Disclaimer: I'm currently an active member of PL, so while I'll try my best to be as unbiased as possible and stick to facts, there's still likely to be a certain slant here. I'll also be omitting a lot of details I know but simply aren't public yet. The idea here is to give an accurate account of the field as it lies and how things are likely to play out from there.
After over a year of licking their wounds and rebuilding their strength in Delve, The Imperium has finally decided to start an offensive. During the latest State of the Goonion (full recording here and written version here), Mittani announced an offensive campaign against those who had helped kick them out of Deklein during WWB. The stream itself was fairly non-specific but between the stated casus belli and a "low sec staging", it was clear the target would either be Pandemic Horde in Pure Blind or PL/NC's holdings in Tribute/Vale since an offensive against any other entity such as Guardians of the Galaxy or TEST/CO2 would require an NPC Null staging system.
Right enough, after a grueling 6+ hour move op they finally docked up at the 7-7 Hakonen Station in Lonetrek, right on the porch of PL's Keepstar in M-OEE8 and NC's Keepstar in P3EN-E. Like all major deployments as of recent, supercaps have been left at home with just subcaps and regular capitals being brought along for the ride. Rough estimates on the number of capitals moved is around 500-800, although you never know what's been built locally.
Unrelated to this Imperium deployment, TEST had not long began their own questionable deployment to MTO in Perrigen Falls to fight GOTG over assets in Venal. This openly content-focussed deployment had largely been shut down by GOTG's already overwhelming numbers supported by PL supers, so in a simple instance of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", TEST have decided to work with The Imperium, and have thus deployed out of DRF controlled space to Obe in The Forge.
While there is significant lightyear distance between these groups that heavily dictates capital usage, these alliances are all staged less than 5 jumps apart which creates some interesting dynamics.
- Pandemic Legion
- Northern Coalition.
- Pandemic Horde
- Guardians of the Galaxy (Darkness + Friends)
- The Imperium (Goonswarm Federation + Friends)
- TEST Alliance Please Ignore
Relevant Third Parties
- Drone Region Federation: Lead by XiX, they have strong political ties to both major players in this conflict and will likely try to remain as neutral as possible.
- Snuff Box: Likely the top lowsec group in the game, they've spent the last few months fighting with NC and their allies Mercenary Coalition in Placid and Syndicate. During WWB they started on the MBC side, but switched towards the latter half of the war due to bad blood with another major lowsec group Shadow Cartel. The last year or so they've generally been willing to work with almost anyone against Panfam and have built a strong working relationship with Imperium member The Initiative. While they have no real dog in this fight, they'll be more than happy to work with The Imperium to kill PanFam (super)capitals.
In any war the objectives are always set by the attacker. For The Imperium, despite their usual propaganda, this war is ostensibly about creating content for their line members and giving them a sense of revenge for both WWB and the constant harassment they've received in Delve over the last few months, particularly PL's relentless fishing campaign. Notable kills include this battle from December where GSF Supercap FC Jay Amazingness lost his Revenant, and the first ever Vendetta kill.
For TEST, it's much the same situation. PL and Waffles have spent several months deployed nearby in Curse, forcing TEST to defend against regular aggression towards their allies in Catch and Providence. The initial MTO deployment was purely about content, but this deployment it's fair to assume is intended to be a little more cathartic.
The key thing to realise with these kinds of deployments is that while they are more about creating content than strategic goals, if they take off in a big way they can easily snowball into a defenders undoing. This has happened many times in the past, and with old school experienced leadership at the helm of all involved parties, they'll be keenly watching for this.
While no major objectives have come into play yet, the larger picture created by this war has already caused huge casualties. With the PVP-focused side of Goonswarm no longer staged in Delve, a number of groups have taken the opportunity to go wild there. In just the last 4 days alone, The Imperium have lost over 40 Rorquals, and in the last week they've lost a Titan and 11 Supercarriers.
Equally on the panfam side, Snuff and Init have already dealt a heavy blow, killing 3 NC Titans and 5 Supercarriers during a botched move op. While that sounds easy to write off in the current era of heavy supercapital losses, that's one of the largest single move op ganks in EVE history.
Also with NC. repositioning, Mercenary Coalition have reportedly started the unanchoring process for their Syndicate Keepstar in FD-MLJ, likely in fear of an INIT attack on it coinciding with a major timer up north that would leave NC too busy to help.
While I'm not overly optimistic about a lot of fun fights coming out of this war, I think it should be a really interesting test of the mechanics. This is the first real war we've seen in the era of Citadels with about 5 Keepstars in play. In theory the defenders should be able to win any structure timer they care about due to the massive supercapital supremacy, however the sheer number of Aegis Sov timers being generated could present some real issues as a quick glance at the Tribute or Vale timerboards will reveal. One of the more abstract debates over the last year has been how much sovereignty really matters for the control of space when Citadels are so difficult to attack. If nothing else, this war will likely give us a better idea.