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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 vs. Left Hand, and can often be the result of The Big Bad Shuffle. 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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    Mythology and Religion 
  • In Judaism, (as well as Christianity and Islam which inherited the moral and theological traditions of Judaism), the God Yahweh always comes out ahead in any Gambit Pileup every single time. Thats because rather than making a single absolute plan, He's got a single endgoal in mind that He's working toward. Of course no one is going to beat an omnipotent and omniscient opponent.

  • 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 women 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.


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RocketJump - Mexican Standoff

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

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