Fat Man the first
Occasionally I have the urge to try solo combat. Usually I fit up a ship or two and stage them in low-security space. Then I parade around for a while hoping an obvious target presents itself or a vicious pirate will shoot at me. And normally I get so bored that I give up a few days later. The boredom isn’t because there aren’t people to shoot in low-security space (there generally are). Rather it’s because I’m too risk averse in a one-versus-unknown situation that I don’t engage.
There, I said it. I’m risk averse. I’ve tried to break myself of this time and again. It’s not that I’m unwilling to lose ships; I fly interdictors, heavy assault cruisers and recon ships with small gangs all the time — and every time a pod pilot goes looking for combat it’s best to be aware that it’s a risky business. But there is something about groups that inspires more confidence than being alone. I don’t trust myself solo.
I consider myself good at small gang combat. I know what to do. I know when the gang is likely to win and how to help bring about victory conditions. So when there are three or more of us, I’m willing to risk more. I also have a lot of faith in the pilots that fly with me and that inspires more confidence.
So now that I’ve established that, while I’m confident in group combat, I’m chicken to engage anything solo we can get back to the story. A few days ago I was reading blogs, enjoying all the solo player-versus-player tales, and decided to give it a go … again. I know a bit more about ship combat than the last time I set out to do this and found all of my existing fittings lacking. I went back to the Eve Fitting Tool and set out to design a few fits to stage in Placid.
I can fly any frigate in the game so the first problem I encountered was choosing a hull. I decided to go with tech 1 frigates because they are cheap. I’m not especially poor, but if I’m going to get over being risk averse, I might as well start modestly. Rifters are quite overdone as I see them everywhere so I wanted to avoid them. Friends have suggested I give the Incursus a try, but I can never settle on a good fit. The punisher seems popular, but I’ve never been a fan of fitting a ship and not using its bonus — which is what all the advice around the Punisher seems to be.
After considering nearly every frigate, I settled on the Tristan and Merlin. Both of these ships suffer from split weapon systems, but they have decent slot layout. Most importantly for me, both are favorites from my early days in New Eden. With a little effort, I soon had two different Tristan fits and a Merlin fit. I resolved to fit two of each and find out which I like best.
Because I’m extremely cheap, I’m building my own rigs and ship components where possible — which is probably silly because the market cost for my first fit was only ~7 million isk. This led to a situation where only my very close range (blaster fit) Tristan was ready to fly. So I was out in my Tristan looking for targets larger than me; sadly, something small found me first.
I was engaging a couple of battlecruiser rats (die Serpentis criminals) when two Hawks appeared on scan. One hawk outmatches just about any T1 frigate setup that I’m aware of, but two was a completely illogical fight. I kept up my engagement roughly 15 km from the asteroid belt beacon until a Hawk landed on grid with me — then I promptly warped to the nearest station.
I hung around outside the station and started up a chat in local with the pilot (Quake590) though it seemed any chance of action had passed.
Quake590 > why’d you run?
Pian Shu > Well, 2 Hawks against a Tristan isn’t much of a fair fight.
Quake590 > well… it would’ve been one hawk
Quake590 > the other one wouldn’t have been able to come in on time
Pian Shu > 2 popped up on scan at the same time, so you can’t blame me for worrying.
Quake590 > hehe
Pian Shu > even one Hawk against a Tristan isn’t much of a fair fight. Think I ought to at least kill something with it before I lose it.
Quake590 > hehe
Quake590 > still worth a shot
Pian Shu > Well You can shoot first under the guns if you fancy your chances
Quake590 > get 2kms from the station… I like a challenge
At this point I hemmed and hawed for a moment as I didn’t think he would actually engage while I was simultaneously afraid that he would engage and I would somehow lose. So I didn’t leave the docking range. After a moment I figured that it was worth a shot because I didn’t actually have much to lose. I was playing on a character that isn’t in my alliance and so nobody could laugh at me on the killboard. It was a cheap ship. I had station guns on my side.
So I directed my ship to orbit his. While I was orbiting, I noted that he started pulling range from the station — I assumed this was to draw me away. So I let myself be drawn away in what I hoped looked like a rookie mistake. When I was a few kilometers from the station, he engaged with a warp scrambler, stasis webifier and rockets. I quickly applied a warp scrambler and stasis webifier followed by rockets and blasters and I approached him directly — not much point in letting him get out of blaster range if I could help it.
Initially, it looked as if he was going to terminate my brand new ship and warp off. Then I remembered that the Tristan’s real tank was armor and hull and stopped panicking. I had remembered to engage my damage control unit which drastically improves the tank on a Gallente frigate. My ship entered hull before his shields were fully stripped, but I gratefully noted that he wasn’t using a shield booster. From there it was a race through his flimsy armor and hull with the help of the station guns.
I still expected to fall before his Hawk, but when I saw a bright flash and a neutral pod floating in space beside me I was elated. A second later my beautiful, cheap Tristan was engulfed in a fiery explosion as his last wave of rockets found its target.
So ended my first “solo” experience; after the fact, he pointed out that it wasn’t actually a solo experience as the sentry guns had done most of the work. I’m going to count it based on the fact that I have no confidence in sentry guns. Clearly my little ship was outmatched, so I am fairly happy with the draw even if I made several rookie mistakes. I hesitated slightly when he engaged me, one second probably cost my ship in this race. I didn’t make any use of overheating — I could have overheated everything and been fine for the short engagement. And I didn’t launch my lonely drone. Making the correct actions in any of those cases would probably have allowed my Tristan to see it’s way through the battle.
But, I lost my first Tristan. I’m a step closer to kicking my risk aversion problem. Three Tristans and two Merlins left.