“I’ll never forget that day, it was chaos, fear and admiration all mixed together.” – Operation Enho survivor Elise Randolph
Stories of EVE: Operation Enho – The Greatest Military Manoeuvre Ever Attempted in EVE Online
Sometimes plans are so epic that even if they fail, they go down in history. And that is the case with today's extra special edition of Stories of EVE where we get EVE Online's biggest aficionados to tell the most hilarious, epic, and heart-warming true stories of life as Capsuleers in New Eden.
Today, both story and storyteller go by many names -- an indication of prominence if there ever was one. The legendary Peter Farrell better known as CCP Swift or Elise Randolph returns to tell us today's Story of EVE (better known as Operation Enho or The Valhalla Ride in YZ9).
So strap in tight because it's a wild ride:
Hubris is the ultimate equaliser in EVE Online.
One of the things that motivates high-level fleet commanders is the devising of unique and creative strategies. Anyone can lead a fleet and say "Hey, shoot that guy." Being able to do something that no one else has ever done in history, well, that's a different story entirely. And as storied as EVE Online is, just one manoeuvre has the ability to make you a celebrity in our miniature world. It's about creating a moment in time.
When you do something cool, you get to give it your own name. So, they called it "Operation Enho", and no, I have no idea what that means. It was during World War Bee 2, i.e. the big one between the forces of Imperium and PAPI. The Imperium had lost a couple of Super Capital battles in a row. Those are expensive fights to lose and so they were on the defensive. Or at least, that's how they made it seem. Sometimes having a hubristic enemy can pay dividends.
In truth, Imperium had come up with this amazing, amazing strategy to feign weakness and make their enemy PAPI overcommit. They had strategically placed 16 titans in a circle, a Halo-esque ring of OP ships each with their own OP Doomsday weapons.
The plan? To have an overconfident PAPI move in their supercarriers and as they passed through the centre of the ring to surprise attack them by having the hidden titans unleash all 16 of their Doomsdays at once -- all connecting in this central sphere of annihilation.
No one had ever thought to do that before, or at least, never had the guts. It was a high-risk, huge-reward strategy. If it failed, they had lost 16 titans. But if by some miracle, they pulled it off, that's 300 Super Capitals obliterated in the blink of an eye. And so, they gave it a whirl.
They retreated their own Super Capital fleet and dangled their bait waiting for their foes to follow. PAPI, bolstered by their series of victories, had decided to bring everything they had. Every PAPI pilot had told his friends "we've got them on the run, join us in our victory." And so the PAPI fleet was positively swollen was ships. But as the old adage goes, "pride comes before a fall".
They entered the system, and at least for some pilots, the shoe began to drop. There were murmurs on the group chat "Okay, well this is weird?", "Why is nothing happening?", "Where's the resistance?" Then bang! 16 titans show up -- they'd been logged off for days in preparation and so seemed to come from nowhere. And then they unleashed hell.
What makes things even more interesting in mega battles like Operation Enho is that when there are thousands of players in a single solar system, there are so many commands going on that the server actually slows down. It goes into a Matrix-style bullet-time; we call it time dilation. Unsurprisingly, in Operation Enho's case, it had reached maximum time dilation -- so one second in the real world takes about 10 seconds in the game.
With everything slowed down, you have ample time to realise exactly what's happening but that doesn't mean you can do anything about it. When the first titan logged in, you laugh, thinking "Well this dude has just messed up." Then another one logs in, "Huh, okay...". And another, and another, until a ring begins to form and the penny begins to drop.
When their Doomsdays fired and our suspicions were confirmed, we couldn't do much more than sit, watch, share some expletives over voice chat, and hop over to Excel to try to work out how many Doomsdays is enough to obliterate you, and just how bad it's going to be. You see the Discord channels, where three or four commanders are coordinating the fleet battles, swell in numbers as panicked fleet members join asking "What are you going to do?", "What are you going to tell my guys?!"
I was there that day, flying for the ambushed PAPI in my Nyx. I watched helplessly as my shields depleted, watched as my armour depleted, all the while thinking "I'm dead, and I'm not going to even get a chance to do anything."
And then it just kind of stopped. Sadly, and I mean it when I say sadly even though I was flying in the ambushed fleet, a few of the titans misfired their Doomsdays -- it's an almost impossible thing to pull off. One or two others couldn't log-on properly. And other technical issues occurred, so it didn't have its full destructive power. They killed a handful of our forces alright; they caused some damage. But they didn't achieve the total annihilation they deserved.
And yet for two reasons, you couldn't call Operation Enho a failure. Firstly, because it went down in EVE Online history. Secondly, because for months afterwards PAPI was plagued by overcaution. They were so scared of another trap that they didn't properly commit for months. The confidence in the chat had gone from victory cries to warnings of "Let's be real, let's be careful, we got lucky."
Hubris is the ultimate equaliser in EVE Online. And frankly, PAPI got a fortunate hand dealt to them. I'll never forget those Discord servers on that day, it was like chaos, fear, and admiration all mixed in.
Now you've heard the tale from the side of the ambushed, we recommend checking out the Imperium blog to discover the months of practice and preparation that went into the strategy.