Gang Tactics is a new on-going series in which we explore the fine art of death dealing in small gang warfare. This series is not intended as a technical exploration, but as more of a guide to the fundamental basics involved in small gang warfare in New Eden. And hopefully, one that is enjoyable and educational.
Small Gang warfare is, in my humble opinion, one of the most enjoyable aspects of playing Eve. Hanging out with your Corp mates, friends, and blowing up enemy ships. It can be very rewarding no matter your skill points or experience level. New players and veterans alike can quickly form up to go on a roam, form a defense, or plunge into the unknown.
So let's start with the basics. What I like to call Catch, Hold and Destroy. This is the basic fundamental tenant of any small gang and you only need three ships to get started. For lesson one we'll start with just these three ships. The great thing about small gang tactics is the expandability of each lesson, once you master the fundamentals, adding more ships becomes easier and easier.
Catch: What good is the hunt unless you can catch your prey? This role is easily filled by a Frigate or Interceptor. The perfect catch ship for your small three man gang depends on where you are, in low sec, null sec or wherever. But there are basic considerations that should be addressed and those mostly concern speed - both in velocity and in locking. A good catch ship has velocity on its side - it is very fast. But it also needs to be able to lock the enemy quickly before he can escape. Two points in the mids are preferred, a long point disruptor to catch the enemy from a distance, and either a Scram or Web to hold him down once you get closer.
Rifters, Crows, Taranis, Ares, Lachesis, Arazu - there are many, many ships that can fill this role depending on your own skill level and where you are in space.
Hold: Once the enemy is caught, living thru the fight is critical. If you catch him and then explode, this does no one any good. You might think it odd that this is a separate category, once the enemy is caught shouldn't we skip right to Destroy? That is asking a lot from your Catch ship isn't it? The role of the Heavy Tackler is something we'll discuss later on, but for now expecting your Catch ship to survive past the tackle is asking for it to achieve more than its role allows.
This is a role that needs to be considered. What is the next ship to arrive on the scene? Typically this role is filled by Cruisers/Battlecruisers. For example the Thrasher or the Rupture is a good ship for this role. They can deal damage from a tank that should be able to survive long enough to see the enemy explode. The Drake or Hurricane also fill this role exceptionally well for the more advanced pilot.
Destroy: The Destroy role can be filled by the Hold ships, you could have a Catch ship and two Canes for example. But it would be wrong to not consider the Destroy ship its own category, because "destroy" can take on many different meanings. For example, the role of the Destroy ship could be filled by a Falcon or Curse. In that example the destroy ship arrives on the scene last and is the tipping point of the battle. Let's say your Catch ship has tackled a Dominix in a belt. He is holding him down, but his cap is drained and he won't last long. The Cane arrives and starts delivering the DPS, but not fast enough against the tank of the Domi. The Catch ship warps off and now it is the Cane Vs. Domi. The Cane, if he can stay out of neut range and destroy the Domi's drones, might eventually win. But he might not. This is when the Destroy ship arrives. Certainly another Drake or Cane would help tip the balance, but the arrival of a Falcon or Curse (or other role player) would do the job as well.
The CHD is a thought-process that helps you determine the basic make-up of your Small Gang. If you have three Canes available, applying CHD would make you think that at least one of those Canes should probably have a Sensor Booster in his mids, for faster locking speed. It might also make you canvas your pilots regarding the types of points they have, to make sure you have the bases covered. At the very least the SeBo Cane should have a long point.
So it isn't always about the types of ships, but more about the roles each of those ships will be playing in your three man gang. This is the basic underlying logic behind ALL gangs and fleets in New Eden. From three to three-hundred, once you start thinking CHD the rest becomes only a matter of scalability.
So, now that we've mastered the basics, let's add one more ship:
Hunt: While you are forming up another Corp mate logs on and wants to join your gang. You already have your CHD bases covered, you have a Taranis, an Arty Nano Cane and a young player in a Blaster Harpy. So what role do you still need to fill? You need a Hunter. Now the Hunter/Scout role is one that can be filled by a lot of different ships and depends on the skill level of the individual pilot. It could be as basic as yet another Frigate or as complex as a cloaking T3 Cruiser. The perfect Hunter for your small gang would be a cloaking ship with Probes. But beggars can't be choosers and your Corp mate can't fly T3 yet, but he does have a Buzzard. And he'd like to learn to Probe better. How better to learn than on the field of battle?
Now we're talking. Our small gang is starting to be pretty awesome. With just FOUR ships your gang can take on just about anything New Eden has to offer, by being smart and picking your targets carefully, you should be able to kill just about any one or two man gangs you happen upon. And brawl with anything your own size. No matter your skill level.
So good three man or four man gang set-ups:
1x Frigate (long point, scram or web, maybe Sensor Boosted or Nano fit for speed)
1x Cruiser (DPS but good solid tank)
1x Cruiser 2 (DPS, with surprise - like a sensor damper, or ECM, or EC Drones, etc.)
+ Tipper = Electronic Frigate, Neut fitted Cruiser, Falcon, Curse, Blaster Thorax, anything that can specifically fill a role that tips the battle to your favor.
For more experienced pilots a good fleet comp could be:
1x Interceptor (Fast speed and lock, long point or Scram depending on how fast)
1x Battlecruiser (DPS and tank)
(This is a nasty three man gang set-up. Make sure your BC is nano fit or at the very least is carrying EC Drones. In case he gets caught the Falcon is his escape clause.)
The role of the Falcon can be played by many ships, including an additional BC class or even Cruiser. The Falcon choice right now is the obvious one, but choosing something that isn't obvious (or a Falcon!) will probably get you more good fights.
Next time we'll cover small gang DPS, making the most of various types of DPS delivery in a small gang setting.
Part Two: DPS
Part Three: Travel
Part Four: Track & Kill