Saturday, July 29, 2017

Come out and Play

Holesale Operations don't have many blues, but those they do have are cherished allies. So when a hostile force set up to evict one of them, you can bet Holesale will form up to defend their home like it's their own. Ch3ss have long been close allies, always keen for a fight, so when a combined force from Ember Sands, Temporary Insanity and Scary Wormhole People threatened their home, we answered the call.

The initial assault went poorly for the defenders, losing some Capitals along with a large chunk of their and our SubCap fleet. Unfortunately it was a fight I missed due to work commitments, but I made sure to be on today to engage the hostile Astrahus and the inevitable defence fleet that would accompany it. I made my way to the target system overnight with a Guardian and a Scout Tengu, I almost never combat dual box, checked timers and called it a night, ready for what would follow in the morning.

Logging in several hours before the timer we spent our time bringing the fleet together, rolling connections for a favourable one whilst coordinating with our friends. Maintaining strict hole control was our top priority, we couldn't have the significant Sleipnir/Hurricane/Scimitar fleet that had logged off in system getting in additional reinforcements, especially since they had so convincingly bested us the day before. The Wormhole PvP channel was alive with talk about us, so it was fair to assume they were trying to bring in some back up and, having spent some time in that channel, I know they have no shortage of willing Bomber pilots on hand, a doctrine that would oppose ours very efficiently. Our weapon of choice being artillery Machariels backed up with Guardian logistic support and a variety of sensor damping eWar. It was hoped that the extra buffer provided by the armour tanked battleships could give our logistics ships a better opportunity to land repairs and the high alpha damage deem their logistics irrelevant. Keeping a very tight formation to counter the effectiveness of a Command Destroyer trying to "boosh" us off grid would make us a delicious target for a bombing run.

Leading up to the timer the enemy were scarcely spotted. Their fleet remained logged off at a safe and my Scout Tengu had the dubious task of reporting their log in as we had managed to scan it before they were off grid. I had no idea how close to their location my bookmark was and burning off in any particular direction could end up disasterous so I just punted on the fact that whoever made the bookmark had some labelled it correctly as a scout position and I wasn't at zero.

Two minutes before the Astrahus was vulnerable the enemy fleet logged on. I suddenly found my Tengu in close proximity to Sleipnirs, Hurricanes and Scimitars, exiting warp all around me. I held my nerve as as Sabre passed within ten clicks, most of the remainder of the fleet were over sixty away. I called the intel and we waited in our position, 25 kilometres off of their Astrahus, inviting them to engage us.

My PvP Logistics experience is limited but I focused hard on my broadcast list and reiterated time and again to call for armour if yellow boxed, the high alpha may be too much for even our brick Machariels. As the enemy fleet landed, primaries were called, drones were sent to the Astrahus and our Fleet Commander was quickly calling targets. The first thing I noticed.... SO. MUCH. ALPHA. Despite calling for early broadcasts they didn't always come, often locking up friendlies in low armour. By the time our repairs were landing they were gone and podding their way home. That happened more times than I cared for but for the most part we held the field. Which is the frustrating part of flying logistics, you really have no clue how the battle is going. As it turns out, it was going well. We held our ground, drove off the aggressing fleet and destroyed the hostile Citadel. The Ch3ss home was saved; for now at least.

Post battle there was some talk that Ch3ss were targeted to draw out Holesale. I don't know how much of that is bullshit, may be it's true, maybe it isn't, but all in all it was a damn good fight that gave me new respect for our logistics wing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tengu Dynasty

When I first started solo hunting in low class wormholes some seven years ago, a Covert Ops, Interdiction Nullified, HAM Tengu was my go-to. It had a credible tank but suffered with just 400 odd DPS and poor damage application. I can recall with some embarrassment my efforts to kill a lone Buzzard, going through more missiles than I care to remember only just managing to overcome his passive shield regeneration. The Proteus was a significant step up in regards to DPS but again damage application was an issue with the poor tracking of Heavy Neutron Blasters. Then came the Stratios and in recent years it has been the weapon of choice for covert hunters everywhere. I suppose the smart bombing Proteus should get a mention here, but it is highly specialised and clearly suited to killing small ships only.

Now everything has changed. The Tech III Cruiser rebalance has seen many doctrines reimagined and many small gang staples, like the armour Jamgu, entirely abandoned. Moreover, boosting Strategic Cruisers are again viable as they're not limited to just boosting, they can have significant utility in any small gang. We've seen the Loki as the clear winner, able to fit over sized shield booster, propulsion modification and capacitor battery all at the same time. It makes it very hard to pin down, neut out or out damage its local shield repair. Engage them with caution. That said, you have to invest a significant amount of ISK to do all of that, so the rewards for destroying one will be significant. Moreover, only the significantly wealthy will choose to engage in PvP with them, so you shouldn't seem them in tremendous numbers, especially when just trying to PLEX your account is close to a full time job these days.

The challenge faced by our Wormhole group has been to develop a doctrine from the new T3 Cruisers that had the right balance of DPS, survivability and utility but at an affordable ISK investment so everyone can get involved. As wormholers, Covert Ops ships are always important, the fact that using a Covert Ops Tech III Cruiser means you no longer have to get by with meager DPS is a delightful bonus. For OpSec reasons I'm not going to share the specific fits of our fleet doctrine, but let's just say it's rich with Tengus.

Covert Ops Fleet Composition.

DPS: HAM Tengu, buffer shield tank, 900+ DPS heated.
ECM: ECM Tengu. buffer shield tank, 600+ DPS, 3 x Multi spec ECM
LINKS: Boosting Tengu, buffer shield tank, shield/skirmish links, 4 x dead space medium remote shield transporters.

Now here's where it gets tricky for the enemy. They all look virtually identical. I pity the FC who has to call primaries when he has no clue which Tengu is doing the most damage, providing the logistics or engaging in eWar. It's no longer a matter of just saying "Primary the Falcon/Jamgu" as, unless the FC is being directly jammed by the offending ship, he will have no clue which is which.

The doctrine is still being developed so I'm sure there will be changes made as limitations are discovered, but if you see a swarm of Tengus uncloak in a wormhole near you I advise you to run, Forest, run.