The Expedition

High Sec, shit. I’m still only in High Sec. Every time I think I’m going to wake up back in the wormhole. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse. I’d wake up and there’d be nothing…  I’ve been here a week now. Waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this station I get weaker. And every minute Sleeper squats in w-space he gets stronger. Each time I look around the station walls move in a little tighter.

Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one. An expedition.

“I may say that this is the greatest factor — the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”

-Roald Amundsen.

The time has come for the Next Big Eve Goal(tm).  Without one, I tend to wander a bit, log in less, queue up random skills and end up doing something else.  A project.  Not merely an activity.  Something that appeals to my sense of adventure and exploration.  An Expedition.

In our little casual corp, we’ve been bandying about the idea of setting up our own Player Owned Station in high security space.  The idea was that we could set up a research station on the cheap to do invention and research and copy BPOs without long waits.  As an idea that wasn’t too bad.  It fed our industrial tendencies but lets face it, it wasn’t that exciting.  Neat maybe, but not exciting.

So it came to pass that the idea of setting up a POS in a wormhole might be fun and rewarding.  The more we discussed it, the more intriguing it became.  It was the unknown.  It was 0.0 but the lawless, no sovereignty kind of 0.0.  It was risky.  It was difficult to get to and potentially very difficult to get out.  You could become marooned.  There was the promise of finding exotic and precious things and in there lurked evil monsters.

An expedition to w-space.  We’d need to be as self contained an operation as possible since resupply would be dicey at best.  And, like all the best things in Eve, it would require lots of planning, strategerizing and yes, perhaps a few spreadsheets.

Like the Asmundsen quote, we should plan on making our own luck.

Through the Eye of the Needle

The first constraint to consider is the fact that wormholes have a mass limit and a time limit. For example, a Q317 Class 1 Wormhole will permit only a maximum of 20 million kg at a time to pass through and an aggregate total of 500 million kg to pass through before collapse and it will only persist for 16 hours.

Finding a candidate wormhole is the first order of business.  Initially, I think we’ll opt for a fairly pedestrian Class 1, 2 or 3 wormhole as a trial run.  The ideal wormhole candidate should be reasonably fresh and undisturbed by ship travel.

Plan A will be to insert a probe ship capable of cloaking and with an ample supply of probes to scan down the system.  In a perfect world, a buddy will remain on the k-space side of the hole on recon.

The prober will apply basic wormhole hygiene upon arrival:  bookmark the entrance side of the hole, bookmark the exit once in the wormhole, immediately establish a safespot and then do some quick basic scans of the system to see what potential it has.  If it looks like a go, assemble the expedition.

Much of the logistics will depend on who wants to participate in this little adventure, but I’m initially trying to plan so that 2 people with 4 total accounts can set up a base of operations that will be self sufficient for the duration of the stay in the wormhole.

Maximum utility and minimum mass is key.  Likewise, a big point of the expedition is to obtain minerals, gasses and other booty that we cant find in high sec where we operate, so having some hauling capacity will be key as well.

Plan A will be to bring in an Orca with the vast majority of necessary items.  Even with its ginormous mass, in one haul it should be able to carry an entire POS set up, fuel for a few months, extra ships, ammo, etc.  Once in, the Orca can proceed to the safespot, cloak and wait for a base site to be scouted.  All the others can then meet up at the safespot and monitor wormhole traffic.

That's it?
That's it?

Wormheim

From what I’ve read, conventional wisdom suggests that a medium control tower with a collection of passive defenses should be enough in w-space.  The idea is that a) with the wormhole’s time and mass limits, you’re not likely to see too many ships of the battleship and above class and b) you don’t necessarily want to kill passers by, but rather make it a long drawn out affair to assault your station thus risking the collapse of their exit.  Turtle FTW.

Initially, I’m planning for a medium control tower, corp hangar array, ship maintenance array, refining array, research lab, and some storage and maybe a manufacturing array of an undetermined flavor.  It would be nice to be able to replenish any losses without having to leave the wormhole, but it may prove to be too much hassle.

The prober would scout a suitable moon location for the POS and then it would be anchored and put online.  Once the bubble is up, everyone can warp in and unpack while the system is scanned down fully.

In a perfect world, we’d leave a lifeboat (e.g. a cloak fitted Heron with probes) at a designated safespot, eject and return to the station.

The Expedition Fleet

First things first.  Any wormhole ship should have a probe launcher and a cloak.  You can never know when you might be the one stuck on the wrong side.

Next, versatility and survivability should be key.  Insurance would probably be worthwhile in the not so unlikely event.  Of course, any wormhole assembled ship would be without, so we should choose wisely.

  • Scouting: a Covert Ops ship would be ideal for probing, or in the alternative, a frigate like the Caldari Heron which gets scanning bonuses.  Covert Ops would be optimal in the event of a needing to use an inconvenient null or low sec wormhole exit to get back to home k-space.  Scouts would also serve as hackers and archaeologists as well.
  • Combat:  With a small group, I’d want a battlecruiser.  A Drake with a passive tech II omni tank should do it.  Tough, mass efficient and reasonably cheap.  Alternatively, a gunnery ship like the Ferox would probably work.  Probably not taking out 3 BS sleeper spawns, but probably enough firepower in a group.
  • Mining:  Undecided here.  I’m not sure I’d want to risk Hulks and Covetor/Retriever is probably too lightweight.  While great at what they do, the Hulk may be too limited in utility for w-space.  For gas cloud harvesting, I already have a Ferox set up for w-space that can easily be repurposed for mining with 5 miner IIs (no crystals to wear out) or combat.  The cost and flexibility of that platform with an almost-as-good-as-a-Drake tank makes it very attractive.
  • Local Hauling:  Cheap industrials fitted with a cloak should probably suffice.  The goal is to haul to base at the first hint of trouble.  Alternatively, if it gets popped either by a Sleeper rat or a player interloper, good luck to them.  They still have to get any loot out and they’re in our house.
  • Distant Hauling:  Getting small quantities in and out of the wormhole would be best served by a transport like an Occator (2 points built in) or a Viator (can warp cloaked).  If the exit is high sec, then a local hauler would be ok.  Given the mass budget of wormholes, its likely more efficient if a bit riskier to export minerals, etc. via multiple small industrials.
  • Salvage:  Nothing beats having a destroyer salver only a jump away.  Cheap and fast.

Funding It All

I think the entire POS set up with a few months of fuel can be bought for under 300-400 million isk, and we’d plan on using it in more than one instance.  I think I’ve convinced a corp mate to go in on it with me, so thats not that big of an investment.  Skills of course, cost what they cost to get up to snuff.  Getting to covert ops is really my main gateway at this point.  I should have a character trained on it this next week.

If I can obtain or purchase some key BPOs or BPCs, we could manufacturer any replacement ships we might need rather than haul their mass through a WH.  Stockpiling an initial cache of common ammo and modules also shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive.  Particularly if we bring BPOs or BPCs with.

The initial population would be a minimum of 4 accounts, but hopefully a few others will join us.  If all goes well, we could be ready to deploy in a weekend or two.

So what am I leaving out?

More Everything

Well its been a few weeks since I got my Hulk and managed to recoup the investment in short order.  Much more so now that I think about it, because I’ve been pursuing a number of parallel endeavors, all of which required more than a modest amount of isk.

Fortunately, the tritanium market has been very strong lately– easily the highest isk/m3 mineral right now in high sec.  Drop a footnote for unprocessed specialties like Omber or Kernite which are needed for certain missions, but that market has been unreliable even though lucrative.  Even with the outlay associated with these projects, I’ve managed to recoup my up-until-then biggest Eve purchase in about a week and a half.

So what have I been spending my modest flowing wealth upon?  Short answer: upgrades, all around.

Missions and more missions.  Been trying to raise my miner’s reputation and thereby lower his refining taxes.  He’s managed to claw his way into Level 3 missions, but the highest quality agent he can access is 14 jumps from home base.  A few more missions and he’ll be able to access a L3 agent at my main hub.

Improved hauling.  I decided to drop some isk on a few rigs for my main industrial hauler, the Iteron V.  With two Cargohold Optimization I rigs, it can hold a little over 33k m3.  If I wanted to stick 11 Giant Secure Containers in there, I could max out at 42,900 m3.  Loading and unloading 11 cans is a bit more work than I want to do unless its an extraordinary circumstance.  So for most applications, having raw hauling space greater than a jet can works out nicely.  This speeds up hauling considerably.

More mining.  With the acquisition of the Hulk, that left me with a spare Covetor, so I’ve been able to train up my mission runner/hauler to Mining Barge V.  He still needs Refining V to be able to use some of the crystals for the Modulated Strip Miners, but now I can put 6 MSM beams on rock simultaneously.

More passive tankage.  Both my accounts have Drake battlecruisers which I initially fitted out with a passive tank of primarily Tech I gear.  Pooling our resources from missions has yielded enough salvage parts for Wilhelm to manufacture two Core Field Defense Purger I shield rigs for me.  Likewise, I’ve rotated in Tech II versions of my shield extenders, hardeners, power diagnostic systems and shield power relays.  All the upgrades cut my recharge from 800 something seconds to just over 500 seconds.

More efficient ops.  More missions means more salvage.  Where there’s mining to be had in the mission, salvaging is incidental since mining will take some time.  On pure combat missions, though, not having a salvage monkey to deploy has meant either leaving isk on the table or taking quite a bit of time to salvage those 50 wrecks spread out over 150km.  So now I’m the proud owner of two Cormorant destroyers fitted with 4 tractor beams and 4 salvagers on each.  Much faster.

Micro Trading.  Running more missions also means chewing through more consumables, so I’ve been increasing the number of buy orders I have in various places for the items I tend to use a lot of as well as trying to take advantage of temporary price/supply discrepancies for the items I tend to follow.  After a while you get tired of always having to go buy something you need when you need it 4 or 5+ jumps away.  So, I figured that if its something that I need, probably someone else needs it too so why not buy a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand and list them locally?  So far, I’ve been amazed at what kind of convenience markup I can get away with on basics like milk, eggs, butter drones, mining crystals and shuttles.  As a result, I’ve been actively trying to avoid deadheading on a portion of a trip if I can avoid it.  If you’re patient and attentive, all these little things add up.  And best of all, the market works 24/7 so you don’t have to.

Since I rigged the Iteron V, I’m more careful about where I take it, so I’ve been using a Badger II for my trading milk runs.  Plenty of storage and not very flashy.

The Eve of Manufacturing.  Now that I’ve got a little scratch laying around and have become more trade focused, I’ve taken the time to get one account’s manufacturing skills up to snuff– Production Efficiency, Research and Mass Production, so far.  He hasn’t actually started to produce anything yet, but that’s just a matter of time until he’s back to base.  Of course, I’m sure there are more skills I’ll need that I haven’t thought about yet.  Its still Eve.  I’m sure there will be hijinx, the loss of isk and the gnashing of teeth.  Stay tuned.

Battleship on the horizon? Gaff and Wilhelm are on me about getting a battleship so I can stop playing Prinz Eugen to their Bismark.  Certainly in the realm of possibility now, but since I’m still running L3 missions on my own, the Drakes are plenty and I don’t seem to be slowing the fleet down when I get invited to do L4s.  Still, it would be nice, but in these recessionary times, its always nice to have a safety cusion of isk in the bank.

Hulkamania

Things are moving in Eve.  By the time I actually hit the two hundred million isk mark, I had almost coasted to 300.  So it happened that I checked my in game mail only to find my insurance coverage had expired on my Covetor mining barge.

My plan all along has been to get my mission runner/hauler pilot to the point where he could fly a mining barge.  Maybe not a Hulk, but certainly a Covetor would come in handy for clearing mission spaces with my fulltime miner.  The mission runner/hauler was only a few days from being able to pilot the Covetor and I didn’t cherish the idea of losing the insurance premium when I handed it over in just a few days.

So, I finally decided to throw down for a Hulk for my miner.  With the tritanium market still strong, I’m guessing that I’ll recoup within about a week.  Halada’s indispensible mining guide has everything you need to know about the Hulk.  Fortunately, I already have most of what I need to fit it.  While I’m not quite to the 20% yield increase over the Covetor as advertised, I’m getting there.  Even so, its already a significant improvement.

Compared to the Covetor, the Hulk feels faster and more agile– at least as far as mining barges are either.  Having a decent tank means that I worry much less.  The Hulk is anything but fragile.  Finally, it has enough cargo space that it can store a few cycles worth of ore before I have to empty it.  All of this makes for an even more efficient operation.

When I’m mining a few systems from my home area, its nice not having to worry about can flippers so much while my hauler is making a run to base.  All in all, I’m quite pleased so far and looking forward to doing dual barge ops soon.

The one thing I’m finding is that I’m a bit tight on power and CPU when fitting out the Hulk.  I’m currently training for MLU IIs, but even with one MLU I and a bit of a tank, I’m finding I’m a bit shy.  The basic setup is:

High Slots:
3x Modulated Strip Miners (with T2 crystals)

Medium Slots:
1x Survey Scanner
1x Small Shield Extender I
1x Explosion Dampening Amplifier I
1x Magnetic Scattering Amplifier I

Low slots:
1 Mining Laser Upgrade I
1 Power Diagnostic System II

Which leaves me at 42/44.1 power and tight on CPU.  If I swap in 2x MLU IIs and take the scanner and take one of the hardeners offline, everything should work and I should be able to pull down about 1,508 units of Veldspar per MSM per minute or 13,572 units per cycle (3 MSMs) or 271,440 units per hour.   Pure Hulky goodness.