The Imperium has been forced out of their traditional territory in the northern regions of the EVE map, and has taken refuge in the Sarenan system, located on the northern edge of Lonetrek. This may be a temporary exile, or a sea change for them. Their leader, The Mittani, has declared a “hellwar” that conjures the days when Goonswarm and friends were fighting for their survival against old rivals.
Long ago, Goons from Something Awful (SA) forums were in a mix of corporations that were ultimately merged into the Goonfleet. It started as a side project by Suas (Shutupandshave). SA was a great recruiting platform that fueled Goonswarm with new blood for many years, but that vein was eventually tapped out. Recently, when the north was invaded, the “Horn of Goondor” was sounded in the SA forums. A new EVE thread was started, cleaning the slate and providing information on what was going on in EVE. That’s the sign of a serious recruitment effort, and happens once in a very long while. Some members found their way back, but essentially, the call was not answered. SA is not what it used to be.
Although Goonswarm is still the strongest member of the Imperium, it is not the whole Imperium. Other allied alliances had their own cultures and management, and often did not approve of some of Goonswarm antics. FCON, a heavy industrial alliance, boycotted “Burn Jita,”not wanting to wreck high sec freighters for fun. Like FCON, several Imperium alliances set themselves apart from Goonswarm, but took the benefits of security-in-numbers. Unfortunately for them, they were not spared for their goodness. As an example, FCON territory was ravaged and their shipyards destroyed. They were forced out and shot as they retreated. Razor, SMA, TNT, and others were all treated just like Goonswarm, despite setting themselves apart culturally, despite honorable objections to Goonswarm behavior of the past.
As the Imperium bleeds members, some fold into Goonswarm, Bastion, or LAWN, while others try to rehabilitate their own alliances or move away from the conflict altogether. Some members join the opposition. Corporations like BOVRL (OSS), ANZAC (MC), N0OBZ (C02), joined the Imperium’s enemies, probably in hopes of retaining what they had while in the Imperium. N0OBZ is the corporation that angered the IWANTISK CEO and brought on the merc contracts that embroiled SMA in the war, which later expanded into an invasion of all of Imperium space. In contrast, Paxton Industries, an old Provi bloc corp, stayed loyal to the Imperium and joined Goonswarm.
On an alliance level, SMA retreated into NPC null sec (Outer Ring) to restore their membership drop from 5,000 to 1,000. FCON moved as far away as they could, now residing in the south. Their membership dropped from 4,500 to 3,800. Those groups have left the Imperium. C-o-2 changed sides during the invasion of their territory, and has sinced gained some sov along with roughly 200 new members at the cost of their reputation as a loyal ally.
Of the alliances that now fight alongside Goonswarm, TNT will meet soon to decide how they want to proceed now that they are down from 2,000 to 1,200, and LAWN seems to be running out of steam, dropping from 2,800 to 800. Their leader, Thoric Frosthammer, former CSM member, grew disenchanted with CCP after his term. Bastion has dropped from roughly 3,500 to 1,500 and is “currently rebuilding — reinventing ourselves.” (alliance biography). Goonswarm itself is steady at 15,300, more than all the other allies combined. Executive Outcomes has been steady at roughly 1,000. The Initiative has dropped slightly from 2,000 to 1,600, but continues to fight in Saranen and Syndicate.
The Imperium has lost thousands of members who fled in all directions, but the core fighting force in Saranen is considerable and committed. It will need to be, Pandemic Legion (PL) and Northern Coalition (NC) just moved into the system.
There have been two fights that seemed to escalate past expectations, resulting in the dropping of the NC/PL capital fleets. Imperium pilots have been using Hurricane class battlecruisers to great effect against the new triage carriers – force auxiliaries. Hurricanes are excellent ships in low sec. They have high dps and maneuverability, and are considered the ship of choice for volleying pilots carelessly sitting on a station’s undock. Hurricane’s major weakness is bombs, due to a nearly battleship sized signature radius, but bombs cannot be used in low sec.
The Hurricanes have forced MoneyBadger Coalition (MBC) members to into new doctrines. PL has been seen flying heavily tanked battleships, as well as Ferox class battlecruisers. Both ships have strong tanks to resist the incoming fire from the Hurricanes.
PL has anchored a Fortizar citadel in Sarenen, close to the Imperium staging station. NC has moved in as well, with their supercapital fleet. Threats of “dread bombs” (sacrificial dreadnoughts) are real on both sides, but that hasn’t stopped them from using fighters from carriers to harass Imperium fleets. The new capital changes are being worked out by players, and the potential for ridiculously lopsided fights exists.
Both sides appear to be getting what they want out of the situation. Imperium like bringing down the expensive ausileries even if they have lose many ships in the process. Their culture is to swarm and die if they must to bring down big targets. NC/PL are the opposite. Their culture is one against many. Hurricanes are killed by the dozens while PL loses billions in Apostle Auxiliaries, it is a trade off they both like. Some Tech3 Cruiser fleets have also fallen as pilots adjust to using the new logistic platforms Apostles offer. Mistakes are made, and ships die in the process. This is why many players are reporting they are having fun, they are conditioned properly, but political or strategic objectives are not being occomplished for now.
Overall the Imperium is having a good showing, winning most of the small skirmishes when measured by wreckage, however, there have been no strategic victories in nullsec. These two groups can fight into eternity due to large war chests on both sides. The constant combat is a motivating factor for pilots on both sides. MBC forces will not grow restless and turn on each other if they getting fights out of the Imperium, while the Imperium alliances have to keep their membership interested or risk losing even more members.
The overall goal of MBC is to destroy the Goonswarm, in every possible way. They have succeeded in the first stage, taking away sov. They are now sitting on them, applying pressure, hoping to see more pilots break away and leave the Imperium. They are also trying to destroy TMC because it is seen as a funding source for Mittani and The Imperium. This is no secret. Vince Draken, in the NC alliance meeting claimed they would “take Goonswarm sov, stay in the area to keep them out, and destroy their stupid website too.” The Mittani would probably do the same if he were Vince; EVE warfare is never fought on one dimension.
The fight over the legacy of the conflict has already erupted into the mainstream media, with articles representing both sides. History is being rewritten to absolve Darius Johnson of past toxic behavior, and CCP showed favor by breaking precedent and giving him the official Goonswarm Alliance back to start over with new Goons, above the objections of current Goonswarm leadership. The decision was reversed the same day.
On the other hand, private conversations of command channels embarrassed Mittani and further soured his relationship with CCP. Lead diplomat Sion released diplomatic logs compiled over the years, containing damning information about C-o-2. This was something Sion’s predecessor, the late Vile Rat, had done to TEST and Montolio, but generally was a seen as a bold move since it eroded trust among other allies.
The most subtle attacks come from player-created fan sites that pose as neutral interests. Players that are invested enough to spend their time and money producing a platform by which to be heard, have an opinion, and usually a strong one.
I called this war The Merc Wars because that is how it started, and that title defined the nature of it, but what started as different Merc wars coming together ended in what I would call the Great Northern Invasion. It wasn’t much of war in the traditional sense. There were a dribble of battles, no back and forth, no close calls. It was a giant sov collapse in the face of a giant blob. No one fights to lose, so The Mittani pulled the plug and let dov drain away.
Like rivers rolling down the mountains, joining and growing until they fill the sea, this conflict arose from many sources. The strongest unifying factor is the failure of EEP, founder of IWANTISK, to get satisfaction from an arrogant SMA leader. Without that fountain of anger from EEP, the rivers of ISK would have run dry long before unseating the great empire built by The Imperium. All motivations aimed at bringing down The Imperium would have fizzled, like they had in the past. EEP’s financing brought the war cost to 11 trillion ISK. By comparison, the Fountain war, which lasted longer, was riskier, and had a huge battles of real significance cost 700 billion ISK. 1ronbank and Lenny Kravitz2, both deeply motivated to take down the Imperium may have had sufficient funds to start, but the open-ended cost of war could only be covered by an eternal spring of ISK, and that was EEP’s. He was the insurance policy.
ISK wasn’t the only element that made this invasion possible. Communication allowed the MBC to become as big as it did. New technology (Discord) allowed FC’s to coordinate without the hassles of merging fleet comms.
Finally, a new sov system was in place that allowed anyone an effective role. New players could join Spectre Fleet and entosis sov away, just like anyone else. CCP’s design must not have taken into account the crowdsourcing of new players for one cause at the scale it reached – 5,000+ pilots. The mechanics were meant to help the little guy get in, but instead it formed the largest coalition the game has ever seen.
The same power that has ruled EVE, still rules EVE: Blobs and ISK. Ironically, the “build your empire” Imperium model of dominating the game lost to the “rent a coalition” model, with ISK earned in an untouchable way. IWANTISK cannot be attacked, or defeated. It has nothing to lose, ever. And there are more of them; EVEbet, Monsterisk, EVEcasino. The Imperium itself tried to form a casino, but was deemed too untrustworthy to pull it off.
I have seen this war from all sides – as a fighter for MBC, as a reporter for TMC, and as a friend to IWANTISK. From this perspective I can say that if Mittani has mind control powers, they are stronger outside of the Imperium, than inside. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist, and the greatest trick The Mittani pulled was convincing everyone he was the devil. He might have honored every agreement he ever made, but it didn’t matter. In EVE people are accountable by their words, not their word.
Ultimately the Great Northern Invasion was a bitter pill, full of contradictions. Goons were out-blobbed and complained about MBC blueing too many people. In wanting to make sov accessible for the little guy, CCP created the largest coalition ever. As caretakers of the sandbox, CCP reached deep into it to influence events. The biggest defeat ever, the most unsatisfying war ever. A fight for sov was only a fight to deny sov. Leakers got seats of privilege, statesmen and stateswomen got shown the door. Old Goons are not-toxic and cool, new Goons had it coming. The citizens of New Eden rejected news, and embraced propaganda instead.
Like all wars, the “good guys” are only good from their own point of view. Propaganda makes it possible to think one side is right. Mittani’s bending of truth in his declarations is matched by MBC double speak in the media – at once seeking revenge on Goon’s past offenses, while honoring those Goons that offended. Truth is the first casualty of war, and without truth there can be no justice. The lack of real justice makes this victory the most frustrating I’ve ever been a part of.
Update: For counterpoint and criticism of this article read Seraph IX Basarab’s article “Me Against My Brother” on EVE fansite, EVENEWS24.