Disclaimer: I am a member of Sniggerdly, in Pandemic Legion. Whilst I’ve made best efforts to keep this article as neutral and fact-based as possible, like speaking to friends in The Imperium to get their side of what happened; the opinions I am surrounded with are those of my own alliance, so unconscious bias may have slipped in.
The stage was set for what promised to be an epic showdown — perhaps the first great battle of the Tribute War (name not yet decided). The Imperium had formed up a couple of days prior and forced the infrastructure hub for PanFam’s staging system of SH1-6P into reinforced mode, sparking two days of rage pinging by all alliances on all sides to form as many people as possible for the 05:50 contest. A win for the attacking Imperium forces would have been catastrophic for PanFam, resetting the Activity Defensive Multipliers (ADMs) and essentially negating the defender’s advantage in an incredibly important system; a win for PanFam’s defensive fleets would turn the clock back a few days and provide an important victory for morale.
A battle over an infrastructure hub works something like this: the attacker fits an Entosis Link module, which can be used on several types of structure in order to push them into reinforced mode. This takes anywhere from ten to sixty minutes (plus a warm-up cycle of two to twenty-five minutes) and requires that the attacker’s entosis ship doesn’t get destroyed or ECM jammed, as well as preventing the attacker from warping away, travelling at over 4,000 m/s, or activating a cloaking device during the entosis cycle. An attacker can only activate an entosis module during a structure’s vulnerability window, which lasts between three and eighteen hours each day, depending on the aforementioned ADMs.
Once the structure — in this case, an infrastructure hub — is completely entosised by an attacker, it enters a special ‘reinforced’ mode until a random time during the vulnerability window two days later. At this point, a progress bar appears at 60% for the system and five command nodes are spawned across the constellation, which are contested with the same entosis modules as the infrastructure hub itself. Every time a command node is successfully captured, a new command node appears randomly in the constellation and the progress bar ticks 5% (upwards if the alliance which owns the contested structure captures the node, and downward if any other alliance captures it).
Because the ADMs for the system were high, PanFam had a good degree of control over the SH1-6P vulnerability window, and chose to set it between 05:00 and 09:00 Eve time; playing into Goons’ comparatively weak Australian timezone, as well as keeping their options open with regards to requesting support from Fraternity — a primarily Chinese alliance which is on friendly terms with PanFam. Whilst Australian PanFam members had a comfortable timer, many Americans stayed up late and Europeans woke up early to answer the coalition’s clarion call for maximum numbers. Crucially, it was important that Pandemic Legion turned up, because as the controller of the infrastructure hub, only they — not their friends and allies — could actually hack the command nodes in order to maintain control of the infrastructure hub.
Both sides formed big: the Imperium and their allies brought their Baltec doctrine (Bhaalgorns and Megathrons), flanked by Harpy, Eagle, Jackdaw, and Stealth Bomber fleets; PanFam brought a primary composition of Eagles and a few dreadnoughts sporting high-angled weapons, which were joined by Fraternity & friends’ Muninns, as well as a small group of Jackdaws and some SLYCE bombers. Both coalitions also formed up supercapital fleets to be kept on standby. Excluding supercapital alts, the Imperium and allies’ numbers totalled 983, and PanFam’s totalled 810 — a reasonably even fight as modern Eve goes.
PanFam set about establishing the defender’s advantage early, putting up large amounts of warp disruption bubbles and interdictor alts down the Tribute path from Goons’ staging of KQK1-2 in Pure Blind towards the contested constellation. The objective here was to force the Imperium to take a path through Venal which would allow PanFam forces to concentrate all of their defenses on a single gate: the Q-CAB2 gate in WH-JCA. The rules of engagement were simple: if PanFam could hold the line and keep the Imperium’s forces bubbled and unable to get deeper into the constellation, then PanFam would be able to win most of the command nodes with no serious contest; if The Imperium could break through PanFam’s defensive line — most likely using command destroyers — then they could project their greater numbers and more maneuverable fleets through the constellation and wreak havoc on Pandemic Legion’s entosis ships.
A mexican standoff of sorts occurred at the gate, with PanFam set up on the Q-CAB2 gate at optimal ranges, the Imperium were hesitant to jump in before they had to. They made the call at around 05:40 to jump in and take the hit of fighting at a range disadvantage, losing a number of command destroyers which were primaried immediately to keep them from booshing the fleets and the anchorable bubbles off of the gate, allowing PanFam more time to thin the attacking swarm at their carefully considered defensive ranges.
The Imperium did eventually break through and warp the majority of their fleet off towards D7-ZAC, but by this time the entosis contest was almost over, and they had no real hope of stopping Pandemic Legion from successfully defending their infrastructure hub. Additionally, the D7-ZAC gate was heavily bubbled in 10% time dilation, which meant that the heavy Baltec fleet couldn’t easily get to the gate and into the constellation. On the other hand, PanFam were no longer set up to fight at their ideal ranges, and suddenly found themselves under the heavy guns of the Imperium’s battleships. PanFam’s command destroyers scrambled to get the coalition’s forces repositioned, and succeeded for the most part, though a few people were left behind to an unfortunate demise.
Despite The Imperium’s supercapitals taking a mid point, they elected not to jump into the fight, which would have involved having to jump into the still heavily bubbled Q-CAB2 gate and dealing with the Sabre horde of PanFam slowing their attempts to join their coalition mates. This allowed PanFam to gate their supers into the brawl from D7-ZAC and force The Imperium off of the field, mopping up the remains of their forces.
Early reports suggest that The Imperium lost 95.6 billion ISK to PanFam’s 53.6 billion — a bruising for the attacking forces, but with losses on both sides contained by the lack of a full supercapital engagement. With the objective secured, the ISK war won, and the field left to Horde’s salvaging masses, the first battle of the Tribute War would have to be considered a commanding victory for the defending PanFam coalition.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank CCP for what was — albeit in 10% TiDi — a very stable and playable fight. I saw very few disconnections on either side, and as far as I could tell from our comms, modules were cycling as expected, and the 64-bit client held up well.
We have video of the engagement, we’ll add up more as it gets uploded