Trick, ruse, stratagem, maneuver, gambit, ploy, artifice, wile, feint are comparable when they mean an act or an expedient whereby one seeks to gain one’s ends by indirection and ingenuity and often by cunning.
Trick implies cheating or deceiving and often evil intention.
The word may, however, imply nothing more than roguishness or playfulness and be used to designate an antic, a prank, a practical joke, or a harmless hoax. It may also be applied to a dexterous device or contrivance that pleases, persuades, deludes, or evokes surprise or wonder.
Ruse implies an attempt to give a false impression (as by diverting others’ attention from one’s real purposes or by making what is untrue seem true).
Stratagem , though commonly applied to a ruse by which an advantage is gained over an enemy (as by outwitting or surprising him), is not restricted to military operations; in extended use it usually implies a clear objective such as entrapping or circumventing and a more or less elaborate plan for achieving one’s end.
Maneuver usually suggests tactics or handling and moving of troops or ships for the accomplishment of definite ends. In extended use it commonly implies adroit or dexterous manipulation of persons or things.
It may, however, be applied to a single strategic move comparable to one in a game of chess.
Gambit in chess denotes an opening that risks a pawn or minor piece to gain ‘an advantage in position; in extended use it can apply to a device that is intended or serves to launch a conversation.
Perhaps more often the advantage-gaining aspect of the basic meaning of gambit is stressed, and the term is applied to a trick or tactic designed to gain its user a competitive advantage often by harassing or embarrassing an opponent.
Ploy carries a suggestion of finesse and often of roguishness and can come very close to the last-mentioned value of gambit or it can be used of an individual maneuver in the development of a gambit.
However in their common conjoined use gambit and ploy are seldom distinguishable.
Artifice suggests the employment of devices or contrivances; it usually connotes ingenuity, but it need not connote an intent to deceive or overreach.
Wile usually suggests an attempt to entrap or ensnare by allurements or by false and deceptive appearances; it may connote slyness and imposture, but it often suggests coquetry or an attempt to charm.
Feint basically applies to a thrust (as of a rapier or a fist) seemingly directed at one part of an opponent’s body but actually designed to divert his attention and his guards away from the part at which it is really aimed.
In extended use the term commonly implies the employment of a stratagem or maneuver which distracts attention from one’s actual intention until it is accomplished.