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Gambit Pileup / Video Games

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  • The Neverwinter Nights 2 expansion Mysteries of Westgate is like this, and ends with a successive series of bad guys all claiming to be the master villain, and gloating how they were secretly manipulating the previous master villain, who was secretly manipulating the previous previous master villain, etc.
  • For that matter, how about Neverwinter Nights 2 itself? The King of Shadows, Garius, Zeeaire, Ammon Jerro, Sydney Natale, Lord Nasher, Captain Brelaina and Axle all execute their own plans that clash with those of the others surprisingly often. Almost the entirety of the first two acts is spent on figuring out who's behind what. By the time you figure out what exactly is going on it's been trimmed down to two sides.
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  • Chrono Cross has such a big pile-up that it's become more infamous as a Mind Screw. Essentially, all the kingdoms fighting are either being manipulated by Lynx, (who is The Heavy of FATE), or the Six Dragons, who are Gaia's Vengeance. But wait! It turns out that the power they are attempting to control is manipulating both of them. But wait again! The original cast of Chrono Trigger (who just acted manipulated to the point of dying), the spirit of Schala (who is manipulating her reincarnated self), and the Guru of Time were all manipulating everyone in order to create a situation where the Cosmic Keystones of two different Alternate Universes broke and then fused, thus creating the weapon to kill Lavos, Deader Than Dead, once and for all. This Pastebin explains how the two plots interlock in detail and how all the aspects in Chrono Cross play out as a result.
  • The first two Metal Gear games were simply cases of complex plans. But starting from Metal Gear Solid, it's easiest to say that Gambit Pileups are the entire concept of the series. Some things remain completely incomprehensible three games, ten years, and about 100 hours of gameplay later, and then there's also the Portable Ops/Peace Walker spin-offs which just add several more layers and gambits to the whole mess. In several cases, later games manage to connect characters from earlier ones, that were completely unrelated when the games were written 10 years before, without even retconning anything. For example MGS4 reveals that Medic from MGS3 became a member of Patriots, which were introduced in MGS2, and on their behalf created the Cyborg Ninja from MGS1. The Cyborg Ninja was actually a character that was thought to have died in the even earlier Metal Gear 2, but that fact was already included when MGS was written.
    • The ending of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is a particularly bad offender with half a dozen characters making their secret plans known only to find out that they were just unknowing puppets in the plans of someone they thought they betrayed.
    • The poster child and actual Mastermind is Ocelot, who became the trope namer of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • The Marathon series has a few, between Durandal, Tycho, the Pfhor, and Thoth trying to balance all the factions out. And you get to be every single one of their errand boys.
  • The World Ends with You: Joshua, Hanekoma, Minamimoto, Konishi, and Kitaniji all have their own respective gambits. The ending doesn't even make it very clear whose gambits succeeded or failed, though the Secret Reports clarify some things.
  • Many Fire Emblem games do this, but Seisen no Keifu's Chapter 5 turn this Up to Eleven. The following chapter's introduction even makes reference to the previous one's Gambit Pileup nature: The intense battle over control of the capitol sent most of the powerful lords to their grave. Only Lord Alvis' plan went without a hitch as he successfully gained full control of the kingdom.
  • Quite a few RPG Maker titles employ this trope.
    • Exit Fate's plot effectively starts out as a Gambit Roulette on the part of the Almengan Emperor and it just builds on from there. Plus, with seventy-five playable characters, a good portion of your group will be throwing their own hats into the ring.
    • The more obscure Behemoth Tears also had no less than ten chessmasters with varying skill levels and motives competing at once. The simplest plan was The Lancer's attempt to become the emperor of a democracy. He succeeded.
  • City of Heroes and its sister game, City of Villains. Trying to figure out the alignment and sponsors of the various villain groups can require a multipage org chart. Nemesis is behind a lot of it in the end, but the lower rankings have so much intergroup conflict that figuring this out can be tricky. The Rikti, Council, Arachnos, Carnies, Malta, hero groups, and a dozen other villains also have their own complicated plans, although more often than not they all originate or react to the same plans. Lampshaded when the devs added "tips" in the loading screens, including one which reads "It's all a Nemesis plot," and another which states "It's not all a Nemesis plot."
  • Legacy of Kain...Where do you start? When Kain comments that "Nosgoth's great manipulator" is himself just a plaything, he's barely scratching the surface. Manipulators and schemers come in all shapes and sizes executing a mass variety of gambits. The main schemers are Kain, Moebius, the Elder God, Mortanius, and the Hylden Lord, all scheming against each other across centuries of careful planning. In the middle of it all is Raziel, the living embodiment of Screw Destiny who is possibly the only creature in all existence who can change history. Thus there are so many people trying to steer him in their own direction, no matter what Raziel does, he's going to end up unwittingly help further someone's plan.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Half the named characters in Final Fantasy Tactics are trying to manipulate the other half, and each other. The king is on his deathbed and there are two heirs to the throne. Two major dukes are fighting for control of the throne. One is the queen's brother and attempting to be the regent for the infant royal prince. The other duke is trying to be kingmaker for the king's teenage half-sister and use her as a puppet. And within their armies are plenty of smaller noble Houses trying to take power for themselves. The Church wants the royal armies to equally waste each other so the Church can claim supremacy and "save" the populace from war. They have their own army, the Knights Templar, run by Folmarv. Demonic Invaders are passing Mineral MacGuffin to each army, corrupting their members and hoping to resurrect their dark god. Folmarv is supposedly working for the church, but is actually infiltrating it on behalf of the demonic invaders they unknowingly worship. And finally, Delita is a triple agent within both successor's armies and the church. He wants them all dead so he can become the new king through marriage to the princess. He may or may not know about the demons, but he's sure to let Ramza handle the rest.
    • Dissidia Final Fantasy: Is it really surprising that when you force ten villains to work together, each with egos and powers larger than life, and all of them very high-ranked on the scales of threat and effectiveness in their own games, that they won't always work together? The Emperor is a textbook Chessmaster, the mastermind of the game's plot with his own secret goal to become a god. Ultimecia is his second-in-command and goes along with him while harboring her own scheme to become a god in her own way. Meanwhile Golbez goes along with them because he's the Reverse Mole and thus is banking on Cosmos' Batman Gambit to work and stop them. Cloud of Darkness, Exdeath and Kefka go along with the plan with the desire to destroy everything, and in the meantime Kefka is working on a plan to invoke a Face–Heel Turn in Terra. The Emperor and Ultimecia try to cut Sephiroth in on their plan, but he rejects them because he has his own secret plan to become a god as well. Kuja tries to interfere with Ultimecia's plan for Squall to snub her for insulting him under the advice of Kefka, who is probably just messing with them for kicks. Jecht is going along with the Emperor's plan because he's the Emperor's Unwitting Pawn who has been lied to. And Garland is watching it all unfold knowing that in the end his plan for Chaos will continue regardless of what they do because he's The Fatalist and doesn't believe any of their plans will amount to stopping the "Groundhog Day" Loop everyone is stuck in.
    • Final Fantasy XII: Ashe is plotting to take her kingdom back, Vossler seems to be helping her, but is in fact plotting with Vayne while hoping that Vayne's little brother Larsa will eventually help Ashe's ambitions, Balthier is helping her in order to settle the score with his father, Ba'Gamnan is plotting to kill Balthier, Vayne is plotting to become the next emperor, dissolve the senate, destroy the resistance led by Ashe and start a war against Rosaria, Gabranth is used by Emperor Gramis against Vayne, then used by Vayne against Judge Magister Drace, who did not like all the plotting, The Archadian senate is plotting against Vayne, Cid is plotting with Vayne and Venat in order to fulfill his ambitions and screw the Occurias along the way, then we have Occuria's king Gerrun who's plotting against everyone and who tries to turn Ashe into his willing puppet, Ondore who is playing the role of a Double Agent from the beginning of the game, Al-Cid who is plotting against his own family plotting against Archades while being in fact manipulated by Vayne's Unnatural cunning and finally Larsa who by the end of the game has outsmarted everyone and everyTHING. Made by the creators of Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story: no kidding.
  • Vagrant Story, for that matter. The game starts out with three different factions (very roughly: the Church, the Government, and the Müllenkamp Sect), in addition to Duke Bardorba's personal interest in the main plot. All of them are manipulating both Ashley Riot and some aspect of the Forces Of Evil. At least half the characters end up going rogue, one character (Rosencrantz) is already a professional traitor, another is murdered by Ashley and ends up possessing his own dead body by pure chance, and a third one (Guildenstern) appears to be working for the Church and against the Sect, but is really after the godlike powers that Sydney's skin can give him. Things get more complicated still when the entire city turns out to be a Grimoire, and possibly conscious on some level, and an entire plotline about four Fiends from ancient times is added only by mention in their respective bestiary entries.
  • Yakuza 2 goes outright nuts about this at the end, with just about everyone manipulating each other. Ironically the Smug Snake Orcus on His Throne mastermind who had happily sat out the whole game runs in, declares himself the winner and gets taken out in under a minute by a Spanner in the Works who lampshades his role by mentioning that he really hates whimpy masterminds who think they control everything. The winner on the other hand turns out to be a totally unexpected My Death Is Just the Beginning that made everything the villains tried to do pointless from the start.
    • Plotlines in the Yakuza series in general tend to revolve around various schemes by multiple criminals and factions that ultimately converge together in the climax.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters... Oh boy... The main character and Gig are saving the world due to manipulations by Virtous, who is really setting them up to cross over into the world of Drazil and kill Drazil. While at the same time the main character is being manipulated by Levin, who in fact isRaksha, who is setting up Thuris and Virtious in order to kill them, as they could pose a threat to his independence, in addition to that, he is also aiming to become a god, to be free of any manipulation on himself in the future. He does this, working together with Dio, who secretly keeps a Zombiefied Median, in order to restore him as supreme king in his former glory, by destroying Drazil and his subordinates... Oh yes, and Drazil was the one who, as catalyst of the Gambit Pileup, manipulated Median into killing Vigilance in the first place and then manipulated the souls of Vigilance (in two different incarnations), Resilence and Medians son into destroying most of the World of Haephnes. And that's about, oh, most of it.
  • The situation that the Jedi Exile wakes up to at beginning of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is the direct result of the collision of two or three plots and a number of other people's plans and agendas. The Exile spends most of the rest of the game sorting some of these out.
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • The plot of Super Robot Wars Z essentially comes down to this, as Gilbert Durandal, Lord Djibril, Paptimus Scirocco, The Frost Brothers, Gym Ghingham, Dewey Novak, Alex Rosewater, The Gaizok, Zeo Gattler, The Vegans, The Elda, The Zeravire, The Shadow Angels, The Chirams, The Hundred Demon Clan, The Chimera Corps and The Black Charisma are all engaged in a massive contest of who is Eviler Than Thou for control of the world and the dimensional power. The heroes of ZEUTH of course play the Spanner in the Works who wrecks all their plans by blowing them all to kingdom come. Everything was, in fact, a huge Gambit Roulette by Black Charisma/The Edel. His reason? Cause he though it'd be fun.
    • The Original Generation series tends to do this as well. OG1 amusingly has every last faction/individual acting as a Stealth Mentor during some part of their master plan, with the predictable side effect of training the heroes beyond the point where they can be further manipulated (which was the end goal of one or two of those gambits). OG2 has the standard "plot salad" variety, with one faction in particular making it their business to assist with any and every betrayal that anyone plans to make, specifically because they want to create a world that's endlessly at war with itself. By the end of the game, the villains care so little about who's planning to betray who that they organize a Villain Team-Up between the war-seeking faction and the faction that wants to neuter human advancement because we're too obsessed with war. And that's not even counting the whole political mess happening on the good guys' side.
  • The official Touhou manga Silent Sinner in Blue (and the companion Cage of Lunatic Runagate) has the Watatsuki sisters faced with the various plots of Yukari, Eirin, Remilia, and Yuyuko, foiling each of them with their own scheming, but in the end it turns out that through various convoluted methods each of the schemes succeeded, except for Remilia's, as she plays the Butt-Monkey role for the manga, and the Watatsuki sisters themselves, who in spite of apparently winning instead become Eirin's Unwitting Pawns, are duped by Yukari's ploy, and lose a valuable relic to Yuyuko. Parodied by Touhou Nekokayou here.
  • The StarCraft I addon Brood War had at least Kerrigan, Mengsk, Fenix, Zeratul, Duran, Daggoth and the UED all plot against each other. The only ones who seem to be not playing are Stukov and Raszhagal, and Stukov subsequently gets killed as a result of Duran's first plan against him, while Raszhagal turns out to have been a victim of Kerrigan's manipulation and later mind-control from the very beginning. But to be fair, Stukov at least had some potential, he just didn't live long enough to play it off.
  • Tales of Symphonia. At the start of the game, it's a simple Black and White Morality story with the good guys (Church of Martel) versus the bad guys (Desians). The Church of Martel is corrupt on two levels: the Pope just wants to accumulate personal power, while the organisation as a whole is controlled by Cruxis, who also control the Desians. Yggdrassil is controlling Cruxis so he can pull off a Gambit Roulette that will revive his dead sister. Yuan is a member of Cruxis but is also a double agent who started the Renegades to stop them. Kratos is also a member of Cruxis but also a Death Seeker double agent working on his own agenda to engineer a Suicide by Cop scenario. Zelos is acting as a triple agent for the Renegades, Cruxis and the party so that he can join whichever side looks like they're going to win. Then there's the individual power plays by the Desian Grand Cardinals, including one who is trying to overthrow the organisation itself. And finally, Lloyd just wants to protect Colette from everyone and everything that is trying to manipulate them, despite all of her best efforts to become a martyr.
    • Let's not forget the more humorous example Lloyd pulled on Colette at the beginning on the game with the hot/iced/possibly lukewarm coffee. By the animation, there may not even have been coffee in that cup - Colette has lost her sense of touch, and Lloyd is forcing her to admit it by handing her some coffee...
  • Rumored to be constantly at work in Urban Dead; it's anyone's guess how real or imaginary said plots are.
  • Vandal Hearts 2 features a civil war in the country of Natra that in the end proves to have been the result of multiple distinct factions with their own separate goals. Early on, it appears to have three factions. East Natra, led by the exiled son of the former king, and supported by the republic of Vernantze, a sort of Merchant Empire. West Natra, led by the Queen Mother, and supported by the Zora-Archeo empire, with their puppet king on the throne. And the heroic faction, seeking to unify the country by defeating both sides, founds Central Natra. However, as it goes on, it becomes apparent that the truth is far more complicated. East Natra was, in part, set up by Cardinal Ladorak, on orders from the Pope, to try and unify Natra with the Church state of Nirvadia. Meanwhile, the Queen Mother's true goal was to let the war get so bad that it would force Zora-Archeo to commit so many troops to the Natran Civil War that it would leave their home regions weak, allowing her homeland of Archeo to rise up in rebellion against Zora. Meanwhile, both East and Central are being manipulated by the Kudur Cult, trying to bring about a "cleansing of the world" which itself is a setup by their leader, who is seeking a way to reach God in heaven. To say the pile-up results in a bloodbath would be putting it mildly.
  • Throughout The Elder Scrolls series, the various faction questlines in the games usually have some of this going on. Most often, it's a corrupt faction leader scheming to achieve (evil or at least amoral) goals at the expense of the faction itself. Often, their plans would have gone off without a hitch if the Player Character hadn't come along to act as a Spanner in the Works. The Fighters Guild questline in Morrowind, the Dark Brotherhood questline in Oblivion, and the Thieves' Guild questline in Skyrim all provide prominent examples. A good rule is that if the faction's leader doesn't seem like a Reasonable Authority Figure, they're probably up to something and one of these is likely to result.
  • Wild Arms 3 turns into this. Between Beatrice who is manipulating almost all the good guys and later some of the bad guys, The Prophets, Janus, Seigfried, Werner and the Schrodingers as the spanner in all the works. it gets rather messy.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Between Xemnas, DiZ, and, to a lesser extent, Riku, Axel, and Maleficent, the entire series after the first game definitely qualifies. This is seen most profoundly in the subtext and background goings-on of 358/2 Days, though it's not immediately obvious from Roxas's limited point of view. Basically, Sora's placement in suspended animation for a year at the end of Chain of Memories sparked a back-and-forth war between two (or more) parties for control over his fate. Most of this involves Xion in some way or another, as well as various characters being manipulated by multiple parties for their own ends, but by the end of it, even the villains are somewhat confused as to how everything went so awry. Sora's obliviousness to all of this when he finally wakes up is rather amusing, particularly since he is notorious for derailing almost every plan he comes across without even trying. And that's not even getting into Organization XIII's serious problem with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder... not that any of those gambits and pileups actually worked in the end, but still.
    • Birth by Sleep, the prequel, takes it even further with the conflicting agendas of many characters, including, but not limited to, Master Xehanort, Terra, Ventus, Aqua (ESPECIALLY Aqua), Braig, Vanitas, Eraqus, Mickey, and even Maleficent to a small degree. By the end of it all, it's a wonder how the first Kingdom Hearts went so relatively smoothly, plot-wise.
    • As of Coded and Reconnect.Kingdom Hearts it appears that DiZ and Namine had been planning in advance to free Terra, Aqua, Ventus, Roxas, Xion, Axel, and even themselves from their individual fates by hiding DiZ's research data within Sora's heart and having Namine not only create the message in Jimminy's Journal, but have her influence the events from Coded from behind the scenes. Then again, Namine is probably the only one of the good guys who had a clear understanding of what was going on.
    • Seems to be mostly averted in III: other than Maleficent (who's plan never comes to anything), Vexen and possibly Xigbar , the only people with plans are the collective good guys and collective bad guys. It helps that most of the bad guys are some version of the same person.
  • While the original Valkyrie Profile only had two complex plots running against each other, the prequel, Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria had no less than five different plots crashing into each other, some involving time travel, not counting the schemes of the court wizards of Dipan (which were actually addressed in the first game). There may have been a couple others that haven't come up in any parts of the series thus far.
  • Mega Man ZX is a veritable casino! You wouldn't know it from the first game, but there are so many roulettes running around in the second you can't help but guess that people in power are trying to screw each other over.
  • Achron is a game being developed with free-form time travel so this is the obvious result of two or more enemies (2 vs. 2 is a popular mode) trying to turn the tide of not only the same battle, but all battles in a 7-minute time frame around the "present". Add to that the option to avoid these battles by retreating, not even building your army or destroying your enemy's factories or even resource gatherers (often leading to a massive Butterfly Effect), make Chronoclones (send a unit back in time to fight alongside the original) and to cause Grandfather Paradoxes, deliberately or not, to make whole armies phase in and out of existence and you've got a game which is perfect for the crazy planner in all of us.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars has this as its central plot. The higher-ups in the Triad are plotting against each other to become head of the Triad, the enemy gangs are plotting against the Triad, the actual head of the Triad is plotting against everybody, and the FBI is trying to arrest everybody. Ironically, Huang Lee, the Player Character, is the one to come out on top, avoiding arrest and death, and becoming the head of the Triad - all because he hadn't been plotting against anybody.
  • Alpha Protocol has competing gambits from...well, everybody. The short list: Conrad Marburg and his Deus Vult group along with the VCI and SIE, Al-Samaad, Sergei Surkov, G22 and Albatross, Omen Deng and his Chinese Secret Police, Scarlet, Mike's most loyal ally Mina, and Alpha Protocol itself, all leading up to Halbech, and eventually Alpha Protocol's own "human number cruncher" Alan Parker. The only one who isn't involved in or trying to manipulate something is Steven Heck, who's just along for the ride because it lets him blow shit up. Amusingly, he also knows many of the above secrets and never tells Mike, regardless of how friendly he is.
  • Betrayal in Antara. Let's see... We have various government officials at assorted levels conspiring with pirates. We have nobles trying to ruin other nobles in the name of politics and nobles screwing over their subjects out of greed. We have a group of xenocidal terrorists. We have a wizard messing with the lives of extra-planar entities For Science!. We have mercenary groups trying to make money and are willing to do so illegally. And to top it off, there's a man named Silverhawk, whose very existence isn't discovered until the very end of the game, who managed to connect several of these totally unrelated plots together in a scheme to murder the Emperor in the belief that he can become a key advisor to his heir. And that list doesn't include the numerous local issues that don't affect the overall plot.
  • The Fallout games as a whole was usually a case of either one Big Bad making life miserable for everyone, or two significant factions arguing over a MacGuffin with everyone else around just trying to watch out for themselves. This seems to be the case with New Vegas, and indeed could be, unless you start doing side quests and choosing certain speech options. It starts with the NCR and the Legion fighting over Hoover Dam before consolidating a hold on Vegas itself. Simple enough, unless/until: Mr. House activates his giant Securitron army to secure New Vegas for himself, and maybe upgrades them to machine guns and missile launchers!; Benny, a.k.a. that asshole that shot you in the intro, is playing up the things that House has taught him to try to yank said robot army out from under him; the bosses of the Omertas, resident gun smugglers, are actually in league with the Legion and plan on weakening the other Families for them under the wrong assumption that they'll have control of Vegas, except for Cachino, who knows the plan, wants to take out the bosses and lead the Omertas himself; and of course, you yourself as the Courier, who can either align with one of the major factions or go into business yourself, and either end up recruiting, ignoring, or wiping out any of the DOZEN smaller tribes, factions and hold-out groups.
    • Counting DLC, no less than ten factions (The Think Tank, Father Elijah, Ulysses, The Courier, The Omerta bosses, Cachino, Benny, House, the NCR, and the Legion) all have elaborate gambits competing against each other for the Mojave.
  • The plot of Xeno Saga is a Gambit Pileup of epic proportions, made even more confusing that usual by the fact that most if not all of the interlocking schemes are secretly being run by the same man.
  • In Cyber Nations, everyone is trying to screw everyone else over.
  • Batman: Arkham City shows what happens when you stuff nearly everyone in Batman's Rogues Gallery into a single fenced-off slum. Evil vs. Evil is in full effect, with the major factions and multiple independent villains doing at least as much to screw each other over as Batman himself, and you get a pileup of truly epic proportions.
  • The Assassin's Creed series is an example of multiple overlapping gambits. On the one side, you have the Ancient Conspiracy of the Templars who are scheming for control of humanity by manipulating religions, wars, science, and even commerce, with the ultimate objective of abolishing free will. Set against them are the Assassins, who are the unwitting tools of a far older scheme set in motion by Those Who Came Before to use Genetic Memory to deliver a message across thousands of years to the modern-day descendants of the Assassins in order to Fling a Light into the Future. And then there is Juno, who used a similar method to her civilizaion to ensure her release (At the cost of Desmond's life) to conquer Earth back.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution has this happening in the last part of the game. Bill Taggart, David Sarif and Hugh Darrow each have different plans in motion, all which come in to collision in the end. Player gets to choose whose plan is completed or Kill ’Em All and screw everyone.
  • The deceit continues in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, to the point where even long-time fans have trouble making sense of how many double agents and moles are present in the setting:
    • Task Force 29 has no less than three moles on its payroll, with two of them being brought onboard by separate members of the Illuminati Council of Five to run their own tasks (the third is the main character himself, who is working for the Juggernaut Collective as a Reverse Mole to learn more about the Illuminati). On one side, we have Dr. Delara Auzenne, the base's new psychiatrist, who is working in tandem with a "Madame Photographe" (and both of them working on behalf of Illuminati Council member Elizabeth DuClare) to set Adam up as a Manchurian Agent who will lead them to Janus, the head of the Juggernaut Collective. On the other, there's Ace Pilot Elias Chikane, who is in league with a different Illuminati member (assumed by many to be Stanton Dowd, based on the IP address in an email sent to him being the same as Dowd's IP in the introductory cutscene in Human Revolution) and is in cahoots with Big Bad Viktor Marchenko, if the email with the "Elanus Caeruleus" alias is any indication.
    • Task Force 29 is also run by Joseph Manderley, a name familiar to fans of the original game, who is in league with Illuminati council member (and eventual defector) Bob Page. The game's events kick off with both of them attempting to lead TF29 into a trap, via having them get ambushed and killed by the Shadow Company mercenaries led by Marchenko during the Dubai mission. Despite both Page and fellow council member Morgan Everett being indirectly responsible for Adam's survival in the first place (it is their rescue efforts that allowed him to be rescued from Panchaea in the interim between games), they specifically request Adam's placement on the team.
    • There's even a mole on the Illuminati council itself — Volkard Rand, who is stated in supporting materials to be Janus himself, who is working to limit the Illuminati's influence by aiding the Juggernaut Collective (and Adam, by proxy). Then again, not even Rand is aware that Auzenne is using DuClare's NSN avatar to speak privately about her real goals with Lucius Debeers, who leads the council.
  • Sigma Star Saga only has two faction leaders: the Tyrannical Overlord, who wants to conquer everything and everybody for the sake of more power, and Commander Tierney, who wants to do exactly the same thing. However, many of the lower-ranking characters have some plan to either gain power, or try to end the war, with various amounts of knowledge and degrees of competence involved. Ultimately, humanity as a whole "wins" by surviving, but only Recker really accomplishes what he intends to do, and it's at the expense of an entire species he has grown to respect (and, potentially, with the deaths of both women he loves.)
  • The second half of the third act of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is essentially a long reveal of who's been playing who while simultaneously being played by someone else.
  • Once you understand all the symbolism in Killer7, it becomes a truly staggering version of this. (Deep breath - and this is only ONE interpretation:) Harman Smith and Kun Lan are good friends, yet still in a war against eachother. Harman controls the Smith Syndicate (which is working for the US), and Kun Lan controls the Heaven Smiles and is heavily entrenched in the Japanese U.N. Party (even though he may be manipulating it to make US-Japan relations worse). Curtis Blackburn and Pedro are plotting against each other, and Dan Smith (Curtis's apprentice) is part of the Smith Syndicate but is plotting against Harman. The Handsome Men appear to be controlled by the comic book writer Trevor Pearlharbor even though their leader is nominally Handsome Red, but are actually being controlled by Handsome Pink, who actually writes their story, which makes Trevor believe he's writing it even though he's just precogniscient. In Japan, the amiable Liberal Party and the nationalist U.N. Party are at odds as to whether to cooperate with the US to save Japan from missiles sent from an unknown other country; however, the U.N. Party has taken control of the US elections through Coburn Elementary, even after Japan itself is geographically destroyed. Toru Fukushima, the leader of the U.N. Party, is betrayed by two moles, Jean DePaul (of the International Ethics Committee) and Julia Kisugi (of the Liberal Party); both of them were waiting for the other to make the first move, let the other one get killed by the Smiths, then take the Yakumo for themselves. From Coburn, Greg Nightmare controlled the election, but at some point was turned into a Heaven Smile. The principal Benjamin Keane is himself trying to be elected president. Harman himself was involved in the founding of Coburn, and is manipulating the real host personality of the Smith Syndicate, his own student Emir, into thinking he's one of Harman's personae. Andrei Ulmeyda is using a UN Party document called the Yakumo to amicably gain power, but his city is actually being controlled by the military to conduct experiments. And finally, the Smiths' trusted associate Iwazaru is actually the last Heaven Smile and another avatar of Kun Lan.
    • The companion book Hand in killer7 makes things even more complicated, which is definitely not helped by the fact that it contradicts itself. This is mostly done through the "Jaco's Report" story, which reveals that a man not mentioned anywhere in the game named Jaco Checkbox was responsible for much of the events of the plot. He controls Samantha (Harman's maid) and told Ulmeyda to contact the Smiths, among other things, but he got the information to do these things from a future-predicting machine named Miss Jacob, which he later discovers doesn't predict the future at all - it was just relaying the history of the world as written up and decided in 1975. Gambits are practically the main theme of Jaco's Report, and it's never really clear who, if anyone, was in charge of "maligning history".
    • This is pretty much a staple of Suda51 games, specifically the ones he writes and directs himself, thus giving him complete control over the plots. In Flower, Sun and Rain, ELBOW attempts to breed hyenas on Lospass Island to create Silver Eyes. It places one of their administrators, Edo Macalister, in control of the Hotel Flower, Sun, and Rain, basically as a front for the hyena scheme. Edo decides to betray them and blow up the island, but the Sundance tribe, defenders of the island, is moving his bombs onto an airplane. Edo calls protagonist Sumio Mondo to the island to remove the bombs from the plane. Meanwhile, Tokio Morishima is causing time to loop while taking care of one of the hyenas, Sundance Ritz defects from the tribe to help Mondo, detectives from Japan are attempting to crack down on ELBOW, and Mondo's original self's partner from his time as Sumio Kodai is wearing a bodysuit and monitoring him. This all links back into The Silver Case which has a pretty nuts gambit-based plot of its own. It also links forward to killer7 (described extensively above) in that ELBOW is implied to have had a hand in Emir's creation in that game. Even though killer7 takes place in an alternate timeline due to the maligning of history as described in Hand in killer7, also above. Suffice to say that Suda's "Kill the Past" universe is so gambit-filled that it has gambit pileups across seemingly unrelated games.
  • You can't even throw a rock in Last Scenario without hitting some mysterious person manipulating things from behind the scenes, who may or may not have someone plotting to stab them in the back. It eventually reaches the point that the one who emerges from it all as the ultimate Big Bad is Castor, Ortas' subordinate, who was manipulating the Rosehart Kingdom, who was manipulating Herbert and the war between the Empire and the Republic, making him The Starscream of The Man Behind the Man...behind the man.
    • The power struggle within the Empire is a mini-pileup of its own. First Princess Helga kills her father and seizes control. Then her brother Wilhelm gathers his own army to fight against her tyranny. Then Helga is killed and replaced herself by her aide Augustus, who is then killed by his partner-in-crime Felgorn, who then goes out fighting against Wilhelm's rebel army. At the end of it all, Wilhelm finally takes control of the empire and brings some order to all this nonsense.
  • Imperium Nova, being a browser game/forum RP where the players are nobles in a Feudal Future, tends to encourage this.
  • The third Mega Man Star Force has a massive one on the villains' side. As it turns out, not one of King's subordinates trust him at all. Ace already betrayed him and all of Dealer to join WAZA. While King works to control Meteor G, Heartless is plotting to backstab him and get in contact with Kelvin Stelar. Queen Tia and Jack want King and Heartless out of the way so that they can control the Meteor and use it to rid the earth of EM technology, and their FM partners Virgo and Corvus are ready and willing to betray them for their own ends. Joker just wants to fulfill his Purpose, but he is willing to throw anyone under the bus to make it happen. In the end, Heartless is the one with the Last Plan Standing.
  • Everyone in Crusader Kings, be they minor barons, emperors, bishops, mercenary leaders, patricians, forgotten bastards, or whatever else, has their own AI with many ambitions and few morals. All of these resulting schemes inevitably run into one another in myriad chaotic train wrecks, such that civil wars with four different factions and two opportunistic invaders are pretty par for the course.
  • The book subplot in My Harem Heaven Is Yandere Hell. Basically, Kanna doesn't want Yuuya to know what the Land God really is, so she secretly censors her translation of the God's folklore. But a shrine maiden tells Yuuya that Kanna's lying, so Yuuya borrows a book about the God from Sayuri and gets Shizuka to help him decipher it. Then it turns out that Kanna is spying on them and she orders Sayuri to take the book back. She does, but Shizuka anticipated that Kanna might do this and made photocopies of the book beforehand. But Shizuka keeps the copies secret from Yuuya because she fears (correctly) that otherwise, Kanna would learn about them through her perpetual stalking of him. (Sayuri and Kanna's actions were motivated by their competition with Haruka and each other to win Yuuya's affections, but unbeknowst to them Yuuya is aware of this competition and doesn't approve. He's trying to guide them away from their stifling, scary dependence on him, which unbeknownst to him the girls' parents are also trying to do but with different methods. One of these methods involves using Shizuka as a pawn, but she eventually betrays them and starts helping Yuuya, as seen above. The Land God is trying to keep Yuuya close to Kanna, Sayuri and Haruka, and Yuuya eventually discovers that with the shrine maiden's help. Unfortunately, Kayako's attempts to get Yuuya into a relationship screw up all the above plans, and in retaliation someone murders her.) Also, before all this took place the God was subconsciously influencing Yuuya (and by extension, Kanna) to increase the God's reputation and therefore power by spreading complimentary lies about him to the populace. This is a Bad Thing, and that's why the shrine maiden acted as she did above.
  • The Invisible Hours begins with a murder. The cast all suspect each other, and their suspicions and plotting lead to two more murders, one attempted murder, and a Stable Time Loop that results in the first murder.
  • BattleTech: A Canopian mission hook for a "Recovery" mission describes your target as conducting industrial espionage for the Capellans while working at a Canopian company. The Capellan leadership offer to sell her back, and the Canopians hire your PMC to extract the scientist while buying time by pretending to negotiate with the Capellans. Lampshaded by your XO:
    Darius: I think I've lost track of how many layers of betrayal this represents. Is this a quadruple-cross?


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