Saturday, 3 May 2014

War Record: A lesson in planning

Well, I lost another Rifter.

As a solo pilot, you take the fights you can get, and these are rarely in your favour. New Eden is full of small gangs, and big fleets. The majority of pilots, rather wisely, fly together to avoid becoming a kill mail and frozen corpse drifting gently through space. This is smart, and only a fool would choose to go alone out into the cosmic wilderness.

That said, when you do triumph against the odds, it is a victory all of your own! Whether by luck or design, you challenged fate, and won against reason and logic! The cost of that is a fleet of lost ships. Personally, I think the losses are a fair trade for that white-hot moment when the stars align, and you bring down that impossible target.

But losses do happen. What's important is that we learn from our mistakes, and critically examine what went wrong, and what went well. Which brings me back to my latest Rifter loss.

The fight

I was out patrolling for a fight in my Rifter. In my current job as mercenary for the Tribal Liberation Force, the majority of my targets are Amarr militia capsuleers, and these have been a little hard to find lately. Every system I enter, I seem to find four or five Republic warriors and pirates, and very few Crusaders.

However, I saw a Dragoon on D-scan, loitering around a small plex. Usually fighting a destroyer is suicide for a frigate, especially if it's one-on-one. But... sometimes you can take them. And maybe, just maybe, this will be one of those times.

This was not one of those times.

I had my close range ammo fitted, Republic Fusion, with the intention of out-damaging the destroyer before it could kill me. It's not that unreasonable a plan. Destroyers are on the fragile side of high-damage ships, and the lower signature radius of a frigate plays a part in avoiding fire at close range.

Or at least it would if I WAS at close range. I messed up my orbit, and was sitting quite neatly at 8km out, my capacitor drained to nothing by the Dragoon's neutralizers, and it's drones nipping at my armour like excited slaver hounds with a new chew toy. With no cap, I could not use my afterburner to close the distance, and with the short range ammo, I was only tickling their shields.

Why did I set my orbit that far out? Simple negligence.


This is a common failure I've had with the Rifter. I make mistakes which, if I had thought about it a little more carefully, shouldn't have happened. With all of my other ships flown, I have a short procedural plan for the fights. Pretty much as soon as I've hammered out the plan I start getting kills.

Having a procedural plan is important to pilots of all types. As soon as the locks go on, the adrenaline hits, and most of your thought processing get replaced by the primal urge for survival. In capsuleer combat, this can be fatal. Having a procedural plan to check in the middle of a fight will help you to keep a cool head, and to avoid bad decisions.

Something I'll also need to do for the Rifter is setting up an engagement checklist. Unlike the ships I've flown before, the Rifter needs to adapt itself to the engagement. A lot of the adaptation needs to take place before going in to fight (ammo selection, orbit selection, running strategy etc.)

In the above fight, I adjusted my ammunition, and decided on a strategy. However, I neglected to remember to adjust my orbit, meaning a huge drop in damage against the target. Whilst manual piloting is best for positioning, having a default orbit set to your optimal firing conditions means you have less to think about once you're actually in range.

The checklist will help me to remember to adjust my default orbit path. I had set it to the upper limit of warp scramble range, the common operating distance of the Rifter. This was a mistake in this fight, as I should have adjusted it to be point blank.

Action plan

  • Make a procedural flight plan
  • Make a pre-combat checklist

The above is an example of the old saying: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Solo frigate combat is difficult, and the margins for error very thin. So plan well. The more you've thought about before you un-dock your ship, the more likely you to re-dock that ship with a string of kill mails.

For records of other engagements click here.

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