Art by Auroraonthecouch
The M2 Massacre, as it’s been called by some, has markedly shifted the narrative of World War Bee, for both Imperium and PAPI members. Temporarily misplacing some 300 titans in a bubble farm can’t be a good thing no matter how it turns out.
But the war is bigger than M2-XFE, and how it will ultimately play out is anyone’s guess, so it’s worth taking a look at some of the things that might happen as it drags on. We asked an observer of New Eden’s nullsec activities to chime in on what they think may happen.
What’s your take on the war, at this point?
The Imperium has been on the back foot for pretty much the entirety of the war. They’ve lost region after region, starting with the proxy/loosely affiliated alliances in Pure Blind and Fade, which The Initiative attempted to support versus Horde and company.
Every line they’ve set has been crossed: Fountain got glassed, Querious flooded, Fortress Delve breached repeatedly, Keepstars planted next to their core systems, Keepstars of theirs killed without ceremony. Yet, to their credit, they have remained resilient and participation has remained strong throughout. They’ve even counterpunched at times to retake lost systems or put pressure on newly planted TEST iHubs.
Far from their only tactical win, but M2-XFE was Goons’ first decisive, large scale victory. And it was a big swing, strategically, going from being outnumbered in super caps to (likely) roughly even, with one even/slight victory against PAPI’s super fleet (which has now been diminished).
Taking the Momentum
The Imperium needs to take the momentum [from M2] and make serious headway, rolling back PAPI’s gains and further testing their ability to replace ships. If they do this suddenly, but safely, not giving PAPI the morale-saving counter punch opportunity, then Imperium will be well on their way to turning the tide.
The Imperium’s number one key to victory is breaking apart Legacy, Pan Fam, and their supporting alliances. Whether by forcing them to drop out from losses, demoralizing them against the prospect of continuing, or by extending the conflict out so long that the involved alliances have to go back to defend their home systems.
They Have to Hit Every Ball
On the flip side, PAPI has been running a wave of ever increasing momentum. They put months into prep work isolating and grinding the Imperium down before open war was even declared. They had drastically swept across the map until the last ~50% of Querious or so, where they seemed to stall, but only briefly.
Bottom line with PAPI is that they have to hit every ball they’ve called. To date, every objective they laid forth they achieved, sometimes with minor hiccups, but most of them pretty straight forward. Riiiiight up until losing that titan fleet in M2. If and how TEST recovers from this, and to what degree their allies will stick with them through it, will define their fortunes in the war.
Certainly their move/relocation into Delve out of their home space was bold, and is regrettable in hindsight. They can of course change their minds on that, but it would further undercut their momentum and give the Imperium breathing room and morale fodder. But TEST has to do something, and quickly.
Pushed to the Edge
PAPI as a whole has sustained major losses, but a lot of this is concentrated on TEST, who are also pushed to the financial edge trying to keep things going. As the main Legacy alliance, they’re rightly positioned as a lynchpin for the war. If they take their foot off the gas, their coalition and allies may begin to follow suit. If any of the major PAPI alliances drop out, either permanently or for an indefinite length of time, that is materially very good for the Imperium, but could also snowball. PAPI hasn’t faced strategic adversity in this war before; it’s an open question as to how resilient they will be.
Their keys to victory are twofold. On the morale side, showing they can bounce back from a big loss without losing steam is key. And from an overall strategic point of view, successfully putting their Keepstar-killing fleets into 1DQ and killing the iHub will mark the beginning of the end for the Imperium. The defenders literally cannot move the goalposts further than the loss of their last Keep in their capitol, and once the Keepstar killing snowball starts to roll it will be difficult to stop it.
Pressure and Punish
Some say resolving M2 is the priority, but is there more to it than M2?
There’s definitely more to it than M2. M2 is a key point, but neither side maximizes their advantage if it remains a stalemate. Whichever side plays around M2 best will drive their advantage. For Goons, while they maintain their hellcamp, they should be going on the offensive against iHubs at a minimum, maybe some citadels if they feel bold. Put pressure on TEST to extract their super fleet and then punish them when they do.
What specific moves must the two sides make to reach their respective objectives?
On TEST’s front, defending against Goon aggression is obviously very important to prevent a negative-morale feedback loop, and potentially seeing their hard won progress in Delve/Querious undone. But their best move would be to find another pressure point that can draw attention away from M2 and put their morale back on the right track.
PAPI could start cracking 1DQ Keepstars. Eventually they are going to need to try it, and if they do it successfully, once or twice, Imperium will likely be done at that point.
The Imperium must continue to stall out its attackers, making the most of every defensive Keepstar timer, to bleed them out. When they catch a lull in attacks, or win a big tactical victory, convert that into a limited offensive posture to threaten or recapture PAPI gains.
And when the dust settles?
PAPI Overcomes the Imperium
There’s not much reason to think things would be different than [the end of the first world war bee] if PAPI wins, except TEST will move into the captured space instead of PanFam. As the super coalition goes back to normal day-to-day life though, Legacy will have to deal with the massive losses they’ve taken and will need time to heal. I don’t have the slightest idea who would, but if someone makes a serious challenge to one of their less-valued regions they might concede it just cause it’s not worth further exhaustion. But I don’t think there’s another coalition who could do it and would be inclined to.
The Imperium wouldn’t break up, that much is obvious. So they will regroup and relocate just like the end of WWBI, probably moving to the other side of the map (or consolidating into Fountain as a middle step, assuming they still have it at that point). The North, West, and Southeast are their relocation options, unless they want to chill in NPC space for a while.
The Imperium Overcomes PAPI
If the Imperium wins they will have a decision to make about TEST. Imperium has been extremely careful not to overextend itself in the post-fozzie-sov era. I think them capturing Paragon, Esoteria etc. is unlikely, unless a major alliance flips, or newly aligns with them and it’s given to them as a reward. More likely they could go on a campaign to glass one or more regions to punish Legacy’s aggression. Or use the threat of doing it as a way to get some kind of surrender deal out of TEST, but even if so I don’t think it would be a long lasting peace.
On the other hand, not punishing Legacy is also a viable option, particularly if the Imperium is sick of war. If they “win” because everyone is exhausted and goes home that would be a bit anticlimactic, and there’d be considerable pressure to not keep everyone on a campaign footing. But especially post M2, I don’t see the Imperium morale post-victory as likely to be low.
And strategically, the way Imperium operates/thinks is very realpolitik-influenced, which while providing a justification for not spending resources on a campaign which gains you nothing of strategic value, would just as readily suggest that unchecked aggression against you would invite more of the same so you need to punish/penalize those who attack you.
This war has gone on too long and gotten too personal for so many that it’s difficult to imagine an almost immediate return to an enduring pre-war NIP/NAP status quo. A pause for them to restore their war chest is more likely.