Although this article was written a week ago, many of the predictions of the parties interviewed–Amarr and Minmatar–have become true.
The Spring offensives of YC116 are over. Throughout late February, March, and early April, alliances within the 24th Imperial Crusade were making concerted efforts against the remnants of Minmatar resistance. The Amarrian pilots sat comfortably in Tier 3 and Tier 4 while the Minmatar rebels scraped the bottom of Tier 1. And so the Amarr have grown wealthy, their LPs devalued by a massively saturated market—even as of this writing, Imperial Navy Slicers can be purchased in Amarr for less than ten million isk. And now, due to the nature of Factional Warfare mechanics and LP payouts, the great pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction.
The great campaigns of the spring deserve mention. The first major offensive in which I took part was the Huola Campaign, spearheaded by the Vitoc Health Services (VHS). Open to the rank and file pilots of the 24th Imperial Crusade, the alliance provided ships and equipment for fighting in the trenches. The goal was to liberate the system of Huola—the warzone system closest to Amarr itself.
Myths and legends are abound of “Fortress Huola,” the headquarters of vaunted Minmatar entities such as the Late Night Alliance, Iron Oxide and Angry Mustellid. But it is one thing to hear of the mythical assets of the Minmatar, and another thing entirely to see them in action. Between March 23 and March 26 battles raged between frigate and destroyer gangs, making an already active system into a major hotspot of pew. On March 24 at roughly 23:30, a battleship/battlecruiser engagement rocked the system, drawing pilots out of the plexes and into a major showdown. The belligerents included not only members of the respective militias but also neutral elements such as Sex Panther and Shadow Cartel. Indeed, despite the number of battleships fielded, some pilots, such as Bienator II, still found a place for the bread and butter of Factional Warfare—frigate PvP:
At the peak of the campaign (March 25 at 06:00), the contested level in Huola approached ten percent, correlating with almost 200 ship kills, 20 pod losses, and nearly 400 recorded jumps into and out of the system. The stakes in Huola were high, yet, despite the best efforts of the Amarrian pilots they were forced into a strategic withdrawal at the advice of respected militia fleet commander Varrinox. Several factors contributed to this decision: the presence of Minmatar Erebus links, lack of full timezone coverage, major logistical underestimations, and infiltration of VHS comms by “Obvious Minnie Spy” (who, surprisingly, was actually a Minmatar spy). Intriguingly, some members of the Minmatar militia living in Huola hardly noticed the offensive. In the words of ShahFluffers, a self-described Late Night Alliance “everything man” within the Ice Fire Warriors corporation, “There was an offensive? I mean… I came on one night and saw the system 6% contested one day… ‘good job’ I guess?” Indeed, when asked about his impressions on the campaign, another LNA and Ice Fire Warriors member Rothgr Bronn responded, “I’m a bit confused by the question. Is this a FUTURE offensive? If not, this must be the most successful covert offensive in Eve’s history.” The Huola Campaign ended with Huola still in Minmatar hands, leading both militias to the next great battlefield: Lulm.
Characterized as “Huola Lite,” by some elements of the Amarr militia, Lulm served as the headquarters for a number of Minmatar alliances, notably White Lotus. More detailed reporting on the Lulm Offensive led by Winmatar (WNMTR), VHS, and Shirak SkunkWorks can be found here. In the opinion of ShahFluffers, however, the Amarr victory in Lulm was short-lived as Lulm was retaken by the Minmatar on April 13, 2014. Speaking on why Lulm fell in the first place, he believes that there were two major reasons in play. First, resupply and reshipping with the distances involved between Huola and Lulm made operations difficult. Second, the Minmatar militia was less than enthusiastic towards dedicating assets (such as a carrier full of ships) to a system already at the 50 percent contested mark. Rothgr Bronn had this to add, “I openly congratulate the Amarr on actually accomplishing something. Sadly, the only way they accomplished it was with the assistance and self-described ‘guidance’ of a former Minmatar alliance [Winmatar], so I know that must sting a bit to have a former enemy come in, take charge and finally lead them to victory.”
Now, the Factional Warfare pendulum swings in favor of the Minmatar. What began as a series of sorties into systems that seemed peripheral to the main Amarrian efforts, the Minmatar counter-attack has developed into a rising tide that is pushing the Amarr into Tier 1. This is even despite efforts by various militia entities and individuals to galvanize the militia into donating for Tier 3 maintenance. As of this writing, the Minmatar have reached Tier 2, the first time they have done so in the last two and a half months. On the other hand, the Amarr militia is sinking towards Tier 1, with the Minmatar having undone many Amarrian gains including Lulm itself. Speaking on the recent pendulum swing, ShahFluffers states, “As bad as it is to say… when we started seeing the ‘backwater’ systems belonging to the Amarr start inching up in contested percentage we knew the tide was about to turn.”
On the Amarr side, during the Huola Campaign in March, bittervet militia member and fleet commander, Varrinox, of A Drunken Squirrels Conspiracy for Revenge [ADSCR], noticed that the sun was beginning to set on the Amarr Empire. Expounding on these thoughts, Varrinox adds that, within a week, the Ammarrian forces will be driven deep into Tier 1 while the Minmatar swing back into Tier 3 if not Tier 4. The biggest reason for the swing, in his opinion, is cross-Factional Warfare plexing (i.e. Gallente pilots plexing in Amarrian systems, with the Minmatar alliances leading the bash fleets). As to the odds of an Amarr counterattack? Varrinox does not believe that there are major alliances left in the warzone to contest the Minmatar push. For past comparison, Varrinox recounts that the system of Sahtogas used to be something like the Amarr equivalent of present-day Huola as it was occupied by dozens of highly skilled pilots of Amarr 7th Fleet and other prominent Amarrian organizations. Furthermore, there were better-defined territories throughout the warzone with alliances and corporations occupying systems and consequently deterring farmers. Today, however, many Amarr systems are regularly unoccupied, leaving them vulnerable to farmers and the bashers that follow.
In Varrinox’s opinion, although groups specializing in small-gang PvP exist such as Shirak SkunkWorks, there are only two numerically large, active, alliances that can field the pilots necessary for launching a counter-attack to “perform the heavy lifting”: Vitoc Health Services and Winmatar. From Varrinox’s observations, VHS has the numbers but its organization is not yet quite up to par. The situation with Winmatar is a bit more complicated. Although Winmatar has a solid base, it lacks the raw numbers, does not live in the warzone, and there are tensions between older militia pilots and Winmatar stemming from Winmatar previously flying a Minmatar militia banner. As for the foreseeable future, Varrinox concludes that within a week Amarr will be back down to Tier 1. It is likely that this state that will persist for the next several months barring “Black Swan” events such as major entities entering or leaving the warzone. The pendulum is picking up speed against Her Majesty’s valiant pilots, and whether elements of the militia decide to make a stand against the Minmatar onslaught remains to be seen.
Special thanks to: ShahFluffers and Rothgr Bronn of the Late Night Alliance’s Ice Fire Warriors corporation and Varrinox of Vitoc Health Service’s A Drunken Squirrels Conspiracy for Revenge for contributing information via interview for this article.