If you want a vampire dead, you have to drive a stake through its heart.
Nobody ever said Ivan was dumb.
-Tom Clancy Red Storm Rising
Never assume your enemies can't learn from past mistakes.
Nearly a year ago, Against All Authorities (-A-) played a clever game of rope a dope with the combined forces of White Noise, Pandemic Legion, IT Alliance, The Initiative, Circle of Two and Dead Terrorists (CIF, or Combined Invasion Force). It was a game born of desperation, but one that was well played all the same.
Pardon me while I recap:
Last September the CIF invaded -A-'s nullsec holdings. Realizing early in the proceedings that they were not a match for the CIF invaders at their gates, -A- leadership chose to run a rear-guard action against the invaders, while retreating the bulk of their fighting strength to NPC nullsec. Thus, rather than spending that strength in a pitched war against overwhelming odds (as had the recently defunct Atlas Alliance) -A- preserved it to fight another day.
Now, at the time this was an exceedingly risky strategy. Ordering your members to turn tail and run and then watch while the enemy occupies and divides up your homelands is not normally a winning tactic in New Eden. Atlas Alliance, having accepted humiliating surrender terms from the Drone Russians not a month before, had dissipated like a puff of smoke on a windy day as its players and corporations quit the alliance in either despair or disgust. It was assumed by all and sundry that -A- would likewise failscade in short order.
In fact, the widely held assumption that -A- would soon follow Atlas Alliance into the mists of Eve history likely saved the alliance.
The CIF invaders, assuming -A- was as good as dead, did not pursue them into NPC space. They set about dividing up their newly won space and cut loose Pandemic Legion. While White Noise stood pat with its territorial gains and ceased operations against -A-, The Initiative and its vassals Circle of Two and Dead Terrorists continued operations against Stain Empire with a much reduced invasion force. As far as the CIF invaders were concerned, -A- was out of the game and it was Miller time.
As I documented in a running series of posts (The Undead , AZN-D2, Resurgence , The Return of -A-, and The Initiative At Bay), the publishing of -A-'s demise was just a bit premature. -A- waited for their moment and then struck back. Supported by Stain, Red Overlord and a handful of allies, they took back Catch and later reclaimed Teneferis during the Drone Russians conquest of Northern Coalition space.
Now, the trouble with risky but successful strategies is that, once executed, they become part of the standard playbook. Everyone assumes you can pull that rabbit out of the hat again at will.
A year later another invasion of -A- space in in progress. This time the invaders are the Drone Russian Forces (DRF) and their vassals, who currently own most of nullsec and are in the process of taking over the rest. Presently the Southern Russians (led by -A-) and Deklein Coalition (led by Goonswarm) are the only remaining players on the board with any hope of organizing the free alliances of nullsec into a coherent defense against the Drone Russians' plans for dominion over nullsec.
Once again, -A- is outmatched, this time by the DRF's supercapital blob and well-padded bank accounts. With Goonswarm apparently having announced that Deklein will not ride to -A-'s rescue, the latter cannot look for relief from any corner. Thus, -A- reaches into the play book and announces it will attempt a repeat performance of the Retreat to NPC Space.
This time, however, the enemy will not be so blithe to let them be. Knowing the history of this tactic, the DRF will not let -A- use NPC space as safe harbor as The Initiative did last time. Unless DRF discipline breaks down, expect the DRF and their vassals to follow -A- into NPC space and undertake a griefing campaign against them there. Despite the safe harbor afforded by NPC stations, a grinding campaign in which -A- pilots can hardly undock without being swarmed and cap-dropped would take a monstrous toll on morale.
In short, the DRF will not be content to let the vampire lie in it's coffin. Having learned form the mistakes of others, they'll try to put a stake through -A-'s heart.
Meanwhile, up in the North, GoonSwarm is doing a lovely impression of Vichy France.
The Goon PR department went into full bloviate mode in the last week or two, making much of past slights and grudges between -A- and GoonSwarm. This was done in order to justify their leadership's decision to stand down and take no action down in the war between the DRF/Vassal coalition and the rest of free nullsec.
Mittens and company appear to have made a separate peace with the Drone Russians. My guess is that the deal struck was that the Goons don't go South to defend -A- space, and in return they'll be allowed to exist in nullsec as a source of good fights for the Drone Russians and friends. It wouldn't surprise me if the deal was sweetened by a large donation to key players from DRF's accounts, as the latter tends to sweeten their threats with large piles of the Iskis.
It makes capitulation go down a lot easier.
Some players are making much of the rumored "Winter Supercap Nerf" and are assuming this will level the playing field against the DRF. "Winter is coming," is the watch-phrase for what remains of free nullsec. However, from what I've heard the supercapital nerf will be nominal, and unlikely to do much to offset the vast supercap and fundraising advantages enjoyed by the DRF and their vassals. But desperate folk find comfort where they can.
A more likely source of relief will be a little talked about change in sov mechanics. More on that next time.