Gate Camping in Eve is when any number of pilots with predatory intentions sit on or near a warp gate and attempt to destroy whatever ships jump into them. Since travelling pilots do not have any easy way to peek through to the other side, they are usually unaware of the danger lurking on the other side. Since it is always our job to educate those who aren't informed or paying enough attention, we blow these travelers up!
Gate camping in lowsec differs from nullsec significantly. While both are about using busy gates as a choke point to lock down and attack targets, environmental factors and available equipment alter the way in which you can operate. In lowsec, you do not have access to Mobile Warp Disruptors (AKA Bubbles) and attacking most targets results in a Global Criminal Countdown flag and being engaged by sentry guns. In nullsec, interdictors and bubbles are available and pilots do not have to worry about being attacked by sentries. In lowsec, we have to take a bit more care.
This guide will specifically focus on gate camping in lowsec on a gate that goes from highsec to lowsec. For example, if a gate is in a 0.6 system and jumping through brings you into a 0.4 system, this is a highsec->lowsec gate. These gates are most fruitful because you will get ignorant or unaware pilots following what a mission tells them or who are using a "safest route" auto-generated route to go one jump into lowsec.
How Do I Know Where To Gate Camp?
Knowing where to camp may be as simple as noticing a certain gate has a lot of activity and camping it to test the waters. In other situations it may simply come from word of mouth or talking to your corp mates who already know nearby systems that are good for camping. Camping far from your home station can be difficult as traveling several jumps in lowsec while flying ships that are not optimal for roaming is dangerous. It may be a good idea to leave ships intended for camping in a station that is in the system where you need them or at least nearby. Travelling somewhere via shuttle and then getting into your slower more lumbering ships only for the camp itself is a safer option. But what if you don't know of any good gates to camp at? There are ways to discover this for yourself...
The Star Map
The Star Map in Eve actually gives you way more information about the universe and its individual systems than you might realize. Among the data you can view is something called "Jumps in the Last Hour". This let's you know how much a system is traveled and thus gives you an idea of how much traffic is actually moving through it and its gates. There are other bits of data you can view such as "Average Pilots in Space in the Last 30 Minutes" and "Number of Pilots Currently Docked and Active" but these indicators aren't quite as good for telling you pilots are actually flying in and out of the system. Dozens of docked pilots does not do much for you when you want them to be out in space and dying to your lazer beams.
To view the Star Map in game, press F10 and then use the World Map Control Panel to filter down to the information you are interested in:
If using the Star Map is too obnoxious, there are out of game options for viewing the Eve map and relevant information about how active each system is. My favorite (and many peoples go-to for Eve map information) is Dotlan Evemaps. In general though I find the in-game map to be most useful and have the most up-to-date information.
What Kinds of Ships and Gangs Should We Camp In?
What Kind Of Ships Can Handle Sentries?
Sentry guns do around 350 DPS when all guns on a gate are focused on one target. Their damage is weighted towards Thermal and Kinetic but they deal a little bit of all four damage types. The guns spread around their DPS so the bigger your gang is, the better the chance that you will only take sentries for a short period of time before they switch off to another gang member. This means that the ship you fly should be able to tank sentries for at least a burst of time and that the ships you can fly are affected slightly by the size and makeup of your gang. For example, in a gang with several members, T2 cruisers may be viable where if you were camping with only a couple of ships, some HAC's or other cruiser or even battlecruiser level ships might have trouble tanking sentries. The bottom line: Bring ships that can tank sentry guns and possibly someone shooting at you all at the same time. Frigates and destroyers are out. Cruisers are iffy. Battlecruisers and Battleships and certain tanky T2 cruisers are in.
In addition to bringing the right ship, your fit should make sense. Many ships have effective buffer tank fits. If your tank is a shield buffer, you might be fine since shields recharge on their own at a slow rate. If your tank is an armor buffer, you might be ok if your gang has remote reps and is willing to repair you every single time you take fire from sentry guns or another ship. Mostly likely though you will want to fit any armor tanked ship with an armor repairer so that you can top yourself off every time you take gate gun fire.
What Kind of Roles Do Different Ships Play?
DPS: When ships uncloak after jumping, they are usually about 15 kilometers off the gate. Flying a blaster ship isn't the worst thing you can do but it does mean that you have to approach before you can apply your full DPS. Other weapon systems such as missiles and lasers do not have this issue to the same degree. You may want to take this into consideration when deciding on a DPS ship to fly. One of my favorites is the Harbinger as you can apply several hundred DPS with Scorch crystals without ever having to move towards your target once they uncloak. Another option is sniper ships. Tier 3 battlecruisers and many battleships have the ability to fit as a long-range sniper that can hit from 150km to 200km away for big volley damage. These ships don't usually have a significant tank but they can fire from outside sentry gun range (which is 150 kilometers from the gate). The downside to using sniper ships is that fewer ships within sentry range wind up having to tank the guns and your gang becomes a bit split up. However they can still be very useful if utilized correctly.
Scouting: Really anything that can cloak. You want your scout on the other side of the gate to be invisible to those passing through so that they have no reason to be suspicious. I use a Helios but really anything cloaked will do.
What Are The Best Ways To Execute A Gate Camp?
When you hear the term "gate camp", you probably think about ships sitting on a gate literally just waiting. The truth is that there are much more effective (and safer) ways to camp that do not involve being on grid with the gate you are camping for most of the time. Once your gang has a GCC, they will most likely not want to sit around being shot by sentry guns. Additionally, if your targets are using scouts, you don't want your ships to be visible to it as it comes through. For this reason it is a great idea to create off grid "pounce" spots as well as slightly off scan pounce spots.
A close pounce will generally be only a few hundred to a few thousand kilometers away from the gate. Close enough that you can warp to it almost instantly but far enough that you will not be on grid or visible on someones overview when they jump through. A far pounce spot will be a lot farther, usually a little over 14.3 AU which is the max range the directional scanner would be able to detect your ships from if a scout came through and did a scan. Having these safe spots gives you a way to stay undetected by potential scouts, a way to avoid unnecessary sentry gun fire and a way to keep your gang safe from opposing gankers who cannot simply warp to the gate to engage you but must probe you out first instead.
Pilots who are camping with you and sitting in such a pounce spot should ALWAYS be checking their directional scanners on a regular basis for probes or suspicious ships. It is also a really good idea to create your pounce spots so that they are aligned with both the gate you are camping and a station in system that you feel safe docking at. This allows you to align at the gate AND the station at the same time, making it so that you can warp to either instantly in the case that a target jumps through or in the case that someone probes you out and lands in your pounce spot.
Try also to have your pilots shut the fuck up in local while you are using this method of hiding your fleet. Being vocal in local can scare away your targets by alerting their scouts just as easily as a ship on an overview.
Much like if you were roaming, your scout should be controlled by a pilot who is clear, concise and alert. Your scout is the pilot who will be sitting in highsec on the other side of the gate. They should be informing your gang via either in-game text chat or voice chat about targets that are about to jump through as well as any other potential targets on scan that may be landing on the gate soon. The scout should be able to assess on the fly if the target about to jump through the gate is something you can handle engaging or if the population in local and the ships on scan indicate a possible trap.
It is important for your scout to work towards not alerting or scaring potential targets. Things they can do include flying a cloaky ship and then staying near the gate but not so near that they could become uncloaked. The scout should also be able to tell the gang when NOT to engage a target that has no chance of being caught (ie: anything that can cloak and warp) because these ships have almost no chance of being scrambled. Any time you can avoid alerting a ship that you can't catch is one less ship that you gave your position and intentions away to.
Your scout should know the system he is scouting from. If there are stations near the gate, they should be able to assess if ships on scan are simply at the station or in warp to the gate. Your scout should be watching his directional scanner and local CONSTANTLY. It is an important role that requires a lot of awareness so take it seriously (AKA not a role for stoners).
When a target has jumped in, the most important factor is to get your electronic warfare modules engaged as soon as possible. Disruptors, Scrambers and Webs will keep the ship from warping or burning back to the gate at a reasonable speed. Once your target(s) have been locked down, applying DPS quickly and efficiently to one target at a time is important. If you are lazy and slow, you give your opponent time to burn back to the gate, burn out of scrambler range, wait for friends to help or even shoot back and destroy one or more of your gang. Speed and efficiency are important. The less time you give your opponent to react, the better chance you will destroy him and return safely to your pounce spot with a fresh kill and no friendly losses.
When a targets ship does seem capable of getting back to the gate before you can destroy it, there is the important art of bumping. In Eve, when two ships collide, they are repelled away from each other. The effectiveness of a bump relies on how fast each ship is going and what their mass is. Simply approaching a target and turning on your microwarpdrive can be enough to bump them out of the way or even back the way they came but it will depend on your angle, the size of your ships and the speed of your ships as to whether or not this will have a significant effect or if you'll even hit them at all. I would recommend practicing with friends to get a feel for landing an effective bump.
Alert! Sentry guns will target drones! Sentry guns also switch targets on regular intervals but once they have chosen a target they stay on it for a set period of time. For this reason, it is best to deploy your drones AFTER the guns have started shooting and after your target has actually decloaked and can be engaged. If you leave your drones sitting out and orbiting while sentries are firing, the guns will turn them to dust before you can blink! Exclamation point!
Lastly, a lot of targets that come through will have a thin tank and be like an easy loot pinata. Be nice to your gangmates and let them get on the killmail! Fitting your ship with sensor boosters simply so you can get onto a killmail faster and land the killing blow just pisses off those who fill their mid slots with effective modules and miss out on half the kills. Obviously the safety of your gang and destruction of your targets always takes precedent but if possible, let everyone get in on the action. It's all about killboard padding!
Gate camping sounds easy! Warp to the gate, shoot at the target, profit! Generally though it is much less than a lazy activity because you have to constantly be on the lookout for those who want to crash your camp. Not only do they get the element of surprise if you aren't paying attention, but they also have you trapped against highsec (since most of us pirates are -5 or lower security status) and they get the added DPS of sentry guns (if you have an active GCC which you likely do). Even if you discount all of these things, your opponent already has a basic advantage in knowing where you are and what you are flying. Any static situation in Eve is easy to overcome if you simply organize more firepower or the right tools to approach it. Having your gang sitting in one spot near the gate with a number of easily identified ships means that eventually someone will notice and come calling. Always watch your scanner on the lowsec side of the gate. Always be aligned and ready to warp out. Sometimes you may be able to handle what is thrown at you but always remember that if you have been camping more than a few minutes then someone has already had enough time to arrange a gang to counter your ships and might be ready to warp in on you.
If your gang has members who own multiple accounts or you simply have friends who are bored and want to help, it's always fine to use additional scouts. The most important one is the one on the other side of the gate but it never hurts to place more scouts on other gates around the lowsec system you are in. This way if you see a gang or pilots massing, you know they may be preparing to to jump into your lowsec system and engage your camp much earlier than you would known have otherwise.
Bait can be a little harder to see coming. If a pilot who is clearly experienced jumps into your gang via the gate you are camping that there is a decent chance it is be bait. Just this week I lost a perfectly good Devoter to a Megathron who got us to engage and then brought in two friends in Guardians. Learn to be suspicious of everyone (already an attitude you should have in lowsec anyhow).
Remember that this guide is pretty specific. The advice other information are aimed towards helping you successfully camp a gate in lowsec that leads to highsec. There are other ways to camp in lowsec including camping lowsec->lowsec gates on both sides. There are also lots of ways to camp in nullsec that are completely different due to difference in what ships and equipment are allowed. Even in highsec it is possible to camp stations and gates to suicide gank valuable targets that are passing by. It's a broad topic but I hope that this guide is useful to those in low security space who wish to exploit the ignorance of highsec carebears who wander into our territory.
Many thanks to Andrea Skye for once again providing some of the most amazing Eve inspired MS Paint pictures I have ever seen.