One of the most important and least considered parts of taking commanding a fleet are the goals of the fleet, how you are going to achieve them and most importantly why are you taking out a fleet in the first place? Are you going out on a roam and spoiling for a fight with anyone? Are you hitting a specific target? Are you defending a specific position in space? In the UNI another consideration has to be made in “what am I teaching”?
This idea has never been more clear in my mind that yesterday when I lead the fleet to defend the University’s new Wormhole Campus from invaders (AAR incoming). I have lead defensive fleets against our war targets on many occasions, as well as found targets on roams who have started chasing us who we have then forced to fight on our terms, but this is a whole new kettle of fish.
If not for the opposing fleet running away with their tails between their legs after scouting what the UNI had mustered, it would have been my first fight in a wormhole as a pilot, and my previous nullsec experience is limited to only engaging 2-3 pilots at once in far smaller engagements. With a fleet of over 100 ships, many of which were exceptionally shiny, saying that I was nervous doesn’t really cover it.
The goal of that fleet was clearly to defend the wormhole and the structure that had come out of its reinforcement timer. We could bring as many ships as we wanted to of whatever composition we felt would be best. Thankfully with help from our friends from Social Sleeper Club, the wait was filled with lots of advice and knowledge being handed down as well as keeping the mood light given that the UNI had spent the past 24 hours scrambling to get everything in position. When I say “whatever composition”, part of what I am referring to is the fact that we could field a substantial amount of ECM.
In almost every fleet I have done since late October I have shied away from having anything but a minimal ECM presence. A common complaint about the UNI if you go to reddit for example is that there is a reputation for having a lot of ECM present. I can completely understand this and despite it being an entirely valid and useful playstyle, it’s not very fun to be permajammed. Not only that, but I do agree to some extent that if the opposing fleet is jammed to all buggery and can’t shoot back, those of us not flying ECM are not learning a great deal about combat, other that what it’s like to shoot fish in a barrel. These factors combined mean that while I do not outright ban ECM from my usual roam fleets, I am very mindful of how much of it we are bringing.
It is a matter of public record that the UNI runs our very successful “noobs on patrol” fleets, where we tell everyone to bring whatever they want and we roll into low/null sec and engage anything that isn’t docked. Partly because it’s hilarious fun and partly because it’s a great way for people to try our brand new roles, or even experience fleet PvP for the very first time. I love these fleets and go on them as often as time allows as they are very pleasurable ways to spend an evening. (Prepare yourselves for the however).
However, until recently the outgoing fleets from the UNI (with notable exceptions being DragonSlayers, Low Sec Camp roams and the occasional wolfpack) have almost all been of this format, leading to a very minimal experience of the incredible variance and styles of combat that differing fleet compositions can bring. As I am no longer (relatively speaking) a brand new FC in the UNI, I felt it my responsibility to be one of the people pushing for improving further the PvP experience the UNI provides to its students.
With the recent T1 logistics buffs in Retribution, I set my mind to more often taking out more strict fleets in terms of what we were flying and how we would attempt to engage targets. Now, I’m not claiming to be the only person in the UNI to have had this goal, it has existed well before I even joined but with the changes we had a brand new opportunity give experience to our largely lower-SP members in more what I have dubbed “doctrine-ish” fleets. Before the rest of the EVE-verse starts laughing at me for how badly I am misusing the term and all that stuff, give me a moment to explain myself.
Setting these up actually posed a very interesting question relating to those posed at the beginning of this post. Inspired by a rather excellent post from themittani.com I set about making a fleet doctrine that both was fairly strict and gave a good first impression of the concept, but was loose enough to still actually get pilots who can fly the ships. After much discussion with experienced Unistas and a bunch of redrafts we ended up with a lovely little armour cruiser gang, something I had wanted to try since the Tuskers gave me first hand experience of how strong it can be (Ignore the DnD on our side, it was a very….complicated 30 minutes).
I like to think on the first fully doctrine one I took out after some early experimentation we were rather successful, especially as a not insignificant part of their fleet does not show on the killboard, even though later on in the fleet we ran into some stiff resistance. The main engagement there is one of the very few I was very pleased with how I handled FCing, as I am usually very overcritical of how I handle things (i.e expect me to bring it up again sometime).
One final question, to engage or not to engage? In the UNI my default is yes if there’s a glimmer of hope for Isk efficiency, or something cool to happen. The only exception to this is when engaging War Targets where I’m slightly more bound by the UNI WSOP. I’m giving pilots a lot of new experiences and should not be trying to denying them that for the fairly cheap ships everyone usually brings. I get the feeling that if/when I move to another corporation, how I evaluate engagements will have to change quite drastically, but until then SHOOT ALL THE THINGS!
All of the above (even if somewhat contrived) are entirely beholden to the questions at the beginning, as are all fleets. I know there are a lot of aspiring FCs out there, and I believe these questions are just as important to have a grasp of as the more commonly though of skills when it comes to leading a fleet.
Quick plug! The prominent Fweddit FC Master Zeuth will be a guest at my monthly “Starting out as a FC Q&A” this Saturday at 20:00 EVE-time. I am overjoyed to have someone with so much experience there, it’s going to be a fantastic experience for everyone present to pick his brains on FCing so I very much reccomend attending or listening to the recording, which is usually up a few hours after the session.