Header art by Major Sniper
For the last 62 weeks, action around New Eden pitted a coalition of over 100 alliances against the Imperium as they intended to invade and unseat the Imperium as the new power brokers of null sec. Some leaders declared a war of extermination in the media, while others promised it was just the Imperium’s turn to be the galaxy’s whipping boys. Whatever the logic, the PAPI coalition ignominiously signaled their withdrawal from their forward staging system of T5ZI-S during a would-be attempt on the Imperium’s capital system of 1DQ1-A on August 2nd, 393 days after their initial declaration of war.
The war was incredibly, almost inconceivably, costly for both sides. A couple of months before the PAPI rout, INN had projected over 154 trillion ISK in total losses, split 52% to 48% in favor of the Imperium. That deficit is likely to have widened only slightly following PAPI’s retreat from Delve, as PAPI members have ended up losing hundreds of citadels they had intended to use for permanent staging in their would-be new home. It’s likely that the war cost more than $2.5 million US in total losses and may be the high-water mark for online gaming wars for some time.
While the two sides may not have totally finished their showdown, the war in the Southwest is undeniably over and the Imperium remains in Delve. Therefore, we are ending our weekly coverage of the war with this final review.
THE PHONY WAR
The war started in earnest on July 5th, 2020 with speeches and some troll reinforcing of iHubs across former Legacy space. It took a week for PanFam forces, the parties responsible for prosecuting the war in the North against the Imperium, to reinforce the iHubs in the Taurus constellation, a critical entrance to Fountain from Aridia. The Initiative, the Imperium alliance largely defending Fountain, was hard pressed to keep PanFam’s numbers at bay, quickly finding themselves pushed back toward their staging system in IGE-RI. By the end of July, the Initiative lost some iHubs in their staging constellation of Sphinx in Fountain.
In the South, on the other hand, the Imperium alliances tasked with defending Querious and Period Basis largely had success keeping Legacy, the PAPI coalition tasked with assaulting the South, at bay. Goons and others were able to slow iHub losses to only really what was known as Querious Fight Club, a group that held the iHubs between Querious and Khanid. By the end of August, Imperium forces had deployed innovative attacking strategies, including announcing surprise drops of 70 citadels in Legacy’s home space.
By the middle of September, PAPI forces were attacking Imperium citadels in Eastern Fountain as the Imperium began to consolidate to more defensive lines in the North. The Imperium also began to consolidate in the South, withdrawing supers and titans to D-W7F0, allowing PAPI forces to online a citadel in Northern Querious in former Querious Fight Club space. PAPI forces organized a push into Period Basis, reinforcing a dozen or so iHubs, only to be rebuffed during the node fight. By the end of September, PAPI forces were able to push through some of the Imperium defenses in Querious, allowing them to anchor a Keepstar at the gates of Delve.
THE SIEGE OF DELVE
The beginning of October saw the beginning of the real war in Beeitnam as PAPI forces dropped a Keepstar in FWST-8, a system in NPC Delve. This led to a week of sieges of PAPI Keepstar attempts, with the Imperium spending over 2 trillion ISK to defeat three Keepstars that were dropped. By the middle of October, the Imperium declined to defend against a fourth attempt by PAPI at dropping a Keepstar, allowing the attackers their first toe hold in YZ9-F6.
It wasn’t until the very end of October that PAPI forces took the first Delve iHub from the Imperium. It took them another three weeks in November to battle over iHubs with the Imperium before PAPI were able to drop their final staging Keepstar in T5ZI-S, immediately next door to the Imperium’s capital system of 1DQ1-A. The next month was more iHub ping-ponging as each side tried to get an upper hand over the other and PAPI forces tried to hold, for 35 days, the iHubs they had taken in order to deploy cynosural field jammers. This move, in turn, would allow PAPI to siege Imperium Keepstars in Delve and the rest of the South.
By the middle of December, the Initiative had pulled out of Fountain entirely and deployed to Legacy home space to harass renters and challenge Legacy for iHubs. PAPI forces began killing Imperium Keepstars and structure bashing in earnest across Delve. The Imperium’s forces kept retreating, ever closer to their home constellation, attempting to force PAPI to pay for each system taken or citadel killed.
As their march continued apace, PAPI forces took aim at the Imperium Keepstar in M2-XFE, even as the Imperium was finally able to pause the cyno jammer. The stage was set for a brutal fight as both sides brought their heavy toys to play. The Imperium spent 12 trillion ISK for 11.5 trillion in kills but they were able to hold their ground, even as PAPI forces completed the shield reinforcement – the critical first step in killing the citadel. The second fight, however, was a brutal exchange. PAPI forces jumped into prepared killing zones, allowing the Imperium to destroy 13 trillion ISK in assets for meager losses, per the battle report published at the end of the battle. PAPI also left almost 200 titans abandoned, to fend for themselves during downtime, effectively trapping them under the Imperium’s guns.
For three weeks, the Imperium held PAPI’s titans in situ, until PAPI forces staged an initial break out, allowing 40 titans to evacuate, leaving the others to fend for themselves. Over the course of February, the Imperium continued to stymie PAPI progress at killing Keepstars but had to keep their hell camp in reserve, preventing them from making major progress against PAPI. By the first week of March, the Imperium announced the cessation of the M2-XFE hell camp as the PAPI cyno jammers were beginning to come online again.
THE SCOURING OF DELVE AND THE BEGINNING OF THE END
For the next two months, PAPI forces slowed their pace to a crawl as they scheduled structure bashes to destroy Imperium citadels. They racked up hundreds of dead structures as the Imperium elected to trade their bases for time, hoping that PAPI would expend themselves in the effort to make progress. By June, the Imperium had been limited to one constellation of sovereignty, but effectively defended the space from any further attacks by PAPI forces. Word began to leak out that PAPI forces were looking for solutions to break into the 1DQ1-A constellation as their participation numbers began to drop, since they had largely killed all of the citadels outside of the constellation.
By July 10th, key Northern Coalition. corporation Original Sinners, the backbone of NC.’s USTZ efforts, voted to leave their alliance and withdraw from the PAPI staging systems, the first major defection from the core PAPI forces. As the weeks progress towards August, word began to leak out that PAPI leadership were looking for a month more of effort from their members and they announced new doctrines to attack the Imperium home system. However, when their attack on 1DQ1-A commenced on August 2nd, Imperium scouts reported that major PAPI Keepstars were unanchoring across much of Delve, signaling the attackers’ immediate intent to withdraw.
As rumors swirled across the battlefield, PAPI leaders began publicly posting their plans to quit the war effort immediately and retreat as quickly as possible. As the shocking reveal percolated across alliances, Imperium sources began crowing about their victory as PAPI members began to scramble, with many players electing to attempt their own retreats after seeing that their leaders had pulled out many of their personal assets while the fighting was happening.
In the end, it took the Imperium just a couple of weeks to undo the progress of PAPI forces’ iHubs and another couple of weeks to destroy all PAPI citadels in Delve, with TEST and Brave each giving up their original homelands and retreating to the opposite side of the galaxy.
In a war that had seen so much action and so many losses, the actual ending was a damp squib. The PAPI failure cascade saw the end of the Legacy coalition almost entirely, with some of their members forming new coalitions and others leaving without a clear path forward. Only time will tell what comes next for nullsec powers, but if nothing else, rumors of the Imperium’s demise were premature.