The war is over. And there is no doubt that Against All Authorities won. There is still some fighting over some areas of Providence space, but this is definately minor and Paxton is no longer operating in the two systems is still does own. However, was this a foregone conclusion? Could have CVA won this war?
The answer is yes, there was a chance. And the basis for that chance.. was “Market” PVP.
There are very, very few people who really understand how successful CVA was in setting up NRDS. To be perfectly frank, most people (and that including myself at one time) had plenty of theories that were based on little to no experience. PVP pilots like myself just think that NRDS means that you have more people spying on you, that you had to spend far more time wondering who your enemy was, who that neutral was, etc., etc and that NBSI was clearly the way to go.
However, as much as some hate CVA, you would have to be blind not to understand how unique running an entire region under NRDS.. and to do it successfully for years, is in our state of Eve. The logistical hurtles are certainly high and you need a very dedicated group of pilots to maintain the various rules and regulations and to keep things up to date. Add to that the very activity of the region allowed for around fifty stations to be built to support it. This had a market potential that no other region of space could provide.
NRDS holds two potential advantages over NBSI space:
1. Market Openness – NRDS space allows neutrals the opportunity to sell goods onto a market that is very active. Providence in particular was very active in this regard as the generally lower skilled pilots would get killed by various roaming gangs, but as more and more pilots joined up there was a need to get replacement modules and ships. Because of the reality of roaming gangs and pirates, there was always going to be a profit to be had.. thus drawing more and more industrialists.. which meant a more active and stable market. This benefited everyone in the region.. especially since there were so many stations both CVA/Holder industrialists and neutral industrialists could easily find a market for their goods.
2. Local activity – NBSI space has another flaw in that corps/alliances that own space generally own too much. Mainly because its strategically better to control the chokepoints rather than every system. Because of this, you generally have several areas of space where there are no pilots ratting or doing anomalies.. those people, if they are on the ball, can assist in warning of incoming fleets, as well as delay various roaming gangs.. giving the NRDS alliance the ability to form up fleets to counter them. This was often what would happen with the Providence channel and the various holders. NRDS in essence allowed for pilots to spreadout in Providence space.. making a sort of intel “net”. It certainly wasn’t perfect, and it Citadel certain had its share of spies, but it was still an effective tool.. because even if a spy tried to give incorrect information on red fleet makeups, there was always a good chance that the next system they jumped into someone would give the correct fleet composition.
The first point is really the critical one. NBSI has a problem in that the markets are inheritly strictly controlled. While this means more money for their alliance industrialists, it also means that you are more reliant on a fewer number of vendors. Fewer vendors mean less overall products (modules, ships, ammo) and usually higher prices. Stations in deeper sections of the region will be less supplied than those closer to empire space. CVA could have taken advantage of this by utilizing “Market PVP” prior to any invasion.
It is a critical point to note that for pilots to fight, they need isk. Isk for modules, isk for ships, and isk for ammo. If they don’t have that, they can’t fight effectively. If they can’t fight effectively, they stop showing up for battles.. either because they cannot afford the replacements or because of discouragement. “Market PVP” is essentially playing with how isk used. Most industrialists know this well, but CVA and the holders really had the opportunity to expand this to a whole new level.
In order for Market PVP to be effective in any situation, several factors must be determined:
- “Where are the items coming from?” – A simple question, but it lays the foundation for all your future actions. In NBSI space, typically those items would be brought in by Corp/Alliance traders (usually in neutral alts) or manufactured in the region. In NRDS space, you also have the addition of small to large neutral traders who will help seed the market.
- “How do the logistics operate and what are the costs?” – The logistics we are talking about here ranges greatly. If they are mere traders, where do they go to buy the modules? If they are full on industrialists, you need to find out where they get their minerals and other critical components. Do they manufacture them at a certain station or POS? Do they mine themselves, as a corp, or just buy them off the market and transport them to their construction area?
- “How much do they charge?” – Here is the area where Market PVP can be most effective. Most industrialists I know aren’t self-sacrificing. They are in it for the money, and I’ve known quite a few that will take advantage of their own corp/alliance members to make that money.. even in times of war. This seems to be very consistant personality trait amongst the most effective and efficient industrialists, and generally HATE being undercut.
- “What things are most critical?” – This is another vital question when engaging in Market PVP. Using the Provi War as an example, we knew that generally the enemy would be using armor buffer tanks for all of its ships. Buffer tanks requires four particular items: 1600mm Rolled Tungsten Armor Plates, Large Shield Extenders Tech 2, Trimark Armor Pump Rigs, and Core Defense Field Extenders. Also using what we knew of the region, Sansha rats only rarely dropped the much used 1600mm Rolled Tungsten plates and but would drop a fair number of armor plates, essential for the Trimark rigs.
Now, how could the four above points (there are no doubt a few more, but I suspect that people more in tune with Market PVP can provide better specifics) be used to an advantage? CVA could have planned an infiltration of AAA markets by industrialist “neutrals”. Those “neutrals” could then provide modules and ships at a lower price than AAA’s own industrialists.. below actual cost. On the flipside, fees at stations in Providence could have been raised as well as a new war toll being expected from various holder alliances to help offset the costs. At the size of the network of alliances situatated in Providence under the control of CVA, the cost would have been minor at best.
Now, generally it has been my experience that industrial corporations tend to be more lax about their hiring requirements than PVP corps. They honestly don’t take the threat of spying seriously. This, of course, lays the option open for the industrialist “neutrals” to be brought into the alliance industrialist corp so that a.) they can bring in more profits and b.) they can get “control” over the markets again. The now “blue” neutrals can begin taking over the building of more important modules and ships. The critical piece is that they be quick and reliable and easy to get along with.
So, at this point, after say a few months, you have your “blue-neutral” industrialists undercutting the local alliance industrialists (remember, with the entirety of CVA and holders footing the bill they can easily do that). Your “blue-neutrals” are now providing a large chunk of critical ship components. Eventually, the “blue-neutrals” will have found out various pieces of critical information, such as other friendly “neutrals”, general shipping times that people operate, location of POSes for construction. All this stuff can be passed over back to CVA, and CVA could have sent out strike teams to lay in wait, or wardec certain neutral corps, etc all the while never attacking the specific “blue-neutrals”. This would allow for your enemy to be more reliant on the “blue-neutrals”.
Now this is where it gets fun. After you begin your assault on the enemy in earnest (wardecs and all that), your “blue-neutrals” keep CVA informed of upcoming CTAs.. then a day or two prior to the CTA.. critical shipments of ships and modules get “found” by CVA strike forces and destroyed. The “blue-neutrals” start making accusations regarding “spies” inside the corp. Massive losses like freighters and jump freighters (losses that NRDS CVA could easily replace) would give strength to their arguments. This would not only disrupt the industrial alliances, but it would certainly slow down the availability of all modules, and then in turn, reducing the number of available ships for battle. Ships that did manage to get into combat would have to rely on less than ideal configurations.. further reducing their effectiveness on the battlefield. For example, in a typical triple trimark battleship rig configuration, just dropping from 1600mm Rolled Tungsten to 1600mm Reinforced Crystalline will drop the EHP approximately 2000 pts per module replaced.
So would the resulting mayhem been effective enough to counteract the numbers that AAA was able to field? It was still highly unlikely. But, there is certainly a possibility that CVA/holders could have been strong against AAA/UK alone, using a retreating defense (resulting in higher losses), manipulating the availability of the markets (thereby reducing combat effective fleets and affecting morale), and by the typical improvement of combat skills in a combat enviornment. It didn’t happen that way of course, and this little writeup is just a fine work of “theory-crafting”, but imagine.. what an NRDS alliance could do.. if it chose merely to metagame.
The results could be scary..