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Gambit Pileup

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A Gambit Pileup involves two or more people with completely separate agendas each hatching complicated plans. The storyline is thrown into chaos and even the most savvy fans can't predict how it will all end. Be prepared to make a flow diagram to keep up with everyone's scheme.

Often overlaps with Flock of Wolves or Right Hand Versus Left Hand, and can often be the result of The Big Bad Shuffle. May involve Colliding Criminal Conspiracies. Xanatos Speed Chess is a defining trait. A Psychological Thriller is more likely to have one of these. Expect lots of I Know You Know I Know. Expect a lot of people to be Out-Gambitted, a lot of Unwitting Pawns, a lot of saying "All According to Plan!", and maybe someone to have the Last Plan Standing. Compare Gambit Roulette, where one person has an improbable plan that would only make sense if he/she is near omniscient. Also compare Multilayer Façade. Particularly convoluted and fantastical versions of this trope can dip straight into Mind Screw.

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    Let's Play 
  • Dwarf Fortress succession games, most notably Boatmurdered, eventually turn into this, with lots of weird shit lying around and/or running afoul, abandoned levers that do God-knows-what, and plenty of things you definitively do not want to get involved in, but, due to outside interference or random events, eventually will. Naturally, it all culminates in an Epic Fail, which is what makes them so fun.
  • Hermitcraft:
    • The prank war in Season 6 was basically everybody lobbing pranks at each other, all at once, and constantly framing one another for pranks. It's so complicated that it'll take too long to explain here. Here's a handy flowchart.
    • As of the new Demise game, in which 18 Hermits compete for 900 diamonds by being the last to die, with the addendum that 1) players who have already died are encouraged to set up traps, and 2) direct PVP is not allowed, this is bound to arise.
      • Grian sparked the pileup by spending diamonds on a dare-style minigame where hermits participate in a death-defying act for 50 diamonds each. He manages to get both Rendog and Stressmonster killed this way. Unfortunately, this eventually ends up blowing up in his face later on when he triggers a TNT trap which takes him out just after a successful raid on the Deadquarters.
      • Rendog, as the first to die, becomes the leader of the dead team. He's currently spending the game setting up the bulk of the traps on the server.
      • Stressmonster set up a trap for Grian that, instead of killing him outright, would dispense a dragon head with Curse of Binding on it on the last button in a line of goodies. However, Grian was already wearing a helmet when he tried it out, so the trick didn't work. However, Grian then turned the prank on Iskall, who in turn convinced Grian to try out a new armor stand for "creeper defense", which turned out to also be a trap. This caused the two to start a new factionnote , aptly named "Dragon Bros," who place traps to put curse of binding Dragon Heads onto their victims rather than killing them. Also in the faction are BDoubleO, MumboJumbo and FalseSymmetry.
      • Cubfan started out using totems of undying to boast his invincibility under the title "Mr. Invincible" by fighting the Ender Dragon and the Wither, before going on full daredevil mode by completing three challenges in front of an audience. However, he gets sorta... softlocked on the first challenge, and Xisumavoid, who was previously killed by Rendog's trap, manages to lure a skeleton in that shot Cub into the pool of lava already surrounding him. Now he is known as "Mr. Inevitable".
      • Docm77 seems to be making contracts with the dead. First, he killed Zedaph (who wasn't in the game in the first place) with a falling anvil for protection, and second, he bought seven shulker boxes' worth of glass from Cubfan for a stack of diamonds... and the request to have someone go to the End, thinly keeping the secret that it's trapped.
      • Tango and Impulse start defusing traps for the Alive Team after noticing a trap in the former's nether portal. However, it doesn't last long, as the both of them fall prey to a trap.
      • Grian recieved a message from Tango telling him to explore the Deadquarters, the floating mansion that serves as the home of the Greyskins. He and False went to check it out, narrowly managing to avoid the traps hidden within the base. He then returned to the Dragon Bro bunker and was blown up by a TNT trap set by Tango and Cubfan, while False also got blown up by a TNT trap set by Cubfan at her base as well.
      • Upon persuasion from Xisumavoid, Bdubs and Keralis trick ZombieCleo into walking into a lava trap at IDEA. Cleo then kills Tinfoilchef and BdoubleO with trapped lecterns.
      • Tango built a death trap/minigame in Mumbo's industrial district, hoping to kill Mumbo with it. Mumbo manages to avoid it and convinces Keralis to enter, whereupon he dies from accidentally hitting an explosive end crystal.
      • Grian and False weren't the only ones to enter the Deadquarters. Joe Hills attempts the challenge and meets his demise through one of the many traps throughout the mansion.
      • Finally, there's Docm77. Grian stalked him while he completed his infinite raid farm, and when he logged out after the recording, Grian set up a lava-filled box right where he would log back in. Doc spent a significant amount of time figuring out exactly how to survive the trap with a fire resistance potion...and then logged in to find out that Grian had swapped out the lava for TNT, which killed him instantly. This left Iskall as the last survivor and the winner of Demisenote .



  • The Marriage of Figaro is a stage comedy and a comic opera. The valet Figaro wants to marry the maid Susanna. Count Almaviva want to use Droit du Seigneur to bed the servant girl on her wedding night before her husband can sleep with her. Figaro schemes to prevent this. The play gets more and more confusing as more people join the conflict. Countess Almaviva desires her husband, who neglects her. Marcellina claims that Figaro promised to marry her. The page Cherubino is after every woman and music master Basilio is gossiping around.

  • In the world of The Magnus Archives, there exist fourteen Entities - incomprehensible eldritch gods that feed off of fear. Each of these Entities has a ritual that, if successfully completed, will manifest it physically into existence (effectively ending the world), and a group of devoted followers that are trying to bring about their patron's ritual at any cost. This means that there are fourteen individual gambits going on at any given time, and it's up to the protagonists to try and foil all of them. Or not. Because the Magnus Institute was created to serve the Beholding, one of the Entities, the protagonists are unwittingly helping bring about the Beholding's ritual by disrupting the other gods' rituals. This culminates in Jon being compelled to start the Watcher's Crown at the end of season 4.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Writing Magazine Articles", Miss Brooks and Mr. Conklin each write fictional articles for "True Family Romance" magazine, neither knowing of the other's "indiscretion". Both are forced to prove the veracity of their fake tale in order to collect their fee. Both enlist Walter Denton to play the part of their respective fake fourteen year old sons . . . in the same place, at the same time. Hilarity Ensues.
  • From Big Finish Doctor Who, "Dark Eyes" becomes this, with Anti-Villain Straxus working for the Time Lords against his future self Kotris and the Dalek Time Controller in a plan to Ret-Gone the other's race with the 8th Doctor and Molly caught up in this plan and assisting each side without knowing it.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac: This is a play who mixes Farce and Tragedy with great success. Given is a farce, there are a lot of A Simple Plan, Unwitting Pawn and Spanner in the Works, but given is also a Tragedy, Playing Cyrano, one of the few Despite the Plan, it’s Gone Horribly Right and dooms the protagonists.
  • Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor includes multiple plots for revenge, marriage, and profit all coming to a collision in the middle and at the end.
  • The Lion in Winter. King Henry wants John to be the next King. Queen Eleanor wants it to be Richard. Geoffrey wants the throne for himself, and plots with John to betray Henry to King Phillip of France while simultaneously plotting against them with Richard. Phillip, meanwhile, wants to hurt Henry for disrespecting his own father for so many years and so plots with and against the rest of them simultaneously. And so on and so forth.
  • The play Deathtrap has so many gambits throughout the entire play, but they collide in a particularly surprising Wham Shot at the end of Act I: After Sidney and Myra have spent the entire act engineering ever more complicated gambits trying to murder Clifford and then disposing of his body, Clifford's dead body springs to life, Myra dies of a heart attack as a result, and Clifford and Sidney reveal that they have been lovers and actually in cahoots to kill Myra the whole time.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • In Shikkoku no Sharnoth we have Mary, the individual Research Group members, M, Society, Sherlock Holmes, Queen Victoria, Baron Munchhausen, Moriarty and Charlie all plotting. Interestingly enough, over half of them get what they want, including the Big Bad.
  • Fate/stay night features the gambits of Zouken Matou, Kirei Kotomine, the Einzbern family, Saber, Caster, Gilgamesh, Counter-Guardian EMIYA, and Avenger all being executed during the Fifth Grail War. Slight changes at the start of each route cause different gambits to take precedence in each route.
  • Zero Escape is about the plots of various time-travelling psychics- none of which are the viewpoint characters- so things get complicated quickly. Throughout the series:
    • Akane's goals are 1), to maintain the time paradox that keeps all versions of her with esper abilities alive, 2), to get revenge on the people who attempted to murder her as a child, 3), to protect the world from global threats such as Radical-6 and Free The Soul, 4), to keep 2 and 3 secret so she can more efficiently achieve them, and 5), to create at least one reality where she gets to live a peaceful, simple life with her loved ones.
    • Delta's goals are 1) to stop the terrorist who will incite nuclear war, 2), to motivate a bunch of people who all hate and distrust him and each other to do 1 for him, and 3), to maintain the time paradox that ensures his birth in certain plot-relevant circumstances. Also, 1 being his real motivation is somewhat debatable as the other characters do not trust his claim of being good-intentioned at all.
    • Sigma Sr's goals are 1), to help Akane and Phi achieve theirs, 2) to create his 'children', a sentient A.I and a clone, respectively, 3), to ensure his younger self manifests the esper powers that will be vital to achieving 1, and 4), to warn everyone about the approaching apocalypse.
    • Basically everyone else is some degree of pawn- whether they know it or not- just trying to survive, protect their loved ones, and advance their own interests.
  • In Danganronpa, especially in the second and third visual novels, trials can end up being much more complex than just following clues to figure out who committed the murder. There are several examples of characters who are not the killer who have their own reasons for manipulating the direction of conversation, so multiple characters' plans (including your own) can pile up, leading to several different twists in a single case.


Video Example(s):


RocketJump - Mexican Standoff

Two cops get more than they bargained for when they face down a ruthless criminal...

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Main / GambitPileup

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