Here's a quick update on our slave board for the Blood Bowl electronic board
The top board is underside of the slave board, which is basically a 40-pin 16F877A (any 40-pin PIC with hardware UART/USART would do, even the 18F4550 - but you'd be spending a lot more than necessary on your slave chip and not using most of the peripherals that you'd paid for! We just used one of the many 16F chips we had knocking around, not necessarily the cheapest/best fit for the job. One of the cheaper 16Fs from Farnell is the 16F1939 available for about £2.80 per unit)
The bottom board shows an arrangement of four 1x4 board modules (ok, it's actually 2 of our earlier 2x4 boards but the wiring is exactly the same!) We've wired them so that the two boards vertically share the same "row" signal wire. So both the boards on the left will come "live" at the same time, when row1 is sent high by the master board. Then the boards on the right will both come on at the same time. The two orange wires are the "row" signal wires and will connect to the master controller. The grey wires (to the left) will connect to the inputs on the slave controller.
Although not immediately obvious from the nasty photo (iPad cameras are about as good as cheap HP ones in low light) the slave board is simply a PIC microcontroller, a crystal, 4 wires (1 power, 1 ground, 1 serial TX, 1 serial trigger/handshaking line on the RX pin) and all the remaining digital i/o pins pulled to ground through some 100K SMT resistors.