A strange thing happened to my killboard on my way into the end of the year. After all the rush of the holiday preparations I hadn't gotten into nearly as many fights as I had hoped. But after Christmas I got some time to log on and found that a battle was raging for Faction control of the system of Oto. The next couple days highlight a lot of what I see as the FW experience for a line pilot. As a spoiler, check out this YouTube video.
Solo Fiddling, Farming, and Podding
When things are quiet FW pilots go off and do a lot of things. I keep meaning to do more hacking-type skills for exploration sites in low or in wormholes. I haven't tried FW missions yet and I don't do PI, though both of those things that I hear good things about in terms of ISK/LP generation. FW missioning is tough for Gallente because the preferred method (running Lvl4s in stealth bombers) doesn't work due to the Caldari NPC combination of missiles and ECM. I do have to wonder if that actually has contributed to Gallente war success though - other faction such as the Caldari can get swarms of farmers who won't contribute to the war effort below stabbed plex-running and FW missions. Yeah null-sec Caldari guys, I'm looking at you.
I've toyed with solo plexing, though I think the biggest risk there isn't so much the local Caldari as the local pirates. We have three major "pirate" groups in our stretch of lowsec that would be glad to pick up some quick kills. One of them (YUHU - a branch of Overload Everything) has settled into the same station in Fliet as Aideron Robotics and likes to camp the undock and local gates. We're all familiar with seeing their neutral T3 booster hanging around on gates, supplying links and ready to jump the gate if threatened. Mark that one as another vote for seeing boosts forced on-grid.
A 1:1 with a local pirate can quickly turn into a blob, but honestly that's not really different than when I was in Rifterlings or what we see in general baiting around. One thing that does seem to be different is how quickly people will go for pods, and how sebo'd ships are a more central part of the fleet comps that make that possible. As a group that enjoying camping, it isn't too surprising that having an instalock ship is a fixture in YUHU fleets for instance. Since Jakob is my main, I tend to always have at least two learning implants in, which is certainly more painful to lose than the empty clones that I see that are presumably more the hallmark of an alt character. Nullsec readers won't be particularly sympathetic to this, I'm sure.
These small/solo fiddling around is very similar to what I did with Rifterlings. You get some good fights, they can be quite intense, but you can also have long quiet periods unless you're really willing to roam long-distance and hope you can run any camps you stumble into. So in that sense I'd argue that FW in lowsec can offer all of the opportunities for small-scale PVP than you'd see as an unaffiliated lowsec (i.e. "pirate") or nullsec roaming group. If I don't see a fleet up in Aideron and I don't feel like roaming solo then I've recently been hopping on the comms of Rapid Withdrawal (RDRAW - also Gallente FW) and joining their fleets. And that's how I got particularly more involved in the fight for Oto.
There had been a couple stabs at Oto over the past month, mostly half-hearted things to bring fights as best I could tell. I'd get on a fleet some night and we'd drive down the plexes in between leaping out to chase things our scouts found. Sitting in any complex below Large is a relatively safe way for your fleet to hang out, and one that doubles for LP generation and system control. If some pirate group roams through in HACs or somesuch you can just watch them go past, but people of your ship class or down can come and jump on you if they're interested.
That changed a few days ago - apparently because of a rash bet made between two of the FW corp leaders in the area. Dom Pender made a bet that Oto could be flipped in four days, and RDRAW was bent towards this mission. No longer could the Caldari casually undo the plexing damage done. Fleets would range from kitchensink Dessy-down to Armor Cruisers and then last night: Battlysts.
The Battlyst is a very simple, cheap ship and there's no real secret to it. Aideron's kill (and loss) boards have been full of it for quite a while. Hull tanked, railgun Catalyst with an MWD and a Sebo. For close range work you load Faction Antimatter and a Scan-Res script. For long range work you load the range script and Faction Iron. You get a pile of those together and you have an alpha that lands every second that pops frigate hulls in two volleys. Here's a video from last night - you'll see that the enemy ships are dying pretty much as fast as the FC can call them. In fact, Dom practically gives up calling them verbally and just broadcasts them as fast as he can. Frigates, Destroyers, Assault Frigates, even a Stratios and a Confessor go down quickly. As the targets scatter we burn after them, our tackle ships (ranging from Atrons to Keres) keeping them on the field, and the range of the railguns meaning they can't easily range-mitigate the damage. Contrast this to the classic gank-Catalyst, whose blasters require it to be sitting on the target for maximum effect and thus doesn't work as well for fleet action. It's also an interesting contrast to the other Aideron doctrines which focus on drones, which means there is a delay as the drones travel from target to target.
Basing out of Oto over the past few days we chased after a group of Omen Navy Issues (twice that I've been around for) who kept running from us, killed a Rattlesnake, broke multiple Caldari FW fleets, and at tangled with a pretty heavy YUHU fleet (I didn't see the end of that one after getting podded). Oto became one of the hottest systems in the Gallente FW effort. RDRAW is the top corporation for kills in Gallente FW this month. My personal killboard for December basically doubled in the past two days (which I know isn't saying too much compared to many folks). More importantly I was in a lot of exciting fights in a range of ships from frigate to cruiser and from solo to 5-6 ships to 30+ ships.
Lessons Learned (or to be Learned)
- FRAPS. We're on a big kick to record everything in Aideron to learn from the fights. I've been fiddling with my FRAPS lately - I seem to keep getting my hotkey to start recording either superceded by Eve's hotkeys or not working. I think this will be particularly big for making sure I'm keeping at the right ranges for the targets and when I should or should not be running my prop mod.
- Implants. Given the nature of fleet fights, I'm debating the value of implants. Having 3% more armor or 3% more damage may well help the overall fleet effort, but the 3% better agility perhaps is only useful when in more solo/small-gang situations. I have to weigh that against the costs when getting podded.
- Pods. I've lost a lot more pods after joining FW. That may just be a natural match with being in more fights and larger ones. Experienced pilots repeat that you shouldn't lose your pod in lowsec (barring lag and such). I think an entire blog on "how to lose your pod" may be needed from the little bits I've learned over time. Ex: You incur a session timer when your ship is destroyed that keeps you from taking a gate, which explains how I lost a pod while spamming jump on the gate I was crashing under fire from a YUHU camp.
This morning Oto fell to the Gallente. Next!