Once we were out, intel reported a Cynabal/Vagabond gang of about 30 a couple jumps away. We were torn between keeping our distance of it and surging on in. We knew we’d be in trouble if they stayed mobile on us, but we’d tear them up if we could surprise them or catch them in a stop bubble. It’d be a good test of our skills at roughly equal numbers (and a little outnumbered), so we decided to chase after them.
And this situation was the perfect example of the importance of aggression.
Our +1 scout jumped through the target gate and reported the enemy gang sitting at decloak range (about 10-15 km from the gate, spread out). We fleet-warped to the out-gate and held until our scout – who had to burn back through and jump to survive after his gate cloak ended – could enter system again and re-confirm the fleet’s location.
Glee ensured. The FC ordered a jump, and called a primary as our ships loaded grid. Our tackle gained points on the shinies and our Sabres tried to keep them bubbled while keeping transversal up. As we fired, we kept eyes on enemy drones to smartbomb them as necessary.
We couldn’t believe what we saw. A gang of 16 kiting ships – Cynabals, Vagabonds, Stabber Fleet Issues, Stabbers, and Ruptures (though, admittedly, the last two aren’t nearly as effective at kiting) – with five logi and 9 additional ships, including a Tengu, continued to engage at close range. It was more of a kitchen-sink fleet than was reported, though, but still had a solid kiting core. Yet they didn’t try to gain any range. Jumping into a gatecamp, we obviously fit for short-range, and would lose 10 seconds to load longer-range, lower-DPS ammo if they had gained range.
Perhaps they knew what we were flying – arty-fit Muninns – and thought coming in close made more sense than keeping their distance. If so, it might have worked, if the fight lasted long enough. But our DPS was such that we were wiping primaries out as fast as we could lock them. Over only two minutes, the shiniest among the enemy went down.
Even we were surprised at how well we did. Their pilots aren’t any less skilled than we are. Perhaps their FC froze, or was focusing on something else in command or intel channels.
Regardless, I can point to two reasons we succeeded so overwhelmingly, despite being outnumbered. First, we went out with a firm fleet doctrine, and came across a kitchen sink fleet that had multiple engagement ranges and optimal fighting styles. We knew exactly what we were going to do when we jumped, and our strategy employed the best use of every ship in the fleet.
For all intents and purposes, the majority of the enemy fleet was fighting contrary to its optimal engagement strategy. Even the other dps ships – Onyx, Tengu, Caracal, Moa – would be able to apply damage at a Cynabal’s comfort range. And what was a Thorax doing in that fleet? You have to know your engagement range when fighting someone, and only take the fight when it’s to your advantage. This fight shouldn’t have happened; the other FC should have warped to range to gain advantage. And if he had, we wouldn’t have engaged.
It’s possible he simply wanted a fight, even under unfavorable terms. If that’s the case, it was flat-out reckless with the ships he had. I don’t fly Cynabals in mid-sized fleet engagements because their native resistance profile simply can’t withstand high alpha damage. The same is true of Stabbers, Stabber Fleet Issues, Ruptures, Scythes, and Caracals. Cynabals survive when they maintain their distance, keep transversal up, and apply their damage outside of the enemy’s optimals, but with 27 targets shooting at you, it’s not possible to orbit at a solid transversal from all of them when you’re that close. We targeted Cynabals, then the Vagabonds, and it’s not a surprise that the Tengu, Vagabonds, and Onyx survived fairly well (though, to be honest, we didn’t bother with the Tengu, which we knew would be well-tanked). Their better native resists gave them time to catch reps and survive.
The lessons here? First, know your fleet’s engagement range and stick to it. Having ships in your fleet that don’t work within that engagement profile will only make you think you’re stronger than you actually are. Those Cynabals would still be alive if they would have engaged at range. If they were all clustered together and ready to align out, yet still close to the gate, we might have even engaged. They’d have been in a better position to pull range and warp out if they got into trouble.
Also, if your fleet consists of primarily T1 ships, think carefully before engaging a T2 fleet, since their resist profile is likely better than yours. If it isn’t, you had to sacrifice some slots for resistance, while the T2 ships didn’t. T1 are great, and definitely have their places, but there’s no shame in retreating from a force that can alpha you better than you can alpha them. Most of us weren’t even able to get on many of these kills… they died that quickly.
But I have to give credit to –A– for fighting us, and for making the decision to cut bait once they saw how the engagement was going for them. Their FC may have made a mistake with engagement range, but he obviously kept his cool to extract much of his fleet intact. That’s a harder skill to teach than the rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock that makes up Eve fleet planning.