Highlights of SDHistCon Online 2023: Spring Deployment

On March 18, more than 200 historical gamers from all over the world took to Discord, Vassal, Tabletop Simulator, and other digital platforms for the latest SDHist online convention, SDHistCon Online 2023: Spring Deployment. The one-day convention saw 71 events held over 19 hours between midnight Pacific and 7 p.m. Pacific, with people involved from at least nine time zones. The con kicked off with coffee in Europe with Riccardo Masini and ran through everything from game demonstrations (many by designers, with more than 100 designers involved) to panels to interviews and more. The event closed with a wrap-up show with Ardwulf (Gary Mengle), which featured a full rollout of details on the first-ever SD HistCon East, hosted by the U.S. Naval War College Museum in Providence, RI this August. Here are a few of the many highlights from SDHistCon Online 2023: Spring Deployment.

Interviews, panels, and presentations: 

Spring Deployment featured many notable interviews and panels with several designers and publisher representatives. In one of the convention’s first events, Harold Buchanan (SD HistCon founder, designer of Flashpoint: South China Sea, Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection, and Campaigns of 1777) interviewed James Buckley of PHALANX Games about their upcoming titles, including Tunnel Rats:

Another notable interview saw Grant Linneberg of Pushing Cardboard interviewing Brian Train (A Distant Plain, Colonial Twilight, the District Commander series, Brief Border Wars) about designing games involving modern urban combat:

Akar Bharadvaj interviewed designers from the initial Zenobia Awards on updates on their progress, including publication plans for some titles:

Dr. Liz Davidson of the Beyond Solitaire podcast (and the co-designer of the upcoming Night Witches) interviewed figures involved in the Undaunted series: David Thompson, Trevor Benjamin, Duncan Molloy, Roland MacDonald, Emily Neat, David Digby, and Rhys Ap Gwyn.

And Harold Buchanan and John Kranz (ConSimWorld) interviewed a roundtable of designers from Compass Games, including Jonathan Southard (Carrier Battle: Philippine Sea, The Conquistadors: The Spanish Conquest of the Americas 1518-1548), Mike Willner (Prelude to Revolution: Russia’s Descent into Anarchy 1905-1917), Gilbert Collins (War for America: The American Revolution, 1775-1782, The Kaiser’s High Seas Fleet: The Great War at Sea 1914-18), Bruce Maxwell (Air & Armor: Operational Armored Warfare in Europe, NATO: The Cold War Goes Hot), and John Butterfield (WWII Commander: Volume Two – Market-Garden, Enemy Action: Kharkov).

On the panel front, several groups of designers, developers, publisher representatives, content creators and more got together for in-depth discussions on specific topics. One notable one there was Queerness in Tabletop Gaming, featuring Amabel Holland (The Vote, Irish Gauge, Nicaea, Endurance) and Taylor Shuss (Stonewall Uprising):

Other notable panels included How To Design A Board Game, featuring Joe Schmidt (Henry, The Landing: Gallipoli 1915), Alex Knight (Land and Freedom: The Spanish Revolution and Civil War), and Sebastian Bae (Littoral Commander), How To Develop A Board Game, featuring Schmidt, Kai Jensen (GMT Games), Drew Wehrle (Wehrlegig Games), and Roger Miller (Revolution Games), and Historical Gaming for Beginners, featuring Marty Connell (from the Rolling Dice and Taking Names podcast), Candice Harris (from the Cardboard Creations podcast and BoardGameGeek News), David Thompson (the Undaunted series, the Valiant Defense series, and more), and Sam from the Lord of the Board podcast.

There were also several presentations that went beyond individual games. Those included Mark Herman (Empire of the Sun, Pacific War, Burma: The Forgotten War, 1943-44) discussing Pacific wargame design, and Riccardo Masini discussing the Levy and Campaign system and Inferno in particular from a historical studies point of view:

Beyond that, further Spring Deployment presentations included Dr. Liz Davidson discussing representation of “barbarians” in historical games and beyond, Volko Ruhnke (COIN series, Levy and Campaign series, Hunt For Blackbeard) demonstrating how to use free online site Rally The Troops, Patrick Pence (from the Patrick’s Tactics and Tutorials YouTube channel) teaching how to play the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series, Florent Coupeau previewing upcoming titles from NUTS! Publishing, and Steve Jones of Blue Panther discussing that company’s print-on-demand model.

Game demos and presentations

Overall, 51 of the 71 Spring Deployment events were demonstrations, presentations, or full plays focused on individual games, with most of those run by the game designers themselves. Games demonstrated covered a wide timeframe, with some of the earlier ones including the third and second-century B.C. court of Antiochus III (At The Court of the Great King, designed and demoed by Ryszard Tokarczuk), the Maccabean Revolt of 176 BC (Judean Hammer, designed by Robin David, demoed here by Tim Densham), and Viking life from the sixth to ninth century CE (Vendel to Viking, designed and demoed by Jon Manker).

Some of the later time periods and subjects covered included 19th and 20th century social history (Votes for Women, designed and demoed by Tory Brown, Rising Waters, designed and demoed by Dr. Scout Blum, and Chicago ‘68, designed and demoed by Yoni Goldstein), USA/USSR competition in Africa in the 1970s (Twilight Struggle: Red Sea–Conflict in the Horn of Africa, designed by Jason Matthews, demoed here by Matthews and Candice Harris), recent/ongoing conflicts (A Fading Star: Insurgency and Piracy in Somalia, designed and demoed by Yann de Villeneuve, We Are Coming, Nineveh!, designed by Harrison Brewer, Rex Brynen, Juliette Le Ménahèze, and Brian Train, and demoed by Brynen, and Littoral Commander, designed and demoed by Sebastian Bae), and futuristic spaceship voyages (Away Team: The Voyages of the Pandora, designed and demoed by John Butterfield). There also were a wide variety of games shown within the medieval, American Civil War, early 20th century, and World War II periods.

Coffees and wrap-up shows

A highlight of any SD HistCon event, in-person or virtual, is the long-standing Coffee With Harold discussions, with SD HistCon founder Harold Buchanan talking with various designers and other guests. With the European time-friendly start to Spring Deployment, Riccardo Masini generously volunteered to host a European time coffee session to help get the con started. The regular Coffee with Harold was then held in the morning on Pacific Time. And the show closed with Gary Mengle of Ardwulf’s Lair hosting a wrap-up show, featuring discussion of the upcoming SD HistCon East (Aug. 18-20, hosted by the Naval War College Museum in Providence, RI) and special guests including Naval War College Museum Curator Rob Doane and Battles of the American Revolution series designer Mark Miklos.

Our thanks go out to everyone who attended SD HistCon 2023 Online: Spring Deployment, and all those who put in their time to make it the best possible convention! Stay tuned to Conflicts of Interest Online for more details on future SD HistCon conventions and other initiatives.