of Delve, Querious, and Period Basis. For the first time in recent memory, two blocs tested each other and fought bitterly for four months, an echo of the kind of war which once was common under pre-Dominion Pos Warfare sov mechanics.
The Tribute war began with an accident. NCdot, Ev0ke, Pandemic Legion and the CFC had signed the OTEC treaty, setting up a technetium cartel that kept the price of that critical mineral artificially high. Technetium had always been a conflict driver in the north, but after the conquest of Tenal the CFC seized the majority of NCdots technetium in Venal, and the threat of further losses brought NCdot to the OTEC table.
NCdot was not originally a sovholding alliance; named Northern Coalition(dot) as a joke at the expense of their now-dead enemies in the old NC, the alliance is mostly comprised of former Triumvirate corporations, and led by Wicked Princess in the US TZ and Vince Draken in EU TZ as Co-CEOs. When the old NC fell, NCdot found itself in charge of Tribute and half of Vale, vastly enriched. Their membership was split; half wanted to hold the space in order to profit off technetium, and the other half wanted a return to the sovless freedom of the old Triumvirate lifestyle. This conflict was also spread across time zones; the EU NCdot under Vince Draken mostly kept to its treaties, while the US NCdot players increasingly aligned themselves with Black Legion, a sovless alliance living in Venal under Elo Knights leadership. Wicked Princess and Elo Knight had even gone so far as to engage in a romantic liaison. When Black Legion - not a member of OTEC, and thus free to siege OTEC moons - attacked CFC tech moons, Wicked Princess brought her US TZ NCdot faction to the party, shattering OTEC and kicking off the war without co-CEO Vince Drakens knowledge or consent.
The Early Phase
Having anticipated that it was only a matter of time until NCdot violated OTEC, the CFC immediately launched an offensive against Dotbros assets in Venal from QPO, a purpose-built outpost in East Deklein. Where the CFC had traditionally been considered strongest in the US TZ, this early war for technetium in Venal proved that it was EU TZ, not US TZ, which the CFC had on lockdown. NCdot swiftly lost every technetium moon within one jump of QPO with the misfortune to be timed to what had been NCdots prime time.
Having conquered every moon within range of QPO, the CFC began hitting sov timers in Tribute still within QPO range, and set its sights on UMI-KK, which would become their staging system for the remainder of the war. By August 31st, UMI was in CFC hands, and Tribute looked to fall soon thereafter - but then the CFC ran into a brick wall as the Dotbros began to defend in earnest.
Having lost EU TZ to the CFC hordes spearheaded by Mister Vee, the Dotbros realized that the supposedly preeminent CFC US TZ had become fat and lazy. During this timezone the primary FC of the Dotbros forces was Elo Knight of Black Legion, and he adopted a doctrine of massed T3 Battlecruiser snipers, mostly Tornadoes and Nagas. These not only made it difficult for the CFC to siege in Tribute, but they were expendable, hard to catch, and outranged the CFCs favored battleship doctrine, the Alphafleet.
Alphafleets were designed before the implementation of Time Dilation, and first rolled out against IT Alliance in Fountain more than two years ago. Dotbros resistance had revealed an ugly truth: the CFCs doctrines were woefully obsolete, a consequence of too many wars where the enemy broke and ran within the first two weeks of fighting. Alphafleets, comprised mostly of Maelstroms, are also hellishly expensive; when one was wiped out it cost half a Titan to reimburse. The CFC EU TZ began to siege Tribute to make up for the faltering US TZ, but US TZ began to feed the Dotbros Alphafleets, losing them at an alarming rate.
Meanwhile, in what would become a recurring theme throughout the war, the CFC began to lose lone supercapitals - Titans and supercarriers - to the stupidity of individual pilots. With 150+ supercapitals in staging towers in UMI, the CFC presented an amazing target for smaller Dotbros fleets in Tornadoes or Tempests grouped for bridging. The story played out the same each time: a foolish CFC supercap pilot would warp off alone, log off in a safespot, or warp into a POS with a compromised password, and the Dotbros forces would collect another expensive killmail to keep their morale up. The CFC as a whole dismissed these losses as Darwinism in action, but they unquestionably helped fortify the Dotbros will to resist where other enemies in similar straits had broken.
The CFC adapted and updated its doctrines, changing its Alphafleets to rely more on Rokhs and deploying their own Tornado wings. US TZ shifted back to CFC control, leaving only Australian time to NCdot control. As with QPO, every technetium moon within one jump of UMI fell to CFC control, leaving only IHUBs and stations.
However, it happened that the Dotbros had a number of very strong ANZAC PvP corporations, where the CFCs AU TZ was completely unorganized, having never been tested in a sov war. Unlike a moon which can be kited, NCdots sov structures could be set to AU TZ and reliably come out of reinforced between 9:00 and 11:00 EVE, an hour inaccessible to US/EU players in the CFC. Initially, CFC FCs would alarm-clock to try to win AU TZ battles, but the NCdot AU TZ killed off a number of CFC fleets; at this hour, Dotbros could muster 150+ subcaps and use supercapitals, where the CFC could barely put 80 in fleet. Meanwhile, the pace of CFC siegework slowed to a crawl; instead of relentless daily sieging in the EU and US TZ, the CFC would siege on only one night a week, making it even easier for the Dotbros AU TZ to hold the line - glutted on easy CFC Drakefleet kills and invigorated by their against all odds success.
Around this time I gave a presentation on Sov War at Eve Vegas, and I used the example of the Tribute war and the AU TZ defense. I publicly announced the CFC plan: stop feeding fleets to the triumphant NCdot AU TZ and drown them in endless sov-repping ops by leveraging the CFCs EU and US TZ dominance. Explicitly spelling this out seemed to have the intended effect, because once the CFC siege machine fired up once more and the superior NCdot AU TZ fleets stopped being fed easy kills, the course of the war radically shifted.
Faced with 15+ structures to repair every night when logging on instead of good fights, the Dotbros began to lose their will to resist; IHUBs stopped being fully repaired and the CFC began to punch through the AU TZ sov defenses, cleaning up un-repaired structures in EU TZ. The Dotbro tactic of denying the CFC fights in EU TZ backfired, driving one of the CFCs primary FCs, Mister Vee, to vow to burn every NCdot structure down in a Shadoo Rage.
It was under this environment of escalating pressure that the tensions within NCdot exploded. Vince Draken became fed up with Black Legion and his co-CEO in NCdot, Wicked Princess; a spat over a Falcon shot by a Black Legion player escalated into Vince kicking Wicked Princess out of NCdot, her joining Black Legion to be with her e-boyfriend Elo Knight, and each side resetting the other.
With nothing but structure repair to look forward to, and their coalition fragmenting, NCdot resistance in AU TZ collapsed; CFC purge fleets mopped up the rest of the region and began eyeing Vale of the Silent.
At the end of the Tribute conquest, the CFC was unquestionably exhausted. Vale of the Silent was half-held by NCdot, with the other off limits and held by OTEC member Ev0ke. Vale is one of the largest regions in the game, and there were serious questions as to if the CFC could manage more war.
Yet after a normal campaign, where the line members arent burned out but the FCs are fried, Tribute had burned out line members but left the CFC FCs in a blueball-induced rage. Because the Dotbros had refused to fight the CFC in EU TZ at all, CFC FCs were hell-bent on vengeance and willing to grind a 90-system region just out of spite. I had been of a mind to consolidate our gains and leave Vale alone, but instead announced that we would be marching onwards.
Yet Vale ended before it began. Seeing our pending conquest of the region, Ev0ke approached the CFC with an offer - 250 billion isk for all of Ev0kes sov and moons, something of a steal considering that this included 45 tech moons. The CFC had no plans to attack Ev0ke to begin with, but the offer was too good to turn down. When news of this leaked, NCdot reset Ev0ke and abandoned Vale.
Ironically, Ev0ke had sold eight tech moons in Geminate to the CFC which the CFC did not want - but as NCdot was moving toward Geminate, the CFC promptly sold those ex-Evoke moons to Vince Draken and NCdot at a discount. So: the longest contested sov war in memory ended not with weaponry or a whimper, but a flurry of relatively genial mercantile transactions. Perhaps the strangest aspect of this long, difficult war was how little actual ill-will existed between the blocs involved, compared to the bitter vendettas and hatred which still linger from the Great War.