Saturday, July 6, 2013
In Harm's Way
While the battle at Z9PP-H was unable to complete due to node crash, it's a singular fight in that capital ships came out to play in force, and both sides in the fight have said that they had additional caps and supercap fleets on stand-by waiting to enter the fray.
Given the number of players in the system and the degree of TiDi encountered by players on the ground, it's not surprising that neither side chose to deploy their back-up fleets. Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC) has justifiably claimed victory based on the number of Test Alliance Please Ignore and allied capital ship kills. Further, the CFC forces had a large Test capital fleet bubbled and in trouble at the time the node finally went down.
However, the peril of the bubbled Test capital fleet doesn't necessarily mean that the node crash saved Test, Pandemic Legion (PL), and N3's collective bacon. In fact there are reasons to believe that the opposite may be true.
As I've written in a number of prior posts, large-scale sov warfare is won or lost when one side cedes the supercapital high-ground to the enemy. When one side of a nullsec scrap becomes risk-averse when it comes to deploying supercaps, the other side simply rolls over them, dropping SBUs in system after system while the defenders retreat; their subcapital fleets effectively useless absent credible supercapital cover.
Until now, the ongoing war between CFC and the Test, PL and N3 allies (TPN), both sides have been cautious about large-scale capital and supercapital deployents in battles over final timers. The battle at Z9PP-H indicates that the TPN allies have changed their posture and are willing to put substantive capital ship fleets in harms way in order to draw CFC's capitals and supercapitals into a stand-up fight. That would mean the allies are confident in their ability to win a cap/supercap war of attrition even if the CFC shows themselves capable of holding their own, or even pulling out marginal wins in supercapital slapdowns.
Given the outcome in Z9PP-H, we may see CFC adopt the tactic of attacking bait capital fleets and then rushing additional players into the system, slowing the node down sufficiently to make jumping backup capital fleets into system a high risk option for the allies. 'Crashing the node' was a common tactic employed by the old Northern Coalition in their battles with the Drone Russian Federation upon a time and those lessons will not have been forgotten by Goonswarm. However, it is a tactic that can backfire if the CFC is unable to anticipate where the enemy capitals will strike, if they strike at multiple locations at once (preventing CFC from pre-positioning the numbers needed to crash the node), or if CCP is able to reinforce the node sufficiently so its performance doesn't degrade enough to keep TPN allied backup fleets out of the fight.
If the allies follow Black Legion's example and begin deploying capital fleets agressively, CFC will be put in a position in which they're forced to respond with their own capital ships on the enemy's time-table, or abandon their Fountain beachhead. In the former case, CFC will have to go all in and bet the house on a series of large-scale battles that will likely decide the outcome of the campaign. If, however, CFC chooses to let the Fountain beachhead collapse, they virtually guarantee that the TPN allies will invade CFC space and begin a march on Mittanigrad. That would gain the CFC more time to attempt diplomatic manuverings to distract or divide the enemy camp, but would be seen as a sign of weakness and an admission that the CFC supercapitals cannot contest the ultimate high ground with the enemy.
There is a certain irony to CFC's situation at present. Their foreign policy since ascending to nullsec's technetium throne was heavily occupied with the elimination of any entity that might pose an extintion level threat to the CFC. This was supposed to bring in an era of stability in which the CFC could rest easily upon their sovereign territory and orchestrate a new economic sphere of influence in nullsec that would allow them to project power across the whole of New Eden. However, in their attempts to eliminate or emasculate potential external threats the CFC has created the very extintion level threat they most feared; and one singularly dedicated to the CFC's downfall.
The CFC's campaign to take Fountain's moons has stalled. Instead of annexing a rich income stream next door, CFC's leadership is faced with a well armed and well led enemy on their own doorstep. As diplomatic means deliver diminishing returns, CFC will have to win the day by force of arms if they are to avoid invasion and the subsequent dog-piling it will bring. CFC's supercapitals will have to go into harm's way or go home.
Posted by Mord Fiddle at 3:13 AM