Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snapshot: Fountain, Catch And The Enemy Within

SirMolle's IT Alliance put its reputation as New Eden's force to be reckoned with on the line when it rode to aid The Initiative back in mid-December.

You'll recall that Against All Authorities (-A-) had been ignominiously booted out of its holdings in Catch and elsewhere by The Initiative, White Noise, Initiative vassals Circle of Two and Dead Terrorists, and the mercenary alliance Pandemic Legion. -A- managed to hold together during a brief exile and, once Pandemic Legion's contract ended, roared back into Impass (along with its Southern Russian bretheren Stain and Red Overlords), destroying CO2 and driving Dead Terrorists back to lowsec in the process.

With the Southern Russian wolf banging on the doors of Catch, The Initiative turned to IT Alliance for help. SirMolle obliged them with the "All In" campaign, a planned total mobilization of IT Alliances forces that would save The Initiative, break the back of the Southern Russian forces, and shore up the IT Alliance reputation of neigh-invincibility.

A mere nine days later, with Goonswarm making unexpected progress in Fountain against IT Alliance vassals Black Star Alliance (Blast), IT abandoned its "all-in" counter-offensive against the Southern Russians, withdrew its capital fleet from Catch and rushed it up to Fountain to support the besieged IT Alliance stronghold of PNQY. Once again IT Alliance declared the action at PNQY an "all-in" call to arms. As related elsewhere, despite predictions of an easy IT Alliance win from many corners, the defense of PNQY ended in a shocking loss for IT Alliance.

On December 28, IT Alliance and Blast made an attempt to retake PNQY, however, despite the presence of the IT Alliance Supercapital fleet, IT appears to have been unable to bring sufficient numbers to the battle and Goonswarm carried the day once again.

Meanwhile, -A- is making hay while the sun shines. With IT Alliance's Supercapital fleet pinned down in Fountain, the Southern Russians have gone back on offense in Catch. They presently hold four Catch station systems, two sitting astride the gateway to Impass and all within easy striking distance of the strategic Initiative stronghold of GE-8JV. If all things were equal, we might expect to see IT Alliance swing back and forth between Catch and Fountain, attempting to hold the line in Catch while forcing the Goons out of PNQY and on the defense in in Fountain.

However, all things are not equal. IT Alliance's relationship with Blast and Fountain run much deeper than its relationship with The Initiative and Catch. By the same token, SirMolle's enmity with Goonswarn is both legendary and visceral, whereas its fight against the Southern Russians is largely a matter of policy. As long as Goonswarm threatens IT Alliance in Fountain, The Initiative shouldn't look for the IT Alliance cavalry to arrive in Catch. 

The key thread running through the fabric of the events surrounding Catch and Fountain is IT Alliance's apparent inability to leverage its 6000 members when  it comes to defending their space or their allies. SirMolle himself reportedly blamed the loss at PNQY on IT's inability to deploy the needed troops to Fountain. On paper IT Alliance should have no difficulty mustering the forces necessary to take on Goonswarm in Fountain while supporting an Initiative offensive against the Southern Russians in Catch at the same time. However, battles are not fought on paper.

It is increasingly evident that a large component of the forces nominally at SirMolle's disposal are unable or unwilling to support him. In part, SirMolle's recent calls for total mobilization may have been designed to determine exactly who he can count on when push comes to shove. 

Now this could simply be player apathy, but I don't think there's that much dead wood amongst the IT Alliance ranks. Nor do I think it's a matter of low CTA participation due to time zone or holiday considerations. Participation relative to its size has been an ongoing issue for IT Alliance, even during its primary EU time zone, and IT's foes in Fountain leading up to the PNQY debacle have fought under the same holiday-related RL constraints.  

If recent low CTA turnouts are not related to player apathy or inability to respond, we are left with the possibility that a significant body of the troops in IT Alliance are loyal to someone other than SirMolle; that someone is (or someones are) witholding participation as a political play to gain influence within the alliance. As I've suggested elsewhere, perhaps there are multiple IT factions in conflict over the alliance's strategic direction.

If that's the case, IT Alliance's failures in Catch and Fountain, may cause the opening of a third front; this one a campaign mounted in the IT Alliance board room between SirMolle himself and the enemies within.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snapshots: Providence

As capsuleers return to active service following the holidays, I provide a brief update on where things stand in several nullsec theatres. I'll begin with Providence and follow up with a separate post on where Catch and Fountain stand

Curatores Veritatis Alliance (CVA) got a recent assist from an unlikely source. Against All Authorities (-A-) dropped a Supercapital fleet on what was a routine system takeover by NCDOT, with CVA providing the cyno-ship. NCDOT got out of the engagement lucky, losing only one Supercapital (a Nyx) from their fleet due to the absence of Heavy Interdictors in the CVA/-A- fleet.

Indications are that CVA and -A- are blue to each other at the moment owing to NCDOT providing Supercapital support to The Initiative in Catch. -A- is attempting to re-take that region and their and hot-drop on the NCDOT fleet will force NCDOT to keep a strong Supercap presence in Providence - Supercaps that won't be readily available for use against -A- in Catch.

With CVA in need of -A- assistance and able to provide only limited assistance in Catch, they have more to gain from a thawing of relations with -A-. That would indicate that -A-'s outreach represents no more than a moment of mutual convenience. However, -A- may be playing a long game and thinking of using CVA as a vassal to hold Providence as a buffer guarding the back door to Catch against -A-'s enemies.

In the end this joint action is only a single data point in the ongoing CVA/-A- relationship. The depth and sincerity of their current rapprochement is remains to be seen.

Elsewhere in Providence, NCDOT appears to be focusing on the H-KW4A constellation in its effort to control the Providence South and squeeze CVA and Legio Astartes Arcanum (Legio) out of the region.

Ev0ke, meanwhile, has made little progress in mopping up Providence North. Ev0ke and vassal fleets have been encountered in the Northern regions of nullsec, far from Providence. Given the distance involved (a long way to go for a few good fights) it's likely Ev0ke is acting at the behest of a third party. Or it may be that Ev0ke is using the holidays to give its pilots some time off from the grind of sovereignty warfare. In any event, it's interesting that Ev0ke would take its collective eye off what has looked to be end-game in Providence to pursue PvP on the far side of nullsec. We'll see if CVA has the wherewithal to make them pay for that distraction.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

PNQY - When Legends Fall

"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!" - Robert Burns
Things did not go according to script for IT Alliance yesterday in PNQY.

Several weeks ago, IT Alliance announced an "all in" deployment to Catch in order to defend The Initiative from the Southern Russians. With the main IT Capital fleet thus occupied, Goonswarm made disturbingly quick work of Black Star Alliance in Fountain, and moved to strike the IT Alliance stronghold of PNQY in that region. Two days ago, with their Fountain allies unable to hold the line and the PNQY station coming out of its last reinforcement, IT made the decision to quit their Catch operations, recall their main fleet, and move it up to PNQY to save the station and blunt the Goon's offensive.

SirMolle's commanders put out a full scale call to arms. The fleet called for was to consist of armor tanking heavy assault cruisers (AHACs) and capital ships to number in excess of 1700.

Elements of the IT Alliance fleet began arriving in system the day before the battle to ensure they were on the grid before the Goon fleet arrived. Knowing the fight for the system would draw a large Goon battleship fleet, the IT Alliance plan appears to have been to occupy the high ground from a lag perspective and leverage the priority given to Titan doomsday weapons that make them effective even under heavy lag conditions - a tactic they'd used to good effect in Catch against the Southern Russians. Taking a page from Pandemic Legion's book, the IT Alliance commanders deemed a HAC fleet the best sub-capital answer to the Goon's battleship fleet.

Leading up to the fight, IT Alliance postings in the various Eve forums seemed confident of victory. They were fighting close to home. They had the strategic high ground. They had a vast advantage in Supercapital ships. The battle would take place during the prime hours of the European Time Zone, IT Alliance's sweet spot from a player participation standpoint. Even the Goons posting in forum seemed to anticipate an IT win.

Nonetheless, there was excitement in the air. This was to be a knock-down, drag-out brawl between two legendary foes. All eyes turned to Fountain.

As the boxer and sometime philosopher Mike Tyson once observed, "Everybody has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth". IT Alliance appears to have taken a shot to the head early in the battle and never recovered.

Numbers seem to have been key in this fight. Despite the priority of the call to arms and the presence of allies, IT Alliance was unable to assemble the 1700 ship ordered by its fleet commanders. The count of ships on the IT Alliance side seems to have topped out at about 600. There are indications that large numbers of IT pilots were off ratting in the home regions during the PNQY battle; a key failure in CTA discipline. Meanwhile, the opportunity to be a part of an epic battle against the legendary IT Alliance drew pilots from all corners of New Eden to the Goonswarm fleet, swelling their ranks. 

Goonswarm and allies entered PNQY system on schedule and, despite lag, began to make a steady stream of kills against the IT Alliance AHAC formations - Drakes taking a particularly heavy toll of the IT Zealots. IT Alliance appears to have held back its supercapital fleet, possibly owing to the unanticipated size of the Goon fleet. Battle reports to date indicate the presence of a single IT Titan that was quickly pointed and reduced to structure before managing to log off.

Without support of their Supercapitals, the IT AHAC fleet was badly mauled and the fight quickly turned into a rout for IT Alliance as their subcapitals attempted a retreat to an IT POS in system. Unfortunately, the IT Alliance allies had not been provided the POS password and many lost their ships just outside the POS shields. This led to early reports that IT Alliance had fled the field early in the battle, abandoning their allies in the process.

At 21:46 the IT Territorial Claim Unit (TCU) was destroyed. As the Goonswarm TCU was deployed SirMolle is reported to have been in a rage, demanding that IT's Euro pilots fight on into their night to prevent the system from falling to the Goons.  However, the fight seems to have gone out of the IT Alliance pilots and killboards record no IT Alliance kills or losses in PNQY after 22:25, about 40 minutes after the IT Alliance TCU went down.

Now, there is no reason that yesterday's defeat should be more than a minor set-back to IT Alliance. Their Supercapital fleet is intact. They are still, at least on paper, the most powerful single alliance in all New Eden. Their losses in the battle can be easily replaced. Goonswarm's fleet numbers are a statistical outlier - they're not going to get that many pilots in fleet on a regular basis.

What happens next will be very much up to the IT Alliance leadership. If SirMolle and company can use this loss as a galvanizing event to unite disparate factions within the alliance and wake its PvP elements from their apparent slumber, there's no reason to believe IT won't come roaring back at their enemies with a vengeance.

However, if this event is allowed to precipitate a crisis of confidence among IT Alliance members, it's not going to be pretty.

Victory, they say, has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. Outrage and finger-pointing among the IT leadership could broaden current rifts within the alliance. Allies, angry at being led to defeat, may not be inclined to support IT Alliance in its next fight. The loss at PNQY, when circumstances leading up to the battle were so in IT Alliance's favor, will encourage SirMolle's enemies. If they're allowed to seize the initiative and continue on offense against IT and its allies, the cohesion of IT Alliance will be tested even further.

In that case, PNQY will be remembered as the place where the BOB/IT legend fell to earth.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fiddlers Note: All Out

Normally I don't like to drop one post on top of the other. However, I want to call attention to an event that relates to content in The Gathering Storm and Tickling The Dragon's Tail:  

Yesterday, December 20, Goonswarm destroyed the IHUB at IT Alliance's stronghold of PQNY in Fountain. In response, IT Alliance has pulled major elements of their carrier fleet out of Catch to shore up their Fountain defenses.

With that, IT's "all in" defense of The Initiative comes to an end. It remains to be seen how much in the way of resources IT will continue to dedicate to propping up The Initiative.

The fact that a 6,000 member alliance with a vast Supercapital fleet is losing ground on one front while making only modest progress on the other suggests all is decidedly not well in Delve.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gathering Storm

The winter holidays are, generally speaking, a dull time in nullsec. For those denizens who actually have a life and are not outright agoraphobic, interstellar conquest must give way to the demands of the season; gift buying, parties and family obligations. For some reason, "I really have to go fly cartoon space ships," doesn't buy one much slack when there's egg nog to be spiked, or the kids are clamoring to out to the woods for a blue spruce.

You've simply got to suck it up, step away from the keyboard and socialize with people who have no interest whatsoever in whether blasters or pulse lasers are the superior weapon for close-in-and-personal PvP. No one at the holiday office party is going to discuss the proper fitting for ratting in wormholes, and the check-out lady at the grocers is utterly uninterested in your opinion of the Incarna upgrades.

With all these distractions the Eve meta-game has gone from high boil to a modest simmer. As fleet participation dwindles, major offensives or transfers of territory have died down. There are short, sharp actions here and there, but sustained fighting has, if you'll pardon the pun, taken a holiday. EveNews24 has resorted to hyping events like the "Mystery" surrounding the loss of a Razor Supercapital, that would have been only marginally interesting back in November.

Mind, it's not all peace and quiet by any means. Staging actions, political and logistical set-up for post-holiday mayhem, are well underway.

CVA, NC and Ev0ke have finished gobbling up all the "free" space in Providence. After the holidays I expect that party to begin in earnest as NC and Ev0ke attempt to take full control of the region. Kirith Kodachi the sage of Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah wonders how much of Providence space NC wants. My answer is "half', with the other half going to Ev0ke. The old conceit that no-one wants the wormy old Providence region is pre-Dominion thinking. With system upgrades available, Provi is much more attractive than it was of old. Further, Nullsec space is needed to build Supercaps - the ultimate coin in New Eden. Provi has value these days, and anyone who wishes to hold it will have to do so through strength of arms rather than indifference on the part of the competition.

While IT Alliance helps The Initiative against the Southern Russians, the Goons appear to be making headway in Fountain. It remains to be seen how long IT will ignore that front. I expect they're content to let Fountain fall, trusting they can take it back again at will. However, despite some IT/Initiative victories in Catch and Impass, there's no indication that Stain, -A- and Red Overlord are giving up the fight. The Initiative's outreach to NC for additional SuperCapital support suggests that Initiative isn't getting all the support it needs from IT Alliance, or that support has been dialed back from what was initially promised. It may be that there's already internal resistance to continuing the "all in" IT Alliance support of The Initiative in the face of the Goon advance.

Then, in the North, the pieces appear to be being set for new actions in the ongoing fracas between the Drone Russians and the Northern Coalition. As per my word, I'll say no more about that.

Once the holidays are over and the capsuleers are back in fleet, expect the well-laid plans of alliance directors will be put in motion. 

So, enjoy your plum puddings and mincemeat pies. Have at that Christmas goose and lay into the roast turkey or ham with a will. Eat well, drink your fill, kiss your sweetie under the mistletoe. Rest well, my children.

After the holidays, nullsec's going to burn.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lost in Eve

There's a reason why Fiddler's Edge isn't a podcast.

I am dependent upon the written page in order to self-edit. In real time my thoughts don't get the aggressive revisions they need in order to be drawn up into some sort of coherent order. I'll be talking my way down one line of thought when a couple of other ideas flit by. And ol' brain wanders off after them like a cat distracted by a flight of birds, leaving me behind, stuck in mid-sentence and delivering exceptionally clever witticisms like 'uuuuuuh", or 'ahhhhhhh'.

That, my friends, is the sound of too many synapses firing at once. I tell you, it ain't pretty.  

Thanks to Jayne over at Lost In Eve, you'll have a chance to hear it for yourself.  Jayne was kind enough to invite me to participate in a round-table podcast along with Chad from Fly Reckless and the lads from Eve Commune.  We held forth on RMT, the Dominion sovereignty changes, Pandemic Legion, IT Alliance and made our predictions of what's in store for 2011. Good fun in good company.

One thought I've been mulling in my head for a while and finally gave voice to during the round-table was  how CCP might enforce RMT and botting violations in nullsec. At the moment, all CCP does is confiscate the offender's virtual possessions and ban him from owning an Eve account for life.

That might get some marginal violators but, thanks to the anonymity of the internet, a determined RM trader or botter will  soon be back in business. In short, the current RMT deterrents do not deter. The risk of getting caught and the punishment that follows are far outweighed by the benefits of botting and RM selling.

So here's a modest proposal: Punish nullsec alliances for botting activity that occur in their space. Let's face it, at present botters are pretty much ignored (if not encouraged) by most alliances. Not their  business. Let CCP worry about it. If anything it's extra ISK in the alliance pocket, so why worry. No skin off the alliance's nose.

But lets say for a moment that, if a consistent  pattern of botting in a given alliance's space continues despite CCP's usual measures, CCP punishes said alliance. Not without warning of course.

Sort of: "Oh, by the way lads we couldn't help but notice that the botting patterns we discovered in your Arglebargle systems have continued despite our prior notifications. By way of friendly reminder to properly police you sovereign space, we'll be removing these systems from your sovereignty."

Something like that. Of course continued misbehavior can draw escalating punishments - fines to the alliance, alliance leadership, and alliance corporation directors. Confiscation of capital and Supercapital ships. And, of course disbanding.

In essence; If it's your space, help CCP keep it botter free. Alliances and corporations should have some skin in the game if some of their merry band are breaking the rules - particularly if the member organization benefits from the rule breaking.

Of course there are workarounds. There always are. We Eve players are a clever lot. However, the goal isn't to stop botting and RMT altogether - but to make it less convenient and make those that do answerable to their fellow capsuleers as well as CCP.

Another random synapse firing. Just a thought.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tickling The Dragon's Tail

Who knows how to tickle the dragon's tail? Mord Fiddle does.

Back on November 28, in Resurgence, I devoted a good bit of space to what the Against All Authorities come-back meant to IT Alliance.
The prospect of a potentially hostile -A- parked on the borders of Querious and Delve may move IT Alliance to take a substantive role in the defense of The Initiative's holdings in Catch.
I went on to say that, since the failed invasion of the North earlier this year, IT Alliance had, in effect, dabbled about the edges of the nullsec meta-game, apparently content to mind its borders, rest on its laurels and attend the odd barbecue. However, I said, the public perception and strategic fallout of -A-'s return from the grave might force IT Alliance out of inaction.
With more to lose than to win in most engagements, SirMolle's actions of late seem hesitant - chosen with an eye to protecting the BOB/IT Alliance brand and legacy rather than taking the storied alliance someplace new.

An invasion of Catch by the Southern Russian Coalition will test that hesitancy and put IT Alliance's leadership in the position where passive, low-risk choices are no longer an option.
A week later SirMolle announced IT Alliance was going "all in" in their defense of Catch and The Initiative; that every pilot, dog, cat and dormouse in the alliance would be dedicated to propping up their allies and putting -A- down for good. A few days thereafter, to signal their intentions, a capital fleet including thirty Titan-class ships and fifty Motherships was moved into Catch. 

It appears SirMolle does not like being called a risk dodging has-been. Who knew he was a reader?

With all that hardware rolling in the Southern Russians' direction, one might be excused for assuming the fight is over before it's really begun. However, a parade is not combat.

IT Alliance has a very large fleet of Supercapitals at its disposal. However, the number of Supercapitals they've employed in fleet fights this year has not been terribly high given the size of their fleet. One must conclude that a large portion of the IT Alliance Supercap pilots have little actual combat experience in those ships. Much will depend on whether the IT Alliance fleet is piloted by veteran fleet PvPers who've recently stepped up to Supercapitals, or SirMolle is dressing the ranks with Delve ISK farmers who normally use their Titans or Motherships to run Sanctums. Flying in combat against seasoned nullsec PvPers is a very different proposition than flying in formation from Delve to Catch. Mind, with that many Supercaps at your disposal, you can afford a lot of mistakes. However it only takes a few losses on that scale to sow doubt among the faithful.

Further, it's going to take more than a show of strength or a short campaign to knock down the Southern Russians. -A- showed remarkable cohesion during and after The Initiative's invasion of Catch. The Initiative learned, to their pain, that -A- will not go gently into that good night. For IT Alliance to win this fight they must hang in the fight until the fight is done - and this fight won't be over until -A- is no longer a coherent nullsec power. It's one thing to go "all in" for a few weeks, or a month. It remains to be seen whether IT Alliance can deploy at that level for the long slog this fracas is likely to end up being. And IT Alliance has a few structural issues that call their ability to endure a long campaign into question.

First of all, IT Alliance's greatest perceived strength is likely its greatest weakness. IT Alliance is big. Really, really big. 6,000 members is a lot of members. All those members and member corporations have their own wants, desires and agendas. Never forget Mord's Rule: In New Eden you have vassals only so long as they choose to serve you. IT Alliance can only go "all in" in the Catch war as long as their member corporations are acting in their own interest, or IT Alliance leadership can persuade them to put their interests aside for the good of IT Alliance. The more component organizations and factions an alliance has, the harder balancing all those wants, desires and agendas gets. And IT Alliance has a lot of component factions and organizations.

Secondly, to go "all in" in Catch, IT Alliance must put their interests elsewhere on the back burner. Pouring veteran troops into Catch means those forces are not readily available elsewhere. The Deklein Coalition is already taking advantage of this by stepping up attacks in Fountain. -A- has begun making raids against IT Alliance on their home ground of Delve (recently reinforcing a CSAA), a disruptive incursion rarely seen in the heyday of BOB of old. Pressure on the IT Alliance frontiers and home resources will cause internal factions to resist an extended campaign in Catch. That same pressure, unanswered, will act like blood in the water, bringing more sharks to the gathering feast.

Finally, there are reports of discontent within IT Alliance's leadership. Given the size of the organization, I'd be surprised if that weren't the case. There seems to be a critical mass beyond which an alliance becomes too unwieldy to manage - a coalition trapped within the relatively inflexible alliance management structure. Getting such an organization to move quickly and assertively, and stay a difficult course, requires a shared larger purpose, or a leader who can galvanize the organization to common action. 

SirMolle has built an organization that casts a broad shadow over nullsec. There are few capsuleers in New Eden who can remember a time when BoB/IT Alliance was not. Regardless of one's opinion of BOB/IT Alliance, there's no denying its place in the Eve zeitgeist.

However, the luster that once surrounded BOB has faded somewhat with time. All organizations are like living things - they move forward or they die. BOB/IT cannot remain what it was and it cannot seem to decide what it wants to be. So it hovers in indecision; a victim of its own reputation.

Then there are the rumors of SirMolle's desire to take a less active role in the day-to-day management of his interstellar empire. This would be understandable given how long he's been at the helm of BOB/IT,  his accomplishments over that time and the amount of time and effort that goes into managing a large in-game organization. Sooner or later, one wants to kick back and have a little laurel-resting time.  

Alas, Eve alliances so closely centered around a single personality do not often survive the departure, or even the lessened involvement of that guiding spirit. As King Lear discovered, living monarchs rarely rest easily in their retirement.

Nor do their empires.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bumper Cars

Role-play only justifies idiotic decisions if the role you play is an idiot.  -  June 2010

I haven't written about Providence for a while now. Not since August fourth, to be precise. Which is not surprising, when you think about it. Providence being the kiddy pool of nullsec, attention naturally falls away from it when the grown-ups are busily drowning each other in the deep end of the pool.

However, as often happens, events in deep nullsec are creating waves that have reached the shallows of Providence and are roiling those waters as well.

Early in the year, as most readers of The Edge will recall, -A- drove Curatores Veritatis Alliance (CVA) and their allies from Providence nullsec altogether and reseeded the space with hand-picked vassal alliances in a campaign known as "The Great Eviction".  Over the New Providence Holders (NPH), -A- established "The Rule": Thou shalt not screw with thy neighbor's sovereignty. Period. PvP against each other was allowed (in fact encouraged), but Sov tampering was a strict no-no. -A- stood as The Rule's final arbiter and enforcer. Beyond The Rule, NPH alliances worked together when threatened by an external entity. 

Now, when The Initiative, White Noise, et al, knocked the -A- nullsec empire out from under it back in October, -A- was no longer in position to enforce The Rule. Further, as allies of -A-, the NPH came under attack by those enemies of -A- not engaged in taking over their nullsec space, as well as a renewed effort the CVA role-players to liberate their holy land from the NPH infidels - which is CVA's raison d'etre.

In late Summer before The Initiative's invasion of -A- space, Ushra'Khan, -A-'s chief vassal and enforcer in Providence, had been weakened by a temporary alliance disband. By the time of the invasion,  U'K had not fully recovered and was vulnerable to attack. The U'K position was further weakened by the defection of CO2, a key U'K ally, to The Initiative's invasion force. Targeted by old enemies and -A- foes, U'K was quickly driven from Providence.

The remnants of the NPH alliances held on as best they could - mutual defense keeping the fabric of the coalition from completely unraveling despite its tattered state. CVA, having been handed systems by the embittered Noir Mercenary Group as they exited Providence, had finally achieved a long sought after foot-hold in Providence as the NPH no longer had the strength of arms to push CVA out as it had in the past.

Then Ev0ke showed up on the doorstep. 

History often reads like a big game of bumper cars. People don't move without good reason. The barbarian horde doesn't just wake up one morning and collectively say "Hey guys, lets go invade Rome." When the barbarians show up on your doorstep, some external pressure has moved them in your direction. Population pressures, for example, or famine, or drought. Very commonly, your barbarians have been pushed out of the space they formerly occupied by another even nastier barbarian horde. In effect, they've been pushed in your direction. If you can't hold your ground against them, they'll push you out of your space, and you'll be forced to either assimilate into their horde (assuming they let you), or go find lodgings elsewhere.

As in real life, so in Eve.

Ev0ke, having been run out of the Cloud Ring by the Deklein Coalition a month or so back, announced they were loading up the truck and moving to seek their fortunes in Providence. Veteran sov warriors who'd been battling Goons and Test Alliance up in the Ring, Ev0ke was more than a match for the Providence alliances, who tend to prefer sharp lowsec style PvP to the relentless, grinding fleet battles practiced in deep nullsec. Ev0ke quickly carved out a presence in North-East Providence, and have been expanding steadily to the West.

With the additional pressure from Ev0ke, the NPH has effectively ceased to be. A number of the remaining alliances have begin to pull out of Providence. CO2, having been pushed out of Impass in the -A- resurgence, planned to return to their Providence holdings and regroup. However, unable to hold their member corporations together, CO2's leadership has announced it will disband. This means that a large chunk of Providence real estate is about to become available with CVA and Ev0ke being the likely inheritors.

Of these two, Ev0ke is better positioned to pick up the pieces. While CVA has gone about snatching up systems wherever it can, Ev0ke has built its new holdings in Providence strategically - expanding from a controlled center in the North-East. C02's extensive holdings in North-central Providence sit practically on Ev0ke's doorstep.

So, a new battle for Providence shapes up, with CVA extending its holdings in the South, and Ev0ke expanding in the North. Numerically the sides appear to be evenly matched. However, CVA has a few serious disadvantages to overcome.

First of all, Northern Coalition alliance seems to have taken an interest in Providence and have established a presence smack in the middle of the South where CVA operates. They've shown themselves to be tough PvPers and appear to be coordinating their efforts in Southern Providence with Ev0ke. If they expand their presence in Southern Providence, it could mean serious trouble for CVA. CVA's holdings in Southern Providence are rather scattered and CVA still has to contend with Flying Dangerous and Legio Astartes Arcanum while, at the same time, contending with Ev0ke and NC.

Finally, CVA has a marked inclination toward casting away allies and opportunities; using role-play as a justification for obviously foolish strategic, diplomatic and economic decisions. CVA has no allies to call on, having either alienated them or seen to their destruction during and shortly after the Great Eviction. Former NPHers seeking to remain in Providence are likely to join Ev0ke or NC Alliance and battle CVA, CVA having been quick to burn bridges with the NPH 'infidels' in the name of role-playing rather than engage in realpolitik. 

Ironically, Ev0ke's greatest ally in the coming war with CVA, may be CVA.