WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
' 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

Examples of Long Game include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Father uses alchemy and his homunculus servants to subtly manage the rise of Amestris from it's beginnings as a militant city state in the middle ages to an industrial superpower with a popuation of around 40 million people. All the while he is planning the positions of major wars, uprisings and massacres so that their geographical positions correspond to the pattern of his massive alchemy circle. The ultimate objective is to use said alchemy circle to absorb the souls of the entire population of the country and use the power gaied thereby to eat god. This plan unfolds over a period of roughly five hundred years.
  • 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).


  • The central premise of The Boys from Brazil is a Nazi plan to clone Hitler and recreated 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.
  • 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.


  • Robert Graves' I Claudius is based on a combination of this and the Literary Agent Hypothesis. 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.
  • The Second Foundationers in the Foundation series are playing a long game to re-establish the Galactic Empire.
  • 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.
  • 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 Kitty Norville books some older vampires do this. They actually call it the Long Game.
  • Honor Harrington: The Mesan Alignment's plan to take over the galaxy was set in motion centuries ago.

Comic Books

  • In Superman: Red Son, it's revealed at the end that 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.
    • Not exactly everything, He wrote that Armor-Piercing Question when Superman was already ruling for decades, and long after Brainiac shrunk Stalingrad. All attempts since then were legitimate attempts to bring him down, such as Bizarro, and other 'super-menaces' he created with Luthor underestimating Superman. He only took him seriously after the first attempt.

Live Action TV

  • Arguably the Shadows and Vorlons of Babylon 5 are doing the same thing as Smith's Eddorians and Arisians.
  • The trope name was taken from an episode in the first season of the revived Doctor Who. There, humanity had been unknowingly enslaved by the Mighty Jagrafess who controlled the news. Given his incredible lifespan (and that his secret masters, the Daleks, are functionally immortal) he was able to slowly reshape humanity in his image over many human lifetimes.
    • Even the episode's title is an example... in the context of the episode original airing, the episode name made no sense. Come the finale, and suddenly it all made sense.
  • Ruby pulls one of these in Supernatural. 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.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000 is absolutely crawling with this, as one would expect in a universe built on Xanatos 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 the Enslaver plague also counts.
    • The Emperor spent nearly 30,000 years guiding humanity from behind the scenes, using his knowlege of strategy and technology, aswell 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 often play the Long Game too, since they are long lived and can use their psychic powers to predict the future. 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.
    • The Eldar are more than willing to sacrifice a billion human lives to save a dozen Eldar in a century's time. On the other hand, they'll secretly defend and support any faction who'd later be a meatshield for them somehow.
    • This, along with Xanatos Roulette, is a standard tactic of Tzeentch and his Greater Daemons.
  • Nicol Bolas's bread and butter, being 25,000 years old, and all.
  • In both Whitewolf's old and new World of Darkness, elder vampires tend to play long games-- the older the vampire, the longer the game.

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 DNA of these races 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.
  • 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.

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 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.

Real Life

  • 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 organised 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 Long Game noted above.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.