What is skirmishing?
Skirmishing is a role in combat fleets, the job of the skirmisher is to find and hold targets as well as give vital information on the surroundings of the fleet to its commander (FC). The skirmisher of a fleet usually flies one to several systems ahead of the fleet looking for valid fleets for his fleet to engage. This requires a good understanding of your surroundings as well as your own fleet composition and pilot capabilities. While the FC has the final call on if the fleet is going to engage, the Skirmisher has a big influence on his decision and therefore has a large responsibility. If there is an opportunity for the skirmisher to hold a target down, he will do so and informs the FC that he has done so, so that the gang may come in and finish the target. (often travelers or ratters)
Another thing that has been pointed out to me by hsuli is that having previous FC experience can really help you being a better skirmisher, that also works the other way around, I'm a better FC because of skirmishing experience, I will even go so far as to say, skirmishing will teach you how to fly each and every ship in the game better.
Difference between skirmishing and recon
The big difference between a skirmisher and a recon role is that the recon is there to provide intelligence and probing while being invisible to the enemy being cloaked, as opposed to the skirmisher who is actively the spearhead of the fleet providing both intelligence as well as making the decision of targeting and engaging any hostiles he might encounter. Note that in some odd ocasions the skirmisher engages a target and is been called to withdraw from that engagement by his FC afterwards. The FC always has that right and you should trust that he has more information or better judgement then you do as well as the FC trusts in your ability to give him important information and your ability to engage hold a target and disengage at your will.
Ships and modules used.
The best ship types for being a skirmisher are fleet interceptors; tech 2 frigate hulls designed for speed and fast locking. The four fleet inties are:
You can find details on the ships along with suggested fits on each of these pages.
To fit for skirmishing, you will need all or most of the following:
The speed to catch up with people, and avoid damage.
Microwarp drive and speed mods.
The survivability to hold your target for as long as necessary.
Damage control and/or shield extender.
The ability to hold people in place from a safe distance.
Long ranged warp disruptor.
Keep your tackle and MWD running for a prolonged period.
Capacitor modules (may not be necessary depending on the fit and your skills).
Enough targeting range to make use of your full point range (36km with inty V).
Sensor booster, signal amp or ionic field rig.
- Propulsion Jamming
- Long range targeting
- Signature analysis
- Energy systems operation
- Energy management
- Weapon upgrades
- Advanced weapon upgrades
- Hull upgrades
- Acceleration control
- Evasive manuvering
- High speed manuvering
- Warp drive operation
If you plan to fly interceptors often, get as many of these skills to 5 as you can.
Long ranged intys vs short ranged
By now you might be wondering why don't you list the crow or the taranis, I mean the taranis is a way better ship then the ares, much more dps and it has drones! Well the point of skirmishing is not to do damage, it is to locate and hold targets while surviving, in order to do this as best as we can we need the extra warp disruptor range. Are the short range intys not used for skirmishing then? Well they have a role of their own, which is slowing down targets after the initial tackle, in a fleet it is nice to have a scram web fitted taranis nearby, but not taking point, becaus if you are waiting at a gate for a target and he decloaks 26 kilometers from you he will get away, or if you tackle a dominix and you orbit him at 23 kilometers he might neut and fry you. So the taranis holds back and comes in after the initial tackle has been made and then he can slow the target down with his fleet there to support him.
Scouting and scanning
So how does a skirmisher actually finds his targets? Well by looking for them using the local window the grid and lastly your directional scanner. If you are taking point as a skirmisher and you are running one system ahead of the gang looking for targets, the first thing you do when you come in to a new system is look at local, is there somone in local? yes? good now we try and find him, look at your grid? not here? bummer we try and find him anyway using our directional scanner. To find someone with your directional scanner make a sleek overview settings set with ships planets gates stations bubbles bombs and force fields (these settings maybe adjusted to personal preference I for one don't like planets on there unlike most skirmishers). The force fields will allow us to see if a target is on a working POS.
Now we hit the 360 scan at full range and see what we come up with.
As you can see, absolutely nothing, taking a quick look around by turning the camera and holding my mouse over some celestials I notice that the largest cluster of asteroid belts is not within scan range. (in this case I knew allready that that cluster isnt in scan range because the system is well known to me, being familiar with your surroundings saves you scanning time! Also, some people prefer to view the solar system map, although I prefer the panning around method.)
So we should probably head over there, so we could warp to the planet but in this case I choose to warp to one of the belts gambling that he is on one of them I could get lucky and land on the first try.
During the warp I continusly scan 360 and this is what we find.
Because every second counts we want to get as much information as fast as we can, so we don't stop here we are going to start narrowing it down in warp. We can do this halving our options by using the 180 degree scan left and right of us.
Try to get in a 90 degree before you are out of warp or do so if you are out of warp in this case the cluster of belts to my right seems a good pick
Reporting recon/ multiple skirmishers reporting recon
Ok so how do we report what we see to our Fleet commander.
I use this format
Entering system recon report
Recon, Pilot name, System name, Local, Grid, 360
Recon, Discipline, 6nj, 12 hostiles in local, vagabond on the bv gate, nothing on scan. or Recon, Discipline, 9-2, 20 hostiles in system, grid is clear, scan is clear. or Recon Discipline, A-A, system is friendly (a system being called friendly means there are no hostiles in system, even if there are some friendlys in system the system will be called as clear or friendly or empty)
Now when you are operating in a bigger fleet with multiple skirmishers, sometimes skirmishers are assigned a number to keep communications clear and to make it clear which skirmisher is taking lead and who isnt, in that case you will be assigned a number in the beginning of the fleet representing you. With this system your recon reports will change slightly replacing your name with your designation.
Recon, Scout 1, 6nj, 12 hostiles in local, vagabond on the bv gate, nothing on scan. Recon, Scout 2, 9-2, 20 hostiles in system, grid is clear, scan is clear.
So when we find someone we also have to report this, if current communications are quiet you can add some extra information, if not we stick to the facts.
Recon, Scout 1, 6nj, raven on 5 degrees on planet 3 belt 2, warping to belt. ( this is an extra recon report which you give if vent is quiet )
Recon, Scout 1, 6nj, point on raven in planet 3 belt 2. (this is the important recon report which will follow the example above, in case of the FC talking to his fleet we skip the first report and only report on actual tackles)
Recon, Discipline, Point on phobos on bv gate he is aggressed, caracal 70 kilometers off gate, nothing on scan, still 5 neurtals in local.
This recon report is a mix of things but gives all the essential information to the fleet commander to let him make a decission.
When we find a target or know that a target is coming, the fleet will depend on you to make sure it isnt going anywhere. To do this we must tackle the target. Tackling a target is not simply pointing him, you have to be ready when he comes, you have to watch your location you have to watch your speed, you have to keep looking at the grid and your scanner, and you have to be ready to leave to escape damage or to go after another target or provide crucial information to your fc (in some smaller gangs where you are the only skirmisher and there are no covops pilots you have to provide eyes just as the fleet takes over the tackle on your target, this means you will have to leave the fight for the greater good of the fleet.)
So where do I position myself when a covert ops along the pipe tells me a deimos is coming towards the fleet. Well now it is up to yourself to do some real quick thinking, where am I now? where is the deimos and how fast can I get into position? Generally you want to position yourself on the blind spot of the enemy. So lets use the systems 9-2, BV, 6NJ and Y4 in venal as an example. You are in 6nj your fleet is in Y4 on the 6nj gate and your recon pilot is in 9-2, the deimos is landing on the BV gate in 9-2.
A mistake that many young skirmishers make is getting to close to the target too soon losing the blind spot. In this case they would think the deimos was going to go into bv so they go into bv themselves. Now if the deimos sees you in local he might warp to a tactical see that you are in an interceptor and cloak up, pos up or whatever.
So in any and every situation, stay calm and think real hard what actions will lead to the most percent chance of catching the target.
In this case I would try to catch the deimos on the 6n side of the bv gate, knowing my surroundings I know that the warp from the 9-2 gate in bv to the 6n gate, is a longer warp then the warp from the y4 gate in 6n to the bv gate, so I request the fleet's presence with me on the BV gate. I wait patiently on the bv gate on the structure of the gate in the middle making my point range covering as much of the surroundings of the gate as possible making escape improbable. Now I wait, my fleet lands on gate and the gate fires, the deimos decloaks we point it and start orbiting. As soon as you hear one of your fleet mates call point, you take of the point deagress and reaproach the gate, you want to be ready to catch him on the other side in case he powers back to the gate, even if the target is agressing, you should always deagress and be ready to jump through once the target comes within 5 kilometers from the gate giving you a window to jump through and position yourself on the gate.
Now in this particular situation your action might change depending on fleet composition. If for example you have more then one interceptor who is with the fleet on the gate, or if you have a bubbler with the fleet and some fast lockers, you wouldnt tackle in the first place but immidiatly go through into bv when the hostiles comes into 6n to be ready to catch him there.
If for example you had a covops in bv who reported him landing on the 6n gate you would go through even before he came into 6n, tackling him on the other side taking away the option for him to change his mind and warping back, pushing him through into your gang.
More on this in the independant thought process part of the guide.
I can write a book the size of the bible if I were to explain your behaviour in tackling all the different ship types in eve, I don't have the time for that so I will just give you a few examples and youll have to use your own brain to determine your actions in the field.
If for example you are landing on a belt with a raven, and the asteroids are not in your orbit path simply using the ingame orbit function will do. Make sure you set your orbit range to something specific to your fit.
Now usually 26 km is enough for battleships, the range on a Heavy Neutralizer II is 25.2 km. It the target is small and unable to wield a heavy neut, I advise orbiting slightly closer, because a fast ship might be able to break your orbit enough for it to escape. If you suspect a ship has dampeners fitted, orbit him even closer, but always try to stay at least 15 kilometers away, in case of webs and scrams. I've encountered stealthbombers trying to lure me into web range multiple times using damps. You can often tell that theyre trying to lure you because of the fact that if they damp you down and you loose lock and they arent running, a non fishing fitted stealthbomber would be long gone by then.
In short don't be afraid to vary your orbit distances, don't forget to set it back to your default after combat!
Dangerous ships (snipers recons)
Now, when you are flying around in your fast ship, sometimes you feel invincable, but there are some ships out there who have little trouble killing you (unless you keep your eyes open)
The most commonly known interceptor killers are recons, the minmatar recons, ammarr recons and galente recons.
The huginn and rapier both have a 40 kilometer web range with tech II webs and 52 when over heated making them a threat to us. However when you see a rapier decloak you usually have enough time to at least get webbed outside his point range enabling you to warp out.
The same kind of threat comes from the curse who can drain your capacitor from a range of 37.8 kilometers with a tech II neut, be aware that many curse pilots use faction neutralizers giving them even more range. Now when they do hit you your mwd will shut down and youll be an easier target, however you can useally just warp out. The Pilgrim does not have a range bonus and can safely be tackled.
Now some real killers are the arazu and the lachesis who can warp disrupt you at 57 km using a tech II overheated point and even more dangerous warp scramble you from 21.6 using an overheated tech II warp scrambler. Often these guys use faction points and scrams giving them some more range.
Another dangerous ship class is frigates, see fishing articles.
Seeing as we rely on long range interceptors to give us an edge as tacklers, we should always watch out for our fellow interceptors, interceptors with an increased scram range can warp scramble us from a range of 13.5 km overheated.
Snipers are also tricky to deal with, if at range they can hurt or even insta pop our interceptor easily so watch out for those munnins eagles zealots and deimoses.
Destroyers with their tracking speed can also hit you with relative easy.
Well, I could go on about smartbombs, precision fit caracals and so forth, the point is, you are not invincable and you are worth a lot more to the fleet alive then you are dead so keep your thinking caps on during engagements.
If you encounter sniper ships at long range such as hacs, battleships or ships with sentry drones, it is generally a bad idea to power straight toward them. If we want to tackle them we can use spiral approaching to close the distance between you and the target withough dropping your transversal velocity to low.
Basically instead of just hitting our orbit button we manually fly diagonally towards them continuasly changing our vector to close the distance without flying directly towards the target.
This is not very easy if you have never done it before so go ahead and practice!
I hope the graph below helps.
Spiral approach graph
Flying under fire / Exit strategy
When you are tackling a target, there will be times you have to do so under enemy fire, if this is the case it is good practice to keep an eye out for your exit. You don't want to just select some random celestial on your overview and hit the warp to button. Why? because doing so can make your ship power straight into a hostile ship enabling him to web/scram you for example. But more often it will make your ship make akward movements, making turns that are too tight so your ship will flip around and completely loose your speed. If this happens under fire you are as good as dead. So look around for something to warp to and then start thinking about your timing. One of the simplest examples is a ratting raven who throws his warrior IIs at you. Obviously you are first going to try to kill as many warriors as you can before you have to bail, afterall every warrior killed is less dps taken is more time for your gang to arrive and take over the tackling.
Now if you are taking to much damage and have to bail out you look for a place to warp to that is going to make getting followed harder, in this case there's a nice cluster of celestials behind me which will give them only a small chance of choosing the excact one I'm going to.
I hope the graph below makes it a little more clear.
One of the more important things of being a skirmisher is having some degree of situational awareness. Know where you are and what is around you, know who lives in this area, where their stations are, where they rat.
Marking systems of interest can be usefull as well as generall knowing where you are and what is around you. This can greatly help you in your search for targets or to find an escape route for your fleet.
Independent thought process
Ok this is something really important, when you are skirmishing theres a different set of rules for you, you don't travel with the fleet, you travel infront of it, there for 99% of the orders don't apply to you, the fc will often give you seperate orders. A lot can be said about how you should behave in numerous situations, ill try and get the point over to you by using some examples.
You are in a fleet and you are one of two skirmishers, your fellow skirmisher tackled someone on the out gate of the system in front of the gang and the target is aggressed, the gang is coming as soon as possible, as per the fcs orders, you should be thinking now, who in his right mind agresses an interceptor on a gate? Could be two things, a retard, or someone with friends on the other side, so you go to that gate go through and possibly save your gang from impending doom spotting the targets buddys.
You are in a fleet and have tackled a hic on a gate, agressed him using his bubble and your fleet is jumping in to finish him off, someone stays behind for backup tackle. In the exitement the fc is calling kill him and that sort of stuff, there is a caracal at 80 km from the gate taking pot shots at your fleet. You disengage the hic and go try to tackle the caracal. If you point the caracal, you ask for a second point, one of the faster ships gets in range and points the caracal as well, you power out behind the caracal to a range of 100 km and tell the fleet they can warp to you at a 100km.
You are in a small roaming fleet laying low a little bit because a large BS fleet is passing through the area on their way to some boring pos op. You've just seen 40 battleships warp from one gate to another and leave system, you warp to the gate they came in from and wait for straglers, asking the fc if hes willing to risk it.
You are in a small roaming fleet and you are being chased by a cruiser fleet with a dictor, they are very close behind you and the dictor has almost catched up with your slower ships, you are with the fleet and a covops is scouting ahead. The fc gang warps to the next gate, you cancel warp wait for the dictor, tackle him hold him for a minute or as long as you can, while your fleet keeps going, you catch up later.
Your position in the fleet depending on fleet type and composition
In the beginning of your skirmishing career, youll often tell yourself, if I only was there and there when this and this happened and we wouldve had some more kills! A lot of kills depend on your position and a lot of losses too.
Listen to the intel look at your map and find out for yourself what a good position is, learn and memorize what happened in your travels.
Skirmishing for roaming gang
When in a small roaming gang looking for travelers and ratters, I like to be one system ahead on the out gate as much as I can, I useally jump out when I hear the jump order from the fc telling his fleet to come into the system I am in at that moment, lingering on that outgate for so long all the time gives me the most chance of tackling a traveler, if it is a quiet night I like to do the same but 2 systems ahead, this way I have time to check side systems for rattters. If local is very hostile, I don't go to the out gate immediatly but I try to stay in scan range of the in gate as much as I can because I know my fc is going to want that information.
Double skirmishing/ skirmishing in a larger fleet
So with multiple skirmishers in a fleet, it is best in my opinion to use the second one as a wingman, in between the fleet and the 1st skirmisher, you can use the 2nd one to go check out other systems, but staying close to the first skirmisher (sitting on the outgate the first skirmisher just used) increases the chances of getting travelers and ratters significantly. I'll explain, in a single skirmish gang you could sit on a gate go through only to see a ship in the new system go through to the system you were in with your session timer stopping you from catching him, in a double skirmishing gang your, wingman will catch this ship and you can stay on the side you are on making escape impossible.
I generally want one skirmisher per system with the 2nd one close by, because if you see local going up 2 it is simply more threatening then just one. If you are the second skirmisher you can give the fleet a huge advantage by sometimes not tackling but providing the eyes the first skirmisher would have provided were it not for him tackling something, this is especially the case if something gets tacled on an out gate. If the tackle happens on an entry gate then you simply stay one system behind covering the gate with tackle if need be but more importantly watching the fleets back.
With a bigger fleet it becomes more and more important to have your thoughts in order and make independent decisions, this is because your fleet will be slower and your fleet will be more easily noticed by hostiles. So don't run to far off and think about the goal of the fleet and the speed of your fleet when making decisions. Try not to agress untill absolutely neccisary so you can always be used for intelligence.
Skirmishing in a RR BS gang
Now what if you are in a battle ship fleet. In that case im not going more then 1 system ahead unless my fc really orders me too. Why not? because battleships are very slow, which means 2 things, if im 2 out and I tackle something I have to wait 5 minutes untill reinforcements arrive and more importantly if I am 2 systems ahead and I leave an intel gap of one system in between, a fleet could get in that one system without us knowing it, because it takes so long for the battleships to catch up with me, offcourse this does not apply to a pipe. Staying close to this type of fleet is important, they are relying on you for tackle, not just the go find something for us kind of tackling but the fleet battle tackling.
Another thing with RR gangs is the need for TAMs, or rather the dangers of TAMs, generally your FC is going to be angry with you if you create a tam to catch a rupture who is 100 km off while his gang is taking fire, why? Because he is probably not interested in a gank and warping will break all locks and friendly repping, battleships also warp and move so slow that you don't want to get caught off gate, now he will probably say on vent ignore the rupture, but the chances of a few battleships disregarding that order and warping up to you can be disasterous so only create such a TAM if you are told to. (if there is nothing to shoot and the region is empty could be a valid reason to make the tam afterall and offer it as an option to the fc, again use your brain)
Skirmishing in HSLR gang
Ok so you are getting better and better at skirmishing and now a HSLR gang comes up, you are wondering if you are going to be usefull in this kind of gang, let me tell you, very very usefull, not only requires a HS gang an even faster scout (you) but HSLR fights arent allways with low speed gangs, sometimes the fights can get real messy, I remember a particular one in venal where ships were all over the place and some faster ships were even coming to the side, above and below our gang. In this sort of gang, if you are the actual long range point skirmisher you should not risk your ship too much during battles, you have to be alive afterwards to create an escape or scout.
There is another role to be done for skirmishers in this kind of gang which is completely different from regular skirmishing, theres not really a name for it but I and some others call it point defense. What you do is instead of the regular fit you fit scram and web, afterall, this fleet isnt looking for megas in belts but for fights. In order for those fights to be succesfull your fleet uses range as a tank, so what can fuck you up? TAMs. The enemy fleet (if they have brains) will try to send fast ships spiraling towards your gang, this is where a couple of point defense intys come in, you generally pick one of the slower ships in your gang and orbit those, until a hostile is threatening to come to close, don't wait untill theyre at 10 kilometers from the fleet but dive at them from a range of 50 KM and call it out if you have succesfully slowed the hostile down, the main fleet is shooting the primary, but will switch targets for a second to support you and with that defend themselves. Don't tackle primarys, the primarys are 100 km away and in the middle of a hostile fleet, only tackle that that comes close.
Tackling on stations avoiding bumps by celestials
In order to tackle someone you will sometimes have to fly your ship manually in order to do it safely. The orbit function can make you hit various things that might be in your optimal path and simply orbiting closer is not always a good solution (your orbit gets eliptical or egg shaped making you loose speed) you might get neuted or worse scrammed and webbed. So we have to fly by double clicking this is somethign that you don't do perfectly the first time around, it is very hard and in the beginning and you'll often make mistakes by moving the camera angle incorrectly. The worst thing that can happen is getting into web range, the second worse thing is hitting a celestial and the third is losing your point. In other words. If youre new at this loosing your point and quickly regaining it is a better way of flying then getting too close.
Now ive been thinking long and hard how to explain how I do this personally and ive made some pictures that try to describe it.
This picture shows the standard unobstructed orbit path I usually go with, if I orbit at this distance I travel 163 km for one round trip.
This picture shows the easiest situation in where you need to manually fly, the orbit circles that cannot be used are marked with a red cross leaving only a horizontal orbit as a possibility making camera turning easy and you can travel the full 163 km safely giving you maximum speed.
This picture shows a harder situation then the previous one, yes they both allow you to at least make a full round orbit manually flying but this one is vertical and youll soon notice in your practice that vertical orbits are harder to maintain due to eve's camera mechanics. ( see 2 pictures below )
This picture shows a difficult situation, there is simply no path that allows us to make a full 163km long orbit so we have to tighten our orbit circle to something smaller in order to not get hit and we have to orbit a point in space which is close to the target but is actually empty. Because the circle is shorter then the full 163 km we need to make more turns (more strain on the pilot) and it will make your ship go slower.
This picture shows you how to turn your camera as you are manually orbiting a target in a vertical circle.
Ok, something I want to have say is that if you are in a long range skirmisher and the fleet relies heavily on you, you are not only *not* fitted for a dog fight, but you are too valuable to get killed by a short ranged inty (and at ridiculous speeds your fleet will most likely be unable to assist you). So I personally just ignore enemy interceptors, unless I'm not the skirmisher.
So you are in a massive battle and theres ships all over the place, what on earth should I tackle, I know I don't need to tackle the primary because he already has 9 million points on him. To answer that, you start with looking at the situation your fleet is currently in. Eyes in entry system? No? Don't tackle anything go there. Yes, ok next step. Eyes in exit system or surroundings? No? Go there. Yes? Ok its time to pick a target, what is the fleet capable of shooting at current range but is not in normal tackling range go tackle that. OK there are some bombers, a few hacs and a rook, go for the rook then for the bombers and last for the hacs. Why? The rook is hurting your fleet most, so him first, the bombers and hacs will do roughly the same dps, but the bombers pop faster so them first etc. Try to think about what the greatest threat to your fleet is at the time and how achievable removing him from the battlefield is.
Target switching and deagressing
Lastly this is something that cannot be said enough. As soon as the fleet takes over your point, you either go grab the next ship or in the case of a lonely target you deagress and wait for him on the other side or provide eyes.