Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dead as Disco

There's a lot of activity about with the changes to Tech III Strategic Cruisers coming next month and whilst I agree they were in need of some serious overhauls to make Recons and Heavy Assault Cruisers more relevant, I couldn't help but be more than a little concerned about my most beloved of Strategic Cruisers, Night Fever.

For the uninitiated, she is my Smart Bombing Proteus that has netted me literally of hundreds of explorer frigate and pod kills over the journey, not to mention some pretty funny close calls from those who would see her demise. Despite their best efforts, she still lives today, although not getting nearly as much use as she has in the past.

So it was with some trepidation that I logged into the Singularity Test Server to play around with fittings and make sure my cloaked disco machine could still be of service to Bob. The reality however, is that it just can't happen, at least not as I have had it in the past. With some wrangling it is possible to get five large faction smart bombs on but I have to live without interdiction nullification, a propulsion module and a medium capacitor booster. Regrettably, that is too much of a sacrifice to make it viable any longer.

As horrible as that news is, there are silver linings. In my NullSec days I used to rat with a medium shield boosted HAM Tengu that I still have to this day. It hasn't fired a shot in over two years but it was a joy to use with its high mobility and in excess of 900 DPS output. Tanked for a specific damage type, it could handle all but the most severe sites and it made me a truck load of ISK when I was using it. For exercise, I thought I'd just make sure that I could still use it as I had and the good news that yes, it was still very comfortable in that role and just as effective. What I didn't expect is that I could make it Covert Ops and Interdiction Nullified too. The downside was going to be damage application in that set up, however. There just weren't enough mid slots for a target painter to assist the HAMS in hitting their target, so I opted for a Heavy Missile variant, allowing me to fit a large booster and a capacitor battery for neut resistance. The end result is pretty impressive.

650 DPS
10% shield boost per cycle [3.2 secs]
560 metres per second
Cap stable!

Carry around a depot with specific hardeners for the enemies you're facing and you have yourself a ship that can effectively rat in hostile space with impunity. No bubble camp can stop you unless you fuck up quite badly.

I'm sure there's someone out there who will come up with a better variant, I only spent about ten minutes on this fit, but it was pretty easy to do, so I encourage you all to log into Singularity and play around with the new fits yourselves. There's even some logistics bonuses that are certainly going to add a whole new level of versatility to these ships. The possibilities look very promising.

Fly safe o7

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Un-natural Habitat

Our most recent contract has been more protracted than most. For OpSec reasons I don't have all of the details, but our client has had quite enough of the Cavemen Alliance wreaking havoc on their favoured region of HiSec space, so much so that they were willing to part with a significant amount of ISK to have their Fortizar destroyed. Last weekend was dedicated to the Shield and Armour facets of the reinforcement and now a week later we assemble to finish the job. The beauty of Wormholes is that this sort of task is over in three days and there's no such thing as asset safety so the loot drops can be a very nice cherry on the pie, in HiSec it's a one week operation and there's little chance of securing any loot, but the contract and content ought to be loot enough.

As we have counted down the days our target has had a number of allies come to their aid so as we form up our high alpha fleet and coordinate with our own allies, the stage is well set for a battle of epic proportions. We make our way to our staging system and lay in wait behind a wormhole close to our target system as the timer ticks down. Our fleet composition of Sleipnirs, Hurricane Fleet Issues and Basilisks is designed around a hit and fade philosophy. We will strike targets of opportunity with 720mm Artillery fire and use our speed to withdraw before being overwhelmed. Whilst our 18 Artillery fit Battlecruisers were well buffered and capable of outstanding alpha, our logistics wing of just four Basilisks was concerning. The plan was to land after our allies in the hope that our Logistics wing wouldn't be high on the priority list. It was a vain hope and, in the end, bought them very little time.

Landing on grid moments after our allies the conflict was just kicking off. The defenders had formidable numbers, roughly thirty Rattlesnakes, fifteen Ospreys and a what seemed like and endless supply of Blackbirds, Griffins and various Tech I Cruisers. We immediately pulled to our optimal range and primaried their Vulture to get their boosts off the field. It was in low structure when the reps landed, saving it for a minute or so until the DPS was able to overcome the shield reps. From there it became our mission to wipe as much DPS off the field in quick order. Hurricanes were aplenty and were savaged by the high alpha artillery output. It was even uglier for the Blackbirds when they allowed themselves to become untethered, being instantly destroyed. As well as the battle was going for us, the same could not be said for our Basilisk wing. All four were quickly dispatched, leaving our fleet to fend for ourselves. The hit and fade tactics were employed with good effect and despite taking losses, we certainly inflicted more than we suffered.

The same could not be said for our allies however, for every ship we destroyed the enemy would quickly redeploy their pod to the nearby Azbel and re-ship. It was a shooting gallery but there were just too many ducks to shoot. The lack of interdiction in HiSec space was ultimately our undoing. Being unable to dictate terms and stop pods from escaping meant that the hive could just continue to swarm until we ran out ways to swat them away.

Eventually overcome, our allies could no longer sustain their own fleets so we withdrew, too. The after action report shows the defenders lost 130 ships for our combined losses of 38 ships. What looks like a resounding success on the face of it was actually a significant loss in terms of ISK, with our fleets suffering 22 billion ISK in losses compared to 10 billion. Moreover, the Fortizar survived, so the mission was ultimately unsuccessful. From a Holesale perspective however, we carried our weight, in both ledgers of ships killed and ISK damage inflicted we came out on top, further underscoring the effectiveness of the artillery shield doctrine.

Whilst it was a great fight, HiSec leaves a sour taste. I'll not turn down an opportunity for an engagement like that again, but I'd far prefer it to be in Anoikis next time. I think Bob would, too.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rattle and Um...?

When a scout calls out that he's found ten Rattlesnakes, three Nestors and a Damnation in a C5 Sleeper site there is an instant up tick of activity on comms. When the scout calls out that the connection is via a frigate hole there is a few moments of confused silence.

This conundrum faced us this evening, in the depths of the AU TZ and without strong representation online. Pings went out over Discord to get as many able hands on deck as possible whilst we speculated just how we might contend with this high DPS blob of Faction Battleships. A little research showed that this particular multi boxer had fallen foul of raiders before, but judging by the Dreadnaughts on the battle report, that raiding party wasn't faced with the problem we are. It was speculated that kiting Beam Laser Confessors with Logistics support would do the job but the numbers online meant we were unlikely to out perform their remote repair abilities. Sure, we could throw in a couple of Kitsune's and jam out the Nestors, but that's two pilots that aren't in a Deacon or a Confessor to provide the fatal blow.

In the end we settled on a bombing run. We would warp in a Sabre at zero that would be very unlikely to get out alive and fire two salvos of bombs from the nine Stealth Bombers we could muster for the assault. Any more than eight bombers at once and the bombs are rendered ineffective, so one squad of seven and another of two would make their runs about seven seconds apart. Once the bombs were fired all bombers would align out to a celestial of their choosing and continue firing torpedoes at the predetermined target. In this case we decided that a Rattlesnake kill was positively ghetto, so we picked out a Nestor to be the centre of our attention. With the plan laid out we moved into position and ordered the Sabre through to his inevitable demise.

The bombers jumped through  moments after the Sabre and initiated warp to their bombing bookmark as the Sabre was landing among the Battleships. Now alerted, the target quickly engaged the sacrificial tackle and dispatched him as the bombers were uncloaking and dropping their bombs. I aligned also, uncloaked and locked my target, painting the Nestor and releasing my torpedoes but holding fire on the bomb launcher as I slowly counted to seven. Bombs away! I immediately aligned out as the first wave of bombs exploded, sending our target Nestor into about 40% armour. The last two bombs hit and our nine bombers stayed on grid as long as they weren't yellow boxed. I was, unfortunately, high on the target list and was quickly in low armour, forcing me off the field after only two or three volleys, but enough of our pilots were able to remain on grid to finish the Nestor and make their escape without loss.

The bubble expired and the fleet warped off, in their haste leaving eleven Geckos floating in the void. As luck would have it, we had targeted the pilot that was salvaging and storing all of the blue loot too, turning what may have been a 1.5 Billion ISK loss into about 3.7 Billion according to zKillboard. All told, we got away with around 1.4 Billion ISK in loot & Geckos for the loss of a Sabre, a satisfactory trade I think you'll agree. ;)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Obsessive Compulsive D-Scan

I'll admit it, I have mild OCD, and not just in regards to D-Scan. In my personal life I'm a bit of a neat freak. My office desk is always well squared away and I have to suppress my rage when someone leaves a coffee cup or some other arbitrary item where it's not meant to be. I'm not the sort of guy who checks if the oven is off or the door is locked over and over again, I just like things to be right. As a compulsive D-Scanner, I have the same issues in W-Space. It annoys me when I see secure containers left floating in a POS or Mobile Depots or Warp Bubbles just left to de-spawn with time. So you can imagine my annoyance at seeing Eve-Scout Enclave Rescue Containers scattered all around Anoikis.

I mean, I get the premise. They're like the St Bernard dogs of W-Space, helping clumsy explorers to scan their way out of a system they were unprepared to enter. It's a noble cause but there's nothing noble about W-Space. At least, not in my experience. Which is why I take it upon myself to find these containers and blow them to dust. Giving clumsy explorers an easy way out of my hunting domain is bad for business, not to mention the annoying twitch I develop when I see them on D-Scan.

Imagine my delight then when I spotted an Imicus probing in a nearby system that belonged to Eve-Scout Enclave, just after I had blown the moth balls off of Night Fever. As the saying goes, prior preparation prevents poor performance. I had already scanned all of the exploration sites so it was only a matter of re-shipping into Night Fever and laying in wait.

Just before down time he obliged me. I savoured the moment and allowed him to get to the last can before bathing the space trash leaving transient in Bob's Holy Fire. Scooping his lifeless husk, I warped to a safe for down time.

Logging in immediately after a very short down time I was pretty close to just heading home and calling it a night until I noticed probes on scan again. So again I laid in wait with my forelegs on the trip wires, a trapdoor spider awaiting it's next meal. Sure enough, another Imicus lands and to my amusement, it is also from the Eve-Scout Enclave. Another cleansing was had and another corpse for ritualistic sacrifice was collected for Bob's glory.

I feel like that's a win for the good guys... or the bad guys, it depends on your perspective I suppose. At least they won't be leaving their cans in that system today.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!

Our current siege in coming to an end with the target Corporation removing all the assets they could and no longer attempting to defend their system. It means the arduous work of cleaning out a swathe of control towers and customs offices is ahead of us so this evening was dedicated to that cause. With everything of import reinforced we were working on an undefended Gallente tower when an activation on our NullSec connection triggered excited calls on comms and the fleet redeploying to the connection. It was a pair of Dominix class Battleships looking to roll the connection away as some of our number had been poking about in there earlier. We were able to destroy one whilst the other escaped, but the NullSec connection remained intact. With no hint of the conflict escalating, we returned to our work.

I didn't have an ideal ship for POS Bashing on hand, so I brought my Artillery fit Sleipnir along to provide those dank shield boosts for our Rattlesnakes. For the better part of an hour we continued our work unmolested and undisturbed. We were in a pretty lazy mood, as POS bashing tends to do to you, so we didn't notice the Flycatcher until it landed amongst our fleet. It immeidately started dropping bubbles on the Rattlesnakes that were about 20 kilometres from me. With an optimal range of about 50 kilometres I immediately began burning away so he wouldn't be able to get under my guns, and that's when the Stealth Bombers uncloaked. D-Scan showed a Vindicator, Megathron, Brutix and Stratios also inbound and whilst the FC was calling primaries and other members were scrambling into Basilisks, I decided the best thing I could do would be to clear the Bomber DPS from the field in short order. In the space of half a dozen volleys three bombers went pop, two were forced to withdraw and the active tanked Flycatcher also got alpha'd off the field. Switching fire now to the Stratios it was soon in low armour and withdrawing but the Rattlesnakes were having a hard time with the combined DPS of the Vindicator, Megathron and Brutix. Soon our first Rattlesnake was destroyed and a second was in low armour, then structure and then the Basilisk shield reps landed. With hardeners and reps overheated the two Basilisk were just able to out repair the combined incoming damage, had there been bombers on the field it would've ended very differently.

With the survivability of the gang secured the aggressors dropped like dominoes, their active tanks being horribly inadequate to deal with the incoming fire. All told, it was a 1.9 Billion ISK group of kills for the loss of one 600m ISK Rattlenake. Not a bad trade and a nice initiation for my brand new Sleipnir, bagging herself four kill marks in the process. Gotta love those 720mm Howitzers.  =]

What is my friendship worth?

There's a saying in EVE that "The best ship is the friendship." It seems at odds with a game that is infamous for the sort of skullduggery that would land a person behind bars in the real world. As a community, we practically celebrate it. There was the giant ponzi scheme a couple of years ago that saw an ISK investment service run away with trillions all the way down to the common corporation thief who perhaps gets more roles than he should have and makes off with a few billion in ships and BPO's. It's not like CCP discourage this behaviour either, their 'Causality' trailer from way back in 2003 is testament to that. Then of course there are the ever present scams that proliferate the HiSec trade hubs, catching out unsuspecting or far too trusting noobs and vets and liberating them of their ISK.

It's all treated like it's good sport, but when does the line get crossed?

Well, I believe this is a prime example of taking it a step too far. The tl;dr version is that this individual, who has a long history of underhanded behaviour, decided he would try to infiltrate a LowSec PvP Cartel who famously fly Alliance Tournament ships from day to day. The scarcity of these ships puts an enormous value on them, many of them worth hundreds of billions of ISK. Over a period of around one and a half years he gained their trust and earned their friendship, all the while knowing he would betray both of those things when the opportunity came up. The opportunity came and he took it, discarding what seems like must've been a genuine friendship for virtual currency. The victims of the theft in this instance took it very well, despite one of them losing a prized possession with over 400 killmarks on it. As one of them stated in the Reddit thread...

"I'm more sad about losing our friendship and future fun together than some spacepixels."

So what value, if any, do you place on the friendship of those you game with. Personally, I don't think there's a number for which I'd betray a friend. To be able to do so and sleep at night seems somewhat sociopathic, but I'm interested to hear from others out there. Could you betray an online friendship for virtual currency?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Crumbling Alliance?

The battle for J120455 rages on despite an early victory for the group calling themselves Wormhole NATO. Despite publicaly declaring on Reddit that they had halted an eviction, the truth was quite far from the claim. Holesale, as the invasion force, had already secured the destruction of two Astrahus Citadels before the loss of their own Fortizar and whilst that was a grievous loss, the mission remains unchanged and assets remain in system.

Our target, perhaps confident in their new friends, proceeded to reinforce the Astrahus and two Raitaru Citadels Holesale still had in system. However, there would be no mistakes with the reinforcement timer this time. With a strong turnout present, some thirty pilots converged on the Astrahus to defend the timer. Learning from mistakes made in the past the fleet had moved from the HAM Armour doctrine that was overwhelmed last time around for a more mobile, high alpha damage fleet consisting of Gilas, Hurricane Fleet Issue Battlecruisers, a handful of Basilisk Logisitics cruisers and four Sleipnir Command ships. The hope was that the high alpha damage output of the fleet would be able to overcome a fleet of greater numbers by destroying ships before their logistics cruisers could save them.

Inviting the fight, we left an entrance wide open in system. It was watched, of course, and we had prior knowledge of what was heading our way. As it turns out, what was heading our way was a pretty decent counter to what we were fielding. A fleet of HAM Cerberus Heavy Assault Cruisers backed up by a seven strong wing of Scimitar Logisitics cruisers and a couple of Bifrost Command Destroyers. Those destroyers were there to split our logistics wing from our fleet and would be a high priority when they landed on the field of battle.

Surprisingly, the 130 - odd man fleet that engaged us last time was not to be seen. I don't know if it's because this fledgling alliance is already falling apart, but only Of Sound Mind made it to the party. As they entered system they immediately kited off the NullSec connection to around 80 km's range and dropped a bubble on the connection. Their hope was that we would warp to the Wormhole at range and get dragged into their bubble and their optimal range. It would be a catastrophic error to fall for such an obvious ploy and our FC was equal to the task, using a cloaked scout to get a more favourable warp in on the enemy fleet. What followed can be seen below.

The Battle report doesn't show about five of the Scimitars and three of the four Nightmare Battleships that took their place in the battle and even though we were slightly outnumbered, it was ultimately a pretty evenly matched contest. Our logistics chain deserve most of the credit with our fleet only losing the webbing Huginn, but not before he had sustained over 200,000 damage. The Of Sound Mind fleet probably lost the fight chiefly because they were unable to maintain the range required to avoid the incoming damage, had they been able to it may have been a very different result. At Holesale it has lifted spirits and steeled the resolve of all of those involved, any time you can inflict five billion ISK of damage for the loss of just one ship is a boost for morale. So the battle rages on and there will no doubt be more to report in the very near future.