Between midnight Wednesday and the early hours of Thursday morning, thousands of pilots formed for an Imperium Fortizar armor timer on the Keepstar grid in 49-U6U. As fleets began to fill with eager capsuleers hoping to fire their guns in anger, very few players could know what would happen.
An aborted attempt at the same Fortizar a week earlier lead to Imperium members recycling comments from TEST leadership saying that they weren’t going to take the fight, particularly on an unreinforced node. This time, however, was different. Rumors spread that the node had been reinforced in anticipation of thousands of ships descending on the border system.
“We decided to fight on a fort because PAPI had told their FCs to not ref any Keepstars,” Imperium Sky Marshal Asher Elias explained in a post he made after the battle. “Because fighting on one gives us an advantage. We didn’t hype at all until Travis Keikara pinged Horde saying Goons had been ‘hurf blurfing all day’, and then I sent out a ping saying we hadn’t done that but we would be forming up.”
A NORMAL START
Forces from both sides began descending on the border system from 1DQ1-A, P-ZMZV, and FAT-6P. Sub capital fleets made their through jump gates, star gates, and regional gates. Very quickly, the two sides began coalescing, the Imperium on the weakened Fortizar, PandaFam and TEST/Legacy on their own Fortizars on grid. INN casters Sven Kion and Dirk Stetille covered the action over on Twitch.
“We formed up good numbers for us but we knew PAPI had a significant numbers advantage. Still we are eager to fight and make every bit of land they take painful,” Asher said.
The Fortizar exited its invulnerability window and, within minutes, the first hostile fleets warped in to start brawling. The Imperium primarily defended with Supertrains (Rokhs), Baltecs (Megathrons and Bhaalgorns), Abaddons, and Feroxes, while their opponents fielded Nightmares, Cerberuses, Eagles, Muninns, Jackdaws, and lots of fast tackle. The server went from being fairly responsive, to quickly having 10% time dilation, or tidi, as the fleets collapsed onto one another.
Soon though, it became clear that the Imperium’s FAXes or Triage ships were being “alphaed” to try and remove logistics support for many of the battleship fleets they fielded. “Fight kicks off with our subs vs their subs, our numbers are much lower in subs but we do have the fort and some faxes. We know PAPI is eager to fight us and I’m expecting them to drop dreads,” continued Asher.
The first dreadnought group that jumped in was only about 20 or 30, but they weren’t far off the Fortizar and they started making mincemeat of the FAXes. The Imperium began dropping in capitals as more hostile dreads continued to appear on the field, but they didn’t just drop battle carriers or dreadnoughts of their own. Imperium supercarriers jump in to start plowing through the enemy dreads and give the other capitals a reprieve.
THE DIE IS CAST
As Imperium supers began to fill up the grid, TEST/Legacy and PandaFam supers dropped further off the grid, out of range of any guns but very much in the battle. As quickly as possible, they began filling space with their fighters. “As expected they put their supers at long range, which is the safe play. We align our supers out and kill hictors and we are absolutely nuking their dreads. They are vanishing incredibly fast even in crushing tidi,” said Asher.
“We have a significant advantage in the fact that our supers cost far less than anyone else in the game. Fit supers cost about 3.5 dreads-worth, so we can trade them at rates that wouldn’t work for other alliances. Also supers trade really efficiently with dreads,” he added.
As the Imperium supers made quick work of the dreads on the field, they did the safe thing to keep themselves alive despite the web of warp disruption bubbles around them. They aligned to a safe position so that as soon as the bubbles were killed, they could freely warp away. Unfortunately, the risk didn’t quite payoff as handsomely.
“The fighter wave is getting towards us and it’s time to make our exit and we press the PDS [point defense system] to clear the bubbles and press fleet warp. Only nothing happens. The PDS on the fort just refuses to respond. Our gunner waits for the next cycle but nothing again. Some people got damage notifications but the bubbles from dictors stay there. About half of our super fleet catches the warp but the other half just sits there, bubbled,” said Asher.
The brawl was well and truly on as the Imperium forces, outnumbered by 1000 pilots or more, attempted to put enough DPS on hostile ships to make good trades. With the enemy fighter groups arriving on scene and some expensive supercarriers still tackled, the ISK split was well and truly lost.
During INN’s coverage of the fight, players in chat were calling attention to supercarriers on both sides dying, although the Imperium took by far the worst of it. Constantly updated battle reports were linked to one another as the fight chugged along in brutal tidi. Then zkillboard crashed, and players were left wondering how the fight was faring. By that time, however, the Imperium had lost five or six supercarriers, and PAPI members in Twitch chat were crowing that they had caught and killed a Vendetta, the expensive faction supercarrier.
DUST BEGINS TO SETTLE
After the slugfest wore to a close, nearly five hours from its beginning, players began to assess the action. Asher Elias summed it up as “by [the end] we had lost about 10 more supers than we should have if the [PDS on the Fortizar] had worked but that’s space weather – sometimes it works for you, sometimes against. Zkill is still down so no one knows the total number of ships killed. We aren’t concerned about the ISK because zkill values supers at a number that doesn’t reflect anything that we pay (also one baller died in a Vendetta, no one told him to dock up – he was the same dude who brought his Vehement into G-M, the absolute chad).”
As of the latest iteration of the battle report, the Imperium lost 17 supercarriers during the battle. Although multiple eyewitnesses claimed that TEST lost a supercarrier on the Keepstar itself, due to jumping to the wrong location, that kill has not appeared on zkillboard and it’s not clear whether it will or not. NC. did, however, lose a super on the battle report. The Imperium also lost 19 FAXes, 19 dreadnoughts, and one carrier. Those numbers, like the rest, may not be final. PandaFam and TEST/Legacy lost three FAXes, about 90 dreadnoughts, and three carriers.
When asked about the destruction of hostile dreadnoughts, Asher replied, “We haven’t gone through their dread cache yet. It’s a shame the server conked out on us or the trade would have been more favourable but I think that it’s a rate we can trade at fairly well for a long time. We have vast piles of supercapitals.”
As he mentioned in his AAR on Reddit, many Imperium supercapitals these days change hands at fractions of the listed costs on zkillboard, and he estimated that they were roughly 3.5 times as expensive as a dreadnought in many other parts of New Eden. If his estimation is more or less correct, then the Imperium may have traded close to even.
“Comms after the fleet were really excited, with that happy chatter that as an FC is super rewarding to hear after an op – there’s no feeling quite like that in the world I think. We lost total victory due to space weather but even with that we still did well enough that PAPI will have to take every ref very seriously. We are willing to fight on every single one which is the point and one they must prepare for. We like to say that there are 180 keepstar timers, but this wasn’t even one of those where we will have more advantages,” Asher said in his Reddit post.
Some time ago, Asher also made a Reddit post about how he believed that Goons were now the Good Guys, which caused a stir. In that post, he said, “At this point I have a lot of problems with the way some things are being handled in the alliance military, but I was fully committed to making change from inside rather than leaving my group behind… One of my biggest problems was the “helldunks or blueballs” philosophy. I thought it was a great way to win one war but a terrible way to retain members.”
After this fight, when asked if the battle sends a message, he replied “It certainly sends a message to the PAPI line pilot. They’ve been incredibly risk averse, backing out of even fights or even fights they had the advantage in, like last night in 8QT. I’m not sure how much their members are told but it’s fairly obvious from our side. The Imperium may not have the numbers but we will go outside our direct jump range to fight. We’ll cross our capitals through gates, we’ll fight outnumbered. If that appeals to you then you know where to find it. If you want Helldunk or Blueballs PAPI is the right place.”
He concluded, “Overall a great fight for us, see you guys at the next one.”