although we're working on a Blood Bowl clone, the same technology could - in theory - be used for a large number of games, with different board sizes. To date, we've settled on a 4-square module and will make our board game(s) up from this/these.
These photos are from our 4x2 boards (earlier design) but the principles work the same for both.
On the sides of each playing square (N,S,E and W) we drilled a 1mm hole and soldered some pcb studs
The studs are slightly raised on the playing surface of the game board. This isn't as nasty as it sounds - for our Blood Bowl game, it means we can add some "flocking" or similar covering but still get the playing pieces to make a good contact with the pins.
stupid cheap HP camera - even in "macro mode" it doesn't quite know what to focus on!
The plan is to weight our playing piece bases with a small copper disk (something like a 2 pence piece would be ideal, only we don't want to get thrown in prison for "defacing a coin of the realm" or whatever the punishment is these days!). Placing these on the playing side of the board bridges the two connections between the "rows" output pin on the master controller and the "columns" input pin on the slave - so when the slave is asked "which inputs are high/low" this can be used to work out which squares have playing pieces on them.
once again, a nice focussing job by our little HP camera
The tracking of which playing piece is on which square will be done by the master IC. For these early prototypes, we're more concerned about proving the concept of tracking which piece is being lifted/replaced to/from the board.