Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Game of (Citadel) Thrones

In September we saw the Battle of Aivonen where Gallente Militia spent a week of hard fighting to take the capital system from Caldari Militia. Recovering from that setback CalMil quickly retook Aivonen and proceeded to launch a counter-offensive on the warzone, taking a large number systems and highlighted by a 3 week long assault on the Gallente capital system of Vlillrier in Placid region that ended on Dec 23rd with the system's 7 year streak of being held by Gallente coming to an end.

Throughout these sieges one thing has become readily apparent: the home field advantage for defenders has been greatly diminished by the rise of Citadels.

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Picture this: its before the release of citadels and you are in faction warfare trying to launch an assault to take an enemy home capital system. One of the big points of faction warfare is that the controlling defending faction can dock at the NPC stations there while the opposing attacking faction is locked out. Sure, one can use neutral alts to gain access to the station to retrieve assets and such but the members of an attacking militia cannot make use of the hangers, repair facilities, and safety of the station.

This means in a war of attrition while fighting over complexes in the system to drive contested level up (attackers) or down (defenders), the defenders can reship in system in the station very quickly while the attackers would have to find another source for their new combat ships. To get around this, the attacking force would make use of Player Owned Stations, aka POSes to stage out of. However a POS lacks a lot of the convenience of station hangers, permissions for allies not in the owning corporation are tricky and problematic, and restocking the hanger arrays is not as easy as jumping into a station with a jump freighter. 

The upshot of this dynamic was that mounting a successful assault on a home system of an enemy was very difficult if the enemy was well organized and had good pilot numbers.

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Fast forward to now. The first step in attacking an enemy home system now is to deploy an Astrahus, maybe even more than one. 

A citadel has many advantages over a POS for staging:
- permissions for access to allies is trivial using the access lists
- allies can rent an office and have their own organizational hangers
- jump freighters are virtually invulnerable jumping to and from a citadel
- handing out ships via trades or contracts is possible
- ship repair
- clone bays
- unlimited storage

But all of this convenience is dwarfed by the fact that while POS can be attacked any time, Citadels have owner determined vulnerability windows thus allowing them to dictate the timing of the initial battle. 

All of this means that if an attacking force gets a Citadel to stage from, all the home field advantages of the defending force are lost: the attackers have the same ease in restocking and reshipping for participating in the attrition warfare. Worse: the attackers have the luxury of making multiple pushes over any period of time that they can muster pilots and fleets for, while the defenders only need to slip up once to find themselves on the cusp of losing their home station.

* * * * * 

What this means is that NPC stations are quickly losing their cachet as homes for militia corporations and alliances, and they are being replaced by home Citadels that they cannot be locked out of by plexing enemy fleets. Furthermore, as faction warfare moves to concentrate on attacking and destroying enemy citadels, this provides upward pressure on fleet size and more frequent bat-phoning of capital heavy nearby entities top provide more firepower for destroying these large structures or counter-dropping firepower as deterrent for enemy fleets. No longer can a militia remain agnostic to the politics of the low sec entities that they share space with.

I am not sure this emerging gameplay is the in the best interests of faction warfare as a whole, but I see no immediate move or change to address the current issues. I only hope that CCP is observing the developing situation and making plans for faction warfare in the future to help it remain an independent and engaging game system in low sec that is not subservient to unaligned low sec entities. 

1 comment:

  1. Yep, but citadels aren't cheap and the defenders can time and mobilize to destroy them, dealing a financial blow to attackers. FW alliances don't have the budget of Big Null most of the time either - even a medium citadel is a measurable loss.