Note: As always, this map serves as a good way for those unfamiliar with the EVE landscape to understand what and where I'm talking about. Most of the events in this post happen in the South/Southwest.
Another Note: Sorry for the walls of words, but Eve politics are impossibly complex, and giving a cliffsnotes of the situation to someone who isn't keeping up with the daily news is basically impossible.
The last couple months have been busy in New Eden. In a previous post I summarized the (at the time) current relations between the two largest alliances in the game, and how the situation between them might play out. As it happens, nothing happened. Tempers cooled, Montolio, the leader of Test Alliance Please Ignore, resigned from his position, and things went back to normal. At least as normal as anything ever gets in Eve Online.
Following Montolio's resignation, TEST went through a leadership shuffle, burning through two alliance leaders in as many weeks, until a player named BoodaBooda stepped into the role. While this was going on Pandemic Legion quietly bowed out of Honeybadger Coalition to do other things. The fact they hung out as long as they did is surprising, because PL have crafted a reputation as a very successful nomadic alliance and mercenary group. Commonly viewed as the alliance with the most skill and largest capital fleets in the coalition, and often considered the best alliance in the game, this was a blow to the coalition's morale. To many people just the thought of having PL on their side was enough to convince them of their invincibility.
All of this happened around the time Fanfest was going on. As the largest player gathering in the world for Eve players, hosted by CCP itself in Iceland, many of the game's leaders and public figures make the trip every year. Goonswarm Federation's the mittani, Progodlegend - the leader of Nulli Secunda, Sort Dragon - the head of Honeybadger Coalition (which TEST is a prominant member and founder of), Shadoo of Pandemic Legion, and many other people made their way to Iceland.
A trailer that premiered during the EVE Online keynote speech during Fanfest. A must-watch.
Fanfest is usually a time when people set aside their in-game differences and rivalries, instead getting drunk together with the game's developers, and partying at the top of the world for almost an entire week in Reykjavik, Iceland. This year however, the partying resulted in the death of a coalition.
Allegedly Progodlegend, while drunk, insulted Sort Dragon's wife, leading to resentment on the part of Sort Dragon. The full extent of the situation is a little fuzzy, as other Fanfest visitors recalled Progodlegend as a very affable person during the rest of the event. Upon returning home, Sort Dragon declared that the HBC was going to war against Nulli Secunda.
Honeybadger Coalition is kind of an unusual player organization. It's much more like a loose federation of buddies than a strict coalition that almost always moves as a single entity (a la The Clusterfuck Coalition). Member alliances were allowed in for a variety of nebulous reasons, ranging from "You're sense of humor is similar to ours" to "You hate Goonswarm and that might be useful if shit hits the fan". This allowed the HBC to balloon it's member count to astronomical levels, becoming the largest player organization in the history of the game. This was helpful because during last year's summer conflict colloquially known as "Delve 2012", the HBC hoovered up incredible amounts of space, and they needed warm bodies to fill it with. The HBC at it's peak could claim to have control of all the space from Fountain in the west all the way to Catch and parts of Immensea in the southeast. TEST was actually officially recognized by CCP as breaking the record for the largest number of controlled systems by a single alliance. At the time they had sovereignty control in four complete regions: Fountain, Delve, Querious, and Period Basis.
A compilation of video taken during TEST/HBC operations in mid-late 2012. This period was characterized by massive expansion. The video has the characteristic irreverence of most TEST propaganda in it's choice of J-pop music for the soundtrack.
Many of these coalition members were considered "renters". A renter is exactly what it sounds like: An alliance that rents space from a larger or more competent alliance. This is a very traditional way of earning money in Eve, especially in the south, because most of the space there is poor quality, and lacks valuable money moons. The idea is that the renting alliance pays another alliance for the right to live in their space and make a living. The space-owning alliance then uses that income to protect it's renters. Over the years this system has been given various (mostly derogatory) names, such as "Space Feudalism", and "Serfdom Online", and renters have been referred to as "pets" or "meat shields".
The point of explaining all of this is to shed light for the average person as to why the HBC collapsed as easily as it did. There were several reactions from alliances throughout the coalition to the announcement of a grudge war with Nulli Secunda. Most people didn't really have anything against them, and Sort Dragon had failed to craft an engaging narrative to justify the war. Others didn't want the war because it would cut into their profits. The further east you went, the less enthusiasm there was to fight because Nulli's territory was half a galaxy away. Test itself was against the war. After Goonswarm and Test reset standings with each other, Many of Goonswarm's combat squads deployed down to NPC-owned space in Delve and Fountain to fight with Test or harass their renters. Test didn't have any free time to fight somebody else's war.
Shortly after the announcement, Test decided to withdraw from the HBC. Rumors said that Sort Dragon somehow made threats to Test if they didn't follow his lead. Possibly hinting at removing Test members from positions of power within the coalition. As the largest alliance in the coalition, and one of it's founding members, they were somewhat of a lynch pin for the whole organization. When they left, the coalition instantly fractured. Raiden and Tribal Band withdrew with Test, along with their renters. Most of the former HBC alliances in the south began forming smaller miniature coalitions in an attempt to rebuild a semblance of safety in an area littered with dozens of small alliances all hoping to come out of the situation ahead of their neighbors. One of the coalitions that managed to gain some traction called itself The Dinner Squadron, and consisted of several of the more known alliances in the south, including Here Be Dragons, Sort Dragon's alliance.
This roughly covers events up until mid-May. The HBC is shattered, a new expansion for the game is on the horizon, and this is Eve, so anything could happen.