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"Our game is a long game. We do not plan for the next year, or the next ten years, or the next budget cycle. We plan for eternity."
Stone of Force Vol. 6, Spore

A Long Game is when any particular Master Plan has a time element, specifically a very long one; reasons for this generally involve some sort of long-term change to a society as a whole that must remain invisible for some reason.

Often overlaps with (and is confused with) Xanatos Gambit. However, a Long Game is distinct because it requires a large amount of time to complete, and does not require the failure contingency that defines a Xanatos Gambit. Elements of Time Abyss are also common. Gambit Roulette may occur if the writer can't justify how the planners pull off such a long term plan. Can be made easy if the planner is Immortal. If we see the beginning of the plan, it'll likely be during the Innocuously Important Episode. Delaying the Rescue is caused by this trope.

Not to Be Confused with The Slow Path, when you're Trapped in the Past and are forced to wait until you're back in the right time, though it can overlap. Also not to be confused with literally long games such as an Endless Game, Video Game Long Runner, or one with Fake Longevity. A video game that actually uses this trope may be in the Grand Strategy genre.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Father manipulated the policies and alchemic knowledge available to Amestris over the course of five hundred years in order to fulfill his scenario. The tense border relations with other countries, the constant expansion under Bradley, and the deliberate suppression of certain alchemic knowledge were all arranged to create a country-wide alchemic circle that would consume the life energy of its 40 million inhabitants. And Van Hohenheim prepared for almost as long to counter Father's plan after overcoming his initial Heroic BSoD.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Celestial Being's plan has been building for nearly two centuries by the time the series happens. We only see the tail end of it. All of it was planned out by Aeolia Schenberg prior to his death (he had the good sense to put a quantum supercomputer in charge of it afterward, so it could adjust the scenario as needed).
  • Black Zetsu of Naruto spent centuries manipulating the Senju and Uchiha clans, as well as any texts referring to the Ootsutsuki family in order to bring about his ultimate goal of resurrecting Kaguya. Naruto is pissed at the notion that he claims the credit for so many major historical events.
  • Bleach: Both Big Bads have been playing Long Games to fulfill their plans. Aizen's been playing his for over a hundred years, Yhwach for a thousand at least.
  • Deconstructed in the Cowboy Bebop episode "Bohemian Rhapsody". Chessmaster Hex set a plan to enact revenge by using design defects against the Gate Corporation by giving criminals information to hijack the Astral Gate toll booths. It was all planned out to be enacted 50 years into the future, complete with chess pieces as a calling card of sorts. However, Jet notes that "...fifty years is a long time; Hex got old, then he got senile. He completely forgot about the traps that he himself had set." It's a case of a long game that ended up not coming to fruition simply because nobody can really plan what can happen to themselves in fifty years.
  • Pretty much the protagonists' entire plot in Maoyu. Maou realized that after a long period of total war, it didn't matter who won or what peace treaty was signed, the sudden loss of a large consumption market would result is a catastrophic economic collapse that would completely destroy both kingdoms. So when the Hero arrives to assassinate her in the first volume, she instead explains this and recruits him. The series chronicles their elaborate long con of trying to slow the war machine of both sides to the point peace is economically feasible.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman: Red Son, it's revealed at the end that almost everything that happened after the first chapter was part of Luthor's master plan to bring down Superman. Including Superman taking over the Soviet Union, ruling for forty years and bringing nearly the whole world under Soviet control, the USA splintering and heading to the brink of collapse, and an attempted Soviet invasion of Washington DC. All to hit Superman with an Armor-Piercing Question at exactly the right time, and destroy his will to conquer.
  • In Invincible, Robot and Monster Girl were held captive in the Flaxan dimension. Discovering that they now only age a month per several decades that pass, they hatch a long term plan to take over the empire. First they elect to single-handedly rebuild the city that Omni-Man had destroyed, this feat would take place over many Flaxan generations and earn the pair awe at their accomplishment and lifespan. Meanwhile, they would also be clandestinely establishing ties with the slave races and political prisoners of the Flaxans until they establish an army far larger than the Flaxan military. After many generations, the Flaxan royalty would be complacent and then the two heroes would lead an uprising and seize power for themselves. The plan worked.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): After gaining a new Chaos Emerald and his full power, Mammoth Mogul realizes that no matter how successful his schemes were or powerful he would get, Sonic always seems to able to stop him. So, being The Ageless, he decides to wait it out, resuming his plans of conquest after Sonic either died of natural causes or simply grew too old to stop him.

    Fan Works 
  • The Powers of Harmony: Piro says that since she's an immortal, Celestia does this by default (even using the term), forcing her to be a Chessmaster and treat mortals like pawns. Of course, she's just aiding Harmony's own Long Game to free herself and purify Discord, which has been going on for roughly nine thousand years.
  • Celestia's plans in Diaries of a Madman are being played out over thousands of years. Discord's plan has been going on for millions of years.
  • A tagline for The Shadow Wars is "Celly plays a long game." And for good reason.
  • MLP Next Generation: Know Fear!: While the war with the griffons appears to be a result of recent diplomatic failures, it soon becomes apparent that the griffons have been preparing for the war for a long time. The Pretenders, for instance, have been infiltrating Cloudsdale for three years.
    • The first sequel reveals that the griffons have in fact been planning the conquest of Equestria by force for centuries.
  • Child of the Storm: Doctor Strange has been running one for a long time (Huginn and Muninn use the term at one point), aided by both his longevity and the fact that he's a time traveller and a seer. To put this long game in perspective, this story's truly massive Gambit Pileup (see its page - yes, page - for details) is implied to be only a small part of what he's up to. The final chapter of Book I finally confirms that he's been working to stop Thanos. Chapter 20 of the sequel reveals how old he is: 500,000 or more, probably. He actually stopped bothering to count around 100,000.
  • The Game of Thrones story Winter Comes has the Night King (a Self-Insert in this story) pulling a long game that has been going on for thousands of years and will continue for thousands more. By this point, almost the entirety of the North knowingly serves him and when Theon's forced into service, he notes the entirety of the Night's Watch not only serve but are also all Wildlings. Theon's forced to wonder just how long things have been going on that such a thing never struck him as odd.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, the Ludmoore family has been working on a plan for the better part of two centuries. While the exact details aren't all known yet, it has involved Playing Both Sides of the Meridian civil war, and a slip of the tongue by one brother suggests that it involves taking on Kandrakar itself. An Origins Episode posted as one of the first season's epilogue chapters reveals that their ultimate goal is exposing a Dark Secret about something Kandrakar and the Escanors did on Meridian a thousand years ago, learning of which led to their ancestor Jonathan Ludmoore's banishment to Earth.
  • Wish Carefully: Instead of trying to battle the Death Eaters after Dumbledore's death, Harry and his friends decide To Win Without Fighting and do the next best thing: leave Magical England to Voldemort and his forces to do as they please, and leave to build their own nation elsewhere. Within a few generations, the Death Eater-run Magical England is in a death spiral due to the resulting economic collapse of the working class population leaving the country and the flaws of Pureblood supremacist ideology leading to Generational Magic Decline, all the while Harry and his friends and allies are prospering on their nation of exiles in the Pacific. Lucius himself, though not repentant for his actions, curses how collectively short-sighted they were, and the end of the story reveals that everyone is so desperate for some sort of solution that they're plotting Voldemort's death in the hopes of fixing things.
  • In The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor, Naruto and Xanna plan to conquer a universe while limiting usage of their godly powers. Their war against the Goa'uld alone lasts for six hundred years due to the duo taking the time to build up their empire from the Stone Age. Their plan isn't truly finished for another five hundred years, when technology advances to the point of making everyone The Needless, at which point they leave out of boredom and assign Oma as the new God-Emperor.
  • Harry Potter has learned to plan this way in A Discordant Note, being over six hundred years old by the time he arrives in Westeros. Likewise, his slave/mistress Adrastia Zabini plans to have Harry rule the entirety of Westeros through a combination of subtly guiding his descendants and convincing Harry her plans are necessary/convenient. When Adrastia's negligence gets two of Harry's grandsons killed, she doesn't feel safe just because Harry didn't do anything within six months of returning, thinking to herself that she won't even entertain the idea that he'd forgiven her until at least a century passed without reprisal. When she finally leaves his service in the sequel, the author left it multiple choice whether Harry sent her to a dimension perfect for her machinations, one that'd annoy her but otherwise work, or if he finally got his revenge by sending her to a dimension that'd leave her miserable for the rest of her life.
    • In the previous story, the vampire Bjomolf had a plan centuries in the making to save as many humans as possible from the inevitable collapse of society. Harry likewise implements a decades long plan to save society before eventually failing and enacting a decades long back-up plan to "force a hard reset on society" by permanently destroying all electronic technology in the world.
  • In Enlightenments, Dormin's plan to stop the Queen is to give Wander drugs that render him sterile and wait for the Queen's current body to die of old age, since Wander is The Ageless.
  • Hellsister Trilogy: At the end of the second story arc, Darkseid's master plan to enslave the universe has failed, his army has been defeated, his world has been taken over by the heroes, and he finds himself hurt and weakened... so he implements his contingency plan: making his enemies believe he is dead and waiting for them to die of old age, and the universe to forget about his existence. Meanwhile, he will sleep, he will recover... and when he awakens, there will be nobody left who can stop him.
  • In the Game of Thrones fanfic Il Logical Conclusions, it's revealed in chapter six that just about everything in the history of Westeros from the Long Night onwards has been orchestrated by the Three-Eyed Raven and his predecessors in order to create a better world. The pinnacle of this centuries-long plan is Bran Stark, who not only inherits all the memory and power of the previous Three-Eyed Ravens, but also continues their work in manipulating everything from Season 5 onwards, gradually warping the personalities of the major players in the war so that it ends the way it does in "The Iron Throne" - all so he can take the throne and initiate the final stage of the plan over the next four years: his transformation into a god.
  • In Breath of the Wild, a 10,000-year-old Sheikah Monk reveals to Impa that the Great Calamity was unavoidable, and is in fact part of an ancient ploy started by the Golden Goddesses to ensure that Calamity Ganon isn't just sealed away, but the very curse that created him by corrupting Ganondorf's soul is destroyed. Impa is not comfortable with this fact.
  • A Supe of a Man: Stan Edgar and Aunt Mary see a teenaged Clark as a Superior Successor to Homelander, but putting him in the Seven too soon could lead to Homelander murdering a young Clark in a jealous rage. Both of them decide to send Clark to Los Angeles for a few years: Los Angeles has few serious rivals for Clark to face, he'll be out of Homelander's hair, and Clark could train to eventually challenge Homelander and outmatch him.

  • The central premise of The Boys from Brazil (and its source novel) is a Nazi plan to clone Hitler and recreate the environment that made him who he was. It would take at least 30 years before they can be sure they succeeded and the plan's originators would be most likely dead by that point.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier reveals that following World War II HYDRA, having infiltrated America's information-gathering network, manipulated policy decisions, sowed war, manipulated history, and staged accidents for anyone deemed a threat to their plans. Their goal was to create a Crapsack World where people would willingly surrender their freedom in exchange for security.
  • Now You See Me reveals at its end that the whole plot was the endgame of a 30 year revenge plan by the Fifth Horseman against the people he holds responsible for his father's death, and his mother getting screwed out of the life insurance.
  • Ocean's Twelve uses this as a premise. The film's central action is a showdown between Danny Ocean's crew and Francois "Night Fox" Toulour as a competition to steal a Russian Faberge egg. However, Gaspar Le Marque, Toulour's mentor, is the one playing the "long con". An explanation— Le Marque tips off Ocean's crew about the egg's location prior to its arrival at a museum, giving the crew time to steal it and switch it with a fake. Toulour steals the fake and gloats at his seeming victory until Danny and Tess Ocean arrive to tell him the truth. Le Marque has now discredited Toulour, Ocean now has the money needed to repay Terry Benedict from Toulour, and Le Marque reunites with his daughter, Europol agent Isabel Lahiri. Lahiri had been tracking Le Marque and Toulour during her career.
    • He actually set the entire thing in motion when he did not disagree when an acquaintance called Ocean the greatest thief in the world during a conversation with Le Marque and Toulour. This led to Toulour's need to prove himself to his mentor and set the game in motion with Ocean's crew.
  • Star Wars: Darth Sidious is absolutely into this as well, willing to wait decades to take power over the galaxy. The Clone Wars specifically were this, given that he was willing to wait 10 years for his clone army to be grown.
    • Sidious's breed of Sith as a whole planned like this, stretching back a thousand years. The first of them, Darth Bane, established the Rule of Two after killing off all of the old Sith; there would only be two Sith at any one time: a Master and an Apprentice. The Apprentice would one day grow stronger than their Master and kill them before taking on their own Apprentice, who would in turn grow stronger and kill them, and so on and so forth. The plan was that, by sticking to the shadows and growing stronger whilst the Jedi grew complacent, eventually they would grow strong enough to overthrow the Jedi. And it works.

  • Animorphs: The grand cosmic struggle between the Ellimist and the Crayak. The Andalite-Yeerk war, which has cost millions of lives and includes at least half a dozen species, is but a single, minor chess piece in this game. At one point, we see that the Ellimist has back-up plans in case the Yeerks win, some of which span thousands of years. Doubtless the Crayak has done likewise in case the Yeerks lose.
  • Vernor Vinge's The Children of the Sky: Ravna's overly narrow focus on her Long Game of developing technology to prepare for the arrival of the Blight's fleet, to the exclusion of developing medical technology that would help the humans trapped in the medieval-level Tines World with her, is what ultimately allows Nevil Storherte to paint her as a dangerous lunatic and wrest political control from her. This works mostly because Ravna is the only surviving human to have faced the Blight firsthand, so she knows how dangerous it is; to everyone else, her Long Game simply doesn't make sense.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Winter Fae and White Court vampires love these. The latter, because, in their society, the better, longer and more complicated the "game" is, the more appreciated you are. The former, because it is one of the ways they manipulate the scene, either to their benefit or Reality's.
    • Mab just loves these. And they are so subtle that you probably won't see them coming until much after she wins. To wit:
      • In Grave Peril (book 3), a Red Court vampire gives Lea, Mab's second in command, an athame that corrupts her and nearly corrupts Mab as well. Nine books later, in Changes, her plans come to an end when she not only gets Harry Dresden to accept becoming her Winter Knight, but Harry's actions cause the complete destruction of the Red Court, in revenge of what they nearly caused.
      • In Small Favor (book 10), Nicodemus kidnaps Marcone, a man Mab had vouched for entrance in the Unseelie Accords, and then the Archive. Five books later, in Skin Game, she takes advantage of the fact she owes Nicodemus a favor to loan Harry to him for a job, which ends with Nicodemus being completely humilliated, after being forced to kill his daughter, and his name becoming trash in the supernatural world, all for something it is implied he did not actually want at all.
    • The archangel Uriel tends to play these out of necessity. He is forbidden to directly involve himself except to maintain the Balance Between Good and Evil, so can only act indirectly or with subtlety most of the time. The end of Skin Game reveals that his involvement in the plot had multiple layers, one of which was getting Butters into a position where he could claim and take up one of the Swords of the Cross. When Harry realizes this, he refers to events in Dead Beat, eight books ago and long before Uriel was introduced, when he was at a former Denarian's mercy and was hoping for a Knight of the Cross to save him. Uriel notes that, in the circumstances, it seemed appropriate for Butters, a potential Knight, to be the one who saved him from that event.
  • The Dune universe is rife with this. The Kwisatz Haderach breeding-plan was engineered by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood over countless generations, carefully bringing together bloodlines to produce their messiah. (It didn't work too well.) Later, God-Emperor Leto II manipulates the entire universe, using both his own nigh-immortality and his incredibly accurate prophetic abilities, to basically force humanity to take the big leap, spreading across the galaxy and beyond, instead of just clinging to their core planets... for the purpose of ensuring humanity's future survival. A handful of heavily-populated planets could be destroyed entirely by a powerful enough foe. Thousands of colonized worlds, all across the galaxy... would be a lot harder. Thus, humanity's survival was ensured, against the coming storm of an alien invasion that the author didn't finish writing before he died.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series:
  • Honor Harrington: The Mesan Alignment's plan to take over the galaxy was set in motion centuries ago.
    • To a lesser degree, King Roger III's plan to prepare Manticore for war with Haven, a plan which takes many decades to complete (indeed, he doesn't even live to see the plan come to fruition due to being assassinated; his daughter sees the plan through in his memory).
    • Also, the Committee for Public Safety's plans to reform the Peoples' Republic of Haven, given that any major changes to the existing system could cause the entire thing to crash to the ground. After several decades of reforms, the plan only pays off around the same time the Committee is overthrown by another coup, and it's left to Admiral Theisman to reap the benefits for Haven.
  • Robert Graves' I, Claudius is based on a combination of this and Direct Line to the Author. According to the story, these are the memoirs of the emperor Claudius, recorded and then buried so that posterity would find them while his wife and stepson wouldn't.
  • In the Kitty Norville books some older vampires do this. They actually call it the Long Game.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series. When the Eddorians first enter our universe, the Arisians devise a two billion year long breeding plan to create a group of beings (the Lensmen of the Galactic Patrol) who will be able to destroy them. Talk about taking the long view.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, Jedao's master plan relies on the Hexarchate keeping him in the black cradle for centuries on end, bringing him out only when Hexarchate-threatening emergencies happen. One of those emergencies, he knows, will allow him to destroy the Hexarchate himself.
  • In Space Angel by John Robert Maddox the entity that drives the plot has fled from an opponent and needs to hide out for a while, and does so by incasing itself in diamond (the hardest substance that could be fashioned with the materials at hand) and planting itself within the crust of a planet - to wait until that planet is eventually drawn into its star. So, billions of years...
  • Spy School: Spy School at Sea reveals that Murray has been working on that particular evil plan since the Time Skip between the third and fourth books and has been accepting money from multiple factions while sabotaging one of them on behalf of another. A seemingly humorous and innocuous comment he makes in the seventh book is an ingenious bit of misinformation meant to misguide the CIA during his upcoming operation two books (for the readers) and two months (in-universe) later.
  • In The Witchlands, Eren and Mathew's plan demanded that the former spend years pretending to be a drunkard, and that they wait until the Truce is almost over before making one of their first moves.
  • In Worm the Simurgh's most devastating ability is not her ability to use Tinker-tech or telekinesis, it's her scream. She sees the future and uses that knowledge to manipulate people's minds so that they'll follow a path she has selected by subtly altering their mood or priorities. The new path will in one way or another lead to another devastating blow for humanity, such as the assassination of a politician or suicide of a scientist.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Jasmine, the Big Bad of Season 4, is stated to have arranged for many of the crucial events of Angel and his team's lives to align players as necessary in order to create the opportunity for her to manifest on Earth. These events included Lorne’s arrival on Earth, Angel’s move from Sunnydale to Los Angeles, the passing of Doyle’s visions to Cordelia, Cordelia’s later transformation into half-demon and her ascension into the realm of the Powers, the birth of Connor, and the coming of the Beast. Effectively, she's responsible for the first four seasons of the show even happening.
  • Babylon 5: The Shadows and Vorlons are doing the same thing as Smith's Eddorians and Arisians.
  • Doctor Who:
  • The Flash (2014):
    • Eobard Thawne/The Reverse-Flash, after becoming Trapped in the Past, spends 15 years manipulating Barry into becoming the Flash, so that he can use him to return to his own time.
    • When Clifford DeVoe/The Thinker emerges as the new Big Bad in Season 4, it's eventually revealed that his current plans are the culmination of machinations he's been making behind the scenes for at least 3 years. Bonus points for Thawne knowing all that (he recognized DeVoe during the press conference) and not interfering.
  • House of the Dragon: The Hightowers arrange for Alicent to marry King Viserys and produce male heirs, wait till Viserys dies (about 19 years) then unleash The Coup to crown his firstborn son with Alicent, Aegon, instead of the heir Viserys wanted, his daughter Rhaenyra.
  • Lost: Jacob and his brother, The Man in Black, were engaged in one. The Man in Black wanted to leave the Island, but Jacob, believing him to be inherently evil, would not allow him to. Since they couldn't kill each other for reasons that were never really explained, Jacob dragged possibly thousands of people to the Island and into their struggle over time. The conflict began in what is assumed by fans to be 1AD (or earlier), and didn't end until 2007.
  • Once Upon a Time: Rumplestiltskin appears to have engineered the rise and fall of Cora, and then Regina, not to mention the very existence of Emma, all to lead up to the casting and eventual breaking of the curse that brought everyone to our world.
  • A major one appears in Power Rangers: Beast Morphers. Following his defeat at the end of Power Rangers RPM, Computer Virus Venjix hid away for nearly a decade (in real time) until he was revived as Evox by an experiment of Nate's. He then waited patiently until the Morph-X towers were built before resurfacing and launching his master plan to take over the Morphing Grid.
  • Revolution: Rachel Matheson has apparently been doing this for almost 15 years, keeping Bass Monroe from being able to master the secret of electricity. She discovers it's become a bit of a Deal with the Devil by the time the series starts, and especially when her hand gets forced in "Soul Train".
  • Stargate SG-1: The Aschen enslave planets over the course of hundreds of years. They give the populations advanced medical treatments which cure all ailments and extend lifespans but also cause infertility, bringing the population down to a more easily conquerable number.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In one episode, some genetically enhanced "freaks" claim they've come up with a way to predict the future that gets more accurate, not less, the farther in the future it looks. In one scene, they get incensed over being intruded upon, blurting out, "We're trying to prevent the heat death of the universe!"
  • Supernatural:
    • Ruby pulls one of these. She insinuates herself into the Winchesters' lives and gains Sam's trust over the course of two seasons, all culminating in the start of the Apocalypse in the beginning of season five.
    • Which is just one component of Azazel's plan to ensure Lucifer's release, which has been going on for about thirty years. And it works.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 is absolutely crawling with this, as one would expect in a universe built on Gambit Roulettes and Rule of Cool. Just to scratch the surface:
    • The C'Tan Deceiver seeded humanity with the Pariah gene to cultivate a weapon against its Warp-using enemies in the far future.
    • The Necrons' going into hibernation for millions of years to wait out what was at first the Enslaver plague, until it was retconned that they were waiting out the Eldar empire. There's a fair chance that what really killed off the dinosaurs were the Necrons.
    • The Emperor spent nearly 30,000 years guiding humanity from behind the scenes, using his knowledge of strategy and technology, as well as his vast psychic powers. It is implied that many historical figures were actually the Emperor in disguise (well, either that or he simply stole their stories to ease his transition to power). If it weren't for the Age of Strife, he probably would've stayed hidden.
    • The Eldar rely on playing the Long Game as a matter of necessity, since they are long lived and are skirting the brink of extinction. Their leadership is composed of psychics who use their powers to predict the future and make adjustments to course of events on the galactic scale to keep events roughly in their favor. How Eldar play the long game is a source of confusion to non-Eldar, since they work apparently at random when they kill, capture, or save certain elements without any credible explanation why. Notably, they are also incredibly callous to other species, being willing to sacrifice a billion human lives to save a dozen Eldar in a century's time. Two particular highlights are engineering the Ethereal caste to unite the Tau (for an as-yet unclear purpose), and working to create the new god Ynnead to take on Slaanesh.
    • This, along with Gambit Roulette, is a standard tactic of Tzeentch and his Greater Daemons.
    • Abaddon the Despoiler launched thirteen Black Crusades into the Imperium over the past ten millennia since the Horus Heresy, all of which were repelled and made him out to be a failure in the eyes of the fandom. Recent lore retconned them into strategic victories, most of them being diversions for the Black Legion to secure some strategic advantage while leaving their allied forces to die against the Imperium's counteroffensive. This culminated in the 13th Black Crusade on the turn of the 42nd millennium, where Abaddon sacrificed one of his Blackstone Fortresses to destroy Cadia, the final obstacle preventing the Eye Of Terror from spilling out across the galaxy towards his true target, Holy Terra, also allowing the Forces of Chaos to strike against their enemies more easily with a new Warp Rift literally splitting the galaxy in half. Unfortunately for Abaddon, his momentum was quickly lost as his fickle allies left him to pillage other worlds, and efforts by Roboute Guilliman, Yvraine and the Silent King threaten to stall Abaddon once more.
  • Nicol Bolas's bread and butter, being 25,000 years old, and all. Notably, his plan in the Gatewatch saga (which started all the way back in Alara and finally reached its zenith in War Of The Spark) took place over the course of sixty years and spanned dozens of world and countless smaller schemes - and this was a rush-job by his standards, as he'd lost him immortality and was scrambling to get it back before his natural draconic lifespan (which is already immense by human standards) started catching up to him.
  • In both White Wolf's old and new World of Darkness, elder vampires tend to play long games— the older the vampire, the longer the game.
    • One of the simpler ones concerns the Giovanni clan's efforts to bring about the Endless Night: active since the 16th century, the plan requires the harvesting of a hundred million departed souls, and has driven the Giovanni to set their hooks into almost every conceivable region of influence - all for the sake of kicking off a world war, just to complete their work.

    Video Games 
  • The plan of the Reapers in the Mass Effect trilogy is such a Long Game that it involves the cyclical rise and fall of galactic civilizations. Their goal is reproduction. They invade the Milky Way every time that space-faring species' make it to a certain point of technological development, harvesting the knowledge, tech, and biomass of these species to create more Reapers. They then leave the galaxy, making sure to leave enough ruins of the destroyed civilizations that the next ones to follow will develop similar technologies that are easy to counter because of their shared origins. Curiously, the events of the first game only occur because the current cycle was delayed by the Protheans. Sovereign was desperately trying to put things back on track.
    • The eventual reveal of the Reaper's origin in the third game shows that the Catalyst, the AI built by the Leviathans presumably about a billion years ago, was playing the longest game of all. It planned the cycle of extinction, that its creations, the Reapers, perpetuated, as an experiment to see if there was some solution to the organic vs synthetic life struggle that always seemed to occur, that it hadn't considered. As long as the Reapers succeeded, the cycle would continue, but the construction of the Crucible by the organics was unprecedented in any of the previous cycles, which changed the variables of the Catalyst's considerations and gave way to new options for solving the organic/synthetic dilemma.
  • In BioShock, this is stated in an audio diary named The Longest Con by Frank Fontaine. The con in question is his guise of Atlas to eventually gain control of Rapture.
  • In Final Fantasy IX, it's revealed that Garland is playing one of these in his attempt to restore Terra and its people; essentially, he's merged Terra with the planet Gaia, and has been slowly assimilating the souls of Gaia's own reincarnation-cycle. He's also been using his personal Angel of Death, Kuja, to start wars on Gaia so that souls can be siphoned into Terra at acceptable rates. This is a long game that has been running for over five thousand years.
  • Blue Planet: The Shivans and the Vishnans are playing a game so long that's it's been going since before the Vishnans ever evolved as a species (that was several billion years ago, and the Vishnans have become Sufficiently Advanced Aliens since then). Humanity may play some part in their plans, and the conflict is over that, but ultimately, the fate of humankind is a sideshow to the real threat: preventing the "Second Apocalypse".
  • In Xenogears, the ancient superweapon Deus created humanity on the remote planet it crashed on.note  Through a human avatar (Miang), Deus then manipulated the development of civilization for 10,000 years, solely for the purpose of using humans as "parts" to repair itself.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, it's eventually revealed that the Ascians have been working towards their goal for longer than recorded history. They seek to restore their god Zodiark, who was divided into thirteen pieces by the goddess Hydaelyn. To restore their god, the Ascians have manipulated societies throughout history from the shadows to trigger devastating Calamities which result in the "Rejoining" to slowly restore their god. They have so far succeeded in restoring seven pieces of Zodiark by causing seven Calamities.
  • A recurring element in The Legend of Zelda when it comes to plans to defeat the Big Bad of a particular game:
    • Thousands of years before The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Hylia sent the human survivors of a great war between her and the armies of Demise up onto a floating outcrop of rock that became known as Skyloft while she sealed away the demons. She sent with them a sacred blade called the Goddess Sword that would be used by a future swordsman, Link, to fight the demons in the future while imbuing it with the spirit Fi to guide that swordsman. She also had the Triforce sealed away in Sky Keep in Skyloft where the demons couldn't reach it. Most crucially, she relinquished her divine form after a brutal battle against Demise so she could eventually be reincarnated as a mortal girl, Zelda, due to deities being forbidden from using the Triforce. She also arranged for her future incarnation to get into trouble on the surface so the swordsman would have a motivation to go down there and get things done. Zelda eventually seals herself in a crystal for thousands of years starting in the past to strengthen the current seal on Demise.
    • Ten thousand years before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Kingdom of Hyrule had the Sheikah tribe develop advanced Magitek to be used in battle against Calamity Ganon. When the Sheikah were banished out of fear of the power of that technology, the machines were buried underground in case they were needed again in a future generation. A number of Sheikah monks also sealed themselves away in the Shrines so that they could eventually help a future hero defeat Ganon again, which they do once Link completes their trials and gains their Spirit Orbs ten thousand years later. On a smaller timetable, the big Sheikah players who helped excavate and reactivate the Guardians and Divine Beasts ended up waiting a century for Link to emerge from the Shrine of Resurrection and get back to fighting Ganon; in the meantime, they kept important items that Link would need and researched ways of using and reclaiming the old technology.
  • Pious Augustus of Eternal Darkness, thanks to his undead state, is able to spend 2026 years preparing a summoning spell that will bring his Ancient to Earth to wreak planet-wide havoc. Another Ancient, Mantorok, is employing its own long game across multiple timelines to destroy all its opponents in one fell swoop, and the final ending's narration makes it clear that its ultimate goal is still as of yet not achieved.
  • The goddess Rubiss in Dragon Quest Builders is playing one of these, resurrecting The Builder to help stabilize what's left of human society and give them some hope until a Hero is born and fulfils their destiny to defeat the Dragonlord. Rubiss admits that with humanity in its current state, the circumstances of a Hero's birth may not come around for a thousand years yet. The Builder has two problems with this: first, they've had enough flashbacks to realize this hands-off The Chosen One Can't Fight Fate arrangement is what caused the current mess (the previous Hero chose the Bad Ending of Dragon Quest just to avert But Thou Must! and make a decision on his own for once in his life). Second, this makes everything the Builder accomplished a meaningless stopgap and they don't much appreciate having put in that much effort All for Nothing. So they decide to Screw Destiny and solve the problem themselves as soon as possible, no matter what Rubiss tries to tell them.
  • In the lore of League of Legends, Miss Fortune played the long game in her revenge against Gangplank. Rather than just kill him the regular way for murdering her mother and attempting to murder her, she spent years amassing power and influence. Becoming one of the strongest pirate lords of Bilgewater. And when the time came, she achieved revenge in a grand fashion by blowing GP's ship and crew to smithereens, getting her revenge and putting herself as the new top pirate in town.
  • In World of Warcraft Shadowlands it's revealed the Nathrezim have been working on behalf of the Jailer and Denathrius since their first appearance. Everything that happened with the rise of the Burning Legion was part of a long-term plan.


    Western Animation 
  • One episode of South Park presents the entire 2008 Presidential Election as being a Long Game from both sides in order to pull off a diamond heist. The phrase "Long Game" is used to describe it in-story.
  • In Fairly OddParents School's Out! The Musical, the Pixies have been manipulating Flappy Bob for 37 years - pretty much his entire life - as part of a plan to take over Fairyworld and the Earth. It succeeds, but is ultimately undone after Flappy Bob realizes the Pixies have been using him and turns against them.
  • In the first Futurama movie, Bender plays his own version, the "long con." Emphasis on long. Bender's con lasted thousands of years. For him at least.
  • Played with on Archer. Malory may have carried on an affair with the Italian prime minister for ~35 years just so she could kill him (in an overly elaborate manner) and get away with it.
  • TMNT 2012: The Kraang have been playing a Long Game with Earth and its humans. Apparently, they uplifted apes into an intelligent species millions of years ago and spent the next several million years meddling with human DNA, in order to create a half-Kraang/half-human. For reasons we aren't quite sure of yet, this entity was needed to perfect their mutagen and transform Earth into a new Dimension X. Oh, and April O'Neil happens to be the result of this Long Game.
    • It's worth mentioning that time in Dimension X flows a Year Inside, Hour Outside. So, while millions of years passed here on earth, it's possible that billions of years have passed in their home dimension.
  • Samurai Jack: Sometime during the 50-year Time Skip between seasons 4 and 5, Aku opted to do this after repeatedly losing to Jack. He destroyed every source of time travel on the planet, and then retreated back to his lair, planning to just wait it out until Jack died of old age. It backfired; as a side effect of the spell Aku originally used to send Jack to the future, Jack is now biologically immortal.
  • In Central Park:
    • Helen has been working for an unknown amount of years for Bitsy in order to make sure she is in her will and will get everything she can from Bitsy. Believing that she is in the home stretch, her main goal now is to make sure that Shampagne isn't in front of her. In "Dog Spray Afternoon", she sings "If There's a Will", where she sings about the struggles of being Bitsy's assistant and about playing the long game in order to gain Bitsy's fortune.
    • In "Hat Luncheon", Helen meets a former maid named Lucy who waited 28 years for her employer to leave everything to her.
      Lucy: Where there's a will, there's a way. Just make sure you're in the will.
  • The first Pinky And the Brain segment of Animaniacs (2020) has Brain come up with the idea to use viral internet memes to take over the world in 1998, which requires him to spend 22 years inventing all the required technology first.


    Real Life 
  • The most famous example from history was the Great Game between Britain and Russia that spanned 200 years to determine the fate of central Asia.
  • Another famous example was the revenge plot of The 47 Ronin of Japan. After their daimyo had committed seppuku in disgrace, the Emperor forbade them from seeking vengeance against the man who'd caused it. Thus, over the course of a year, debased themselves and made it appear as though they were abiding by that decision. Then, when their target finally let his guard down, they assassinated him. The country was torn over whether they had acted dishonorably by violating the Emperor's decree, or honorably for their display of Undying Loyalty.
  • The term "Playing a long game" is used in finance to refer to focusing on long term gains rather than short term opportunities.
  • Similar phrases are used in organized crime: A "Long Con" is a confidence trick that relies on suckering the mark for an extended period of time, and a "Long Firm" is a business designed to appear legitimate as a cover for criminal activity. Both have obvious similarities with the financial Long Game noted above. A "Long Con" can also refer to ensuring that the mark stays suckered even after he's been parted from his money, attributing the loss to something (such as having his investment unexpectedly suffer a financial reverse) besides having been swindled.
  • Normally we'd like to steer clear of politics, but there's a clear case where someone has invoked it by name: pundit/blogger Andrew Sullivan famously (and supportively!) believes that Barack Obama's policies are part of a political "long game," and even wrote a Newsweek cover story entitled "Obama's Long Game".
  • This is a key element of a number of political theories of history, such as those of Karl Marx. Marxist theory holds that the current economic system of capitalism will eventually be supplanted by the working class taking control of the means of production as part of the world's transition to a socialist economy, and then to a truly communist one (as a socialist government's controls are no longer necessary to ensure equitable distribution and the state withers away). Needless to say, this does not happen overnight; also, Marxist theory generally assumes these transitions are rather inevitable; Marxist revolutionaries believe they are not so much causing these transitions as facilitating them by helping "grease the skids" of history.
  • Nintendo is a practitioner of this trope, other gaming companies base their sales on really inflated hype, fan discussions, claims of graphic power and the idea of releasing games for "Hardcore audiences" while Nintendo keeps producing games aimed to the general population while using slightly outdated technology more notable for the combination of gadgets themselves, still, they have managed to stay at the front of the gaming world for 30+ years based on their safe practices. Fans show no signs of tiring of several venerable Nintendo flagship franchises, probably helped by the somewhat leisurely pace of new releases.
    • Most notably, during the eighth generation the gaming press repeatedly hammered down Nintendo's reputation claiming they were in deep financial trouble when in reality, despite the Wii U's failure, they were allegedly bigger than their competitors combined. This stems from the fact that the gaming press flat out ignored the large amount of exclusive games sold for the Wii U (more than the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One despite the differences in console sales) and the gigantic market share of the handheld Nintendo 3DS, the system that truly dominated that generation. But instead of joining the bragging competition Nintendo just let it slide as they are conscious of their image and take measures to make sure their fanbase doesn't become too heated up.


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Alternative Title(s): The Long Game


Shadow Moth's Plot

Shadow Moth has started thinking long-term, at least since Fu relinquished the Miracle Box to Ladybug back in "Miracle Queen". "Queen Banana" is stated to have taken place during the holidays, and we see a bunch of offscreen battles occur through recaps by Optigami. Furthermore, the events of "Truth", "Lies", "Gang of Secrets" and "Mr Pigeon 72" all occur within the span of half a week (the former two occurring on the same day), so it would seem that since Ladybug discovered Magical Charms, it has been around three months since "Miracle Queen".

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