This was really highlighted for me last night because one of my more insane alliance-mates (Hi Brent!) has started running a live video stream of his EVE-related (and occasionally, some of his... ahem... unrelated) activities. A couple of jumps out from his staging system, he encountered one of the worst gate-camps I've ever seen. I won't mention the alliance that was running it to avoid embarrassing them, but:
- you've heard of them; and,
- you would think, from their reputation, that they could do this better.
Now, to start, gate-camping is the silliest form of PvP. There's not much in the way of skill or tactics needed. It's just a late-night activity that a lot of guys do that is almost exactly akin to mining in groups.(2) You get a bunch of people together, have many beers in the safety of your own homes, and BS about a variety of topics while waiting for something interesting to happen. It's a social activity, not a PvP activity. And it's usually done entirely casually, without FCs or traditional strong fleet compositions. But so many people bring the wrong ships and the wrong tactics to a casual gate-camp...
So let's cover the basics, shall we? Here are the top ten things you're going to need to do to run a successful camp:
(1) Camp the right gate. Most people like to camp entrance pipes to null-sec, and there's nothing particularly wrong with that, but it should be done properly. In particular, camping a regional gate -- a gate that jumps you from one region to another -- is nearly always a bad idea. I said the same thing in my decloaking guide, and it's for the same reasons. It's too hard to position your gate-camp ships tactically in the right places on an enormous regional gate where ships might end up 30 or 40km away from each other, unable to provide mutual fire support. In Syndicate, for example, a lot of guys camp the Orvolle gate in PF-346. But a better place to camp this pipe -- if you must -- is the PF-346 gate in FD-MLJ. The Keberz gate in HED-GP is another popular camp location, but more successful camps are run on the HED-GP gate in SV5-8N, and so on.
Besides the fact that regional gates are much tougher to control from a mutual support stand-point, regional gates are nearly impossible to bubble, and usually, the region they lead back to is either high-sec or low-sec which means that your cross-jumping tackle (we'll get to that in a second) aren't going to be able to do their jobs. That means to escape you, all someone has to do is successfully burn back to gate, which in this day of 100MN afterburner fits, cloaks, nano, and Snake implants, they're almost certainly going to be able to do.
(2) Bring DPS. I feel silly even saying this. It's the equivalent of saying "put food in mouth, not in anus". "Bring DPS to your gate-camp." Duh. But it's amazing to me how many people don't. You're there to kill things. How do you expect to kill things without DPS?
Too often, when someone finishes their first beer and says "Hey guys, let's go camp this gate," a lot of guys say "Great!" and then they undock in assault frig, or a cruiser, or a cloaky Recon, or a Rifter, or the like. A lot of this is risk-aversion, particularly semi-drunk risk-aversion. People flying casually don't want to risk expensive ships. If the situation goes casters up, a Rifter can definitely get away where a Hurricane might not. But for Heaven's sake, bring a few ships that can put 500 DPS or more out there. And with a few exceptions, ships that can't put out at least 300 DPS should not be welcome in your camp. The number of 500 DPS ships you bring is going to define the biggest thing you can kill in 60 seconds assuming they aggress.
- One 500 DPS ship: one T1 cruiser.
- Two 500 DPS ships: one weak battle-cruiser, or two T1 cruisers.
- Three 500 DPS ships: one strong battle-cruiser, or three T1 cruisers.
(3) Bring the right Recons. They're called Combat Recons. A gate-camp without a couple of Combat Recons is a failed gate-camp before it begins. Rapiers and Huginns are most required, and of the two, the Huginn is much preferred because it can apply decent DPS, because that's what Combat Recons do better than Force Recons. A good Huginn pilot can prevent enemies burning back to gate or burning out of your catch bubbles. A good Lachesis pilot with a long-range faction scram can prevent a lot of people escaping you. Hell, even a Curse can do some good with its drone damage and its ability to shut down active tanks and MWDs through neuting.
Don't overdo it with Combat Recons, though. One or two is sufficient, since they only add about 200-250 DPS each. See (2).
(4) Bring some anchorable bubbles, and maybe even a single dictor. This obviously applies only to null-sec gate-camps. But for these kinds of camps, a few bubbles are vital. If you're smart, you'll camp a pipe system: only one way in and out. In which case, three medium-size bubbles are ideal. Put one 60km or so on the line from the other stargate, on the opposite side of the gate you're camping. Put one 60km or so on the line from the closest celestial, on the opposite side of the gate you're camping. And put one 60km or so on the line from the celestial most "off-angle" from everything else, on the opposite side of the gate that you're camping.
Why on the opposite side of the gate? So that the ship that lands in it will have to take a few vital seconds turning around if they choose to make a run for the gate. Bring mediums because they're easier to work with in this configuration, and are annoying to casually kill (whereas even a very small gang will make short work of a small bubble). Put your bubbles in line with these celestials because a lot of people will warp to the closest celestial or the most off-angle celestial before warping to your gate.
If you have more than one other gate in the system that you're camping, you'll also want bubbles aligned from those gates, too. And yes, I know it's more annoying to put them on the opposite side of the gate that you're camping. But what else do you have to do with your time? Take a few more minutes and do it right. ;-) And don't worry too much about the size of the Medium bubbles. Most people camp the same systems pretty regularly. If that's the case, you should take a half-hour at some point, load a cloaky hauler with a Giant Secure Container or two full of medium bubbles, make a safespot, anchor the GSC(s) in that safespot, and bookmark that location. There, now you can pick up replacement bubbles with no problems and you have a place for excess loot you collect.
A light dictor is quite useful to have along for bubbling in cloakies that jump into your camp. This gives your decloakers a few extra vital seconds to try for a decloak. They're also very useful, if you do get something firmly tackled, for making sure you get their pod, too. Single-bubble Sabres with a lot of AutoCannons are the best ship for this sort of work because they're fast and they do fairly decent DPS. See (2).
(5) Bring light tackle with scrams. Train them in decloaking techniques. Gate camps most often happen in null-sec, which means that light tackle can do their job by tackling ships. Once the aggress order is given, the light tackle should be burning toward the target with an eye toward getting a scram applied. Scrambled targets will have a harder time burning back to gate, or will have a harder time burning out of the catch bubble they've just been caught in. High DPS interceptors and interceptor-like ships are the best for this sort of work: the Taranis and Daredevil are particularly favored, but Imperial Navy Slicers and Drams are also pretty good at this.
As with Recons, don't over-do this. Three or so light tackle is what you should be aiming for, and one of them should be sober enough to follow suggestion (6), below. A gate-camp should also be a sea of light drones, and the bulk of these light drones should be assigned to your light tackle. This not only helps them if they have to decloak something, it will greatly increase the amount of DPS that's applied to the target once the scram has been applied. Anyone who is bad enough to bring a Rifter to a gate camp falls into the light tackle category, by the way. Too many Rifters circle gates at long ranges, hesitant to engage. People, it's a Rifter. If a Rifter pilot refuses to mix it up, call him primary. That will relieve your boredom.
(6) Bring people willing to cross-jump and/or avoid aggressing. A good gate-camp should have two or three light tackle, but once a given target is tackled, at least one of these light tackle ships should not attack the target! Instead, this ship should jump the gate in case the target makes it back to the gate and jumps through. This will give your gate-camp a chance to catch that ship despite its attempt to escape. It's also smart for one or two of your DPS ships to hold their aggression as well so that they can follow the target through.
This is a thankless job and should be rotated among the small ships in your fleet, with one interceptor or the like holding aggression on one target, another holding on the next, et cetera. This light tackle doesn't have to tackle the target on the other side in case of a trap, or a target that it's clearly not equipped to handle. But gosh, if your gate-camp catches and nearly finishes off a ship, only to have it jump through the gate in structure, wouldn't it be nice to have a chance to finish it off on the other side?
The ability to cross-jump and still tackle a wounded target with a frigate, by the way, is a key reason you want to establish your gate-camp away from a regional or low-sec/high-sec gate. If you're camping a low-sec gate and the target makes it back into low-sec, your unaggressed light tackle frigate is going to do you no good whatsoever when the gate guns reduce him to slag. You'll have to rely on your ability to...
(7) Bring at least one heavy tackle ship with scrams and webs. At least one of your DPS ships should be a quick, ferocious ship equipped with a scram, a web, and a good tank. A Proteus is ideal for this task, but nearly any tough T3 or close-range HAC or quick-locking BC will serve this role admirably. This ship's job is to make it possible for your light tackle to get away from a target once the initial tackle has been established.
If you do choose to gate-camp a low-sec entry into null, this ship will be particularly useful. A heavily tanked cruiser or fast-locking BC can act as your cross-jumper. These ships will have an easier time surviving gate gun fire long enough to reestablish tackle on a target that has gotten away from you by jumping through or back through the gate you're camping.
(8) Bring a couple of alt scouts. This one should be fairly obvious. A low skill-point cloaky alt should be placed in the systems on either side of the camp to detect incoming ships, and to detect whether that lone battleship that is jumping into your camp is really alone, or just the bait scout of a much larger gang. Many, many gate-camps use a character that is in the same corp as the camp as the out of system scout. This is nearly always a mistake, and will simply serve to reveal the nature of the trap in the next system. An alt in a neutral corp isn't ideal, but it's certainly better that tipping your hand from the get-go!
If the lone battleship jumps into your camp, you aggress it, and it fights back, the alt can report if the system behind the battleship is filling up with the fleet that the battleship is the bait for, and can give you the composition of that fleet so you have a good understanding of whether you can take that fleet on or not...
(9) Don't bring the wrong Recons. If a Falcon joins your gate-camp, there's only one correct procedure for it. Ask your heavy tackle to move to close range to the Falcon. Then call the friendly Falcon primary and kill it.(3) Know why? You'll get a good kill out of this, and as long as a Falcon is with your gate-camp, you're not going to get any other good kills. People bring Falcons to a gate camp for only one reason: they intend to leave the rest of you to die if anything even remotely dangerous happens.
Falcons add almost nothing to a gate camp. They add no DPS, they prevent ships that jump into your camp from aggressing on you, and they cause people who might otherwise be tempted to fight you to call you names and deliberately avoid fighting you. If your alt scouts are paying attention to their jobs, you're not going to need the Falcon's jamming ability for anything. If you aggress on a bait ship and your alt scouts report the entry system is spiking, that information is more valuable than any Falcon jam. Tell the Falcon pilot to bring a DPS ship instead so that you can kill the bait ship and be off the gate before the bait ship's fleet arrives. Hell, even a Rook is better than a Falcon: it brings the same jams, and also brings at least some DPS.
That said, if your Rook gets excited and jams a target that hits your camp and the target has the opportunity to escape while he's forcibly deaggressed, he's going to do it. And the rest of the fleet may well decide that a Rook kill is nearly as good as a Falcon kill.
The other Force Recons have similar disadvantages, though the Rapier is least objectionable. At least it brings webs. But if you have a choice between a Rapier and a Huginn, bring the Huginn. Force Recons don't bring significant DPS. See (2).
(10) Bring a Remote Sensor Booster or two. Apply them to your tackle and web ships. This one should also be fairly obvious. Somewhere in your gate-camp should be a ship with a spare mid-slot or two, and those spare mid slots should be applied to Remote Sensor Boosters. Drakes are good for this, and a lot of gate-camp Drakes bring RSBs as a matter of course.
The best place to apply these RSBs is to your Huginn, Ashimmu, Vindicator, Vigilant, or whatever you're using as your webber and/or heavy tackler. You want those webs or scrams on whatever you're moving to kill as quickly as possible. The RSBs only work to your advantage here. If you do have to abandon the camp and pull range, a boosted web ship (particularly the Huginn) can do a great deal to keep enemy tacklers off your gang as you escape. And of course, used offensively, an RSB on a tackler can make sure that very little will escape the camp.
What was the gate-camp that my alliance-mate jumped into? A gate-camp on a low-sec regional gate into null with a couple of Hurricanes, a Tornado, three or four tackling frigates, an Eris interdictor, and two Falcons. The first time he jumped in was in a Hurricane. What can a Hurricane do against a pair of Falcons? Absolutely nothing. He burned back to the gate and jumped out after the entire gate-camping fleet aggressed on him. He returned in a Hyperion thinking he might be able to separate out and kill one of the tackling frigates before jumping away. Nope, the two Falcons again made mincemeat of the mere idea. He again had no problems burning back to gate (not even going into half-shields, let alone armor) and jumping through. Again, the entire gang aggressed on him.
In short, this gate-camp had no webbers, no heavy tackle, nobody able to cross-jump, not enough DPS, too many Falcons (i.e., more than zero)... and was being scouted directly by a member of their corp in the low-sec entry system. As it is sometimes put on Twitter... #fail.
So that's it. Ten suggestions that will make your gate-camps -- if you must gate-camp -- better. Happy camping!
(1) And a big shout-out to everyone who says hello to me during these late-night wanderings. :-) I hardly ever get to shoot at someone who says hello, but it's always nice to chat with people for a few minutes while I'm scouting around "your" system...
(2) Yeah, I went there.
(3) This is a joke. You probably should not do this.