The recent birth announcements for Britain's new little Saxe Coburg Gotha princeling have gotten me thinking about Richard III and those who pay the cost of kingdoms.
Richard, of course, died at Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, by some accounts taking a halberd to the back of the head as his horse foundered in the mud a mere sword's length from Henry Tudor, whom Richard was doing his level best to kill at the time.
It is telling that this was the last time a king of England would actively take the field to defend his crown. Five hundred twenty-odd years later the cost of kingdoms is far less than the price paid by Richard. The royal line has moved so far from warrior kings toward its current collection of Disney characters that, when Richard's remains were discovered and exhumed from beneath a Leicestershire car park in 2012, the current royal family's DNA could not be used to verify his identity. A London cabinet-maker turned out to be a closer genetic match to the last Plantagenet king than the current Prince of Wales.
All of which is excellent fodder for a novel or two, but you may well ask what it has to do with Eve Online. It's a bit of a stretch, I admit, but hang with me.
Over the weekend the war in Fountain took a profound turn in favor of ClusterFuck Coalition (CFC). Test Alliance, Please Ignore and Tribal Band's allies, Northern Coalition[DOT] and Nulli Secunda are once again drawn East to defend their territories from Solar Fleet and friends. This has provided CFC with a clear numeric advantage and stripped away the Allies' supercapital high cover that has heretofore prevented CFC from deploying its own supercapitals extensively in Fountain during final timers.
Seeking to make hay while the sun shines, CFC is driving fiercely on the military, psyops and diplomatic fronts to bring the Fountain campaign to a quick conclusion and, if possible, to neutralize Test Alliance as a future enemy before Test/Tribal's allies can return. Sole possession of the supercapital field of play has allowed CFC to extend their previous weekend's gain in Pegasus constellation into Manticore and Sphinx. This move effectively cuts off the Wyveren and Taurus constellations, which provide Fountain's sole empire access route, from the rest of the region. It also isolates from the rest of Test's holdings in Fountain the Chimera and Unicorn constellations which contain seven Test station systems.
Outnumbered, with fewer effective FCs than CFC and lacking a coherent supercapital force, Test and Tribal leadership have called 'balls to the walls' for their members. Their hope is to pull out all the stops and bring sufficient numbers to keep the fight for Fountain alive and make the interlopers pay a price for the systems they take. However, despite an uptick in Test/Tribal fleet participation, their FCs are having to pick and choose which timers to defend.
There is a certain irony to an alliance with twelve thousand members and a reputation for overwhelming its enemies with sheer numbers finding itself on the wrong end of the numbers game against a coalition that can claim in excess of twenty-six thousand members. Still, CFC cannot allow those twelve thousand members to roam free in New Eden. No other known nullsec alliance or combination of alliances, however skilled, however well endowed with supercarriers, can come close to matching the CFCs numbers unless Test stands with them.
It has been shown time and again over the last year or so the advantage CFC's numerical superiority gives them. However, if Test stands with CFC's foes on the field of battle, Test's numbers make a genuine contest possible. Thus, if Test can be brought to heel and made to submit, or its numbers significantly reduced through failscade, it will remove an essential component from any opposition to the CFC's hegemony over nullsec. Once that is accomplished, CFC can rule nullsec relatively unmolested and the rest of its enemies can go whistle.
This speaks volumes as to the motive behind CFC leadership's recent 'Testie, Come Home' campaign.
You'll have noted through various CFC media outlets that the party line is that CFC never wanted this war; that it was backstabbing by Test's leadership - first by Montolio and then BoodaBooda - that brought Test and CFC, once best friends forever, to blows. Come back to the fold, goes the siren song of CFC psyops, and we can all be friends again. All we want is Fountain and your friendship. Give us those and we can have peace for our time.
Of course the cost for Test of such friendship and colloquy would go well beyond Fountain. The undermining of Test as actor co-equal to and independent from the CFC was well underway before Test withdrew from the Honeybadger Coalition. Test and Tribal's members appear to have no illusions as to what bending their collective necks to the CFC would mean. Indeed, both Test and Tribal appear to understand that this is not a war over Fountain. It is a war over the future and spirit of nullsec.
The CFC vision for nullsec has a decided corporate tang to it. It is nullsec leashed, controlled and sanitized for your protection. Admission to the CFC's nullsec is controlled by its governing members, as are nullsec PvP events. It is nullsec as an industrial and economic power, with all the order and institutions that implies. Think of it as Nullsec, inc., where l33t administrative or political skills are a more certain path to lordship than one's abilities on the field of battle.
The nullsec vision of Test and its allies is a much more visceral, less secure place. In their vision warrior kings hold sway and battle for their place. One's reputation is measured in the blood of one's enemies and if the little grey men from the corporate office get out of line, they are quickly minced and thrown to the dogs. Empires rise and fall, barbarians swarm the gates, and princes of nullsec put their very selves on the line to purchase their kingdoms.
I am, I confess, somewhat torn between these visions. The CFC version of nullsec has demonstrated itself to be much more efficient than the old PvP-centric model, just as Britain under the industrialists proved more efficient than England under its warrior-kings. From a political economy standpoint, the evolution of nullsec in this direction was to be expected eventually. Indeed, as a sometime industrialist, I've wished to see that aspect of the nullsec game more fully leveraged.
Having said that, I don't log onto Eve Online in order to continue my RL work day. Eve Online is an entertainment; a work of fantasy and science fiction in
which I can play a small part of the larger story. In such a work there should be warrior
kings and barbarian chieftains who lead vast fleets into battle. And
the consequences of such battles should be more than just entries in an ISK ledger or bragging rights over kill-board scores. I've no desire to see the better part of nullsec tamed and turned into a theme park and moon-goo cartel controlled by a small minority of the Eve player-base.
In Real Life, warrior kings are no more, having been replaced by the more predictable and compliant likes of the Saxe Coburg Gothas; men and women pleased to reign without the burdens of rule. They are as much king as our modern age can bear. Yet the aura of the old kings still clings to their crowns, commanding our attention, however dull and uninteresting the current wearers have become.
However impractical they are today, the raw and bloody-handed kings of old fire our imaginations in ways the thoroughly sensible Duke of Cambridge cannot. Good or evil, we will likely remember Richard III long after the Saxe
Coburg Gothas are forgotten. He knew the cost of kingdoms, paid it in
full, and inhabits his still.
Happily for Test Alliance Please Ignore and Tribal Band, they exist in game, where impracticality is the order of the day. Whether Fountain stands or falls, much in New Eden hinges on their actions in the next few days and weeks. This is a rare gift even in the digital world of MMPORGs. The individual pilots will collectively choose how their alliances will be remembered. They may diminish or disband under the CFC assault and no one would blame them. They may bend to the yoke and accept a place in the CFC's new order; an undeniably easier road than the current battle against long odds. Or they may choose to stand to their tackle and pay the cost of kingdoms.
The ends of such purchases are never certain and often go astray, but they are rarely forgotten.