A War of Serbs and Fire

On the Thursday the 24th of August, Test Alliance Please Ignore and Circle-of-Two officially announced they would be severing diplomatic ties and that Circle-of-Two would be leaving the Legacy Coalition. This comes after several months of strained relations and a more recent political conflict of interest on the part of TEST.

I want to look at the narratives being pedaled here, particularly from the TEST side. Here's a short tl;dr of what each group involved is telling their members:

  • TEST/Legacy: CO2 haven't been much help to us since they got set up in Impass. All they've done is rat, mine and cause problems. Now they're trying to evict Phoenix Federation - a group who've been nothing but friends to us since we moved in - and our hand has been forced.
  • CO2: When we decided to settle in the South, we were promised Impass for ourselves and Feythabolis for our renters. We were asked to leave Feythabolis alone for a while to smooth things over politically. After months of stalling, we finally decided to take matters into our own hands. TEST have now sided themselves with the DRF of which the current residents of Feythabolis are a part of, so we've been forced to reset them. Also fuck FCON, this is their fault and they're just krabs so lets kill them.
  • Triumvirate: We left the DRF because we wanted to fight and their huge number of agreements were stopping us from doing so. We decided to move south to attack Phoenix Federation since it looked like fun, and they immediately joined the DRF as a defense pact against. Hang on, the phone is ringing. "Hello? CO2? You want help shooting the DRF in Feythabolis? We're on our way!"
  • FCON/Phoenix Federation: Our #1 goal is to secure our space against anyone who wants to attack us. By working with the DRF as equal partners, we can build one of the most powerful political alliances that EVE has ever seen. As part of this agreement we need to hold up our end of the bargain and help out Wings Wanderers in Feythabolis against CO2. In return they'll help us if and when TRI or PanFam comes to evict us.
  • Drone Region Federation (DRF): Triumvirate have caused nothing but problems since their Vanguard coalition joined us. We're happy to be rid of them, and as you can see all of their former allies in the Vanguard coalition have decided to stick with us. We'll be deploying to Etherium Reach for a few weeks to secure our space destroying all TRI structures left there. In addition, the Phoenix Federation to the south have decided to join us. With them, we'll be able to push back any attack by TRI, Lumpy, or anyone else who wants to mess with us.

That's pretty brief and cartoonish, but taken from various pings, alliance updates, Q&As, and reddit posts over the last few weeks that is a fairly accurate representation of the lines being spun to line members. You can also see that based on the priorities of each group, their actions make complete sense. Both Phoenix Federation and the DRF want safe uncontested space for their members/renters, so that's a match made in heaven. The Legacy coalition is essentially just a giant anti-PL defense pact, so it makes complete sense they'd want to maintain unity and not piss off their neighbours too much incase they ever needed them. CO2 are big on being independent and like doing their own thing with some friends willing to back them up, so it's understandable why they're pissed off at TEST, and Triumvirate were just bored as fuck until a couple weeks ago and just want to shoot someone, anyone, so working with CO2 to shoot some people makes perfect sense.

When you look into any space politics drama, that's usually a recurring theme. Most actions of most groups make complete sense when you view it through the lens of their actual priorities and their perception of reality.

However the reason I'm particularly interested in this situation is that it happens to be one of the few instances where the actions don't make sense. Specifically those of TEST.


Let's go back to early December last year. After a well fought defense against an NC-led invasion of Tribute, the region lay all but forfeit and the M-O Keepstar was under siege. During this period, the decision was made by TEST leadership to pre-emptively abandon Vale of the Silent to avoid a taxing and hopeless defensive war for the region. Circle-of-Two was invited to go with them, and off they went to the south. They invited many groups along with them like Brave Collective and Requiem Eternal, in the process building the Legacy coalition you see today. It feels a little strange to be talking about this like it's history when it was barely more than 6 months ago, but hey. The invasion of the south-east kicked off right after the Christmas break. The Imperium deployed into Catch to help defend their long time allies Stainwagon, but within weeks it became obvious to Imperium leadership they were a mere shell of their former selves so back home they went.

From this point on, it became a mostly uncontested grind, right up until they bumped into the Russians at the very southern tip: Feythabolis owned by Wings Wanderers and Omist owned by Kids with Guns Alliance. They actually have a pretty interesting structure that could be best described as a Co-operative renter program. Rather than all individually joining a renter alliance operated by another group, they've simply set up their own one, and then instead of paying rent, they simply pay protection money to their neighbours. It's actually a pretty decent idea. They overall pay a lot less money, and the PVP heavy groups nearby get a free income stream simply for existing. On top of this, they're both heavily affiliated with SOLAR FLEET. While I'm not sure about the details of their relationship, in HK we've observed a number of folks moving back and forth between Solar's renter program in Outer Passage and Wings Wanderers's sov in Feythabolis. By political ties this effectively makes Feythabolis and Omist DRF territory despite being on the other side of the game, and their newly founded alliance with Phoenix Federation bridges that gap.

Piecing the behind the scenes picture together from various conversations with Vily, gigX himself, and a few ex-TEST members, it seems that CO2 were promised Impass as a region to live in, and Feythabolis as a region to rent out. Equally TEST would receive Esoteria as a region to live in, and Paragon Soul as a region to rent out.

This is where the trouble begins. When it came time to clear out Feythabolis for CO2, TEST decided they wanted to secure Esoteria first because it was a little distance away. Completely clearing out all Stainwagon structures and sov. This was understandable, and CO2 agreed to that delay, holding off until TEST could help them.

A few weeks later, CO2 get impatient and decide to start grinding it out on their own again. As part WSHOT's agreement with SOLAR, SOLAR owned the majority of the r64s in the region. I don't have access to a reliable Feythabolis moon scan to confirm, but 25+ is the number I've been quoted so we're probably talking somewhere in the ballpark of 40-70B/month depending on the composition. TEST's diplomacy team made a deal with SOLAR where they'd be left for 3 months to farm the moons and find a new home for Wings Wanderers, after which the region would be abandoned and all structures removed saving CO2 the grind. Begrudgingly, CO2 agreed to this.

At the end of the 3 month period, WSHOT were still there and so were SOLAR's towers. Obviously fed up with this situation, CO2 decided the diplomatic options had been expended and went to work attacking the region. At this point, unbeknownst to CO2, TEST had made a protection agreement with DRF in exchange for being allowed to deploy to MTO for their attack against GOTG. This meant they were unwilling to help CO2 in Feythabolis as it would have broken the protection agreement. Apparently in conversation with gigX, Progod actually suggested that he talk to TRI and Fraternity for help, which of course they did.

Now mere weeks later, having been deployed North and allied with some of the very people CO2 are fighting with, TEST returns home and tells CO2 that they will help them but that they must reset TRI immediately and help Phoenix Federation defend against them. Having had the piss taken out of them for nearly 6 months, CO2 are obviously completely fed up resulting in this widely circulated conversation and the resets happening in the next couple days. From their perspective, CO2 are being asked to break their own agreements - to help an ally who hasn't kept up their end of the bargain for months - to keep an agreement that CO2 were neither consulted on, nor agreed to, nor benefit from in any way.


The coalition API hasn't been updated meaning the verite influence maps aren't yet updated, but here's a hand edited version of roughly how the map will look once these resets come into effect.

influencemap-edited

There's a bunch of TRI sov in Insmother right next to the "Vanguard Coalition" text that I couldn't really single out in Photoshop, but otherwise it's pretty spot on.

Conclusion

Obviously this map isn't looking good for CO2. CO2 and TRI are both famously strong PVP entities and more than capable of putting up a real fight, but they're surrounded by enemies with an agenda in all directions. Certainly based on these leaks from the Brave leadership Slack and the implication of what was discussed at this Legacy leadership meeting it, it seems they were already talking about how to divide up Impass before the reset was even set in stone.

Often situations like this are defused by political maneuvering, but I don't think it'll happen here. Both Triumvirate and Circle-of-Two have shown in the past that they're willing to fight until their wallets run dry over every last objective and this truly is more of a grudge match than a sov dispute.

For the most part, I'm just bemused at what TEST were thinking here. To quote TEST's head diplomat on something he said during their impromptu Q&A about the reset, "when I took over TEST's diplomacy team no one listened to us. Now we've gotten it to a point where anyone in the game is willing to trust us at our word". That may have been true a few weeks ago, but right now it's looking pretty grim. At this point TEST has some level of diplomatic deal with everyone in the game except for PanFam and GOTG. They have a little more than a NIP with The Imperium, they have a defense pact with Phoenix Federation and they now have a defense pact with the DRF. In short, they've pledged their support to quite literally 2/3rds of the map. The problem with this is that it's inevitable that sooner or later, some of those groups are going to have a disagreement and you'll need to pick a side. A friend who stays neutral when you need them the most is no true friend.

TEST already survived a near-death experience once, and it was exactly this kind of political house-of-cards building that brought them down. I doubt this will be more than a bump in the road for them in the medium to long term, but it should be a stark lesson in caution. Good friends are hard to come by and not always easy to deal with. It's the willingness to stick together through thick and thin that really proves their value, and I can't see any of their current allies willing to do that the way CO2 could have.