As of yet I haven't really shown any intentions of calling fleet operations or taking command of any sort of roaming gangs. I prefer to basically start each day heading out on my own and see where things go from there; bouncing around between here and there and back again is just more comfortable when you don't have to report back every single blip on scan or every move you make.
Not that I don't enjoy flying besides my fellow corpmates - quite the contrary. But it's so much more convenient to have everyone spread out across many systems; this way we won't needlessly blob small prey and won't have to share some already meager loot. More importantly though, having eyes on more systems means a much higher chance for anyone to spot something juicy. This is when more or less everyone available happily joins forces.
Still, even in cases where we decided to gang up, I've hardly been the one who called the shots, filling more of a consulting role. However, I've recently gotten a taste of what commanding a small fleet is like:
It was either Causticum or Grohalmatar who reported a trio of frigates hanging around in Hevrice. They were apparently looking for a fight, as they kept sitting in top belt. I myself was a couple jumps out, so Grohal and Causticum decided not to waste much time and hurled their Rifters into the belt as well.
When I eventually arrived at the stargate to Hevrice, both of them had already succumbed to the Merlin pilot and his own two Rifter buddies. Naturally, we now had some order to restore. And since we asked nicely, our adversaries agreed to offer us the opportunity.
So I switched to a Rifter myself and the guys wanted me to take it from there. Uh, well... okay.
At my disposal were now three Rifters with Tuskers in them. So pretty much some of the best Rifters you could wish for in my opinion. Bear with me if I disregard the fact that two of them got ripped apart just before - this time we would take our time to come up with an actual battle plan.
The plan mainly focussed on taking out their assumingly tankiest ship first and as quickly as possible, i.e. the Merlin. Therefore I recommended we should all load phased plasma ammunition. While the Merlin was to be tackled by myself, the secondary target was to be called and tackled by Grohalmatar. We both had webifiers fitted, so Causticum's shield Rifter was left with pointing the third target initially. We would orbit around and focus our fire on them one by one.
So much for the plan. Now all there was left to do was to cause a total of three explosions. No more, no less.
Our three Rifters thusly set up at the top belt at 0, with our opponents within scanning range. Not much later all of them showed up on our overviews and landed 100km out. Before I got to decide whether or not to burn towards them, they warped off to the belt's planet. suspecting a pattern, I ordered to warp just there at 100km.
Just as Grohal, Causticum and I landed, the other frigate gang was on their way to the belt again. Alright, fine - I prefer to have targets which are likely to look for a fight come to me anyways. In conclusion, our fleet was staying put.
It took a while, but ultimately two Rifters and a Merlin appeared on overview once more. Though somehow they got the idea we were sitting at 0. No, this wouldn't do at all; they would have to make this last little trek to bridge the remaining gap.
And finally they started moving straight towards us. They didn't have their afterburners engaged. I wasn't sure what that was about, but it would give us an opportunity to gain a bit of an edge: the order was that once they were within 40km to us, we would burn straight for the Merlin and let it rain.
With 50km remaining between us, none of the targets appeared to become too separated from its wingmen; no need for us to adjust in any way.
I gave the go as soon as our opponents crossed the imaginary circle I had drawn around us.
This little maneuver worked to our favour - we delivered the first blows before they had to deal with a response. As a result, the Merlin went down effortlessly, right after Grohal called our secondary target. This allowed us to seamlessly switch our targets towards one of the two remaining Rifters.
In the meantime I noticed that I took a bit of damage - nice of the Rifter pilot to disregard the concept of focus fire. So far none of my fleet mates reported any sort of overwhelming damage.
While we were now making quick progress on the second explosion, I got to switch my webifier onto the soon-to-be third. Couldn't have anyone going anywhere at that point.
Causticum apparently had been the target of one Rifter and the Merlin, so he reported that his shields were on the verge of failing. In the end his ship however stayed in one piece and we had three wrecks at our hands with a pointed capsule to top things off.
On the basis of our opponents being formidable sports, the pod was set free. Not my first choice per se, but if two thirds of your fleet want to have it that way, I felt like I might as well oblige.
So in the end everything went as planned - pretty much a flawless victory, right?
Hmm... Not sure. Some variables may have fallen in place rather luckily: given the Merlin had railguns fitted, its damage output was low. Maybe should've saved it for last, but then again you never know how good its pilot is at keeping transversal low and/or breaking away to kite.
Also with proper focus fire on their part, we would almost certainly have lost one Rifter. Could be that I was leading the way during our initial charge, which might have confused one of them into attacking the closest target.
Given this or that, there were yet more imperfections I can ponder about. Don't know why some people claim that you won't learn anything from victorious engagements.
Bottom line, this episode feels reassuring as far as my capabilities to lead a small fleet of frigate-sized ships go. Shouldn't be too long until I'm going to call an assault frigate op.