The biggest battle in Eve Online came down to a line score

“If this was a dick that flopped on your face, it would literally break your neck.” Grath Telkin, one of the leaders of Eve Online’s Pandemic Legion alliance (generally called PL), was assessing the situation as his fleet struggled to regain control of the key system B-R5RB. It didn’t look good.   

It had been the biggest fight in the history of the game. B-R was a grinding battle of attrition that lasted almost all day and involved every major player in New Eden. A livestream ran for over 16 hours before the cameraman was killed. (Grath’s comment comes from a snippet of PL VoIP chat played by the streamer.) Over 2600 pilots were in system at once, many of them skipping work, staying up all night, and drinking heavily. They fell in on the side of one of two massive blocs: CFC/RUS vs. PL/N3. Caught in bubbles and dilated time, the fleets looked like bugs trapped in ice. At least 75 titans—huge, costly, undeniably phallic vessels—were blown to pieces.

The battle was so long, and the losses so drastic, that for a long time nobody was able to make a decent battle summary using the normal tools 

Nobody has ever lost that many titans at once before. Though they’re not useful in every situation, massed titans often represent the final level of escalation, a sign that an alliance has chosen to go all in. The previous record for losses had held since 2011, when 12 titans were lost during battles in Uemon and O2O. (You’ll spot some of the same names from back then on the killmails from Monday.) This time, the power blocs going head-to-head were much larger and richer, and had vastly more chips to push forward.

The battle was so long, and the losses so drastic, that for a long time nobody was able to make a decent battle summary using the normal tools (sites BRDoc and eve-kill). But as the fight continued, observers started to focus on a simple score: the number of Titans killed by each side. The Mittani, leader of the CFC, began posting a running count. 8-4, 11-5. 14-6. The messy struggle of hundreds of triage carriers, dreadnoughts, interdictors, and bombers started to look as simple as baseball. The PL streamer, Nick Fuzzeh, kept the tally on a scoreboard at the top of his broadcast. New scores were posted and tweeted out, the numbers picked apart upon arrival in 70-page forum threads. Families crowded around their radios.

In the heavy lag, even coalition leaders and fleet commanders weren’t sure how many of their pilots were alive. The Mittani’s last update claimed it was 40-20. Fuzzeh’s scores showed PL gaining ground, climbing to 37 and then 46 kills to the CFC’s 56. His chyron changed to read “The grind is real.” The comeback was not: barring the appearance of Gandalf and the army of Westfold, big Eve battles don’t feature major turnarounds. On Tuesday, a CCP employee tweeted the official result: 59-16. The CFC had been overestimating its own casualties.

When Grath described the “cock-up” (his term) that was unfolding, he knew he’d lost more than ships on the field. The fight started after PL lost sovereignty in B-R, a key system used by their coalition to launch attacks against CFC/RUS forces. (The sov drop was caused by what may become the second most notorious unpaid bill in Eve history.) The CFC gained control of the system’s station, which meant that PL members could no longer dock and were locked out from their assets, which Grath described as being worth over 100 billion.

The CFC’s decision to escalate the fight was apparently made by fleet commander Lazarus Telraven, who had called in sick that day, according to his AMA. Another of the CFC’s bloc-level fleet commanders, Mister Vee, tweeted a pic of the conversation leading to the moment (take a second to click that link). On the often-NSFW Kugutsumen forum, figures from both blocs praised the decision to commit; Eve coalitions often back down or “blueball” the other side, and rarely risk their supercapital fleet in an uncertain fight. Manny, the FC who ran the PL/N3 fleet early on, wrote on reddit that “a ship hull is the price of admission for fun fights.”

Many players agreed that a turning point in the battle came after PL/N3 decided to target the titan of CFC-allied player Sort Dragon. Though the PL/N3 force was never ahead in titan kills, they seemed to be making up ground in the middle stages of the fight. According to The Mittani’s account, PL/N3 were targeting softer Ragnarok class titans, which are “weakest in terms of durability.” (On Reddit, Lazarus Telraven claimed that the CFC had focused on Erebus class titans, which supply stronger bonuses to their fleet.) According to Grath, PL then decided to target Sort Dragon’s titan, a tough-to-crack Avatar, because they believed he had disconnected from the game, which would turn his ship’s hardeners off. However, Sort was still in-game, the hardeners were still on, and his titan took hours to die. Five PL/N3 titans were destroyed in the time it took to break the Avatar’s tank, according to The Mittani’s play-by-play.

A chart posted by CCP gives a rough idea of the total damage. But B-R is unlikely to be the last major fight between CFC/RUS and PL/N3, who have been at war since October. On comms, on reddit, and on kugu, PL members stressed their resilience. “It’s not like we haven’t lost everything we own once or twice before,” Grath said.

Update: Looks like PL will back out after all. The Mittani reports that PL has cut a deal with the CFC to evacuate their own assets from the B-R station and withdraw from the Immensea region, leaving their allies N3 out in the cold. Citing “beyond staggering” losses, Grath wrote in a forum post that his alliance would return to the Drone regions up north.