I write this from a hotel room overlooking the Bosperous. Istanbul, once Constantinople, lynchpin of empires and synonympous with international intrigue, seems an appropriate venue for holding forth on the current state of affairs in nullsec.
My apologies for such a long gap between posts. My current location may give you some idea of the whirlwind June has been. I've been keeping my hand in events but there's been precious little time to write a finished piece and, as those who regularly labor through my dense walls of text will attest, short posts are not in my DNA.
Most of you will have been keeping up with events in nullsec through other venues. However, just so we're all on the same page, a brief summary of events in the current nullsec dust-up:
If you were keeping up with The Edge through my last post, you would have been unsurprised with ClusterFuck Coaliton's (CFC) sudden shift away from operations in Delve to their announced invasion of Fountain.
In so doing CFC left the reduction of Delve in the hands of Northern Coalition [DOT] alliance (NC). This would indicate that Delve's income generation capacity was not enhanced sufficiently by the Odyssey moon-goo lottery to warrant CFC's attention. Further, CFC obviously hoped that the NC invasion of Delve would bleed off Test Alliance Please Ignore (Test) forces that might otherwise oppose the CFC in Fountain.
Things did not go quite according to plan. More on that anon.
Now, "Why Fountain?', you might well ask.
Much was made at the time of Goonswarm's announcement that the motivation for the current offensive against Test was financial rather than payback for real or imagined past slights, or a war of survival against some existential threat. Personally, I was surprised at the Eve community's surprise. I commented on EN24 at the time that this was likely the first time The Mittani had been criticized for telling his followers an evident truth.
Goonswarm's larger strategy for some time has been to move beyond the military and diplomatic aspects of the game and develop themselves as nullec's dominant economic power, thereby providing themselves another means of projecting their will in New Eden. The Technetium Cartel and CFC's ongoing campaign for Farms and Fields are early steps in the implementation of this policy. Thus, controlling a large share of rare and critical nullsec resources is crucial to Goonswarm, not only as as a means of financing military operations, but as part of Goonswarm's larger economic dominion strategy.
In addition to posessing a large number of desirable moons, Fountain has the advantage of being adjacent to CFC sovereign space. Cloud Ring's B-DBYQ, the region's sole entry point to Fountain is also a terminus of the Goonswarm jump bridge network through CFC space. In friendlier days B-DBYQ was a common through-way for CFC convoys supporting Honey Badger Coalition (HBC) activities in the South. It connects directly to the HBC jump bridge network in Fountain's J5A-IX system and a few bridge hops later, into Delve.
For conventional ships without the benefit of a jump drive, the B-DBYQ/J5A-IX gate is the only direct road between Fountain and Cloud Ring. It is, in military parlance, a choke point, and its strategic value is attested to by the scale of the fighting that has taken place in and around those systems during the last month.
The first week of post-Odyssey fighting in and around Fountain was all CFC. Test appeared to have difficulty pulling together sizable fleets and those that formed up seemed heavily skewed toward Hurricanes and Stealth Bombers. CFC quickly took station systems in Fountain's Mermaid, Minotaur and Manticore constellations as well as several systems around J5A-IX in the Centaur constellation. This last reavealed their desire to lock down that gateway in order to facilitate their own flow of subcapital reships and reinforcements while blunting Test counterattacks in the other direction.
Events in Fountain seemed to be following the classic CFC playbook; grind down the enemy's will to fight, and then roll over him in a large scale assault. As the first week closed, things were looking grim for Test. Test leadership began putting out calls for the rank and file pilots to stand to their tackle and hold fast, promising that heretofore secret allies and reinforcements were on the way. As similar pronouncements had been made in the waning days of BoB/IT Alliance, EVE pundits began proclaiming this to be a desperate last-gasp effort to keep Test pilots in the fight and a harbinger of doom.
Then Test's secret allies and reinforcements arrived.
On June 10, Pandemic Legion, who had left the campaign in Delve a week early to pursue other unspecified options, and NC, who CFC had assumed would continue their offensive against Test in Delve, took the field against the CFC in J5A-IX and B-DBYQ. Coordination between the new allies proved a bit spotty during this first outing, allowing CFC to rally and end the fight with a draw despite the unexpected presence of Test's allies and the sharpness of the defense.
In the following week, the war between CFC and Test escalated into a pan-nullsec event, with almost every alliance of note falling on one side of the other of the conflict. In a key development Nulli Secunda's coalition N3 joined the fight on the Test Alliance side.
For a time there were signs of a second front being opened against CFC in the
North. Black Legion (BL) and The Retirement Club (401K)
upped their game in the North, taking the Q-CAB2 system in Tribute,
taking down station services and camping the CFC relief fleet of
dreadnaughts inside, aborting two supercapitals under construction
in-system, and causing a number of pod-killed CFC capital ship pilots to
wake up in empire space clone vats.
CFC has called
these actions minor set-backs, however there is no doubt that the
tail-twistings BL and 401K were beginning to take a toll. The attacks in
the North by Black Legion and The Retirement Club had gone from small,
harrying raids, to successful strikes against CFC capital ships in Deklein to a
successful system take-down in Tribute. And the entry of Rooks and Kings into the
Northern front against CFC at the same time could not have been comforting.
CFC kept matters in Tribute from escalating out of hand by paying BL a ransom in exchange for safe passage out of Q-CAB2 for
their station-bound capital fleet as well as making a side deal (acknowledged by BL) to not attack CFC in Tribute for a time. While that deal seems to have somewhat blunted the immediate threat to CFC on their home turf, it provides an indication as to how seriously Goonswarm's leadership takes the threat of a second front against the CFC opening in the North.
As of this writing, CFC has managed to keep the bulk of the fighting down in Fountain, at arm's length from Deklein and of CFC regions and resources. To the extent the've done so, CFC can claim to be holding the initiative. The longer the primary front remains in Fountain, the longer the CFC Intel/Covops and Diplomatic corp will have to attempt to pry away Test's allies in this war. While the recent mass sov drop by S2N Citizens, a Nulli associated renters' alliance, did not meet its goal of drawing N3 away from Fountain, it stands as an example of the sort of mischief Goonswarm can make to distract Test allies in order to undermine resistance there.
However, the tide in Fountain appears to be turning.
In the last week Test and its alies has increased the pressure on CFC, collapsing their early beachheads in Fountain's Mermaid, Minotaur and Manticore constellations and taking back a number of high value moons the CFC had rolled in the second and third weeks of the conflict. Fighting in Fountain now appears to be centered in around the choke point of J5A-IX and adjacent B-DBYQ Cloud Ring. Losing that strategic objective and the movement of the fight into CFC space would be a significant morale blow to the CFC rank and file, would embolden their enemies, and increase the probability of multiple fronts opening up against the CFC as entities across low and nullsec seek to participate in 'Burn Mittanigrad'; a 'must attend' in-game event.
As usual, Pandemic Legion, having taken up Test's cause, retains the tang of a wild card.
While PL has been seen in some engagements, they have not often shown up in strength down in Fountain since the second week of the conflict. The absence of Titans in engagements involving final system timers suggests that PL, while not grinding structures (yet), is providing its allies with high cover against CFC Titans. One wonders, however, where the bulk of the PL fleets are. It is possible that PL are preparing for a coordinated strike against the Goonswarm homeland, with support from The Retirement Club and (possibly) Black Legion, while Test, Northern Coalition and Nulli Secunda increase pressure on the last CFC beachhead in Fountain.
In that case Goonswarm and it's allies may find themselves caught between the hammer and anvil and, as Doc Brown once said, we are going to see some serious shit.
On the other hand, PL has tended to hedge their bets where the CFC is concerned and may be playing both ends against the middle. A worst case outcome for the Legion would be a CFC triumph over forces PL enthusiastically supported. No doubt CFC diplomats are heavily focussed on PL, offering both eternal friendship and heady amounts of cash should PL abandon Test, N3, Nulli and company. Despite the threat so recently posed by CFC to PL, it would not be uncharateristic for the latter to temporize; entertaining offers while waiting for the outcome of the struggle to be more clear before striking decisively for one side or the other.
At this point it appears that the Test and Allies strategy is a brute-force push to collapse the CFC bridgehead in Centaur and Pegasus constellations, punching through to Cloud Ring. From there, Deklein can be invaded by way of Fade. As stated above, expect to see a second front opened elsewhere against the CFC as well as attacks against the CFC jump bridge networks to disrupt fleet movements.
The sooner the anti-CFC forces move out of Fountain, the better for Test's fortunes. It is always more fun to tear down an enemy's systems and assets than it is to defend systems and assets not your own. Test's allies will enjoy the fight much more once they're breaking CFC stuff rather than defending Test Alliance stuff, and CFC will enjoy the proceedings far less.