troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Battle of Wits
"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Fights aren't always won with guns, swords, and may in fact not require any kind of physical combat whatsoever; outsmarting your opponent can be just as effective. Battling this way also saves resources — especially if it's a Combat by Champion of the highest-ranking members of each side. Even if not, it's easier to recover from almost being outsmarted and getting your pride wounded than almost getting outfought and getting your leg (or an even more vital body part) wounded. And some play it well enough to never get wounded in the first place.

This is a staple tactic of The Chessmaster, the Guile Hero and the Manipulative Bastard alike and one way for the Insufferable Genius to prove himself. The Super Trope to The Plan. Someone who loses the Battle Of Wits are Out-Gambitted. Winners are often Badass Pacifists. If both combatants are particularly brilliant, can easily descend/ascend into Gambit Roulette or Xanatos Speed Chess.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • The Final Battle of Code Geass R2 takes place on many levels (including large-scale army maneuvers and one-on-one duels) but the most important is the battle of wits between Lelouch and his brother Schneizel.
  • Any fight in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Raw power is great and all, but the truly dangerous Stand users are the ones who use weak or peculiar abilities to devastating effect.
  • Hunter Hunter heavily focuses on this, the characters always go to battle with detailed plans or have to come up with something on the spot. The plans and thoughts that characters have during battle are always carefully explained, and very often they have to deal with things not going the intended way.
  • Liar Game's whole plot is a battle of wits par excellence.
  • Death Note had this as its entire focus. Well, that and Light doing cartwheels off the slippery slope...
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children sets up a battle of wits between Rufus Shinra and Kadaj. Kadaj believes Rufus to have recovered the remains of Jenova and to be hiding them somewhere, whereas he claims them to have been lost. The two keep hanging out exchanging quips and platitudes in a way that definitely suggests there is supposed to be a battle of wits going on, but they don't actually do much beyond that. Meanwhile, Kadaj's gang's brilliant plan to find Jenova consists of running around causing random trouble like the superpowered juvenile delinquents they are. In the end, Rufus reveals that he's been sitting with the remains of Jenova hidden on his wheelchair the whole time.
  • Once every two Naruto fights turn out this way.
  • There are several cases of this in Dragon Ball, especially when there is tournament because in that case, it's always about who can outsmart their opponent the quickest that usually is the winner.

Collectible Card Game

Comic Books
  • Subverted with the Trial of Head, Hand and Heart in ElfQuest. Rayek's solution to the Trial of Head is clearly smarter than Cutter's, but Cutter wins by luck. Rayek justifiably complains, but Savah, who's officiating, lets it slide because she knows the upcoming Trial of Heart will be more decisive.
  • Spider-Man's favorite tactic for dealing with foes stronger than him.
  • Hellblazer: John Constantine battles his foes by outwitting them rather than fighting them head on.

Fan Fics
  • Surprisingly enough, most of the battles in the Tamers Forever Series are quite strategic in nature. The most prominent example would have to be the battle between Piedmon and Gallantmon. Which essentially involved Piedmon using every dirty trick he could think of and Takato adapting to and countering these moves, all while engaged in an awesome midair duel.
  • Death Note Equestria, being (as the name suggests) an adaptation of Death Note with ponies, naturally has this as the core conflict between Twilight Sparkle and L.

Film
  • The Princess Bride: Westley's iocane powder game with Vizzini.
  • From Diggstown
    before the 10th fight
    Gillon: Never try and hustle a hustler, Mr. Caine!
    after the 10th fight
    Caine: Actually, I believe it goes: Never con a con-man. Especially one who's better than you are.
  • Hunting Humans is about a battle of wits between two Crazy-Prepared, supposedly ingenious serial killers, Aric and Dark. The fact that this information comes form a Something Awful review might suggest something about how well it works.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty is Holmes initiating his Sherlock Scan to win the battle in his mind before winning it in reality, but Moriarty suddenly undercuts Holmes' strategizing with his own, so it's both of them having a fight in their minds. They both come to the conclusion that Holmes can't win the fight because of his injury, so the actual fight never happens because Holmes decides to Take a Third Option and pull himself and Moriarty over the railings and off a cliff.

Literature
  • Sun Tzu's The Art of War is practically a handbook for these.
  • Discworld:
    • Going Postal. Moist von Lipwig vs Reacher Gilt
    • Lord Vetinari vs... Everyone
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden has a lot of these. While there is invariably a good deal of action involved, he seldom (especially as the series progresses and he plans more carefully) rushes into a confrontation with absolutely no plan whatsoever. The main plan inevitably ends up going wrong to one extent or another, but even if his backup plan ends up being completely useless as well, the nature of magical combat means there'll always be a Xanatos Speed Chess element to the confrontation that prevent it from being a pure slugfest.

Theatre
  • In Der Ring des Nibelungen's third opera: Siegfried, Wotan (initially disguised as a wanderer) challenges the dwarf Mime to a "Battle of Wits", with the wager being the loser's head, after the dwarf refuses to give him hospitality (all of thing was actually a scheme from Wotan who needed to give Mime an important information, the mere "Battle of Wits" was too with the purpose of Mime getting the information).

Live-Action Television
  • Sherlock. Insufferable Genius? Sherlock Holmes. Obsession with complex crimes? Sherlock Holmes. Similarly intelligent rival/arch-foe? Jim Moriarty. Other people might be in danger, but the fight comes down to who can be cleverer. Holmes wins by faking his death, having anticipated Moriarty's plan. However, the Season 3 Cliff Hanger implies that Moriarty may have had an ace up his sleeve after all.

Newspaper Comics
  • Beetle Bailey. Beetle Bailey and Sergeant Snorkel are constantly trying to outwit each other as Beetle tries to avoid work or otherwise get on Sarge's nerves.

Video Games
  • The final confrontation in Planescape: Torment can be this, depending on your stats.
  • The entire focus of the Ace Attorney courtroom sections.
  • One of the side-quests in the Original Campaign which comes with Neverwinter Nights has you hunting down an Insufferable Genius escaped criminal known as The Stirge. When you find him, he offers to play a game of wits with you for his life. If you follow the example he gives you when you get to play the real game, you will inevitably lose.

Western Animation
  • Bugs Bunny is the patron saint of this trope. Of course, most of his opponents come ill-equipped for a battle of wits, but are generally well-armed otherwise. Perhaps his worthiest opponent is self-proclaimed "super genius" Wile E. Coyote; in this case, Bugs uses Wile E.'s arrogance to his advantage.


Bastardly SpeechGambit IndexBox-and-Stick Trap
Battle EpicOlder Than FeudalismBe a Whore to Get Your Man

alternative title(s): Battles Of Wits
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
22748
27