On 12 February, The Bastards alliance declared war on our alliance, A Band Apart. Initially, the the focus of the war seemed to be Stay Frosty’s base in Ishomilken, but on 8 March they invaded our home in wormhole space. This is a collection of thoughts from my perspective as a director in SUPREME MATHEMATICS and a participant in the war.
The war declaration was a bit of a head-scratcher for many in the alliance, since The Bastards and Stay Frosty shoot each other all the time without the benefit of a declared war. As such, the rest of the alliance took it as an invitation to descend on the area, spend some time fighting each other around The Bastards’ home, and have some fun. I originally planned on joining in this lowsec segment of the war, but was never able to make the in-game time to do so. Reportedly, the enemy turnout was fairly disappointing and the alliance members did not stay long in the area.
A few weeks later, while doing my usual evening activities out of game, I had a few minutes to check our alliance Slack and found out that Bastard scouts had been spotted in Phoenix. I then began keeping a closer tab on events, and soon the report came in that a tower had been put up. In w-space, an uninvited tower in your home system can mean only one thing: intent to evict.
From that point, I found it hard to focus on out of game responsibilities, and began constantly checking Slack for more updates. As an alliance we’ve endured two previous eviction attempts: one successful and a second one unsuccessful. I was determined that we’d respond better to this one than we had in the past. To be clear, I have full confidence that had we been removed, we’d be set up in a new home in short order. But, it would have entailed a defeat, a setback and a fair bit of annoyance. We might have lost some members and others may have become hyper-paranoid.
Soon, my amazing wife took over the remaining household duties so I could log in and help in whatever way I could. A fleet had been formed and, to my surprise, we were using another alliance’s Teamspeak, led by an FC who I wasn’t familiar with. I quickly acquired a sense of comfort with this FC, though, because he clearly knew what he was doing. As it turned out, the enemy left the field before any fleet fight could took place, but we did put their staging tower into reinforced mode.
I later found out that the allied fleet was present because one of our members asked some friends in their previous corporation for some advice on how to respond to the scouts. These friends of our member happened to have some time available and immediately asked if we would like some help. Now, when there is an existential threat to your corporation’s home system, as this was, there is no reason not to pull the gloves off and use whatever means you have available to defend your turf. The idea that someone would deliberately pull punches to give an enemy a fair and even chance at sending your wormhole corporations back to highsec, short a few billion in assets, just to entertain the aggressor and give good fights, is ludicrous. So of course we accepted the help.
With the lack of enemy action on this first night, we started to move high value and nonessential items out to k-space. During this op, I had plenty of time to think on the situation. The invasion represented a pretty hefty escalation in the war. Up till now it had appeared to be about good fights, but invading someone’s w-space system with intent to evict is not in the same class. It involves a fair amount of structure grinding and other, not exactly fun, activities. It also involves a pretty specialized set of skills, such as scouting and hole control/rolling that are not much like lowsec PvP at all. It involves a high level of commitment that people undertake for one of two reasons: the challenge of coordinating the operation and succeeding, or good old-fashioned Eve hate.
[Sidebar: to be clear, by “Eve hate” I mean two entities who really, personally, don’t like each other in game. No one has ever, as far as I know, taken it out of game, though they might not necessarily choose to have a beer with someone on the other side.]
I was involved in the BoB vs. Goons conflict, the so-called Second Great War, which ended with a BoB sov drop and Goon victory in Delve. That war, and the run-up to it, aided by the very different cultures between those two entities and a history of forum and in-game chest beating, created bona fide Eve hate. Now, hate is bad, kids, don’t hate. But Eve hate is one of those things that makes Eve unique. It’s fairly rare in gaming to find a context in which two entities can both have a real rivalry and have the means to take or destroy the other side’s things and push them out of their geographic (or astrographic) area. While not pleasant to undergo, it does give the player a sense of real and tangible threat without having to go through a real life crisis.
It did not seem likely that The Bastards had suddenly decided to become a wormhole eviction entity, so – assuming they even understood what they were undertaking – this seemed motivated by good old Eve hate. There had been some Twitter sparring during the lowsec phase of the war that culminated in some RL insults. An apology was later given, but the original version was barely an apology. So there did seem to be some evidence for this explanation of the escalation they’d undertaken.
In any event, the timer for the tower we reinforced was set to end two days later. It so happened that I had already planned to work from home that day, and my work schedule is flexible such that I can occasionally be unavailable for an hour or two during a work day. So I planned to be there.
On the day the tower exited reinforced, our allies were on hand. When I logged on they were carefully rolling holes and establishing hole control. No significant numbers of enemies were seemingly around, so we started shooting the tower. We had a scout in the one wormhole that remained open. We had just got the tower into structure, when the scout said, “Ummm… there is a big fleet here.. a really big fleet. Ishtars, about thirty of them. Fuck. It’s Shadow Cartel.”
This scout no doubt saved our bacon, as while we had similar numbers, they had Ishtars and lots of them and were very familiar with their use. We scooted back into friendly tower shields to regroup and decide how to counter them. It was then that I really understood the reality of “Ishtars Online” as the enemy fleet warped up to our tower, began moving laterally, and pooped out a swarm of sentry drones that literally blotted out the sun.
By now a quick survey in fleet was showing that a lot of people had bombers available, so we decided to try to whittle down their sentry numbers to see if we could weaken them enough to gain an advantage. I reshipped to a bomber and after some setup, we started our bombing runs. We apparently bagged a good number of drones (over 100) on the first run, but shortly after they began to get smarter about pulling their drones back in. We managed to get a few kills, but Shadow Cartel and the 2-3 Bastards present retained their ability to hold a grid, which despite our bomb runs, we were not quite able to do. This implied that they would be able to control the wormholes out and resupply as needed, while we, on the other hand, were severely limited in ability to reship, since we had more than one alliance and only ABA’s now-reduced cache of ships and fittings. Another factor was that the FC believed (and it turned out he was right) that Shadow Cartel had no interest in burning us out of our system, but rather was just there for fights. So, we exchanged gf’s in local and logged off or left, as each person could manage.
The rest of the day saw a few ships shoot our main tower but only incapacitate a few guns. I logged off until my usual late night time, whereupon we gathered up a fleet big enough to go finish off the tower we had started earlier in the day. We didn’t, however, have enough firepower to reinforce the second tower the enemy had set up after we reinforced their first one, so we fell back to repping ours.
From the next day on, things proceeded pretty quickly. We had some negotiations on and off with The Bastards. On our side, if we could secure the system without fighting, it obviously removed a certain amount of risk. On their side, they risked an embarrassing defeat if they couldn’t repeat the trick of bringing Shadow Cartel or another elite PvP group along. Even if we didn’t have allied support, ABA is large relative to The Bastards, so we had a good chance of gaining the advantage in this scenario. We had shipped out most of our high-isk items early in the war, so we were ready to fight till the bitter end, and if it came to an eviction, we’d take the lump and re-establish. But, of course, avoiding that outcome would be best for us.
As a result of the negotiations, we struck an agreement to sacrifice our main tower (stripped of anything of value, of course) so that The Bastards could gain a killboard victory. In exchange, they would tear down and leave system and end the war. This went according to plan and the war is now over.
An AAR from their side is posted on their blog, but I don’t know exactly how to take it. It seems to equivocate between the invasion being serious business and being just for the fights. It seems to take mild offense that we would involve allies, but as I mentioned, eviction threats are valid justification to use whatever means are available. But it does say some good things about our alliance – both about particular people and also grudging acknowledgement of our tactics. So overall it’s not an unfair assessment. Also, the tone is not entirely consistent with the Eve hate hypothesis, so I’m no longer sure that’s the case either.
For my part, I feel like we gained some valuable experience and a reality check, and lost a few assets and a battle or two. Overall it was not without positives, but not something I’d like to make a regular occurrence, at least in our own backyard.