THE MERCENARY WARS

2016-03-31

A few weeks ago, players were cautiously referring to the northern conflict as a “potential” war. The past few years have seen so many false starts that confidence in EVE having enough energy to see a true bloc war campaign was low. There have been sparks, but nothing caught fire. Without fire, there is no renewal. All that has changed. EVE is at war.

Weeks ago, the intensity started to build, with unsubbed veterans showing up to corp meetings and charismatic FCs  like Vince Draken of NC returning with a vengeance. NC is seeing a surge in player involvement. Fleet sizes rival Test and Goonswarm. Pandemic Legion is seeing the same reactivations. It is as if an ancient enemy has awakened. If The Imperium is Troy, with massive walls and fortifications, this invading force is a mythical Iron Ox crashing through Troy’s massive gates. This is something we might dream up when we see the constellations in the night’s sky.

Where the metaphor ends, virtual reality begins. The magnitude of daily events changes hour by hour. Each battle eclipses the last in size and importance.

Some amazing stuff is going down in EVE Online right now. I’ll have to write a sequel someday. EVE is still absolutely one-of-a-kind. – Andrew Groen, Author of Empires of EVE

For a comprehensive history of the Empires of EVE, read Groen’s book, “Empires of EVE.” It covers null politics from the beginning, in great detail. For now, we’ll have my poor-man’s version of what factors led to this current conflict, The Mercenary Wars.

HISTORY: THE IMPERIUM’S RISE TO POWER

At the start of this war, The Imperium was the largest coalition in EVE. Their alliances included six of the top ten alliances, measured in members, not territory. (In territory, they hold only three of the top ten seats, thanks to massive renting empires; most of which are Russian owned.) The Imperium may be the dominant force in null-sec, but they did not start this way.

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Going back a decade to 2006, Goonswarm formed after a few false starts from players of SomethingAwful, a humor posting website, whose members are knowns as “Goons.” They built a reputation for being a swarm of terrible newbies. They were the original newbie corp, focused on showing a good time to newcomers. Their heavy recruiting of non-EVE players helped grow the game at a time when EVE was gaining visibility in the MMO community. Goons were also the original irreverent clowns, immunizing themselves against pressure by using ironic phrases such as “we’re terrible,” and “spaceships is serious business.” They were rude, toxic, and boundary-pushing pranksters that bucked the established powers. Goons, living up to their name, pioneered the image now popular in TEST, TISHU, PL, and other groups. They were also the first group to seriously employ propaganda. Many of the same things ushered in by Goons are now at work against them.

Over many years and struggles, along with some luck, Goonswarm held together and built a series of coalitions: Redswarm Federation, DekCo, CFC, and now, The Imperium.

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In 2011, Goonswarm was a legitimate power in null-sec, living in Deklein alongside the true Northern Coalition (Morsus Mihi, Razor, etc.). They took an apprentice alliance under their wing that reminded them of themselves. The apprentice was TEST alliance, formed from a newly popularized site, reddit. Both alliances were “society” alliances, pre-formed outside of EVE. Membership revolved around the society, not EVE. Killboard stats or skill were not considered important and recruitment was an issue of belonging. This is why Goons, TEST, BRAVE   and other groups usually have many inexperienced new players, while NC, PL, and other alliances have nearly all battle-hardened veterans. The arguments over “skills versus numbers” stem from those two models of organization.

TEST initially flourished under Goons’ umbrella, settling in the five interconnected systems in Deklein still referred to as ‘the TESTagram’ by players of the era. As they found their feet, the natural growth process took over. Ambition kicked in. TEST grew to 4,500 members and their leadership wanted to prove themselves as strong and capable as anyone else. In 2011 TEST’s growing strength earned them space in Fountain.

By mid-2012, TEST had formed their own Coalition, the Honey Badger Coalition (HBC). They maintained a “blue” relationship with the Goonswarm’s new coalition, the CFC. The CFC even provided limited assistance in the HBC’s 2012 war against Against All Authorities (-A-) and their Southern Coalition (SoCo). The HBC would mark the height of TEST’s power and prestige in EVE.

FOUNTAIN WAR

Opinions vary regarding the exact motivations of the split between TEST and Goonswarm. Some believe that TEST’s leadership resented the limited way in which the CFC had assisted in the south. Some think, rather, that the seed of the rift lay in TEST CEO Montolio’s continued feeling of insecurity and desire to prove himself every bit as much a leader as The Mittani.

To offset the tension, Pandemic Legion’s Shadoo suggested pre-arranged War Games. This would have essentially set up the equivalent of dedicated Faction Warfare areas in Null-sec. Montolio, however, was spoiling for all-out war and in January of 2013, suffered a public meltdown. Frustrated, Montolio resigned leadership of TEST and handed the leadership of the HBC over to Sort Dragon of Darkness of Despair.

Political differences and personal conflicts, including at least one drunken incident at FanFest, resulted in TEST withdrawing from the HBC completely. This isolation, together with upcoming mechanics changes, set the stage for the Fountain War.

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In June, CCP tweaked the economy with the introduction of Alchemy. Alchemy allowed other moon materials to replace Technetium, breaking Tech holders’ monopolies. In addition, new moons were seeded, including a high number of valuable moons in Fountain and Delve. Quickly, Goonswarm moved to attempt to secure a number of these moons through diplomacy. TEST was approached about selling off some of the moneymaking power of Delve. Although they initially agreed, TEST leadership received an offer they decided was more attractive and broke faith with the CFC. The Mittani ordered an invasion of TEST territory and the Fountain War began.

By the end of Fountain War (July 2013), Goonswarm formed the CFC and evicted their former protégé TEST from Fountain, along with some former members of the HoneyBadger coalition, and N3 (NC/Nulli). This win established the CFC at the top of the food chain in null-sec. Fighting the CFC head-on was futile without a lot of help, even if N3, PL, and TEST were fighting together. That was the last serious attempt to defeat Goonswarm and allies.

HALLOWEEN WAR AND B-R5RB BATTLE

By late 2013, Goonswarm’s CFC owned half of null. A few months later in January 2014, it projected power across the map during the Halloween War. The deployment produced Battle of B-R5RB, which remains the largest in EVE’s 12-year history. Although FC Sort Dragon led the eager Russians into that fight, Lazarus Telraven jumped in after him with CFC Titans. Credit for the win was credited to Laz and the CFC, further angering old enemies that lost trillions in ISK.

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In the aftermath of B-R5RB, the CFC trapped the assets of Nulli Secunda in a station (dead-zoned) before leaving the area, hoping to kill that alliance. PL left to recuperate from their losses, leaving NC and the Russians to finish the Halloween War. NC chased the Russians out of Esoteria, which effectively ended the conflict. Victory went to N3 (lead by NC), despite the loss of many Titans in B-R5RB. Nulli survived having their assets dead-zoned and would fight another day.

POST WAR CONFLICTS

Meanwhile, TEST was diminished and irrelevant to null politics. The reddit recruits that fueled TEST’s growth were diverted to a non-political alternative, BRAVE Newbies. Their numbers grew fast, ultimately hitting 15,000 members.

In 2014, before Phoebe jump-travel restrictions took hold, major null alliances staked out their new homes. TEST had rebuilt itself into a mid-sized alliance and formed Hero Coalition with BRAVE  Newbies. The reddit society corps were unified and settled in Catch. The CFC decided to settle the seven northern regions that stretched from Fountain to Vale. They knew they had too much space and abandoned territories in the south to consolidate. N3 moved into the abandoned Delve territory, with plans to strike the CFC from the south: Fountain War II.

The first attack was repelled after some initial stumbling from the CFC. The Stain Russians, revived from the Halloween War, took advantage of NC not paying attention to their backyard and attacked moon holdings in Esoteria. The attacks on Fountain fizzled and Vince redirected NC to clean up Esoteria again. NC supercapitals rolled back weeks of Russian gains in a few days.

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Planning started for another invasion of Fountain. Travis Musgrat, FC for NC, pushed for the attacks but could only get Vince Draken’s blessings if there were multiple fronts. CFC could not be attacked on a single front; they were too big once they organized. Travis brought in Elo Knight and Black Legion, someone Travis admired, and a two-front attack was attempted. It did not go well. BRAVE  crash-landed between the N3’s two fronts. N3’s reinforcement path was blocked by a swarm of newbies. With slow progress in Fountain, Black Legion opted to shoot the newbies instead.

This time the CFC counter-invaded Delve, burning it down and kicking Darkness out. NC sold off Querious and gave up owning sov altogether, using the PL model of “living the dream,” aka no sov to defend. The CFC didn’t take the space, instead giving it to allies before going back to live up north.

THE IMPERIUM RISES

After those engagements, the CFC name was changed to The Imperium, an allusion to Rome and the greatness of Empire. The gesture annoyed their enemies, but what really heated them up was The Mittani’s encouragement for players to leave for a different game, H1Z1. This angered many EVE players who saw this as a “we won EVE, let’s go play something else,” slap at a time when EVE was losing players due to boredom. Ironically, among the Imperium leadership, moves like this were planned as ways to maintain esprit de corps to combat that same loss of players. In some cases, players who joined them in H1Z1 came back to EVE when they returned.

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The Imperium was also blamed for creating the boredom in the first place by “blueing everyone up.” That refers to a series of agreements (OTEC, the B0TLRD accords) that were reached with PL not to attack each other’s money centers. At first, under OTEC, this meant Technetium moons. B0TLRD expanded this to include the PL/CFC renter empires. Complaints about ‘the blue donut’ also were really about the CFC taking a defensive posture, sitting on their null throne, unbeatable and getting richer all the time. The null game was solved, said CCP.

To critics, Mittani counted his gold coins while EVE burned down, and used TheMittani.com (TMC) to leverage his people into real money gains through a game testing service: Raid games using Imperium players to generate interest in the new game, developer pays TMC. This at the expense of EVE. This thinking, wrong or right, has created an environment that both admires and reviles The Mittani and the Imperium.

All these elements–winning, leaving, inactivity, and exclusivity–were fuel for fires of resentment. The last ingredient was arrogance. The Mittani has shown that he knows how to light the fires in the bellies of his enemies with arrogance. It is a deliberate and effective tool when used properly. The problem with fires is putting them out again.

KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN

Then came the TMC Kickstarter that asked for $150,000 to pay for a project that would bring a professional science fiction writer to EVE, who would write about a specific war as part of a series of books by professional authors about player history.

The campaign was troubled from the start. It contrasted badly with Andrew Groen’s campaign for writing years of EVE history for only $12,500. The sincere player/journalist was a true believer in the value of capturing the memories of early EVE wars before they vanished. Groen got ten times what he asked for, and expanded the project. His updates were genuine, personal and appreciative. Each victory was always a shared experience.

The TMC Book would deliver one story initially. They picked the first story to be covered, and it was one where they came from behind to win. Access to The Mittani in various degrees were the majority of prizes, and at some point you could be invited to exclusive parties or yacht rides. This came on the heels of TMC publishing an article that celebrated The Mittani’s interview in Playboy. The whole campaign was a celebration of power, of The Mittani’s power, of Imperium’s power. EVE players were invited, but at a cost.

Support was strong for the book initially. When it was presented at EVE Vegas, it was practically cheered. Most people liked the idea of a series of well-written war stories for EVE. The $150,000 goal was very high, but most people thought they could get it. The Kickstarter secured $30,000 early on. Most players agreed with the concept of novels about EVE. Most complaints centered around the price point for the printed version but besides some teasing, everyone got out of the way, this looked like another inevitable win for TMC, The Imperium and Mittani.

In nature, when a pack of wolves sees a weakened alpha, it is challenged. The pledges slowed to a crawl and critics of the project started coming out of the woodwork. More and more players, encouraged by each other, piled on. Supporters in and out of the Imperium distanced themselves from the project. This foreshadowed what was to come months later in game. An unbeatable Imperium would show weakness and be set upon by rivals. The fuel was already in place; it only needed a spark.

THE FIRST MERCENARY WAR: IWI V SMA

A corp in Space Monkey’s Alliance (SMA), a member of the Imperium, had close connections with IWANTISK (IWI), a gambling site for EVE players that deals in ISK. IWI uses player bankers to serve as clerks. SMA had many players, bankers, big bankers and even a couple shareholders.

Those friends of IWI were even in SMA leadership. The corp would recruit from IWI Teamspeak channel, a place where many wealthy players hung around and gambled. Sometimes the new recruits didn’t work out and were tossed out. The trouble was, their ISK and assets would be confiscated.  This happened three times until the founder of IWI (Eep) intervened. By then, 300 billion ISK had been confiscated over several months.

He met with Winet, an SMA diplomat, to request reimbursement for one banker. Winet stonewalled. Eep threatened to hire mercenaries, to which SMA CEO exRiver, told Eep to “eat a bag of dicks.” SMA leaders laughed at the threats saying that mercs were no problem for SMA, especially with the backing of the Imperium.

Eep reconsidered his next move. A war with the Imperium was a giant risk, with trouble he didn’t want to deal with. He opted to confiscate shares of IWI from his SMA friends, and reimburse his victimized banker. Eep’s server admin and friend (in SMA) abused his access to recover the lost shares of ISK. The server admin then cheated hundreds of billions out of IWI before he was caught and removed, putting false winnings in accounts for a few SMA leaders.

At this point there were two paths. One, be satisfied with that and maybe things would cool down. The other was to use this as a publicity stunt. SMA publically accused IWI of RMT and turned over data to CCP. Days later, twelve bankers were banned from EVE. It was assumed SMA had taken down IWI. SMA claimed victory on reddit.

Eep hired a mysterious war broker, instructing him to “hire mercenaries to terrorize SMA permanently.”

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Weeks later, CCP unbanned the bankers who were actually sidelined by a confessed RMTer that had rotated large amounts of ISK between gambling sites. He had been the one that contaminated the bankers and other gambling sites, resulting in the ban-wave and major ISK confiscations. The illusion of SMA’s killing strike against IWI evaporated to reveal a reality of pain from trillions in mercenary contracts that was headed their way.

The mercenaries were unleashed to wreak havoc on SMA. Hired by IWI, their task was to shut down ISK-making activities in their territory. The mercs’ singular purpose was to force SMA, through deprivation, to make amends for their offensive diplomacy. The reclusive Eep, appearing rarely, even to his own bankers, made a list of demands for exRiver:

  1. 10,000 ISK
  2. Fire Winet
  3. exRiver must eat a “bag of candy dicks,” live on stream

If those demands were met, the mercs would be called off. SMA sent back a mocking counter offer.

The lessons here were that SMA did not take Eep seriously because they had insurance, the same insurance all Imperium members have: unity. SMA tried to raise their profile as an “alliance to be reckoned with” by peddling a story that they had competently infiltrated IWI, stolen billions, discovered RMT, and turned them into CCP. SMA pushed the narrative hard through their own reporter Kyle Aparthos, reddit, and wanted TMC to run it too. I took the assignment for TMC because I roleplay the seasoned investigative journalist.

TMC has covered the IWI v SMA War in greater depth.

The massive Iron Ox rumbled to life, eyes aflame. This was the spark that lit the fire in the belly of the beast and woke ancient enemies, now in motion. The Imperium would have to man the walls and defend their empire from the coming beast.

The first mercenary war lead to the second–and far bigger–mercenary war.

THE SECOND MERCENARY WAR: IMPERIUM VS MONEYBADGERS

THE BEAST

EVE players name themselves, so the beast is called the MoneyBadger Coalition (MBC). This name has relevance. It is based on the HoneyBadger Coalition (HBC), the TEST-led coalition that challenged the CFC’s dominance prior to the Fountain War. It was a chance to fight Goonswarm and allies with equal numbers. TEST was huge. It was their best chance to defeat Goonswarm.

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MBC is in a way the sequel to HBC (Honey Badger don’t care), and this conflict is similar to the Fountain War in many respects: huge numbers of pilots staging massive capital fleets in lowsec. Some of the same veteran FCs are participating in this war: Lazurus Telraven, Vily, and ProgodLegend. Even Snuffed Out’s Xenophilius Lovegood, the player that crippled Nulli Secunda’s participation in Fountain when he dropped sov and took their ISK, is here. Interestingly, Dark Razor, the Fountain campaign hero-FC of NC’s capital fleet, is about to change the whole game when he ushers in new capital ship changes as CCP Larrikin. If the war is not over by April 27, the upheaval from citadels and capital ships may reignite the whole conflict.

MBC is the mightiest force ever seen in EVE online, but it cannot last. For now, MBC are united by purpose: the destruction of the Imperium. They are fueled by resentment, revenge and money, but there is a pragmatic agenda as well.

INTENSIFIED WAR ZONE

The IWI vs SMA war started the day after Christmas, 2015. At the same time, larger null-sec alliances were having strategic meetings about how coming changes would affect the balance of power. The Imperium was unbeatable, and powerful citadels that could take on a fleet of dreads by themselves were only going to entrench the Imperium’s power.

Building on the work done by Psychotic Tendencies, Mercenary Coalition and other mercenaries, Pandemic Hordedeployed to Fade to soften the region’s defenses. By watching over the region while cloaked, the Activity Defense Multiplier (ADM) indexes could not be improved and thus degraded over time.

The first real shots were fired by low-sec Voltron, a team of low sec entities that were clearing out the Imperium’s towers. This led to a few fights in Lonetrek (Hakonen) over an R64 moon, the last of which resulted in the loss of three Circle-of-Two (Co2) titans and a super carrier.

NC and PL had been monitoring the situation in the north. By February planning was solidifying as the SMA and others lost members and played out their dramas on reddit. By March it was time to move in. NC and PL moved their homes north. TEST had also made arrangements to give up their space and move north.

To get there, NC had to travel through dangerous territory with LowSechnaya Sholupen watching from the shadows in Aridia. The Imperium was also poised to prevent NC supers from reaching the north, hoping to aid LowSechnaya’s hunting efforts. The move took weeks, but by mid-March, PL was on the border of Vale and NC was near Cloud Ring.

When TEST arrived stationed near PL the Imperium, the combined forces of all these groups; low-sec Voltron, the mercenaries from IWI, and NC, PL, TEST formed a massive invasion force. The MoneyBadger Coalition had taken form, but no one suspected what came next.

TMC has covered the Hakonen moon battles in greater depth:

180 billion fight

500 billion fight

495 billion fight

180 billion fight

Pandemic Horde Invasion

BATTLE OF 2DWM-2

The battle for a Capital Ship Array (CSA) in the center of Vale (2DWM-2) was the first time both forces formed for a head on collision. At stake was a Titan being built in the array. Titans take weeks to build and once the process starts it cannot be interrupted.

NC moved in and incinerated the cyno jammer, allowing PL to drop their super capitals near the tower with the CSA.  MBC began to shoot the tower and burned it down so quickly it was nearly gone by the time the Imperium fleets arrived. The objective was lost before the battle started.

The Imperium made a fight of it and even battle hardened NC pilots were nervous about what to expect. They knew this was a priority defense for them, even though the CSA was lost. TEST unleashed wave after wave of bombers on the Imperium battleships (which managed to survive) but the fight grew one-sided and the Circle-Of-Two Machariel fleet, pinned down, started to self-destruct.

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The Imperium lost the battle and 130 billion ISK, but worse, they lost the aura of invincibility. This was to have been a show of force for them but their 700 fighters were dwarfed by MBC’s 1,340 fighters. This may have been when Co2 saw the writing on the wall.

Technically, this was the first major real world test of EVE’s new server power. The nodes on which the battle took place were not reinforced. The Time Dilation (TiDi) slowed time to 10% of real time and the gameplay was crushingly slow. For most players the game turned into a slideshow, then a screenshot, and then essentially stopped for hours. Interestingly, relogging helped, as did warping away.  The crushing TiDi mostly affected the battle grid, much less the systems around it.  This is something that would be noted for the next great fight.

TMC has covered the 2DWM-2 battle in greater depth.

THE MITTANI MANEUVERS

A few days later The Mittani announced he would replace the lost Titan and that the Imperium would abandon Vale and beyond, holding the line in Tribute. Their forces now were consolidated in Lonetrek (Saranen). Vale would take 500 or more hours of entosis work, and the Imperium would let them in and harass them as they tried to take it, in essence turning the defensive war in an offensive direction. Sov denial is something PL did to great effect, often discouraging alliances from taking any territory.

The Imperium leadership knew they were over extended and had been for some time. They planned to pull back into a smaller area at some point and the time was right. Asymmetrical warfare had them fighting on several fronts, but they prefer to fight as a unified force, with unified fleet comps.

THE BATTLE OF M-OEE8: CIRCLE-OF-TWO’S CAPITAL SYSTEM

A few days later, another massive battle was forming for Tribute (M-OEE8) timers. This was the home system of Co2 and the Imperium was out to restore their awesome fleet numbers. Word had spread about the Vale battle and more pilots came to join the invasion. This time the stakes were for a Station and the Infrastructure Hub (Ihub).

This time the Imperium answered with 1,200-1,400 pilots. This would have matched the enemy in the battle of 2DWM-2, but MBC morale was high and many pilots from all over New Eden came to shoot ships, mainly the Imperium’s ships. They numbered 2,700-3,400 pilots. The official counts depend on who was shooting whom, which is unreliable when pilots accidently shoot their friends (or maybe not so accidently shoot their friends).

Imperium saved the station early; it was not contested by MBC. Instead the battle would be over the Ihub, which holds the defensive indexes that help protect the system. These are the main targets in the initial phases of an invasion. Weakening the ADM indexes is crucial.

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This time the fight was not in the capital system, but next door in J-GAMP on the gate to M-OEE8. The multiple fleets collided and the race was on to capture nodes around the constellation. The major fight locked most combatants but other smaller fleets were flying around capturing objectives. While the battle was again at unplayable levels of TiDi, systems next door were fine so capturing nodes happened in real time. If that were not the case, the four-hour fight might have been eight or twelve hours. In comparison the largest battle in EVE to-date (B-R5RB) had been basically on one grid and took 21 hours.

The Imperium were doing well and winning the entosis war, while losing the pitched battle next door. MBC sent their entosis fleets to intercept and take nodes and started to turn the tide in their favor.  Third party fighters were busy shooting everything that passed by.

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The Imperium lost both the objective and the ISK war. The fight was one of the largest in EVE’s history, where more people participated than in the final fight during of the Fountain War. Only B-R5RB was bigger.

B-R5RB 7,548  (2,670 in one system) subcap fleets locked down neighboring systems

J-GAMP 5,806  (3,436 in one system) fleets spread out due to sov mechanics

6VDT-H 5,000 est.  (4,070 in one system) most fleets in one place, old sov style

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Losing the fight was bad for Imperium’s morale with 240 billion ISK lost, but the bigger loss was the fracturing of their coalition.

TMC has covered the M-OEE8 battle in greater depth.

CIRCLE-OF-TWO BREAKS AWAY

Circle-of-Two opted out of the Imperium, claiming previous bad treatment from Goonswarm. Some circumstantial evidence shows Co2 might have sabotaged the fight by knocking out or dragging their feet to fix infrastructure that would have helped the Imperium fight defensively. They are suspected of possibly setting a trap for Goonswarm supercapitals that were on the move during the fight. Reports stated that NC, PL and other supers were in proximity and ready to strike if the Imperium was confirmed to have escalated.

The loss of Co2 was a surprise to most people, but they had been unhappy for a while. A defection of this magnitude has not been seen in many years, especially withallies under attack. Co2 provided hundreds of fighters to the Imperium effort.

A publicity war to save Co2’s reputation is underway as they appear on podcasts and in newswriting around EVE. Their diplomat “The Judge” was interviewed on Capstable, where he advised other Imperium members to follow Co2’s example and leave Goonswarm. He admits to discussing leaving the Imperium with Bastion and Lawn only a few days ago.

Time will reveal how Co2 emerges from this high profile break and whether they will join the MBC and fight their former friends. They were reportedly attacking former ally TNT assets soon after the reset.

There is no question Co2 benefited from being in the CFC and Imperium, arriving in 2012 with 500 members. They left with over 3,000, made wealthy by years of peaceful sov holding. Clearly the threat of losing was a motivating factor. Betraying allies in their vulnerable time is not a good strategy for making new friends.

WILDCARDS

The war has intensified and is in full swing. News stories change daily. Most activity is small scale but there have been epic fights early in this war. There are many fronts on the map and off it. TEST and Goonswarm have both put their propaganda departments to work. The intelligentsia of EVE are focused on it, even while citadels and supercapital changes quietly approach. Is anyone testing how they will work and how best to use them? That may be important in the near future, maybe even a pivotal factor in this war.

If the plan by NC, PL and others was to degrade The Imperium before citadels arrive, they are in a race against time. CCP still intends to release the expansion on April 27th, just after Fanfest, but the test servers show they are far from perfected. There may be a push to a later date.  Even so, building citadels will take time.

The Imperium is contracting, breaking apart in some ways. On the other hand, they might have won either of those major engagements. It will be harder without Co2 pilots helping them, but do not count Goonswarm out just yet. The only ones that can kill Goons, is Goons themselves (movie reference, can you name it?).

FC Lazarus Telraven has stated he will be more active in coming fights but Mister Vee is only monitoring the situation. FC Elo Knight has reactivated and formed his new alliance, White Legion, instead of sticking with TEST. A few members of White Legion were seen fighting in M-OEE8 on the Imperium side. Elo has a long standing feud with PL.

Nulli Secunda has reformed as Violence of Action and is taking space in Fountain. So far they are not involved with the Mercenary Wars, but Nulli’s founder ProGodLegend is sticking with TEST and leading fleets with ex-Goon FC Vily. Some of their members emerged from Northern Army (NARM), which appears to be in real trouble. (*Update: Violence of Action’s killboard showed activity in Fade, Imperium territory. That is an additional 1,400 fighters for MBC.)

The three major Russian groups are starting to make their own plans. xXDeathXx has stated they will stay neutral since they have friends on both sides. Solar Fleet is rumored to be mobilizing but have not declared their intentions one way or another. Red Menace Coalition have mobilized to, and are taking space in Period Basis, with possible plans to burrow through to Delve. Stain Russians are hitting the Querious home of Pandemic Horde (PH). All of this may force PH to abandon their home, or defend it.

THE ULTIMATE WILDCARD: “THE BANK OF BRAAVOS”

The Bank of Braavos is taken from Game of Thrones. It’s a bank that is neutral, that funds wars, and that makes money from war. When they are crossed they have deep pockets to wage endless war, not unlike IWANTISK.

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IWI’s founder is a reclusive and gifted programmer, with little ambition for overt EVE power. His main advisor is 1ronbank, the player that spent trillions maxing his character’s skills, just to do it. He’s a showman, charismatic with a strong point of view. If IWANTISK is the first Iron Bank of Braavos, it will be because 1ronbank wills it to be. Eep has made his demands to SMA, and has not said much beyond that.

The mystery figure at the center of this whole thing is the war broker–the one with all the connections to contract killers. His identity is unconfirmed but there are theories on his identity, and whether he is more than one person. I am told he will be heard from soon.

In a late development, SMA diplomat Winet has resigned as SMA diplomat. Only two conditions remain to stop the funding of mercenaries. Could one word from Eep bring the iron beast to a grinding halt, or have events have moved passed a point of no return? Has the smell of napalm in the morning, the smell of victory, created a fire of its own?

The money that is being spent by IWANTISK on mercenaries is far beyond comprehension for most players and may evolve into a new model for funding PvP alliances: sponsorship. That breaks right through the meta and into a stato-meta layer of gameplay. That’s a topic for another day.

CONCLUSION

The current bloc war in the north is a combination of mercenary wars that have merged and taken on a life of their own. They are fueled by years of resentment towards the Imperium, and that fuel is burning hot. The HoneyBadgers are riding high, winning victory after victory, putting up huge fleets. The Imperium is just as strong, and may surprise EVE if they start winning as the underdog they have been claimed to be. This may very well be the fight for their lives.

This too will pass, and be recorded by those who wrote about it, and remembered by those that participated. EVE is one cluster, one UNIVERSE, with players passing through, some for a few days, others for a minor lifetime. Not everyone has to see war to enjoy the emotion that it generates. Just knowing that you exist in a place where this can happen is enough. In an unexpected way, by just being a part of New Eden you amplify and are amplified through time and space.

When next you see a constellation in the star field that looks mysterious and epic: a monstrous Iron Ox breathing fire at the gates of Troy, remember that it was no myth. It was EVE, it was real, and you were there.

Author’s Note: thanks for reading. This was hard to write, lots of memories compact and disappear, so I relied on many people. It was a group effort. TMC editors Ryan and Arrendis, Selucia, Caleb Ayrania, and all the sources that supplied details, fact checking and information. Mynxee cleaned it up, making it enjoyable to read. Thank you for making it possible.

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