In case you haven’t heard already, Razor recently deployed to Black Rise to practice our individual pilot skills in a small-gang environment (contrary to propaganda, we have not joined faction warfare – shame on you for believing self-identified propaganda!). Right now, there are pretty much two areas of known space seeing a lot of action: the Provi/Catch region and the Black Rise area of faction warfare space. Seeing that there are ~reasons~ the CFC won’t deploy to actually engage in a significant bloc war with N3 and PL (see what I did there?), the next best thing is to get the kind of great fun you can only get from small gang.
So far, we’ve been in Hallanen for about three days and a lot of our pilots have been making some ridiculous mistakes. Many just aren’t very familiar with low-sec and faction warfare mechanics, and there’s bound to be a bit of a learning curve. Nto to mention, we’re running smack-dab into the two diverging low-sec metas (cheap ships fit “oddly” and expensive doctrines to fight outnumbered).
It’s been an absolute delight.
A lot of us are seeing the value and enjoyment from finding a fight three jumps away, as compared with a titan bridge away. The fleets are coming fast and frequently in both time zones.
Some of you may know from reading this blog that I keep a lot of ships in Nourvukaiken to do solo roaming or small-gang with my corp. We stage out of Nourvu and generally fly T1 frigs and cruisers. When you’re flying T1 frigates, there really isn’t much at stake to cause me to get frustrated when I lose. But I still get that same adrenaline surge fighting a T1 frig that I get fighting a T3. I love this kind of flying, and personally think it’s much harder to fly a T1 frigate than it is to fly a T3 or a fleet ship.
So, after a long night of fleets, the last of which I participated in, I decided I was going to spend my last half hour doing some solo roaming to say hello to the locals. The night before, I ran into a hull-tanked Comet that ate two of my Firetails, and I was eager for some payback.
When I stated my intentions, though, a bunch of people were eager to join in. After making it clear it’d be a short fleet, I decided to FC a quick little roam through the area in T1 frigs. We had just gotten a good fight a few minutes ago, and I figured we could find some targets. I’ve done some FCing in the past, but not since my eldest daughter was born could I commit to the responsibility of leading a fleet… too many “daddy!” and crying interruptions.
The rundown is pretty simple. We warped to our first out-gate and I asked a scout to go through. He found an insta-locking Tornado on the gate at range, and when his cloak was about to end, he attempted to warp off and was killed in less than a second. No biggie; that’s what a scout’s for. Afterwards, we roamed for a while before finding a Drake in a belt. A good time was had by all, and the fleet took about half an hour.
But hidden within that simple summary is a deeper story.
I’m a pretty calm FC. When things go down, I don’t panic or seize up. Sometimes, I make mistakes with target selection, but I do make a decision and call a target. In that respect, I feel like I have a good base aptitude, at least to the point that I don’t feel as if I’m dooming people who join my fleet to an ignoble, impotent death.
But while solo roaming and operating in distributed gangs (gangs where everyone’s hunting on their own across a couple systems and they converge when one of them catches a target) helps you learn how to fly and overcome any nervousness at engaging someone, it also gives you some bad habits when you lead a fleet.
One of those bad habits, I don’t possess: thinking everyone should be able to move and act as efficiently as you do when you roam on your own. It takes time for you to convey orders and for your team to carry them out. You have to be careful with your phrasing and clarity to make sure you’re clearly understood. And if you’re leading a fleet, chances are a lot of the players in your fleet aren’t as experienced as you are, so they’ll naturally be more cautious. That’s called friction, and it’s an inevitable part of any exercise involving more than 1 person.
But there’s another bad habit that independent roaming can produce: trying to do it all. And last night, I realized I have to work on that.
Sure, I designated a scout to precede the fleet, and later on I assigned some of the team as hunters to warp to plexes and find targets, and all of that is well and good. But my solo habits started to show through in implementation.
When our first scout died, I jumped through myself to see if the Tornado was still on the gate. It wasn’t, but if it was, odds are good I’d have been popped too. That was short-sighted, since losing the FC pretty much would end the roam. I should have assigned someone else to do it so I could remain in a position to make a call, instead of trying to gain angular velocity to avoid the Tornado’s guns while calling the fleet in. My habits of doing it all myself got in the way.
At one point later in the roam, we jumped into a system and I saw a suspect in local. There was one novice plex out of scan range, so I ordered the fleet to align to the out gate and I warped off to try to find that flashy. It wasn’t necessary for me to do that myself when I could have had another fleet member do it, and it separated me from the fleet. What if a destroyer gang landed on them as I was gone? Sure, someone might have taken over, but it’d have taken a few seconds, during which we could have lost someone.
The moment I warped off, I realized how wrong that decision had been. It didn’t lead to any negative effects this time, but it was a wake-up call. While solo roaming is very useful to understanding what you need to think about when FCing a fleet, it can get in the way of what you should be doing when leading a fleet.
Those decisions were caused by pure habit, not a lack of confidence in my fleet mates. I had a lot of confidence in the individual piloting skill of the alliance members who came on this roam with me. When I assigned them a role, they all carried out those responsibilities perfectly. The scouts called out good intel succinctly, the hunters coordinated with each other quickly to cover all the appropriate plexes and called out targets extremely well.
That's what makes this kind of tendency so insidious... we tend to slide into habits even in the absence of intention. They slip in when we aren't watching carefully. Good habits in one situation can be bad ones in another. In my case, I haven’t FCed in a long time, and the rust definitely showed.
Yes, you have to give clear orders and assign roles in advance of any engagement, and you need to keep your cool and make target decisions, even if they’re the wrong ones. But more than that, you need to let your fleet members do the heavy lifting in a fleet. Find ways to delegate as much responsibility as possible to counter any solo-roaming habits you may have.
Not only will it make your fleets more successful, but it’ll also let everyone have a much more engaging time. And having a fun and engaging time is the whole point of low-sec PvP.
This deployment is about brushing up on our skills and scrubbing off the rust. In that respect, I’m already delighted, and we’re only 3 days in.