EVE Online's Fountain War - First shots fired

The War so far: In early June 2013, the Clusterfuck Coalition(CFC) announced its plans to capture Fountain, on New Eden’s western edge. The CFC needs to control Fountain in order to exploit the region’s natural resources. Fountain’s inhabitants, the reddit-based TEST Alliance, Please Ignore--with considerable backing from N3 and Pandemic Legion--has promised to make CFC attackers “bleed every step of the way.” War was officially declared on June 6, and CFC forces began pushing into Fountain. For the full story, check out part one of GamesRadar's series on The Fountain War.

Early Fleet Doctrines

In large-scale warfare of this type, the combatants rely upon specific tactical doctrines. The doctrines give each commander a solid grasp of what the capability of his fleet is--long-range artillery ships must be handled differently than heavily armored brawlers. Commanders are able to ensure that their pilots follow doctrine by invoking a clause in each alliance’s Ship Replacement Policy: if a pilot's ship does not match the specifications laid out in his or her chosen doctrine and that pilot’s ship is destroyed, that pilot will not be reimbursed and the ship will not be replaced.

Ships in EVE-Online are generally divided into classes based on size. In order from smallest to largest are: frigate, destroyer, cruiser, battlecruiser, battleship, Carrier/Dreadnought, supercarrier, titan. Carriers, dreadnoughts, supercarriers, and titans are collectively referred to as “capital ships.” All others are “sub-capital.”

At the outset of the war, the CFC focused on three standard fleet doctrines:

  • Tengufleet--Cruiser-class Tengu hull. Relies on high speed for protection.
  • Techfleet--Battleship-class Tempest Navy Issue hull. Long range, powerful weapons, slow reload. Very expensive.
  • Caracal--Cruiser-class Caracal. Fast missile cruiser. Relatively noob friendly.
  • Fuckyoufleet: Cruiser-class Celestis hull. Noob-friendly electronic warfare platform, used to hinder enemy target designation.

Each of the Allies relied on different doctrines, but the main fleet compositions are:

  • Dominix--Battleship-class Dominix hull. Simple to use, heavily tanked. Relies on remote drones for damage output.
  • AHAC--Cruiser-class Loki and Legion hulls. Similar to Tengufleet, relying upon speed to avoid taking damage.
  • Rokh--Battleship-class Rokh hull. Versatile, jack of all trades fleet.
  • Blackbird--Cruiser-class Blackbird hull. Noob-friendly electronic warfare fleet.

In addition to the standard ships each doctrine focuses on, about a third of the members of a fleet fly logistics. Their functions vary from fleet to fleet, but they generally involve repairing armor, replenishing capacitor energy (essentially EVE’s version of mana) and “tackling” enemy ships to ensure they can’t warp out of danger.

In addition to the fleets listed above, both sides relied on heavy use of bomber fleets. Bombers are fast, cloaked frigate-classed vessels mounting smartbombs--one of the few area-of-effect weapons in EVE Online. A well-organized bombing run can inflict catastrophic damage on a tightly packed battleship fleet.

As the war progressed, each of the doctrines above would be reassessed to determine if their performance warranted their continued use. However, the first great victory of the war came not from force of arms, but from one player’s desire for vengeance.

A Dish Best Served Cold

On June 9, 2013, TEST abruptly lost control of five systems deep within Fountain.. TEST leadership quickly realized that these systems had been owned by Sort Dragon, former head of the Honey Badger Coalition. Under a special arrangement, Sort Dragon had been allowed to maintain control of these systems when TEST left the coalition. Apparently bearing TEST ill will over the HBC’s demise, Sort Dragon abandoned control of 4-EP12, PXF-RF, R-BGSU, XUW-3X, and ZUE-NS--but not before alerting the The Mittani of his plan.

The CFC was ready to take advantage. Within hours GoonSwarm logisticians had secured four of the five systems, capturing the final station two days later. Though isolated, these five systems would draw Allied resources, block Allied lines of supply, and complicate Allied logistics as the first waves of the CFC invasion arrived in Fountain.

The Battle of J5A-IX

The first major battle in the Fountain War began three days after the conflict was announced. Three CFC fleets attacked TEST infrastructure in J5A-IX in an attempt to capture the system. As the single connecting point between Fountain and CFC home territory, capturing J5A-IX was an essential step in any planned invasion. If Allied forces could hold the J5A-IX choke-point, they could deny the CFC a beachhead in Fountain.

When Allied forces responded to the CFC attack on J5A-IX, the CFC quickly found itself outgunned by the combined fire of TEST, PL, and N3 forces. Eventually the Allies chased CFC forces out of J5A-IX, and attempted to capture the CFC staging system of B-DBYQ. However, Allied forces quickly found themselves overwhelmed with the prospect of attacking the CFC's central supply depot--every CFC ship destroyed could be replaced in seconds while Allied supply lines were stretched thin. After taking heavy losses, the Allied fleet retired to J5A-IX.

The battle continued for five more days before the CFC forces managed to finally secure ownership of J5A-IX. Even at this early stage in the war, it was clear that time zones would play an important role. While American CFC pilots could gain ground, they could not hold it against Allied counterattacks once the Americans went to sleep and N3’s powerful Australian bloc logged on. This pattern repeated itself for nearly 3 weeks as CFC advances in Fountain ground to a halt. The Fountain War was locked in stalemate.

Next Time: The Mittani tries to break the deadlock with diplomacy, propaganda, and even (interstellar) subterfuge.

The story continues in EVE Online's Fountain War - Breaking the deadlock!

EVE Online's massive Fountain War is one of the largest player-versus-player conflicts in gaming's history. In this six-part series we explain the conflict in full, detailing the amazing battles that made up the war with information from the players who participated.