Friday, May 31, 2013

Amores Perros

"War in New Eden is not about e-Honor. It's not about "good fights". It's about ruining the play experience for the other side; a deliberate peeling away of any enjoyment the enemy gets when they mess with you. It is a war of attrition on fun."
      Fiddler's Edge  - For Texas and Miss Lily
If you're a regular reader of The Edge, you weren't surprised by the break-up of the HBC and you weren't surprised that Pandemic Legion (PL) stepped over to the Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC) side of the line when the subsequent shooting started.

If I haven't written about the fights in Delve, it's because there hasn't been much to write about. With regard to the battles themselves, the only interesting factors have been the absence of interesting factors to date. Oh, I'm sure its been fun for the participants, who've been starved of fleet fights lo these many months. A few good battle reports were written up, but there's been nothing eye-popping.  Generally its been CFC, PL and NC[dot] subcapital fleets setting up against Test Alliance Please Ignore and Tribal Band subcapital fleets. I regard the battles to date as sparring rounds; warm-ups to a main event which is, I think, unlikely to occur in Delve.

The most interesting thing about the current action in Delve is the absence of Raiden[dot].  Seems they are undergoing internal conflict with regard to alliance direction, which is not uncommon during transition times. When significant moments of change come to a corporation, alliance or coalition, there is a near inevitable evaluating of options among its members, be they pilots, corporations or alliances.  There have been rumors that Raiden has given up the ghost and will soon disband. If that happens I expect much of their supercapital strength will align with Black Legion and The Retirement Club. More on that in a bit.

Raiden being a supercapital intensive alliance, their absence has diminished capital fleet high cover on the Test and Tribal side of the line.  With Test not reimbursing capital losses at present, they are effectively ceding the supercapital high ground to CFC, PL and NC.

Normally this would signal the beginning of the end of the war. 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. As the defender pulls back the phenomenon known in nullsec as 'dogpiling' begins to occur. Previously uninvolved alliances from across nullsec are drawn to the carnage. Some are opportunists looking to profit from the defenders' ill fortune or curry favor with the soon-to-be victors. Some are administering payback for old grudges and insults. Some are there because the fall of the mighty is an in-game event they don't want to miss. And some are only there for a taste of schadenfreude served up with fava beans and a nice Chianti. 


However, you'll note that Test's sovereignty in Delve remains intact. CFC, PL and NC have left their Supercapital edge at the door. They have dropped SBUs to provoke fights, but seem more focused on humiliating Test's FCs than in taking Test's space.

And that, as Jack Sparrow would say, is very interesting.

It is, perhaps, a reluctance to abandon the No Invasion Pacts (NIPs) of the recent past. However I think it is more likely that these fights are for CFC and company, sparring rounds; an opportunity to provide good fights for the rank and file and to practice large fleet doctrines left unused during the many months of peace and plenty. If Supercapitals have not been employed in one place, it is likely because they are wanted in another place. Soon enough the CFC will find employment for them. But not, I think, in Delve.

Oddly enough, the most interesting events in nullsec are occurring in Deklein, in system VFK-IV. This is Goonswarm Prime, home to Mittanigrad station. As such, it has long been a target for small gang incursions as various nullec players seek to harry, annoy and, to the extent possible, tweak the nose of the mighty swarm. Chief among the Deklein raiders has been Black Legion.

Of late, Black Legion has upped their game considerably and have begun targeting capital ships in the Goonswarm home system.

The raiding fleets are generally comprised of twenty to thirty t3 battlecruisers, particularly the hard-hitting Talos. Some of the early kills were jump freighters and very pricey losses. Not surprisingly the jump freighter kills dropped off quickly as the threat to them became apparent. However a steady parade of capital ship losses in the Goon home system has continued, particularly in the carrier class, amounting to a rough average of a kill a day.  For an alliance with Goonswarms resources these are minor losses. However, they are an embarrassment to the Swarm, occurring as they are in the very core of the hive-land. And they serve to burnish Black Legion's reputation as Goon-killers.

That reputation has been proven in large fleet combat as well. In recent weeks Black Legion, with the support of The Retirement Club (SirMolle's current home), have proved the most effective of the nullsec entities when it comes to bringing the fight to the CFC.  They've chalked up some nice victories, including one in Venal MCA-5J on May 23  in which they traded a fleet of Dreadnaughts for a CFC Titan, two CFC supercarriers and a side-order of supporting CFC Dreadnaughts. From an ISK standpoint it was a clean win for Black Legion, albeit likely a phyrric one as the CFC will have replaced their losses from standing capital/supercapital reserves while Black Legion will have had to buy and fit a replacement Dreadnaught fleet.  Nonetheless, Black Legion and The Retirement Club followed up with an encore the next day, destroying fifteen CFC capitals in Syndicate TXW-EI with no recorded losses of their own. 

I'd venture the CFC losses are attributable in part to their capital fleets' surprise at the Black Legion attacks. Owing in part to their metagame success, the CFC has become accustomed to opponents who are risk-averse when it comes to deploying capital fleets. This has allowed the CFC to deploy capital fleets with impunity and to control the time, place and tempo of capital ship combat.  However, in deploying their capitals in a bold and effective manner, Black Legion and The Retirement Club have forced the CFC into a stand-up fight on the capital ship high ground; and it's been a while since the CFC has had to play that game. 

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't put Black Legion's recent activities in perspective. They are not large enough to present what CFC's leadership would call an 'extinction level threat'. The losses Black Legion and Retirement Club have inflicted on the CFC to date can easily be replaced. And with CFC positioning themselves to take advantage of the Odyssey release changes, slapping down these upstarts will be low on the CFC do-do list. However, the CFC would be wrong to dismiss the two alliances out of hand.

'Why?" you ask. Well, because Black Legion and Retirement Club are having fun fighting the CFC while the CFC is having far less fun fighting back.

Much of the CFC's diplomatic game is based on the common wisdom that fighting the CFC is not fun; that doing so is, in fact, a sure path to having the opposite of fun. As I've written elsewhere, the core of the Goonswarm war doctrine is making war on the enemy's ability to have fun. If you deprive the enemy of enjoyable play, they won't want to play.

So far, Black Legion and Retirement Club have put the CFC on the wrong side of the fun equation.

A corollary to Mord's Maxim is that if your guys are having fun, other guys will want to join you. That is the threat Black Legion presents to CFC. If the above common wisdom gets turned on its head and becomes that fighting the CFC is crazy good times, there's a lot of folk in nullsec who'll want to join that party. And there's nothing like watching who joins the dog pack circling you, noses in the air and sniffing for the scent of blood, to show you who your friends are. 

If Burn Mittanigrad becomes a more popular in game event than Burn Jita, the correct answer to 'Who killed the CFC?' will be 'fun'.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Noise in Nullsec

"Noise is the opposite of information."
    - Fischer Black

What remains of Honey Badger Coalition (HBC) after the departure of Test and company continues to unravel and that which remains lacks both the numbers and the organizational coherence to retain the HBC name. HBC is effectively ended and even among those alliances who've not formally announced their departure from the coalition, there's a general consensus that this is the case. In place of the HBC we now have a swarm of alliances. Some, weary of being forced to toe the HBC line,  have determined to go it alone. Most, however seem to be trying to reform themselves into a number of very loosely coupled alliances. No formal coalitions with a centralized command and executive structures seem in the making at this point. The newly separated alliances are, at least for now, embracing a live-free-or-die philosophy.

Test Alliance Please Ignore's Booda may not have been able to rope in Raiden as permanent blue after all. Word is there's been a change of management in Raiden's house and that, while Raiden's exited HBC, they won't be maintaining a long-term NAP with Test. Call it a plausible rumor for the moment. No reason given except 'other interests' on Raiden's part, which could mean they've gotten a better offer.

The primary beneficiary of these events is the ClusterFuck Coalition (CFC). The breakdown of the HBC will have CFC breathing easier and assuming no extinction-level threats to them remain in nullsec. CFC will assume ex-HBC alliances will fight among themselves, making non-CFC and non-PL regions a new thunder-dome.  That will leave CFC's leadership with the leisure to play selected combatants off against the other while they tear each other to rags; very much the game their leadership prefers. Expect occasional CFC interventions, but none that puts the CFC at risk.

There's some chatter of CFC taking on PL, the last credible threat to CFC left standing. My guess is that CFC will take no action against PL for the time being, but anti-PL sentiment within CFC's leadership could change that. However, CFC leadership isn't the type to bet the house on final Jeopardy if they're well ahead in the game. That could change if PL looks to be benefiting too much from the current upheaval.

While it's always possible that some alliances blown free of HBC's gravity well could make trouble in CFC space, CFC leadership seems to regard this as a low-probability event and one that can be dispatched with relative ease should it occur. Nascent threats will be sought out early and strangled in their cribs.  None of the former HBC alliances, it is reasoned, will want to draw CFC's attention, let alone its ire, lest they become extinct former HBC alliances.

The only real down-side for the CFC is that the HBC crash has created a cacophony of noise and an explosion of new variables in nullsec's information flows. This will make the nullsec board more difficult for CFC to predict and control.  Unexpected invasions or instability in CFC space would not be good for their post-Odessey plans for standing up an economic powerhouse independent of high sec. The absence of a coherent and controllable HBC will also make organizing cartels for controlling the price of high-value nullsec goods and materials much more difficult.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Over at Poetic Discourse, Poetic Stanziel's first post after joining a ClusterFuck Coalition (CFC) alliance (Gentlemen's Agreement) was telling.

It was the sort of post one often sees from bloggers when they go on a new adventure. It was primarily a set of honest first impressions of the various admin and logistic hoops one invariably jumps through when joining a nullsec entity. He talked about how the experience met and varied from his expectations, all in a good humored way that often carried an undercurrent of excitement. You could tell Stanz was looking forward to trying nullsec on for size. Upon a time this would have been responded to with a chorus of welcomes and a bit of good-natured ribbing.

Instead, Stanz got beaten about the head and shoulders by Goonswarm's Thought Police.

It seems a certain extreme orthodoxy has entered Goonswarm's zeitgeist, causing its sense of humor to atrophy. I can't say I'm too surprised.  Such an end is inevitable when a fun, irreverent bunch of souls like lez Goons are gagged, shackled and put under the yoke of a cult of personality. Likely they never saw it coming.

It began, I suspect, as such things often do.

Someone at the top suggested that outsiders offering insults to Goonswarm needed to be punished.  And out of an esprit de corps, and because it seemed a fun idea at the time, everybody was jiggy with it.  Soon enough someone at the top suggested it was necessary to control the Goonswarm narrative.  After all, Goons don't want a bunch of pubbie bloggers telling their story, right?  So Goons all need to be on the same page, sending out the same message.  And out of an esprit de corps, and because it seemed a fun idea at the time, everybody was jiggy with it.  And then someone at the top suggested that even Goons offering insults to Goonswarm needed to be put in their place or shown the door with extreme prejudice.

And somewhere along the line, it stopped mattering if anybody was jiggy with it anymore.

Departure from orthodoxy became tantamount to treason, and suddenly there were a lot of self-important little grey men running around the swarm reporting insults to Goonswarm and un-Goon-like activities, and beating down any Goony nails with the temerity to stick up. Somewhere along the line, obedience became the measure of the bee.

It seems the bar for insults to Goonswarm has dropped so low that failing to effuse over Goonswarm administrative interfaces or processes qualifies as a breach of orthodoxy.  Stanz writes a post that seeks to offend no-one, and is in almost every wise inoffensive. Yet the orthodoxy of little grey men with little grey minds is offended and Stanz must suffer their corrections. Going forward, Stanz must weigh every word he writes, lest the little grey men take umbrage.

Now, Stanz will not take kindly to being told what he can and can't write. I'm pretty confident that if it were only Stanz on the line, he'd tell those little grey men where to put their little grey heads.  However, Stanz is not a solo act. He is a member of a corporation that has hitched its wagon to the CFC and they will suffer if Stanz does not 'modulate' his blog to avoid offending the sensibilities of the Goon orthodox.  This is how little grey men get control over their betters. 

I've seen it before. Good and thoughtful word-smiths have time and again bent their knee to avoid the tang of dissent and, eventually, even difference of opinion. Within Goonswarm's ranks orthodoxy has replaced hijinks and the watchword has become that if you can't say something nice about Goonswarm, you're best saying nothing at all.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Millions of Mischiefs

We are at the stake
And bayed about with many enemies;
And some that smile have in their hearts, I fear,
Millions of mischiefs.

    William Shakespeare - Julius Caesar 

Recent developments in nullsec do not bode well for the future of Honey Badger Coalition (HBC).

Pandemic Legion (PL) exited the the coalition a few weeks back.  This was ostensibly due to a little diplomatic hiccup involving PL ships shooting up HBC ships which fanned the flames of mistrust some HBC alliances felt for Legio Pandemica owing to the latter's take-over of coalition leadership following the undermining and subsequent ouster of Test's Montolio.  PL took the opportunity to formally separate themselves from HBC. In so doing, however, they maintained proxy control over the HBC by leading behind Pandemic veteran, Sort Dragon, as leader of the HBC.

Recall that in Farms and Fields: Metagame and Breakfast of Champions, I'd pointed out that Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC) would not tolerate HBC as a potential threat to CFC's hegemony over nullsec. I've no doubt that the CFC/Pandemic Legion engineered take-down of Montolio engendered a lot of crocodile smiles and high-fives in the smoke-filled rooms of nullsec. However, the smiles on the CFC side of the table would have faded somewhat at the prospect of PL controlling nullsec's largest coalition.

PL by itself could cause the CFC a great deal of trouble.  PL leading nullsec's largest coalition is an 'extinction-level' threat from the CFC's point of view, and can not be tolerated. Montolio, while openly hostile to the CFC, would have been in many ways easier to counter than the subtle knife play Pandemic Legion has shown itself capable of.  On the Pandemic Legion side of the fence, control of the HBC afforded PL options and a certain leverage in dealings with the CFC that they were reluctant to throw away. It will not have been lost upon the Pandemic leadership that, without the HBC as a counterbalance, CFC's 'recommendations' to PL will quickly become outright demands and directives.

Thus PL and CFC metagamers circled the ring, fists raised, while declaring mutual respect and permanent affection for one other; the CFC demanding dismemberment (or at least emasculation) of the Honey Badger Coalition, and PL attempting to retain a playable hand against the time when CFC decides that PL's naughty scalawags and pride parades have no place in nullsec's new order. 

Then, during fan fest, Sort Dragon announced that HBC would go to war against both Nulli Secunda and Pandemic Legion. Which meant that Sort Dragon was leading the HBC into a war against the Alliance he had recently been part of and plans to return to at some point in the future.

Now, with the non-invasion pact (NIP) between PL and HBC in place, some Honey Badgers assured themselves, this will be a 'fun' war, some of the 'controlled PvP' Pandemic has been promoting. However, it should be noted that, in this situation, the NIP agreement benefits PL far more than it does HBC.  While HBC cannot attack PL sovereignty infrastructure there is no prohibition against Nulli attacking HBC sovereignty infrastructure. Which means that PL's sov is safe during the war, while HBC's is a risk.  And, depending on the terms of the NIP,  PL may be free to drive off HBC supercapitals prior to a Nulli Sov attack or otherwise screening Nulli's sov attack as long as PL doesn't directly attack the structures themselves. After all, grinding structures is not PLs thing. But if Nulli wants to grind stuctures, it's not PL's lookout, nor is it PL's responsibility to preserve HBC systems.

In this way, the war with Nulli could be used to prune back HBC, satisfying the CFC's wants for the moment. At the same time, it would leave Pandemic Legion positioned to control the amount of damage done and emerge with a diminished, but viable ally.

Of course 'dogpiling' is par for the course in nullsec. HBC has created a long list of enemies in its march to power. Many exiles from sovereign nullsec, particularly in the South, will be preparing to savage HBCs flanks if it's attention turns to a Northern war with Nulli and PL. Thus the situation for HBC could spin out of control and deteriorate very quickly.  In that case, PL would likely decide to cut it's losses and cherry pick corporations and alliances from the HBC wreckage. Likewise, expect CFC to offer tea, sympathy and refuge under the CFC banner to selected HBC corporations and alliances should HBC begin to crumble.

So, you see, HBC is rather caught in the middle. Without independent leadership, they are well and truly chained to the bear-baiting stake, and bayed about by enemies.  Their friends, meanwhile, smile at them; offering assurances of friendship, but no concrete offers of support, and all the while sharpen the knives that will slice and dice HBC's fate. Options for the HBC member alliances are few, and all of them are fraught with risk.  If they maintain their present course, the HBC is likely to be slowly torn apart by enemies and friends alike. If a coup displaces Sort Dragon, it will doubtless cause a schism in HBC's ranks, ending the NIP with Pandemic Legion and causing HBC to be quickly torn apart by enemies and friends alike.

There is, however, a third option; one that Test Alliance Please Ignore availed itself of yesterday. Hit the eject button and leave HBC.

In an announcement to Test Alliance Sunday morning, Test's executor BoodaBooda stated that he had been directed by HBC coalition leadership after Fan Fest to assume the roles and duties HBC leadership deemed appropriate to an HBC middle manager.  The details are sketchy, but it seems to have amounted to "stable your horse, hand in your pistols and sabre, and take a desk in the coalition cubicle farm".  One assumes there was an 'or else', either explicit or implied, attached to the directive. Before Sort's post Fan Festcall with HBC CEOs was complete, BoodaBoodat had negotiated blue standing with Raiden, Tribal Band, Kill it With Fire and The Initiative and initiated plans to leave the HBC and pull Test back into a more defensible space. During the announcement call, a Test officer was in the process of resetting most of the rest of HBC.

It's a risky strategy, to be sure. As nominal leader of the HBC during its rise, Test made a lot of enemies. If Sort Dragon decides that dealing with Test in order to prevent more defections from HBC is a more pressing business than the war with Nulli, Test may find itself dogpiled in short order. In that case Raiden and The Initiative may have difficulty maintaining blue status with Test, what with current HBC management being a stickler for everybody rowing the boat in the same direction. On the other hand, there have been a lot of discontented warriors in HBC this last while.  If Sort tries to twist their tails and force them to go after Test Alliance Please Ignore, he may find HBC disintegrating under his feet.

It's interesting to note that Shadoo was on Booda's SOTA call. Asked where Pandemic Legion stood in the matter he replied that their position was unchanged, that PL, while kindly disposed toward Test, would continue to maintain their distance.  Asked about whether Goonswarm would support Test in its bid for independence, Eddicted replied that he's spoken to them, but that they were "metagaming" and non-committal.  With that, both Pandemic Legion and CFC have chosen to exercise the luxury of sitting back to watch which way the winds blow and then acting accordingly.

Thus do the lords of nullsec smile; and make millions of mischiefs all the while.