Recall that when the Russian Coalition (RUS) of Red Alliance. Legion of Death and White Noise broke Atlas Alliance, a key RUS tactic was luring the Atlas Super Cap fleet into into a system already heavily occupied by RUS forces. The resulting lag tied the hands of the Atlas fleet, forcing them to withdraw - an action that left much of their Super Cap forces boxed in the local station.
RUS forces have shown themselves to be very adept at treating system lag as a form of combat terrain and leveraging it to their advantage. In LXQ2-T, the Northern Coalition has shown that RUS' lessons in the strategic leveraging of lag has not been lost on them. A full day before LXQ station came out of reinforcement, both sides were staging forces in anticipation of a knock-down, drag-out lag-fest. NC, with its numeric advantage, kept a constant 1,500 to 1,600 ship presence in system to prevent the RUS forces from gaining the system performance high-ground in local. The RUS forces brought in a fleet of more than fifty Super Caps so that those ships would begin any fleet fights on the grid, and possibly to intimidate the NC forces which are Super Cap poor and tend to fight without support from Titans or Motherships.
To a certain extent, the engagement was something of a showdown between the Density of Firepower (DoF) approach preferred by Pandemic Legion, RUS Coalition and post-Dominion boutique alliances, and the swarm approach employed by NC as they leverage their superiority in numbers and time-zone coverage. Indeed, the whole Dronelands campaign has been a test of DoF, which eschews numbers in favor of the concentration of firepower that a relatively small alliance employing Super Caps, supported by an agile Armored HAC fleet can bring to bear. As I pointed out in Hit Them Where They Ain't, DoF is much more successful at taking territory, when the attacker chooses the points of conflict, than it is at holding territory when the number of potential points of attack a defender can actively and effectively defend is restricted by the number of pilots it can field.
To date the NC has been making good use of its numerical advantage, hitting Drone regions in multiple strategic strongpoints, denying the RUS forces a single point of conflict in which to concentrate their forces. Further, the NC has been harrying RUS renter systems and market centers; driving out renters, shutting down trade and industry, and generally gumming up the works of RUS' Droneland RMT machine.
While the odd Super-Cap has made an appearance, the absence of the larger RUS Super Cap fleet in campaign's big engagements has left many who'd expected a quick RUS victory wondering when RUS was going stop dancing around and get serious about slapping down the NC upstarts.
It's been evident to most that LXQ was the most likely place for that battle to occur. The move of the RUS Super Cap fleet into the system all but assured such a showdown when the Legion of Death outpost in system came out of final reinforce mode yesterday.
As of this writing, battle reports and killboards are still sorting themselves out. However, what is evident is that there was a near 24-hour battle in and around the system with the number of pilots in LXQ topping 3,000 at one point. CCP appears to have done a heroic job of keeping the node online, and pilots reported the lag was manageable even with the pilot count in system at around 1,700. However, the better part of the battle appears to have been conducted under heavy lag conditions, and the winner would be the side that was able to hang in the fight longest under those conditions. As downtime approached, the RUS forces began to log out, leaving the system to the NC forces who then proceeded with their conquest of the system.
While this must have been a disappointment to the RUS pilots, losing even a fraction of their Super Cap fleet to lag would have been a serious blow, whereas the NC fleet could have lost half its numbers and replaced them by the end of down time. That risk, along with RUS forces time zone limitations, makes their pullback the smart, if unpleasant, choice. NC has established an important beachhead in Etherium Reach, but the RUS Super Cap fleet is still at large.
Smack-talk in the forums is making much of NC's initial comments that they were only invading the Dronelands for "good fights". This may have caused the RUS coalition to assume they could wait out NC, trusting the "Nobody but the Russians would have the Dronelands" doctrine would leave the NC indifferent to conquering and holding space in those regions. As to the NC's initial intentions, conquest can be addictive and escalating commitment is a powerful thing. Then there's the assumption that the Dronelands aren't desirable or economically viable. That's absurd on its face, particularly in the post-Dominion world where Carebears are migrating to nullsec in ever-increasing numbers and providing income that has nothing to do with ratting by an alliance's PvP contingent.
Every time someone says "nobody wants the Drone Regions" my first impulse is to jump up and say "I'll take a constellation or two". What I expect they really mean is that the Drone Regions aren't worth the risk of going up against the RUS coalition in a grinding fight to the death.
NC, leveraging the Dominion sov rules, may have just broken the back of that common wisdom.