Monday, October 31, 2016

FC Lessons: My First Roam, Gallente-Strong

A few weeks ago, I ran my first full, pre-planned corp fleet with a defined doctrine. Compared to my first roam, this was a wholly different kettle of fish. In the first place, we had about three times the number of pilots, but beyond that, we weren’t doing a kitchen sink fleet.

Instead, we were flying armor Comets with Navitas logi. It took me a long time to come up with exactly the right doctrine to use. I knew I wanted to keep our options open, and a lot of our Friday night roams involved novice FW complexes. It wouldn’t due to fly anything but T1 frigates; a mixed fleet would work for nullsec, but we’d more often than not find ourselves unable to field our full strength and be easily prone to being split up.

But, my ships needed some survivability. A Comet is ideally suited to hull-tanking, but one of my corpmates shared a nice armor fit that benefited from logi. So, I quickly added a logi to the doctrine. The Navitas could field a decent tank for a T1 frigate logi. Gotta love those Gallente for survivability.

At first, I considered bringing a tackler ship as well, but quickly discarded the idea. Any T1 tackle ship I considered performed less effectively at the task than the Comets. Why overcomplicate things?

It ended up being a good decision, and a good night.

We had between 15 and 18 pilots throughout the fleet, including a number of current or former FCs to help back me up and serve as scouts. They proved invaluable for helping provide guidance. I can’t overstress the value of FC mentoring; without it, I’m not sure the fleet would have been as successful.

Before we undocked, I took a page from NC. and ran through the fleet description, explaining what pilots should expect:

That we were flying armor-tanked Comets, and pilots should expect their shields to melt quickly, followed by their armor lasting much longer
That our Comets required us to be in blaster range right on top of our targets; we should approach or orbit at 500 m.
That we had logi and should broadcast for armor reps the moment we were mass-yellow-boxed, since reps only land at the end of the rep cycle (I also reminded newer pilots how to do that).
That our logi should seek to position themselves on the other side of us and the enemy fleet to keep a good position (our logi pilots were experienced, and got this immediately)
That we were passing through lowsec and should attack only “flashy” pilots on gates; our frigates could take only about 3-4 volleys from gate guns.
That we were going to be fighting in faction warfare space, and described the mechanics of acceleration gates, including “sliding” and warp-to-fleetmate limitations.

This pre-flight debrief made such an impact on me that I decided I wanted to make it part of my standard FC procedure, testing it out on this fleet. Any time you fly an unfamiliar ship, it’s hard to understand its capabilities: how quickly it turns, how fast damage falls off and what that means to orbiting and keeping at range, and how much punishment it can take. I found it helpful for myself – I rarely fly armor ships in small gang – and I heard no complaints from anyone else, so I’ll definitely do it for future fleets.

Once we undocked, we started to make our way to Tama, taking in the sights along the way. We had a boosting Loki in fleet to make our scrams stretch that much further and our armor that much thicker. Very quickly, we scored a few frigate kills and a Vexor: a good start to the night.

Ten minutes later, one of my fleet got antsy and went off on his own two jumps away from us and died before we could come to rescue him. He took a shot at something and it didn’t work. He did it on his own initiative, so I don’t consider that a fleet loss.

My first FC test came when our fleet came across a remote-rep Dragoon fleet with a Sentinel kicker in Sujarento. Now, at the time, I didn’t realize it was a remote-rep fleet. However, three Dragoons and a Sentinel could potentially inflict a lot of damage to our dps boats, and burn through our logi before reps could land. It was by no means a certain fight. But, I had a plan. I’d primary the Sntinel to remove the ewar from the fight, then burn down the three Dragoons in turn.

When we landed, the fight went pretty much as expected. The Sentinel dropped almost immediately, but over the course of the next three minutes, we slowly whittled down the Dragoons. We lost one Comet initially, then the enemy fleet began to attack our logi, which held superbly throughout most of the fight.

Killing the first Dragoon was the most difficult, since the other two Dragoons were pumping surprise reps into him. He took 13k damage before he died. The second one tanked us for a bit longer, but the last Dragoon, without reps to help sustain him, died after taking a mere 5k damage.

It was an enjoyable fight, and a profitable one. We lost 50 million and killed 190 million, including some nice deadspace remote rep drops we took as loot. For me personally, I was pleased at my target calling and decision to take the fight against a T2 ewar and three destroyers, a fleet I could be forgiven for believing could punch through us before reps landed.

I also kept my poise and calm during the fight, calling out primaries and secondaries smoothly and reacting to the changing situation. I remembered to ask logi how we were holding, repeated commands for easy comprehension, and remembered to ask for the fleet to call out their points so no one escaped. The logi operated with skill, and everyone knew what to do. It went off very smoothly.

The night progressed, and we scored a number of other kills of opportunity. In Vlillirier, we came across an Omen Navy Issue and Hawk running a medium plex together, which we took down for the cost of a Slicer and Crusader. Again, that’s a trade I’ll take, losing two ships that tanked no more than 2.5k for a faction cruiser and dangerous Hawk.

Less than an hour after killing them the first time, we came across the same remote rep Dragoon fleet again, with similar results. This time, though, while they took out both of our logi, we took them down much easier, with similar target calling and results. RP/Sonum 2, Immediate Destruction 0. Regardless of the result, I have to give credit to them for not only taking on the larger (albeit cheaper ship) fleet not once, but twice. Kudos, guys.

We headed back home for the night, with me feeling pretty pleased. As we made our way to Nannaras, we ran into a larger fleet that I wisely decided not to engage; they were flying much bigger and more powerful ships, so I turned the fleet over to one of the more experienced FCs as we re-shipped to Gilas to chase after them. Unfortunately, by the time we returned, they were gone. Still… knowing when to fight and when to flee is, I’m told, an important skill.

As a whole, I was highly pleased with this, my first corp fleet of any size. I made good decisions about when to engage, we took down a number of good kills, and in any individual fight we lost no more than two ships while clearing the field. I’m proud of myself on how I functioned, on the whole.

I say, “on the whole” for a very good reason. As we were on our way back for the night, one fleet member noticed that he wasn’t getting links in the second squad. So, we dug a little deeper. The Loki was in Fleet command, with myself in wing command so I could wing warp everyone when tactically necessary. All the squads had commanders too. What was the problem?

I trained Command Ships long before the rebalance that made all of the leadership skills prerequisites, so I never really trained up many of those skills. Will the impending shift in command bursts, I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Except for the Wing Command skill, which I apparently never trained past level 1.

That’s right, boys and girls. While Eve is mostly about soft skills, experience, and decision-making, it is still a little bit about skillbook-skills. And mine didn’t include the ability to pass boosts to as many squads as we had. The whole fleet, we all thought we had links because I didn’t have Wing Command to at least 2.

At two points, we missed getting a point on targets by 2 km; with the links working correctly, we would have gotten them. It’s highly likely that in both of the engagements with the Dragoons, we would’ve probably only lost one ship in each, perhaps none if the difference in armor was enough to buy another second for reps to land.

I don’t fly with links when I roam on my own, and I’ve never been in wing command before, but you can bet I queued up Wing Command the moment I realized what happened. Lesson learned.

From a decision-making standpoint, though, I felt in-control and calm the whole time, and made the correct decisions about engagements. That’s a big win and a boost to my confidence.

It’s only a start, but it’s a good start, made possible by lots of good support around me. Our scouts were great, our logi were rock stars, and the other FCs backing me up did a great job of helping provide timely, relevant information, then letting me make the call. Thanks to all of them for the support.

10/10 would do it again.

1 comment:

  1. Nice writeup. I just had the opportunity to call targets in an impromptu fight. Didn't go well, but I loved it. Glad to see someone else dipping the toe in!