The battle report is an age-old rite of EVE Online. Because of the open structure of the game world, player-versus-player battles happen in all kinds of contexts and situations, and the sheer number of variables means they can make for a great story. Explaining who did what, and how, and where, makes EVE a constant source of one of the best things about gaming: stories you can tell your mates.
Of course all this is a little less clear-cut for people who don't play EVE, so in the spirit of sharing and explaining things to the uninitiated, I shall use my battle reports to explain a bit about how the game works. That way it should be entertaining for EVE players and laypeople alike.
I should lay my cards on the table first. I'm extremely small fry in the EVE universe. As a member of a small PVP-loving corporation in a similarly small and PVP-loving alliance, I don't get involved in the very high-end battles. Of course I've been playing for years, and have now seen all kinds of action, but my most recent exploits have been pretty low-key, although a huge amount of fun. The events described here are fairly ordinary for EVE, and happen every day in some larger or smaller scale across the EVE universe.
A couple of months back we joined up with our current alliance, called the Huzzah Federation, as they battled for dominance in a region of uncapturable (and not particularly valuable) space in the region of Syndicate. The enemy force was a coalition of two alliances: Thorn, and The Red Skull.
One night, as we cooled our heels in the main system of contention, PC9-AY, members of our alliance in outlying systems noticed that there were a few more enemy ships around than usual. We had perhaps thirty or forty enemy pilots trapped in nearby systems, and it soon became clear that a large fleet was heading towards us to free them up. Small skirmishes had been breaking out all afternoon, but by the late evening it became clear that we needed a decent-sized fleet if we were to do anything against the force coming for us. Eventually, a 120-pilot fleet of Red Skull and Thorn started making its way towards our pocket of space. They clearly intended to jump in and free up their trapped pilots. We would be ready.
Unfortunately, we had less than forty people available. This meant we could only afford hit and run tactics. Our first gambit was to form up at the player-owned structure (POS) that we had in the system. This heavily armed installation comes with its own forcefield and guns, and is a safe place for us to hang out while in space. Our ships were to be snipers: battleships that could hit at hundreds of kilometres, a safe distance from the enemy fleet. With these we could, hopefully, score a few kills.
The enemy fleet jumped into our system and formed up on the jumpgate which connects it to a nearby star system. We used this as a chance to snipe. Massively outnumbered, we warped in and took a few pot shots. We probably killed something, I can't really remember. Suffice to say that we were not going to make a dent in the enemy gang, which had now swollen to 160 ships. Not that we intended to let this dissuade us from combat. More sniping passes were going to be had, even if we were going to lose ships.
What we didn't want to do, however, was to lose anything very expensive. Like a capital ship. A surprise came along, then, when the sniper gang was warping in to its sniping position off the gate and found it had a Thanatos carrier accompanying it. The huge, cumbersome, enormously valuable ship should have remained at the safe POS spot, remotely assigning its fighters to smaller ships, and repairing damaged craft. Somehow it had been warped into range of the enemy fleet along with the snipers. It was clearly doomed.
All this, you understand, is coordinated via out-of-game voice communications software such as Ventrilo or Teamspeak. The voice of the carrier pilot piped up on that voice comms now, and it was a mix of fear and embarrassment. "Somehow I am in warp to the enemy fleet." He was now quite likely to lose an expensive toy through sheer incompetence. There was a long pause and someone's nervous laugh.
Incredibly, our fleet commander remained calm, and was able to save the carrier by giving it another point in space to warp to. The relief as the carrier pilot confirmed he was safe was palpable.
After this uncomfortable moment, we decided to give sniping a break, and move into smaller ships. There was another tactic we could try against the enemy - that fighter assignment via the carriers. We had half a dozen carriers out in space, and they were able assign their fighters to the smaller, faster ships. This tactic is called "fighter-bombing". Small ships go in with fighters in tow, and use them to massively increase their damage against the enemy ships. After several laggy, chaotic forays with this tactic, we'd lost a whole bunch of ships and done very little to fight off our enemy. They were, however, moving out.
Rather than give up, we elected to swap out into our fast ships and harass them. What followed was a two-hour running battle in which we killed dozens of ships that split away from the main fleet, without ever being able to take them on toe-to-toe. By the time the evening crawled to a close we had killed and looted dozens of ships. But it was all irrelevant to the bigger picture: by dint of sheer force of numbers our enemy had achieved their aim and destroyed a friendly POS. We just hadn't mustered the muscle to challenge our foe. We definitely weren't in a winning position, despite our mad efforts to get kills. They had the upper hand.
A week or so later, however, and the situation had changed entirely. War fatigue was taking its toll on the enemy fleets, and they hadn't been able to raise quite as many pilots for their next big move: putting up a POS in our home system. Still outnumbered, although less so, we were busy patching up another installation that had been attacked by their fleets, and we watched passively as the tower was placed and our gate blockaded. Soon, however, it was to become clear that this would be a decisive moment in the war. The structure would take some time to anchor in space, and the Thorn and Red Skull commanders had placed capital ships near it to protect that process. Our fleet, cut off doing its repair job in a side system, had one option: to madly Leeroy through the blockade, into the enemy capital ships, and hope for the best.
While normal day-to-day ships use jumpgates to travel between systems, capital ships use a system of beacons. These beacons, which are attached to ships, allow the capital ships to jump from one system to the next in spectacular fashion - avoiding blockaded jumpgates entirely. Our plan was to land a ship carrying this beacon next to our enemies, and then hurl the fleet into them: capital ships via the beacon, the rest of the fleet the old-fashioned way via a jumpgate. We expected losses, but a grand fight nonetheless.
The beacon went up and the charge began. Clearly not expecting this turn of events the enemies decided to try and flee, leaving a couple of capital ships behind. These huge ships rapidly began to die, but the enemy fleet nevertheless tried to return to save them. Awkwardly for them, they came streaming back in their ones and twos, to be utterly destroyed by our rampaging gang. It was a glorious slaughter, with not even a single friendly ship placed in jeopardy. When the massacre was over we turned out attention on the tower that our enemies were anchoring, and destroyed that too. Smug with our overwhelming victory, I warped back to the main space station in the system... and into the remains of the enemy gang.
I was the only person in our fleet to die.
She's a cruel mistress, EVE Online, but sometimes I think she has a sense of humour.