Friday, April 5, 2013

Breakfast of Champions

There is a board game called Diplomacy.  It is based on Europe during WWI and is profoundly simple in its basics.  Each player starts with one country. Each player gets on move per game. Random chance plays no part in this game; there are no dice.

I know, it sounds a bit boring, but the game has little to do with military tactics and strategy. The most important skill in the game is a talent for serial betrayal; that is, the ability to get other players to trust you while you stand, with a bloody knife in your hand, over the body of the last player who trusted you. Never play Diplomacy with anyone you wish to keep as a friend; I've seen marriages end and bosom friends come to blows over this game.

I would tell you that you should avoid contact with tournament-level Diplomacy players (yes, there are tournaments) at all costs, but that would be futile. Your first instinct upon meeting such a person will be to like and trust them, even knowing their ultimate intentions toward you are against your interest. You will want them to like you, even knowing they are trying to get you to piss into your own cornflakes. And they will be able to convince you to piss into your own cornflakes time and again. Given time, the best Diplomacy players can get their victims to take pleasure in pissing over their own cornflakes.

Over at Honey Badger Coalition (HBC), they're being conditioned to enjoy the taste of urine-soaked breakfast cereals.

In Farms & Fields: Metagame I said that, having cut HBC's leader Montolio's hamstrings, Pandemic Legion (PL) would abandon the coalition and side with Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC) once HBC was sufficiently undermined. In a variation on that theme, Pandemic Legion (PL) engineered a coup in HBC, purging Montolio from the coalition altogether. There are indications that Raiden[dot] was key supporter of the PL power grab and the position of Raiden within the coaliton has been improved considerably as a result. Thus PL, previously something of a trusted advisor in a coalition nominally run by Test Alliance Please Ignore, has assumed outright control.  And when I say that PL is in control of HBC coalition, understand that they are are running HBC in close coordination with CFC, and with CFC's best interests in mind.

In effect, CFC has engineered a takeover of the HBC coalition.

The usual post-purge activities are underway. Those loyal to the new order are being rewarded. A subset of those whose loyalty is in question are being marginalized; either stripped of sov altogether or demoted to marginal sov systems on the Southern front. This forces others who might object to the new order to hesitate, allowing PL to expunge the opposition piecemeal rather than attempting a mass purge and running the risk of civil war within the coalition. Frogs and boiling water, as they say.  Following the CFC model, PL and Raiden have moved to control the HBC internal narrative and announced that key forums and communication channels will be censored in order to maintain intra-coalition harmony.

'Cause, you know, PL is all about harmony. 

From here, I expect PL/CFC will maintain HBC on one of two glide paths to irrelevancy.  Both involve purging any elements troublesome to PL/CFC control of HBC from the coalition or rendering those them ineffective financially and militarily.  In this way, HBC will be slowly emasculated to remove the will or capacity to fight the CFC. Any HBC entities capable of effective resistance to the CFC will be either rendered ineffective or exiled to lowsec to play Faction Warfare. Then it will be a simple matter of choosing between keeping the HBC husk as a puppet kingdom or putting it to the sword in order to provide CFC and PL in-game content.

As they dismantle the only remaining entity capable of challenging CFC,  PL might be tempted to think their relationship with the CFC is special; that the bloody ice-pick presently being employed to lobotomize and emasculate the HBC will never threaten PL.  However, Pandemic's leadership may be just paranoid enough to recall the nature of the CFC metagame; that it, like Diplomacy, depends on a talent for serial betrayal.

I recommend each of you send Shadoo a box of Corn Flakes by way of reminder.


  1. Here's your Diplomacy equivalent: It's midgame, Turkey (PL) just stabbed Italy (rest of HBC) after overrunning Austria (THORN). Russia (CFC) is sitting pretty with England and France (N3 & Russians) bottled.

    PL is playing for second place in the Steamroller. Problem is, EVE doesn't end in 1920... so there is no second place like Diplomacy.

    I love EVE/Diplomacy comparisons

  2. " In this way, HBC will be slowly emasculated to remove the will or capacity to fight the CFC"

    You think they still have any will or capacity left in this regard?

    1. Oh, definitely.

      They might not have the wherewithal for a win, but they could definitely blow a very large hole in the current nullsec stasis. Much would depend on where the current exiles from nullsec throw their weight. Expect CFC would try very hard to make sure HBC gets dogpiled from the South should hostilities break out.

  3. I have to agree with pl currentl playing but buddies to cfc, but they are know for doing stuff like that while they feel the need for it.
    They however are also building a massive renter block up coordinated alongside N3's renters. So this makes me think what they are actually doing.
    I personally am getting the feeling that pl is preparing new eden for a massive war vs cfc which will only commence once the moon income is seriously nerfed.
    Once that is done N3+PL and whatever the hbc is at that point could possibly have a chance vs the cfc.

  4. I think you and several other Nullsec observers are missing something important with what PL have been doing over with N3 coalition. PL were instrumental in kicking Solar's pet alliances out of most of the Dronelands regions, and before the pets failcascaded PL were also doing a great job ruining morale and generally keeping them from assisting Solar against the main N3 forces as well as cutting off supply lines for both the pets and Solar themselves. As I happened to be on the losing side at the time there I can say for certain that there were some PL/N3 (mostly PL/NCdot) joint operations, or at the very least ops where they both had fleets in the same place at the same time not shooting each other. When the pet alliance BCA struck a deal with NCdot to turn over sov in exchange for temporary blue standings those standings extended to PL as well as N3 alliances.

    For their troubles, PL towered valuable moons throughout the pet-owned regions of Dronelands (no idea if they still have the moons outside of Malpais towered) and now rent out the entire Malpais region. Considering Malpais is logistically cut off from empire without access to other dronelands regions or neighbouring Geminate this seems to me to imply some long-term agreement between PL and N3 presumably to not attack each other or their renters.

    I think you've probably got a fairly accurate picture from the CFC perspective, but you're underestimating PL's awareness of the metagame they're playing or ignoring that they are at the very least attempting to compete at the tourney level themselves - between their ties to CFC, N3 and now leadership of HBC they've got their tendrils in all 3 of the major blue donut coalitions along with passive income streams as part of the CFC's OTEC, HBC's NOTEC and N3's rental programmes. They seem to be trying very hard and succeeding at being the "best possible friend, worst possible enemy" ideal.

    1. Oh, it's possible that PL is playing both ends against the middle. That may be what they're telling Raiden to get cooperation. However CFC will know that. PL will know they know that. CFC will know PL knows CFC knows that....

      As I say at the end of the article, if PL is wise they'll be walking around right now with a healthy sense of paranoia. However, PL has never been terribly good at empire building. Just not in their nature. CFC is much better at this sort of game; has HBC management shot through with spies, and PL knows it. Sort of ties their hands.

      Don't get me wrong, I trust PL when it comes to tearing it up with cartoon space ships. CFC is playing a whole different game though.

    2. Again, I think you may be underestimating PL or overestimating the CFC when you say they're playing a whole different game. I'm not sure if PL are as good at it as the CFC, but I think they are at least competing in the same field. Bear in mind the only real check that CFC have on PL is through the PL tech moons in CFC space that are serving as a simultaneous bribe and hostage. However while so many people have been chanting a chorus of "Nerf Tech! Nerf Tech!" the price for Neodymium has been quietly inflating to a similar level (Plat Tech: 39k/unit, Neo Merc: 30k/unit). I have no idea if PL have significant Neo holdings through lowsec and/or HBC space (or even N3 regions of Dronelands) but I would be unsurprised to find they did and they also have the renter income from Malpais. While I'm certain they want to keep the Tech income as long as possible, I'm not as certain that income is as essential to keeping them in the style they have become accustomed to as it was, say, 6 months to a year ago or that if push comes to shove they would publically side with the CFC and abandon their non-tech holdings in favour of protecting the tech alone.

      Based on their actions I think in both CFC and PL's cases their goal is primarily preserving the status quo for their organisations - for the CFC this means sitting on the technetium throne with the power to screw with anyone they like without serious consequences (I think it's notable that as they can no longer do this in Null we're seeing their internal propaganda machine playing up the "let's screw with hisec!" message), for PL it means... actually much the same, having the discretionary income, the firepower and the force projection to also screw with anyone in null, though in their case I think it's less about the lulz and more about the prestige coming from coalitions of 10k+ members having to treat them as a very serious threat and make deals with them before embarking on any campaigns. These two objectives aren't entirely mutually exclusive, hence why we've seen the degree of PL and CFC cooperation so far, but I still think it's a mistake to view CFC and PL as essentially analogous organisations.

    3. I could not agree more.
      Also keep in mind that even though cfc might possibly be thinking they can control pl this is likely untrue, once pl thinks they can get away with something and benefit from it they will since for them it really mainly still is about the good fights.
      And even though we all think to know what will happen only time will tell, the options are very limited though.
      1. Cfc/PL blue donut stays and just stage fights(very unlikely since there will always be unhappy peeps)
      2. Cfc and hbc will fight ( also unlikely cause hbc seems to not be as stable as they once pretended to be)
      3. Someone attacks cfc and everyone else piles on (hbc+N3+pl) (decently likely if someone has the balls or is dumb enough)
      4. Hbc dies cfc takes over some of the space, and blue donut is fully under mittens control.
      5. After N3 is done with solar and has had time to buildup it's forces a bit more they decide to fuck it and start another war vs cfc hoping that pl takes their side(this could possibly have been arranged before the time though) and the whole of eve 0.0 bursts into one massive fight.

      Atleast in my opinion these seem like the most likely options at this time. But only time will tell.

    4. @Hivemind: I don't underestimate PL in the slightest. I am, however, mindful of their limitations.

  5. I love this article. When I say that, what I really mean is I love the response to how your march 23rd article predictions have been totally proved correct here, with the EN24 commenters uniformly crying out 'tinfoil!' in response. The fact that there are so many people who either fail to understand or pretend not to understand that the ability to predict the near and medium-term future is the gold standard for political commentary-- the exact antithesis of tinfoil-- is incredibly hilarious. Well done.

    1. Well, when the Goon forum-warrior yell 'tin-foil' I take is as a complement. Let's me know I put a thumb in the hive minds eye. It's sort of like politicians yelling 'entrapment' when they're caught on camera taking a bribe.

  6. Interesting thoughts (speaking as another player of both Eve and Diplomacy).

    I think a lot of it is about the money. As we move away from afk passive moon goo income to a bottom up tax based system (as seems probable) we'll see a scramble for renters intensify. Belief that this is coming is almost certainly what's been driving PL into the Dronelands.

    What we don't know is how the CFC will respond. They have two great economic strengths - Tech and the Goon finance wizards. When they lose the first it will be interesting to watch the second.

    1. If you've ever been to Deklein, Fade, Branch you'll find that the Goons also have a lot of ratters and ratting allies ;-)

      And Tenal, well never let -RZR- tell you they're a PvP alliance, cause they'd be lying.

  7. Very good. Great perspective and good insight on politics from an outside view. I like his kind of articles much more than your proposals. ;-)

    Since all the 0.0 blocs them to sleep with each other in one way or the other it is hard to tell which one will end up as the betrayed first. The only sure thing to say about it: They don't sleep with each other because the love them. Its just for business.

  8. Do you think the latest PL / HBC blowup is an excuse? Prelude to the wheels coming off the HBC?

    1. I think it's a reflection of frustration of member alliances within the HBC. There's no meaningful content/occupation for the rank and file. It's all about sitting still and minding their manners while their betters pile up wealth and play metagame and plot CSM take-over.

      There's also frustration with HBC leadership being taken over by PL. A large part of the HBC has no love for PL and there's justifiably no confidence that PL is running HBC with anyone's interests in mind but PL's. Individual HBC alliances don't trust current HBC leaders to act in the member alliances' collective interest. Thus, internal cohesion begins to break down as all and sundry begin to do what's in their own best interests.

      Chaos in nullsec would not be CFC's choice atm. CFC wants the HBC reduced to a non-threat, but would rather it were done in a controlled fashion. But it's hard to control an organization that knows you're organizing its slide into irrelevance.

      We'll see if Sort can pull the pizza crust out of the fire. But there's a lot of repressed frustration in the HBC ranks.

    2. Sort has to work a miracle in PR then. He has the most vocal PL personality directly calling out most of TEST as worthless. The quirks of how PL operates their internal leadership means Sort may speak for HBC (but maybe not TEST) but doesn't actually have a claim to speak for PL. This is worst of positions. All the responsibility but no ability to command without getting (2) groups at each other's throats to agree with each other, and divided personal loyalties to add to the credibility gap. I'm betting no one wants to trade places with Sort right now.

    3. To me it looks like just a waiting game untill HBC fails.
      There is quite a bit of rumble in diferent member alliances about leaving/forming their own coalition, the reasons differ from nnot liking pl taking over to just outright hatret towards other HBC entities.
      Me and my palls are already making bets on who the next one will be that leaves.
      Overall HBC has never been a strong coalition like CFC which i mainly contribute to how/howfast they were created. But we will see how good a diplo sort is, would be fun to see it all come tumbling down around him though.