Turning the tables

5th September 2010 – 3.00 pm

It is a good time to explore. The home system's static wormhole has only just been found and opened, and today's neighbouring class 4 w-space system holds a tower. I warp to the wormhole and jump through, locating the tower by using the directional scanner. I have been in this system before and my notes have the tower's position marked differently, it apparently having been moved at some point in the last six weeks. There is a piloted Proteus strategic cruiser sitting inside the tower's shields, although it looks quite inert. Instead of waiting for activity we seek it through the scanned and resolved static connection to a class 3 system.

The C3 has no occupancy, a few anomalies, and a whole lot of cosmic signatures. A scout finds the system's static wormhole, an exit to low-sec empire space, and I am happy to find a second wormhole, an outbound connection leading to a class 2 w-space system. I jump through to continue the exploration, bookmarking the K162 on the other side before warping away to find two towers on a distant planet. The first tower has no ships or pilots, the second has an unpiloted Bestower hauler inside its shields. And then a Hulk exhumer enticingly warps in, although from my careful use of d-scan I am assuming the capsuleer has only just woken up and is not returning from mining. But he may go out to start mining and although it looks like he is aligning to enter warp a closer look suggests his ship is merely bouncing off a hangar.

The Hulk is swapped for a Legion strategic cruiser, the pilot indeed using the hangar and not getting tangled when trying to warp out. The Legion warps away but not far, as he only visits the first tower anchored to a different moon around the same planet. Back in our neighbouring C4 the Proteus is moving too. It seems like we have a choice of targets, until the Proteus crawls to a halt again after a hundred metres. But the Legion has disappeared from the C2 I'm in. Our best scout comes to find any new wormholes in this system to enable us to catch this lone Legion and so I head home to swap my scanning boat for a combat ship.

A Catalyst destroyer appears in the C2, most likely a salvaging ship, and then also disappears. It seems that both the Legion and Catalyst jumped through the same wormhole in to a C3 system, which gives us enough opportunity and encouragement to plant a small fleet on this side of the wormhole to trap the absent ships on their return. To help keep the targets under control I pilot my Onyx heavy interdictor and am joined by the firepower of an Armageddon battleship, Harbinger battlecruiser, Drake battlecruiser, Falcon recon ship, and our scout in his scanning Proteus. The Legion should be sufficiently overpowered and the Catalyst will probably burst just from the shrapnel flying around. The fleet warps out and we position ourselves in the C2 on the wormhole to the C3.

As our fleet is getting in to position our scout jumps through to the C3 system to get better information about our targets. Knowing when they are likely to be jumping back is always better than being surprised, and if it looks like they will be longer than expected we could jump through to try to ambush them at a site. What we don't expect is for our scout to see the Legion joining a Proteus, two Tengu strategic cruisers, and a Dominix and Megathron battleship. It seems that our lone Legion pilot arrived later than his colleagues and headed out to add to an already substantial fleet.

I am fairly sure we're boned but the confidence of my colleagues is encouraging. After all, the ships we're facing are likely to be fit for PvE engagements, which may give us an advantage. Of course, this advantage may not actually pull us up to having equal firepower but controlling the encounter and intelligent targeting could see us come out on top. We could still use another big ship to help us, though, and our scout jumps back and heads home to bring a Dominix fitted to neutralise a target's capacitor energy, drastically reducing the effectiveness of active repair systems. The Falcon jumps in to the C3 to replace out scout's watch on the targets.

Our squad leader asks, 'who isn't ready to die?', offering anyone an opportunity to retreat now. It's a good question and focusses my attention. The worst that will happen is I will need to buy a new ship and a new clone, which is only really an inconvenience these days. I'm ready.

It is good that I'm ready because the Falcon reports the hostile fleet has finished in the system and is starting to return. It's a shame that we're not quite ready, our scout still not here with his extra battleship. But there is a glimmer of hope as the wormhole we're sitting on flares only once, a Proteus jumping in to our waiting ambush. We are easily able to focus fire on a single ship although I mistake the next wormhole flare as the Proteus trying to flee back to the C3 instead of a second ship jumping in to help him. As a result I jump in to the C3, away from the action, but my warp bubble isn't missed, the Proteus staying around himself as the rest of his fleet warps and jumps to come to his aid.

I return through the wormhole to the C2 as soon as my session change timer expires and add my limited firepower to the combat. But now we have several strategic cruisers and a couple of battleships destroying our meagre fleet. Their Megathron battleship almost loses its armour but the battle is surely over already. Most of our ships are popped or fleeing as the hostile fleet's combined power is brought to bear. I de-activate my warp bubble so that I can warp away. My Onyx's substantial buffer tank has been enough to prevent my being targeted early but now that I am the only target it is not going to last. Amusingly, this PvE fleet has enough utility spare to fit a point, the warp disruption module preventing my escape. I suppose strategic cruisers from a class 2 w-space system and fighting Sleepers in a class 3 system can afford a spare module or two for unforseen circumstances.

Another Onyx HIC of mine pops, my pod getting away safely. It is almost amusing, as I refitted the ship's configuration since my last loss. I was previously concerned about being trapped in a hostile warp bubble myself and so when attacking prepared gas miners I refitted the Onyx with a micro-warp drive, to let me burn out of trouble and warp away more easily. The warp bubble didn't appear and instead battleships pinned my ship with warp scramblers that disable MWDs, as well as my ship's energy being neutralised to the point of not being able to run the MWD anyway. This time I fitted a reheat, not wanting to be caught out again, but I should have realised that in coming up against a mostly PvE fleet I'd be more likely facing a web and standard point instead of a scrambler, making the reheat useless and an MWD more likely to help. It's all good experience and hopefully in the future I can better fit my ships based on predicted circumstances.

Our ambush hasn't quite gone to plan. We lose all but one ship, and one pod. But we were there and willing to engage the other ships. It was exciting and I'd do it again, hopefully with greater experience leading to more success the next time.

  1. 6 Responses to “Turning the tables”

  2. Sorry to hear about the failed ambush. Maybe they had the same plan too, never really know.

    Were your fleet just not ready or did they just have a more overwhelming available fleet?

    There is a saying where your actions is never a complete loss if you or the group actually learn something from the experience or engagement.

    By Ardent Defender on Sep 5, 2010

  3. Definite cudos for showing the balls to pick the fight in spite of the risk! Shows you're more dangerous than just scavengers picking off the weak. I'll make sure to run and hide whenever I see the dread [WHEN] in W-space ;-)

    By Besbin on Sep 6, 2010

  4. No no, Besbin, come and attack us. We'll probably lose!

    There aren't actually many genuine opportunities to have a big fight in w-space, partly owing to the lack of established beacons where ships can or are likely to congregate, but perhaps also because it is easier to run away most of the time.

    Other Engineers have been able to pick the occasional good fight, popping two or three strategic cruisers and the odd battleship and battlecruiser. I just happen not to be around during these worthy engagements, hence needing to vent my frustrations against miners and salvagers.

    By pjharvey on Sep 6, 2010

  5. AD, it looked like the targets were just out and about engaging Sleepers and the lone ship I saw was probably just late to join in the fun. Taking on the one strategic cruiser would have been in our favour but when we saw they matched our numbers we pretty much knew we were out-gunned. But we were hoping to cause some mayhem and thought we may still be able to take down one of their ships, despite no doubt losing our own.

    Without the neuting Dominix it is safe to say we weren't ready enough, as it was vital to neutralise the active tanks of the strategic cruisers or they would repair through our damage, which is what they managed to do.

    By pjharvey on Sep 6, 2010

  6. Heh heh... Well, if it actually comes to the point where I DO see you, there's a good chance it'll be too late anyway :-p

    I'm personally at the point you were half a year ago: Turning from the stage where it's all about keeping a timid eye open and hiding at the first sign op trouble, to the point where I'll fight back at times and possibly even stick up a confrontation in the case where I have decent odds. As I see it, you are now at the further stage where you'll provoke the fight even at bad odds...I'm not quite there yet... Although the fights that I HAVE won so far, have been purely through ballsy head-on action: Taking on a faction fit Mega in a Rifter. And charging head on into a vastly outnumbered fight so save a corp mate causing the strats and HACs to flee from my BC (obviously because they paniced thinking I was the first of a larger fleet). Everytime I take the challenge from an active pirate I loose though, but heck...that's how you learn, right? ;-)

    I'm an avid reader of your blog learning the tricks and trades of the bad guys at the other end of those bullets pounding my hull, so I'd like to thank you for your entertaining and enlightening stories :-)

    By Besbin on Sep 8, 2010

  7. To be fair, we try to keep the odds in our favour and would prefer to overpower any targets, but we are not averse to getting blown up when the situation goes awry, such as in this case.

    Then again, as you've found out, sometimes a direct attack against the odds can spook unprepared pilots in to making mistakes or running, although that also runs the risk of flying in to the middle of experienced capsuleers who are only too happy to shoot back.

    And thanks for the compliments, it's always nice to know my writing is entertaining someone.

    By pjharvey on Sep 8, 2010

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