This week's Kill of the Week demonstrates one of the aspects of null-sec roaming that I find really interesting:
There are areas of the EVE universe that I personally think of as "dash pipes." A dash pipe, in my view, is a series of systems that link one part of low- or null-sec to another part, using either a short low-sec or high-sec connection. Three dash pipes that you'll sometimes find me on are the route between BWF-ZZ and EOA-ZC (both in Geminate) that passes through Tasti in The Forge, the route from PF-346 in Syndicate to RQH-MY in Pure Blind that passes through Maut in Placid, and the route between AD-5B8 in Geminate to N-RAEL in Great Wildlands that passes through Frulegur in Metropolis. Each of these dash pipes uses six or eight jumps through high-sec and low-sec to cross distant regions in 0.0 that would otherwise take many more jumps to reach if one were to stick to 0.0 to reach them.
Why do I call them dash pipes? Because if you sit somewhere on these routes and watch, you'll see small 0.0 PvP roaming gangs dashing through them in a string of fast-moving ships trailed by their heavier DPS battle-cruisers and battleships, as fast as they can go. Why are they dashing as fast as they can go? Because a lot of 0.0 residents have either very low security status, have very low standings with Empire factions, or both. When you have a very low (below -5) standing with an Empire faction, the faction navy ships that surround Empire gates will try to attack you. When you have a very low (again below -5) security status, anybody can attack you.
So when I saw this Machariel kill in Erlendur, I grinned and could very easily picture what happened. I immediately said to a buddy: "This is why you don't take an armor-tanked battleship through a dash pipe... even if it's a Machariel."
There are a few hardy souls in EVE that sit on the high sec gates in dash pipes in a tackler of some kind, hoping that a "flashy red" will pass through. When they see someone with -5 security status enter a system, they'll attempt to tackle that person. In most cases, they don't have a prayer of killing the ship. They're just trying to hold it so that either other nearby ships will join in on the action, or maybe until CONCORD shows up to finish it off. And from time to time, you'll see the results of these kills. Those with -5 security status or lower try to avoid dash pipes if they can, and never try to dash in anything larger than a frigate. Destroyers fitted with Sensor Boosters and Tracking System Subcontroller rigs, plus medium-range, high-alpha guns do a fine job of making these dashes unsuccessful. I have a Cormorant fit that works well; I'll post it as a FOTW sometime. ;-)
Things are a bit simpler for those who are merely -5 standing with an Empire faction... with the Minmatar, say. Most often, these are either former Faction Warfare pilots, or mission-runners that did one too many missions against one Empire faction in support of another. I personally ran my Gallente faction standing quite low with one of my early toons without realizing I was doing it. Two years later, my standing still isn't fully repaired, though at least it's now above -2. In this case, you have nothing to fear from CONCORD and little to fear from other players. But if you have -5 faction standing, the faction navy posted on Empire stargates will attack you.
How this generally happens: first, you'll get a posted warning as you enter the system. Four or five seconds after you decloak, the faction ships will lock you, and one of the ships will web you. Three or four seconds after that, one of the ships will point you. By that time, all nearby faction navy ships will be engaged and they'll do their best to destroy your ship. Faction navy ships aren't unbeatable like CONCORD ships are. They're actually relatively easy to destroy. The problem is, the more of them you destroy, the more of them will spawn and you'll soon be overwhelmed. Still, you have a couple of advantages: first, since the faction ships web you before they point you, they actually speed your entry into warp (see my basic Warp Drive Guide). And most pilots that have bad standings with a given Empire faction don't bring big, heavy ships into that faction space in any case, meaning that many times, you can warp off even before that web hits. And if the worst happens, if you don't aggress on the faction ships, I believe you can still retreat back to the gate and jump through (though I haven't had the opportunity to test this myself).
Now add a war-dec to this problem.
There are a lot of Empire corps that like to war-dec 0.0 residents. Not because they want to fight these 0.0 residents, but because they want to attack these 0.0 pilots as they bring industrials in and out of Jita... and because they want to attack the 0.0 residents as they pass through dash pipes.
That appears to be what happened here. This little six-ship fleet, in a fair fight, didn't have any chance at all of killing this Machariel. The Machariel fit is nasty and nearly perfect if you like your Machariels armor-tanked(1). It would have quickly eaten those Myrmidons alive before turning its attention to the single Maelstrom (assuming the Maelstrom didn't rapidly flee outright). But webbed, pointed, and under attack by Empire faction ships at the same time? Even the toughest, most bad-ass faction battleship in the game became easy meat. It's a great kill.
The first time your 0.0 FC says "guys, we're going through high-sec for a few jumps here" and you hear agitated pirates on comms complaining? Yeah. This is what they're worried about. Beware the dash pipe.
(1) I personally much prefer shield-tanked Machariels. That stresses their strengths: speed, agility, and pure DPS. One of those will probably be a FOTW sometime, too.