Art by Redline XIII.
This article, the third in a three-part series, focuses on the Imperium. The first part looked at Panfam’s options in the war. The second part focused on TEST. Here, we analyze the end-game options for the Imperium.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”- Sun Tzu
As we enter the 13th week of the war, the Imperium finds itself in a difficult position. Fountain fell and virtually all structures were destroyed, primarily by Panfam, which has proven itself as a capable adversary. TEST has made small, but significant inroads in Querious and now are attempting to position themselves within striking distance of 1DQ, Goonswarm’s main staging system. While the forward movement of TEST has, at times, looked glacial, PAPI has the huge numerical advantage and can clearly afford to make mistakes and then reposition or move as slowly as it wishes. Only one-third of the PAPI coalition members ever need to pilot a ship for battles to be evenly matched in terms of combatants in space.
We can take solace in knowing that historical or fictional precedents help us analyze the possible end-game scenarios that might play out as the war moves into its fourth month.
Hypothetical Scenario: Complete Devastation, Imperium Destroyed
This scenario assumes that all of Delve, Querious, and Period Basis end up looking like Fountain did on September 9 and that Fountain itself has been reclaimed. Whoever now stakes claim to systems and divvies up the spoils, it’s not a goon. No Imperium structures, or very few, remain. The Imperium combatants have been podded and have made escapes into distant parts of the huge map that is New Eden. The only sound pilots hear is the swirling whoosh of the whirlpool that was Delve.
For this scenario we have to look outside of history for precedents regarding what the Imperium might do. The Alamo comparison won’t do, because everyone inside the Alamo died. Custer’s Last Stand makes a poor analogy, for Custer and all his men were heard from no more. But this is a video game. When I die riding my trusty white stallion in Red Dead Redemption II, the screen goes all red, I say a few muttered words, and in 30 seconds I’m back in the game, once again blasting at those wicked Del Lobos. The analogy that works best, then, does not come from history but film: Nightmare on Elmstreet.
You can’t kill Freddy Krueger. He’ll be back in yet another sequel to haunt your dreams. So, in this worst-case scenario for the Imperium, which has it losing all its territory and their members setting their jump clones to who knows where, the Imperium will still be back. This is a video game. We lost the Casino War, yet here we are. In one of the greatest of the Sherlock Holmes tales, we find an enemy confronting the dispassionate Holmes and bragging that he will destroy him: “No man ever crossed me and was the better for it.”
The Imperium, like Holmes, has this answer: “So many have said so, and yet here I am.”
If the end result of WWB turns out similar to the Casino War, Imperium members will still be here. If they didn’t quit then, why would they quit now? They may show rage and vow destruction, but quitting won’t be in the mix. Perhaps Imperium members will go underground, make alts and disperse into new or small corporations all over New Eden. They might make ISK, build ships, plan attacks, communicate with each other, and dream dark dreams. Perhaps they will be new recruits in TEST or Panfam or Fraternity or Mango. Those very alliances might wonder who they are recruiting and letting in: are they newbies or new bees? Perhaps Imperium will be reborn with a new name as that new upstart corp that suddenly appears in the far north. Six months go by. A year passes. Suddenly the upstart corp changes its name and the Imperium rises, like Phoenix from the ashes, and everyone else will wonder “Where did these guys come from?” The answer will be, “We were never gone!” And in some future Fall of 2021 or 2022, the Imperium will commemorate the anniversary of the Destruction of Delve within the borders of their new home. But they will not have forgotten the Fall of 2020.
When the Horn sounded, Imperium retvets heard the call and many in other alliances were surprised at Goons coming back, seemingly from the dead. A trillion ISK donation? Two hundred retvets coming back to one corporation alone? Supers and titans, long neglected and mothballed, getting a new coat of paint and ready to fly. Players like Moomin voice the sentiment of many Imperium line members: “Winning or losing means nothing to me. Doing things, cooperating, building and burning empires . . . [L]ove and laughter, hate and despair. The thing is that I have had all of those and more, all linked to goons.” New Eden without the Imperium? Not until the last server is turned off in CCP’s headquarters and EVE itself is no more.
Hypothetical Stalemate Scenario: The Imperium Holds Delve
Stranger things have happened. Here we will look to history for parallels. In World War II during the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st airborne division was holed up in the small town of Bastogne, getting pounded every day. The Germans sent them an offer of surrender. Brigadier General MacAuliffe sent back the one word answer, “Nuts.” The 101st held out until Patton moved in with his tanks. Defensive positions are hard to break and costly to take.
Another example: In 61 AD 10,000 Roman soldiers fighting for their Imperium took on 80,000 overconfident Britons, who, due to their position on the battlefield, had to go through a funnel-like opening in order to attack. Sound familiar? The funnel became a killing ground as the Britons found they were trapped. The Romans cleared the field, lancing everyone in their path.
If Fortress Delve holds, what then for PAPI? Surround Delve for a decade, like the Greeks at Troy? Everyone who has played Eve during a major conflict knows about battle fatigue. Eventually, players just want to stop answering endless pings. Eventually, spouses and children need attention, dogs need to be walked, and life outside the computer screen can no longer be put on hold. Many Eve players can go on overdrive for a time, answering the call of FCs, with the understanding that these are extraordinary times. Perhaps COVID even factored into the timing of the war and its present duration – after all, many of us were “virtual” prisoners in our own homes: no movies to attend, no parties with friends, no sporting events to watch. But those days haven’t lasted forever. The Broncos stink and are losing, but they are playing and people are again watching football and hockey and baseball and hoops. The summer of COVID shows signs of waning. How long can an Eve stalemate last before the monotony itself drives people to apathy?
In this stalemate scenario, PAPI eventually disbands and pilots leave forward staging stations and just kick back, eat a pizza, and AFK rat while watching Netflix on the side. What then? Those autistic Goons will no-life you. Like the Imperium soldiers of old, they may head into Catch or Paragon Soul chanting in unison to the Queen tune:
Hypothetical Counter-Offensive Scenario
“Bravery without forethought, causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent must not be encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and slain.” – Sun Tzu
On Sunday, September 20 in 4-07MU Imperium forces staged an ambush and caught PAPI off guard, destroying 145B in assets while losing only 45B. The art of the ambush will almost certainly come more into play as PAPI ventures into Querious and Delve, where the Imperium can rapidly deploy, redeploy after being wiped out, and move through Ansiblex jump gates and cynos. Defenders always have the advantage, especially as Keepstars fire back. That particular battle was interesting because it took place in Catch, not Querious. The Imperium took advantage of an opening and became aggressors. If enough such losses occur for PAPI at a distance from a staging area, we could see the Imperium using such openings to counter-attack. We are also seeing interesting developments in Oasa, where INIT forces are taking advantage of defenders being away from home space.
In sum, the Imperium has several options open to it no matter the outcome of the war. None of the likely scenarios end with goons leaving the game. If you have a better take on possible scenarios for the Imperium, leave a comment below, or, write your own article and submit it to INN. Let your voice be heard!