Sunday, May 30, 2010

Songs of Parting

I hang, suspended in null-g, watching the jump gate.

Around it, a small clutch of ships wait in ambush. A red square next to each of them on my HUD marks them as CVA pilots.

Bad guys. Hostile. Not among my special friends. 

A glance at the local monitor shows twenty more ships in system - all CVA pilots with one exception; me.

One of the ships on the gate pops a few scanning probes into space, and that makes me smile. They know I'm in system somewhere and they're hunting me. They get a lot of blockade runners through here - this jump gate's a choke point between empire and the southern corner of Providence nullsec. They're accustomed to ships hiding in system, waiting for a chance to slip by the CVA blockade.

But I'm not trying to get away. Not trying to run their blockade. I'm hunting them. 

I glance down at my weapon tell-tales. Two bombs are armed and waiting in the launcher. The three torpedo bays show hot as well. Weapons free.

I'm in a killing mood. Don't know quite why. I put in the paperwork to pull HellForge, my very tiny corporation, out of the Lucky Starbase Syndicate at the end of the month. The last four days were spent settling affairs in station and arranging shipment of needful things. Yoshi, my cat, left via Jump Freighter yesterday. The freighter captain was reluctant about Yoshi (cats are rare out in the deep and have a not undeserved reputation for trouble) but a generous addition to his fee eased his mind.

All debts cleared, I readied my remaining ship, Fiddler’s Rules, for launch. There was the familiar lurch as station pushed Rules out into the outbound traffic lane. Then the weight of acceleration as the drives kicked in. I watched station diminish behind me and set course for another region where some old friends will meet me. The future’s waiting.

But I’ve got one last goodbye to make.    

The jump gate flares as a ship comes in from the other side. I watch as a Chaos Theory stealth bomber drops cloak, becoming visible for a moment as it breaks from the gate, and then goes dark again. A CVA interceptor makes a desperate dash along the bomber's last vector, hoping to get close enough to break its cloak and web it before the bomber gets away. No such luck.

Rules is a stealth bomber as well. She’s a fragile ship, but her ability to run cloaked from other ship’s sensors, coupled with a capacity for dealing damage well out of her weight class, make her dangerous. If I were running with a gang of five more of her kind, this little gate camp might already be scrap metal. Of course, if five more friends of mine showed in local space, these CVA lads would be a lot more cautious.

They are not cautious. They are sitting stationary in a tight group about twenty clicks off gate. Even their interceptor, who’s main defense is speed, has rejoined his fellows and sits, motionless, in their company. They feel safe. They feel confident.

They should know better.

Fiddler’s Rules heels over in space and aligns toward the stationary gang of CVA ships. A last check over the board shows all systems green. I light the fires and begin my attack run.


Friday, May 28, 2010


Kugutsmen's is a funny place. It's a good source of information as everybody piles in after engagements and holds forth. Very much spin central with lots of smack-talk. Sometimes clever. Sometimes not. You can tell a lot about an alliance or corporation by the way they hold forth in Kugutmen's. You do have to read between the lines, verify statements with other sources and take everything with a grain of salt. Still, lots of fun and informative if you've got the patience to sift through the chaff.

The fortunes of CVA since the Great Eviction are regularly discussed there and I sometimes weigh in - leaving a link to my analysis. A lot of the posters are the guys on the battlefield and in the CEO offices of the alliances involved and I value their feedback.

 Surprise!, my previous post got the following reaction from Suitonia:

Didn't read the blog, but noticed this "Last night, just after the Tyrannis patch was installed CVA attempted to take advantage of long-standing defensive indifference on the part of Sytematic-Chaos Alliance (SC) and launch a surprise attack on R3-K7K.

The surprise attack caught everyone by surprise."


Other comments followed. Rovern Hashu weighed in with:

Its not like it hadn't been SBUed for a few days and reinforced a few times . . . oh wait . . . big surprise . . .  

And U'K's Butter Dog:

nah, not surprised... well, maybe a little that they are throwing SBU's down the toilet before properly regrouping etc 

I am well chastised. (Mord tears a button off his shirt and sprinkles ashes over his head)

The reactions I had access to and surprised chatter in the lower Providence intel channels led me to the conclusion that the timing of CVA's attack (just after the Tyrannis patch) was unexpected. CVA's success at taking the station and the New Providence Holder's (NPH) delay in pulling together a fleet to take it back seemed to confirm that the timing of the attack caught the NPH off-guard.

But it appears the NPH expected CVA to catch them with their pants around their ankles. Not a surprise.

All part of the plan.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Since the Great Eviction, CVA (Curatores Veritatis Alliance) has been basing their operations out of Misaba, the low-sec system adjacent to R3-K7K. CVA gate camps in R3, particularly on the Misaba gate, have become a daily fact of life for the AAA (Against All Authorities) vassal alliances occupying Providence space (aka the New Providence Holders).  

Last night, just after the Tyrannis patch was installed CVA attempted to take advantage of long-standing defensive indifference on the part of Sytematic-Chaos Alliance (SC) and launch a surprise attack on R3-K7K.

The surprise attack caught everyone by surprise. 

With most residents of Providence occupied with the Tyrannis upgrades (looking at planets in Planet Interaction Mode, puzzling over why their own POS were trying to kill them, etc.), NPH was slow to mount a defense. The system fell, and many CVA high-fives ensued. 

In fact the NPH have generally been indifferent to CVA's defacto control of R3, viewing it as SC's system and therefore SC's problem. Noir Mercenary Group (NMG) went so far as to tell renters of Noir Space that the CVA concentration in R3 were not Noir's business, unless the renters were willing to hire Noir to bust the gate camps.

However, with CVA's recent capture of the X-R3NM next door to R3-K7K, the NPH was forced to respond. Leaving R3 in CVA hands, even for a few days, would allow CVA to build on their X-R3 momentum.

It would put CVA within one system (N8XA-L) of cobbling together a coherent block of CVA space in the 04-H4M constellation connected to Misaba and empire space. From that block, the next obvious target would be AY-YCU, which would cut off the Legio station system ZT-LPU from the rest of Legio space, and allow CVA to blockade NMG's space in the H-KW4A constellation.

Further, the appearance of ongoing success could breathe new life into CVA, which has been dancing on the brink of irrelevance. It would boost CVA morale, and possibly bring new pilots and additional support from larger alliances to its efforts to reclaim its old place as lord of Providence.

With this in mind, the NPH was highly motivated to react to the taking of R3.

A NPH fleet was assembled early this morning EVE time and dropped into R3-K7K. At 3:47, the NPH fleet destroyed CVA's Territorial Claim Unit and the station is in the hands of Flying Dangerous, the New Providence Holder alliance that controls the N8XA-L system next door.

As I've said elsewhere, taking systems is not enough for CVA. They must hold what they take.

Taking R3 was a throw against long odds for CVA, but likely a necessary one. However, its loss so soon after taking it openly displays CVA's weakness when confronted by the NPH acting in concert. Further, the NPH have obviously decided they can no longer allow CVA breathing room to recover.

Now a very active Flying Dangerous (as opposed to the MIA Systematic-Chaos) stands in R3, between CVA's only station system in X-R3NM, and their low-sec base of operations in Misaba.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Hail Mary

During the Great Eviction, CVA (Curatores Veritatis Alliance) was not only pushed out of their Providence systems, they shed pilots at a furious rate. After the shooting died down, while CVA’s former holdings were divided up among AAA (Against All Authorities) vassals, CVA numbers stabilized at about 1,065; about a twenty-five percent loss in all.

Unsatisfied with one debacle, CVA persuaded their ally Paxton (Paxton Federation), who’d survived their alliance with CVA during Great Eviction with Paxton's holdings intact, to follow them into a second lost cause. This time the results were never in doubt. Despite some heroic stands by Paxton, the new Providence holders prevailed and Paxton was forced to retreat from their Providence systems.

While Paxton began to look for other opportunities CVA, ever the role-playing zealot, vowed to fight on and take back the Providence (Amarrian sacred ground, you know) no matter how what the cost. Roughly fifty more pilots left CVA, having decided that losing causes, while fun for a while, are a bit of a bummer in the long haul.

People don’t pay CCP every month for a bummer. They pay to have fun.

And this is a very important game mechanic. Like the Romans of old, capsuleers have only one leader: Victory. If your guys are getting their ass handed to them every other week, losing expensive ships and watching as the isk in their accounts dwindle and golden memories of their null-sec past dim, they are not having a good time.

And if you, as alliance leader, just keep yelling “On you cowardly dogs, once more unto the breach,” you quickly become part of a bad gaming experience.

Then your guys will go be somebody else’s guys. 

So, with 1,016 pilots remaining (based on fleet turnouts, I’d venture that only half that number are combat effective; and that may be optimistic), CVA is stuck on the horns of dilemma.

The smart strategy would be to temporize. Cut loose useless systems, use the sov funds to rebuild the fleets and rehab the remaining CVA pilots’ morale and numbers. Make some new allies. Wait for current Providence love-fest to end. After all, the presence of CVA is the glue that holds the new Providence holders together.

Alas, time is precisely what CVA doesn’t have.

Bad CVA decisions have been compounded by more bad CVA decisions. Now, for good or ill, they’ve boxed themselves into a corner. The longer they sit in place, the weaker they get; the best PVP pilots don’t want to sit in low sec playing pirates. After two full scale debacles, CVA’s got to get a win on the board if they’re going to hold onto any sort of a coherent fighting force. And by win, I mean they have to take and actively hold Providence systems.

In American football parlance, CVA is forth and long on the CVA twenty yard line, with only enough time on the clock for one more play.

Yesterday, CVA threw a Hail Mary pass and took X-R3NM from Chaos Theory Alliance. 

Smack-talk on Kugutsmen’s suggests this may have been made possible by internal divisions within Chaos Theory. There may be some truth to this as U’K (Ushra'Khan), rather than Chaos Theory seemed to be leading the system’s defense.  CVA, meanwhile, is claiming support from Core Factor and Paxton.

Paxton, however, having been burnt twice in following CVA’s lead seems disinclined to shed still more blood on CVA’s behalf for old times’ sake. Kill-boards from the dust-up in X-R3NM show very limited Paxton involvement. 

A notable exception was Tarkina Koslix who was a one-capsuleer wrecking crew in her stealth bomber. Unfortunately, one of her bomb runs caught fellow Paxtoneer and interceptor pilot, Giana Malakia, in the blast range. So she has the honor of being listed as a member of a U’K fleet on a kill mail.

The few Paxton pilots who made the battle were likely waiting for relocation orders from their leadership and tagged along for the lulz.  While Paxton is still blue to CVA, I’m guessing most Paxton pilots are happy to be making decisions that don’t involve CVA.

All things considered, unless CVA has some big guns behind it somewhere, it’s doubtful they’ve the strength to keep X-R2NM. Taking it is not enough for CVA. If they can’t hold X-R3NM CVA may be in a worse situation than if they hadn’t taken it at all.

Sadly, it’s not enough to throw the Hail Mary pass; someone has to catch it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Rocking Boat in Providence

In the bigger picture, Providence doesn't matter much. It's a bit of a backwash; a place one must pass-through on the way to some nicer or more important elsewhere.

Think of Providence as the Indiana Turnpike of null-sec.

Providence is far from the doings of the great war, or war of aggression, or whatever they're calling the ongoing dust-up between the Northern and Southern Coalitions. That doesn't mean we don't feel the effects of the war. Oh no. A storm far out to sea still rocks the boats close to shore.

Take R3-K7K, for example.

After the Great Eviction of CVA, R3 was given over to Systematic-Chaos. I'm not certain why. R3 is S-C's only holding in Providence, and far from their main stronghold in Period Basis. Possibly it's R3's position as a key entry points to Ammar lowsec space. As a jump-in point it may have some strategic value. Or maybe AAA thought S-C was big enough and tough enough to control a system that, by definition, was going to have a lot of potentially hostile traffic. Maybe it's cosmetic - a bump for their standings in the overall alliance tapestry. Remind me to ask around one of these days.

In any event, Systematic-Chaos appears to have left the building. R3's lousy with CVA, who reliably camp the place. Dogfights between AAA vassals and the CVA pirates are ongoing. No fleet battles, mind. We're talking ongoing gang warfare. And Systematic-Chaos seems to be MIA.

They rarely show up on the killboards as an R3 killer or killee. I've never seen them in local. They're like one of those absentee landlords who let the plumbing go to hell, the rats run wild, and never mows the crabgrass.

R3-K7K is the rocking boat.

So, where's the storm? It didn't take me long to find the flotsam Systematic-Chaos was clinging to. Dynast and John McCreedy, both of S-C told the tale. Even heard from their side, it wasn't pretty.

It seems Systematic-Chaos got their collective ass handed to them when C0VEN invaded S-C space. I mean, sounds like they got beat ugly. The word 'debacle' comes to mind. So they are presently in the midst of, oh shall we say, a major reorganization. Or, as one forum wag put it, S-C "lost the war to C0VEN and decide to move, and in the process loosing (sic) most of your corps".

S-C seems to have staunched the membership bleeding and, in the word of their press release:

"Our focus now is on securing our Period Basis holdings and bringing the fun back to our burnt out pilots."


With S-C leadership occupied with putting out the fire in their barn and keeping the hired help from running off, I doubt their little R3-K7K cabin, far away in the back-woods of Providence, is much on their minds. As I've said elsewhere, under the new Sov rules, a system isn't of strategic value or turning a profit quickly becomes an expensive luxury item that the down-on-its-luck alliance can't afford.

And, as I know from experience, when you're down on your luck and the money gets tight, you start looking around the apartment for something to sell.

Like that shiny little system, conveniently located next to empire space.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Four of Paxton’s Providence systems fell over the weekend; three of which had stations in them. You’ll recall that The Paxton Federation’s holding in Providence occupied a long strand of systems running through the center of the region. Over the weekend U’K and the other Against All Authorities (AAA) vassals clipped off either end of that strand. 

Sifting through the smack-talk on the subject at Kugutsumen’s,  it’s evident that the change in EVE sovereignty mechanics has made possessing systems more costly, both in terms of monthly fees and having to actively defend sovereign systems. Under the old sovereignty scheme with its POS-based mechanics, a relatively small force could hold out for an extended period against a much larger force.

While the revised scheme means that large alliances have the advantage when it comes to taking systems, holding those systems is another matter. The old scheme allowed large alliances plenty of time to react to an unexpected attack – particularly when already engaged in operations on a separate front. A small force could be allocated to throw up POSes and delay the attackers, while alliance leadership mobilized or reorganized to meet the new threat.

Under the new sovereignty rules, hostile alliance frontiers in null-sec must be garrisoned with sufficient force to turn back an invader.

Further, the higher costs involved with the new sovereignty scheme means any systems not producing a return on investment become drains on alliance resources. An alliance is heavily incented to hold onto only those systems that deliver either a financial or strategic advantage. An alliance indiscriminately gobbling up systems it cannot exploit takes on a significant financial burden.

So, what’s an alliance to do with unwanted systems?

Against All Authorities seems to be leading the learning curve in this area. Rather than trying to hold Providence themselves after removing CVA, AAA handed the systems off to a number of small alliances that, even together, do not pose a significant threat to AAA. In this way, AAA secures its frontier without having to spend resources maintaining sovereignty over space it can’t (or doesn’t wish to) exploit. 

Now those vassal alliances are, in turn, looking at selling sovereignty in systems that don’t provide much return on investment. The technical term for a vassal farming out parts of their own fiefs to other, lesser nobles (as all you history buffs will know) is subinfeudation

In essence – AAA’s Providence vassals are about to get vassals of their own.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

House Rules

There seem to be two prevailing themes in Paxton thinking over the last week or so since CVA broke AAA’s sovereignty rule on Paxton’s behalf and plunged Paxon into hot water. They come through in the various Paxton pilot blogs and forums Paxton pilots frequent.  

To sum up theme number one:
“Paxton never signed any agreement with AAA to honor other alliances sovereignty.”
No one is saying Paxton broke an agreement. They broke a rule. The Rule was imposed by AAA upon Paxton and AAA’s vassal alliances who took over CVA systems during the Great Eviction. To wit: Don’t mess with each other’s sovereignty. Period.

My cat Yoshi isn’t signatory to any agreement regarding his obligation to keep off the kitchen table. Nonetheless, if he gets on the table, he gets squirted with water. Yoshi stays off the table. My house, my rules.

In the same sense, if Paxton breaks The Rule, Paxton loses AAA’s protection of their sovereignty.  It’s not an agreement; it’s a condition of occupancy. Whether or not Paxton signed up for it is beside the point.

Then there’s a curious strain of fatalism in Paxton postings. To paraphrase theme number two:
 “All the AAA Vassals hate us. Sooner or later they’ll find an excuse to come after us, so we might as well go down swinging. We didn’t ask to hold onto our systems, so we demand you come and kick us out. Rawr!”
Seriously dudes.

First of all, Paxton is (or was) protected by The Rule (see above). So what the other AAA vassals want doesn’t matter. If U’K had broken The Rule against Paxton space, AAA would have evicted them.

Secondly, if the AAA vassals were united in their desire to see Paxton gone, Paxton they would be gone by now. Full stop. I’d venture a fair number of Paxton’s new neighbors respect them, and I know some that like Paxton outright. I suspect that had something to do with AAA keeping Paxton in place. 

Finally, Paxton appears to have some serious survivor’s guilt going on. Paxton retained their systems when CVA was evicted, and Paxton behavior suggests a lot of guilt; a near obsessive need to show CVA that Paxton didn't ask for that good fortune, even to the point of casting it aside on CVA's behalf. And CVA will be pushing the guilt buttons as hard as they can, because if Paxton retains its systems under The Rule, its hands are tied when it comes to helping CVA regain its lost systems. 

Based on various blog comments, a number of Paxton pilots have little respect for CVA. They remark on CVA leadership’s tendency to role-play their way into bone-headed diplomatic decisions that catch Paxton in the blow-back.

The willingness of such pilots to follow a losing strategy on behalf of CVA seems predicated on the idea that the fall of Paxton space is a foregone conclusion; that there is no possible diplomatic exit from their situation.
I’m not sure that’s the case.

With their initial victory in MH9, Paxton’s had a week to find a diplomatic out. If Paxton can shake off their obsessive devotion to CVA interests at their own expense, they may do just that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cat and Mouse

Let’s face it; just a quick trip around the corner to see the vet is pretty stressful for most cats. They’re the territorial, stay-at-home types. Don’t travel well. So a ride up from the gravity well is pretty much a non-starter unless they’re doped to the eyeballs. And once topside, cats don’t mesh well with station life.

The odds of a dog getting sucked into the air recycler and hashing up the works are pretty long. Most cats, on the other hand, will get their noses into the wrong place at the wrong time sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time. Most stations in empire ban cats outright.

Yoshi's a white and tabby I picked up in the Amarr home system. Some guy had smuggled him onto station from the downbelow. There was a buyer in nullsec who’d backed out at the last minute and now the trader was stuck with a freaked-out tomcat that, on top of the usual behaviors on can expect from a cat in such an agitated state, was triggering the station’s contraband bioscans.

Let’s just say the guy was a motivated seller. 

Happily for Yoshi, once you get out of highsec, the whole “no cats” on station law becomes more a loose guideline, especially when a cat is accompanied by a substantial “pet deposit”.

Mind, you do want to keep your cat close and out of trouble. Said deposit is not going to keep your neighbors from venting your ass into vacuum if they end up breathing shredded cat fur for a week. And not all the risks come from station mechanics. There are a lot of spacers (especially among the Minmatar – go figure) for whom anything on four paws is eligible for the title of tonight’s special entrĂ©e. Cats included.

Sometimes I think of sending Yoshi back planet-side. But by now he’s spent more of his life as a spacer than he ever did as a ground-pounder. I don’t know how he’d take the change. He’s gotten to be a veteran feline capsuleer. Even catches rodents in null-G, which is the sort of thing you’ve got to see to believe.  So, I expect Yoshi’s in for the duration.

Speaking of cats and mice, Paxton’s holding their own down in Providence for the moment. They’re outnumbered by the coalition of Providence sov-holders that AAA put in place after evicting CVA. However the coalition forces are still learning to fight together. Meanwhile, Paxton is showing they come by their pvp reputation honestly. They’re a seasoned team with established lines of command and tactical communication.

Round one took place in Providence MH9C. With Ushra'Khan in the lead, the coalition forces took a bloody nose from Paxton acting with back-up from CVA. Credit to U’K, they’re having a hard look at what went wrong at MH9C and know they’ve got to step up their game before starting the next round. Expect better showings from coalition in the future. 

If I were Paxton, I’d be using the current breathing room to find a diplomatic conclusion to the scrap CVA’s gotten them into. In the game of cat and mouse, it’s important for the mouse to avoid overconfidence. Old mouse has to win every hand in the game.

The cat only has to win big once.