Art by Quendan Comari
In the last few weeks there’s been an explosion of propaganda, dank memes, and general shitposting rocking the community, and all of it has centered around one theme – war between the Imperium and Legacy. So, today, we’re going to be doing a deep dive into the relationship between these two groups, what’s happened recently, and how that might spark another great bloc level war in EVE Online.
Now, TEST Alliance Please Ignore and Goonswarm Federation (the two largest alliances in Legacy and the Imperium, respectively) have a decades-long and very interesting history, but fortunately for us that isn’t a major factor in current events. As such, the best place for us to start is actually in 2017, when the Legacy coalition first formed and their modern relationship with the Imperium really started.
Isolation and NIPs
After taking space in the south by defeating the Stainwagon coalition, Legacy coalition found itself in an awkward spot. They’d been pushed out of the north by PanFam and had no real relationship with the major power of the east, the DRF. Meanwhile, the Imperium was in an equally isolated, although less precarious position. World War Bee – or the Casino War – had seen a mish-mash of many different player groups banding together to push the Imperium out of their holdings in the north just a year earlier in 2016. The aftermath of this led to multiple alliances that had been with the Imperium since before it’s rebranding from CFC leaving the coalition, most notably FCON and SMA, reducing the numbers that they could bring to the field.
Both sides needed to secure their current positions, and minimize the threats they had to be concerned about, so they ended up signing something called a Non-Invasion Pact (NIP). This set out a number of rules that both sides would agree to follow, with attacking certain regions and structures and cloaky camping being taken off the table. This allowed both of them to retain some form of friendly diplomatic relations, whilst remaining neutral and thus ostensibly hostile to one another on a day-to-day basis, something often derided as ‘bluetral’ by the community.
In the years following this NIP being signed, both the Imperium and Legacy prospered and grew, outlasting many other coalitions and absorbing new space. During that time, their relationship also developed, going from begrudging neighbors to strategic allies as the two of them fought side-by-side in wars across the map. This really reached its peak in 2018, which was host to the last war with major supercapital vs supercapital engagements, caused by the North-Eastern Bloc of the HRE, PanFam and Winter Co facing off against the Imperium and Legacy as they stood together as their own Bloc.
As things sit in 2020 though, the Imperium and Legacy are no longer the groups that were been beaten down and forced to retreat, being unarguably two of the greatest three powers on the map. This simple fact has rendered cooperation between the two less of a given in recent months, with the first inklings that something might be on the horizon coming in the last few days of 2019, when Legacy declared their intent to attack Dead Coalition, despite the fact that the Imperium was supporting them. Whilst clashes between the Imperium and Legacy as a result of this were relatively minor, it was the first indication we really had that Legacy was willing to put other strategic goals ahead of their partnership with the Imperium, and with Dead Coalition falling and both sides returning home it looked as though nothing would come of it.
However, the power vacuum caused by Dead Coalition being removed from the north-west would end up precipitating the next stage in all of this, by allowing PandaFam – the third great power on the map – to deploy to Pure Blind and threaten the edges of Imperium territory. This was something the Imperium reacted to aggressively, deploying to the system of F7C in order to be able to quickly get fleets in position to defend objectives in the area. This deployment would then escalate into a two-front war, as the Imperium began to battle Snuffed Out in nearby low sec as well, attacking numerous structures across Black Rise.
Whilst the Imperium was able to kill a notable amount of Athanors, Astrahauses, and even a faction Fortizar, they suffered many losses in the process of doing so. This trend reached a dramatic climax in the fight over Nennamalia, which was covered in more detail in an earlier news piece. But to give a short recap, PandaFam and Snuffed Out were able to catch a number of Imperium capitals out of position, and dropped dreads on them, leading to nearly 400 billion ISK in losses for the Imperium. Following this, the Imperium seems to have almost entirely vacated the Black Rise theatre with the exception of an appearance a week later in Pynekatosh, and the deployment’s tenor changed abruptly.
Fighting in Pure Blind also began to slow down, with the last major clash between PanFam and the Imperium there being the battle in K4Y, some time after which the Imperium began to unanchor three Keepstars in Cloud Ring. Each of those timers brought a huge Imperium defensive effort to prevent PanFam or some other hostile group from stealing the structure, flexing 256 Titans in 6RC.
Change of Plans
On June the 17, in a Fireside chat, The Mittani explained why this was happening, and that the Imperium was repositioning to fight a defensive war. Doing so took the form of moving Imperium staging from Cloud Ring to J5A in Fountain. The announcement was met with a mixture of disbelief and mockery on Reddit, as the northern deployment had only been under way for a handful of weeks at that point, and the general consensus was that this caution was unfounded.
But four days later a different story surfaced, when a screenshot from the Legacy forums made its way onto Reddit. It announced their intention to break the NIP between them and the Imperium – an agreement that had defined the shape of EVE’s politics for years. The news came with a two-week grace period attached to it, ostensibly to allow both sides to prepare, meaning that July 5 would be the day any and all warfare between the two becomes unregulated diplomatically. And whilst there’s no International Court of Justice to haul alliances in front of for breaking diplomatic niceties, making such a declaration effectively a formality, it certainly demonstrates intent to do something when that period expires.
Following this, The Mittani accused Legacy and PandaFam of having planned this reset in advance, with the intent of teaming up and “backstabbing” the Imperium. He would go on to point to a Talking in Stations episode that, he believes, shows that Pro God Legend has been working to build a coalition of FCs similar to the one that was successful in World War Bee for another campaign against the Imperium. This scenario does have grounding in fact, with Pro God Legend making a statement which could be considered as an allusion to plans for a war with the Imperium in a June 14 TEST town hall: “We are going to make a major announcement, and announce when the next alliance meeting will be, it will be a big alliance meeting and it will involve our entire super fleet – everything – where we will move to what will essentially be our big summer campaign … We’ve done all we can to stall with content generation and put ourselves in a good situation and I think we have, but it’s time to make a move, we cannot continue to hit Cache at 0700 unless we really want to make a commitment to it, we’ve exhausted all the content creation around our space – So that leaves us with one option left, and I think you guys are aware what it might be.” – [Source: 5:50 – 6:30]
Contradicting this theory though, PandaFam has yet to make any moves that match up with the narrative. Whilst their deployment in X-7 is taking advantage of the pull-back, so far it’s only been over small objectives, like adding a 6th Fortizar kill to their tally in Pure Blind. As of the time of writing, both Legacy and PanFam representatives have declined to comment on the subject.
Here We Are
With that, we reach the present point in EVE politics, as we wait for July 5. We have seen a few preliminary skirmishes between Legacy and the Imperium since the announcement of the end of the NIP, but the rules are still being respected. The question that’s obviously on most people’s minds is how long are those rules going to be left unbroken, and perhaps more importantly, where are those rules going to be broken and with what tools? After all, Legacy using a few Muninn fleets to help take some sov in Cloud Ring would have a very different impact than deploying their supercapital fleet into Period Basis and laying siege to Keepstars.
The former, deployment-based style of warfare is something we’ve seen a lot of in the past 18 months, with groups willing to join in on wars but very rarely deploying strategic assets like supercapitals to them. Often these wars have also been fought between blocs over the territory of allies, which made the losses seem relatively less important to the biggest groups involved. How little the death of an entire coalition in the recent DeadCo vs PanFam war seems to have shifted public opinion on the “realness” of nullsec war, serves as a testament to how little they feel it to have mattered.
By contrast, in 2018 we saw multiple, major supercapital engagements, such as UALX, which were not only reported on by the games media, but also played a huge role in shaping the balance of power since then as alliances put meaningful assets on the line and lost them. That is what people are hoping this conflict might be, something with long lasting consequences, where both sides really press the other to their limits.
The Enemy of My Enemy
One important wrinkle here that concerns all three of the forces involved here, and arguably makes a true war to the death unlikely is the existence of the Tranquility Trade Tower, or TTT. This is the Keepstar in Perimeter, which was originally launched by the Imperium and Legacy back in 2018, with the aim of monopolising trade near Jita in order to receive taxes from it. Since then, PanFam has also been allowed to join in on this profit sharing agreement, following a campaign of warfare and harassment against the structure in order to earn their place. This means that even as the three coalitions are at war, they’re still working together on some level to ensure a hegemony over Hisec, and also retain a financial interest in one another’s existence. As such, this is something to keep an eye on as an indicator for exactly how bitter whatever war comes about actually is.
So, is another supersized war with headline grabbing amounts of ISK being destroyed coming?
The honest answer is that we don’t know, and the few people who do either aren’t talking, or have a vested interest in convincing us that one is coming. But what can be said is that for the first time in two years, it feels like all the pieces are in place for this to escalate, and that alone is exciting.
For an updated video version of this analysis see here.