Saturday, May 12, 2012

I be hunting Hulks

In the spirit of Hulkageddon it's only proper to engage in this activity that involves hunting down evil miners. And I am not talking about some small mining vessels but the real thing! Hulks!

I start my evening somewhere in Gallente space and after exploring a few uninteresting wormholes I find myself back in high-sec, 6 jumps from Jita. I have decided to visit the trade hub and unload my Hound's cargo since it was full due to killing a faction rat and a Hurricane and looting them both last night. I was tempted to pimp out my Hound a bit with a faction probe launcher but in the end I decided against it. Better to stick with regular fittings until I get more confident in my abilities. I did however grab 16 Sister scanner probes and an implant that boosts my scanning strength by 2%. Won't make much of a difference though I'm afraid.

As I head out of Jita I set my destination some 25 jumps away in a random remote high-sec system and go make myself something to eat. I have learned that wormholes that spawn close to trading hubs tend to be quiet. People don't just go out clearing Sleeper sites when Jita is a few jumps away!

Just as I return from a delicious meal I arrive at my destination and start scanning the system and immediately find two wormholes. I jump into the first one and find myself in a C2 system. Nothing interesting on the d-scan, just two POS towers and an Orca. I scan down the signatures and find a C1 connection where I discover almost identical situation. I go back to high-sec and check out the other wormhole. This time it's a C3 - J220832. I look up the wormhole and it turns out it's a C3 with probable low-sec static. My d-scan shows absolutely nothing! Not even a POS tower. Could it be that I have found a completely empty wormhole? I do notice that there are two planets quite some distance away and outside of my scanner range (which I believe is around 14 AU).

I warp to the outermost plant and my d-scan reveals a POS tower with force fields and a big mining operation - an Iteron Mark V and three Hulks! I also see a bunch of mining drones and some cargo containers. While periodically hitting my d-scan I notice that the cargo containers are disappearing and reappearing from scan. Oh yes, I have found a full scale mining operation in this backwater C3 wormhole! But there is a big problem, how do I get a warp-in on them?

I analyze the anomalies and find only three. But they are in the wrong direction and besides, Hulks are probably in a gravimetric site. Unfortunately the only way to get to them is to deploy my probes. Before doing that I jump around a bit between the outer most two planets and I attempt to approximate their location using d-scan. Of course I can't get a warp-in on them with this method, but at least I will know exactly in which area to put my probes. I narrow their location to a pretty accurate spot in space and make a mental note of it. I then jump on the other side of the system (outside their d-scan range) and deploy my brand new Sister probes. I warp back and begin arranging the probes. I was also pretty confident in their probable location and I actually set the probe range to merely 4 AU. Sure enough I was almost spot on! And after a second scan with 1 AU range and some minor adjustment to probes I get a 100% signal. I quickly recover my probes and jump to the site at 50km. Even though my probes were in space for only around 40 seconds they did notice them (diligent bunch of miners, props to them)! While in warp I already saw drones disappearing from scan and Hulks warping away. As I arrive on the site I only catch a Crane transport looting the last container and warping away. One Hulk also forgot his drones in space. Poor things!

Only Crane left when I arrive (click to enlarge)

Well they know I was in their wormhole now... But I was absolutely confident that they don't know what ship I was in (which is exactly why I took care to warp far away to deploy my probes). So from their perspective they only saw some Sister probes. I was hoping that they would resume their mining activities after a while - thinking that I was just a passing explorer. Since their POS tower and gravimetric site were also out of d-scan range they probably weren't even sure if I noticed their Hulks. I was quietly sitting some 200km from their POS and observing them for several long minutes. They changed ships a bit, to an Orca and a Buzzard - which also deployed combat probes and scanned the system. Luckily he couldn't detect my presence since I was safely cloacked.

After a while they did bring back the Hulks and one of them jumps back to their gravimetric site. Of course they will be extra careful now and I wasn't sure what to do. I warp to the Hulk and quietly observe him for a few minutes. He reconnected with his drones and started mining. After a while a second Hulk joins him and starts mining as well. I was toying with the idea of just waiting a while and let them think that their mining operation was unnoticed. But I also saw that the first Hulk wasn't even aligned to their tower and he wasn't moving at all - just sitting still! The second Hulk was aligned to the tower and he had some speed, so I decided that my best course of action would be to engage the first Hulk that wasn't moving.

I slowboat to the Hulk and now I am like 15km away from the vessel. A perfect position! I think to myself that this Hulk is as good as dead. I drop my cloak, lock the ship and warp disrupt him. I then overload my launchers and fire torpedoes. I was expecting to see a big explosion (thinking that the Hulk can't be much more sturdy that something like a Noctis) - but I was very wrong. Hulk seemed to have quite powerful shields and it took me a while to chew through them. The other Hulk warped away and at this point I was just hoping that I could kill his companion in time. Judging by my DPS I was expecting I will need at least around 20 seconds more to kill him. More than enough time! But then all of a sudden the Hulk warps away to his POS, his armor half gone. I sat there for a few moments in shock and unable to understand how did he manage to escape?? I know I had my warp disruptor on! And I was in a very close orbit! I warp away, reload and repair my modules and still trying to understand how did the ship warp away?

Attacking the Hulk (click to enlarge)

Then I realize that he must have had warp core stabilizers in his Hulk. Surely that's the only explanation? I see them changing ships again and re-logging to different characters. When they bring out a Proteus I realize that it's time to go. 

On my way out of their home I began thinking about the whole situation. What could I have done differently? I was obviously oblivious to the fact that Hulks would fit warp core stabilizers. Maybe I should have attacked the other Hulk instead? It's quite obvious that the first Hulk who warped at the site was testing the waters and waited a few minutes before he began to mine again. Or perhaps I should wait for the third Hulk to return? In fact I should probably try to bump the Hulk I attacked in the first place! Why didn't I think of that during the attack?

Still, I learned a few important lessons today. In wormholes patience is a virtue. And I now know that Hulks are much sturdier ships than the Noctis salvagers. If I find myself in a similar situation again I will definitely adjust my tactics.


  1. I would suggest that the Hulk fitted warp stabs only after seeing your probes. That would be the only reason I can think of for him returning. Shooting the other Hulk wouldn't have made a difference, as they would both have refit. Better to be alive and inefficient than mining optimal amounts and dead.

    By the way, have you seen my guide to hunting in w-space using d-scan? With a bit of practice, your probes need only be visible for a few seconds instead of forty.

    1. I can't believe I missed that guide of yours! I actually read both "How to scan the Penny way" and "How to perform a blanket scan" - and I am already using both methods. But I somehow missed the one you linked.

      And what an amazing guide it is! Using your method you can potentially get a warp-in with just one scan. :O

      I am definitely going to spend tomorrow morning practising this! Thank you so much for the link Penny! This is going to be incredibly useful. :)

    2. It seems like you were on the right track already, using d-scan to get a good idea of where the ships were in space. With a bit of practice you'll be getting warp-ins with a single scan in no time.

    3. I tried to scan some mission runners today in a quiet high-sec system and actually found two of them using your method. It took two scans for the first one and only one scan for the second ship!

      However it took 20 mins for the first attempt and like 15 mins for the second, but I suspect that with some more practice it can be done considerably faster.

      Can't wait to try this in a wormhole when the right opportunity presents itself!