Enemy Civil War

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"To be united by hatred...is a fragile alliance at best."

One of the interesting things about The Evil Empire and similar Monolithically Evil Organizations is how dull they are. Oh, sure, they partake in decadent luxury while oppressing the weak, but all in all Exclusively Evil is pretty darn orderly when you get right down to it. Dissent against the Evil Overlord is squashed easily, but no one really disagrees to begin with (The Defector From Decadence who protests a lot doesn't count).

This is usually because an enemy faction is rarely if at all fleshed out, making them appear completely homogeneous, but naturally the more information we get about these guys the more interesting they become. A side effect of this can lead to an Enemy Civil War. Rather than wait for the Big Bad to keel over, one or more factions in the evil empire break off and start fighting the main group for power. Note, nowhere in that sentence was there a Heel Face Turn. The second group may do such, but it's likelier they'll simply be either slightly less evil than the "loyalists", or at the least more open to an Enemy Mine with the heroes (or, alternately, they'll be complaining that the Evil Overlord isn't evil enough.) For extra fun, the factions may take turns trying Enemy Mine.

Speaking of the heroes, they'll be overjoyed at getting a breather or ally against their enemies. Interestingly, though an Enemy Civil War does weaken the bad guys overall, it is not Villain Decay and can in fact forestall it, as bad guy on bad guy action gives the good guys a justified reduced difficulty in upcoming fights. Just imagine how powerful the evil army will be next time when there isn't a civil war!

In many games, this is simply a cheap excuse for some Civil Warcraft and Enemy Exchange Program.

Causes for these can be anything: The Starscream staging a coup (usually because he doesn't want to risk taking over in a trial by combat; the Big Bad is more powerful, after all), a faction of Dark Is Not Evil members splitting off, some dogmatic schism, filling the Evil Power Vacuum after the leader is offed, or even a full-on Heel Face Turn/La Résistance. Expect these rebels to win, or at least survive long enough to allow the heroes to sneak in a goal for the win.

More devious heroes may trigger this themselves, if they Feed the Mole properly.

Villainous counterpart to Divided We Fall.

Subtrope of Evil Will Fail. Contrast Evil Is One Big Happy Family, where evil gets along arbitrarily well, or Rebellious Rebel, where the villain's revealing their treachery plans promptly causes a subordinate to revolt against him. Compare Evil Versus Evil, Easily-Thwarted Alien Invasion. See also Asskicking Equals Authority. Can result in The Good, the Bad, and The Evil. See Civil Warcraft for the RTS version. Not to be mistaken with Set a Mook to Kill a Mook.

Examples of Enemy Civil War include:

Anime and Manga

  • Happens in Gundam ZZ, where an upstart faction of Neo Zeon attempts a coup against Haman Karn. This pretty much saves the AEUG and the Earth Federation from being annihilated.
    • Something similar happens in Zeta Gundam, as two of the highest ranking living Titans briefly struggle for control of the organization at the end of the series after Jamitov is killed by Scirocco.
    • Gundam Wing went a different route. Treize resignes from OZ in protest at the imminent introduction of pilotless mobile dolls. He is exiled to Luxembourg, but a group of OZ soldiers who agree with his ideals remain loyal to him, quickly leading to all-out war between OZ and the Treize faction.
    • G Gundam. Master Asia and Wong.
  • It is implied that it is precisely this that maintains the tenuous Balance of Power in the One Piece world. Lack of unity is the only thing that keeps the Four Emperors (the four strongest pirates in the One Piece world) from becoming an even greater threat than they are already. This can also apply to a lesser extent to the other half of the Balance: The Marines and the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and even amongst the Warlords themselves, as it's stated at one point the mere idea of a group of Seven Warlords fighting as a team was unthinkable.
    • The Marines are the faction with the greatest unity, following the rule of "Absolute Justice". However, it's clear that some of the officers don't give a crap about justice and just want the perks that come with their power. And then there are those Marines that don't follow "Absolute Justice" but follow their own personal brand of "Justice", such as Admiral Aokiji and Commodore Smoker.
  • In Slayers, the Five Retainers who lead the Mazoku can't stand one another. Chaos Dragon is openly in rebellion against the others and devotes all his energy to ruining their plans. Hellmaster has lost faith in Dark Lord Shabranigdu's ability to end the world and wants to do it himself. Dynast, on the other hand, wants to immediately resurrect Shabranigdu for another go at it. Greater Beast loathes Hellmaster for always bossing her around, but also thinks that Dynast's plan is too reckless. Deep Sea has her own plan, thank you very much, and isn't happy when other plans get in the way. As a result, the Mazoku spend more time and energy undermining each other than fighting the heroes. Most of Slayers: NEXT is an Evil Plan by Hellmaster to get rid of Chaos Dragon (and may have been a Plan by Greater Beast to get rid of both of them). In the final light novel, a full-scale civil war breaks out, with the only ones who seem to have any sort of comraderie are Greater Beast and Deep Sea (ironic, as Fanon had speculated that they hated each other up until that point.)
  • In the Namek arc of Dragonball Z, the fact that Vegeta had turned against Frieza and was (single-handedly) taking down his Mooks and Dragons one by one was probably the only reason why the Good Guys stayed unnoticed and alive for so long.
  • Baron Ashura and Count Brocken in Mazinger Z. So, so much. And then you have Archduke Gorgon, who did never miss one chance to show he despised and mocked all of them, and had his own agenda. And Viscount Pygman, who was the only Hell's servant argued with Gorgon and rebelled against Dr. Hell and became The Starscream.
    • Great General of Darkness and Marquiss Janus from Great Mazinger were at odds with each other before the death of the former.
    • Neither Blackie nor Gandal from UFO Robo Grendizer cried when Duke Fleed killed Barados off. Gandal himself/herself is an -amusing- example, since he/sher had split-personality and for a short while was in war with himself/herself.
  • The Witches 5 group in the Sailor Moon S anime. They go as far as killing two of their members to take leadership: Mimete tampers with Eudial's car and causes her to have a "fatal accident", and later Mimete dies when Tellu plugs off the Witches Electric Warp machine she's using and shuts her off forever. In fact, major Sailor Moon anime villains get rid of each other or themselves a lot - presumably so that the heroes have less blood on their hands, what with the main villains usually being more human-like than the monsters of the week. In the manga, the heroes kill them.
  • Played with in Fang of the Sun Dougram. Technically, the rebels are fighting against the whole of Earth Federation, but in reality they're only fighting the Earth region of Medohl (Europe) and its ally Mardo (South America). Representatives of Cohord (Russia), Mingus (North America) and Rodia (Africa), which are opposed to Medohl, gladly provide the rebels with resources, hiding places and training grounds for their fledgling army, gambling that Medohl's representatives won't risk civil war.

Comic Books

  • Deconstructed in Marvel Comics' Earth X. Mephisto has deliberately created multiple universes full of lesser Devils, precisely so they will fight and plot against one another, creating chaos that spawns disasters while also obfuscating his own plans.
  • The G.I. Joe comic eventually had a civil war within Cobra, pitting Serpentor against Cobra Commander (Fred VII, who had the Baroness supporting his deception). The Joes sided with Serpentor for political reasons (as well as a black box Serpentor's Star Viper had stolen from the Joes). In the end, Serpentor was killed, and Dr. Mindbender (who'd sided with his creation) quickly negotiated a settlement with Fred, leaving the Joes hanging. Destro only showed up to retrieve the Baroness.
    • There was another Cobra Civil War in the Devil's Due series (between Cobra's main forces and the Coil), but this series has since been "disavowed" by Hasbro.
    • The new IDW series, which reboots the continuity after the end of the Marvel series, is including its own Cobra Civil War.
    • The animated series did a riff on this idea, when a band of Joes accidentally got transported to an alternate universe where Cobra had long won the war and taken over the world. Before finding a way to return home, the intruders managed to spark a civil war between the two factions controlled by Cobra Commander and Destro. (This conflict was highlighted more than once in the "real" universe, but it never came to open blows.)
  • In The DCU, the mini-series Reign In Hell features a civil war for the control of Hell fought between the demon princes Neron and Lord Satanus.
  • Tends to happen a lot with Superman villains. In particular, Bizarro (Superman's Evil Knockoff) created his own monstrous version of Superman's Rogues Gallery back home on Bizarro World. Superman often finds himself maintaining the balance of power to keep the two sides from killing each other.
  • The Flash series actually had a storyarc called Rogue War wherein he had to stop three seperate factions of villains from killing each other and a bunch of innocent bystanders. Four if you count Zoom as his own faction.
  • Occurs with the New York branch of The Foot after the Shredder's death in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with several factions fighting each other for control of the city. Among them are the Foot Elite, a group of Shredder loyalists who indiscriminately kill all the other groups. Later stories, such as Tristan Jones' recent issues of Tales and Volume 3, deal with the war's fallout.
  • This is a central theme in Star Wars Legacy, in which the Empire has split into two factions: Roan Fel's Empire and Darth Krayt's Empire.
  • Dormammu and Umar, two of Doctor Strange's greatest foes, are twin siblings who rule the Dark Dimension. Whichever one is out of power at the moment is constantly scheming to take the throne back, and any alliances are loaded with ulterior motives. This is very fortunate for the rest of us, since if the two of them ever actually cooperated, they could take over the world with ease.

Fan Works

  • Thousand Shinji: "This went beyond a simple cluster fuck, this transcended into the realm where future generations of soldiers would refer to a situation this badly screwed up that they would have to call such scenarios... Tokyo-3..." Also, the only reason why the canon!40k gods had to work together was because their inter-factional fighting allowed the C'tan to gain a vital advantage.
  • Ponies Make War has one of these in the Backstory. During Titan and Terra's original reign over Equestria thousands of years ago, she eventually got tired of sharing power with him and attempted a coup, leading forces loyal to her (including Luna) against those loyal to Titan (including Celestia). Eventually, Celestia and Luna got tired of the pointless death and destruction and engineered a Final Battle for the war, wherein they stabbed both of their weakened parents in the back and sealed them away.


  • In the 2010 film Predators, we learn that there is a blood feud going on between the "original" race of Predators and a new, more frightening, breed of Predator. The survivor's fight with the latter leads to an Enemy Mine truce with the former.
  • Further to the Star Wars Expanded Universe examples in Literature, there is Vader and Palpatine, each seeking to use Luke against the other.
    • This in turn continues the Sith Rule of Two, which encourages the Master and Apprentice to scheme against each other while (theoretically) keeping things from getting TOO out of hand by limiting the Sith to two members.
    • The Star Wars films have a particularly odd version of this trope, when you remember that both the Republic and the Seperatists were under Palpatine's control, especially after Order 66, at which point the Clones were officially bad guys.
  • Played for laughs in Monty Python's Life of Brian, where there are at least five independent rival resistance groups: the Popular Front of Judea; the People's Front of Judea; the Judean People's Front; the Judean Popular People's Front; and the Campaign for a Free Galilee. Naturally they are all too busy fighting amongst themselves to get anything done.


    • Very much Truth in Television
      • This was referenced in the miniseries Masada where the Jewish leader, Elazar ben Ya'ir, tells the Roman commander that the secret to defeating the Jews is to leave them alone. They'd end up killing each other without a common enemy to fight against.
  • In The Wolfhound, this is the only thing that has kept the Religion of Evil priests, Zhadoba and Man-Eater, from succeeding in resurrecting their dark goddess. When the hero kills Man-Eater in revenge for the destruction of his hometown, Zhadoba is free to declare himself sole High Priest and get on with awakening his goddess.
  • Part of Rogue's plan in War is to get a Triad leader Li Chang's right hand man to turn on him.


  • The Dark Lords, the Big Bad of the Lone Wolf gamebooks by Joe Dever, are twice engaged in civil war after Lone Wolf kills the one in charge, giving him time to rebuild the Kai Order after they destroyed it.
    • In the wake of the Darklords' defeat after Book 12, the remnants of their armies fight amongst themselves to control what's left of the Darklands. Book 14 has Lone Wolf infiltrating a city fortress caught between two warring Darkland factions.


  • Two books in Dennis Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro Series have this. A Drink Before The War features the warring gang leaders Roland Angeline and Marion Socia, both of whom try to kill Patrick Kenzie to get the MacGuffin. Sacred featured the Corrupt Corporate Executive Trevor Stone and his daughter Desiree, who both try to manipulate Kenzie into killing the other.
  • In the Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn, the main character, Darth Bane, recognizes this as both the Sith's main strength and greatest weakness. While the in-fighting culled the weak from the Sith Order, it also allowed many weaker Sith to band together and defeat a more powerful Sith Master, with each Sith taking a portion of the Master's knowledge, weakening the order as a whole. Darth Bane solved this by creating the Rule of Two: one master to embody the power, the apprentice to crave it. That way the in-fighting would result in only the stronger Sith coming out ahead, leading to the advancement of the Sith as a whole. The results were successful since, even though it took over 1000 years, the Sith (under Darth Sidious) were able to defeat the long-standing incarnation of the Jedi Order.
  • Happens twice in the Honor Harrington series: the war between Manticore and Haven breaks out when the old People's Republic of Haven is an old corrupt oligarchy, continues when the oligarchs are overthrown by a populist revolution that becomes a dictatorship in the form of the new People's Republic of Haven, and still grinds on after a military coup which results in a restored democratic Republic of Haven.
    • This is also somewhat of an exception as The (People's) Republic of Haven is quite fleshed out, at least leading up to the second coup. Later books actually feature Havenite protagonists among the confusingly large ensemble cast.
      • See also the Levelers' Coup in A Whif of Grapeshot (where Citizen Admiral McQueen got her nickname of "Admiral Clusterbomb"), and of course The failed McQueen Coup. She didn't save Rob Pierre's government because she liked him, but only because the Levelers hated her as much as they did him.
      • One gets the impression that Havenite politics are a little rough and tumble by any standard.
      • Mesa has an Evil Plan to manipulate the evil-but-incompetent leaders of the Solarian League into picking a fight with the Manties in the hope that they will smack them down leaving a power vacuum. We find out more about that in the next book apparently but from the review things are not looking good for the Solarians.
  • Dark mages in the Alex Verus series seem to do this full-time. The books point out that it's a double-edged sword: the constant infighting means they're usually too busy with each other to gang up on anyone else, but by the same token it also means that the average Dark mage has a hell of a lot of combat experience.
  • The Riftwar Cycle has the moredhel, who are too busy with inter-clan wars to present a wide-scale danger to humans. In fact, the two occasions when the moredhel united completely under a single banner were quite memorable.
  • The Imperial Remnant in the Star Wars Expanded Universe fights among themselves almost at least as often as they do with the New Republic.
    • Grand Admiral Zaarin's and Grand Moff Trachta's actually attempted to usurp power from Palpatine during his reign. Neither succeeded.
    • This actually led to the crowning moment that turned Pellaeon from Thrawn's apprentice into his own Magnificent Bastard. He and Daala manage to get about 10 of the more powerful imperial warlords together and give them 1 hour to work out an alliance. When that (predictably) fails, they kill off all of the other warlords and instantly become the most powerful leaders of the Remnant.
    • Nom Anor and his constant machinations against the Yuuzhan Vong leadership. His revolution continued even after he abandoned it.
    • Admiral Niathal's betrayal of Jacen Solo...er...Darth Caedus. Niathal is a real vicious piece of work, and in the end, the best thing that could be said about her is that she has marginally higher moral scruples than an insane Sith Lord.
  • In JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, all evil is ultimately under Sauron's control, but rivalry between Orc forces is still very common, as their race is literally Exclusively Evil. In The Two Towers, the constant squabbling between the Orcs from Isengard, Mordor, and the Misty Mountains eventually leads to their captives Merry and Pippin escaping, while in Return of the King, the Mordor Orcs of Minas Morgul and the Tower of Cirith Ungol decimate each other fighting over Frodo's treasure, allowing Sam to rescue him. It's also pretty clear that if Saruman had gotten his hands on the Ring, he'd have turned against Sauron in an instant, but thankfully that never came to pass.
    • In the book Saruman effectively betrayed Sauron as soon as he made it clear that he too was hunting for the Ring. Gandalf even comments how his task is easier at one point, because Sauron's eye is fixed on Isengard, instead of his activities. In the movie this double treachery doesn't seem to come to pass.
      • In the book, the eponymous Two Towers were Saruman's Orthanc in the first part, and Minas Morgul, in the second part. But because Minas Morgul isn't shown until the third movie, Peter Jackson had to justify the title by making Sauron's Barad-dur the second tower. This meant he had to emphasize "the alliance of the Two Towers" and forget about Saruman's treachery.
    • In fact this is subverted with Mordor’s orcs: While Ugluk and Grishnak really were from different factions, the Mordor orcs work under the Nazgul and some of them guard the path to Shelob’s lair and when the pressure from their superiors is enough, they fight themselves. Even so, Gorbag lampshades to Shagrat that they need to be together against the Free People:

But don't forget: the enemies don't love us any more than they love Him, and if they get topsides on Him, we're done too.

  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett is this trope personified. A detective in an Outlaw Town decides to clean it up by stirring all the big criminals in town and their respective gangs into killing each other off. Considering they're very ill at ease with each other at any given time, this isn't very hard.
  • In the Dragonlance series the armies of the Dragon Highlords instantly dissolve into civil war when Ariakas is assassinated (at the instigation of one of the other Highlords).
  • In The Inheritance Trilogy, besides the Varden, there's a tiny country called Surda that broke off from The Empire. By the second book, their king is actively funding and housing the Varden.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, the Warmaster and Inquisitor Stele dispute over their plans. Right up to the Warmaster, to rebuke Stele, tells his forces that Stele's ship is expendable.
  • At one point, in the Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) book 'The Traitor's Hand,' Ciaphas is trying to stop a group of cultists from completing a Chaos ritual, when suddenly, Chaos Space Marines of a rival faction show up. These evil marines start killing the cultists, which Cain uses to plow a path to the main cultist headquarters.
  • The society of the Chaotic Neutral Kif from C. J. Cherryh's Chanur novels is essentially a perpetual (but mostly cold) civil war. Everyone conspires against everyone. As soon as a leader overreaches, or shows signs of weakness, their alliance will quickly be taken over by a high level subordinate, or simply disintegrate.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Grey Knights novel Hammer of Daemons, the captive Alaric deduces that the lords of Drakaasi are barely tolerating each other, and instigates conflict between them as part of his escape plan.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 story "Words of Blood", Athellenas repeatedly attacks Chaos forces and retreats, despite his subordinates' hatred of the dishonor. By thus stoking their bloodlust and not letting them vent it on his Space Marines, he provokes them into fighting each other. When they go to clean up the survivors, the subordinates who preferred a Last Stand are fittingly humbled, and Athellanas explains the importance of victory—and realizes how important it was when he learns no one else could have helped the planet these forces intended to massacre.
  • Happens to Germany in the Alternate History novels Fox on the Rhine and Fox at the Front after the 20 July plot succeeds, Heinrich Himmler takes over, makes peace with the Soviet Union and sets Erwin Rommel on the Western Allies. After Rommel is captured by Patton the German Republic is formed and Rommel goes to war with Himmler.
  • In The Guardians, Lucifer holds the throne in Hell, but Beliel gained enough followers to fight him for it by promising to return them all to Divine Grace. Their war has been ongoing for millenia.
  • A recurring theme in Animorphs is that the Yeerk ranks often contain in-fighting, most notably between regular Big Bad Visser Three and the more calculating Visser One. There's also the Yeerk Peace Movement, which defies typical Yeerk imperialism by seeking a more symbiotic relationship between Yeerks and their hosts (although, as their name suggests, the Peace Movement doesn't really do much fighting).
  • One of the advantages the Nations of the West in David Eddings' The Belgariad had is that despite the Angaraks being lumped together in their minds, they were really five different tribes and a bunch of client/servant races which rarely got along. Things really came to a head, though, when the Armies of the West go to distract the Angarak forces from what Garion, Silk and Belgarath are doing, only to find out too late that the Murgos and Malloreans would have just as happily beaten upon each other due to their rabid hatred of one another. And as an example that explains why the Mallorean Emperor was perfectly happy annihilating his fellow Angaraks, Murgo king Taur Urgas had ordered a girl Mallorean emperor Zakath had loved to assassinate him. Zakath had her executed, but did not realize until too late that she refused to perform the assassination. Much of the sequel series, The Malloreon is composed of a huge Melee a Trois between 'Zakath, Zandramas and Urvon for control of the Sardion, with Mengha and Agachak looking to get involved from the outside, and the Demons working for whoever summons them. Ultimately Mengha allies with Urvon (who he and Nahaz start plotting against), 'Zakath Heel Face Turns and Zandramas secures her position as the Big Bad with the deaths of Urvon, Agachak, and Mengha, and the banishment of Nahaz, in one of the most stunning examples of Eviler Than Thou in fiction. Whew.
    • Happens again to a lesser degree in The Redemption of Althalus. The protagonists are a tight-knit family who trusts each other, they have an actual Goddess actively working on their side, and their commanders and armies are loyal and efficient. They also have a house that can open doors to literally anywhere and is infinitely large, allowing all sorts of munchkin tactics. The antagonists are (intended to be) counterparts to the protagonists in all ways (including similar roles and powers), but they're openly distrustful and fight among themselves, actively encourage ancient and obsolete tactics and equipment (including flintstone weapons), command their soldiers through fear, their god won't help them very much at all, and their house is a hellish firepit that everyone is afraid of and won't use to its full potential. Is it just me, or did the Eddings have a fondness for stacking the deck?
      • Aside from the infinitely large house, every one of these points also applies to The Tamuli, although several gods are actively supporting the heroes here.
  • One of these is accidentally started in Red Inferno: 1945. A group of saboteurs led by an OSS agent use a stolen NKVD uniform to get close to the targets they are trying to destroy, purely because Soviet soldiers in general will let NKVD officers do whatever they please. But the general commanding the Soviet unit, once he learns of an NKVD officer destroying his supplies, assumes that the high command is trying to set him up for failure, because he is Armenian rather than Russian - an assumption he considers confirmed when one of the saboteurs uses the uniform to get close enough to try to assassinate him. Once recovered from his wounds, the general returns to his some country and starts a civil war against the Soviet Union, something that the saboteurs did not intend to do, but their superiors ultimately approve of.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Shadows in The Moonlight," Conan the Barbarian lives long enough to be rescued by Olivia because the Pirates quarrel.

Such haggling and wrangling I never heard. I'm nearly deaf. Aratus wished to cut out my heart, and Ivanos refused, to spite Aratus, whom he hates. All day long they snarled and spat at one another, and the crew quickly grew too drunk to vote either way-

  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero In Hell, one devil greets another as an old friend—no, as an old adversary since this trope is their normal condition.
  • This happens a few times in the Redwall series. Notable instances are between Emperor Ublaz and Rasconza in Pearls of Lutra, and between Badrang the Tyrant and Tramun Clogg in Martin the Warrior.
  • In Cetaganda Miles Vorkosigan works very hard to prevent the enemy Cetagandan Empire from breaking up, because he reasons that multiple Cetagandan warlord-states will be even more dangerous, rather like a tumor metastasizing. Instead of the relatively stable Cold-War type peace between the Barrayaran and Cetagandan Empires, each of the now-independent Cetagandan satrapies will start aggressively trying to expand.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Despite what some stories would have you believe, the bad guys are not happy working together. Indeed, a number of books in the series show that the bad guys are on the verge of this when the Vigilantes start gunning for them. When the Vigilantes capture them, this tends to break out with one of them spilling all the details, and then the bad guys start criticizing each other and their methods. Deadly Deals had this occur between Baron Bell and Adel Newsom, which Bell started by leaving her stranded. She then broke into his office, and tried to break into his safes, but she only succeeded at breaking into one and stealing the money in it. She tried to cut and run. It didn't matter, because Bell and Newsom got caught anyway!

Live-Action TV

  • The end of Season 2 in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Angelus, Drusilla, and Spike have been working together, and Angelus plans to end the world by activating a demon that will suck the entire world into Hell. Whether because of Spike's jealousy about Angelus' winning Dru's attention or because of Spike's stated reasons of enjoying the world, he decides he doesn't want Angelus to end the world and cuts a deal with Buffy to help her save the world by betraying Angelus. This was long before Spike began his gradual Heel Face Turn.
  • In Season 4 of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica the 'human' Cylons are enmeshed in a Cylon civil war over the identities and whereabouts of their five missing models. When one of the Cylon raiders detects the presence of the missing models in the Colonial Fleet, the six remaining ones (Cavil, Leoben, Simon, Doral, Six and Sharon) are split, with the 'Rebels' (Leobens, Sixes and Sharons) in favor of searching for them and integrating them into their society whilst the other, 'Cavil' faction is opposed and set on enslaving their fellow machines lest they reveal any more. The irony of machines who rebelled against human bondage becoming 'human' and then putting their own machines in chains is not lost on the writers. All the models lose their ability to download. It transpires the missing five were earlier artificial humans who created the seven known models after the First Cylon War. A Colonial-Cylon alliance mounts an attack on Cavil and his followers. Eventually Cavil trades baby Hera to regain Cylon downloading technology and the war ends. Unfortunately a personal matter between two of the final five revealed itself during the handover in such as way that the agreement broke down, leading to the annihilation of the Cavil faction and miraculous survival of the Colonial alliance.
    • The Expanded Universe novels based on the original series (which were published before the new series premiered) also depict the Cylons having a civil war?between the (mostly) organic reptilian Cylons who founded the race, and the purely mechanical Cylons like the Centurions. Baltar, who has done a Heel Face Turn by this point, is literally tortured by nightmares of this war, due to his brain being cybernetically linked to the Cylon communications network (and unfortunately, said nightmares are the only way he can access the link).
  • Happens all the time in Stargate SG-1. The Goa'uld are feudal Exclusively Evil megalomaniacs by nature; the usual process is to fight among themselves until a top dog emerges (Ra, Apophis, Sokar, Apophis again, Ba'al, Anubis, Ba'al again...) then SG-1 wrecks the army of the top dog, and the cycle repeats itself. It's stated a few times in the series that the Goa'uld are actually doing more damage to their own forces than the puny Tau'ri; what Earth is really doing is continually upsetting the balance of power.
    • The Wraith in Stargate Atlantis, who are awakened prematurely before the human numbers in the Pegasus Galaxy have regrown, leaving them with low food supplies. Fortunately, the constant inter-Hive fighting helps keep the Wraith attention away from Atlantis. Then there's Michael...
  • The 1960s Doctor Who serial The Evil of the Daleks had some Daleks given human emotions, which turned them friendly, and sparked off a civil war which (supposedly) destroyed off every Dalek. Much later, there was an entire Story Arc in which Daleks loyal to Davros and to the Dalek Supreme, respectively, fought it out (Davros' side won). In the 1960s comics "The Dalek Chronicles", conflicts of this kind happened pretty regularly, with upstarts challenging the Dalek Emperor.
  • Farscape has a Gambit Roulette of the protagonists at the end of season 4 try to start one of these, by pitting the two Scarran slave-races against each other. Not even against the Scarrans. And this isn't even the plan, just a component of the plan. Yeah, Crichton was pretty nuts.
  • In the final run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Cardassians realize that their alliance with the Dominion has reduced them to cannon fodder, leading them to revolt, giving the coalition forces a much needed opening for the final assault.
    • This wasn't so much an Enemy Civil War as a species-wide Heel Face Turn.
    • It started out slowly, with just Damar and three Cardassian Orders, and started to build up.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager the Q continuum (not really an enemy but the home universe of a pain in the neck) becomes engaged in a civil war that to humans looks like a reenactment of the U.S. civil war.
  • In the Super Sentai series Science Squad Dynaman, Prince Megiddo, initially a lackey, is imprisoned for his failure by the Emperor Aton and later emerges as mega badass Dark Knight (no, not that one) and ends up playing antihero for a while, then becomes the Big Bad himself after slaying Aton.
  • In The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Allison from Palmdale," Cameron tells Allison that she is working for a "pro-peace" faction within the machine army. This may have been a lie intended to find out where John Connor is, but Allison didn't play along in any case. A later episode suggests that there actually is such a faction, but when John sent a sub to contact them with an offer of alliance against Skynet, they turned him down.
    • This point becomes fleshed out in the finale when it turns out that Catherine Weaver's intention all along was to build an AI to fight against Skynet, possibly paving the way for a peaceful faction of machines to coexist with humans.
  • By the fourth episode of The Cape (trope) the eponymous hero has managed to provoke one between Scales and Fleming.


  • Despite Jesus describing Hell as united, it seems common depictions have many, many civil wars going on all the time. Lucifer himself, if present, usually isn't threatened; usually fomenting it on purpose to either consolidate his power or For the Evulz.
    • The Sandman portrayed hell this way. Morpheus' first visit had hell ruled as a tripartite kingdom between Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Azazel. By the second time he visits, Lucifer has wrested complete power for himself again, though it is implied he allows petty demon politics like that to happen to amuse himself.
      • Actually, this wasn't Gaiman's intention, but a mandate from DC editorial that he protested and detested so it would fit in with DC continuity where in another comic there was a triumvirate. Lucifer took power again simply because Gaiman decided to take a risk and ignore the editorial line.
    • C. S. Lewis' classic The Screwtape Letters manages to have it both ways. Hell holds together only because the lower (higher) ranks of the Lowerarchy are usually too powerful for minions to harm them. Bureaucratic backstabbing is a matter of course. After Screwtape's nephew fails to corrupt his assigned soul, Screwtape eats him.
    • All cases of Did Not Do the Research. The Bible states that Satan and the demons are prisoners of hell, just as much as all the dead sinners.
      • Or if you believe the Tanakh, Satan actually works of God as his prosecutor.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • When not engaged in The Blood War, fighting amongst themselves is one of the most common ways for demons and devils to pass the time. For devils they are constantly seeking to usurp each other's position and Asmodeus in a recent edition orchestrated a revolution against himself for the purpose of exposing his enemies and humiliating them, while demons usually forgo the scheming and politicking and go straight into the massive bloodshed.
    • Speaking of which, sometime between the 1st and 2nd Editions, Geryon was deposed as ruler of Stygia (the 5th layer of Hell) and replaced by Levistus. Information about Geryon in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions was always sparse and left his fate ambiguous, but now in 5th edition (as noted in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, He's Back, and is now struggling against Levistus with the intent to reclaim his throne, turning Stygia into a battleground between his and Levistus' faction. Levistus still technically rules Stygia, despite being entombed in an iceberg that he was imprisoned in by Asmodeus for betraying him shortly after replacing Geryon. Which doesn't say much for the leadership skills of either of them. As Mordenkainen states, "Which is less worthy, the archdevil who leads a layer while being entombed in a block of ice, or the archdevil who cannot outmaneuver a frozen adversary?"
    • The Forgotten Realms campaign setting also has (except in 4e) four other gods of drow that opposed Lolth, and one technically her loyal vassal, but with frictions between their worshippers. All of them except Eilistraee were Chaotic Evil.
    • Also in Forgotten Realms, the forces of Zhentil Keep occasionally splintered into various cults of personality—most centered around the wizard Manshoon and the priest Fzoul—that led to frequent infighting. Also, Manshoon escaped death via chain of clones insuspended animation until all remaining clones were resurrected, leading to a struggle between them known as the Manshoon Wars; this ended with three surviving clones, who managed to find ways around "Kill all other clones" inherent compulsion and resumed trying to rebuild Manshoon's power base (save for the one that housed Manshoon's real soul, who set about looking for a way to Body Surf between the clones).
    • To expand on the story about the revolution in Hell, known as the Reckoning: The King of Hell is Asmodeus; his two most powerful archdukes are Baalzebul and Mephistopheles. These two each wanted to rule Hell, so they gathered the remaining six archdevils into two factions that made war on each other, the winner taking on Asmodeus. When they had done enough damage to each other, one of the archdevils, Geryon, revealed he had been The Mole for Asmodeus the whole time and gave the signal for the legions of Hell to turn against their masters. In the end, all the archdevils were sent back to their domains, except Geryon, whom Asmodeus exiled for being blindly loyal to him—turns out being The Starscream is what Asmodeus expects of his vassals, and Geryon was the only one who was found wanting.
      • This page is about interesting enemies so one of the suspected reasons Asmodeus did what he did with Geryon is that he replaced him with Levistus (who did not get the usual power boost with the promotion nor get freed from his iceberg prison), a devil who had killed Asmodeus's queen, and the most blatant StarScream possibly bar Mephistopheles. This was to make the leaders of hell scratch there heads, causing them to completely ignore that he had made a non-devil, the hag countess in charge of the sixth layer of hell, that is until the throne warmer was replaced with his daughter, who he was not getting along with previously. Much to levistus's despair all his plots only furthered to distract the other lords from Asmodeus's throne warmer.
      • Completely off topic for this page, but recent information suggests that exiling Geryon for being loyal was just a front; Asmodeus is playing a Batman Gambit with Geryon to get him to do something that even the King of Hell can't be seen as being connected to.
  • This is specifically why the world isn't dead yet in the Old World of Darkness. Most notable is Mage: The Awakening, where the Ancient Conspiracy known as the Seers of the Throne is constantly trying to keep its own groups from wiping each other out in power struggles and focus on the other mages.
      • Although it is never implied in the books, we must keep in mind these are devils, only a fool would expect one to be truly loyal, therefore Geryon's fate might be a lesson to other subordinates that everyone is disposable.
  • Warhammer Fantasy and especially Orcs and Goblins. They are into in-fighting just as eagerly as fighting the other races. Similarly, the troops of Chaos and Skaven fight each other just as well as they fight the forces of Order.
  • An everyday occurrence in Warhammer 40,000, with Orcs, Chaos, and other factions fighting each other more often than they fight the Imperium. Indeed, the Tyranids and Necrons are the only ones that are united, controlled by a Hive Mind and a group of Eldritch Abominations respectively.
    • The only reason why the Orcs aren't the single most powerful faction in the galaxy and crush everyone else is because without a powerful enough Warboss they collapse into endless infighting almost immediately. That, and the prospect of a good fight always takes priority over galactic conquest.
    • Chaos is even worse, being terminally fractious from top to bottom. The five four Chaos Gods hate each other on a fundamental level (Nurgle hates Tzeentch, Slaanesh hates Khorne, Tzeentch views them all as pawns, Khorne and Malal hates everyone) and spend only a tiny fraction of their efforts warring in the Materium, most of it concentrated in fighting each other. Meanwhile, their followers will kill the followers of another Chaos God to increase the favour of the one they worship, or even the followers of the same god to prove that they are more worthy of their favour.
      • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Traitor General, Sturm realizes that the warlord holding him intends to use him as a pawn in a struggle within Chaos for the post of Archon, after he lost that post in an open conflict. Indeed, Chaos agents attempt to assassinate him. It is also observed that the aforementioned conflict may have caused more casualties among the Chaos forces than the Imperial Crusade up to that point.
      • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, there is fighting between two factions of a single Chaos Marine legion where Uriel arrives, and both sides are quite willing to use him against each other rather than stand united against him. Also, two major daemons of Khorne, apparently out of jealousy.
    • The Imperium itself has been through two massive civil wars (three, if one counts the Iron Men), as well as the constant pacification and extermination of planets infected with taint (be it Xenos or Chaos) and those who wish to leave the Imperium.
      • The inquisition is split into many factions, and their disagreements sometimes escalate to open war... or much more often, covert war.
      • The 5th edition codex has been hinting that another Imperial civil war may be on its way, what with communications with Ultramar degenerating and the Golden Throne breaking down.
    • Phaenonites clashed with just about every possible rival - after they were purged and their main base was subjected to Exterminatus.
      1. They tried to contact Umbra Malygris - brilliant Mad Scientist with enough clout to cause a little civil war in Cult Mechanicus when he was proclaimed heretek. Because surely a guy who broke every single taboo of his own organization and for good measure invented some new horrible things that deserved adding more prohibitions would want to cooperate? Unfortunately for themselves, they did find him - not that he managed to wipe out these cells before they ran, but the rest of Inquisition noticed the commotion and found out about their continued existence.
      2. While quietly taking over an industrial planet out of the way, they noticed the Amaranthine Syndicate, and thought that a local smuggler network will be an useful asset if infiltrated. It turned out that the Syndicate was already controlled by something far more competent and nasty than common criminals - and, of course, those hidden masters decided that their life will be quieter and longer without the Phaenonites. Here opens another front, against an interstellar mafia plus the whole species of Slaught, and they don't even know about the Slaught.
      3. They ran into Logicians, and both teams quickly realized they are bitter rivals. The amusing part is that both groups are rabidly Monodominants heretical tech-cults with similar tactics, the differences are that Phaenonites are into malatek and due to their origin in the Inquisition are more competent conspirators, while Logicians are more popular (or at least close to their recruit pool). Also, both have dim view of the Dark Mechanicus (Phaenonites despise them for being pawns of the Ruinous Powers rather than trying to become as gods themselves, and Logicians simply don't like Warp any more than the Imperial Cult or Mechanicus does).

the Logician presence in the Calixis Sector has plotted to expose the Phaenonites´ presence to the Holy Ordos, hoping that the Inquisition will do them the service of wiping out this hated rival, whilst the Phaenonites have likewise plotted to do the same in return from within the Conclave.

  • In promotional material for the Magic: The Gathering set New Phyrexia, it's suggested that the five Phyrexian factions' differing ideals may be sufficient to bring them down through infighting. Meanwhile, the Mirrans seem to have adopted a "now we are one" stance (a typically Phyrexian ideal), banding together to survive the corruption of their world.

Video Games

  • In a slight twist, the Xen invaders in Half-Life encounter the humans of Earth fighting each other, while both the Army and the scientists Gordon Freeman try to kill the aliens.
    • The same applies in Half-Life 2, with Xen aliens not only attacking both sides of the warring rebel humans and Combine soldiers, but also each other. Antlions are (even) more aggressive towards zombies than humans.
    • Largely because, with the exception of the Vortigaunts (who unanimously side with humanity), the Xen aliens are all just wild animals. Very aggressive and generally carnivorous wild animals.
  • In City of Heroes, there's an island called Warburg that was formerly under Rogue Isles (Arachnos) control, but became a splinter faction under the control of Marshal Blitz. Mechanically, this means that it's the only non-faction-based PvP zone in the game; villains can fight villains, and heroes can fight heroes.
    • The interdimensional invaders known as the Rikti are also split into the Traditionalists and the Reconstructionists. The first group eventually ally with the humans to stop the other from destroying the Earth after the true cause of the war is found out.
    • The tangled history of the Council and the 5th Column: The 5th originally split off from the Council, and many years later was violently reabsorbed. Requiem, the old leader of the 5th, has never been happy as part of the Council, plotting against his fellows and working to ensure the re-emergence of the 5th. Which has now happened, under a different leader, and fighting between the two groups has resumed.
    • Additionally, there have been occasional bugs where enemy groups (most recently, the Legacy Chain) have been hostile towards themselves.
  • Happens with the Covenant in Halo 2, which results in a Strange Bedfellows situation between the humans and the elites.
    • In the novel Halo: Grasslands, which takes place after Halo 3, UNSC sends a squad of ODSTs, a Spartan, and a crazy AI to Sanghelios (Elite homeworld) in order to fuel the fires of a civil war in order to keep them unbalanced while UNSC rebuilds. The Arbiter desperately tries to hold his people together.
  • In Homeworld, the Taiidan empire is a decadent, despotic place. An incipient rebellion has been forming for some time before the game, but the appearance of the highly successful Kushan struggling to reach their eponymous Homeworld has emboldened them to resist and join the player's cause.
  • The Forsaken in World of Warcraft, who have rebelled against the Lich King and reclaimed their free will, and help the Horde fight their former undead fellows. It's arguable how "good" they are, as the race as a whole is at least dark, with a few redemption/cure seekers, while others either actively bask in evil or revel in their undead natures.
    • Orcs as well, having split from their demonic controllers.
    • And recently, Blood Elves, having split (again) after discovering their leader and his forces' defection to said demonic controllers.
    • The Forsaken later undergo another internal civil war during the World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King, as traitors under the dreadlord Varimathras unleash the Forsaken's secret plague weapon against both the Scourge and against everyone attacking the Lich King, and nearly kill the Forsaken queen Sylvanas Windrunner to boot. This conveniently acts a cathartic experience to solidify the relatively "loyal" Forsaken to the service of the Horde, purging the nasty hints that have foreshadowed the race's untrustworthiness from the very beginning of the game.
    • Also, the Death Knights of the Ebon Blade. After being freed from the Lich King's control, the Death Knights vowed to take vengeance on Arthas and use their unholy powers against him. However, they're still met with distrust and fear by the other factions, and the Ebon Blade's interests don't necessarily coincide with their allies' at times.
    • Don't forget the Scourge itself split from the Burning Legion originally. And Illidan's forces also split from the Burning Legion. Lots of people seem to do that.
    • In Warcraft II, Gul'dan betrays the Horde on the eve of their victory by taking off with the Stormreaver and Twilight's Hammer clans to search for the Tomb of Sargeras. While this still left plenty of troops for Orgrim Doomhammer's siege of the Capital City of Lordaeron, Orgrim chooses honor over victory and sends the Blackrock clan, which constitutes a good third of the Horde forces, after the renegades. With the main Alliance army about to arrive and box him in, Orgrim is forced to call a retreat so close to victory. Furthermore, the battle between the renegades and the Blackrock clan results in the complete destruction or the renegade clans through sheer attrition (the orcs aren't known for their battle tactics). The seriously reduced Blackrock clan is further devastated by Admiral Proudmore's surprise attack at sea, leaving only a few thousand clan members alive. The war goes pretty much downhill for the orcs at this point. Even killing the supreme commander of the Alliance forces doesn't help, as Lothar's place is immediately taken by Turalyon.
  • The Nod campaign of Command & Conquer 2: Tiberian Sun starts you off fighting a Nod civil war. Only once you've beaten your rival does Kane return and then you launch your fight against GDI.
    • Then you get to Firestorm, where Kane's friendly neighborhood AI CABAL goes loopy and decides to wipe all of mankind - both GDI and Nod.
    • Tiberium Wars runs rampant with civil wars. Nod troops assault Temple Prime, apparently arranged to do so by a Nod loyalist trying to incriminate Kane's second in command for questioning his understandably obfusticating plans in private, then Kane turns around and orders the capture and execution of his own General Killian Qatar. In Kane's Wrath, the entire first act of the game is spent fighting Nod splinter factions.
      • There are some who would call GDI the villains (among whom this troper is not), and if you see things that way a little bit of an enemy civil war occurs in Tiberian Twilight when the PC's commanding officer tries to take down the elected government for percieved inaction against Kane.
        • Let's not forget the Red Alert series: at some point in the Soviet campaign in both Red Alert 2 and Red Alert 3, you'll have to fight a traitor general/mind-controlling maniac. Even the Allies suffer a small civil war: you have to put down the power-crazy US president. The actual campaigns in Red Alert 1 are free of this, but it does show up in some of the missions in the expansion packs (the Soviets have a few missions against Allied-supported rebels/traitors still utilizing Soviet weaponry, and one conflict against a rogue faction of the USSR).
          • Surprisingly, averted with the Empire of the Rising Sun (till the expansion at least) even though they are the main antagonists(sorta). The first half of the Empire campaign even sets up a growing conflict between Yoshiro and Tatsu until the two men manage to reconcile their differences (Yoshiro's Heroic Villainous BSOD after learning the nature of Soviet Time Travel helped too).
            • Looking at Tiberian Dawn and onwards (the Covert Ops expansion missions take place after GDI's victory), it is implied that if Kane isn't there, the Brotherhood falls apart. Until of course he comes again.
  • In Star Control II, the main villain at first appears to be the Ur-Quan Kzer-za, a fanatical race who want to enslave all other life in the galaxy. As it turns out, the Ur-Quan species is split between the aforementioned Kzer-za and the even more extreme Kohr-ah, who instead want to kill all other life in the galaxy. And the Kzer-za were protecting you from them. And the Kohr-Ah are winning, because the good guys took out about a third of the Kzer-Za combat fleet in a recent war. Your first priority now becomes stopping the Kohr-ah
    • You can also cause a Yehat civil war between the Starship and the Royal clans. Slightly subverted in that the Starship clans are friendly to your cause and will help you in the end.
  • The first level of Metal Gear Solid 4 takes place during a battle between rebels and a mercenary army, who will attack anyone who does not belong to their faction. While the mercenaries work for the Big Bad, they are only in the city because someone hired them, and the rebels really have no interest in Snake's mission at all.
  • Applies to the Zerg in StarCraft. In the original the player must at one point fight a rogue brood after its cerebrate has been murdered by the good guys while the expansion basically revolves around a massive civil war following the death of the Overmind. The same applies to the Terrans, who are fighting one nonstop one way or another the entire series, and the Protoss, who "only" suffer one in the original and a brief relapse during the expansion.
  • The Locust from Gears of War heads in this route, after the COG discover their enemies are waging the war on another front against their Lambent counterparts in Gears of War 2. The last game reveals this has been going on years before the first game; in fact, this trope was the whole reason behind the Human-Locust War, as the Locust couldn't find a quick enough solution to destroy the Lambent.
  • The Red Dragon Organization vs. The Black Dragon Organization from Mortal Kombat.
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, sorta. Does one man vs. the rest of the army count? Does it count if those are even odds?
    • Jedi Academy has one mission with a situation like this, on the planet Yalara where Jaden is sent to destroy a cloaking device; he ends up in a three-way battle between him, the Imperial Remnant, and some alien assassins Darth Vader had left there years before.
    • The dark side ending of Academy is also a three-way war between the Jedi, the Dark Jedi, and the evil player. Which itself was kind of a ripoff of the original Jedi Knight, in which the dark side ending is still a war between the player and the Dark Jedi, except the player's also a Dark Jedi.
    • If you maxed out Mind Trick, which at its highest level converts a non-Jedi enemy to your side for 30 seconds, it's also possible to create an Enemy Civil War simply by performing Mind Trick on half a roomful of enemy mooks.
    • And in Outcast, Fyyar intends to overthrow Desann. Of course, the guy was insane.
  • The Punisher has the Yakuza mook-army attacking the various factions that the Punisher has weakened. In one moment in the Kingpin's lobby, just wait in the elevator until the Yazuka has weakened the Kingpin's security forces.
  • In Diablo, two lesser demon lords made a pact to overthrow the three greatest ones in one civil war, and afterward they started another civil war between them.
    • And then it's revealed in Diablo II that the three greater demons masterminded the whole thing in order to get themselves exiled to the the human world.
  • Done more simply in Doom games. Get between two heavies facing away from each other, injure one, hide and bam, fight to the death. Then you shoot the weakened one.
    • Due to a rare bug, a monster can even get into fight with itself.[1] And kill itself.
  • Medal of Honor Underground had a cheat, "Civil War Mode", which caused enemies to kill each other.
  • The first warehouse level in the first Syphon Filter game had Gabe caught between Phar Com forces and Rhoemer's private army.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Subspace Emissary had the Villain Team-Up degrade into this after King Dedede turns out to be The Mole, and Ganondorf attempts to hijack the plot by offing Bowser and then attacking Master Hand. (It's too bad Tabuu beat him to it.)
  • In The Godfather: The Game, it is possible to have gangsters from the different families fighting between each other, though it's more likely that they'll be attacking you.
  • In The Suffering, the monsters will sometimes attack each other. Unlike Doom, they don't have to hit each other, or even be particularly close. It's not just entertaining, it helps drive home the idea that the monsters are literal incarnations of hate and rage.
  • In Mass Effect 2, the player learns that the Geth are split into two factions: the main "True" geth that have no real hostility towards organics and sent Legion to help you, and the splinter-faction "Heretics" who follow The Reapers and are the ones you fought in the first game. You're later able to resolve this by reprogramming the Heretics to return to the True Geth or destroying the majority of the Heretics.
  • Dragon Age: The Awakening expansion reveals that the Darkspawn are having one of these. One side is led by the Architect, while the other is led by the Mother. The player can choose to ally with the Architect or destroy both factions.
    • This goes back to before the first game, as revealed in the Expanded Universe novel The Calling, which first introduces the Architect, who is leading a faction of the Darkspawn (more like mind controlling) to stop the constant struggle between the Darkspawn and the other races through extreme means. They are not shown to be fighting amongst each other, though.
  • Civilization II played this trope incredibly straight, in a way. In a war, if you captured the enemy's capital and they were sufficiently large enough or advanced enough, the civilization would split into two factions who would then immediately declare war on each other. While in a couple of turns they would establish peaceful relationships, this was a very powerful way to mess up stronger civs.
  • This appears in several games in the Total War series, at least from the perspective of other factions:
    • In Medieval: Total War, a faction who's royal family was destroyed, or who possessed a particularly weak monarch, could suffer rebellion as rival claimants attempted to seize the throne for themselves.
      • In both Medieval and Medieval 2, Catholic factions who have been excommunicated may suffer from widespread hostility from Papal loyalists, which can be seen as an Enemy Civil War from the perspective of any Muslim factions holding the Holy Land at that point. When the French are sending crusaders to Frankfurt, they're not sending them to Jerusalem...
    • The Barbarian Invasion expansion to Rome also featured possible civil wars in the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, as well as the division of the Gothic faction into Ostrogoths and Visigoths.
    • Empire includes emergent factions which can emerge into dissatisfied regions of an existing faction, e.g. Ireland, Scotland and the United States may rebel against British rule.
  • The Archers from Assassin's Creed 2 will attack anyone on a roof who isn't another guard. This isn't limited to Ezio or thieves, but also pickpockets and Borgia Couriers, who are also enemies of Ezio. In Bonfire of the Vanities you will see guards fighting each other even though both sides appear as red, ie. hostile, in Eagle Vision.
    • Can be invoked in Assassin's Creed: Revelations. Ottoman and Byzantine Templar guards will get into fights if they see each other, and one tutorial specifically tells you to make use of this.
  • Storywise, happens frequently in Sword of the Stars with the Hiver race between the many Princesses vying for power (from the viewpoint of another race, of course). Also entirely possible with any race, as brilliantly worked into the Backstory by Arinn Dembo, the game's writer. Humans, as we know, can easily split into factions and fight amongst each other for trivial reasons. The same is true for the Tarka. The Liir will fight anyone they believe has become Suul'ka, even members of their own race. Which makes a lot of sense in light of the sequel revealing exactly what the Suul'ka are. The Morrigi have never been a unified species. The Zuul, being religious fanatics, worship their creators; and, of course, no one has ever split into factions if they believe in the same deity.
    • In an interview at the announcement of Sword of the Stars 2, Arinn Dembo revealed that the Zuul will split into two factions: the ones who follow their evil masters, and the ones who choose to side with the other races against them. Specifically, they're allying with the Liir.
  • Can occur in Conduit 2 when aliens of opposition factions engage each other.
  • Iji has the Tasen-Komato War, which is central to the plot.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV you may occasionally happen upon two Imperial Foresters (who can be "enemies" depending on how lawless you are) trying to kill each other. This is because Foresters need to hunt for food and will often kill deer. However, deer are marked as friendly towards Imperial Legionaries, so this is considered murder if witnessed by any other Legionaries, who will move in to arrest the "murderer". However, Legionaries aren't programmed to be arrested since they don't normally break the law, so they automatically resist arrest and a fight begins.
  • This trope is the primary reason why the main villains of Monster Girl Quest ultimately lose. Ilias has three direct subordinates, Promestein, Black Alice and Eden, with only Eden being truly loyal to her. When Luka invades Heaven, Promestein and Black Alice goad Eden into fighting him alone, resulting in her defeat. They then betray the now-unguarded Ilias, with Black Alice eating Ilias to absorb her holy energy. Promestein remarks on how Black Alice leaked information to the enemy, resulting in Promestein's strongest soldiers being killed. Promestein then attempts to eat Luka to absorb his holy energy, with the intention of becoming powerful enough to overthrow Black Alice. After Luka defeats her and Black Alice, Ilias emerges and reveals that this was All According to Plan, allowing her to both increase her own power and remove some of her biggest enemies. However, her schemes mean that she is now completely without allies, resulting in her being defeated as well.

Web Comics

  • In Sluggy Freelance, the board members of HeretiCorp weren't above conspiring against each other for sometimes very petty reasons. There were also at least two demons (Skip and Chilus) who, while both being K'Z'K worshippers, have very differing takes on how K'Z'K's conquest of Earth should be brought about. Made more complicated since K'Z'K himself appeared to be dead at the time.
  • Dominic Deegan had the War in Hell arc, which started with the mass destruction of a gigantic cult known as the Chosen. All of the Demon Lords turned against each other and threw their mortal Infernomancers into the fray; while Dominic was loath to do it, he supported Karnak (who, his Infernomancer having been banished, was at a disadvantage) because it was a literal case of "the devil you know". Karnak ended the war by hurling a spear through the massed souls of the Chosen - when a soul is destroyed in the Deeganverse, it explodes, and this set off a chain reaction that killed all the other Demon Lords and tore Hell to shreds. He then pronounced himself King of Hell, as all other candidates were dead.
  • Something more like an enemy cold war exists between Xykon and Redcloak in The Order of the Stick. Though Redcloak is largely incapable of betraying Xykon outright because he feels if he does, the death of his brother will be in vain he doesn't particularly like him either, and will freely use him for his own ends and hide information from him. Recent[when?] events suggest this is now mutual, with Xykon no longer trusting Redcloak to hold up his end of the bargain and (possibly) grooming another minion to take his place. However this winds up playing out, it won't be pretty.
  • 8-Bit Theater is a Villain Protagonist example, with the Light Warriors (Black Mage and Thief especially) constantly plotting against and attempting to betray/maim/kill each other. Unfortunately for the planet, they are fairly united when causing others suffering as well.

Web Original

  • In The Gamers Alliance, the four demon hordes of Yamato want to take over the world and enslave "lesser beings", but their grand plans are hindered because they also fight brutally against one another for power after the Cataclysm. Duchess Vaetris intends to change the status quo, however, by uniting the bickering hordes under one banner in order to amass a large enough, united force which she can use to finally take over the world.
  • LaRezisto in Lonelygirl15, an offshoot of the Order.
    • It gets better. LaRezisto itself.
  • In Sailor Nothing, this is arguably the only reason the good guys won. The entire Yamiko RACE was against itself, too distracted by their own individual dark desires to accomplish anything that didn't immediately and personally benefit them, and the few Yamiko that weren't too blind to realize this wanted to die and/or wipe out their own race.
  • Tech Infantry sees the Earth Federation constantly going through an endless series of rebellions and civil wars. Whether the Earth Federation are the goodguys or the badguys is very much dependent on which character you ask.
  • In There Will Be Brawl, the ongoing territory struggle between Bowser, Ganondorf, King Dedede, and the now-dead Mewtwo serves as the basis for the plot. Divided We Fall are the Mushroom Kingdom and the annexed, mostly corrupt Kingdom of Hyrule.
  • In Protectors of the Plot Continuum, the death of the Yarrow sent the League of Mary Sue Factories into a power struggle between the Forget-Me-Not and the Venomous Tentacula. The latter won.
  • Humanity benefited from this during the invasion of Hell in The Salvation War, for several thousand years of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder at the Deadly Decadent Court meant the various dukes and barons of Hell were more interested in currying favour with Satan and watching their own backs than reacting to humanity's military successes. This cultural trend has not abated significantly now that the invasion has become an occupation, however, which will undoubtedly create problems in the long run. And quite what Michael-lan is up to in Heaven is anybody's guess.
  • What finally brings down the Soviet Union in Red Dawn Plus 20, preceded by a mass assassination of the Soviet Politburo.

Western Animation

  • Happens a couple of times towards the end of the second series of Transformers Generation 1. Firstly, Starscream, Blitzwing, and Astrotrain perform a joint coup against Megatron; however, the two Triple Changers double cross Starscream, trapping him with Megatron. Later, they start fighting each other, after which the Constructicons turn on Blitzwing, resulting in at least four factions fighting among themselves. Then, after Megatron finally exiled Starscream, ol' Screamer returned and successfully wrested control away from Megatron with the help of the Combaticons; he was only defeated when the Stunticons decided it would be worse if Starscream was in charge than Megatron. Then the Combaticons defected from Starscream and conquered Cybertron, forcing Starscream and Shockwave into a Strange Bedfellows situation as they both tried to regain control of the planet while not trusting each other in the slightest.
    • The Insecticons ended up fighting against the rest of the Decepticons almost every single time they appeared.
    • This is a very common element in any Transformers series. Beast Wars and Transformers Animated both have plenty. Notably the latter for a long time had Megatron commanding a grand total of two Decepticons on Earth.
      • The second season finale of Transformers Animated was a giant clusterfuck battle between the respective followers of Megatron, Starscream, and Optimus Prime.
    • Transformers Cybertron had Starscream leading a few Decepticons and non-Decepticons against Megatron. Actually, a lot of these seem to be Starscream's fault.
    • In Transformers Energon the Autobots were only part of a three-way-battle between Megatron's forces, their forces, and Alpha Q's forces until the second and latter formed an alliance.
    • It's even worse in the Generation 1 comics, in which the Decepticons are very prone to factional disputes. This gets continued in Transformers Classics.
  • Justice League Unlimited: In the penultimate episode of the series, the Legion of Doom splinters apart when Gorilla Grodd and his supporters mutiny against Lex Luthor. It ended up being one of the best episodes of the series, and unlike several other episodes with this trope, it is notable for not actually featuring the heroes until the very end when Darkseid returns.
    • In "The Ties That Bind", it's revealed that Apokolips had fallen into one of these since the death of Darkseid in Season 2 (Pre-"Unlimited").
      • Of course, as soon as Darkseid comes back, that civil war grinds to an instant halt.
  • In the Secret Wars arc of Spider-Man: The Animated Series (based on a comic story arc of the same name), the villains which the Beyonder sent to Battle World to represent the team of evil all considered conquering the other villains more important than dealing with the heroes. Even when Dr. Octopus and Red Skull agreed to work together to defeat the heroes and Dr. Doom, the two constantly mentioned plans to backstab the other the moment Doom was out of the picture.
  • Young Justice features one between Kobra and Bane's forces in "Drop Zone".
  • There is one in Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes between HYDRA and AIM. Both are fighting over the cosmic cube. Neither acquire it and the leaders of both, along with their surviving troops, are arrested.
  • In the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, it is established in the third episode that Zuko has a rival in his search for the Avatar; Zhao, a Fire Nation commander who wants the glory of capturing the Avatar for himself. The two try to sabotage each other at multiple points, culminating in Zhao trying to kill Zuko.

Real Life

  • Western intel groups like the CIA figured that this trope would keep Sunni (like al-Qaeda) and Shi'a (like Hezbollah) terrorist groups from ever working together. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
  • Any civil war ever has been seen as this by someone. It's all about your point of view.
  • Both sides in the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD (the one that destroyed the Second Temple). The Romans were fairly united until around 68 or 69 when Nero's death led to the Year of Four Emperors, but they got things settled pretty quickly. The Jews, on the other hand, spent most of the war fighting each other as much as the Romans. The biggest split was between those who wanted to fight to the death and those who wanted to surrender.
  • As America and its NATO allies fought the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War, China tried to replace the Soviet Union as leader of that movement.
  • The IRA, that being the original IRA, the anti-treaty IRA, the Official IRA, the Provisional IRA, the Continuity IRA, the Irish Republican Liberation Army, Irish People's Liberation Organisation, Republican Sinn Féin and the Real IRA; this was the source of the parody in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
    • Any time the British security services went up against the Ulster Defence Volunteers must have counted from the IRA's point of view, though the official line was always that the latter was an illegal organisation.
  • The Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. One of the main reasons why the Fascists won was that Communists and Anarchists were on each others' throats and the Communists fought the Anarchists with equal fervour they fought the Franquistas.
  • Turns out this is how ISIS was formed. Originally founded in 2003 as "Islamic State of Iraq" (ISI) led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, they were also known as "al-Qaida in Iraq" and "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia". But even from the get-go, Zarqawi was just using the al-Qaida brand name to attract sponsors and recruits while he went and did his own thing and not really listening to the main al-Qaida central command. After ISI was nearly wiped out in 2007 & 2008 thanks to George W. Bush's "surge" and the Anbar Awakening, they decided to lay low for a while until the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011. Sensing opportunity, the new leader of ISI, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, began slowly co-opting the revolution by absorbing and/or eliminating other rebel groups (including al-Qaida's official franchise in Syria, the Nusra Front) until his power base was solidified, at which point he outright declared war on his former al-Qaida bosses in early 2014 and then formed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in June 2014. By this time (mid-2015), al-Qaida is but a shadow of its former self and ISIS is now the superstar of international jihad.
  • Stephen G. Fritz describes a situation like this in his history Endkampf about the final Phase of World War 2. When the Americans crossed the Rhine in 1945 the border towns were under the misconception that sacrificing all their young men on the Russian Front was enough of a blood tax to the Third Reich and started to surrender. Naturally the German government needed to disabuse them of that notion to give high party leaders a chance to get to Argentina. As a result SS death squads were sent round to keep them in line. Sometimes this would mean they would execute the mayor of a town, and then when the American emissary came, the SS, free from such decadent notions as The Laws and Customs of War would shoot him, causing the Americans to, of course, flatten the town in wrath. In effect border towns were between Scylla and Charybdis. It was not exactly a civil war for the civilians could not really resist either the SS or the Americans. They were able to be actors in their own interests in a small way by doing such things as waiting until the SS were gone, giving passive resistance, or even occasional low key use of force. What makes this an example is that one group of Germans was detaching its policy from that of another.
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