This was a really fun contract. It also reminded us, once again, why we hate large towers. Seriously, those things suck. This contract also ended in disaster, from an ISK standpoint, but we were able to pull it out of the hole due to fortuitous circumstances and quick reaction time.
This was our first major deployment for a contract since Phoebe. We had put a lot of thought into how we were going to move, obviously, but had never tested it on a large scale. The way we used to move was pretty simple: everyone in the alliance would put their ships into a hangar, naming their ships after their characters. Directors would then parcel out ships to carrier pilots and we'd begin the journey, jumping to one cyno, docking, and then undocking to jump the next one. We'd unload the carrier once we arrived and then make the return trip to load up again until all of the ships were moved out. We could typically make an entire deployment in one cyno cycle. We also had a pretty wide variety when it came to what we would deploy with. We didn't have to make a lot of sacrifices in deployment doctrines.
That's all gone now - and that's not a bad thing. I really like that we have to choose our tools for the contract carefully now. We've retooled our doctrines to hit harder with less ship, and it's awesome to see the results of a well-chosen fleet doctrine on a contract. And this move wasn't any more difficult, really, but it did take a lot longer; five hours to be exact. We basically logged in, jumped, logged out for an hour. It was relaxing. We do have a longer prep time to contracts now, which isn't a huge issue - we never had an emergency contract in the past, so I doubt that we'd face that now either.
Anyway, back to the contract! We were hired to remove a specific set of targets made up of POCOs and control towers in the area. On top of that, we were to destroy the enemy at every opportunity as well. We moved out on December 3 and planned to initiate the contract on December 5. Some of our more enterprising members began causing havoc a little early, which we certainly didn't mind.
We took the first POCO of the contract down on December 5, but not without casualties. It was a really good fight. Both sides were holding on, logistics barely holding on. Our fleet didn't have enough DPS to kill their carrier before its triage cycle ended, and unfortunately we didn't have our capitals ready to move quickly enough to bring them in to finish it off. We were able to grab a few kills by switching targets and staying ahead of the reps, but Violent Declaration were able to bring in more and more ships to the fight to replace their losses. Eventually a tipping point was reached and we began to lose a few ships, so we began pulling range - all the while still trying to organize our capital fleet. The enemy fleet took this opportunity to disengage and leave the field.
That was the first of our major conflicts we had over the contract, and despite destroying nearly half of their fleet and only losing four ships, the price of our doctrines did not leave us with an ISK win. Regardless, we were able to continue through seven more POCOs in short order with minimal resistance.
After a break, the fleet continued with an eye on one of the control towers. Despite not being able to organize our capital fleet in time for the fight earlier, the break had given us more than enough time to get them on the field. Unfortunately, Buhddust Princess broke his own rule of only using dreads if you can kill the tower in one cycle. So during the second cycle, an enemy fleet began to land on us and Buhhdust begins the process of trying to get our dreads and carriers out alive. Unfortunately, due to a series of mistakes and miscommunication, we had some carriers jump out first which allowed two Aeon and one Hel supercarriers to kill two of our Archons and a Moros.
This was a huge blow to us. Noir. is not well versed in capital warfare, we've always been more of a guerrilla force, although we've always worked towards being in a position to use them effectively. With the merger of Suddenly Spaceships, we're finally in that position, but we do lack experience. We've put a lot of time practicing this though, and I'd be very surprised if something like this happened to us again.
We did get the tower and a POCO afterwards though.
Another notable event for this contract was a drive-by carrier kill. We actually snagged two carriers, both of which had just come from a resupply run. For whatever reason, they decided to fight with all of that material still in their cargo holds. This really helped us turn the killboard back around. It almost got away from us, but we were able to bump them off the station by acting quickly, and then securing them both with the Titan. Not only did it boost the killboard, but it really boosted morale. We hate finishing a contract successfully, but with poor numbers. And honestly, I'm still not terribly happy with our final result, but it could have been much, much worse.
Perhaps the largest fight of the contract was over the last objective: a large control tower. We had taken every other POCO and POS on our target list. During the reinforcement operation, we had multiple skirmishes on top of the POS, and man was that thing annoying. It was covered in neutralizers, scramblers, jams, and dampeners. Their POSgunner began to focus efforts, placing everything on one target and trying to coordinate the defense fleet to take it out while it was under enormous EWAR pressure. It didn't really work, except once. Alek was our FC at the time, and when he dropped we simply had another member of the fleet immediately take over without missing a beat. That's one of the best things about being in Noir., we have a pretty deep FC pool.
We reinforced the POS and began to prepare for the final showdown. We were certain that they'd bring another large fleet, similar to the reinforcement, and perhaps their supercapitals as well, which is what we truly wanted to happen. We tried baiting them out to no success, and in the end the contract targets chose not to fight and instead gave us the field and the POS and, for all intents and purposes, the contract.
We were technically hired for a week, so we did stay around for that time and picked up some more kills, including a fairly successful gatecamp.
Finally, we packed it all in and made the roughly five hour trip back home. We broke Noir.'s all-time record for highest contract pay in one week period, which was pretty awesome, and we had a lot of fun. Our contract targets were great sports and maintained a very friendly attitude throughout, and it was a pleasure fighting against them. I just hope we're not hired to hit many more large towers soon! We ended up with 279 contract kills and 9 losses, but our ISK efficiency was only 67% due to such expensive losses. But, live and learn!