Not familiar with the exact month, but I believe Matrix Games (the forums here), dates from 1999.
I missed the beginning by mere months.
I should also mention, some likely will recall, but the 'www' barely predates 2000. Thus a forum any forum, would be challenged to exist in any useful easy fashion much prior to 2000.
I'm guessing the game we know as Steel Panthers World at War would also have trouble originating earlier than 1997, as the release the code is built on was Steel Panthers III Brigade Combat. And that hails from 1997. Allowing for time for the individuals who crafted SPWaW to make it happen, showing up with it before 1999 likely would be a challenge.
It was sure a bear to find methods to get new versions of it in the early days.
All I really want, is my board games, on my computer.
I don't want real time (you can't cram 6 years of war in a few hours and call it 'real').
I don't need 3d, I prefer nato symbols or ASL like graphics.
I expect hexes and turns.