Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lessons: The Joys of Being Outnumbered

The most basic rule in Eve is that the larger gang wins.  A solo player will eventually be jumped by a gang, a gang by a fleet, a fleet by a capital drop, and a capital drop by PL.

But, on occasion, you can break that rule.  And when it happens, it’s absolutely glorious.

Last Saturday night, I logged in to find a couple of my corpmates flying around lowsec in a pair of Typhoon Fleet Issues, just looking for trouble.  Naturally, I couldn’t resist jumping into Sacrilege and racing after them.

Now, an armor Sacrilege is a somewhat slow beast, but it’s a remarkably resilient ship.  Here’s the fit I was using.

[Sacrilege, Armor Sac]
Armor Thermic Hardener II
Damage Control II
Ballistic Control System II
1600mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Armor EM Hardener II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Warp Disruptor II
Balmer Series Tracking Disruptor
Small Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 400

Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Heavy Assault Missile
Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Heavy Assault Missile
Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Heavy Assault Missile
Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Heavy Assault Missile
Heavy Assault Missile Launcher II, Mjolnir Rage Heavy Assault Missile
Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I

Medium Warhead Calefaction Catalyst I
Medium Polycarbon Engine Housing I

Hammerhead II x5

I didn’t feel the need to fit webs, since each of the TFIs was fit with a pair of webs already.  But I did think we could benefit from some good old fashioned dps reduction.  Hence, tracking disruptor.

I love tracking disruptors.  In my mind, they’re one of the most underrated ewar options out there.  I fly a TD Jaguar that can routinely kill Sabres and other destroyers… ships made with the purpose of killing frigates.  And I love my Curse for the same reason (neuts + two TDs equals endless tank… unless you’re fighting missiles).

So, as I made my way through lowsec gate after lowsec gate, I felt pretty comfortable that I could either do damage to whatever I met or could get back to gate if I came across a camp I couldn’t escape from easily.  Unfortunately, the TFIs continued their route and had well-scouted the way.

A few jumps before Akidagi, we met and started to run from a sizeable fleet just as a fourth member of our corp caught up with us in an Omen Navy Issue.  Though we burned pretty quickly, eventually they overtook one of our TFIs that was a little slow getting off the gate.

On comms, our tackled pilot calmly explained that he was tackled and called out as gate guns began to attack his tackler.  He made the call that he felt we could take them, so the other TFI, my Sac, and the ONI warped back to the gate and started to fight.

I was a little surprised to see only a couple tacklers in grid as we landed, and we started to lock up targets.  We knew we were only attacking the enemy vanguard, which consisted of a few Hyenas and some frigates, but they delayed us long enough for the rest of the fleet to arrive.  One of our TFIs was the first target down, but before he did, we killed a Gila, which severely reduced the oncoming dps.

I kept my tracking disruptor on the Catalyst that had done most of the damage to our TFI, and we methodically went through the targets one by one.  However, shortly after the TFI died, we noticed that none of us were tackled.

At this point, down a TFI and facing an increasing number of enemies, we faced a decision.  Should we bail with the wounds we took, or should we fight on?

Hint: you don’t take out two TFIs in a fleet of 2, then 3, then 4 if you plan on making it home.

As I dipped into low armor, realized I was taking gate guns.  When we called our targets, we applied the usual null-sec approach – shoot the most dangerous ship regardless of its criminal status.  In null, you don’t need to worry about gate guns or checking the states on your overview… you simply go through your target list one by one.

But fortunately, this problem didn’t seal my fate, since I was aligned and warped to a safe to clear the gate gun aggression, then immediately warped back in.

Many times in fleet fights, enemy gangs establish a target list very early in the fight and work their way through that list one by one.  If you warp off and come back, you can often sneak back in without the enemy recognizing it.  With so much action happening, it’s easy for an FC to neglect a ship warping off from a gate fight – instead thinking that it jumped – and forgetting all about it for the rest of the fight.  We tend to remove factors one by one – as our and the enemy’s side loses ships – but we don’t replenish them as easily.

So, for the next six minutes, I remained unnoticed as I plinked away at a Gila, ONI, and Ishtar with my HAMs… all while hovering at 15% armor.  In the end, we ended up very close on the isk war despite being outnumbered 15:4.  It was a great fight, and one that provided a wealth of lessons.

We made a huge mistake in not warping together as one.  Had we, we might have been able to save the TFI, or at least heavily delay its death, resulting in even more kills.  And we should have carefully watched the criminal flags of our enemies to avoid gate guns ourselves.  That could have tilted the balance in our favor.

But we could also see the flaws in our enemies’ flying as well.  They let themselves be strung out, resulting in them trickling in a couple at a time, with their cruisers arriving last.  This kept us in the fight long enough for us to have enough dps at our disposal to take out those cruisers before our last TFI warped away and the rest of us died.  And they were woefully short on tackle, even for a gang of 15.  Always bring extra tackle!

But this fight also demonstrated some important principles, particularly the value of warping off and coming back in once the enemy’s attention shifts.  Many people consider warping off a sign of weakness, and often pilots simply won’t return for fear of losing their ship.  More often than not, you can re-enter quietly, without too much fanfare.  And that can mean the difference between an even result and a brutal defeat.

Sometimes, it’s not just about numbers.  Sometimes it’s not just about dps and owning the field.  For our part, our four pilots took on a gang of 15 and came out even on the isk war, while leaning some valuable lessons in the process.  Not a bad night’s entertainment!


  1. I agree it was a fun engagement. Being the one phoon pilot who lived, I learned a good bit about fighting outnumbered with an active-tanked vessel.

    1) Always remember to take your drugs.
    2) Overheat often.
    3) Don't lose sight of the big picture.
    4) Communicate effectively with your allies.
    5) Be able to react to changes as new information becomes apparent.

    Had our first typhoon pilot taken his drugs, he may have lived long enough for us to burn down some more hostiles. Initially we made the mistake of each choosing an individual destroyer to target rather than focus firing. While they may have died, this left the total hostile dps on grid the same for a longer period. As more ships came in it became harder to process exactly what was on grid or incoming. As it was my phoon extracted through the gate in 30% armor with no cap boosters remaining, and me kicking myself for forgetting fraps again.

    1. All good points. And I definitely regretted not turning fraps on... especially after I suggest it to everyone!