“De l’audace, encore de l’audace, toujours de l’audace . . .” -Georges Danton.
War never changes, at least in EVE Online. No matter how many times CCP changes the sov system, the ship mechanics, the resource mechanics, the fundamental truth of EVE warfare remains the same: everyone is fighting the last war and the war after this. This may seem a bit confusing at first, that the war being fought is two different wars that have nothing to do with the current one. However, allow me to illuminate.
The old saw that the commanders are fighting the last war is as old as war itself. In World War I, the French completely ignored the invention of the machine gun when executing their battle plan. Despite knowing about this invention, and even having some, they walked—bravely—into the withering fire and died in the thousands wearing their bright, blue uniforms.
The United States’ military establishment was stuck on World War II and the concept of a great war since—wait, never mind. It’s still stuck on that. Despite losing the war in Vietnam, no one learned the lessons of that war. See: Iraq and Afghanistan. Even now the US Army is still set up to refight a World War II conflict, but with modern weapon systems.
Wars of the Past
In EVE, the personages that are fighting World War Bee are the same people that fought the Casino War, the Fountain War, The Great War, and nearly every war in between. Vily, the supreme commander of the Legacy coalition, was in the exact same position as he is now back when the CFC invaded Fountain. He fought in the trenches to get into J5A.
The Mittani, leader of the Imperium, has been running sov wars so long they’ve written actual, hardcopy books about him. He’s no stranger to the diverse elements needed to keep a coalition together through hard times as well as the good. In that way, he’s very much a General Eisenhower: strong at coordination and coalition building, not so great at battlefield command.
Both of these men are incredibly conservative when it comes to their use of military resources. The Mittani did not want to jump in supercapitals to take advantage of the sov drop of B-R5RB. It was Lazarus Telraven who decided to make the call and commit the supercapital fleet. As a result, the CFC scored a huge victory. While it’s easy to look back at decisions and judge them with hindsight, at the time the Mittani’s concerns were valid. Had the CFC lost the Battle of B-R5RB, they could have been knocked out of the war and had their space put at risk.
This Is Not The End
That’s what I mean by the commanders fighting the next war. In World War II Germany held nothing back. They knew that a loss would be the end of the regime and the end of the German Reich. It was, on both counts. However, in the Casino War, the Mittani and the rest of the Imperium leadership knew that there would be another war after that. They didn’t commit major forces to defend anything. The Casino War is a great name, as the Imperium only put forth the ante and minimum bets on even good hands, folding every other time. As a result, the Imperium was able to settle in Delve and then return to superpower status.
Different Ideas of Winning
For the current war, the Imperium finds itself in a slightly different situation. The sov mechanics and citadel mechanics make defending its space much easier. The Imperium also has a simple goal: not to lose. As long as the Imperium exists, they are winning.
The calculus for Vily and the attacking forces is slightly different. They declared the invasion with much fanfare and gathered a massive coalition to attack the Imperium on many fronts. While so-called PAPI seems to be making progress in Fountain, the Delve, Period Basis, Querious regions remain well defended.
So far, however, Vily has been fighting the last war. Subcapital fleets take the gates across the massive gaps between Catch and Imperium space to attempt to reinforce jump bridges (yes, I know they are something else, but I don’t care) and sov wand i-hubs. Imperium fleets are actually breaching the gap going the other direction to do the same thing. An invasion this is not.
It was imperative for the CFC to break the sov of J5A in the Fountain war because of the capital mechanics. To bring capitals into Fountain, the CFC had to take down the cyno jammer. This is no longer the case. Vily has a perfect invasion plan in front of him; he’s just too timid to take it.
A Thought Experiment
An all out D-Day invasion is possible for Legacy. Here’s how it goes.
Diversionary attacks commence in Period Basis by multiple fleets of HACs and battlecruisers crossing into TCAG-3 an hour or so before downtime. There is a massive fight on the gate, with Imperium forces responding to counter the attack. The HACs and battlecruiser fleets remain engaged in a brawl with Imperium forces while Legacy Jackdaw fleets attempt to break out of the system to reinforce jump bridges throughout Period Basis. The goal is to draw away any Imperium forces from 49-U6U. It works. When faced with a 1000 plus ship attack in TCAG, the Imperium commits all available capital and subcapital forces.
With the Imperium engaged in the south, a freighter with a special mission escort jumps through the 4-07MU gate into 49-U6U. This small, hand-picked team of trustworthy pilots have one goal, to anchor a keepstar on the jump gate in 49-U6U. Multiple Daredevils with faction webs escort the freighter to get it into warp as fast as possible. Additionally, fast-locking, hard-hitting ships with heavy interdictors go along to clear the gate and then protect the freighter while it anchors the keepstar. An interceptor is already in place for the freighter to warp to. The keepstar starts anchoring with the timer set to come completely on line 5 minutes before the next downtime.
Imperium forces realize that Legacy has a possible bridgehead in 49-U6U as soon as it happens. However, the skyteam also realizes that nothing can be done until after downtime.
The Longest Day
At downtime, both sides start to muster their supercapital fleets to get ready to log in as soon as the server comes back online. Legacy did not file a fleet fight notification—they know a slow and possibly unstable node will favour them. As soon as the server is up, both sides jump their supercapitals into 49-U6U. Legacy is able to get more supers into 49-U6U in the first few minutes after downtime, being ready for this. Imperium forces have to get some of their supercapital pilots out of subcaps and into their supers.
As usual, the initiative is with the attackers. Legacy knew what was coming and has more of their people ready. Still, some super pilots didn’t believe the hurf about being ready for an early morning op and additional supercapital fleets get formed.
The Imperium is pinging like mad. Anyone who knows any phone number is calling it. Americans wake up early to put the coffee on while logging in.
All the while Imperium subcapitals are fed piece-meal to Legacy forces while they try to keep the 49- gate bubbled. Legacy supers are split between fleets on the keepstar and fleets trying to get off the gate. However, the Imperium holds back its superscapitals and capitals.
After an hour, the Imperium fleet commanders decide that they have enough numbers to confidently engage. They decide to hold the gate into 49- and cyno onto the gate, 1000 kilometres away from the Legacy keepstar. They know the real fight will be later. The Mittani gives a nice speech to all Imperium pilots on mumble about how they need to settle in for the day, as this isn’t going to be over fast. In 4-0 Legacy supercapital fleets start to muster on the grid to the gate.
The Fight Itself
Around 1500 server time, Vily looks at his numbers and decides this is the best time to attack. Legacy supers warp from the keepstar into a fighting position on near the gate other super fleets take the gate. DaBigRedBoat starts talking in command channels about the classic pincer movement and historical examples. Asher, Jay, John, and Mittani yell at him to shut up.
Titan doomsday weapons are fired on the first primary targets. Time dilation hits hard, and the server slows to a crawl. In the opening volleys, both sides lose faction titans.
It’s hard to predict just how the fight will turn out. If Legacy keeps their numbers high and in a winning position, then near the keepstar vulnerability timer, they withdraw to the keepstar. In the fleet hangars of some of their supercapitals, they have enough fuel and equipment to arm and online the citadel. Legacy docks as soon as they can and downtime hits. Supers that were not able to withdraw to the keepstar that were still alive are told not to log in until told to. Legacy has their bridgehead.
The Imperium realizes that this is a do or die moment for both the Imperium and Legacy. If they cannot win this fight, there will not be a better opportunity later. On the other hand, if things go well for the Imperium, they decide that their best strategy is to keep killing Legacy supers and then reinforce the keepstar after downtime, setting up another massive super fight later.
If the Imperium decides to withdraw, then the chances of the Imperium defending their space from the invasion drop rapidly. The only certain outcome is a massive fight with heavy supercapital losses.
Alas, this won’t ever come to pass exempt in my head, because audacity is something that EVE’s warlords lack. The gamble is simply too big for Vily and the invaders. A loss would put them in a precarious position of having to try to extract their super fleet from Imperium space through Querious. It would put them at an incredible disadvantage if the Imperium launches a counter-invasion. A loss might even be the end of the Legacy coalition.
When General Eisenhower ordered the D-Day invasion, he prepared his resignation in the event of failure. He recognized that to defeat the Nazis, an invasion of France had to be launched, but that if the invasion failed, so did the chance for ultimate victory. None of the fleet commanders and leaders of the invasion coalition would risk their position in such a way. If they did and lost, then the coalition might falter and break. So, we’re stuck with boring attacks on jump bridges and I-HUBS, posts about the ISK war, and propaganda for another several months. Because that’s how you fight wars in EVE.