Sins of a Solar Spymaster #15: A History of the Second Great War, Part One
For players that want a chance to truly affect a game's environment, history, or future, EVE Online stands at the front of the pack of choices. Boasting tens of thousands of players online, all on the same server, EVE Online allows those willing to form massive corporations and alliances the opportunity to participate in events unseen anywhere else in the genre. This week, our resident EVE insider, The Mittani, breaks down the events leading up to and during the Second Great War for the masses. Haargoth Agamar struck, implementing a plan conceived by the GIA. 'Band of Brothers' ceased to exist as each member corporation was kicked from the alliance, the alliance itself disbanded, and the name 'Band of Brothers' stolen by a Swarm-controlled alt corporation. Sovereignty defenses dropped throughout all of what had been BoB territory. The war was on and each side had to react. To read the rest of Sins of a Solar Spymaster #15: A History of the Second Great War, Part One, click here!
The Second Great War is inarguably the single most catastrophic event in the history of New Eden. It is the largest war in EVE, with more than 30,000 pilots directly involved. It is the most destructive, with more assets destroyed, trapped, or ruined in the last few months than in any other conflict - and the sheer concentration of that devastation in time and space, the density of the carnage, defies description. It is a war with more regional scope than any other; the major players are powerblocs from every sector of the galaxy, with fronts and brushfire wars in the North, South, and East. Not even the normally peaceable Empire regions are immune to the war's influence, as the market disruption caused by so many assets changing hands has thrown the economy into a dizzying, scarcity-induced spike. Immense fortunes have been won and lost, notoriety achieved, reputations ruined.
There is no question that a history of the event is premature. Histories are written by the victors, and there is no clear victor to this conflict. Nonetheless, this is an attempt to illustrate what has transpired over the past four months, to take a series of events of dizzying complexity and break it down into discrete chunks that can be analyzed.
Whose War is it, Anyway?
First, there was the Great Northern War. It was a bitter conflict, but this was 2004; not many people played EVE. The GNW was heralded as the first 'Great' war in New Eden, and out of its aftermath an alliance called Band of Brothers (BoB) was formed. BoB considered themselves the best in the game, and let everyone know it; this resulted in a host of enemies, particularly the group now known as the Northern Coalition (NC). The GNW saw the creation of some of the first multi-alliance powerblocs.
By March of 2006 there were four major powerblocs in EVE: The Northern Coalition, Band of Brothers and their associated 'pets', Lotka Volterra (LV) and the Southern Coalition, and Ascendant Frontier (ASCN) and their allies.
In July 2006 (amidst various other wars) BoB invaded Syndicate. For two weeks they camped a corporation of 500 newbies from an internet comedy forum into the stations of S-U8A4. Boring easily, BoB declared victory and left; the newbies - of Goonfleet - vowed revenge. Two months later they left Syndicate to join with Red Alliance and Tau Ceti Federation to form the RedSwarm Federation, a new powerbloc opposed to both Lotka Volterra and BoB.
Meanwhile, BoB destroyed Ascendant Frontier with embarrassing ease. While the NC and the RSF had little but contempt for ASCN, BoB's acquisition of ASCN's former territory substantially upset the balance of power. Worse, Goonswarm spies found records of a conversation between the leadership of BoB and LV discussing the possibility of a secret treaty against the RSF. In retaliation, the RSF and the NC concluded their own hidden mutual defense pact, vowing that each bloc would invade BoB should they make an aggressive move. Then, determined to strike first, the RSF decided to try to exterminate LV before a BoB/LV pact could be formalized. While at first BoB watched to see if LV could handle the RSF on its own, when LV entered a failure cascade, BoB intervened, triggered the RSF/NC defense pact, and all hell broke loose.
Between March 2007 and April 2008, the First Great War tore the galaxy apart. BoB and Lotka Volterra struggled against the Northern Coalition and the RedSwarm Federation, resulting in the deaths of many alliances, including Mercenary Coalition, Dusk and Dawn, Firmus Ixion, Lotka Volterra and RISE. Band of Brothers was brought to the verge of extinction, but successfully repelled the invasion of Delve by coalition forces. Licking their wounds, each bloc claimed that they had won the upper hand. RedSwarm Federation and the Northern Coalition had cut BoB's territory from eight regions to three and feasted on the spoils; BoB laughingly held to the fact that their enemies had failed to unseat them from Delve, the most valuable region in the game and BoB's home.
The Second Great War abruptly began with the disbanding and seizure of the 'Band of Brothers' alliance and the invasion of Delve by the Northern Coalition (Morsus Mihi, Razor, and Tau Ceti Federation), Goonswarm, Pandemic Legion, KIA and Zenith Affinity on February 4th 2009.
Compared with the First Great War, BoB's regional footprint was much smaller at the outbreak of the Second. In the First Great War, BoB had lost most of their former territory save for three regions: Delve, their home base, and the pet-inhabited buffer regions of Querious and Period Basis. Pandemic Legion (PL), sworn enemies of BoB, were poised on their border in Fountain, which had once been BoB's. The Northern Coalition had recently been provoked by BoB during a failed invasion of NC territories - the so-called 'MAX' campaign - between July and November 2008. Goonswarm had become bloated with territory, holding with seven regions in the southeast, from Esoteria to Scalding Pass, many of which had been pried from BoB or BoB pets by force.
February 3rd 2009 saw the war focused in Detorid and Feythabolis with Goonswarm being attacked by Against All Authorities (-A-) and BoB. This intermittent offensive had been going on since November, with no significant strategic gains or losses on either side; it was pos warfare at its most dull. The next day, everything changed.
Outside Context Problem: Feb 4th 2009
Haargoth Agamar struck, implementing a plan conceived by the GIA. 'Band of Brothers' ceased to exist as each member corporation was kicked from the alliance, the alliance itself disbanded, and the name 'Band of Brothers' stolen by a Swarm-controlled alt corporation. Sovereignty defenses dropped throughout all of what had been BoB territory. The war was on and each side had to react.
Several decisions were made in the immediate aftermath of the disbanding that would reverberate throughout the campaign. The coalition (NC + RSF + PL) chose to immediately invade Delve, the heart of BoB territory, rather than attacking an outlying buffer region such as Querious, as had happened during the 'first' war. From the moment that BoB's disbanding was revealed, massive forces were set in motion. A 'sov ticker' alarm was widely distributed by the coalition, making it clear to their pilots that Delve had to be captured within four weeks. After four weeks, BoB's new alliance (KenZoku) would recover much of their sovereignty, nullifying Haargoth's actions.
By contrast, Band of Brothers spent several days denying reality. Conspiracy theories spread wildly regarding Haargoth, suggesting that his account had been hacked. BoB directors filed many petitions to CCP, asking for some kind of GM intervention. Their groupthink refused to accept that Haargoth could have defected, so the average BoB pilot believed that their sovereignty would be restored by CCP.
Initial Engagements to Crushing Loss: Feb 5th - Feb 12th 2009
Delve is a unique region of conquerable space, not only because it has higher income potential than any other region in New Eden, but also because it contains a sub-region of NPC stations where anyone can dock without restriction. The coalition invasion of Delve was staged from 319 (GS), UHKL (NC) and G-TT (PL), systems in 'NPC Delve'. Each coalition alliance parked a Titan in one of these staging systems and used their jumpbridges to quickly move fleets and reinforce battles in progress.
The ex-corporations of BoB reformed as an alliance under the banner of one of their existing pets, KenZoku (RKZ), on February 6th. From that date, the coalition would have 28 days to capture twenty conquerable stations in Delve, a seemingly impossible task. Every day, both KenZoku and the coalition would place as many towers as they could in contested systems.
In an attempt to gain as much ground as possible, the coalition divided their towers among the Sov4 constellations of Delve, with GS, the NC and PL each picking a separate cluster of outposts. Each of these constellations had once been the exclusive fiefdom of a BoB member corporation. The hope was that any given constellation loss would take that corporation out of the war. To ensure that the 'tower spam' was as obnoxious as possible to repel, the coalition almost exclusively used 'dickstars', control towers fit with as many shield hardeners and ECM modules as possible, rendering them almost impossible to attack without a capital fleet, yet completely unarmed. Attacking even a single dickstar with subcapitals would take hours of effort to knock one into reinforced. Between the various alliances of the coalition, more towers were deployed in Delve faster than in any campaign in EVE history.
The crux of the fighting was in the J-L system, part of the constellation which Goonswarm was assaulting. The core system of the Reikoku corporation, J-L was the site of several Capital Ship Assembly Arrays (CSAAs) which were in the process of building motherships and titans. J-L played host to multiple all-day battles in which hundreds of ships on each side were destroyed and over a thousand players involved. While the disbanding had dealt a blow to KenZoku, it wasn't a defeat in battle; it was clear that they were eager to avenge themselves and had enormous ship stockpiles with which to back that up. During these engagements reinforcements would be repeatedly bridged into J-L over the course of the fight by each side's titans, allowing the fight to continue for five hours or more before any satisfactory conclusion was reached.
Over the next few days, KenZoku depleted their ship stockpiles during attrition warfare in J-L and suffered several CSAA losses. These were dramatized by the coalition for maximum propaganda impact; as each lost CSAA could conceivably have been building a titan (and several titans were confirmed to have been destroyed within CSAAs), these failures resulted in a significant swing in morale from the RKZ side toward the coalition
On February 12th, matters came to a head. The day began with yet another extended J-L meatgrinder battle, which RKZ lost. Then, in the aftermath, a KenZoku mothership warped to a stargate. The coalition capital group hot-dropped it; the mothership and the ten RKZ carriers who had tried to save it were destroyed. More than a thousand ships had been destroyed in the previous hours, but the worst was yet to come. A few hours later, RKZ formed up to try to save one of its last surviving CSAAs, in the 8WA system. Moments before the CSAA tower came out of reinforced, Sir Molle (the leader of RKZ) made an error and cyno'd his titan to a tower where coalition forces were lurking. The Avatar (Sir Molle's fourth titan loss) was dispatched in the same as way the mothership - and the CSAA.
The Great Purge and the PR- Camp: Feb 13th - March 13th 2009
Demoralized by the titan loss, the KenZoku leadership made its single greatest error of the war: the combined RKZ capital fleet was ordered to log off in one station in NPC Delve, PR-. For the next thirty days, coalition subcapitals camped this station. This prevented RKZ from undocking their capitals, meaning that they could do nothing to fight against the proliferation of coalition dickstars. Confidence in RKZ leadership was badly shaken. The Great Purge had begun.
Delve is a uniquely protected region. At this phase of the war, hostile forces only controlled stations in Catch and Period Basis. Coalition capital fleets could operate without support and without risk of hostile capitals ambushing them so long as they sieged only in Delve. With siegework transformed by the PR- camp from an incredibly dangerous, high-risk activity to something a child could arrange, the coalition capital fleet became almost 'self-aware'. From February 13th onwards, thirty to forty capital pilots began operating in shifts, 23/7, as they no longer required a hundred or more subcapitals for support. Individual capital pilots began running the capital fleet, rather than relying on an officially-appointed fleet commander.
The first day saw twenty RKZ towers killed. The next, thirty. Each day, the number increased, peaking at fifty tower kills in one 23-hour server day on Feb 17th. Fleet commanders couldn't find targets fast enough for the all-consuming capital blob; participation soared as the magnitude of the accomplishment grew. The Jita market for strontium - the fuel for sieges - was bought out for days at a time.
Meanwhile, the Northern Coalition was towering up Querious, and stations began to fall there. Occasional resistance cropped up in the form of -A- or RKZ subcapital fleets attacking the capital blob, but these were swiftly beaten back; coalition pilots were so eager for a fight that the announcement of an attack on the capitals brought forth hordes of defenders. By February 23rd, all twenty stations in Delve were either captured or trending towards Goonswarm sovereignty. Delve had fallen, weeks ahead of the deadline.
The Great Purge continued for another three weeks. In that time, coalition forces seized all RKZ-held R64 moons in Delve and Querious, then moved to Period Basis and took the constellation formerly owned by Destructive Influence (A KenZoku corporation) for Zenith Affinity.
The Counterrevolution Begins: March 13th - April 3rd
Throughout the Great Purge, this was the question in the mind of many coalition and KenZoku pilots: When would Against All Authorities intervene? Its borders secure and living in nearby Catch (bordering Querious), -A- was the most powerful of RKZ's allies. Yet while -A- would periodically send fleets roaming into Delve to tangle with the coalition, there was no sustained commitment on their part to rescue KenZoku. On March 13th, the 30th day of the PR- camp, that changed. An -A- fleet arrived along with their allies Stain Empire (SE) and Red.Overlord (ROL), combined with the RKZ fleet and freed KenZoku's capital fleet.
Invigorated by the influx of allies, KenZoku began plotting to take their space back. On the border between Catch and Querious, 49- became the fulcrum of the next phase of the war, a system a mere three jumps from -A-'s regional capital in FAT. A classic timezone war broke out: in the hours after downtime and through euro primetime, 49- would be packed with hundreds of RKZ and -A- pilots, sieging coalition towers. In the later hours of US and ANZAC timezone, the coalition would return the favor. Given the overwhelming superiority in each's primetime, very little direct conflict occurred.
Exhausted by a month and a half of desperate conquest, Goonswarm logistics began to crack under the strain; errors in timing towers resulted in 49- falling to KenZoku on April 4th. 3BK, another station in Querious, fell to a combined surprise attack of RKZ, -A- and ROL; 3BK hadn't been fully purged of hostile towers and was spammed without a fight, written off as a loss by the coalition.
Silence!: April 4th - April 14th
On the day 49- fell to KenZoku, Sir Molle announced that RKZ's vengeance was at hand. He rationalized the Great Purge as a planned loss, part of a grand strategy to delay and exhaust the coaliton, leaving them ripe for the impending counterattack. A mere three hours after the announcement, the RKZ capital fleet was annihilated in a coalition ambush in 9CG. Yet, my gloating in that week's column proved to be outrageously premature.
While victory in 9CG staunched the coalition's bleeding in Querious and garnered a propaganda coup, the growing timezone superiority of the combined RKZ and -A- forces allowed unrestricted kiting of coalition towers between downtime and late eurotime. Kiting is a method to kill a tower where the attacker keeps the tower's shields between 25% and 50% for many hours. -A- would begin a kite at 8:00 GMT and RKZ would maintain it for 12 hours, finally reinforcing the tower at the end of their primetime. This rendered stront timing nearly impossible for the coalition, because -A- could chose to reinforce the tower at 0800 or allow it be kited, leaving an unpredictable 12 hour timeframe in which the coalition would have to defend the tower. R64 moons in Querious began to rapidly fall to KenZoku, increasing their holdings from five to sixteen, allowing them to amass a vast warchest for the planned reconquest of Delve. Meanwhile, a breakdown in organizational communication meant that the average coalition pilot wasn't even aware that things were going so badly. Defensive efforts were halfhearted and ineffective. The few remaining coalition towers in 49- came under daily siege; unless a way could be found to stop the enemy from kiting, the coalition's defeat was inevitable - and rapidly approaching.