Psychological Warfare

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Original text by Rells

The most powerful weapon you have in your arsenal as a PvPer is psychology. Psychology is the stuff that makes human beings function and when you understand their psychology, you can master any situation with them. In PvP, psychology will allow you and a few friends to cause massive and perhaps even fatal damage in another corporation, cause the wardec harasser to seek other targets or cause the pirate to decide that he needs new hunting grounds. You don't have to take them on ship for ship to defeat them. This article will give you some tips to accomplish these miracles in your own back yard.


One of the questions most commonly asked on the official Eve Online forums is how the new player can fight back against the older war dec happy corp. It seems daunting if you are a smaller corp and another larger corp is apparently picking on you for whatever reason. The fact is that fighting such forces is imminently possible using what military strategists refer to as asymmetrical warfare and psychological warfare.

Most of your opponents in this game will try to draw you into rather simple engagements that boil down into the usage of pure force against pure force. They are trying to exploit their own strength, namely skillpoints and cash, and would prefer if you would try to compete with them on the same level. Whether or not you actually have the resources to compete with them, letting them dictate the terms and nature of the engagement leaves your enemy in control of the situation. In fact, in a game such as Eve, symmetrical warfare is near useless as some people have a large amount of money and can throw huge fleets at you that you will have little or no chance against.

These statements might lead you to ask, "OK so then how can it be possible for me to defeat them or should I just give in to their demands?" The answer is that it is very possible to defeat your opponent but not in the way you probably thought of in the first place. Instead of taking them on head on, you need to sit down and think about what makes them tick.

Every human being is a creature of psychology. If you understand the psychology of a person, you can predict their actions and even their thoughts with surprising accuracy. Furthermore, if you can fight their psychology, you will win the battle against them. For example, let's consider a hypothetical situation.

Your corp is in a small alliance in 0.0 and a large alliance is making an attempt to submarine your alliance and take your territory. Various engagements by your fleet admirals have led to disaster and the morale of your alliance is extremely low. Your alliance pilots are more irritable and minor inter-corp arguments have become major issues. There are people threatening to leave the alliance and rumors of corp thieves and murmurs that corp A is stealing too much of their share of the alliance revenue. Despite having the ability to still live in the area and having money, engagements are going bad left and right. This alliance is near destruction and is likely to implode from the inside out, not because of the engagements lost but because of the psychology.

Negative psychology tends to spread rather fast, faster than positive psychology, and the more of it there is, the more pronounced its effects are. A corporation that sees a major director defect and go elsewhere in Eve is one that will suffer potentially catastrophic losses from players quitting to look for greener pastures. Alliances that suffer a major corp leaving the alliance will almost surely suffer strong losses in membership if not complete disintegration.

To take this back into the PvP world, a pilot that has low morale and has been defeated psychologically will not go out of his way to fight for his corp. When the time comes for the fleet to get together he will be perpetually busy, have to log off, have a headache or whatever excuse occurs to him to get out of going with the alliance. What he won't be doing is contributing to the size and power of the fleet. As alliances or corps suffer issues, their attendance at fleet events will fall until the fielded forces are significantly degraded from the original forces.

Your goal as the small corporation is then not to destroy the enemy's ships but to destroy his morale. To make it so that they see less benefit or even cost in fighting you and either leave your space or implode themselves. This is possible with small forces when we think out of the box and think psychologically.

Tactics of Psychological Warfare

The goal of psychological warfare is to increase the morale of your pilots and decrease that of your enemy. If the enemy does not want to fight then the fighting force is ineffective and diminishes. There are some tactics that you can use to affect the psychology of your enemy and yet cost very little to your side. To illustrate I will enumerate a number of situations.

Flyby Sniping

A common sight in in Eve is that of a large gate camp consisting of multiple heavy ships backed up by cruisers, frigates, interdictors, interceptors and so on. When confronted with a 30 ship gate camp of this size, it can be seen as impossible to attack. However, that isn't entirely true.

A small group of destroyers and cruisers fit out for long range. The anti-camping force sets up a fleet of 10 ships and assembles for the fight. Covert operations ships check out the gate camp and identify targets on the gate. The first target is the interdictor. The fleet warps in doing a flyby. At 80 km the ships target the interdictor all at once. As soon as they lock, their cycled weapons go off and the interdictor explodes before he can react. The battleships are still attempting to lock when the entire force gets into warp. The interceptor they put up there to lock down ships in a second attempt is the primary target of the fleet warping in on a flyby further away.

The flyby tactic is an incredibly effective morale killer. The enemy can't do anything except either throw out all of their light ships or relegate them to destruction. When applied consistently, the younger pilots and frigate pilots in the gangs get disgruntled at taking the casualties especially since the heavies laugh at the other pilots saying, "All you got was an interceptor, you couldn't kill a single BS with a prayer." The player losing tech 2 frigates is not likely to find it funny. Eventually that fleet commander will get less people willing to "tackle" or drive their interdictors into the fight. Combine this with a counterattack from the heavy ships of your fleet and the result can be dramatic. With all of their support craft gone, their heavies are sitting ducks for your heavies accompanied by frigate and interdictor support.

Rear Echelon Harassment

Another technique to assault a large gate camp without assaulting it directly is to harass it in the back. A gate camp from war targets presents the ideal opportunity to do this. Instead of attacking the gate camp, you circle around behind it or blast your way through it in a bunch of frigates. Next you set up a roaming assault gang in a position between where you know that the enemy lives and their gate camp. When their pilots come one or two at a time to join the gate camp, you slaughter them mercilessly. They will call for help from the large force but by the time that help arrives, they will be dead and you will be gone. This will also work if you go into their territory and hit their ratting and mining pilots as well. You are teaching them not to camp your systems by imposing consequences on them. When harassing the rear, your highest value targets will be lone ships coming from or going to the gate camp as well as production and industry ships that are in the home area of the enemy. If you attack their mining barges, their miners will be angry that they didn't have protection. Their anger works to your advantage.

After a while their gate camp will have to either back off or take increasing political pressure from the parties being harassed. People will complain that the fleet is always elsewhere and never defending home. People in the home systems won't want to travel to reinforce the gate camp leading to its degradation to the point that an assault on it might be possible. People in their alliance will have trouble making money and so on. Your goal is not so much to kill high value targets but to kill the morale of the enemy and sow internal dissent. The stronger the dissent, the more that dissent might resonate and cause serious consequences.

One thing to remember when employing this technique is to make sure that you stop your attacks after the large enemy fleet comes home. This is regardless of whether or not you have the capability of attacking some more or not. When the fleet comes home you want to bore them to death so that they desire to be elsewhere -- when they leave, you resume the attacks. The result of such a strategy will sow discord into the ranks of the enemy. The more the strategy is employed, the more annoyed the enemy will become, not with you as much as with each other.

Hit and Run

One effective psychological tactic is to hit the enemy with a bunch of disposable equipment and destroy a very expensive piece of equipment. For example, consider 10 people that get together in Kestrels and then attack a gate camp. They warp in and fire off standard missiles at the enemy and the assault frigate or interceptor is hit by 40 standard missiles at the same time and explodes instantly. The attacking force withdraws, gets in new ships and does it again. Numerically the Kestrels will suffer many more casualties. However, the insured Kestrels represent a very minor loss of isk whereas the interceptor or assault frigate might represent more than 30 or 40 million isk. When their fleet gets 4 of you, they will tell the pilot you killed but his attitude will probably be something like "so what" as he lost far more than you did in isk. Similar results can be achieved through attacking larger ships with larger "throwaway" fleets. The point of the exercise is to always hit the highest value target that you can easily pop and ignore the cheap ships. Don't use named or other expensive modules. Once the fleet begins to actively look for you, its time to vanish. Choose a flight path and get away from the camp as they come after you.

The Chase

When employing any of these tactics it could be that the fleet gets angry enough to start coming looking for you. The most effective technique to employ at that point is to simply vanish elsewhere. Lead the enemy on a chase and always give them the idea that they will be able to catch you if they are just a small amount faster. If you are lucky you will be able to pick off their scouts or anyone that doesn't have the discipline to stay with the main body of the fleet. Using the techniques presented in the article you can jump into a gate and then align for the next gate while waiting for the scout to show up. When the interceptor comes through the gate, you pop the ship very fast and warp out before the rest of the fleet can get in the system and reply.


Bait tactics are designed to exploit the desire to kill and the boredom in the average gate camp. You can fly in a fleet above a much larger fleet and fly in and out teasing them with single volleys, killing their drones with flybys and so on. Then when the enemy sends up something to attack you, you immediately change tactics and hit them with a hit and run attack. For example, a gang is warping in and out at 250 km above the gate knowing that most gate campers have bookmarks at 150 km above the gate. When the enemy gets tired of watching you and warps a ship up to within 150 km to take you out with sniping, you come back in the next time 150 km high and blast the ship that came up. This tactic allowed a PVP-BASIC class to kill an Armageddon right under the noses of multiple HACs, Battleships and other heavies on the MHC-R3 to Harroule gate.

Thinking Further

Keep in mind that these techniques are only a few ideas in a forest of ideas on psychological warfare. You should always be thinking about what your enemy wants and try to deny that while hitting them where they don't want. For example, the large gate camp that just suffered the loss of that interceptor is in a large gate camp because they don't especially want to take losses. The interceptors feel much safer with all of that hardware around them. When you discourage the interceptors from showing up via flybys, you can switch up tactics and hit them with heavier ships, multiple stealth bombers or a host of other tactics. The emphasis here is on the employment of tactics rather than brute force.

Throughout the history of Eve, there have been a number of alliances that have disintegrated. The reason they have all fallen is their own internal strife rather than brute force. Sometimes because of their own issues and other times because another alliance has put on psychological pressure that has caused the alliance to cave. There is nothing more frustrating to many alliances than losing 200 million isk fitted HACs to a bunch of throwaway gear repeatedly, even when they are getting kills on those ships or sitting there on the gate with no targets and losing 3 ships to flyby sniping which insta-pops them.