Atmospheric lighting for Sub Terra

This is a quick top tip for playing Sub Terra, a game I backed on Kickstarter. I backed at the Collectors Edition level which means that I received a little UV torch in the box, among other things, such as the 3 expansions, an art book and developer diary. A lot of the art on the game pieces is UV reactive (the logo on the big box glows in the dark too which is cool). I find, however that the torch tends to be too direct and blow out the UV reactive effect. I’m also concerned that it will be difficult or expensive to replace the battery when it runs out so don’t really want to use it that much. A quick note, all products mentioned in this post can be found in links at the bottom of the page.

It’s actually possible to get LED strips that emit UV-A light relatively cheaply, around £8 if you already have a 12V power supply, £18 for the strip and power supply . These usually come in 5 metre strips, around 300 LEDs and use about 24 watts. What’s cool about them is they have a sticky tape on the back and come on a flexible PCB so can be shaped around the room to maximise the UV effect. Some, like the set I got can be chained together though I suspect you may need a power supply that can provide more than 2 amps for more than one strip.

A look at the UV LED strip.

Tape backing

How I ended up using them was to run them up the wall, over part of the door frame and then draped them over the struts of the chandelier that hangs over over the dining table, this gave a really nice ambient light around the room with a nice strong light over the game pieces. The way they’re draped gives a nice organic look, a bit like some ethereal, glowing tentacled horror, perfect for the theme of the game. The strand running across the room in the photo below isn’t hanging as low as it seems, the photo was taken from a high angle to get the Sub Terra box in the same shot. I’ve since tacked the strip to the ceiling so it’s even less in the way.

The lights draped over the chandelier

The set-up is also pretty portable. I was able to take the entire strip to my friend’s flat and we managed to illuminate the room by draping them over his lamp shade and some shelf units around the room, a completely non-damaging solution. This worked pretty well even when the lights FELL DOWN in a real life jump scare during an actually tense moment in the game, bah gawd my heart!

A finished game illuminated by just the UV LEDs

Closer to the brightness in the room

The above photo(s) show the game we played at my friend’s flat. The room is lit entirely by the UV LEDs but even the lower picture doesn’t really come close to how bright it seems in real life. This was probably realistically only about 1/3 of the LEDs providing useful illumination. To the right of the image you can see two little green blobs which are the official glowing die (the brighter one) and my custom designed horror tokens, activated entirely by the LEDs.

Alternatively if you don’t have many draping points in your games room you could get some cheap light stands. There are some pretty cheap ones on Amazon for about £20. You could then drape the lights around these, over the table, maybe using a small patch of the 3M backing tape to secure them to avoid slippage.

Of course this lighting setup might not work for everyone. You really need to own your own property to make the most of the set-up permanently as it’s best when the strips are pinned to the wall/ceiling. Or if you’re using the light stands you need a decent amount of space around your gaming table so as not to crowd the players. If you like the idea of UV atmospheric lighting but don’t want the hassle of the strip, there is one final simple option. You can actually get some UV bulbs that fit into standard light fittings though I’ve not personally tried any. If they provide anywhere near the same level of light you could just replace the standard bulb in your games room for the evening and play all your scariest games.

A More Advanced Solution

If you have electronics skills how about controlling your new UV LEDs with an Arduino. While the LEDs aren’t individually addressable like some other strips they can be split up every 3rd LED. You could use a set of relays or transistors to control the 12V power supply to several smaller strips, making them flicker at random to increase the atmosphere. If you add some RGB LED strips and a couple of buttons you could code them to respond to certain in-game events. Say you encounter a horror and lose consciousness, hit the button and the room temporarily lights up bright red or white. If you reach the “Out of Time” state in the game you could dim the UV LEDs over time and have some red LEDs fade up at the same time. Finally if you’re looking to make this a more permanent solution you could have a button that turns the RGB or maybe some white LED strips on full, disabling the UV LEDs and have these be your house lights for regular gaming sessions. If you like this idea and want another post on how to set this up, let me know in the comments.

Useful Links

The below Amazon affiliate links are actual recommendations.

Recommended Products

UV LEDs – This is the actual LED strip I ordered.

Some games that should go well with atmospheric lighting

Welcome to the Dungeon – a game of monster-chicken

Zombie Dice – a dice game about risking it all to become the most well fed zombie out there

Cthulhu Dice – A dice game by the same people who brought you Zombie Dice featuring your favourite madness bringing eldritch horror. I’ve not played the physical version of this game but there is a digital one you can try out that I quite enjoyed.

There are others such as Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror which seem like they’d be a good fit however I’ve not played them so can’t really recommend them at the moment.

Convenient Links

The below affiliate links are provided for convenience but as I haven’t used them they are not recommendations.

Large Cable Clips – These look similar to the ones I used but again, only really usable if you own your property.

Some Light Stands – While I haven’t used exactly these stands I have used ones very similar and ordered other things from the same manufacturer so I’m sure they’ll hold up fine.

A UV bulb for bayonet sockets

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