(This article is a transcription of an original article written by Abis Cann of Hard Knocks Inc.)
What follows is an account of the events surrounding the failed eviction of Hard Knocks, Inc. from J115405 over the weekend of November 30 â€“ December 2, 2012. Told from the perspective of a director in Hard Knocks, this account attempts to provide as much detail about planning, thought processes, actions, hopes, and concerns as possible without giving away some of the more sensitive aspects of our war machine. In many ways, the events leading up to the final battle are more interesting than the fight itself, and this story really does deserve to be told.
Although most of this account focuses on higher-level events and discussions, it should be said that our rank-and-file members and those of our friends demonstrated an equal, if not greater, level of discipline and poise. These fine souls spent countless man-hours scouting, rolling holes, providing intelligence reports, and staying online as much as humanly possible during the long hours of crushing uncertainty and boredom. There were precious few mistakes and I have no doubt that a lesser group of pilots would not have been able to accomplish nearly as much under the circumstances.
So without further ado, here is our story.
They Are Coming
Here in Hard Knocks, we know a thing or two about wormhole evictions and how they go down. Weâ€™ve completed a handful of our own over the last year, and our reasons ranged from â€˜Weâ€™re bored and their towers are undefended,â€™ to â€˜Getting revenge on an individual with whom we have a sordid history.â€™ Needless to say given this experience, when one of our scouts reported on Thursday, November 29, that he had seen 20-30 No Holes Barred (NOHO) pilots jump in through our nullsec exit with a heavy armor, capital-killing fleet comp and starburst off the hole, and that our other null exit had mysteriously collapsed, it raised a few eyebrows.
At first, we werenâ€™t entirely sure that this was an eviction. We had no meaningful history with NOHO and honestly couldnâ€™t think of a reason they would want to kick us out of our home. In fact, we have had positive interactions with Team Pizza, a NOHO member corporation, on a few occasions. We didnâ€™t rule out the possibility of an eviction because what we had seen was a very strong clue that this was the case, but we also considered the idea that maybe they were looking to gank us running sites or something sneaky like that. At least in my mind, this latter possibility was given more weight. Even still, we chose to take the threat of eviction seriously and treat it as a practice run. We had always known that someday there would be an attempt on our home, and we wanted to be ready when it came. When you live in lawless space, it's always a matter of when, not if.
That Thursday night our members and middle management began to remove valuable items and ships that would not be useful for defense and bring in supplies that would. Scouts were maintained on our exits in shifts. All the while, leadership was sending out diplomatic notices, assessing and reassessing our potential fleet strength and planning, planning, planning. We went to bed that night wary of what the next day would bring but feeling confident that we were in a decent position to defend ourselves. The next morning I woke up a little early because there was a bit more stuff to haul out of harm's way, and as I was making my way back to our exit in k-space, I saw local in the hisec system start spiking with NOHO and W-Space pilots. It could only mean one thing: this weekend we would be fighting for our right to live in J115405.
As NOHO and W-Space were already establishing control over our static exit, I left my cloaky hauler in a station and went to buy a bare-bones cov ops to get back in, successfully maneuvering through an approximately 30-man fleet consisting of T3s, Guardian support, a Bhaalgorn or two, plus a HIC who was bubbled up on our side of the static exit. I immediately warped to my tower and started turning off unnecessary mods so that I could turn on shield hardeners but, unfortunately, hardeners take 2 minutes to online and I was already going to be late to work. These preparations would have to wait for later, if at all.
How To Make Friends and Evict People
Iâ€™ll break here to explain some concepts for the vast majority of EVE players who donâ€™t know how a wormhole eviction works. Wormhole space is one of the least-understood areas of EVE, and a relatively small percentage of New Eden's population lives in the approximately 2,500 wormhole systems. Even for these wormhole residents, most of them have never been on the giving or receiving end of an eviction; there are maybe a couple thousand people in the entire world who have actually experienced one for themselves. So, in the interest of making this account accessible, I will relate some basics for you. If youâ€™re already familiar, feel free to skip this part.
The mechanics of wormhole space are such that each system always has a wormhole leading out, referred to as the systemâ€™s 'static' exit. The exit is not static in the sense that it always exists in the same place and leads to the same system, but rather in the sense that a static wormhole will always exist in system and this hole will always lead to the same class of system (but not the same system each time). Class 1 to class 3 wormholes will always have a static exit to k-space (hisec, losec, and null), whereas C4 to C6 wormholes will always have a static exit to w-space.
For example, Hard Knocks lives in a C5-C5. What this means is J115405 is a class 5 system and we always have a static exit to another class 5 system. When we purposefully collapse our static exit by shoving too much mass through it ('rolling the hole'), or on the rare occasions when it collapses on its own, a new wormhole will open up in our system about 30 seconds later. When we scan this new wormhole down and head through it, lo and behold, it will always be a random C5 system. This process can be repeated over and over again if weâ€™re looking for something specific or simply left open while we scan out the static system, gaining access to other systems through wormholes in there, eventually scouting out a full â€˜chainâ€™ of wormhole systems in which we can roam around by warping to the corp bookmarks our scanners create. That is, until the connections collapse and we have to scan out more.
Wormhole mass limits mean that, in a C5 anyway, you can put through at most three dreads before the hole collapses. Basically, for any ships smaller than a battleship you can run dozens and dozens through and back but once you have ships that are BS-size or larger, you have to start calculating how much mass has gone through and act accordingly. This mechanic has major implications for evictions because you need dreads in system to kill the towers (or spend weeks reinforcing them allâ€¦) but getting them in is slow and painstaking, particularly if you need to remain unseen. Carriers, Orcas, and your subcap fleet will also need to come in beforehand and all of this can easily take weeks if the eviction is sufficiently large-scale (by their own account, this phase took NOHO and W-Space three to four weeks). Until the invasion officially commences, all of these pilots need to stay logged off once theyâ€™re in system so as not to appear on d-scan or get probed out and killed, with the obvious exception of cloaky scouts.
When evicting a group of wormhole-dwellers, the key is to maintain control of the exits to prevent 1) their friends from coming to help, and 2) to keep the targets themselves from getting their shinies out of system. This is called having system control and, without it, the residents are free to come and go as they please. Effective system control is a matter of putting bubbles on the static exit, rapecaging their towers, quickly collapsing any random wormholes that open up into the system, maintaining a fleet that is capable of killing ships that attempt to break out, and having cloaky scouts keep a close eye on enemy movement. Cov ops scouts are easy for the residents to get out regardless of how much force you can field but you can simply collapse the hole through which they left, trapping their scout out of system and preventing him or her from rejoining the fight unless the targets regain control of the system.
In essence, the goal is to keep your targets isolated and pinned down over the course of almost two days until their towers come out of reinforced mode, and you can finish them off. It is an endurance event and the invaders need to take naps in shifts in order to keep enough pilots relatively alert and ready to go at all times. For this reason, evictions almost always occur over a weekend, when people can be in game all day and night.
Youâ€™re Doing It Wrong
So, as I said, I had to go to work. This reality did not mean that I wasnâ€™t still technically playing EVE, though. I just had to meta that shit and keep in contact with people via text messages and corporate forums. If we were going to have a fighting chance against what was now 7 dreads, 2-3 carriers and about 50-60 subcaps reinforcing our towers, we had to move as fast as we could to organize. Our diplomat was plying his trade all day, our FC was making battle plans and receiving estimates on numbers, our intelligence specialist was gleaning valuable information, and our EU contingent was feeding us near-constant scouting reports. Pulling out all the stops, we worked every angle to prepare for the evening, when our numbers would surge in the US timezone.
As the day wore on, the EU players started manning POS guns, turning on as many shield hardeners as they could, and doing their best to slow down the pace of the dreads. The invaders worked for 9-10 hours at reinforcing towers with only a few short breaks to go to the bathroom, eat, stretch their legs and whatnot before coming back to stare at a forcefield for a few more hours. Yawn.
Around 8:00 or 9:00PM EST, our friends in Aquila Inc had started to come alive and began rolling holes to try and connect to us. To the bewilderment of all, they did so on their first try. Since the chances of this happening are only 0.195% (that's point one nine five percent), and many of their members were busy in hisec with the New Eden Open tournament, they were somewhat unprepared. As a result, before more than 7 or so had come into the system and logged, one of the enemy dreads had warped to the hole and jumped through and back, thereby making the hole critical (less than 10% mass remaining). This meant that Aquila could only get either one capital or maybe a small collection of subcaps in. As fate would have it, the hole was actually much closer to collapsing than we would have expected, and a single enemy Legion was able to jump through and back before it collapsed behind him. There is an element of random variation in mass limits and it worked against us this time. Lady Luck is a fickle bitch.
Concerning POS defense, the goal at this stage was not to stop them from reinforcing all the towers (although they did give up once only 4 or 5 remained), but to thoroughly wear them out so that when the wee hours of their morning rolled around, they would have as few people awake in our timezone as possible. One tower in particular took them twenty minutes to reinforce because it was loaded with hardeners. It might not seem like a lot, but this is a thoroughly disheartening amount of time to take when you know you have loads more to reinforce. This turned out to be a winning strategy because by the time the clock showed 10:00PM EST, we outnumbered the invaders by a decent margin. It was time to play our hand.
Our FC called for dreads, Guardians, and assorted subcaps to form up in one of our towers. They had rapecaged our main POS but all of the other towers could be warped to. We had some capitals stuck in the main POS, though, so our first move was to take down the bubbles around it and get the ships out to bolster our fleet size. This went off without incident and we then proceeded to gain system control. The existing static was already critical and we collapsed it in order to scan out the new static in search of a k-space exit. Once the new signature popped up, we had our scanner head over to give us a warp-in and he immediately saw that they were trying to crit it with a Moros. Our scout hero-tackled the Moros as he jumped back into system and our entire fleet of 8 dreads and 20-30 subcaps warped on top of him. Pop! One Moros down, six to go. Unfortunately, he went down so quickly that we didnâ€™t get the chance to bubble up and he got his pod out, only to warp back to their staging POS and get into another Moros (the invaders had the good sense to leave dreads out for anyone to use).
After this incident, we yet again collapsed the critical static and moved over to the new one, hanging out only as long as we needed to put bubbles up and assign cloaky T3s to guard it. There was no dread attempt this time. Scouts were sent out and they began to search for a suitable k-space exit down the chain.
With the system ours for the time being and the scouts scanning away, it was high time we showed them that Hard Knocks can reinforce towers, too, and so the call was made to warp the main fleet over. Bubbles were anchored at the ordinal points and the invaders were forced to throw what they could into Orcas before the CHAs locked down in reinforced mode. Right about now is when they started getting a bit jumpy and some of them decided it might be a good idea to try and get out of the bubbled towers instead of sitting tight. It was not. I guess that's what happens when your intel says we have 7 dreads total and you find yourself staring at 10 online all at the same time, slugging away at your makeshift fortress. #allowmetoreintroducemyself
The next 9 hours or so we maintained system control and found our way to a chain connecting to some of Verge of Collapseâ€™s member corps (Aquilaâ€™s alliance mates). Unfortunately, this being their downtime, VoC was fast asleep and we had no luck waiting for them to log on. Once W-Space started to wake up in the Russian timezone, we went back on the defensive as they regained the system around 8:30AM EST on Saturday. We had gotten pretty much jack and shit, the Aquila guys and a wayward dread kill notwithstanding.
We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
Most of the day was spent keeping morale high and receiving regular reports of enemy fleet strength and movement. Despite our suspicion of spies among us, we decided to make it known to our members that VoC, Sleeper Social Club and, eventually, Kill It With Fire were all rolling their statics in the hope of opening up into us. Just one of them getting lucky and rolling in would have been a major coup as any one of those groups could easily have added about 30 to our subcaps, which was the area where we were desperately lacking. With all three of them rolling independently and opening a new hole every 5 minutes, we had a 9.36% chance of success every hour. This was a lot more complex in practice, since KILL and SSC joined in rolling a bit later than VoC and, later on, KILL opened up into VoC and sat in their system. Over the 8 hours until towers started coming out of reinforced, we would have somewhere around a 35% chance of bolstering our numbers. Not great, but certainly enough to keep hope alive.
Our invaders had obviously realized that this eviction was not going well so far and that they would need more in the way of subcaps and particularly capitals. Still, at this point they had no way of knowing that we had almost double the ten dreads seen on the first night and, had they known this, I imagine that they would have called in much more than they did. Iâ€™d love to say that we kept the rest of the dreads hidden on purpose but the truth is that we simply didnâ€™t have any more dread pilots online at the time. As it was, they had learned Aquila was in system and batphoned AHARM, who sent about 7-10 pilots to their aid (a token force if there ever was one). In addition, they brought even more dreads in through nullsec exits, and a swarm of additional pilots from W-Space and NOHO arrived as well, bringing their total fleet size to about 100 with 10 dreads, 4 carriers, 11 Bhaalgorns and 9-12 Guardians. In case you haven't realized, this kind of fleet is unheard-of in w-space and the most you'd normally see is about 40 on rare occasions. We were kind of flattered, really.
While they kept the static open to manage logistics, we would have a cov ops scout quickly jump in and out of the static to check the J-number. This information effectively doubled our spacebros' chances of rolling into the fight (they now had a 0.390% chance per roll), but the invaders soon got wise to our shenanigans and started keeping a dread in static, ready to jump back at a moment's notice and trap the scout out of system. Naturally, we didn't take the bait. However, keeping the hole reduced meant that they couldn't get Orcas in without trapping the Moros out and were consigned to using haulers for logi work. A small victory, but it was something.
Hard Knocks, Hard Choices
The problem now was that it was getting late and our spacebros had had no luck as yet despite the reasonable probability of success. They were losing people to boredom and sleep, and we were getting pessimistic that when they did roll into us, they wouldn't have enough pilots to make a difference. We were prepared to let the first wave of towers get destroyed (there was a three-hour gap between the 5th and 6th POS timer, probably between time zones on the first day), but by the time those towers were gone we were doubtful that there would be reinforcements left to come to our aid. As the hours and hours of waiting slogged by, we in system occupied ourselves by removing ships from the towers that were due to come out first into towers that hadn't been reinforced. We needed to keep as many assets intact for as long as possible to buy more time.
Our worries continued to grow as the first tower came out of reinforced and was taken down in minutes. We had hoped that their numbers would start to wane by now but they had seemingly learned from their previous mistakes and I'm certain they had taken naps during the long hours of tense boredom. Either that or they were all on a caffeine drip or something, who knows? In any event, our friendlies were reporting that their fleet sizes had dwindled alarmingly, and they were at about half their former strength. It was not looking good and the decision was made to make a play for system control and force the issue. We formed up in a tower with all that we had: 18 dreadnoughts, 5 triage carriers, 7 Lokis, assorted T3s, some HICS, and other subcaps, for a total of about 52 pilots. As the next tower came out of reinforced, we began to align for their dreads.
Now, contrary to what some have written in the various and sundry battle reports I've read, we did not exactly have a huge advantage with our 18 dreads. I don't doubt that's what the invaders thought, and sure, that's a massive amount of firepower and EHP, but it's completely useless if you can't apply it. Triage carriers could have helped against the neuts from their eleven Bhaalgorns, but there was little we could do about jams from their Tengus, and either one would have made the Lokis so much useless ISK in space. Without Lokis, our dreads could not hit their Bhaalgorns. With their Bhaalgorns alive, they could neut out our dreads and carriers, removing the majority of our DPS and all of our reps from the field. Capitals without proper support are dead capitals, an adage that applies equally well in null and w-space.
So when we were aligning, we knew that this fight would depend on whether or not the enemy would know what was good for them and shut us down before we could knock the Bhaals out of the fight. Allowing your enemy that much control over your fate is something that no good FC wants to do, especially when the stakes are that high, but we were out of options and quickly running out of time. We cast our doubts aside and prepared to make our stand. May Bob protect us in our hour of need. Amen.
Suddenly HICs! Thousands of them! Well, actually 3 but, you know, same thing. They warped in on different sides of the forcefield and immediately bubbled up, attempting to trap us in what was a rather...ill-conceived plan. Thing is, the bubbles may have been blocking a clear shot at our warps, but our dreads weren't inside the bubbles and you don't need a clear shot to warp off. As long as you're not within the bubble, you can still warp through it. For some reason, our own people took this 'threat' seriously, and we wasted precious time trying to find a clear path to warp so that we wouldn't be 'caught' by the bubbles. Basic game mechanics aside, large anchorable bubbles were also going up in less than 8 minutes so we all warped to a new tower. In the meantime, their capital fleet had abandoned their target and retreated to a staging tower, where they were currently idling. We sat tight for the time being to wait for their fleet to come back out.
It was while we were waiting, poised to engage in what could have easily been our last official operation in J115405, when we got the most beautiful news I've ever heard over comms. â€œGuys, Sleeper Social Club just rolled into you.â€
Building The Bhaal Grinderâ„¢
A cheer went up but the FC was quick to shut it down and we scrambled to get their scout in fleet for a warp-in. â€œW's in fleet! All ships go! Go, go, go!!â€ We got into warp one and two at a time, but there was nobody there to greet us aside from a lone purple scout. Bubbles went up and the SSC fleet formed up on the other side. A lone enemy scout jumped through and promptly ALT+Q'd himself out of existence before retiring to the bedroom for a fresh pair of shorts.
Twenty-seven SSC pilots later, the hole collapsed behind their Archon. We were up to twenty dreads and the seven additional Lokis ensured the success of our Bhaal Grinderâ„¢, a patented SSC fleet comp we had learned about the hard way not more than a week previous. Riding high on our good fortune, we took the show on the road and moved over to the current static hole to start scanning for an exit near the VoC and KILL chain, intent on turning this fight into a massacre.
With a stunning amount of foresight and skill, scouts on the VoC and KILL side blitzed through their chain and, I'm told, scanned out the wormholes in about 30 systems over 15 minutes, with exits leading all over k-space. Clearly, they knew exactly what kind of a fight this was going to be, and they weren't going to miss it for silly reasons like blisters on their fingers.
â€œTwelve jumps to us.â€
â€œAlright, let's do it. VoC and KILL, up a channel.â€
And with that, forty-two bloodthirsty hounds were released into nullsec. When they got about eight jumps out, our FC called for a 5-minute break in preparation for the impending showdown. It turned out to be a 2-minute break, and when our scouts reported the enemy fleet coming alive and aligning in our direction, we took a quick headcount to be sure that enough of us were still at our screens to be effective. We were. With five jumps out for our reinforcements, scouts reported a warp-off from the enemy tower. We waited anxiously for our overviews to explode, but the enemy fleet turned up at planet VIII and began aligning once more. Two jumps out for VoC and KILL. Their fleet came in at 300km and loaded grid before aligning toward the hole. Both groups stared each other down across the empty spaces between us and seconds turned into minutes.
Arriving in the static, our reinforcements held on the other side of the hole and waited for the order to jump in. We had decided to keep them there until the battle was joined, with the idea that a smaller apparent fleet size would encourage them to engage instead of dragging this out for a week, if not longer. What we didnâ€™t know, however, was that, when our reinforcements arrived and jumped back down into the main comms channel, the server couldnâ€™t handle the number of people and automatically muted us. All of us. Many of our pilots suspected that we were being hijacked by a spy, and a minute of panicked confusion ensued before we realized that the issue was with the server. The fleet was broken up into two channels, with capitals and Hard Knocks subcaps in one channel and all other pilots in the other channel.
It was only about thirty seconds later when seven dreads, four carriers, eight Bhaalgorns, over sixty T3 ships and about nine Guardians warped in to the edge of our bubble amid the sound of wormhole activations from the VoC and KILL fleet coming in.
According to plan, Bhaalgorns were the first to go down. Lokis webbed them to a crawl and threw target painters up while the dreads went to work on their near-stationary targets. It took us only two minutes to bring down all eight Bhaals and from there on it was a matter of bringing down dreads and then carriers. We expected to lose a couple of dreads and maybe a carrier to the DPS from their 7 dreads, but we only lost 1 Naglfar (o7o7o7 Tower of Win), and our own carriers were able to rep a Moros out of structure when he coasted out of siege. Once the dreads and carriers were down, the fight was essentially over and we focused on blapping subcaps. After a few minutes without proper reps, they realized it was futile and started trying to either jump out into static or burn out of range. No sense in throwing good money after bad and all that. The day was won, and our blood pressure dropped by an order of magnitude.
Looking back, the hostile fleet was probably going to engage regardless of what we had on field ,since nobody wants to spend a week in the same system, batphoning more friends, repping and sieging towers over and over with long, long waits in between. It could have been a lot worse for both sides but props to the invaders for bringing an epic fight, suicide or not, and going on their way amicably. After the fight, we granted a cease-fire, bought a few capitals at a discounted rate so they wouldnâ€™t have to get them home, scanned down exits, and provided warp-ins so they could leave.
It will probably be a long, long time until this kind of event is repeated. The final showdown was certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest, battle that w-space has ever seen, and it all started because of some browser-translated smacktalk from one of our more dickish members. It just goes to show how easily bruised egos can enter into politics and blow small incidents out of all proportion.
On an amusing note, early on in the weekend we had learned that NOHO was calling our system â€œRAGEâ€. As we were mopping up and doing the slow work of repping the forcefields on the 31 remaining towers with our spacebros in VoC and SSC, we decided that this name would stick. We had earned it, and the moniker will serve as a constant reminder to those who were there for the 40-hour crucible: we do not run and we do not hide. When the fight is brought, we fight, and we fight hard. Itâ€™s the only option in our minds. Anything less and we wouldnâ€™t still be here today.
Itâ€™s been said many, many times by now, but it deserves to be said many more: we will always and eternally be grateful to our friends who came to our aid in a time of great need. Verge of Collapse, Sleeper Social Club and Kill It With Fire are some of the best PvP pilots this game has to offer, and we couldnâ€™t have asked for a more dedicated and skilled group of guys and girls to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with. They provided strategic and tactical advice, moral support, intelligence, diplomatic aid, and, eventually, the manpower we needed to overcome long odds. As I said over comms directly after the fight, â€œThank you, thank you, thank you.â€ Our standings have already been reset, and weâ€™ll no doubt appear on each otherâ€™s killboards in the near future, but when push comes to shove, we know whoâ€™s in our corner. We owe you a lot of good fights in the months to come, and we intend to make good on our debt.
To NOHO and AHARM, we want you to know that we harbor no hard feelings. You were doing your best to help out your friends, misguided though they were, and we can respect that. At the same time, we hope that in the future you will honor the unwritten code between wormhole PvP groups to keep evictions out-of-bounds, politically. Those who don't contribute to the culture of gudfites are fair game but it serves all of our interests to keep the real contenders in the ring. Youâ€™ve hinted in some of your posts that this will be the case and we look forward to a more positive relationship going forward. Maybe we can even join up from time to time to kill some null bears.
To our Baby Bird, we still love you. If you ever decide to come back, we'll make sure you're wrapped in the warmth of 100 wings.
To NorCorp specifically, as to the tower naming incident, we did not change the towerâ€™s name mid-weekend. It had been named that way for months (as Logistics Director I can personally vouch for this fact) and was never meant to be a cutting insult specifically for you. Even still, it was over the top and we have changed the name out of respect, the ownerâ€™s protests notwithstanding. Sorry about that.
To W-Space, all I can say is that you guys really need to get a sense of perspective. According to reports after the fact, people tried to talk you down from this eviction attempt, but you simply wouldnâ€™t listen, painting a much more terrible picture of us than was truly warranted. You spent weeks and weeks plotting our downfall and, much like an episode of When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong, look what it brought you. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail next time. The only reason we smacktalked in the first place was to get a fight when it was obvious that all you wanted to do was POS up, and in a strange way, smacktalking seems to have been successful.