Operation #Penknife

Operation: Penknife, or how we learned to keep worrying and break Ingress
By Matt White aka MattWBPS


I’ve been a fan of big fields since I started playing Ingress, but it’s been more difficult since the key rate dropped down. Missed them though, and realised that the only real way to get them up at the moment is to coordinate with people, rather than depending on the portal dropping keys while you’re there. So this is the story of Operation: Penknife. You can see the map with the mentioned portals here: Google Maps
Where it all began

Back on the 14th of January I posted an idea I’d been thinking about on the London Enlightened community. I’m going to just quote it here so that you can see where all of this sprouted from. I’ll follow that with what we’ve been up to for the last couple of weeks, and some of what happened on Game Day. I’ve been coordinating some of this, but by the very nature of this sort of endeavour, it’s all a massive group effort and everyone deserves the credit.

*”The Big One”*

This will:

a) Likely take us some time.
b) Likely be difficult to co-ordinate.
c) Likely be very temporary.
d) Likely be very fun to annoy the Tories with.
e) Likely be the largest MU field created to date.
f) Likely become more difficult as time passes.

I want us to create a control field over London. Triangle over town is going to need roughly 50-60 mile links, which we’ve easily got the range for. L7 solo build can hit 68.59 miles, L8 single build can hit 99.53 miles.

The difficult parts are going to be deciding on where we build it from, and making sure that there aren’t Enlightened links blocking the routes (can see this being the most difficult). Once we’ve got to that point, it should be relatively easy to make a push to knock down Resistance blocking links from within town, and hit the links from the three portals.

This isn’t going to be something that happens quickly, it’s going to take a lot
of co-ordination, but my god, will it ever fxxk off the local blues.


We originally started thinking a little bit smaller than the final result. Medway/Walton/somewhere North London was one idea. When we started actually looking at the Intel map, plotting portals and links on Google Maps and cross referencing that back to Intel it really became clear that that wouldn’t work. The inner areas of London and the suburbs are just too dense with portals to get a clear shot.

Go big or go home

If you go and look at South East England on the Intel map, you can see what we’re dealing with. There’s bright spots in Reading, Guildford, Epsom, Gillingham, Brentwood, Kingston, Hemel, Milton Keynes, Northampton, etc.  The inner part of London is lousy with portals as well. Only way this was going to work was to go much, much further out. We already had high level players from London in Dover and Cambridge, and we’d ended up with a few reasonably high level portals due to myself and EricTheCavalier road tripping to Dover for some uncaptured portals without realising they were actually inside the castle. Which is only open for a little bit during the winter. Might be that that turned out to not be a wasted trip though.

A bit more playing with the pins and lines on Maps, and we figured that LMB in Cambridge and First World War Zeebrugge Bell in Dover were the best candidates for two of our corners. The link between the two cuts nicely between Canterbury and Herne Bay, and they’re both on the edge of their cluster of portals. That meant the hunt was on for our third corner, to the West of London. It had to have clear local views to the East, and it needed to miss any dense areas on the way to Cambridge or Dover. We zeroed in on Victoria Park in Newbury. It’s got nothing between it and Reading, the link to Dover comes through North of Guildford and South of Reading, and the link to Cambridge just misses a mass of portals in Hitchin. It’s 200m from The Victoria in Hitchin to the line the link would take.  

Big field = Big group

Like I said at the start, we figured early on that the difficult part wasn’t going to be Resistance links, but Enlightened links crossing our path. We can always knock down a Resistance blocker, but a poorly timed Enlightened link would be out of our hands. It wouldn’t matter if we had every L7 and L8 player in the country in the know, someone could happily block this on one of their first days playing if we didn’t make the effort to get in contact with them.

This is when the planning community was set up, and a random word generator gave us the name Penknife.

Surveying the Intel map, looking at portals on resonators, searching for usernames on G+, posting contact details on Faction COMM, we slowly but surely started to gather the people from the surrounding areas together into the community. The Penknife team is currently more than 60 people, ranging from L1 to L8, and from the West Country to Ramsgate.


The Waiting Game

I don’t have the original list of blocking fields and links, but as we’d thought to start with, the main problem was Enlightened people who weren’t aware setting up new links. The most frustrating personally was when one was set up, and I realised it was someone I’d forgotten to invite to the community the day before.

If you want to look at the map, the blocking links as they were on various days are mapped, along with the portals. One of the Luton ones was just a couple of hundred metres inside the field. I managed to link across the field by mistake in Ascot without thinking about it.

So from the 17th onwards we waited for the portals to decay, or for the Resistance to attack them. Slowly, slowly, one by one, the blockers started to drop. A couple of times people who needed bringing into the fold linked across the line, but that just meant we had to find them, let them know and play the long game. The more frustrating part was when we realised that some unknown player was recharging a couple of portals, and had no way to identify who. We started thinking about how to get the Resistance to hit the portals. Some of us went on bashing missions knocking down portals they were kind of attached to (we all get attached to some I’m sure), and trash talked in the public COMM while doing it to provoke them. We built non blocking links onto the portals to increase the AP people would get for hitting them, turning them into honey traps. We took the shields off so that someone wouldn’t need too much in the way of bursters to hit them. Anything and everything we could think of.

In the meantime, we swapped the keys in London when we put up the L8 portals, we brainstormed what we’d need people to do on the day, and we waited. And waited, and waited, and waited.

Then we started getting the hits from the Resistance players taking down the links.

We cheered Draedelius on the 27th Jan when they took Northbrook College in Worthing, we cheered Flyte on the 28th Jan when they took The Victoria in Hitchin, we cheered jmshpkn when they took down final blocker with the Clock House in Farnborough on the 29th. In fact the comment thread for the last one is full of +1s and comments like this:

jmshpkn just took down Farnborough to Bracknell!
“Excellent news”
“I think a little bit of wee just came out….”
“Thank f@?k for that“
“Amazing.. let get the party started…”
“And are we having a sweepstake on how many MU this will get us? :)”

I think some of these people might just be finding out how much they helped the Enlightened. Thanks all! 😉

I cannot tell you how excited I was when the picture loaded in the notification mail, and I realised that the Clock House had been hit. We started signing up for the pre-established roles for Game Day. Ops would be our eyes in the sky – on the Intel map at home, checking for blockers, and sending people to take them down. Town Bombers would be those people without cars – out in the town centres ready to blow things up. Mobile Bombers would be those people with cars – ready to head somewhere if a remote blocker turned up. All this got roughly plotted on the map. Four of us would be involved with the actual linking, as Newbury would need two people to get to the needed range. If it had been any earlier than 9:48pm, we’d probably have gone for it on the 29th. It’s an hour’s drive for me to get to Newbury, so we decided to wait till mid-evening on the 30th Jan, and tried to sleep. More than one person described feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve.

Game Day, and the paranoia sets in

It might have been slightly the lack of sleep the night before, but the morning started with myself and the other two keyholders getting worried. We’d seen a few people talking about “something big coming” from the other side, we’d seen some people pre-emptively gloating on public COMM, and suspicious blocking links had turned up from Mitcham to Tonbridge and Northampton to Reading. What if we had a leak? Someone could wait till just beforehand with everyone in position, and put up a new blocker. That’s what we’d do, because we’re wind up merchants, and we kind of assumed that everyone else would too.

The original plan was mid evening, some time between eight and ten pm. We decided that we’d try and get to our spots earlier, and set it up as soon as possible, while still telling the group we were aiming for nineish. After a lot of debate, we asked everyone to hit anything blue around them from about half five, but still be ready for assignments. If we had a leak, they wouldn’t know we were going early. If it was just suspicion, they’d find it harder to spot any tactical bombing in the noise. Left work at half five, got an Ops check on the routes for the links around seven.

Traffic to Newbury was bad, and me and EricTheCavalier made it there around half seven. Solomon7 checked the link to Cambridge with his key, and got a clear. Xeodus checked the link to Newbury with his key to make sure he only got an “enemy portal” error, and we were good to go. I’d stay on the G+ conversation and let the other two know when EricTheCavalier knocked over Newbury and started filling it up (with low level ASAP to allow it to receive a link). At that point Solomon7 struggled with a crashing app, and got the link up to Cambridge. As soon as Xeodus saw the link come in to Cambridge, that was his signal to link it to Newbury. In the mean time, I’d switched to Ingress, adding my L7 and L8 to give Newbury the range to hit Dover. Once we got the link from Cambridge, we hit the key for the link to Dover. First time it didn’t create, and had a worrying feeling that the key would have vanished. Still in my inventory, tried a second time, and it worked. One of the Penknife Ops team said later it was like watching a laser beam travelling across the country.


At 7:46pm we dropped the Penknife field over every single Smurf in London and a lot of the South East.

Vital Statistics
2,517,728 mind units.
141.76km from Dover to Cambridge.
132.42km from Cambridge to Newbury.
185.59km from Newbury to Dover.
9,391.61 square km area covered.


Can anyone point to a bigger field that’s been up?

And the crowd goes wild…! The night London turned GREEN
I think it’s safe to say that both the G+ notifications from the Penknife Community (before G+ coincidentally went down) and the posts on COMM at this point went crazy. Got to say, I think my favourite quote from COMM was KeypadLondon – “Who just made a massive field in Holloway?” Laze and 121C4 came to the park too. Lots of gloating, a lot of confused Resistance zooming out, and zooming out, and zooming out. A couple of us may have joined a public Resistance London group, and posted pictures of a penknife for verification that we were Resistance, or that we’d created a field for verification (sorry BusyBeeGraham…). TheHexxx put together a nice photo montage video of London portals ( montage ). We know some people who shared a few shots of secure Resistance chat at the time, so it’s quite funny seeing the panic reaction from viper1966 in Greensboro NC spamming all over the map from Intel trying to order the local L8 Resistance about. Also, Anita “it’s like a giant christmas tree”.


All good things come to an end
We knew this wasn’t going to stay up long, and we didn’t really want it to due to the linking issues it causes. At 9:00pm, Jenner took down the Newbury portal. Turns out they’re an American L8 visiting from where they live in France, and we’d like to extend our congratulations to them (xGBHxPegasus was active in Dover earlier, but I’ll address that in the postscript to this). The portal went down, the Penknife field stayed up.


Sorry for breaking Ingress for the evening for everyone in London.
Also sorry for breaking G+ if that was anything to do with us.

This was outstanding fun, and like I said at the start of this, this is the work of every single Enlightened player in the area in one way or another. Even if all they did was not linking across the path, this couldn’t have been done without everyone. People co-ordinated with each other, passed messages on, ferried keys about, all for something we knew wouldn’t last, and wouldn’t directly credit our own AP.


The list will always be incomplete, but involved in one way or another were:



We’d like to actually thank our local Resistance, they’re a big part in making this game fun. Especially Jules for this write up from the opposite side: The Opposition
Screenshots and photos here: screenshots
+Brandon Badger  – it was a lot of work! Brandon Badger
+Ingress  – now you’re making me think we did have leaks… Ingress posts

There’s some issues/learning this shows up with the game (I know, I know, beta!).

1)      If we’d wanted to keep the field up, and had farmed keys, we could have ruined the game for everyone in London for a fair amount of time. My suggestion would be to allow linking/field building within a field, but not to count it to the global MU score.

2)      The mind units appear to be calculated on a country basis, one of our group did some calculations based on area size and total UK population density. This could really do with being done a bit finer grained, we think Penknife actually covered around 13 million people, rather than the 2.5 million the field gave. MU calculation

3)      The effort involved in taking this down doesn’t match the effort in putting it up. Maybe it would be possible to make MU size contribute to the toughness of control field portals? The struggle to take down something should match the struggle to put it up.

4)      I’ll end this post by talking about xGBHxPegasus, and why we’re not congratulating them. At 7:17pm they destroyed a resonator on Up Close – The Monument in the London (post code EC3R 8BG). At 8:06pm they were apparently destroying resonators on Autumn Sunset view of Dover Ca in Dover (post code CT17), which had a ghost field next to the Penknife field anchored to it. That’s 76 miles in 49 minutes from the centre of London to the centre of Dover in the tail end of the evening rush hour traffic. With a clear run, Google Maps thinks that should take an hour and twenty eight minutes. xGBHxPegasus either has a lot of speeding tickets, a private aircraft of some sort, or they’re spoofing their location. I’ll leave it to you lot to decide which is most likely. 


More on The night London turned GREEN

Categories: Ingress | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Operation #Penknife

  1. Excellent work! As I said, I appreciated the significance of the achievement, because I could tell just how much effort it had to have taken. I likened it today to a combination of a flash mob, a performance art piece and the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics.

  2. Shadow

    I think the energy of the field should add power to the resonators making it very very hard to take large fields down. For example every 5000MU it add’s 1 defence point.
    It would be a bit better because I took down a 50kMU field with a lot of ease, breaking a lot of work from the resistance, I would had preferred wasting more XMP like if it’s a high level boss of a game.

  3. You had me at “Likely be very fun to annoy the Tories with.”

    • Lol Dave, I thought that was funny too. This was a great write up from Matt, I couldn’t have given Operation Penknife the credit it deserved as I wasn’t involved in the beginning & came in quite late.

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