Tuesday 4 January 2011

Intelligence & Counter-Intelligence, Part 2 - Would You Kindly

Last entry we spoke about how important it is to know stuff. Of course, any opponent worth their subscription is likely to be trying very hard to know stuff too.

Believe it or not, most people are opposed to the idea of throwing themselves into a situation where they are likely to lose. Add a bunch of their friends into the mix, and many FCs will err on the side of caution and only take fights where they have a reasonable expectation of winning. There are a a fair number of noteable exceptions to this rule, many of whom I have a great deal of respect for as a result, but for the most part it holds true.

So here's our problem - our gang finds an opposing gang which we'd rather like to make explode. If we've both been watching carefully the chances are both gangs know what the opposing gang has, and quite often one side will look better than the other. Depending on the disposition of each FC, one or more may decide that actually, the other gang is too much for them to handle and bug out. Assuming our gang is capable of beating the other, how do we convince them to go into a fight they have a good possibility of losing?

This is what we call counter-intelligence. Unfortunately it's not quite as cool as the title makes out, but it's still fairly important.

The obvious answer is that we make the opponent think he's going into a fight he has a good chance of winning. This applies at all scales, and those of you who read my initial post on interceptor fishing will probably be finding this quite familiar. There are various ways we could do this - we could make our force seem smaller than it actually is, or we could simply make it look like an easier target than it is. Very broadly speaking I think the former works best with larger gangs (where numbers are one of the main factors) while the latter works best, or at least is easier, with a smaller force.

So, how do we make our gang seem smaller than it actually is? Most of the time, this involves splitting the gang over multiple locations. The aim is that when the opposing force encounters one element of your gang, they believe it to be the entire thing and take the fight, at which point the rest of your gang arrives to tip the odds.

The are a couple of considerations with this tactic - firstly, we need to make sure it's plausible. A ground of 6 logistics ships and 4 battleships is obviously not alone, whereas a group of 6 battleships and 2 logistics might be. A damnation is obvious bait, whereas a raven is possibly a careless ratter. Incidentally logistics are a key player in this - where heavy logistics use is present in both gangs, FCs will often look at strength of the opposing logistics rather than overall numbers. Keeping your logistics ships in the reinforcement group, while risky, will significantly increase the chances of your opponent taking the bait.

Secondly, our reinforcements need to be able to arrive fast enough that our opponent can't simply kill our bait group and leave, and that our combined strength is still enough to win the fight. This conflicts directly with the third point:

Our reinforcements need to be in a place where they will not be noticed, or will be noticed but not expected to be reinforcements.

Obviously the closer our reinforcements are, the more likely they are to be spotted. If the opposition is using scouts effectively, this can easily expose our waiting reinforcements. Here are a few ideas on how to get arround this:

  • Use side systems which are unlikely to be scouted. A lot of gangs will scout one or two systems ahead and behind of themselves along their designated route, but won't necessarily check side systems which don't lead anywhere. Having your reinforcements here reduces the chance that the opposing scouts will spot them.
  • Wormholes. This is obviously dependent on their being a wormhole in system and needs to be discovered ahead of time. When this is used in Agony, it's usually because we've come through to the system from the wormhole in the first place. It's very unlikely that the opposing gang will be aware of the wormhole, so this can be an excellent way of masking your forces. The tricky bit here can be getting your gang into the system with the wormhole without getting noticed, particularly if the system is close to your opponent's HQ.
  • Cynos and Hotdrops. These are an excellent way of dropping additional forces, and are very difficult to detect or anticipate ahead of time. Obviously though, they have their restrictions. The most accessible form is the Blackops drop, where a Blackops Battleships can bridge large numbers of cloaky ships to a covert or regular cyno. The types of ships you can send through are limited, however a handful of bombers or recons can tip of a fight in your favour, not to mention the Blackops itself (which despite all the criticism, is still a fairly powerful ship). A titan bridge does something very similar but with any ship type, however this relies on your having access to a titan. A regular capital hotdrop is also viable, especially in the form of one or more remote-repping triage carriers which can be a huge force multiplier in a small to medium gang. It is also a good way to get carriers killed, so use it carefully.
  • Make your bait group really juicy. Fly a solo battleship straight into an opposing gang and a lot of FCs will go for it without really thinking (make it a faction battleship and this is especially true, although its also quite risky). This works especially well if it comes from the opposite direction to the one your opponent considers a thread (e.g. somewhere they've just come from, or into a 0.0 entry gate from the hi-sec side, etc). Obviously if they already know your gang is in the area this is much less likely to work, but do it right and this can be a great way to get your opponent to take the bait.
There are other methods, but I'll let you experiment.

Onto the second point, how can we make our gang seem like an easier target? This can be a fun one, and there are a lot of ways to do it:

  • Act disorganised, afraid or newbie-like. Numbers and composition might be significant, but if your opponent thinks you're not looking for a fight they'll be more likely to give you one.
  • Pick ships that are often underrated (this one applies more to solo, but can be true in gang too). A lot of people will engage a moa or ferox who might not engage a thorax or brutix, but the capabilities of each are fairly similar (in fact, some people have been able to do pretty awesome things with Feroxes). The Celestis, Osprey, Bellicose etc are all ships with a generally poor combat reputation but which can be very effective against the right target.
  • Use ships with a reputation for one type of fit, but use them for something else. E.g. have a few eagles and muninns in your gang and many people will assume it's a sniper gang. If they think they can catch you at 0 (usually a big problem for a sniper gang) they will often take the fight, only to realise too late you're fit for tank and gank instead.

Hopefully you get the idea - the aim is to give your opponent misleading information leading them to an incorrect conclusion about how easy it will be to defeat you. There are many more ways to do this - if you come up with something especially clever, funny, or effective, please let me know!

Finally, on a slightly different but related note, try to keep track of what your opponent knows. Just like knowing what you do and do not know is essential to making the correct decision, knowing what they do and do not know will help you figure out what they are likely to do, as well as letting you know what best to throw at them to change their mind about a situation. Watch where their scouts ar. Know who their friends are. Look at their ship types and their attitude and figure out what they will and won't go for. Avoid being predictable yourself, especially if you fight the same opponent often. And of course have fun, take risks, and make explosions.

Also, while Toterra has apparently beaten me to it, check out this awesome new blog from the FNG, a newbie lowsec pirate with a nice attitude. It's a great read, and not just because of the liberal sprinkling of Douglas Adams quotes that accompanies each new post!

In other news, apparently someone decided I didn't have enough to do already, and I'm now officially a director of Agony. Fun times...

Until next time!


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The Altruist is the Eve Online blog of Azual Skoll, PVP instructor and small gang PVPer.

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