No one gets PvP right the first time. No one gets PvP right the 50th time, either, for that matter. Being able to PvP even halfway decently (I claim nothing more!) is as much about knowing the rock-paper-scissors of ship types as it is about being able to internalize the Flow of an engagement. I've spoken about flow before, and may get around to doing so again at some point.
To me, there is no greater test of individual skill than competing against someone else. The only match for a human brain devising strategy is another human brain. We're a wily bunch, filled with the unexpected. It's specifically because other pilots can't be predicted with certainty that PvP carries so much thrill. In retrospect, we can easily ascribe causes for our failures and successes, but in the heat of the moment, we're met only with probabilities which we need to do our best to narrow down. PvP in Eve is a very cerebral thing, with much of the result being decided before the first shot is ever fired.
But you don't get to that point without picking yourself up after a failure and trying again. And that's true for engagements of all sizes, from solo roaming right on up to large fleets. But let me give you a recent example from a small gang roam my corp's allies undertook.
First, let me tell you a little about my corp and our allies in The Reverberation Project. We've all played the game a long while, and we live in that ideal place between being comfortable flying expensive ships and not caring so much about killboard ratios and how much we lose. I don't believe I've ever heard anyone in either group (Repercuss or Reverb) complain about a loss affecting the killboard. And boy, we've had some doozies.
So, when folks announce a roam, it's not unusual for us to fly T2, T3, and faction ships exclusively. Sure, some of us bring T1, and no one complains about it one bit. But we like to bring out the shiny toys when we can. Our low-sec roams fill a big faction-shaped void in null-sec doctrines. We also tend to be high-sp characters, so we can switch from Amarr to Caldari to Minmatar pretty easily.
But, we find that those expensive doctrines, while they do attract attention, bring with them some reluctance to engage on the part of potential enemies. More often than not, we're either blobbed (which is a lot of fun in those doctrines) or ignored.
So, when one of us announces that he wants to develop and take out a Maller doctrine, we're happy to help vet the untested doctrine.
Ten of us went out, including two Exequrors and the rest Mallers fit with both a scram and a web and pulse lasers. It was a fairly small and unassuming fleet. We traveled around for a bit with me acting as a scout in a Maller. I tend to be a thorough scout, warping around to check the whole system and investigating plexes and possible sources of enemies. So I tend to go slower than others might.
We jumped into one system and I saw nothing on dscan, so I warped straight to a large FW plex on the other side of the system. The fleet was landing on my in-game, so I asked them to hold while I dscanned, finding a couple targets on a 5 degree angle to the plex. I made the call for them to jump as I landed. Inside was a Svipul, which I webbed and scrammed. As I was attacking him, I saw two more enter dscan. One landed at some range, but my fleet was in warp on its way. I kept the Svipul under scram and web, but I was noticing that while my damage was affecting him more and more, he was also pulling out of range of me. He had switched from Defensive mode to Propulsion mode to escape the incoming fleet. It was a smart move.
As my fleet landed and applied reps, we went after the Svipuls, but by the time they were locked they were already out of range. As they were retreating, an interceptor landed and began skirting the edge of our lock range. This was the first sign that something else was going to happen, but which we didn't immediately register. We had the opportunity to warp off when he was holding at 50 km, but we stayed on grid for a bit, hoping for them to return. Eventually, the inty came closer and began pointing some of our fleet members.
We aligned out as someone in fleet announced what he was doing... keeping us occupied until the rest of his friends could reship. We ended up losing a few Mallers when his friends finally arrived... including a Typhoon Fleet Issue that did most of the damage.
I managed to escape the initial engagement along with most of the fleet, but I warped off to my own safe spot. As I tried to extract, I ran into another fleet on the other side of the next gate. I dodged that gate camp by burning back to gate twice, but the third time, when I saw an opportunity, my slow Maller just couldn't align out fast enough, and died to that TFI, webbed by the interceptors. The rest of the fleet made their way out through an alternate route.
Rather than being disappointed by our losses, though, we were energized and engaged. After the fleet, we stayed on to discuss improvements to the doctrine in comms. We decided to add some Confessors to the fleet to serve as heavy tackle; if I'd have been in one of those, I'd have been able to keep pace with the Svipul and kept him webbed until my fleet landed to finish him off. Mallers are slow, but even they can keep pace with a webbed/scrammed target.
Without needing them to tackle the enemy, our Mallers could drop the point and web and instead fit sensor dampeners. Sixteen damps on that initial interceptor would have zeroed his lock range and allowed our whole fleet to disengage once we realized what the enemy was doing by reshipping. And during a fight, spread damps could help survivability and take enemy logi out of the fight. While it would necessarily help us damage kiting ships, it could eliminate them as a factor against us.
The "failure" of that doctrine led to some great discussions, which will ultimately help improve it. We'll take it out again and again, making improvements and realizing what fleet comps it's strong against, and which it's weak against. Maybe we add a couple Arbitrators to help cap targets out and leave them susceptible to our lasers. Who knows? There are so many possibilities!
No loss is a true loss if you learn something from it. If you do, you're not losing ships, you're buying experience and memories. And that's a great return on your investment.