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Beat Them at Their Own Game

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Long Feng: You've beaten me at my own game.
Azula: Don't flatter yourself. You were never even a player.

Our hero is really in a pickle this time. The latest villain uses a unique weapon, technique or tactic which beats anything else the hero can do. So how does the hero get out of this? By using the same tactic himself!

Some authors, especially video game designers, like to have their hero use a villain's own methods against him. This could be due to the reason stated above: because the only option the hero has to counter said tactic is the tactic itself. Other times, it might be an honor thing. Or things could have just turned out that way. Whatever the reason, equally matched fights are cool.


Perhaps this is so popular in video games because it allows for variety in gameplay. In fact, many a Fisticuffs Boss fight is against a similarly unarmed opponent. When the enemy's fighting style is radically different from the hero's typical style, this can be an Unexpected Gameplay Change.

Villains can use this tactic, too. It's sometimes cited as a reason for creating an Evil Knockoff of the hero. Playing Tennis with the Boss and Throw the Mook at Them are specific sub-tropes, with the former involving deflecting the enemy's own energy back at them. Whereas the latter turns the villain's own flunkies into ammo.

Compare Faustian Rebellion, where the villains really should be in charge of the game, yet are at risk. Also compare Hoist by His Own Petard, which is where villains are defeated by their own weapon or plot, but not necessarily by a hero. See also A Taste of Their Own Medicine, which is a type of Revenge; and Ditto Fighter, as some variants take the form and fighting style of their opponents, thus invoking this trope each time they fight.



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    Comic Books 
  • In The Twelve Tasks of Asterix they face a trial that the magic potion has no effect on... bureaucracy! However, Asterix is smart enough to play the system against itself, causing enough chaos for the head of the place to just hand him the item to make him go away.

  • In My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic #3 it is revealed that Starswirl the Bearded, knowing full well that all his magic would be useless against them, attempted to beat the Sirens with the very thing they were using to hypnotize the Canterlot ponies: music. Night after night, Starswirl and the Sirens competed for ponies' ears. But in the end, he failed. Desperate, he took the magic mirror and used it to banish the Sirens to an alternate world, one he knew there was no magic for them to steal. And the rest, as they say, is history.
  • In one story during the Silver Age, The Joker tried this, figuring that if a Utility Belt works so well for Batman, it could work well for him too, and built his own. (Unfortunately, Batman was a little too good at his own game, and managed to use Joker's belt to his own advantage.)
  • Wonder Woman (2006): The master of disguise Nemisis falls for Circe's disguise as Wonder Woman, which she lampshades and which nearly gets him killed.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin manages to convince his babysitter Rosalyn into playing Calvinball if he finishes his homework. After a bit of confusion, she soon realizes that it's a game where you make up the rules as you go along and quickly defeats Calvin by touching him with the "Baby Sitter Flag" and ordering him to get to bed. Calvin isn't even upset so much as he's surprised at him losing at Calvinball.

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: At the climax, Terry turns Joker's old standby, the Breaking Speech, against him, mocking the Joker's fixation on Batman and expressing his disappointment with Joker's backstory. It's all a distraction so Terry can get a hold of Joker's joy buzzer.
  • Zootopia: Though not villainous, Nick antagonizes Officer Judy Hopps by exploiting her naïveté to draw her into his pawpsicle hustle and uses proper paperwork and Loophole Abuse to prevent her from arresting him. So when he turns out to be her only lead on a case, she tricks him into boasting about his income as a hustler while she secretly records it and then reveals he is guilty of felony tax evasion which she uses to blackmail him into helping her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Matrix, Neo and the other humans are nearly powerless in any direct confrontation with the Matrix's agents, and can only gain the upper hand through luck or the element of surprise (which is nearly impossible to obtain). Neo surprises his fellow humans by surviving a face-to-face encounter with an agent by dodging its bullets (as seen in the famous "Bullet Time" scene).
    Trinity: How did you do that?
    Neo: Do what?
    Trinity: You moved like they do. I've never seen anyone move that fast.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street: Whenever Freddy Krueger is defeated, it's usually by exceptionally lucid dreamers who can shift the reality and fabric of their dreams just as much as he can. His underestimation of this doesn't help either.
  • The final battle of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. In order to even the odds between himself and the cursed undead pirates, Captain Jack Sparrow picks up a gold piece from the cursed treasure trove, transforming into an immortal undead pirate himself, allowing him to more easily buy time until the curse is broken and the evil pirates are rendered killable.
  • Predator franchise:
  • The Princess Bride: Master Swordsman Inigo Montoya faces off against the Man in Black in a sword duel initially fighting with his off-hand, hoping to make the fight last longer. He soon realizes the Man in Black is actually more than a match for him, so he switches his sword to his right hand to gain the edge he needs... only for the Man in Black to also switch to his right hand and disarm him.
  • In TRON: Legacy, Rinzler, a re-purposed Tron controlled by Clu, uses two light discs in combat, and is considered nearly unstoppable. Sam Flynn finally defeats him by using his father's disc in conjunction with his own.
  • In Batman & Robin, Poison Ivy acts as a seductress that lures her victims to their deaths by flirting with them before delivering her signature Kiss of Death. She spends a majority of the film with Robin as her main victim, seducing him, making him think she loves him and will change sides to be with him, and breaking him and Batman apart. During their final encounter in Ivy's lair though Robin tricks her into revealing her plan by pretending to still be in love with her and asking for a sign of trust from her before they kiss. He also wore rubber lips to protect himself against her poison during their kiss. He successfully manipulated Ivy into revealing her secrets and that her love was a lie by pretending to love her like she pretended to love him, and managed to steal a kiss from her, making her signature kiss useless. Downplayed slightly by Ivy shoving Robin into her pond to drown him, ultimately getting the last laugh in their "relationship" before "breaking up with him" but she is still beaten by Batgirl shortly afterwards and is trapped in the same Rose Throne she had just shoved Robin from.
  • Revenge of the Sith:
    Dooku: I sense great fear in you, Skywalker. You have hate, you have anger— but you don't use them.
    Anakin: [proceeds to do exactly that, beating Dooku in a single offensive barrage]
  • Ted 2: To hide from Donny, Ted stands in a display of teddy bears that look just like him. Donny tricks him into dropping his disguise by singing "Sweet Caroline", which causes him to join in. Later, Donny disguises himself as a Ninja Turtle after knocking out John. Ted does the same trick he did to him by playing "I Think We’re Alone Now" on Sam's phone, which causes him to dance and allows the guards to arrest him.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Many times a wrestler will have a trademark Finishing Move. As in the WWE game cited below, a point of drama is to use a wrestler's finisher against him/her. This only works if the move in question is unique, though; there's not as much drama if Kane and The Undertaker trade Tombstones and chokeslams, since they both 'naturally' have them. Some of these can cross with Hoist By His Own Petard.
  • Also, certain wrestlers usually have matches that are claimed to be their specialty (The Undertaker has casket and buried alive matches, the Hardys are associated with ladders, The Dudley Boys with tables, Kane with the Inferno Match), but generally they tend to lose those matches. Of course, some of this is backstage booking/logistical reasons. The Undertaker is heavily protected and Casket and Buried Alive matches prevent him from doing a clean job, and Kane usually wears a full-body jumpsuit, so it's safer for him to get burnt in an Inferno match.
  • Gorilla Monsoon frequently would point out – "Turnabout is fair play" – that a heel lost by his own illegal tactics backfiring on him (e.g., his manager accidentally hits him with a signature weapon) or the face is able to use the same illegal tactic to turn the tables on his villainous foe.
  • Hulk Hogan's final match before he moved to WCW had Yokozuna pin him with a leg drop.
  • In their "I Quit" match, Bret Hart controversially defeated Bob Backlund with Backlund's Crossface Chickenwing. note 
  • At some point in The Rock's career, he began to make a habit out of hitting his opponents with their own finishers. This included giving Triple H a Pedigree onto a table, giving the Undertaker a chokeslam, spearing Goldberg, putting Kurt Angle in the ankle lock and giving "Stone Cold" Steve Austin lots and LOTS of Stunners. While he usually tried to pick up a pin after this, they pretty much always kicked out. Also, this usually meant that eventually the other wrestler would give him the Rock Bottom. At Vengeance 2002, July 21, 2002, in the WWE World Heavyweight Title Triple Threat Match between the Undertaker (c), the Rock and Kurt Angle, Rock chokeslammed Taker, Angle gave Rock the Rock Bottom, and Taker gave Angle the Angle Slam.
  • At SummerSlam 2008, The Undertaker hit Edge with the Spear, hit him in the head with a camera (which Edge had done to Undertaker several times in the past), then hit him with the Con-Chair-To before finally finishing him off with his own finisher, The Tombstone.
  • At Hard Justice 2008, Kurt Angle tried to use the Styles Clash on AJ Styles himself, only for Styles to turn it into the Angle Lock in midair and force Angle to tap out to his own finisher.
  • At Final Resolution 2010, Douglas Williams pinned AJ Styles after using the Styles Clash on him.
  • Kane has always been a sadistic monster (though his character can be a Noble Demon depending on plot) that loves playing mind games and mentally tormenting his opponents. What did Edge, "The Ultimate Opportunist", do when he had to beat him for the World Heavyweight Championship? Kidnapped Kane's dad and spend the next few weeks torturing Kane in all sorts of sadistic mind games and torturing his daddy. Kane tries to call him out on it, only for Edge to remind him of how he's only doing the exact same thing Kane always does. It seemed Edge one upped Kane as he won the title at TLC 2010.
  • Ring of Honor attempted to get rid of it's unwanted CZW trespassers for good by beating five representatives from their roster in their own Cage Of Death. The five from CZW were this in turn, as Necro Butcher was the only Garbage Wrestler, for which the promotion is best known for. Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Eddie Kingston and Super Dragon were the best "pure" wrestlers CZW had at the time and from a purely in ring perspective would have fit in ROH just fine.
  • At Sacrifice 2007, James Storm tried to attack Chris Harris with his signature beer bottle, but Harris clocked him with a bottle of his own.
  • Subverted hilariously when Vickie Guerrero attempted to Spear Edge. She comically bounces off him like he was a brick wall.
  • Jushin Thunder Liger once used Asian Mist on its most famous user, The Great Muta.
  • Sara Del Rey beat Amazing Kong by count out when defending the SHIMMER Title so when Amazing Kong was defending the NWA World Women's Title, she threw Del Rey out of the ring and demanded the referee count Del Rey out. Kong forgot NWA rules though and was disqualified instead.
  • Chris Hero defeated Equinox with The Chikara Special after he himself had been defeated by the hold no less than seven times in a single season, once by Equinox in fact.
  • Exploited and subverted during Cedric Alexander's feud with Decade, where he made a point to take up Roderick Strong's moves. When it came time for their "Battle Of The Back Breakers" though, Alexander instead caught Strong off guard with a roll up.
  • Triple H attempted to do this at WrestleMania 27. After putting 'Taker through a hellacious beating, where the deadman was barely standing, and still kicking out of the Pedigree, Hunter proceeded to do a Tombstone Piledriver, culminating in him even doing 'Taker's signature taunt of sticking out his tongue. When he still kicked out, Hunter backed away and looked about ready to piss in his trunks even though his opponent wasn't moving and looked so much as if a small breeze could take him out.
  • Roderick Strong apparently had a good plan going into his television title defense against CHAOS wrestler Tomohiro Ishii at Honor Rising Japan but after some taunting from Bobby Fish, he took up the very uncharacteristic approach of trying to beat Ishii using Ishii's own style. It didn't workout so well for Strong.
  • On the Nov. 5, 2018 episode of WWE Raw, Drew McIntyre used the Angle Slam on Kurt Angle and then made him tap out with the Ankle Lock.
  • John Cena once made Chris Masters tap out with the Masterlock.
  • At Clash of Champions 2020, Drew McIntyre defeated Randy Orton after punting him in the head, which is usually what Orton does.
  • At Crown Jewel 2021, Edge defeated Seth Rollins after hitting him with Rollins' Superkick and then Curbstomp.

  • Oftentimes the only way to beat a Godmodder in Destroy the Godmodder is to use Descendancy, a special kind of reality warping that often acts as its own flavor of godmodding. Many successful attacks against the Godmodder are counter-godmodded with immunity to almost all of the potential methods the Godmodder could use to block or otherwise evade the attack.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in Dungeons & Dragons 4E; although Necrotic damage is an option, often the best weapon to fight evil with is Good. Indeed, the assassin (the first Shadow Striker) is widely regarded as one of the worst classes.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Boss Snikrot was one of the Ork bosses who came to the planet Armageddon during the Second War for Armageddon. His boyz were massacred by the Imperial Guard's jungle fighting specialists, and Snikrot swore revenge by beating the sneaky 'umies at their own game. Most Orks aren't normally given to things like stealth and subterfuge (it'z all a load of muckin' about if yaz ask me), but in their campaign of guerilla warfare, Snikrot and his Red Skull Kommandos have plagued the jungles ever since and taken a heavy toll on the Imperial Guard. Catachan Jungle Fighters are from one of the nastiest Death Worlds in the galaxy and don't scare easy, but even they tell stories of how Snikrot can pass through a throttlevine grove without disturbing a single leaf, how he leaves his victims with no eyes and no scalps, and how he loots their dog tags and whispers the names of the men he's killed to the jungle moon.
  • At the end of Amonkhet block in Magic: The Gathering, Bolas takes great pleasure in thrashing the primary members of the Gatewatch at their own specialties: he subjects telepath Jace to a Mind Rape so serious Jace can't even remember his own name when he regains consciousness on Ixalan, beats elementalist Nissa by using the plane's ley lines against her, manipulates Femme Fatale Liliana into switching sides, takes down pyromancer Chandra in a contest of power, and rips right through heiromancer Gideon's protective shield. Represented mechanically by the X's Defeat cycle, which has each planeswalker's defeat in their own primary colour.
  • This was the plan by ComStar in the BattleTech setting, when the Clan invaders came knocking. Upon finding out that the ultimate target of the Clans was Earth itself—a planet held in exclusive neutrality by ComStar—their Precentor Martial, Anastasius Focht, offered up a proxy battle for the planet instead. In lieu of fighting on and possibly ruining Earth, he deliberately set up the proxy battle to greatly resemble the Clans' Trial structure, specifically a Trial of Possession. Knowing that the Clans and their impulsive, honor-obsessed warriors would never be able to resist the opportunity to take part and presumably win in a single battle, Focht instead set it up so that he could maneuver the Clans into fighting as a series of separate engagements (rather than facing all of the invaders simultaneously) and then brutally bent the spirit of the rules of the engagement while remaining perfectly true to their letter. The end result was a devastating Clan defeat across nearly a month of continuous fighting rather than the brief, sharp battles the Clans favored—Focht had correctly deduced that the Clans' armies fielded frightening power, but no stamina to speak of, and ultimately won the Inner Sphere 15 precious years of truce to try and catch up to the invaders' technological strength.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, during the Yellow Trailer, this is how Yang Xiao Long defeats Melanie and Miltia; Miltia, who fights with Wolverine Claws, is taken out of the fight with a massive punch, while Yang downs Kick Chick Melanie with a nasty kick to the forehead.

    Web Videos 

    Real Life 
  • Chess Grandmaster Jan Timman is known for using his opponents' favorite opening lines against them. Sometimes this backfires, but often it works and he wins, partially due to the psychological difficulties of essentially "playing against yourself".
  • Judoka Masahiko Kimura submitted Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Hélio Gracie in which was BJJ's own main field, the ground grappling.
  • This video of a judge dealing with a Sovereign Citizen charged with a DUI. While the views of Sovereign Citizens as a whole are controversial, most incidents in which they deal with the courts or law enforcement ends with, at best, shouting and frustration, and at worst violence. In this incident, the judge simply adopts the Sovereign's own terminology to use against him. Specifically, when the Sovereign says he is the "individual" David Hall, representing the "person" David Hall (a common sovereign claim which attempts to deny the jurisdiction of authorities over them), the judge simply says that BOTH entities are being charged with a DUI.
  • To combat YouTube's Content ID system, which means companies can monetise videos with as little as 15 seconds of their content, even if it falls under Fair Use, Jim Sterling purposely included copyrighted material from multiple companies who had claimed their content before, as they had accidentally discovered that when multiple people claim a video, and at least one of them chooses not to monetise it, nobody gets the money.
  • The Battle of Midway was a second attempt by the Japanese Navy to trap and neutralize the US Pacific Fleet. The plan called for drawing the US Carrier Forces North by sending the Fifth Fleet towards the Aleutian Islands. Meanwhile, a separate strike force (Kido Butai, lit. "Striking Force") would seize the airfield on Midway Island to neutralize that threat. In response, the Carrier group was expected to turn back south to retake Midway, where Kido Butai would be waiting. On paper, it seemed to be an elegant and well-thought out plan, if a bit too complex. What the Japanese didn't know is that the Americans had broken their codes, forewarning them about the attack and allowing them to set up their own trap. When Kido Butai approached Midway, they got ambushed by dozens of US Fighters and Bombers from the same carrier group they were trying to take out. And the rest is history.
  • On the other hand, the whole history of Japan from 1860s to the 1990s has shades of this compared to the dominance of Western powers in the same period. The Meiji Restoration, with Japan borrowing and adopting Euro-American technology and culture to varying extents, and the subsequent modernization of the country prevented its colonization (and helped them become colonisers themselves) and enabled them joining the Great Powers club by the end of World War 1. Even its loss in World War 2 could not stop Japan from being one of the world's biggest economy for much of the latter-half of the 20th Century. To further put this in perspective in support of this trope - it was not only Japan being the only non-Caucasian country to do so for a long time, it eventually surpassed most of Europe, rivalling Germany and possibly the United States note  in its peak. Plus, they became (fairly) democratic earlier than Spain, Portugal, or Eastern Europe did.
  • The 2021 GameStop Short Squeeze straddles the line between this and A Taste of Their Own Medicine, depending on why any one individual is participating. The Reddit board r/WallStreetBets noticed that Billion Dollar Hedge Funds and Short Sellers were shorting stocks of brick & mortar video game retailer GameStop. "Short Selling" refers to when an investor borrows stocks in a company from another investor, and sells them immediately, expecting to buy them back at a lower price and pocket the difference as the company fails (in GameStop's case, a prediction based on rising digital sales and the COVID-19 Pandemic). Individual Investors from Reddit, fueled by a distaste for Wall Street's corruption, a desire to break out of poverty, and a semi-ironic affection for GameStop, initiated a Short Squeeze, buying the shorted stock in droves and causing the stock price to skyrocket by as much as 19,000%, which by the end of the month had allowed some of the Redditors who bought in early to become Millionaires in their own right; while costing Wall Street Billionaires, Hedge Funds, and Short Sellers a collective $20,000,000,000+ from having to buy the stock back at a much higher price.


Video Example(s):


Movie characters deaths.

Oscar defeats various movie characters using their own weapons.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / BeatThemAtTheirOwnGame

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