PAPI’s Current War Strategy

2021-02-17

Art by Cryo Huren

This piece does not aim to analyze some of the minutia of EVE wartime tactics. The specifics of ship doctrine, fleet makeup, the tactics used when assaulting structures, etc., are not the focus of this evaluation. Rather, I will look at the larger reactions and philosophies of PAPI’s recent decisions, and their place in the larger narrative of the war to date.

First, Some Elephants In the Room

1) M2-XFE. PAPI titan forces launching themselves into a Goon-stacked system resulted in disaster, one still ongoing. PAPI assets have remained “hellcamped” since the maneuver and, despite some morale boosting breakout escapades (successful only at considerable cost), many ships continue to be locked down. This is a major thorn in PAPI’s side and something of which the Imperium ought to be proud. Their dedication and preparation for the fight has paid off not in ISK only, but has also made some question an attacker’s (like PAPI) ability to fight into such heavily populated servers even with overwhelming numerical advantages. It could be argued that the real elephant in the room is to what degree war can be waged when the numbers of combatants get as high as was seen in fights like M2. The Imperium’s overwhelming victory has been blamed by some on malfunctions of the server alone, conveniently passing over the merit and dedication of Imperium defenders. Others have called PAPI’s decision-making at M2 reprehensibly stupid, the results well deserved and all too predictable. Both positions, I believe, are untenable and the truth lies somewhere between the two.

2) The length of the war. War causes fatigue and the longer it goes the more fatigued are its fighters. Many among the Imperium have remarked (often quite loudly) that the length of WWBII is a testament to PAPI’s eventual downfall. That PAPI has “taken so long” to finish what it started is repeated by many Imperium members. PAPI members mention the length of the war less often and with less of an emphasis on its relevance. This could be because PAPI fighters are less fatigued than the Imperium claims they are, and so have less reason to have the length of the war presently on their mind. Another possibility is that no PAPI member wishes to say out loud what everyone (possibly) is thinking. Even less mentioned are the potential ramifications of Imperium fatigue, likely more draining due to the taxing position of being outnumbered and under constant assault. Whichever position one takes, one must consider how fatigue will affect both sides in the war as it continue to move forward.

3) The continued chipping away of Imperium assets. Amidst the wild swings of victory and defeat, rhetoric flaming, and hellcamping, assets within and around Delve continue to be destroyed. Recent events have included the loss of Imperium assets behind its “Helm’s Deep” system of E3OI-U. TIS Newspaper journalist Adreland Deninard reported 02/07/2021 (Monday) that “the Imperium has reinforced 17 IHUBS in Delve in the last 24 hours, and seven Territorial Claims Units. They’ve lost five systems in the last four days. Sovereignty since September has dropped from 150 Goonswarm Systems to around 60.” It remains to be seen how these events will affect Imperium morale or what they will mean for the war as a whole.

M2 = PAPI In A Headlock

PAPI’s egregious loss in M2 put their entire assault on standby. Suddenly they had their most valuable assets and most powerful weapons locked down and logged out. Many titans had simply been blown up outright and the rest became hostages. They had been put in a headlock. The moment this happened, as soon as I got over my dumbfoundedness, I thought, “We have got to go attack somewhere else!”

I currently am taking classes in a martial art called Wing Chun, where we are taught that when put into a headlock, or most any other grapple, one never attempts (initially) to untangle themselves from the lock. The first order of priority is to strike the opponent. To grapple a limb or head takes the continued presence of your opponent’s arms; if they are on your neck they aren’t protecting their ribs, etc. True, you are being grappled and that is uncomfortable. But that inevitably opens up opportunities for you to strike elsewhere if you don’t panic and are patient, waiting to unlock yourself at a later time (ideally when the opponent is reeling from your unexpected blow).

M2 is no blessing for PAPI, but it is an opportunity given the circumstances. True, PAPI titans and capitals are locked in a hellcamp, but it takes Imperium titans and capitals continually present in M2 to apply threat onto those PAPI ships. Those Imperium titans and capitals cannot go somewhere else without releasing the lock, so to speak. This allows PAPI forces to go attack other locations without the threat of escalation to the level of M2; this is also what they have done recently with seeming success, though much later than I would have liked. Indeed, while I was happy to hear that PAPI titans were broken out of M2, I was concerned about the heavy losses doing so sustained. It seemed to me like struggling at the location of the lock. I thought it far better to ignore the hellcamped assets for the time being, forcing the Imperium to expend time and energy maintaining the hellcamp, and striking elsewhere until Goons recoil and let go.

This actually is what Goons have done in reaction to PAPI’s aggressive presence at their gates. They are under considerable pressure at Delve and they aim to release some of that pressure by attacking the home regions of PAPI members. PAPI members like BRAVE recoil as Goons attack them in a soft spot rather than straining, out-leveraged, at the point of the lock. This was good strategy on the part of the Imperium, and something PAPI has started to do more after their costly breakout incursions. PAPI ought to put off more breakout attempts for the meantime and fight in multiple locations (other than M2) using smaller ships, and to the degree that they are doing this they should double down. PAPI titans will be right where they left them. Also, recent success in Delve destruction shows you don’t always need titans to inflict damage. PAPI should never have let their loss at M2 prevent them from continuing to apply pressure to an outnumbered enemy. Only recently have they started rectifying this mistake.

Multi-pronged Attacks and Numerical Advantage

“It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.” –Sun Tzu

At the beginning of the war I was thrilled to hear that Pandemic forces were attacking Goons from the north while TEST and friends were attacking from the south. This seemed like a fine strategy to me. PAPI outnumbers the Imperium more than 2 to 1. If PAPI spreads its forces out it can always be where Goons aren’t, no matter how well Goons are fighting. If PAPI split its forces evenly in two (or more) locations simultaneously they could even kite whichever location Goons showed up to defend while attacking the other undefended location. Otherwise Goons are forced to defend two locations at half strength in both places. If their organization is bad, and they are unable to split their forces evenly, one location could end up unequally defended to the point of getting steamrolled.

I was concerned when PAPI later unified their forces, ending, to a large degree, the two-theater strategy that had been so successful before (even Goons were impressed with how effective PAPI forces were in Fountain). I didn’t see this as a better use of their numerical advantage. I wasn’t inside the room where that decision was made, so I can’t speak to the reasoning behind it. I can only speculate. Perhaps PAPI felt that organizing two forces at opposite ends was impractical and was creating problems of synchronization. Perhaps it was too difficult logistically to supply two forces far away from one another, a problem made worse after Goons’ forward-thinking attack on Niarja; PAPI may have felt they needed to consolidate their industry and assets to continue pressuring Delve.

Whatever the reason(s), the loss at M2 only entrenched me further in the belief that PAPI should diversify its attack locations and split Goons’ army. It has been shown that Goons are capable and willing to assemble massive forces before decisive battles begin, loading up their numbers and putting strain on CCP’s servers. Even with a numerical advantage, it appears unwise simply from the standpoint of server limitations to meet a unified Goon force with a unified PAPI force. One can only imagine how M2 might have been different if Goons had been forced to assemble half their 4,500 pilots somewhere else, forced to defend two (relatively) distant locations. It would not only have meant a split Goon defense force, potentially unevenly distributed or unequally distributed in relation to PAPI forces. It would also have meant halving the pressure on the server for each of the locations Goons had to defend.

A split PAPI attack force would also give PAPI members the ability to rest while their other PAPI members attacked, forcing Goons to dance around Delve, racing back and forth trying to put out fires where they pop up. True, this would make the war take longer than a perpetual assault. But this kind of slow and steady approach could address whatever truth there might be to the Imperium’s assertion that PAPI will be pooped out any day now and go home. Having two times as many soldiers potentially means you only have to work half as hard.

Conclusion

The Imperium’s strategy throughout the war has been sound. With terrible odds stacked against them they have been able to capitalize on PAPI mistakes and make meaningful assaults on the enemy when possible; their preparation for M2 deserves respect; their assault on PAPI members homes (like BRAVE’s) has released some of the pressure at their gates; their attack on Niarja was an impressive demonstration of tactical foresight and commitment.

I have tended to question PAPI’s strategy more, though not (as I know you are all thinking) simply due to the loss at M2. In fact, I consider M2 to be a symptom of a larger shift in strategy which consolidated PAPI forces rather than leaving them separated into a northern and southern theater. I believe that consolidation led to the congested debacle of M2, and a continued reliance on consolidation, I worry, will only lead to more congested debacles. The risk of server malfunctions is too great, too unpredictable. PAPI ought to use its numerical advantage to spread Goons as thin as possible with the added benefits of 1) lowering server strain, and 2) the ability to rest a portion of PAPI troops while others attack giving Goons no rest. This war is still PAPI’s to lose and PAPI still has the ability to split its forces instead of putting all its eggs in M2 baskets.

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Comments

  • PAPI won’t split forces because they are extremely risk-averse: they lack confidence in their ability to successfully negotiate fights where the numbers approach an even split. They would rather combine their forces and slowly stack up a series of low-risk victories than split up and risk losing their verdant killboards.

    February 17, 2021 at 7:33 AM
    • Alfius Ganthrithor

      Good use of verdant.

      February 17, 2021 at 8:52 AM
    • Garreth Vlox Ganthrithor

      The second vily started waxing poetic about how many bubbles they killed in the fights over the m2- camp it was over. The second vily tried to hype his killboard being green because of dead warp disruption bubbles (that are holding 130 of papi’s titans trapped) as proof he was winning the war it was over. This is the same kind of coward bullshit that saw NC. tell their faction titans to dock during x47 in the fountain war, and it will end the same way, with the risk averse cowards losing because they can’t stomach the thought of losing some titans to achieve the overall victory.

      February 17, 2021 at 10:28 AM
  • Rammel Kas

    PaPi did start with the split push as you said. However things didn’t work for them. Legacy and TEST got bogged down with TEST making no headway whatsoever for weeks in PB. And Legacy stalemating after a single dude and a few friends decided to just mess with them using an alt corp in Querious. Thus 3 months were wasted there. And we only saw the push to NPC Delve keepstars after PanFam and FRT linked up. Had PanFam not linked up with them at that juncture it may have fizzled out last year around September/October.

    Turns out a paucity of FC talent is an issue. PaPi have fewer really good ones. Or maybe fewer who can be trusted with the keys. Since then the strategy has simply been a N+1 blob and hoping to high heaven there are no more black swan events (but then M2), and that their FC’s don’t burn out (which has started to happen) or that they lose logistics chains (which has happened to two notable examples lately).

    This may blow your mind. But do try to find a recording of the State of the Goonion that The Mittani gave at the eve of this war. Granted a lot of hyperbole in there. But there is a space where he warned us what to expect with regards to Delve structures. And the refence he used was to the Iron Cage from WH40K lore. And this is exactly how it is turning out… 9 or so months later. And the only thing we as Imperium needed to do was keep logging in for fleets. And we have.

    February 17, 2021 at 8:27 AM
  • Havish Montak

    I just have to add that when the Imperiunm assault PAPI Keepstars in NPC nullsec, the enemy were prestaged with 3000+ members and bubble wrap. This caused disconnects when Imperium warped in. It is hubris for PAPI to complain about the Imperium doing the same.

    February 17, 2021 at 10:23 AM
    • It’s something, but it isn’t “hubris”.

      February 17, 2021 at 2:05 PM
    • I think “hypocrisy” is the word, though they have been so free complaining about the Imperium doing things that they have done in the past that it lacks bite at this point. We need a word that means “hypocrisy^2” or something.

      February 17, 2021 at 3:07 PM
  • Garreth Vlox

    multiprong attacks only get you so far in a war with a guaranteed boss fight waiting at the end. No matter how they split up their fleets or organize their jumps at some point papi either HAS to jump into 1dq1 and actually set timers and actually kill keepstars, or they call it a day and go home and admit to their members n+1 won’t kill the 1dq1 keepstars and unless those are removed the imperium is not leaving/dying. And if we don’t leave and die vily has failed to reach his goal of goon extermination and we win.

    February 17, 2021 at 10:25 AM
  • Gray Doc

    You make good points, but at times seem to miss the underlying cause for effects that you note. First, PAPI combined forces because the “split” war strategy was going nowhere on the Legacy side of the map. Pay attention to that and ask yourself what happened. IF the split was a good idea at the start, why combine forces? You aren’t dealing at all with the ramifications of that. PAPI is being led by Legacy and Legacy failed to uphold their end of the bargain.

    Next, regarding fatigue, I hope you read (if not, please do) the Brave leaks and then tell me PAPI is not suffering battle fatigue. Yeah, Dunk Dinkle is one person, but I think he represents the thinking of many. This war has gone on much longer than PAPI expected and so all of Imperium’s “You’re not winning fast enough” talk, which was so reviled by PAPI posters, is in fact proving to be an issue. It certainly is an issue for Brave and they are not alone.

    Third point: where are FRT? Why did they lose virtually no titans in the M2 debacle? Why have they found it convenient to now “deal with” the Freemen rather than dealing with them after this war is done? PH and the greater PanFam better pay attention to what’s happening, because you are already losing the next war no matter what happens in this one. Perhaps that will only be an issue if Matteral brings it up on TiS, but don’t look for that to happen any time soon.

    February 17, 2021 at 12:11 PM
  • Guilford Australis

    PAPI’s conundrum is that even prior to M2- the coalition was reluctant to commit its supercapital fleet to direct confrontations with The Imperium, and The Imperium does not share that reluctance. Even if PAPI extracts all trapped titans from M2-, they can’t achieve decisive victory without major and consistent supercapital commitment (at significant cost).

    Lost in the “hellcamp” narrative of M2- is the reality that the armor timer was a bloodbath for PAPI, too. So if PAPI knows that every Keepstar armor and hull timer will cost them 100+ titans – even allowing that The Imperium may not contest every Keepstar – how many of the 40 remaining Keepstars can PAPI kill before that fabled 1000-titan armada is depleted or the losses are so great that PanFam is unwilling to continue fighting so that Piggles can inherit four new regions?

    Nibbling at structures and i-hubs in Delve for the rest of eternity is fine if that’s how you like to get your jollies, but we all know that’s not going to force Goons out of Delve or produce any outcome that could reasonably be characterized as victory. Keepstars and supercapitals must die in enormous numbers, and I’m not convinced PAPI has the resolve to bring about the first and endure the second.

    February 17, 2021 at 12:13 PM
  • William Doe

    I won’t bother to try to debunk or dissect you arguments in regards to the perception of strategies and who’s winning or losing. Actual Imperium members here have already done that for me.

    No, what I will post is I have to say it was interesting you used the wing-chun metaphor and while I don’t disapprove, I just want to add my two cents in that as a person who’s watched combat sports for a good while (probably around two decades now, mainly MMA) I do find it interesting in the approach of the concept of anti grappling in general.
    For rule based events and competitions, obviously you can’t used techniques such has hitting vital weakpoints (nutshots, eye gouges, throat strikes, etc) but in real life where’s self defense and you may be mere seconds away from getting neck cranked or getting choked out, your options are fewer. Though attacking the arms is frankly silly but I maybe thinking that too literally as I remember watching Ip Man 2 awhile back where Donnie Yen as Ip Man actually started trying to disable his western boxer opponent by actually striking the biceps and triceps as a means to weaken the arms and lower the speed and power of the boxer’s punches.
    Attacking the arms is a viable option in the example you stated, but there’s better ones. In various grappling based martial arts especially those with just about any general form of self defense application, your first and foremost thought is how to get out of the situation you are in. In this case that being the theoretical headlock you posed. A kickboxer or boxer or someone versed in a striking martial art would probably hit any soft spots or vital points to the holder. A more grappling based martial artist in wrestling, judo, brazilian jiu jitsu, would utilize leverage to put themselves into a position through the use of grappling itself while leaning on their martial art’s respective counter techniques to get themselves out of said hold and once out either flee (as running is really the best technique for self defense no matter the situation) or capitalize and attempt to subdue the attacker.

    I do get why you used that wing chun metaphor though, it works decently enough to set up your argument and points across for the article.

    February 17, 2021 at 12:37 PM
  • Moomin Amatin

    Strategy is based around an objective. “For us, this is a war of extermination” was touted as the objective at one point and there seemed to be little complaint from PAPI. This then morphed into objectives based on economic harm. This was done prior to M2 and less so afterwards. But by the virtue that the economic harm objective was met then you have to question why the war continues.

    But then we come to what Piggles said in one of the many TAPI Townhalls. “There is only one way to attack Delve…. through Querious”. This then has to give rise to the validity of the two pronged attack in the first place. If there was only one way in then why attack from two directions, both of which were not the “only way in”? Was this just sabre rattling hoping that The Imperium would just pull back to low sec and not fight?

    PAPI made this war about “stopping goons from playing the game”. At that point The Imperium was told in no uncertain terms that this would be a fight for their very survival. The Mittani then made it clear that this was going to be a bloody and protracted war for The Imperium. But he also made it clear that every effort would be made to ensure that The Imperium endures no matter what. That is powerful stuff. Now what do PAPI have for their narrative nowadays? Is it to own space “from Cache to Fountain” or to “take the second best space in the game” or some other variant?

    There are more and more leaks coming out from PAPI. I am told I am a liar daily. Then days or weeks later I am shown to be honest. I can tell you for certain that there are some very unhappy PAPI members at this time. This number is likely to increase given recent events and statements from PAPI leadership. At some point PAPI will need to actaully calculate the cost of the war in terms other than flags on a map, a killboard or pride.

    February 17, 2021 at 1:11 PM
  • Carvj94

    PAPI should have been able to push the Imperium out of Delve maybe four to six months into the war. They have significantly more line pilots and enough super pilots to easily outgun goon titans if they wanted. But it’s been a LONG time since the war started and its blindingly clear that PAPI has squandered every advantage they had and have barely been making any progress month to month on what should have been a slam dunk. At this point any discussion of their strategies should begin with their long term failure to actually use their vast numbers to wear out their target.

    February 18, 2021 at 12:45 AM
  • Simon Chui

    War isn’t just about destroying your enemy, it’s also about not destroying yourself. The way Legacy is conducting this war is clearly not sustainable in the long term, that’s why they needed to win quickly. Panfam is doing fine, but won’t do nearly as much damage to the Imperium if Legacy crumbles. As for the Imperium, they considered this a war of survival from the very beginning, and have taken steps to make sure they will endure no matter what happens. Even if they lose here, they will live to fight another day. Of the three, only Legacy is destroying itself for the sake of continuing the war. It’s seldom your enemy’s strength that kills you, but rather your own weaknesses.

    February 18, 2021 at 1:34 AM