In the past I've mentioned target selection as a consideration on which ships can and can't be engaged safely. There's another aspect to target selection that I'd like to go over, those with backup. Specifically, those that are baiting other ships into attacking them. Learning to spot the bait is an important aspect to successful Piracy and not necessarily one I've mastered. So please, join me for a few tales of the FNG taking the bait, for better or worse.
Merriam-Webster defines bait as "something (as food) used in luring especially to a hook or trap." In EVE Online, it generally means a ship made available as an easy target with the intention of nearby backup being called to bear before that easy target can be dispatched. In my short time in EVE, I've seen a number of different tactics used to bait someone into an engagement. In fact, I think I've encountered each and every one of them. Below, you'll find textbook explanations of each, followed by some examples of my own misfortune in finding them. If you see anything I've overlooked, feel free to comment.
Option A: Just Around The Corner
By far the simplest bait to set up, this involves simply having additional forces waiting in a nearby system. This differs from a scout in that the ship isn't actively searching for targets, just sitting and waiting for them to arrive. The most common example of this type of bait is the Battle Cruiser sitting in a belt. Fortunately for me, I don't fly anything capable of engaging a Battle Cruiser and just chuckle as I see the Drake on scan at the top belt. My suspicions are usually confirmed when I get to the next system and a half-dozen ships are waiting on the gate. If you happen to suspect this type of trap, the simplest solution is to check surrounding systems for a gang from the same Corporation/Alliance. This is sometimes complicated by "Anti-Pirates" who are able to wait in nearby High-Sec which you aren't able to easily check.
Not being able to check High-Sec is how I ended up on the wrong end of a Rupture, a Thorax, two Hurricanes, a Myrmidon, a Curse and a Sleipnir in my Vengeance one day. I had engaged the Rupture only to see local spike and their gang come straggling in before I could get out of there. The worst part was the two minutes it took for them to kill me while dozens of ECM drones kept me from doing anything in return.
Option B: Were They On Sale?
Take Option A and replace "in a nearby system" with "on grid and cloaked." Sometimes enough ships will uncloak to truly make you believe they were running a clearance sale on cloaks in Jita. Can be spotted by the number of other players in local that you can't seem to account for anywhere in space or docked. Has the added advantage of being much faster to respond than Option A, which means the bait can be much cheaper. If the force that arrives is too much for the cloaked ships to engage, they can just let the bait be destroyed and reset the trap. Although it can technically be run by any ship willing to give up some fitting space for a cloak, I've more commonly run into this trick being used by ships that were designed to fit Covert Ops Cloaks. In fact, I have two examples of just such ships doing this...
The first involves me engaging a Punisher in my own. Totally fair fight. Oh, wait. EVE doesn't have those. The Rapier that decloaked quickly tipped the fight into his favor. Oddly enough, the pilot of the Punisher had several years on me, but still needed the Rapier to win the fight. In fact, I was tanking all his damage and quickly carving through his tank, so had the Rapier not joined it would have been a fight I easily won. Oh well, lesson learned.
Or was it? Not long after I engaged another frigate that appeared to be ratting in a belt, this time a Rifter, only to have another ship decloak and engage. Lucky for me, this time it was a Hound. The stealth bomber doesn't have a lot to offer against a frigate sized vessel. They were clearly hoping to snag a bigger ship with this trick and I was able to dispatch the Rifter easily while tanking both. Unfortunately, the Hound slipped away before I could get my scram on him. Before my GCC had expired I saw the pair reset their trap in the same system, but they were too gun shy to let me engage them a second time.
Option C: Hot What Now?
Combining the best of both worlds from A and B is "hotdropping" your opponent. While also a legitimate offensive tactic, when used as bait it just means you have a cloaked ship light a Covert Ops Cynosural field and have more ships suddenly arrive on grid. Since they don't have to be in system, or even a nearby system, it makes this type of trap very difficult to detect, but also complicated to set and thankfully makes them rarer. In fact, of all the bait I've managed to be snagged by, this has only happened to me once. I just jinxed myself, didn't I?
Option D: Now That's Just Dirty
The final type of bait I'll be discussing is the logon trap. So named because, while the bait sits and waits, his backup has logged off on grid with him. Personally, I relegate this to more of a POS defense tactic. In fact, I've never had it done to me, and wouldn't even bring it up except for recently reading this post by fellow Pirate Kane Rizzel. Now, calling Kane a fellow Pirate is sort of like saying that a Piranha and a Shark are both Fish and you can see from his post that he managed to defeat both the bait and the backup. I'm generally not that good, but I continue to engage bait just the same.
Stories like Kane's are the reason why I'll keep doing it. In the end, losing my ship to superior forces never really upsets me and I keep doing it for the epic tales it sometimes yields when you manage to come out on top against all odds. Of course, I don't actually win those fights as often as I'd like, but that's why I'm still the FNG.