Videre Sine Videri – To see without being seen

A couple of days ago, I came across a C3 crew who were running sites, 4 Tengus, 1 Loki and a Noctis on standby in their POS fields.  Oh, also at that POS, a Chimera carrier with fighter drones out.  Our team had about 3 guys online with varying interest and skill in PvP and since I did not see any way to threaten the site runners directly, I planned to take down the Noctis in some glorious Banzai charge.   I sort of hoped that the site runners would warp in the Noctis, then move on to the next site.  That would be my sweet spot to drop the industrial and make away with little loot but some bragging rights.  Needless to say, I was in my bomber – that’s what I use for solo hunting in Wormhole Space.

But it turns out that the T3s stayed as body guards with the Noctis after the combat was done – and I have been in that situation before.  Annoying, staring at prey and not being able to do anything about it.

Then a few more of our guys logged in and among them Dean – one of our more aggressive PvP-ers.  He stated that players who hunt with bombers are basically carebears (ouch!), organized everyone into Drakes (the lowest common denominator that we can all fly) and warped us into the middle of the 5 T3 site runners.  Who ran like hell – they likely had a scout on the WH in and saw us coming a mile away.

Arm-chair generals will now debate whether we should have warped a bubble ship in first etc but that is beside the point.  Dean saw the situation, put everyone into some PvP ship and just warped on top of them.  Elegant?  No.  Risky?  Not really (we knew the opposing team is a carebear corp and please, we used Drakes).  Decisive? Absolutely.

That made me think.  For the very vast majority of my EVE time, I have been carebearing, organizing recruitment drives, trained total newbs not to get seen or killed and stalked solo or at best in ultra-small teams, often consisting only of 1 or 2 other pilots.  I spent some time with Red v. Blue  and faction war, hanging out with great and not so great FCs.  But I never really caught the bug of fleet engagements, never wanted to be an FC myself and rather assessed the situation from a solo perspective who uses the fleet as a means to get the job done.  Maybe because I had not spent enough time in that environment but likely also because I spent way too much time reliant on myself and nobody else.

Ok, lets back up a second.  My fleet mate took charge of a situation after most of the intel work was done.  We knew who they were, how many and where.  We know their combat record, we knew that they were PvE fit, we knew that it is likely not a a single guy with tons of alts.  How did we know this?  Because a couple of my fleet mates and I had spent time stalking them.  I am good at that – I am very rarely wrong in my situation awareness.  To see and not to be seen (Videre sine videri) is what I do well.  And with limited game time (as readers of these humble pages may have noticed), I should likely focus on that rather than try to be what I am not good at: “balls-out engagements”.

In this vein, I thought about writing an EVE guide, since every experienced pilot seems to have one.  I have not done it yet this since I am intimidated by experts like pjharvey, Ripard Teg and many others. And what kind of guide would it be?  Solo hunting in WH space? There are excellent guides already.   A real “how-to manual” is out, I am just not qualified.

But I will start a series of short posts here, explaining my approach to Wormhole survival, both for defensive and offensive use.  It will not be a guide but simply explain how and why I do things and I hope to learn from the comments the errors of my ways.

So, watch this space.  And if you don’t see anything, that does not mean, I am not watching you…

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The Retribution for my sins…

Ok, the patch dropped.  CCP calls it an expansion, I call it a patch but we mean the same thing.  And as my long suffering Alliance Mates know, I am blissfully ignorant of the changes until I encounter them in space.  I do read “Jester” occasionally for updates but his rants have gotten a little tedious and I wish he was doing that CSM thing just so he gets under NDA and talks less.  But I digress, the short of it is, I know very little of upcoming changes until they hit me in the face.

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The Sleepover – Part 2

My RL is pretty busy right and now and I don’t get to play / blog much.  Its not that I am taking a real break, its just all a little slower.  All PI is turned off, recruitment is handled very competently by Skip and I enjoy the relative freedom to log in and just hang out, chat with friends and experiment with ships (I bought an Ishkur, great fun!).  But WH stalking is still my favorite pastime and at some point,  “borrowed” our CEO’s bomber (thank you), refitted it to my liking, packed a few hundred torpedoes and went onto an adventure, starting in a C6 that had opened up to us.  I really wanted to see if I could drop a Noctis full of C6 sleeper loot after my last attempt had failed due to the irritating competence of the opposing team…

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Tubes one and two – fire when matched

I cleared out my bookshelf on Sunday and found “Das Boot“, the mostly autobiographical novel of Lothar-Guenther Buchheim.   In (my native) German at least, its a phenomenal read.  The movie is good, but the book still blows me away in its attention to technical detail and narrative style.  But most of all, the terse, brutal language that accompanies the claustrophobic life under water caught between the thrill of the hunt and the sheer terror of being hunted.

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Stalking a Noctis in a C6 Wormhole

Team Night in our Wormhole Academy!  This means, all hands on deck scouting for opportunities and since our hole is wiped clean from pesky signatures and anomalies, we are scouting our rather quiet C2a neighbor.  Its a normal hole with about 8 anomalies, 3 Magnetic Sites and  a crapton of Ladar sites which we may or may not run – its tedious, low ISK, high risk work.  We also find some Gravimetric Sites (lovingly known as “rocks”) and we sometimes have a mining team running side-by-side with the our combat teams when raiding neighbor holes.

One of our newer members is ex Navy and like all military guys I have ever met, easy going, sharp, focused and with great situational awareness.  He is an expert scout already and parks his Covert Ops frigate at the high security static wormhole that connects our C2a neighbor with the Empire space.  These entrances tend to be frequented by “tourists” as well as anyone using this hole as a transit system and keeping an eye on it is wise.  And while the rest of the scouts files into the system to scan it down, he reports a holeflash with the entry of a single Anathema Covert Ops frigate.  Not a threat on its own but these boats are almost always scouts for a larger fleet – we use the same tactic, of course.  The pilot of this new ship has a name indicting that the player just entered puberty and his corp history shows that he has been in Wormhole space for quite some time.  But his recent kills have been against TEST Alliance and the goonwaffe in Delve.  Interesting, what is he doing here?  Is in the war?  Is he going home?

A couple of minutes later, our scout reports another holeflash.  As expected, the Anathema brought in his fleet,  5 Tengu Strategic cruisers, 2 Basilisks remote repair boats, a Vulture Command ship and a Noctis Salvager.  The Noctis warps to a planet in the C2a and cloaks whereas the rest of the fleet holds at the hole.

This complicates matters.  There is no way we fight a team like that and if they want to raid this system, we need to let them.  But this is a setup that is complete overkill for a C2, so what are they doing here? The fact that they jump in the uncloaked fleet means that they already scanned the C2a and know it better than we currently do.  We hold.  They warp off, not aligned to any other planet or known site, then they vanish from D-scan.  This means, there is a Wormhole here we have missed and we double our scanning efforts.  And there it is.  A nice K162 leading to a C6.  One of our number jumps immediately after him which may have gotten his ass podded but he lives and reports that this new team is getting ready to run sites.  And he further reports that the C6 is not theirs, it belongs to some Russian outfit which has a lone pilot cowering in its POS.

Now, this takes stones.  Jumping a multi-billion ISK fleet in PvE configuration into an occupied C6 with the locals watching is risky.  Russian EVE players are not known for taking this lying down and may mobilize their fleet to shoe away the invaders.  The hole they came through was the static, means, if the Russians wanted to blockade them out, all they would have to do is to bubble and camp it, the invaders did not bring an Orca, can not refit their Tengus to cloaky configuration and are effectively trapped.  Maybe the story is different altogether?  Maybe this is an agreed-upon mission with the Russians hosting this team to fuel the war effort? My spider senses are tingling.

In addition, where has the Noctis gone?  Last time it was spotted, it was still in our C2a neighbor, not in C6b.

While our own fleet is slowly forming in our home system, I hope to see some interesting action inside the C6 and maybe even get a shot off at the Noctis.  I jump in and be greeted by a D-scan full of ships and Sleeper wrecks, the crew is hard at work.  D-scan also gives me the vector to the anomaly they are running and I warp in at 100km.  I have never seen a C6 anomaly and hope that flying in at 100km won’t decloak me which would result in a very quick loss of my ship, me thinks.  But instead, I stay cloaked 130km from the site – a gorgeously designed ring of structures, looking like a perfect SciFi scene.  I congratulate again CCP for taking pride in designing the scenery that only a minority of players will ever see.  And I watch the fleet of 5 Tengus remote repairing each other, heavily supported by the two Basilisks.  The Vulture is somewhere off grid and the Noctis and the Anathema are nowhere to be seen.

Well, at least the Noctis must show up eventually.  My hope is that it will fly into the site, start the salvaging and that the combat team gets bored and runs the next site, leaving the slow industrial ship unprotected.  This would give me a shot at the salvager, hopefully after it scooped up billions worth of sleeper loot.  Yes, I am salivating and my heart rate is rising.  I can’t pass up on the chance of blowing up several hundred million ISK under the noses of hardened C6 site runners.  This risk would be well worth my ship and pod but only if I get the salvage out.  Suicide ganking for lolz is not my thing.

So, the last sleeper battleship drops and the Noctis warps in.  Hmm, so he was in the C6 after all.  Interesting. I did not see where he came from – maybe close to the Vulture in his safe spot?  This is getting exciting.  The Noctis proceeds to hoover up the wrecks with the Tengus milling around.  I notice that the wrecks are located in three main clusters, one of which well above the plane of the sleeper site.  My hope is that the Noctis will address those wrecks last and that by then the Tengus have grown bored with their babysitting duties and warped away.

3 clusters of wrecks. The Noctis and the combat team are at Cluster 1 (circle). I hope to ambush the Noctis at Cluster 3 if the combat team warps away

That would work extremely well since C6 sleepers have a ton of DPS and warp scramble frequently.  If the Noctis was attacked, an engaged PvE fleet can’t just disengage and come to assist. Chances are that someone in the combat team in a billion ISK Tengu would be warp scrammed by the sleepers and would be lost for a small chance of saving the Noctis.  There is not much spare capacity in this set-up and with one ship lost, another may not receive the full repair and also go down.

This may just work.  Timing is key here and I make various warp-in bookmarks at the wrecks that I think he will like salvage last.  Plan is to warp in at zero, decloak, point the fat ship, pound him with torpedos and guide my fleet mates from the C2a in with more bombers to hopefully help salvage.  All the while, the enemy fleet is entangled with the Sleepers and can’t come to rescue.  We would have to deal with the Vulture Command Ship and the Anathema.  The Vulture may be in full support fit – maybe not a threat.  The Anathema can point me down but not really hurt me until its friends arrive.  This is worth the loss of one or two Stealth Bombers if we can get the salvage out.

So I wait.  And wait.  The Noctis keeps popping wrecks with Teutonic efficiency and the combat team stays in the site.  In fact, they seem to follow the salvager.  I need to get closer, at least within 100km so I can see what is going on.

The Noctis (middle, engines pointing towards camera) is being proactively repaired by at the combat team consisting of 5 Tengus and 2 Basilisks

What is see is very depressing.  The Noctis is surrounded by 5 Tengus and 2 Basilisk presumably set on “Keep at Range” of maybe 3km.  In other words, the entire fleet moves along like a dense school of fish.  And even more frustrating, every ship has its remote shield transporter turned on,  constantly feeding the Noctis additional tanking buffer.  This means, even if I decided to execute a banzai charge into this ball of ships, my torpedoes would get the Noctis maybe into 80% shields before the massive shield reps from two Basilisks and 5 Tengus would bring it back to 100%.  And then there would be a price fight who gets to blow me up.

The Noctis moving towards my ambush site with the entire combat team in tow.

I have a few options.  I can wait for the next anomaly and see if they slip.  This means, at least 45 minutes sitting around doing nothing.  I could very carefully plot the vector when the Noctis warps away and see if I can catch him on the next cycle when he decloaks and warps to its team.  If he jumps to a safe spot – where the Vulture is – I will never catch him.  But it would be worth a shot if I was solo hunting tonight.

But hey!  It’s team night in the Academy and my fleet has finally formed up and calling for me (actually, not me personally.  They need a salvage slave)

I leave the C6 slightly frustrated but in awe.  I can’t tangle with these guys, they are more organized and better prepared than we are (and we are good in what we do) and they make it all look effortless and easy.  I have a lot of respect for them and I hope I never come up on the opposing end of a real fight with them.  But would I want to fly with them?  God no.  I love where I am, I prefer the slightly haphazard and anarchic attitude of our team over the highly specialized and organized structure that some other teams have.  And yes, I would not want to be seen dead flying with a character called “Pornokoenig“….

Attitude >>ISK.