Sins of a Solar Spymaster #16: A History of the Second Great War, Part Two
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. Something had to be done to staunch the coalition's bleeding in Querious. Pilot participation was in the gutter, and increasingly it seemed that the average pilot viewed Querious as an irrelevant buffer region not worth expending effort over - or, worse, that they were completely unaware of the mounting strategic losses. In hopes of combating this, we began publishing daily 'war updates' laying out a frank assessment of our failings. Participation slowly began to recover. To read the conclusion of Sins of a Solar Spymaster #15: A History of the Second Great War, Part One, click here!
Meanwhile, In Period Basis: April 15th - April 25th
Something had to be done to staunch the coalition's bleeding in Querious. Pilot participation was in the gutter, and increasingly it seemed that the average pilot viewed Querious as an irrelevant buffer region not worth expending effort over - or, worse, that they were completely unaware of the mounting strategic losses. In hopes of combating this, we began publishing daily 'war updates' laying out a frank assessment of our failings. Participation slowly began to recover.
While the rest of the coalition began trying to slow KenZoku's progress in Querious by focusing attacks on RKZ-held R64s in that region, Morsus Mihi (RAWR), KIA and ZAF assaulted and towered the first 'pet' constellation in Period Basis, the Frontal Impact station of TN25 while simultaneously attacking the DICE R64s. Over the next two weeks, every Period Basis R64 was seized for ZAF or KIA. On April 20th, TN25 fell. Over the next four days, Frontal Impact and BeachBoys evacuated their holdings as their remaining stations GR- and E2- were conquered. All that remained of KenZoku's forces in Period Basis was Executive Outcomes.
Meanwhile, back in Delve, Goonswarm constellations began ticking over to Sov4, rendering the region nigh invulnerable to surprise attack.
The H74 Hellpurge: April 26th - May 3rd
In reaction to the increasing success of the coalition in Period Basis, KenZoku launched a new offensive in Querious on H74, the coalition station closest to KenZoku's strongpoint of 49-. By this point, RKZ was showing signs of weakness; as of April 27th, they held only five R64 moons for income, down from sixteen at their peak. As a result, the attack on H74 appeared hesitant. Each day after downtime, RKZ would place five new towers. The coalition countered with towers of their own. KenZoku appeared to be unable to take down the cynojammer in H74 themselves, having to call their allies in Stain Empire to manage the jammer on their behalf. Immune from hostile capital ships as long as the jammer remained intact, the coalition packed the system with dreadnaughts and rapidly destroyed the KenZoku towers. The invasion had begun haltingly on April 26th; by the 29th, every hostile tower was purged.
Spurred by the rout in H74, KIA, ZAF and RAWR began the next phase of the Period Basis front, assaulting the Executive Outcomes constellation in Z-M and G-Q. In a confused example of strategic indecisiveness, EXE was initially told by Sir Molle to not bother fighting for Period Basis and move fully into Querious. After many EXE pilots evacuated their fleet stockpiles from the region, on May 1st Sir Molle announced that RKZ would make a stand for EXE's territory after all and assembled a huge fleet to defend Z-M. Z-M was still jammed, so the coalition capitals would not ordinarily be able to prevent RKZ from attacking the KIA towers within. Giving an order which was immediately seized upon by the paranoid as evidence of some sort of conspiracy, Sir Molle ordered the Z-M jammer turned off temporarily to allow new capitals access to the system. The coalition immediately bridged 140 capitals into Z-M, scattered the RKZ fleet and took the system. All three Executive Outcomes stations fell shortly thereafter, setting a new record in EVE: fastest conquest of an actively defended Sov4 constellation. Shortly thereafter, the largest corporation in EXE abandoned the alliance and left the Great War for good.
The Fine Art of Running Into Brick Walls: May 4th -> May 21st
The situation for KenZoku was dire. Period Basis was completely captured by the coalition, with ZAF, KIA and RAWR free to reinforce the Querious front. Alliance-level income had been strangled, with only three R64s held - not enough to pay RKZ's fuel bill in 49 and 3BK, much less refund capital losses or a new offensive. The coalition was riding high on their successes in repulsing the H74 salient, with participation consistently excellent. Yet pride goes before a fall, and the coalition was about to fall very far indeed.
Flush with victory and not considering the personal impact of the previous week of war, the coalition invaded 49- on May 4th, downing the cynojammer and commencing a 25+ tower siege. 49- is a notorious station, a gateway to Against All Authorities' (-A-) home region of Catch on the border of Querious, yet also near the heart of Delve. With forty-nine moons to fight over (a developer's joke, no doubt) and located in a place that every involved party in the Great War could easily reinforce, the most intense battles of the war thus far had revolved around this system. The siegework lasted all night, through to downtime; coalition FCs who had been playing nearly nonstop through H74 and Z-M found themselves exhausted.
The dawn of May 5th saw not only complete disorder in 49-, but a new and ruinously effective offensive strategy by KenZoku. Since RKZ still faced serious difficulty in taking down cynojammers without calling in their allies to do it for them, RKZ began to 'spam' jammed coalition systems with towers to break sovereignty level 3 (no Sov3, no jammer). Coalition logistics was already stretched by three months of nonstop conquest, and RKZ's sudden proliferation of towers in coalition R64 and jump bridge systems forced an ugly choice. To counter a 'spam' attack, one can either 'counterspam' by dropping an equal or greater amount of towers, or siege and destroy the towers with a capital fleet. RKZ began dropping so many towers in so many coalition systems that it would be impossible to destroy them in the space of a week, and one week is all it takes to break Sov3. Already stretched to the limit, coalition logisticians would have to counterspam. During this period, twenty or more control towers would be placed a night by each side in four or more systems; each tower placed required at least eight man-hours of effort by a logistician. RKZ split the 'spam' duties between their pet alliances, keeping manpower distributed; coalition counterspam was primarily handled by one alliance (Goonswarm) since they held the territory under assault.
The situation grew dire. Confidence in coalition leadership had been shattered by the abrupt turn of fortune. By May 10th, every coalition tower in 49 was destroyed, meaning that there wasn't even a foothold left. Participation plummeted while RKZ's spam increased. On May 11th, more than twenty coalition carriers were destroyed while trying to attack a KenZoku spam towers in a R64 system. On May 14th, KenZoku began an assault on I1Y, a station held by Goonswarm - the second major counteroffensive in Querious. Over the next five days, the coalition bled towers in I1Y at an ever-increasing pace. What should have been an easy system to defend was being lost, primarily because of the inhuman pressure that had been placed on coalition logistics. As KenZoku began to achieve results, more of their allies from Stain Empire and -A- arrived to help in I1Y, turning a losing battle for the coalition into a catastrophe. Worse, the bleeding spread from I1Y to ED, a critical station system with a mere eleven moons; KenZoku managed to seize two of those eleven moons, getting a foothold that was likely to expand into a full-on conquest.
Memorial Day Turnaround & the Great Purge of Querious: May 22nd -> June 4th
Desperate to somehow turn things around, the coalition announced a rallying cry for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. For whatever reason - either because their pride had been wounded enough, or they had had enough time to rest, or perhaps merely finals were over - participation spiked dramatically upward. On May 22nd, more than two hundred and fifty coalition pilots assembled at downtime and began striking back in I1y. Over the next two days, I1Y shifted from RKZ majority control to the coalition. By the 25th, coalition forces completed a full-scale purge of I1Y, mirroring their success in H74 weeks ago.
Yet unlike the victory in H74, the coalition had learned from its mistakes. Instead of pressing into 49 and risking another 'brick wall incident', the focus shifted to clearing out the 150+ towers which KenZoku and their pets had littered Querious with. KenZoku made it apparent that they would only work to defend KenZoku-owned R64 towers; they wouldn't lift a finger for the assets of their own allies. Pet towers were rapidly destroyed. The deliberate pace of the Purge allowed coalition pilots to take breaks and recharge so participation remained steady. A spreadsheet was created, showing every coalition pilot exactly where hostile towers were; as the Purge continued, they could watch and chart their progress. Until June 4th, there was essentially no organized hostile resistance.
The H74 Debacle and the conquest of 3BK, June 4th -> June 11th
The respite of the Purge ended on June 4th with the second KenZoku invasion of H74. For their third major attempt to recapture the region, RKZ attempted a novel strategy. Rather than slowly adding towers at the rate of five a day in the target system - the maximum allowed per alliance per day - Sir Molle assembled nine separate alliances, mostly KenZoku pets, and gave each of them five towers. H74 has 65 moons in the system, and only twenty of them had coalition towers on them; in one stroke, each of the nine alliances would deploy five towers and block every free moon in H74, forcing the coalition to destroy enough KenZoku-aligned towers within a week or lose the system. On paper, simultaneous multi-alliance tower spam was a winning strategy.
In practice, things went somewhat less swimmingly. -A- and RKZ assembled and disabled the jump bridges into H74 before downing the jammer, then prepared to jump logistics ships into the system to commence the spam. But in the time it took to disable the jammer, a massive coalition fleet had formed; when the jammer was downed, the coalition fleet also jumped into the system, scattering the RKZ logistics teams. In the midst of a massive fleet combat, the nine separate teams of RKZ-aligned logisticians performed with varying degrees of effectiveness; while Executive Outcomes managed to get their five assigned towers fueled and operational, KenZoku, Red.Overlord and several other alliances didn't even manage to get their online before they were destroyed. KenZoku had control of H74 for only two hours; by June 5th, every tower they had placed had been destroyed or stolen, and the third KenZoku Querious offensive was over before it truly began.
The Purge of Querious continued. KenZoku was taken down to only two R64 moons, both of which were located in 49 and thus seemingly unassailable. The KenZoku form-up points in 49 and KFIE began to be camped by small gangs of coalition stealth bombers and other 'irregulars' at all hours of the night. Station services in 49 were repeatedly disabled, forcing RKZ to repair them again and again. By June 9th, the 'Querious Spam' spreadsheet listed less than twenty-five hostile towers in the region outside of RKZ's last stations in 3BK and 49. During RKZ's primetime on the 9th, the coalition invaded 3BK and met no resistance. Over the next two days, the system was purged and captured; on the 11th, RKZ was left with only one station, 49-.
The Last Bastion: June 11th-> June 16th
After the fall of 3BK, coalition harassment concentrated on 49-. With 49's station services kept constantly disabled, RKZ pilots could not change the fittings or repair their ships, nor could they use the cloning bay to prevent skill loss after death in combat. While RKZ expected an immediate assault after 3BK fell, forming up several times to defend against an invasion which was not coming. Instead, the coalition opted to rest their pilots and continued the low-intensity siegework of cleaning up the rest of Querious, letting RKZ stew in a barely-functional outpost.
On June 14th a small coalition fleet achieved superiority over the defending forces in 49 and proceeded to take down the 49- jammer on a lark. This was not part of an organized invasion. Experimentally, several RKZ towers were reinforced. The next day, 49 faced a full-scale invasion; 25+ RKZ towers were sieged and kited, some set to exit reinforced mode in US primetime - a sure loss. After downtime on the 16th, KenZoku began losing towers in 49, allowing the coalition to set up staging points for its titans. Unless system control was reasserted within the next 24 hours, the station would be lost.
At 15:00 EVE on June 16th, Dianabolic announced the evacuation of 49 on KenZoku's IRC network: "Evac what you can from 49-, Darwin is watching you. Bridge from 49- at 1800." Shortly therafter, Sir Molle acknowledged KenZoku's defeat on their private forums. Rather than accept responsibility, he blamed the failure on KenZoku's own allies:
"Vacate your stuff. As it is, we are playing the sacrificial lamb the whole time, we're not doing that anymore.
Pull your stuff out from 49- and Delve. Thats the standing orders. Place it safely somewhere. and we'll work from there.
Expect no ops posted for a week."
Being a respectful adversary, I helpfully cross-posted the announcement to CAOD for all to enjoy. On a personal note, I feel somewhat lost, like Colonel Kilgore contemplating the end of Vietnam in 'Apocalypse Now'. Who knows, perhaps RKZ will rise from the ashes and we can begin the whole delightful process once more.