Now that Rhea is upon us, I thought I would write a quick assessment of how each of the major blocs reacted to Phoebe, and to the major changes it implied as to how and where alliances hold space.
Hero Coalition – 7/10 – A perfectly respectable passing grade which improved due to resilience and the willingness to follow through on their decisions. Part of Hero’s to Phoebe response was born of sheer inertia: BNI had a few options available (some of them radical, some less so) offered to them by N3/NCDot, the CFC and others. Brutally frankly, they didn’t remain where they are because they thought it was the best option – although that might turn out to be true in the long run – but because they, and specifically BNI – don’t have the structures in place to make radical decisions. Their ultimate response was that nobody felt able to make the call on their options.
Still, having decided to stay put, they were clever enough to neutralise the Providence front with diplomacy, and they’ve been lucky that the various Russians who might have been a threat have been ineffectual or distracted by other targets. The tinfoil hattery over PL’s motivations was a bit daft but killing two of PL’s titans has given BNI in particular a swagger that they’ve not had before. I remember the effect of Goonswarm killing Shrike’s titan in 2007 and the last couple of weeks could be similarly exploited by BNI to create a different view of themselves than was the case in the past. Closer relations with BL are a strategic ace in the hole but they do need to watch out for the traditional skimming-off of their best members as a result.
NCDot – 7.5/10 – I was speaking to Vince an hour or so after the Phoebe jump drive changes were announced and he was already thinking radically about the impact. NCdot acted boldly, re-enacting the Goonswarm move of 2009 in some ways, and has taken rich space that has great strategic importance as a result. Particularly with the new limits on jump drive range, holding Querious acts as a hand on the throat of whoever is in Period Basis and Delve, while allowing the residents to take shots at Catch and, with a little more work, Fountain.
That said, the NA renter empire is too distant to be effectively defended, and is already falling to the Curse Russians and others. Further, NCDot are no longer in a position to defend their Eastern N3 allies without giving up their Fountain harassment and leaving their western allies exposed. I would say that NCdot have further hard choices to make ahead of them, but I suspect those choices have already been made, but that the south-eastern half of their rental empire and allied bloc just doesn’t know it yet.
Furthermore, NCdot have yet to work out a good answer to the constant harassment by well-known non-existent groups like Reavers in their rear areas that led to the loss of four supers last week. Nobody wants to be harassed in their rear areas, after all.
N3 – 3/10 – N3 only barely exist as a concept now, united by little more than a broad dislike of Goons. N3 were focussed on an attack on the CFC on two main fronts, aimed at taking the Delve/PB/Querious region. The withdrawal of the CFC from the South-West threw a spanner in the works there, and my personal feeling is that N3’s split across south-western and south-eastern areas makes them effectively split into two entities, despite some cross-holdings, and renders them little more than a loose political alignment. The American political landscape is less widely divided.
If Nulli’s leadership becomes more active, then that alliance will survive: they’re too experienced and skilled not to. Others are probably due for the recycling chamber.
PL – 9/10 – Pandemic Legion were the boldest of all in their response to Phoebe, selling their renter space and returning to their traditional footloose and fancy free shenanigans. Obviously, without renters another B-R would be extremely damaging but with no fixed resources to be hit, PL are free to do what they like, to whom they like, without any concerns about having to defend sovereign assets. Choosing to hit BNI first was an easy decision: only the south-eastern N3 (who were advocated as a target by one faction of PL leadership) were as vulnerable, and Hero Coalition have proved more willing to keep showing up for fights than one suspects N3 would have been. Also, hitting N3 would have had political consequences vis a vis N3’s nominal allies, and now-rare PL blues, in NCdot. Docked half a point for not working out what 100 ewar ships will do to a small fleet, and half a point for not getting poor PK that cyno within 70km. Did you hear the disappointment in Perseus’ voice? Heart-breaking.
BL – 7/10 – I am not sure that things have panned out quite as BL intended: their line members certainly expected a repeat of BL’s ability to run riot in the north while war raged in Fountain, and the CFC’s ability to operate on both fronts has been a surprise to some. But BL’s leadership have played the rapidly-changing situation well, given the limitations of their allies, and their PR work with Hero Coalition (aided by shamelessly gleeful sock-puppeting on Reddit) has helped them gain some strategic options that the CFC may well come to regret in the medium term, especially if Lychton moves on.
xDeathx – 6/10 – He is rich, and his links with Psihozz may yet prove important, but xDeathx is back in the position of hoping that the undesirable nature of living in deep Dronespace helps him hold together a seriously over-large empire that he must defend with too-few members. The outcome of this round of the xDeathx vs Solar conflict will, as usual, depend on who is at a loose end and can turn up to help which side. Expect staggering bribery to play a part. In-game, obv.
Curse Russians et al – 7/10 – Given that they are attacking the weakest entity on the sov map just now, it is difficult to tell whether this version of RA will be any better than the last three, but the attack on NA space in the south-east is at least hitting a well-chosen target and have some momentum that a lot of Eve hasn’t noticed yet. This is probably because it is in nobody’s interest to point it out.
CFC – 4/10 – Didn’t see that coming, did you? The decision to withdraw from Delve – by no means a foregone conclusion under the first version of the Jump Drive changes, was sealed when Greyscale’s revisions to range were announced. Being able not just to retreat but to make (some) money from the process and to hold together the south-western end of the CFC in doing so showed the skill of Sion Kumitomo’s Corps Diplomatique hasn’t been dimmed. Indeed, the successful defence of Fountain and the simultaneous, decent-enough display in the north seems to suggest that the CFC are in as strong a position as ever as we move towards occupation sovereignty with a denser population.
However, my own feeling is that we are attempting to win 2015’s Eve with 2013’s strategies: strategies that were, admittedly, hugely successful at the time. CCP have made no secret of their intention to break up the big blocs and I have no doubt that the CFC, despite holding less space, are high on their list. I wouldn’t say that we’re their main target but we’re almost certainly somewhere in the top one. The key for the CFC will be to start adapting or to die. The creation and deployment of Reavers are a useful first step, but far from enough.
Make no mistake: Eve as it stands just now, post-Phoebe, is in a holding pattern and those entities who see their current position as anything other than a stepping stone towards the next iteration of Eve – hopefully radically different and perhaps due for announcement in Q1 2015 – are being terribly short-sighted. For Goonswarm, the impressively rich region of Deklein is less of an advantage than it appears in the evolving Eve. Unless systems change radically, holding Deklein absolutely requires one to hold Fade and Pure Blind at a minimum, while it brings with it the likelihood that Branch, Tribute, Vale and Tenal will be a source of risk unless pacified. I suspect that Catch, Geminate, Querious, Pure Blind and even perhaps Providence will increase in desirability in the new Eve.
Edit: since I was asked, Providence gets 6/10 for stubbornly sticking with the same policy as always: stay in Providence. I think that their willingness to allow Realpolitik to trump grudges by ending the Hero conflict rather than being tempted to scavenge on the edges of PL’s faux-attack on Catch gets credit.