The 2005/2006 christmas road trip!
So yeah, let's just start by clearing this rather important point up - it really was a road trip and not an invasion! We have two or three big campaigns/objectives in the pipeline (we might not go for all of them hence "two or three" and not just "two" or "one" or "three"!) but the timing wasn't quite right to initiate any of them and the guys really needed something entertaining to do as we'd had them chasing ghosts around Fountain, Outer Ring and Aridia (which reminds me, I really do need to finish my other blog about how utterly hopeless VC are!).
So where do we always go when we need to have a laugh, poke some old enemies and get into some good fights? The North of course. It was rather convenient that in going up north we'd also be providing a major distraction to G/IRON just at the time that they were throwing their weight around down south. However, despite the fringe benefit of helping ASCN out our main motivation, by a country mile, was simply to give the guys something to shoot at. We weren't even focused specifically on G/IRON when we went up north, there are all sorts of people up there that just love BoB including RAZOR, F-E, PA, G and IRON so we thought we'd get some action even without G/IRON being active in the north when we first arrived. So the speculation and rumour about us just going up north to save ASCN's bacon or that ASCN had paid us to do it or that we were on a long term invasion plan or any such drivel is just that I'm afraid... speculative drivel.
What's amusing is that G leadership definitely knew what our intentions were, I've seen them quoting posts/corp mails of mine which spell out our intentions. Despite knowing we had a G spy in our ranks I detailed our plans to the BNC membership as we set off up north. This is probably why most of the propaganda and spin about BoB 'retreating' in the face of G/IRON superiority in JU- is from IRON members or alts, whilst G keep their usual respectful (and respected) enigmatic silence on the forums about it. Fuffel, Woody, Bratzo and the other G commanders knew we weren't up there to stay.
Moving up north on the day we deployed turned into a COMPLETE NIGHTMARE, the lag was shocking and our fleets moved at a snail's pace with the usual emergency warps from every gate, people dropping out etc.. It's a good job we weren't piling straight into action when we got up north otherwise day one would have been a complete clusterfuck. As it was we just concentrated on getting the guys moved and setting up shop in X-7OMU, a nice system to base out of for easy access to empire, to attack RAZOR, to hit G/IRON, to raid G pets in Fade, to go north to hit PA or to bez through to Tribute and smack F-E about a bit.
You could tell that we were on a Roadtrip for laughs as we moved half a dozen of our Faction battleships up there and flew a pimp fleet gang every night just to take the piss with and get a load of faction BS on kill mails! Led mostly by the Fitzinator in his Pimpwagon BoB Vindicators and Navy Tempests roamed the north on an evening in small gangs. I decided not to miss out on this fun so popped back down to 4C-B7X to pick up my Caldari Navy Raven. I hate fitting warp core stabilisers as they gimp your ship so badly so even with a ship worth 3-4 bill isk I couldn't bring myself to fit WCS and set off from 4C- in full combat kit. With Kryztal scouting for me, in a shuttle so not a lot of support there, I set off! I got spotted by a NORAD pilot just as I was leaving 4C- and the normally timid wee beggars decided to give chase!! I hadn't even got up north and was already in the shit. A couple of times they nearly had me scrambled then on one gate they got lucky and I think I had an interceptor and a Thorax on me. The old heart was racing as several more NORAD jumped into system and I couldn't get away, so concentrating fire and using my faction Nosferatu (the eighth high slot on my CNR) I stayed aligned ready to warp and tried to knock out the scramblers before I was overwhelmed. The silly buggers apparently believe I had stabs fitted, some NORAD wannabe even referred to it in 4C- this week about 6 weeks later(!), but it was the power of 7 T2 Cruise Missile launchers and most importantly the heavy Nosferatu that got me out of that scrape! After calming down whilst bouncing between a couple of safe spots I waited for NORAD to bugger off before setting off on my merry way again!
Leading up to the christmas holidays we basically roamed around all over the north from Cloud Ring, through Fade, Deklein, Venal, Tenal, Branch to Tribute and of course all over Pure Blind. We had a few nice fights against F-E early on, well I say nice fights, to be honest F-E are awful in combat and got their arses kicked. Why do people think that warping in outside of everyone in their own fleet's optimal range is going to do them any good? What is it about people giving up on perfectly defensible and viable positions/situations as well? We went over to IMK for a fight pretty early on in the road trip with dbp and I in command, there was a small BoB gang over there blobbed in by about 35 F-E so we thought we'd go help the boys out and took about 20 people over to hook up with the 6-8 already over there and spank F-E a bit. Our gang was split and had to jump into IMK through two gates, we had to jump into F-E and they were set up in a nice camp with support on the gate and battleships sat off at range. Now with even numbers I'd have had our guys sit there and duke it out until we were getting hopelessly spanked or had annihalated the enemy. F-E lost a couple of ships and then buggered off, I couldn't believe it - a fairly even fight, F-E with the tactical advantage and they ran almost straight away WTF? Stand and fight goddammit! Following that all the ghey warping in at inneffectual ranges started, so we kept killing anyone we could capture before their fleet warped out again until we were just bored with their hopelessness and buggered off back to X-7OMU. How bad is that? We actually pulled out of a fight because it was so dull it wasn't worth the time and effort, F-E are pretty hopeless at PvP to be honest. To be fair to F-E they have admitted they're more of a traditional alliance with a very heavy element of industrialists so I shouldn't give them too hard a time, it's just a bit of a shame that a name with a history like F-E's is now largely associated with a group of carebears.
Then just a few days before the holidays properly kicked in our people raiding Deklein notice how badly defended the IRON outpost system was and Molle got an attack of the crazies. On an impulsive whim we decided to take soveriegnty in JU- and steal IRON's outpost for a while. This was bound to stir up a hornet's nest and take our little road trip up a level in the fun stakes. Evolution rushed up a couple of Dreadnaughts and all three BoB corps got large POS kits and fuel ready. Actually taking the outpost seemed to happen very quickly and was almost a non-event as IRON defences were as bad as we had anticipated. What was frustrating about this time for me personally was that having moved into a new appartment my bloody ADSL wasn't cooperating and I had bugger all time online until right up to Christmas week.
Despite my very shoddy internet connection I had quite a lot of fun when I got online during this campaign as I had only recently started flying HACs, yeah I know thirty odd million skill points and no HAC what can I say I like battleships (subject for a new blog there I think - "Ships I like to fly and why!"). So I scooted about in a Zealot up north for the first time on this roadtrip and despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth that has been associated with the RMR changes to module stacking and their effect on the Zealot I had an absolute blast in it! A great ship for quite long range support and equally heavy damage dealer at close range I find it's only problem is right up close against inties. Anyway considering I spent so little time online and dropped out of all but one fleet engagement without getting a shot off I still racked up a few kills and broke in my new HAC!
So yeah back on topic and back to IRON's defence of their region and outpost. Can I just say right now, IRON you're shite, no really, without G to hold your hand you're completely hopeless even with your uber blob of every carebear north of Nonni. Like any group of players I'm sure you've a few who are individually very capable but as a group, oh my god you're a disaster. I can understand why G keep IRON around because having such a huge number of meatshields has to have it's advantages but the average quality of a G fleet must drop about 50% when they merge with IRON. The only other alliance I've fought who are as militarily inept is NORAD and I think both NORAD and IRON's kill:loss ratio against us is similar as a result. I lost count of the occasions up north where a superior sized or relatively evenly matched IRON gang got absolutely whalloped by us, some of the lads have christened IRON's tactics 'Spray and Pray' as a result of our experience fighting IRON only gangs, which of course makes me chuckle no end.
I found the whole 'omg we can't get back from the south to defend our home, so you are only shooting a handful of carebears' arguement to be totally without merit as well. How come even through intense lag we can move BoB in it's entirety from one end of the universe to the other in about 12 hours and yet after 7-10 days we were still getting the same excuses from IRON about their PvPers not being able to get back to Deklein? Garbage to be honest. I have to commend some of IRON's late crew the US timezone guys that Ripp Tyde led against us during the first week or two of us being up there, they did a great job in terms of enthusiastically putting up some resistance despite getting a kicking time and time again. The other (up to) 50 odd IRON pilots that managed to get back from the south quite comfortably but hid in stations rather than defend their turf until G came to bail them out do not deserve to live in 0.0 space on this showing.
What definitely seems to be a problem with IRON, garnered from their internal communications, from their behaviour in game and from their effectiveness in combat is that their leadership is weak. Command authority seems to be very much limited to being in the hands of a few individuals without whom they suffer from headless chicken syndrome. IRON are particularly weak at the fleet command level as on very few occasions did we feel they deployed effective tactics or had sufficient discipline and control within their gangs - regardless of the skill, experience and self control of the individual pilots a good fleet commander will through personality, credibility, leadership and example ensure their team performs as instructed. IRON's fleet command often seemed to be all over the place, small bits of evidence from FRAPs reports, kill mails and anecdotal reports by members of our fleets after a fight support those conclusions.
The reason I've digressed into those last three paragraphs regarding IRON's competence is to answer in some way the quite honestly deluded view of themselves that they portray both in their internal communications and in some of the external propaganda, both of which were available by the bucket load during our little road trip over christmas. If IRON is a PvP alliance then frankly I am Eve's most successful industrialist or maybe Santa or a monkey's uncle... you get the picture.
Something changed towards the end of the holidays as our road trip entered it's final 10-14 days. G gangs started showing up in support of IRON, not only did this have the effect of increasing the numbers of hostiles we were facing significantly (bearing in mind we were already facing IRON, elements of Ekliptika and a myriad of G/IRON pets) but it also increased the quality of their fleet command, tactical decision making and effectiveness in combat significantly.
Not much more to add after this point anyway to be honest as we had almost reached the point where we had planned to go home, still if I get the urge I'll add the rest soon (tm).