Wednesday, August 3, 2016

FC Lessons: Room for Improvement

Over the weekend, I ran my first small gang roam as FC with some corpmates. I've taken a few days to think it over before drawing some conclusions about how I did. While the tl;dr is that we lost two scouts, none of the main fleet (except one who did a silly thing - not taking responsibility for that one!) and killed a blue Worm who didn't stop shooting us. Not that great. But, it could have been much worse. The story behind it, though, is where the lessons lie.

NC. moved this past weekend, so there weren't many planned ops for the days immediately preceding it as folks gathered up their ships, divested what they didn't need, and prepared capitals and jump clone timing to convoy to our next home. With some help from corpmates (I heart you, Basta...) I was done a little early and wanted to have a little fun. So, I clonejumped to Tamo and started up a fleet.

After all, if the content isn't around, create the content, right?

Sparta was planning on solo roaming in the same general direction anyways, so he and four others came along. It was a good size gang, with everyone armor-tanked, an additional armor link ship, and a Cruor as a scout. I brought Talvorian in a Confessor as a second scout and Valeria in an Auguror Navy Issue to manage fleet warps and have on-field eyes for fights. With that, we headed out towards Tamo.

This roam was highly educational, and it started right from the beginning. Sure, I had some issues that wouldn't normally occur - like me not having updated Valeria's broadcast settings after transferring her to a new account - but once I had the fleet sorted and watchlisted everyone, those kinds of issues went away. I did learn, however, that I need to have fleet settings (MOTD, comms, fleet structure) set up before opening the fleet to other pilots so I can address many of the initial questions in a way that leaves me free to layout the route and track fleet comps.

But, my ship selection wasn't ideal. In particular, Valeria's ANI required managing cap through boosters, tracking points, launching drones, and managing MWD, all of which require attention. While it was appropriately buffer fit - a necessity in a second account - it wasn't an idiot-proof fit. So, I created additional work for myself. I now understand why other FCs talk about "FC fits" for their ships; particularly if you dual-box, it's hard to keep track of two unique sets of complex considerations at once, particularly if you're new to it. So, next time, I'll fly a clear DPS ship with my second account.

Added to that was that I didn't really do a good job with preparation work in the days ahead of time, so the only tackle scouts I had were ships fitted for solo roaming. My Confessor fit, for instance, was dual-rep active-tanked, which is perfect for fighting against the dps of a single target. Against multiple ships, though, it would quickly be overwhelmed. A cancer Svipul would have been a better choice. Sorry, but it's true. Heavy tackle, in a small ship.

Dual-boxing isn't something I've done frequently, recently, and like any skill, my ability to dual-box definitely atrophied with time. I found myself struggling not on Valeria, but on Talvorian. Scouting is hard work, with dscan constantly running multiple times to pinpoint pilots and gangs. I found myself neglecting Talvorian too much, and a good enemy could have made me pay for it. Fortunately, that didn't come to pass.

Now, I recently mentioned how Vince Draken started his fleet by detailing exactly how the fleet should operate, what each pilot should do in different situations, and the things they needed to keep in mind. I liked it so much that I did the same thing, detailing the engagement profile of the ships we were flying, who the scouts and anchor were for watchlists, and what the capabilities of the fleet were. It seemed to be successful, and at the very least it didn't bother anyone. That was a good example of a positive lesson learned.

Theazy +1'd our fleet in a Cruor, while Talvorian stayed with the fleet normally. We made our way gate to gate pretty easily with Valeria fleet warping. At one gate, we came across a blue Worm pilot who began shooting one of our Dragoon pilots. We tried to get him to stop in local, but given that the Dragoon was T1 and our pilot was tackled, I called the Worm primary. Never not shoot blues... who shoot you first.

For the most part, we didn't notice much action. Things seemed relatively quiet until Theazy reported two fleets slugging it out on a Large Compound in Akidagi. My first thought was to get us off the gate in case reinforcements came in or one of the fleets disengaged. But once we were at a safe, Theazy and I took a closer look at the grid.

Now, this was why I brought two characters. While I needed one pilots with the fleet, I also wanted to be able to see what was happening with my own eyes. My Confessor had combat probes, so I could always warp to targets of opportunity to pick off stragglers. Unfortunately the fleets were too large and too well positioned for us to snipe any of them. At one point, I saw five logi floating off by themselves, but we didn't have the numbers to overwhelm their reps on each other.

Nonetheless, I'm proud of myself, both for entertaining the thought of catching one or two pilots separated from their fleets, and for abandoning the idea when it became clear it was unlikely to work. It takes some guts to try to pick stragglers off a large fleet with a few ships; it takes wisdom not to push it too far.

So far, my decision-making was spot-on, and no one had died. I was feeling pretty happy with how things were going. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, particularly about where the fleet was sitting while I was scouting, but I was doing okay.

Sparta, the fleet member who was planning on solo roaming anyways, decided to take a look at the fight in his Dominix, and got caught by an interceptor. He ended up dying shortly thereafter.  Now, while I was sad he died, I'm not going to own that loss; I didn't order him into the fray, after all.

That next target, though, was a trip of Coercers sitting inside a medium plex. Theazy reported their position and made his way there. I followed with Talvorian's Confessor as I warped the fleet there. Theazy slid the gate, as Talvorian landed. He was dead before I entered the plex. I died just about as fast. I didn't know gank Coercers were a thing. They're totally a thing.

In this case, it wasn't necessarily the kind of ship, but the actual fit, that led to my death. My reps were able to catch for one cycle, but they were completely overwhelmed by the incoming dps. Would a different fit have allowed me to survive? Perhaps. The rest of the fleet slid into the plex shortly after me, but the Coercers had left, having destroyed my wreck to deny us our loot. They left in a hurry though, since Theazy's wreck was still there.

With the rest of the fleet limited to cruisers, only one of which that had a warp disruptor, I made the call for us to head back home, an uneventful trip despite constant dscanning.

All in all, while I managed to save all the ships you'd expect us to save, the first trip out wasn't very successful. Through all steps of the process, I maintained my cool and made good decisions. My communication with the fleet was probably a bit sparse, though. I could have communicated a little faster on the aligning, which might have tagged us at least one of the Coercers. But by and large, my ship and Theazy's would have died anyways. So, we may have missed one T1 destroyer kill, but didn't suffer any additional losses for it.

Those two losses, though, were a result of a simple knowledge gap. I hadn't experienced gank Coercers operating in tandem before. I didn't expect them to dice both of us up as quickly as they did. We were both dead before we built up any transversal. I don't even think they pointed us. Lesson learned, not just for small gang, but for solo as well.

I'm not exactly pleased, but nor am I discouraged. I just need to practice more. So, before going again, I identified a number of space worksheets I need to complete:
  1. Dual-box when flying by myself more. I need to get used to the timing and swapping attention between characters.
  2. Fit one pilot as a hard tackle scout, and a second as a pure tank/dps machine, to get used to that style of customization and flying. Practice this setup "solo" before expanding the engagement profile by adding more pilots.
  3. Also, when "solo" roaming, with two pilots, even though I'm by myself, I need to get into the habit of calling out what I'd want my dps ship to know. That means both what I should be saying and what I shouldn't be saying.
Those are all skills I can practice by myself before risking other pilots. I have a lot of habits to change and new ones to lay down, but I can do it at any time, which should provide good practice.

Verdict: C+. Good control, okay communication, poor target selection based on a knowledge gap, poor ship fits. The building blocks are there, but I need to refine them with practice.


  1. Inty scouts are far better. In the coercer situation your Malediction lands on grid points away from the camping ship, double clicks space away from them activating overheated prop mod. It'll be 9km away by the time webs land, out of conflag range, with enough momentum to push out of web/scram range.

    I always use other people to scout. Even when I want my own eyes I get someone else to scout so if we fight I can still deploy scouts while distracted.

    I would probably have given your Domi pilot some stick. Pilots on my fleet are not expendable, should not feel free to lose their ships doing dumb stuff. They're in my fleet because I need them there.

  2. Actually the Cruisers didnt come in. Im the Fc and i waited for them cause was gonna kill those 2.
    Your Gank coercer.
    TY for the good fight,