Header art by Quendan Comari.
When the Imperium retook Delve in 2016, it was done with battle-hardened troops fresh from The Casino War. The Imperium members outnumbered the locals at slightly under 2:1. The residents of Delve at the time were the likes of Lumpy, Caladrius Alliance and Tactical Supremacy, which all professed to be PvP-focused alliances. Some of these alliances had also taken part in The Casino War against the Imperium. The Imperium invasion of Delve, then, served two purposes: to found a new home and to blood it with the wrecks of at least a few of their enemies.
Invasions Aren’t Meant to Last Forever
Under normal circumstances, invasions of Delve are most likely to come from the NPC-owned space in Delve, which is accessible from Querious. It’s a natural path right into the heartland of Delve that minimizes risk to invading forces.
What wasn’t normal was the invasion of Delve by the Imperium in 2016. With the numerical advantage and troops hungry for blood, the Imperium just smashed through the front doors of Delve. The Imperium assault was launched from Aridia: the system of Q-HESZ was first to fall on the July 30, 2016.
By the September 12, 2016, the Imperium had claimed the final piece of sovereignty in Delve. The whole operation had taken around six weeks, even with the Imperium exercising caution because some members of the Money Badger Coalition (MBC) were trying to stop the Imperium from rebuilding. For instance, Progodlegend of TEST was keen to follow the Imperium to Delve to ensure that the Imperium would be destroyed.
Possibly, the focus of the MBC was centered on securing the prize taken from the Imperium in the North. For instance, Circle of Two (Co2) lost their first sov in Tribute to Northern Coalition on the October 18, 2016. Large campaigns, such as an invasion, take weeks and months of planning and preparation. The attack by Northern Coalition on Circle of Two was most certainly premeditated. By December 10, 2016, less than two months later, Co2 had conceded the region of Tribute.
When the Imperium “glassed” Tribute in 2019, while under the ownership of Northern Coalition and Pandemic Legion, it required about a month of fighting.
The examples above provide considerable evidence that if you have superior numbers to your enemy, invading does not require a long drawn-out process. So, the pace of the current PAPI invasion of the Imperium homeland of Delve stems from choice, not necessity.
The stated intent for this war, according to Vily in a Polygon article, is “a war of extermination. This is a war to the death. We are aiming for the removal of [The] Mittani and the Imperium from Eve Online. . . . We are here to purge them.”
But the reasons offered on a Talking in Stations’ (TIS) interview are wildly different from the motives ascribed in the Polygon article. Here, Vily tells a very different story, of a coalition leader looking for a goal for himself and his members.
The problem with Vily’s ambition is that The Legacy Coalition is far from able to fight either PanFam or the Imperium on its own. The Legacy Coalition has to be reliant on a more powerful group in order to pursue its own climb to power. It would seem that Vily first courted the Imperium and wanted the Imperium help for a war in the north against NC (listen to the TIS show at 1:28:00 for example). But something went awry with that plan and Vily felt that there was little option other than to turn to PanFam for assistance. This Vily duly did, and with enough gusto to raise a 150k character coalition that is supposed to stop the Imperium members from playing the game – in order to save the game.
Some media outlets have made observations about the differing ideologies between the warring sides. Generally, this ideological difference is being posited as a fight between good and evil, right and wrong, them and us. This is normally a safe bet, given that many conflicts can be framed in such a way. But this war is littered with unrealistic accusations and false flag operations.
There are some very big differences between the Imperium and PAPI. The Imperium has existed for a long time. Its members are used to working with each other and there is total trust when doing so. PAPI do not have that luxury, entirely. They are a coalition formed solely for the purpose of destroying the Imperium. PAPI also has to contend with the fact that some of their members remember the conflicts they have had between each other that preceded this war. This past history of aggression does not always sit well. Once PAPI claims victory, their loose coalition will cease to exist and each alliance within PAPI will return to being at war with each other.
How wealth is generated and distributed also seems to be very different between the Imperium and PAPI. For instance, the Imperium shares all income from the TTC in Perimeter between its member alliances. PAPI does not. The Imperium has always preferred an empire modeled on people doing things together. PAPI members seem to prefer a renting model as a method of utilizing space.
With the claims made by PAPI, it would be reasonable to think that there should be some urgency to their invasion. PAPI have made it clear that the Imperium needs to be removed from the game in order to save the game. So why the delay in purging the Imperium?
Perhaps Vily has started to remember the lessons of the past. TEST and Co2 were evicted from the North to make room for rental space for PanFam. The Russian-based coalition of XIX was also dismantled for PanFam rental space. GotG was also taken apart for rental space. Now here we are with PAPI looking to remove the Imperium from the game. And they plan to rent out the former holdings of the Imperium.
Legacy may have gone into this war thinking that they were in third place when it came to nullsec power blocs, but this may not be the reality. Both the Russian and Chinese communities are well represented and Legacy would likely be very challenged by either.
The Mittani, the leader of the Imperium, has declared that when the large capital fights take place, orders will be given to shoot the capitals of the alliance it will hurt the most. This will give some alliances within PAPI pause for thought. Who would want to see their entire capital fleet wiped out with only the promise of replacements? With the new material changes, replacement of lost ships will become more important, and perhaps more difficult, than ever before.
Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
Vily is now presented with an impossible choice. If he pushes forward into Delve, then all of PAPI will be looking to Legacy to charge in first. Leadership by example, after all. That will put them on the front line for losses. How many losses they can sustain is unknown, but Vily would have you believe their capital stashes are stocked deeply.
If Vily and PAPI leadership were to call for a withdrawal, then the Imperium wins outright. This would mean that Vily had successfully formed a coalition of over 100 alliances and 150 thousand characters only to be defeated by a greatly inferior force. This is a legacy that would be hard to escape. Vily would forever be remembered as the leader who had every tool and advantage at his disposal and still failed.