Some thoughts on FC-ing small gangs.

 I had written up a nice long post about Incarna, since it is on the Singularity server. But, WordPress ate it. All I had posted was above the cut, which pissed me off to no end. And, of course, the draft copy was automatically deleted. FU WordPress. I will write about it and include some pics soon.

What I will write about today is fleet commanding (FC). I have had the privilege (actually been stuck with) commanding small gangs in Curse. The vast majority of time is spent on bubbles, catching traffic like flies in a web. It is by far one of the easier commands, but still isn’t easy.

I have commanded small gangs in gank fleets before. Somewhere between 4 and 8 ships. There, if the fleet has had some experience, it is a fairly easy operation. Jump in, align, warp fleet, land, target, optimals, coordinated fire. Target goes pop. GTFO.

On the bubble, it is a bit different. Depending on the size and location of the bubble, fleet size and composition, and experience of the fleet will determine how I will manage the fleet. I like running tiny gangs: 2-4 ships. I have run 3 frigate fleets and enjoyed the hell out of it. No, we don’t take down Hurricanes, but we do have fun.

If the system is boxed (scouted on all connecting systems), then choosing targets is easy. Boxed systems are rarely the case with a small 3 frig fleet, though. I have my fleet 5-10km in front of the bubble, ready to  warp to tacs, spamming D-scan. If local goes up +1 or 2, we’ll watch to see what comes in. More than 2? Go to tacs. Someone jumps in from the protected gate? Go to tacs.  Cruisers and below are viable targets.

However, when I am commanding a larger gang, it becomes more difficult. Scouts are more necessary. I had a 12 man fleet rolling recently, with ECM. I usually let the ECM pilot call his own ECM, with my commands an override if necessary. It just depends on who I trust.

What is my fleet composition? I am still learning ship and damage types. Is that just a gun ship or does it have drones as well? Do I have someone that has tracking disruption? Oh wait, is that a missile boat? Is our Blackbird pilot back from an extended AFK? Does he have the right jams for the gang incoming? Who has DPS? Who will be our primary? Who is their primary? Crap, we only have one light tackle? Oh, we’re nothing but light tackle, or are we? Could that be a cyno ship? That corp/alliance never flies alone, where is the rest of their fleet? Will that battleship smartbomb us to pieces? Should I order us out or not?

There is a lot that goes through my mind. Our bubble camps are not static in ship composition. We are constantly changing because pilots need to log, or lost their only Interceptor and have to fly a bulky cruiser. I tend to error on the side of caution a lot. We have missed some gfs because I had people bail early.

What is the fleet doesn’t completely respond? More experienced pilots tend to not warp off as quickly, sometimes compromising their safety and losing their ships.  I haven’t had anyone become belligerent or insubordinate so far. That goes to show that it is so nice to fly with quality pilots. Fleet comms in OUCH are very good, IMHO. No one gets pissy and everyone follows the FC. Now, once the action is over, the experienced might school me a bit on my mistakes. But hey, this IS a corp of learning.

If it’s a GTFO moment, where do I go? I do try to lag a bit and then go to a relatively close tactical spot. This has saved a ship or two, like when I saw a cruiser get scrammed. I overrode the ECM calls with a JAM THE SLICER type command. I feel my responsibility of the fleet does not end with the issuance of the GTFO command. Are their probes out? Get the fleet moving. Rally up or stay scattered? Should we re-engage?

I like quiet comms. If I want a status of something, I’ll ask. To me, the worst is when you have 12 people trying to tell you exactly the same thing you already see in your HUD. Some FCs want constant info, I don’t. I DO want to know if you are about to be toast, and when you’re blown up. If you’re tackle, knowing your status without having to rely on the watch list is nice, because, you know, I’m being shot at as well.

I almost exclusively fly light tackle at this point. I like my little Incursus blaster boats. I also fly an inertial-stabilized Thorax as”medium” tackle (17k EHP and a 4.7 second align time FTW). I don’t like the damage output as much from that ship, mainly because my medium guns skills suck. I might just fit small T-2 blasters on it and cope.

But, this means I am in the thick of it. I have been the only light tackle in a 10 man gang, so I might be on fire afterward. I don’t need a lot of garbage coming in as input when making ship and command decisions. Did he saw “scram and web” or did he say “Shields.. dammit”?

What about extra curricular activities? Recently, a small gang set up a bubble in a neighboring system (read a good account here). A suggestion was for us to crash it. We certainly had the numbers and support. They had eyes in our system, so we’d have to play it cool. But, I don’t like getting off our game. We were a bubble camp, not a bubble-crashing gang. When we get away from our game, we tend to lose.

One of my pilots suggested that he could fit up a bait Vexor, dual tanked, just to wander in. We knew their fleet composition by now. Our scouts could almost tell me their hull numbers. One scout, one cloaky Blackbird, and one Myrmidon. I initially declined.

But, I kept thinking about it. Traffic was so slow, things like that seem so tempting. I asked my Operations Chief, who was flying an Interdictor, what he thought. I always ask for opinions. I know I don’t know everything. Convince me.

I am literally banging my head on my desk. Finally, I gave it a green light. This was going to be my most difficult FC mission. Staggered fleet movement through a gate, with an assumed target. Oh boy.

Our bait wondered through the system, the jumped into the next. I had a Falcon right on the gate, cloaked. I had to keep the fleet on our bubble to make this trick work. I ran through the plan with the fleet “Once he is engaged, [Falcon] jump and jam the Blackbird and Myr, rest of fleet warp to tacs on gate, then to gate and jump on contact. Warp immediately to [bait] and engage Myr.” (The need for tacs was that we had 2 bubbles up, and we had to avoid it).  Tackles would be arriving along with the Dictor first. Bubble up and kill.

It worked, save for losing the bait. I had some Tri-marked Thorax hulls I should have lent the bait. He’d would have tanked much better than the Vex. Then again, we needed a real juicy target.

And, yes, we killed the Blackbird, too. He had warped off but then warped back. I have no idea why.

I was almost nauseous. I had gone outside my comfort zone, to employ some gank tactics and some cunning. Should I always do that? How long should I think about it? Should I cave in to the subsequent peer pressure? Or will I just appear to be a chicken or a dick?

These are just some thoughts. Not really trying to make a concise point. Enjoy.

Fly FC, fly.