Helms Deep, no Gandalf: Interviews on the Capture of the Gal/Cal Warzone

After much delay, we are happy to present two front line perspectives on the Gallente/Caldari warzone flip that occurred some months ago. Our first interview is with Holliava, organizer of Black Fox [BLFOX].

FW: What is your role in the recent conquest? Any official duties?

Holliava: No official duties; I stepped up when stuff needed to be moved or fleets needed to be run. All of this was voluntary but completely unofficial and I’ve wanted to take the warzone since I got into FW so I was happy to do it.

FW: Can you talk a little bit about the planning involved with an operation this large?

Holliava: Whilst there is no official ‘council of elders’ in GALMIL [to my knowledge at least] there are some respected leaders of like-minded pilots who form an unofficial consensus on likely strategic directions for their respective groups. Whether accidental or intentional, I credit these gentlemen for the cohesion displayed by GALMIL of late and am very grateful for their work.

These people have the welfare of their groups to consider and the annihilation of our common enemy is not always in the best interests of our players, for a variety of reasons. In my opinion the idea of taking the warzone became viable only when it was clear that the cost of doing so was far lower than the morale benefit of achieving it.

In other words, the squids as a strategic force were broken long before we took the warzone and so finishing the job was just a matter of mopping up the few remaining corps/alliances fighting the good fight. I’m not sure what internal issues CALMIL have been facing, but they seem to have ceased cooperating months ago. Perhaps warzone control was ours for the taking when TEST left, who knows.

On remaining Tier 4, only inaction was required to remain there and nobody had the motivation to push for Tier 5.

On logistics, a lot of people did some great work by intelligently and efficiently moving our resources where we needed them. Very little oversight was required, and people stepped up when they were needed.

Not to discount anyone’s efforts, but logistics was made a lot simpler by leadership coordinating on doctrines. At any given moment FCs and leadership will have doctrines in their back pocket that they might wanna try one day, or are keeping them in reserve for a tough campaign, or are holding onto as a hard counter. Discipline in limiting the number of doctrines in use and maximizing the re-usability of resources is what wins wars. For the most part armor was the fleet flavor of recent campaigns, and in particular Navitas/Tristan and Guardian/Ishtar fleets featured prominently.

Consensus on these doctrines was only ever unofficial but that was all that was required to standardize on these and make the life of our logistics people a whole lot easier.

FW: Can you talk a little about the hardships and challenges of the campaign whether in battles, doctrine, iHub bashing, etc.?

Holliava: Leadership was by default; whoever wanted to run the fleet or get ships where they were needed had free reign to do so. I know it’s hard to imagine that warzone control comes about just by accidental cooperation but that’s pretty much the spirit of GALMIL at the moment. We all know each other, we all get along more or less, and we’re all happy to help each other out should we find ourselves on the warpath.

I need a bit of a disclaimer here; I am not in any of the major timezones so I can’t speak for the majority of GALMIL, but for most of the time in my fleets we weren’t even doctrined up due to lack of resistance. Obvious exceptions would be the Okkamon and Asakai campaigns.

OKKAMON: Heian Conglomerate and friends fought hard here, and whilst they often outnumbered us that includes docked squids and other non-combatants so I think numbers were quite even. It happened quite a while ago and I didn’t take notes so I don’t have great detail here, but in my mind this was the last chance for squids to get together and hold the line.

ASAKAI: Crimson Serpent Syndicate [and perhaps one or two known incursioneers] had some neat tricks up their sleeve, and there was some presence from the ex-Okkamon squids but in general they were doing their best all alone. Helms Deep, no Gandalf.

However, neither of these campaigns would have been successful if we hadn’t had doctrine ships available to us to fall back to when they did come at us. Navi/Tristan, Navi/Algos, Aug/Algos and if necessary Guard/Ishtar fleets were the backbone of our offensive capabilities for all of these campaigns and they served us well.

FW: What about the aftermath? Why did the Caldari ultimately fold? Do you think they will remain on the back foot for long? How about the “lessons learned?”

Holliava: Caldari Militia will fail as a strategic force so long as they have disparate groups holding certain areas and believe that to be strength of numbers. That said, I haven’t noticed any real strategic aspirations from any of the CALMIL groups so I don’t particularly think this bothers them much.

As we’ve seen, Old Man Gang/R.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N/U.C.F had very little trouble flipping HEYD and HYSERA back within minutes of each other and doubtless they won’t have much trouble holding them – which doesn’t really bother us either. We’re not here to hold the warzone, we just wanted to be kings for a day.

Lessons learned; it’s good to get along. Cooperation is key, but keeping it relaxed is what makes it sustainable. I’m happy with where we are at now, and I’m looking forward to the future.

FW: Again, thank you very much for your time Holliava.

Cheers mate.


Subsparx, CEO of [CSSYN]

FW: What was your official role in the recent defense?

Subsparx: I did a lot of the behind the scenes organization. While I enjoy FCing and being in fleets, I don’t enjoy the larger fleets that make up what is typical of a system siege. Instead, I spent a lot of time and money simply building ships and handing them out for free. I also made sure every FC that came to help had everything he needed to keep the fight going. I guess you could say my role was being head of organization, logistics, and funding for the defense of Asakai. The logistics operation I ran for the Kinakka defense was much smaller as Templis has their own very robust logistics in place.

Did you find much support when planning a defense? Anyone you care to mention or shout out to? Everyone in the CalMil Coalition showed up, even the guys from the South. I apologize if I miss anyone but huge shout outs to Templis, Enemy Spotted, Dei-Telum, The Bloc, SQUIDS, Mutually Assured Destruction, Nasranite Watch and, of course, the general militia membership. Lots of pirate groups came and assisted as well, so I’d like to thank them as well. This includes but is not limited to Orderly Misconduct, UCF, and a couple random members of Black Legion looking for good fights. Overall, just on the Caldari side we had 248 people show up for the battle, which was very impressive. One of the interesting things to note was how much general militia support there was. We had 52 generic State Protectorate involved with the fight, while Gallente only had 11 Federal Defense Union. This leads me to believe that our inclusion of the general militia was a huge success. It also provided lots of recruitment opportunities. You can see a full list of the fight over the 4 days here (only including Asakai not the surrounding systems): http://evf-eve.com/services/brcat/?s=45332,45332&b=6111360,6114240&e=2880&t=eyeQAPHAieaaaaaGaiaac.

FW: Was there general unity amongst the various groups/corps about strategy?

Subsparx: Yes, there was. The hardest thing was countering all the Ishtars, though. A lot of Caldari’s general militia pilots don’t have the ability to fly Ishtars, so finding a counter for this was difficult at best. Frankly, the sheer numbers being brought made it impossible. I was honestly very impressed with the final fleet that came to kill the ihub in Asakai after we held the system on by a thread for 6 hours. There was nothing we could do. Nevertheless, I still showed up on grid as I promised to take pot shots and get myself killed.

How are things like doctrines and the level of commitment for each system decided?

Subsparx: It largely depends on what the Gallente are bringing to the field. Any time they decide to siege a system that is a stronghold like Asakai we can rely on at least 60 active pilots in the area almost around the clock so we have to work to accommodate that. A lot of militia pilots can’t fly anything advanced either, which makes forming doctrines more difficult. When people are joining your fleets from other alliances, corporations, or just general militia, you can’t expect them to be able to fly your doctrines. This often results in both T2 and Meta versions of the same ship needing to be provided.

FW: Can you describe the huge logistical effort that takes place to keep pilots in ships during these types of campaigns?

Subsparx: The financial and logistical requirements of an operation like this are massive on multiple levels. A lot of the general militia don’t show up to large fights like this due to the sheer number of losses incurred, so we have to offer ships up for free to produce the numbers required. I put 17 billion of my own money, as well as 3 bil of CSSYN/Alliance assets into the defense. I know multiple other groups put a lot of ISK into it as well. The total losses over 4 days of fighting totaled over 23 billion ISK (for the Caldari in Asakai alone, not including neighboring systems) so I know a lot of other groups were providing ships, as I had a few billion left over. On the logistics side things were a nightmare. We had so many FC’s coming to the scene all wanting different types of ships that keeping up was incredibly difficult. Even when you are bringing in things like Derptrons, you can only bring about 140 at a time in a Jump Freighter. That sounds like a lot but with ships like the Derptron you go through them faster than you can buy them most of the time. That issue quickly becomes compounded by the limitation of meta items on the market. If you don’t have the ships stockpiled ahead of time, you *very* quickly find yourself running into a wall trying to get the required items. It was only a day into the siege before I had found myself the sole owner of every Regulated Light Ion Cannon and Small ‘Solace’ Remote Armor Repairer in Jita, and it still wasn’t enough. Between buying and selling orders, jumping freight, and assembling and handing out ships I easily spent 12+ hours a day making sure the war machine was funded and operational. A lot of members of my own corporation as well as others helped with this as well. I had a team assisting with checking other markets for in demand items, people purchasing and hauling specific modules in to system to start stockpiling assets and people assisting with hand-outs and ship assembly. Myra Stark saved me hours of time in this regard, as did many from NME such as Ghoulish Boirelle and Madcows. I tried to keep outside involvement at a minimum though so that they could actually fight. I thoroughly enjoy making sure people have what’s required to fight, and don’t enjoy these large battles myself, so all in all I was happy as a clam just building ships and making sure everyone had what they needed.

FW: Can you tell us a little about the leadership structure while on defense?

Subsparx: For the Kinakka defense, the operations were largely organized by Templis. I can honestly say there was a bit of a breakdown in communication when they weren’t online, making coordinating defense fairly chaotic and difficult to pull off. Templis is unique in how extreme their time zone bias is, so their representation to other groups during EU and AU is not strong. However, when it comes to US the time zone they are hard to match. The Asakai defense was spearheaded by myself, with multiple Alliance executors and executive officers assisting with keeping the ball rolling. Each group had multiple military directors holding things down during their appropriate time zones. Enemy Spotted and The Bloc had a strong showing running operations during the EU time zone, and Templis, Heiian Conglomerate and Dei-Telum ran a majority of the US time zone operations. The AU time zone, as per usual, had weak representation so that was subject to whoever was still awake to defend during that time.

FW: What were the most heavily used fleet comps?

Subsparx: A huge majority of the fights were frigates and destroyers. I made a very strong case to push logistics, which helped us a lot. It only took a couple uneven fights being won by using just a small percentage of the fleet in logistics frigates before people started realizing exactly how critical their use was. As far as actual specific ships, I’d say Merlins, Coraxes and Cormorants, all with Bantam support, was the most commonly fielded type of doctrine. There was a fair number of Kestrels and Derptrons thrown in to the mix for those that couldn’t fly the Merlins.

FW: Did they require much tweaking over the course of the fighting?

Subsparx: Including general militia resulted in a huge upset in my original plans for ships. I brought hundreds of Inquisitors and Bantams out, for example, only to find that 9 out of 10 pilots willing to fly logistics couldn’t use T2 small remote reps. It was definitely a huge hurdle to overcome, as overnight I had to double the ships/modules we had in the corp hangar for handout just to make sure we had enough meta fit ones available to accommodate the lower SP pilots. Overall, the ship doctrines themselves were solid and fit their purpose well, so outside of accommodating people’s inability to use T2 modules we didn’t have to adjust the fits much.

FW: Do any particular fights or systems stand out as memorable?

Subsparx: I didn’t get to attend many fights, but the ones I did I can comment on. The first memorable fleet I participated in was run by Sarayu Wisdom. Like myself, he likes having logistics and EWAR, but he took it to the extreme, refusing to undock without I believe it was a 25% Logi bias in fleet. The effectiveness of our fleet was immediately made apparent when we started winning fights back to back with little to no losses (until Gallente countered with mass Griffins). The second major battle I was able to join was the first fight over the Ihub in Asakai. I had just finished bringing some 30 Ospreys and 30 Scythes in to system in preparation but we didn’t have an FC yet, and they were already preparing for the siege on the Ihub. Ghoulish Boirelle stood up to the plate to FC and I got everyone into the required ships as quickly as possible while pulling as many as I could from the coalition and militia chat. It was actually impressive, we were able to pull an 80 person fleet together in no time with the promise of free cruisers. Ghoulish did an amazing job with FCing this as well, and I was flying logi. The fight overwhelmingly went in our favor, with 338.87m lost on our side and 1.17b on the Gallente side. Shortly after this fight, we quickly down-shipped to frigates and destroyers and held the system for several hours until Perunga’s fleet came back with a large number of Ishtars, VNI’s and other high end ships for the final blow. http://evf-eve.com/services/brcat/?s=45332&b=6116880&e=60&t=GGikgQQafayOk is the link for the fight we won.

FW: Any particular people or groups stand out as noteworthy?

Subsparx: Templis pilots were pretty critical during the US timezone defense. Many of our own FC’s were tied up building and handing out ships and getting people in alliance rallied, so having the additional support in the US time zone was a tremendous help. My own alliance saw a lot of people step up to the plate. The Germans lead by Chichou Odori were highly active in deplexing, and May Arethusa and Tomas Brandhart from Pillowbrigade found ways to get those that hate large sieges to participate with various more specialized fleets. There is, as mentioned earlier, The Bloc and Enemy Spotted, who held the fort with lots of numbers alongside Heiian Conglomerate during the EU timezone. Orderly Misconduct, which rose from the ashes of the Burn Okkamon campaign was also a tremendous help. Despite leaving faction warfare to avoid dealing with things like the siege of Okkamon again, they still showed up in force with high end ships to assist the Caldari war machine. Myra Stark stood out for Logistics help. At one point we were running low on ships and Myra took over assembling everything so I could get the jump freight done even faster. Sarayu Wisdom from Dei-Telum, despite his alliance currently being on a vacation at the time, came out himself to help rally up the rag-tag fleets we had running late in the US time zone. I’m sure there are many others I’m missing, it was a rather hectic defense.

On the Gallente side, it’s hard to name a small number of people to mention as noteworthy. They had a very strong response from multiple groups. C.Q.B., Repeat Offenders, Justified Chaos and Rapid Withdrawal seemed to be in system almost 24/7 and their plexing groups were relentless. Bohica switching sides also made a pretty large change in what we normally saw, as it felt like the size of the Ishtar fleets fielded by Gallente doubled overnight. Sadly, I wasn’t in the thick of the fight for most of the campaign as I was being a care-bearing ship assembler, so individuals don’t stand out much for me aside from Perunga. His massive ego (perhaps rightfully earned) was seen constantly. There are few people in the game that I’ve met that spout more trash talking and challenges in local than he does. Thanks for that Perunga, gave me some entertainment bullshitting with you in local chat while everyone shipped up.

FW: The Aftermath – What do you think accounted for the eventual collapse in caldari resistence?

Subsparx: Burnout, absolutely. A very large percentage of pilots were tired of having to log in and immediately de-plex, and this was before the siege even started. Add in that we were fighting overwhelming odds the majority of the time and losing a lot of battles, and people stopped bothering to join in. The number of stabbed farmers had already done a lot of work to break morale as well. I won’t get in to it here, but the general gist is CCP’s attempt to fix farming by stopping cloaking inside plexes exponentially made it worse rather than better. Regardless, we held Asakai quite solidly for several days until people got tired of it, then there was a huge spike in contestability. You can see that here: http://evemaps.dotlan.net/system/Asakai/stats/2014-08-16:2014-08-18

We held things fairly solid for the beginning of the siege that started Friday/Saturday, but by Sunday people were already getting tired of defense fleets running around the clock.

FW: We’ve seen a healthy resurgence now that the flip is over. Would you say things are returning to normal?

Subsparx: Absolutely. The ability for people to focus less on defending home systems around the clock allows them to go out and roam, offensive plex, and pressure the Gallente instead. This has resulted in a huge increase in activity. I personally feel like Gallente are putting in fairly little effort into holding systems, but we are still getting lots of good fights as we take things back and everyone in Caldari is enjoying the current change of pace tremendously. Even if we weren’t flipping systems, the pacing of fights with Gallente and the size of fleets is a lot more enjoyable.

Any lessons learned from such a long campaign? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. My alliance was hit tremendously hard both by the Okkamon and the Asakai sieges. Our industrial backbone was in Asakai – 40 million m3 of ships was in Asakai so losing it wasn’t an option. We put up a hell of a fight over the system but we likely won’t be doing something like that again, not for a while. Losing a home like that caused a huge cultural shift in the alliance, and on that level we’re going to be a lot more nomadic in how we move around. So far this strategy has proved to be very effective. On a coalition level, it strengthened the bonds between the alliances and led to a lot of new policies, strategies, doctrines and ideas that will make us stronger than ever. Yes, we lost multiple strongholds (and the whole warzone for that matter) but we came back stronger than ever and those groups that didn’t fold and leave the Caldari are here to stay, no matter the odds.

About Ciaphas Cyne

Ciaphas Cyne flies with Exodus. alliance, who base out of FW low-sec.

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