Header art by AnuranonthecoucH
Siege tactics were once a critical part of warfare, especially starting around the 11th Century AD. In EVE Online, set 21,000 years in the future, siege warfare would still seem to be relevant. As castles once became more widespread in Europe, this proliferation in Medieval Europe resulted in the effect that sieges began to outnumber pitched battles. Similarly, recent years have seen the proliferation of Citadel structures in New Eden. With Imperium and PAPI forces concentrating around the Imperium Capital System of 1DQ, we are witnessing for the first time how such a siege battle may play out in the virtual world. Let’s see what we might learn about the impending space siege by seeing how sieges have been conducted in the historical past.
Controlling the Surrounding Territory
Castles and fortified cities controlled the local countryside and so were usually the permanent home of a force of knights who served the local Lord. Likewise, Keepstars and Fortizars dominate occupied solar systems in constellations held by EVE Online’s various corporations and alliances, allowing them to store and deploy capital ships to the surrounding area.
Safe behind the walls of medieval castles, archers and crossbowmen could fire missiles through narrow window slits. The Byzantine Empire also had Greek Fire, a mixture of light petroleum and limestone which ignited on contact with water. Defenders, within the walls, often had entrenched catapults and siege engines, to hurl large projectiles at attackers. Likewise, an army attacking a castle would bring siege weapons of their own – the ballista, the battering ram, the siege tower, the catapult and the trebuchet.
The Virtual World’s Weapons
In the universe of EVE Online, Keepstars are armed with destructive weapons. Capital ships and defenders can be deployed from it, like heavily armored cavaliers riding out to fight attacking forces. A fleet assaulting a Keepstar often needs heavy-weapon platforms to do so, such as titans and dreadnaughts. Attackers must carefully consider how to best go about assaulting a Keepstar. We’ve seen how costly it can be to attack a fully defended Keepstar and the dangers involved. Also, in EVE, sieges are not as simple as encircling the target to cut off its food and water supply. This is a virtual world. Defenders can sit in fixed defences or a surrounded star system and live quite comfortably for some time without serious consequences.
Harassment and Re-Supply Techniques
In medieval Europe, defenders sometimes had secret tunnels which allowed them to circumvent a surrounding army, bringing in supplies, or deploying skirmishing forces to harass the enemy. In EVE, alliances can construct their own gate networks within their territory and use capital ships to bridge into other systems. Imperium forces deployed outside of 1DQ have been more than happy to destroy as many structures and industrial structures in PAPI home territories as they can. The toll of destruction has been considerable. Six trillion isk worth of PAPI structures have gone down so far, while the majority of PAPI forces are deployed near the front lines.
The best outcome for an attacking medieval army was to have the defenders surrender immediately and leave. Sieges were expensive and defense troops might be on a contract for their service, like two months. Campaign seasons were also limited by weather, as having an army deployed in the dead of winter was a recipe for disaster. EVE Online does not yet have a fully implemented weather system that would affect battles, though space weather – tidi- must be factored into all siege plans. Alliances sometimes have to pick and choose which citadels are the most important to defend. Sometimes Keepstars are destroyed uncontested, while sometimes you get a 25 trillion ISK battle followed by a 9-week hellcamp.
The Cost of Attacking 1DQ
One hundred sixty trillion ISK in destruction. That is what EVE Online could be looking at with a PAPI assault on the Imperium capital system of 1DQ. Countless player hours and an inconceivable amount of resources gone in a day or two. To finishing pushing the Imperium out of null space, to achieve their war aims, PAPI will have to do it. It is a huge risk. Victory would mean diminishing Imperium power and influence for years. Defeat could see the further diminishment of their capital fleet, and the possibility of the Imperium using its surviving capital fleet to retake Delve. Will we see a replay of The Siege of Carthage? The Battle Of Megiddo? Only time will tell.