Monday, May 19

There's small and then there is small.

I wanted to write a blog on the use of Battlecruisers in the current meta, but about half way through writing it, I realized I'd written so much on gang sizes that I'd better do a separate blog post on those first.

So this is that blog post, there's small and then there's small. What we define as a small gang is largely dependant on where in New Eden we live and operate. So much so in fact, that whenever I talk to somebody about small gang warfare that I haven't spoken with on the subject before I ask them; "What number are we talking about when you say small?".

I have to ask that question because when I say small I mean anything between about 6 or 7 and 20. It's not uncommon for 0.0 FC's or even just residents to consider a 50 man fleet a 'small gang'.
You may wonder why that qualification is relevant? Well it's relevant because the term 'small gang' has been coming up a lot in balance discussions on the forums over the past few expansions. And when the word 'small' doesn't mean the same thing on both sides of a debate it leads to unnecessary misunderstandings.

As I already alluded to in the second paragraph, definitions of small are in part tied to where in New Eden you live. In lowsec 50 people is a *sizeable* fleet, it's not a gang size that is unheard of but if you move around lowsec with 50 people in fleet you stand out. Even for some of lowsecs largest groups like say Shadow Cartel or the Waffles a casual fleet of 50 is a bit of a novelty, usually when I see them roam (or sit on a Titan) their numbers tend to be somewhere between 20 and 40. And numbers for entities like SCUM. or combined militia fleets tend to be in that ball park too. For corporations like say the Tuskers or Calamitous-Intent a 50 man fleet literally requires half of the membership to be logged in all at once (and the paper membership numbers include alts and people on extended afks). And even for entities that have comparatively high participation rates like Snuff Box or Balex I rarely see a battle report that has more then 30-35 of them on it at once.

On top of that blues are less common in lowsec than in 0.0, as a result combined (or coalition) fleets aren't as common either. They happen obviously but even then they rarely hit numbers as high as 50 and generally only for CTA's of some sort. Due to the simple fact that if you 'casually' roam with 50 people in lowsec you'll be hard-pressed to get a fight because not all that many people in lowsec can match those numbers and certainly not impromptu.

The Tuskers organize a regular public roam that that has a hard cap of 20 people. For two consecutive weeks now it has been unable to get fights while roaming through Verge Vendor, Essence, Placid & Black Rise (some of the busiest lowsec) on a Friday night during late EUtz prime time. Not for lack of people in space but simply because no other gangs around felt confident they could engage it.

The largest fleet I've personally been in so far this year numbered around 70 (including links and various alts) and was a combined Minmatar Millitia/Pirate fleet to hit a strategic objective. Other than that I've not really been in any fleet that numbered much beyond 20 at all for the entirety of 2014 so far. Most fleets I've been in were only about half that size.

By contrast when I roam 0.0, which I do fairly regularly either solo or with just one or two mates, it becomes clear fairly quickly that 'small' means something very different around those parts. As an example a few weeks ago Robinton Jax, Naoru Kozan & yours truly took 3 Navy Omens and a link/scout ship into Deklein. We travelled there by wormhole, the response force numbered around 40 and formed up within minutes of our arrival, chased us into a pipe and bridged around to cut off our escape routes and generally put quite a bit of effort into killing us! Something they succeeded to do, to both Jax and me. The mails show respectively 10 and 8 people from two different CFC entities, you'll have to take my word for the fact they had bunch more people in the same pipe actively hunting us in an organized fashion :-)

Now please don't misunderstand me, the above isn't a complaint, we know when we go into area's like the CFC heartlands and Providence that we'll draw these type of responses. In fact it is *why* we go there, it's a pretty big rush to fight 10:1 odds and non of us mind losing ships or give a rats ass about ISK efficiency. And we killed a couple of things ourselves in the process so fun was had, all good.

What I am trying to illustrate is, that I don't find it odd 0.0 residents consider a 50 man fleet to be 'small'. If you can rally 40 people for an impromptu homeland defence force in mere minutes, it doesn't amaze me you consider a 50 man fleet a 'casual small roaming force'. How could it?

But then we end up on the EVE-O forums and talk about balance and some person from lowsec will state 'but this change has a severe negative impact on small gangs!' and some person from 0.0 will reply 'hogwash! this is fine and a proper small fleet should be able to cope with this!'. Both will think they're making a perfectly rational argument not realizing that when one says 'small' he means 15 and the other means 50.

A perfect example of this is heavy missiles Caracals they're a perfectly viable small fleet concept when you have 20-30 of them supported by some target painting ships and some webbing ships and (T1) logistics making for a fleet of around 40-50 people. However when you have to make them work with 15 people and 7 or 8 of those people are your scythes, tacklers and webbers/painters and you only have 7 or 8 people left in the actual Caracals to do damage... It quickly starts looking a lot less viable as you'll struggle severely to break any kind of competent logistics backbone. And every loss hurts more for the 15 man gangs because as you lose DPS and/or support webs or painters every loss severely reduces your ability to do anything fruitful even further.

And so every day on the forums we see people from corps that typically roam with 10-15 ships telling us that heavy missiles are bad and in dire need of a buff while on the other side of that debate we see people from 0.0 entities tell those people they are crazy and that heavy missiles are perefctly fine and that they should just run 'proper' fleets, not realizing that *regular* 50 man fleets are beyond the capabilities of all but the very largest lowsec entities. Furthermore it is something many of us simply don't enjoy doing regardless. Many lowsec pilots derive part of their enjoyment from feeling like they 'matter' in a fleet, which is kind of hard to convince yourself of when you are just 1 out of  30 Caracals. Admittedly though that's not necessarily a balance concern.
What ends up happening in many situations is that people in lowsec replace the Caracals in such a doctrine with HAM Sacrileges and HAM Cereberus as they offer more tank and more DPS (and Javelin HAMS outclass HML's in pretty much all aspects but range) so that this type of doctrine becomes viable again but with less people in fleet.

So you might think; all is well then? Well in a way, maybe. But having to fly HACS instead of T1 cruisers significantly raises the barriers to entry into a fleet in terms of both ISK and skill points. On top of that, ship replacement funds aren't a thing in most small gang roaming corporations. When you lose that partially DED space fitted Sacrilege it comes out of your own wallet, and ISK isn't as readily available or accessible in lowsec as it is in 0.0.

I do understand that when you buff something for small gangs that you automatically buff it even more for larger gangs. However since frigates, destroyers and cruisers are the main hull types being flown all over lowsec making up around 80% of all ships flown there, as opposed to just over 50% of the hulls being flown in 0.0. With cruiser hulls seeing about the same amount of usage in both lowsec and 0.0 and the total numbers of kills not showing huge disparity either (when you consider how much smaller lowsec is the number ends up being at least equal). I really don't think it to be unreasonable at all when we request to be considered equally as carefully as null security space when small and medium sized ships or weapon systems are being (re-)balanced. Those balance decisions impact us at least as much after all.

Battle size and ship class distribution in low security space. Source:
Battle size and ship class distribution in null security space. Source:
Weekly kills comparison between low security and null security space. Source:

Anyway I've strayed a little now, my point is that when we talk about balance in terms of small gang viability it is required that we make sure we are all using the same parameters, so we don't end up with widely varied frames of reference leading to unnecessary misunderstandings.

Later this week I'll still babble out Battlecruisers.


Kaeda out.

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