Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Tuskers v Czech Interstellar Incorporated

One of our pilots, Glasi Vookto, had been roaming the null sec space near our static, and reported a small gang of cruisers that seemed interested in a fight. Kiting them about, he tried to keep them interested while a few of us formed a quick fleet and made the five or so jumps we needed to reach the fight. Knowing that we had some light dps ships already on the way, I jumped into my Secret Santa Navy Osprey to provide some anti-tackle support.

By the time I got there, Glasi and the early reinforcements had been forced into the next system, and I landed on the gate in the middle of the enemy gang. Resisting the urge to spam 'jump', I allowed them to yellow-box me, and about half of them to trigger an aggression timer before jumping into the next system, where my corp-mates were waiting for me.

The enemy followed, of course, but with reduced numbers. There they were facing Glasi and Rin Shinwa (a corp applicant) in Navy Omens, me in my Navy Osprey, and a couple of interceptors. We quickly burned down a Condor and a Scythe, and their gang warped off rather than continue the fight at a tactical disadvantage.

They were local, though, and their retreat was temporary. Their pilots reshipped, and they came looking for us again. We jumped into the next system, Z-DDVJ, where the fight began in earnest.

In the interim, we had been joined by Hoodie Mafia in his Machariel. This gave us some much needed firepower, because we were completely without logistics support, and were now about half a dozen jumps from home. We were going to have to rely on kiting them out and burning down their tacklers before they could land scrams. We chose the 863P-X gate to start the fight, although maneuvering meant that we were fighting all over the grid.

Things started well. Hoodie took on the FC role, and his battleship essentially anchored the fleet. He gave us long range punch (and when I had nothing more urgent to do I would add some supporting firepower), while the three cruisers focused on crushing anything that got close enough to threaten us with a scram or web.

Looking at the battle report, I can see that we killed 13 assorted ships before our first non-interceptor loss at 18:44. They were an assortment of frigates (primarily the endless supply of Condors that they used as light tackle), cruisers, and battlecruisers. Many of these kills were the same pilots, immediately reshipping and rejoining the fight, only to be killed again. 

Eventually, one of these pilots, Montikk montys, decided to up-ship a little, and undocked his Nidhoggur.

When the carrier landed on grid, I assumed the fight was over. In fact, I had to cancel my 'warp' command when Hoodie started giving new instructions. We didn't have the firepower to take on the new arrival, and at about six jumps from Chaos, I didn't think we could get reinforcements here fast enough. But my caution is part of why I simply don't generate as much content as our more aggressive pilots. Where I saw and end to the fight, Hoodie saw an escalation. He sent out a ping. We stayed to fight.

Our orders were to keep the carrier on grid until reinforcements arrived. It sounds simple, but it dramatically changed the dynamic of the fight, as our movements were now constrained by the need to maintain a certain distance from the Nidhoggur. 

The Nidhoggur, via it's fighters (which, mercifully, were only T1), had the ability to project damage that the enemy had lacked up to this point. He could, almost at will, force any of the cruisers off the field. From the comms chatter I knew that Glasi and Rin had to bounce a few times to shake fighters, but he seemed to take an especial dislike to me, as I became his main focus.

This was a good move on his part for a couple of reasons. First, my RLML were probably the most effective anti-tackle weapon we had at the time, and if he actually wanted to kill someone, the Condor's needed to last long enough to keep one of us pointed. Second, I was passively tanked, so while Rin or Glasi could come back to grid with full armor, I couldn't rep the shield damage I was taking, and with a diminishing buffer it was progressively easier to force me off grid.

Of course, the cynic in me suspects that faced with three cruisers - two Navy Omen and a Navy Osprey - he simply decided to focus on the odd one out.

Regardless, I spent an inordinate amount of time jumping to and from a nearby safespot that was conveniently aligned to the sun (ie, I dropped a bookmark the first time I was forced to warp to the sun). While in warp I reloaded my RLML, but on one occasion I also had to leave grid simply to reload my weapons. The Navy Osprey (or at least, my fit) is simply a poor choice for a long, grinding fight.

With their (limited) ability to self repair, Glas and Rin seemed to focus on pinning down the carrier whenever our interceptors were forced off, while I kept warping back to Hoodie to work on blapping whatever it was that was trying to tackle him. To be honest, this part of the fight is pretty much a blur for me, as we'd gone from being broadly in control, to just trying to keep things together long enough for the rest of the corp to reach us.

Glasi was the first to go down. Rin survived him by about a minute. Our two remaining interceptors bought us roughly another 60 seconds each. I had been forced off grid again at 20% shields. Our Sabres, followed by the rest of the fleet, were just jumping into the system, so Hoodie decided to go for hero tackle on the Nidhoggur. The Condor's were all over him, though, and he needed them gone if he was ever to get clear.

I warped back to Hoodie at zero, pretty sure that I was going to die. I overheated my launchers, though, determined to take another Condor or two with me, and hopefully give Hoodie time to get out once the Sabres landed. But about five seconds before I loaded grid, the Machariel went down.

Too slow.

Landing in the middle of their gang, I tap the 'warp' button that will send me back to the Sun, but I don't expect much to come of it, as I'm surrounded by their fast tackle. My overview lights up like some demented Christmas tree as they all yellow-box me, and the first red ewar icon pops up over my HUD.

Is that... a web?

Sheer dumb luck saved me. Someone activated a web before their point, and that instantly launched me into warp.

Bouncing back to my make-shift safe, I learned from comms that the rest of the fleet had arrived too late, and the Nidhoggur had warped out. We had been just a little too far from home. There was some clean-up action, but the prize had escaped.


Comms was very quiet on the way back. The Tuskers are not given to deflecting blame, and I'm sure that many of us were wondering what we could have done better; to arrive a little faster, or draw the fight out a little longer. I know I was.

Of the original gang that had set out, I was the only one to survive. Weirdly, I felt bad about that. Like perhaps it meant I hadn't fought my ship hard enough or something. Eve does crazy things to your head, sometimes.

Looking at my performance, I'm certain that I made any number of piloting errors, although fortunately without consequence. This would have been especially true of the second part of the fight when I was definitely feeling the pressure, caught between needing to keep my ship alive and needing to provide anti-tackle support for the rest of the gang. The only way to improve this aspect of my flying is practice, though, so I shall try to take advantage of the opportunities being back in Chaos provides.

On the other hand there were moments when I responded correctly where I wouldn't have six months ago. Splitting the gang on the gate during the initial engagement. Judging when to get my ship off grid to avoid being exploded by fighters. When to align and when to maneuver. Evading enemy tackle. None of this amounts to inspired flying, but it's a step in the right direction.

Finally, I need to offer a sincere 'gf' to Czech Interstellar Incorporated. Those guys fought hard, and ground through a succession of ship losses to eventually earn the prize. Well fought.

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