As you have probably heard by now, Test Alliance Please Ignore has sounded the trumpets and announced an invasion of factional warfare. If this comes to pass, they will be the fourth primarily nullsec alliance to take this particular plunge in the last year. One of those former alliances, Nulli Secunda, has come in on the side of the Amarr and the other two to date, Ev0ke and The Gorgon Empire, have entered on the side of the Caldari.
First, some history
Once a part of the Southern Coalition (SoCo), the combined CFC/HBC Delve 2012 campaign saw Nulli Secunda evicted from their former nullsec homes during the summer of 2012. They retreated to Amarr factional warfare to rebuild, farm up some cash, and pwn some FW noobs. After accomplishing two of those goals, they orchestrated a tier spike. At the time, spiking war zone control to 5 caused LP store prices to drop to 12.5% of normal and meant they could purchase eight Navy Geddons for the price of one. Then they cashed out and left again for nullsec. Following S2N's departure, and after several more orchestrated tier spikes in both war zones, CCP grew tired of the quick cash outs and the system was nerfed to our present system where tier control affects LP payouts but not LP store prices.
Ev0ke was next to enter. After losing their sov, they joined up with the Caldari militia with presumably the same intent as S2N several months before. They entered the war January 8th, the same day that the Gallente Militia had taken their last system to obtain 100% war zone control. Initially, they made excellent gains working against a Gallente Militia that was fairly burned out after a month long campaign and took several systems around their beach head in the northwest corner of Placid. But by March 1st, the offensive had ground to a halt and Ev0ke entered into a war of attrition while attempting to take the Gallente held Eha system. In a defense spearheaded by three-man corp LVLUP, and supported heavily by several other elements of the Gallente Militia, the line was held in Eha and Ev0ke left FW shortly after with barely 1/4 of their previous sov holding numbers.
The Gorgon Empire <-GE-> was an anomaly in FW. As primarily residents of NPC null they were not thrown out of their home space like their predecessors, but instead came to Black Rise looking for fights, fun, and cash. They gained all three, but their stay was a short one. Their big splash came at one of the most intensive running battles in the history of the Gallente-Caldari conflict that saw the vast majority of PVP forces for both militias sitting right next door to each other. With the addition of -GE-, over 1,200 Caldari pilots were being based out of Enaluri while the Gallente got some help from some Russian Mattari friends, who based over 970 pilots out of Nennamaila between the two militias. The battle lasted three days and saw thousands of ships destroyed on both sides. After a ground attack from Gallente Dust forces to push the last few percent over the line, Enaluri fell to the Gallente while a Minmatar support fleet ran interference. -GE- re-based to Yvangier after the fall of Enaluri, were active for a few more days, and then left FW.
What does this mean for TEST?
The first thing on TEST's agenda will likely need to be a membership purge. In order for an alliance to join—and remain—in their faction of choice every single corp inside the alliance must have a 0.01 or better faction standing. If any single corp is below or falls below that threshold, the entire alliance is barred from joining the faction. There was some talk of alt corps being used to boost standings, which of course will not work. Word has it that TEST is working on grinding standings now, but if that's not enough to pull every corp in the alliance up over the edge, some people and corps with bad standings will need to go away in order for their plan to move forward.
Once they are able to join FW for the Caldari the fun will begin. Tamo (where they are supposedly headed now) will be a relatively crappy system to base out of if they plan to be effective in the war zone at all, so a new home system will need to be chosen. What happens after that will largely depend on TEST's goals and how willing they are to work with their fellow Caldari.
The stated goal of using FW to earn cash will be an interesting one. Money is made in FW through LP, and LP can not be taxed. If TEST plans to bolster coffers in this way, they will be relying heavily on their members to cash out LP and either donate the goods directly to the alliance or sell them and donate the money directly to the alliance. Given TEST leadership's track record of late with taking alliance assets and running off someplace else, this could spell doom for the alliance if it continues.
Another area where TEST may run into some issues will be with regards to their numbers. A medium FW complex pays out 25,000 LP under normal conditions. That LP is split equally between all eligible pilots in range of the "button" inside the plex, meaning that FW is most profitable as a solo venture, and piling ships into a plex to capture it is a horrible way for pilots to make money. Being spread out while farming will leave TEST open to all kinds of FW nastiness, as both the Gallente Militia and local pirates have adapted tactics for dealing with hordes of WCS and cloaked farmers. On the flip side, while a good sized fleet will almost guarantee safety and the successful capture of a plex, it leaves other plexes in the same system vulnerable to capture. Spreading out a fleet, even inside a system, can lead to a lot of losses at the hands of guerilla tactics unless the fleet has extensive discipline and exceptional FCing, something that TEST seems to lack on occasion.
On the positive side, TEST seems to have no fear or disdain for flying smaller ships. This was something that was lacking in the previous three visitors from nullsec. If they are able to adapt tactics to smaller fleets of ten or less and smaller ships they could very effectively capture and hold systems across the war zone.
With regards to Fweddit <J4LP> (who you may recall took the side of the CFC in the Fountain war), some people have mentioned disappointment that a move to the Caldari Militia will mean that TEST will be blue to J4LP. Fortunately for those people, this is not the case. While it is true that Amarr and Caldari militias are technically allies in FW and even appear purple (friendly militia color) to each other in space, shooting a member of an "allied militia" does not incur any standings loss. So TEST and J4LP will still be able to shoot at each other just fine.
It is often joked that FW is the place nullsec alliances come to die. The actual examples that history has given us are a mixed bag so we can't quite tie a toe tag on the middle management dino just yet. With some serious adaptation and effort FW may be exactly what TEST needs to give its members the purpose and motivation to get back on their feet like S2N before them. If they are unable to adapt and find themselves victimized at the hands of the Gallente Militia, local pirates, and former nullsec adversaries, they may find themselves evicted out of yet another area of space.