Generally, pilots tend to judge the success of their fight against you by how quickly your shields or armor start to go down. Even if they know intellectually that they aren’t doing much damage to you, they will get excited and commit to the fight more if they see your hp bar drop quickly.
If you can convince them they’re doing better than they really are, you’ll be able to lure them into a compromising situation. Bait ships do this by appearing to be all on their own, and very often try to burn back to a gate in a feigned panic. The ancillary shield booster does a similar thing in a different way.
When you fit your ship to accommodate an ASB, you tend to ignore the amount of shield hit points in favor of the strength of your resistances. If done correctly, you can absorb the same amount of damage, but do so in a way that active shield repairers give you more bang for their buck. On a Rapier or Vagabond, for instance, an x-large ASB can repair fully 50% of your shields with each cycle.
The psychological effect of this boost is devastating. Let me give you an example from our Friday night low-sec roam.
Our fleet had warped to and entered a FW plex to fight some frigates. I ended up on the outside by myself with a hostile Wolf and Vexor. I was flying an ASB-fit Rapier fit exactly as I mentioned above. Now, I only had one web on this fitting, as well as two guns (one of my high slots had a probe launcher) and five Warrior IIs. I had lost my typical 3/2 Hammerhead/Hobgoblin setup on another fight where we had to warp off, and found the drones on the field of another battle.
As I locked them, I noticed that the Wolf had some shield damage already, so I started with the assault frigate while I called for back-up on comms. With a single web and no scram, I could really only apply drone damage to the Wolf. If I had been in my usual Rapier fit (dual-web, 3 guns, 3/2 drones), I could have taken out the Wolf quickly, then gotten away from the Vexor. But as it was, I was not fit for DPS, and quickly realized that I’d be in danger in a minute or two down the road.
Now, I knew reinforcements would arrive eventually, but I had to keep them both interested until it did. That’s where the ASB served me well. When the Wolf and Vexor got the first damage on me, my shield started to go down faster than they expected – I had very little shield hp, but my resists were all about 75%. At this point, the Wolf committed fully to the engagement, moving in closer to slip under my guns.
He and the Vexor made the decision – after those first couple shots – to commit fully to the engagement based on how quickly my shield started to go down. Imagine their surprise and sinking spirit when my ASB restored 50% of my shields with a single stroke.
Had I simply been buffer-fit, I doubt the Wolf would have engaged fully, and my fleet would have lost a kill. The Wolf had to quickly make a judgment based on the visual cue of how my shields were dropping. In a split second, he didn’t have time to think about potential dps for his ship, check the damage ticker coming in, or ask his fleet mate how had he was hitting me. He simply saw that my shield was dropping, and concluded that they must be winning.
And it ended up being the wrong decision. A deceptive fit resulted in a kill. Granted, the Vexor escaped, but that sometimes happens when you only have one point fitted.
Always consider not only how your opponent is likely to be fit, but also how your opponent expects you to be fit. Try to fit the same ship in different ways so a quick check of your losses on eve-kill doesn’t reveal your one-and-only fit. Few players will play the “I know that he knows that I know that he knows” game very far, and you can gain a significant advantage by luring people into fights they think they can win easily.
We all head into fights with certain preconceptions. If you can understand your opponent’s, you can turn them into weaknesses ripe for exploit.
And that’s how you win at Eve. Not necessarily by out-skilling your opponent, but by out-thinking him.