W is a research collective that studies action in a performance setting. What does it mean to act as others watch? What characterizes the relation we call theater?

To answer these questions, W simultaneously develops three complementary approaches: a practice, which builds tools and techniques for the actor; a critical method, which suggests reception guidelines for the spectator; and a theory, which works towards defining notions useful to the first two approaches.

In particular, W produces games, a score writing software, a lexicon of operational notions, workshops and practical sessions, critical seminars, as well as articles and conferences.

The W-games are devices that formalize some aspects of the activities of the performer, the playwright, or the audience member. They take on the form of ready-to-play performances.

They are sometimes played in front of an audience. Though some require prior training, everyone is welcome to join in most of them : one needs only to know the rules.

Here W presents 4 games: the Bloc Game, the Tomb Game, Générique and the Rule Game.

To go further than the rules of the games, you can read the following articles : Bloc Tactics, A Game of Tomb and A Round of The Rule Game.


  1. The Tomb Game takes the form of an informal conversation around a table. The number of players ranges from two to eight.

  2. At the start of a round, each player is given seven white chips and three black ones. A game consists of several rounds. A round is over when a player has no more chips.

  3. A croupier at the end of the table manages the game, distributes chips, and checks the pot. At the start of each round, the croupier is also tasked with choosing a word (referred to as “the speckle”) and sharing it with players: “Ladies and gentlemen, the speckle for this round will be the word X.”

  4. A round starts when the croupier announces: “Please drop the speckle.” An ordinary conversation then begins among the players, who speak up in turn, without any set order but making sure to speak distinctively one after the other. This introductory phase must contain at least two utterances.

  5. Once the speckle is said aloud ("dropped") by a player during the conversation, each new utterance must strive to have no relation to any that have preceded it since the beginning of the round.

  6. In addition, from this moment on, and starting with the utterance that contains the speckle, each player must place a white chip at the center of the table (“the pot”) whenever they speak.

  7. If player A is able to establish a connection between an utterance that has just been made by player B and an earlier reply from the current round, they deposit a black chip on the table and shout “Tomb!”

  8. If the connection between them is clear, player B immediately takes the pot. If it is not, the croupier can ask player A to “open the Tomb,” that is, to explicit the perceived connection between the two utterances. The croupier then evaluates this clarification. If they judge it to be valid, player B takes the pot; if not, that is, if the croupier deems the connection to not be clear or direct enough, then player A takes the pot. In both cases, the round is over (back to Rule 4).

  9. The croupier’s decisions are sovereign and cannot be contested.

  10. Any utterance that can be interpreted as a possible or normal response to the one that precedes it exposes itself to a possible Tomb being called. All the more so if it is a curt or generic response like “yes,” “okay,” “me too,” “right,” etc.

  11. However, if a player does not hear the last utterance spoken, they can ask “Sorry?” in order to hear it again, in which case they do not run the risk of any Tomb being called.

  12. The general form of a conversation must be preserved in spite of its nonsensicality. On the one hand, this permits all the articulations used in oral discourse; on the other hand, it demands a special attention to the way speech circulates within the group, to shifts in address, to signs of agreement or disagreement, of questions and answers, etc.

  13. In particular, if during a conversation a player makes an offensive play—that is, if they address a reply to another player—, this player (unless they are saved by another player’s intervention) must defend themselves by answering or replying within the flow of conversation. If the defending player finds no quick retort and remains quiet for too long, the croupier declares “the mute takes the pot,” which condemns said player to pick up all of the chips in the pot. The round is then over.

Like all interesting games, the real stake is not to win or lose, but to make beautiful rounds: here, it lies here in the players' ability to perform the external signs of a normal conversation (ways of addressing, answering, speaking again, etc.) while their speech is perfectly disjointed.

By forcing systematic breaks in content under the guise of continuity, the Tomb Game resembles an exercise in mental disjunction. More than a simple poetics of the absurd, disjunction is a tool that can be mobilized in many situations of improvisation and/or composition.

  1. Inversely, if a player replies impertinently, without taking into account the movement of the conversation—for example by interrupting or answering for another player—, the croupier can call a penalty. They then declare: “The deaf player takes N chips,” with the number N evaluated in proportion to the impertinence in question. The round then picks up again where it left off.

  2. A player who has no black chips left cannot shout “Tomb!”

  3. A player who has no white chips left is called a “joker”: they can speak normally and reply in any manner. A joker’s words are “offside,” which means that they are never subject to having a Tomb called on them. They essentially serve to disrupt and trap the other players. Indeed, if a player rashly cries out “Tomb!” after a joker’s reply, the croupier declares that “The joker has spoken,” the reckless player takes the pot, and the round is over.

  4. When a player puts their last chip in the pot, the croupier shouts “Torch!” and declares said player winner of the round.

Read the article Game of Tomb