Parallels Aplenty: WWB Compared to the Siege of C-J6MT

2020-11-29

Header art by Quendan Comari.

Much has been written about the current World War Bee and its historical analogues. Authors have looked to the actual past (as distinct from the fictional or gaming past) to provide some enlightenment regarding what we might expect in the current war. Topics have ranged widely across history, too, going at least as far back as 61 AD up to the Vietnam War. Especially popular have been the analogies to WWII, which have included the Battle of the Bulge, the Soviets’ massive moving of war-time production, Japan’s awakening of the sleeping giant, and so on.

Warfare Throughout History

These historical analogies have been very insightful, and many of the comparisons have been apt, but all of them (including the ones I have written) have failed to account for the main weakness in analogies: every analogy breaks down eventually because no two things are exactly the same. Therefore, we should try to use analogies that compare things very closely aligned. 

Real-life historical analogies can’t be pushed very far because real life and gaming life differ in a very important respect. In online warfare, combatants aren’t really wounded (except maybe emotionally) and they aren’t really ever taken out of the game. The phrase “I live, I die, I live again” only applies to video games; it certainly doesn’t apply to real life warfare. So, I want to begin a series of articles that look back on wars in New Eden itself. In doing this, I hope to omit one of the greatest weaknesses of historical analogies and perhaps provide some insight into World War Bee. Perhaps we’ll find parallels that put WWB into the broader context of warfare in New Eden.

For my understanding of EVE history, I use Andrew Groen’s fine book Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online, Lightburn Industries, 2015. I recognize that Groen’s work is not the final authority on events in EVE Online. Some of you reading this article may recollect things differently than they are presented here and in Groen’s book. One of the problems the historian faces is that people remember things differently. Even our memories may “spin” actual events. So, if my presentation of events differs from your understanding and your memory of these same events, feel free to make comments and include evidence that demonstrates where this article misses the mark.

For this article, I start with what Groen calls “The Siege of C-J6MT, ” which occurred in 2006. The Red Alliance (RA) had fallen on hard times. This group, once the most dominant in the southeast of nullsec, made their home in Insmother, but had spread out considerably and had incorporated many different groups under its large umbrella. Originally made up of Russians (by language, not nationality), the alliance came to include French and Americans as well. They had moved into Insmother while kicking out other corps that had previously lived there, causing warfare and friction. Those displaced pilots banded together into the Coalition of the South, composed primarily of four corps: Lotka Volterra, Knights of the Southern Cross, Chimaera Pact, and Veritas Immortalis.

Setting the Stage

As war initially began to burn, RA suffered losses. They had spread themselves too thin. They couldn’t hold all the space they occupied, and eventually they lost two entire entire regions, Detorid and Immensea, which were too far away from their home base to easily defend. They suffered desertions as well, as some corporations under the umbrella didn’t want to fight over territory they had not conquered themselves. As the war entered its final stage, RA was reduced to only the original core Russians. They were grotesquely outnumbered, by as much as 6:1, as they holed up in a system that they deemed absolutely vital, a chokepoint into other systems still under RA control. The once huge alliance was now reduced to only about 100 pilots.

The Coalition of the South thought they would easily roll up the remaining stragglers. Indeed, for a time, the aggressors left RA alone, considering them almost too insignificant to bother with. Coalition forces saw them more like gnats that perturb one during a summer barbecue than a real threat to home and hearth. But the annoying RA pilots just never went away, and the Coalition of the South’s losses to guerilla attacks reached the point where a final showdown had to come to pass.

The Coalition of the South still thought the Russians would just roll over or would be rolled over, for they didn’t fully understand the importance of culture to RA. The outnumbered defenders weren’t just fighting for space in a video game anymore. Things had grown more personal. First, the Russians shared a culture and a language; those very things were mocked by their enemies, who made insulting jokes about the “Russians dogs,” the “vodka,” and financing ships by selling Russian brides. These xenophobic insults stung RA to the point where they would rather die together as kin than continue to play the game by disbanding their corp and assimilating into other groups.

The Siege Itself

After the initial “glassing” of systems, the Coalition’s invasion slowed to a virtual halt. They shifted gears a bit and prepared to “grind” down the Russians with a siege followed by a overwhelming attack. As Groen puts it: “It had defeated the Reds weeks ago and believed exterminating it here was key to stopping future attacks.” Three times the Coalition of the South assaulted the system of C-J6MT and three times they were repelled, despite vastly outnumbering their opponents. RA had strategy on their side. They used mid-sized ships, all fitted the same, and divided into very small packs of ten. Small and fast, these ships swarmed the larger Coalition ships and killed one after another after another, while taking very few losses. While the Coalition adopted new strategies each day, and the Russians began suffering greater losses, RA still stood. Sleepless, exhausted, unable to swap out for fresh players, they held on.

Morale fell for the Coalition of the South. They had tried to wipe out RA, but couldn’t finish the job. They knew they should have been able to, thanks to their many advantages: endless mining opportunities, production behind the lines unhindered by attacks, a huge numerical disparity. The Coalition of the South fighters got sick of battles that led to . . . nothing. Some corps wanted to return home and begin making money again instead of prosecuting a seemingly endless campaign to rid the game of the Russians once and for all. Coalition groups began to fade away. 

Eventually, those remaining fighters who had RA pinned down and besieged no longer outnumbered the defenders; RA struck back viciously, broke the siege, and took their place in EVE’s history as some of the greatest fighters the game has ever seen and certainly among the bravest as they fought against enormous odds.

Now, As Then

What parallels to the present war might we draw from this historic fight? Here are some of mine, though you, no doubt, will form your own.

  • The Imperium, like RA in the past, is one of the most feared and hated groups in New Eden. Enemies felt the Goons had to be “exterminated” for the good of the game, because no other alliance could really plan other ops without taking the Imperium into account. Its power had spread over four complete regions, almost certainly a greater area than it could easily defend. Also, like RA, it was “rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”
  • Further, once the Imperium faced a huge coalition, the largest such “blue donut” ever assembled; it has suffered tremendous initial losses: Fountain (at least for a time), Querious, and Period Basis. The walls have closed in tighter and tighter.
  • The Imperium has now retreated to the point where it considers one system, E3OI-U, as crucial, much like RA did with C-J6MT.

Some uncanny parallels. But there are more:

  • The Imperium hears constant slurs against Goons and Goon culture. Goons are despised, bad for the game, in need of “extermination.” These claims may not be made in the xenophobic way that RA faced, but nevertheless, the anti-Goon propaganda attacks Goons at the level of their own self-identity. Much like RA in the past, Goon culture is one of the strongest things the Imperium members share. When the Horn of Goondor sounded, retvets responded, many of them having not played the game for a decade. That kind of loyalty might be the greatest asset that the Imperium shares with RA from the past. And that culture is not something others can easily understand. 
  • PAPI outnumbers the Imperium 3-1; not quite the 6-1 advantage of the attackers against RA, but still a sizable number. Nevertheless, the war goes on. As I write this, we are in the 20th week of war.
  • Like the Coalition of the South, PAPI is facing some internal turmoil. Some groups are leaving the front lines. Some FRT troops are making their way back to protect Venal, for example. Requiem was infiltrated and got disbanded, with a fortune stolen. Some groups have actually switched sides: RA itself, still in the game after all these years, left the “safety” of the PAPI donut to live and die and live again with the Imperium.

Parallels aplenty. But the end of the story hasn’t been written. Will PAPI lose morale, the way the Coalition of the South did in 2006? Will the Imperium, vastly outnumbered, survive through superior strategy and at times sheer determination? Will the Goon culture prove stronger than PAPI numbers? When histories of EVE are written about the summer and fall of 2020 and World War Bee (and those histories will be written), will you look back and know you were a part of it?

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Comments

  • Garreth Vlox

    “Some corps wanted to return home and begin making money again instead of prosecuting a seemingly endless campaign to rid the game of the Russians once and for all. Coalition groups began to fade away. ”

    And we can easily see the same parallels in this war. Frat is clearly not fully deployed and attacking their “blues” back home. AOM has left, RA has switched sides, evictus has lost a sizable number of members and a few key alliance FC’s. The clock is running on the PAPI offensive and while their placement of a staging keepstar in t5z may have initially boosted morale, their massive losses in that system since anchoring that keep have been now eroded whatever morale boost the placement of their staging keep got them. PAPI can field 4200 people to defend the keep, but can’t come up with a single fleet to repel a saturday night swarm kitchen sink fleet killing one of their newly anchored raitarus on the keepstar grid. You can watch their line members waffling in real time in their commitment to the leaders overreach.

    November 29, 2020 at 6:51 PM
  • Simon Chui

    I think different motivations for war naturally leads to different results, to some extent. If you fight for greed, ie take someone else’s more profitable territory, either you win and you grow physically, or you fail, give up, and go home to rebuild. This is perhaps the most “healthy” motivation, you either grow or you limit your losses.

    If you fight for hate and revenge, you’re trying to exterminate the enemy without much concern for how much it costs you. This is purely destructive, for both attacker and defender. There are plenty of cautionary tales of cycles of revenge that lead only to mutual annihilation. It’s unhealthy.

    If you fight for pride and survival, you are also not much concerned about how much it costs you, but you almost can’t lose, especially in a video game like Eve. You might lose all your ships and space, but you gain much more valuable friendships and respect. Perhaps it’s not physically healthy, but it strengthens you culturally.

    In the history of C-J6MT, we see the attackers go from fighting for territory, which they won, to fighting for hate and extermination, in which they eventually utterly burned themselves out. The defenders went from fighting for territory, which they lost, to fighting for pride, which sustained their morale even as they lost all their tangible assets, and RA lives on even today.

    WWB originally didn’t make much sense to me, because none of the attackers would really benefit from taking more space, or if they did there was much easier space for them to take. As a war of greed it was pointless. It is apparent now that Panfam are driven by hate and revenge, or at least their leaders are, as revealed by Gobbins’ statement – I don’t know how much their line members share that sentiment. I really think that’s going to burn them if they don’t know when to stop, especially as the Imperium has positioned itself to fight for survival and pride. Anyway, that’s all theoretical, we’ll see how things turn out in reality.

    November 29, 2020 at 11:41 PM
    • Moomin Amatin Simon Chui

      This started as a “content war”. Test approached The Imperium first to go to war against Panfam, but The Imperium declined. Panfam then accepted Test’s offer. This to me has to be one of the funniest bits to this war.

      It was then sold by TAPI leadership to be a “War of extermination”. This called upon all the hate, fear and loathing for The Imperium that anyone had. Now it is proving to be a war of survival, for whom I am not quite sure.

      This is by far the funniest war I have watched in my time in Eve. From the outset The Imperium lost as they are outnumbered by 100k chars more. That should have been it. But by some miracle The Imperium is holding on. I think the sole reason for this is the TAPI invasion plan, or more precisely a lack of plan.

      The Imperium were given a gift when TAPI said “For us, this is a war of extermination”. Once that was put out there the bar was set so high it could never be attained. I have no idea why this was done. Dramatic effect or some sort of framework for a narrative.

      November 30, 2020 at 10:44 AM
      • Simon Chui Moomin Amatin

        I dunno, I never really believed in “content war”. Maybe TEST thought it would be, but Panfam really wanted to take a big swing at the Imperium. It didn’t matter if they had to carry TEST all the way, they just needed TEST not shooting them. I suspect it’s Panfam who wanted extermination (of course they do), but Vily and PGL wanted the spotlight because of ego.

        I’m less surprised than you that the Imperium still stands. I think a lot of people underestimate the depth of managerial ability and organisational infrastructure the Imperium has, and how that allows them to do things that are impossible for other groups. Actions like Operation Enho and blowing up those Keepstars in NPC Delve were thought impossible, until the Imperium did them. These are the sorts of things that less coordinated groups simply cannot execute successfully. I’m very interested to see if being more organised can overcome n+100k.

        In the RA analogy, they were down to about 100 active pilots. Valiant underdogs, to be sure, but about 100 people is the maximum size where a community can organise more or less organically, whereas anything bigger requires infrastructure, as in all the memos and spreadsheets and human resources and middle management. That’s the part of the RA analogy that doesn’t fit well with the situation currently facing the Imperium. Simply getting thousands of people acting in a coordinated manner is very difficult.

        November 30, 2020 at 1:12 PM
  • Moomin Amatin

    At last someone has linked Eve war to Eve. As much as I love poor war analogies they really do have to be stretched to even get close to Eve.

    November 30, 2020 at 12:29 PM
  • Bill

    This is, of course a spin on that war, and that siege, for Goon propaganda purposes. I was there. I fought in it. Despite all the spin all these years later their stand isn’t quite as heroic as you’d like to believe. The decision was made to let them go, the thinking being that we’d made our point and they’d think better of belligerence in the future. It was, of course, a mistake. You don’t leave an enemy to recover and regroup. You finish it. That’s especially true of an enemy that is already hurfing about revenge when “it’s over”, and about who is “next”.

    That’s the lesson that should be drawn from C-J. Goons were allowed to limp off and regroup last time, and it was a mistake. One that hopefully won’t be repeated. Progress is slow here, but deliberate. In the end it’ll be like peeling an onion. Stripping the coalition away first, then the alliance hangers on, then the die hards, as they realize that their leadership has failed them.

    Its good that you’re posting morale pieces like this to try to keep people’s chins up. It’s a good sign that progress toward the actual goal is continuing.

    December 1, 2020 at 1:56 AM
    • “I’ll get you next time, Gadget! NEXXTTT TIMMMEEE!”

      How’s it feel to have been on the inept side of history for almost two decades? :3

      December 2, 2020 at 3:27 AM