Thursday 5 December 2019

The "Bug-Out" Bag

Hi folks,

Australia has learned the hard way just how murderous a bushfire can be. In my 38 years on the planet, I have lived through some pretty nasty fire seasons. We have all watched the nightly news report the loss of hundreds of homes, livestock and human lives. About 12 years ago, our fire danger rating signs were modified to reflect this more accurately, by including a new risk category: catastrophic.

A few weeks ago, for the first time since it was introduced, my local sign was dialed up to the new rating. The advice from our local Rural Fire Service, which is only 200 m down the road, was pretty sobering: if a fire starts today we probably won't be able to save you. Being in a fairly exposed location (below), we followed our plan for these conditions by preparing the house as best as we could, and then evacuating early.

Not all heroes wear capes; wifey clears dry leaves out of the guttering

Among many other things we would prefer not to have reduced to ashes, that meant leaving behind 25 years worth of gaming material. As part of our plan we each packed a single "bug-out" bag of things we wanted to save, the night before things got really sketchy. It was an interesting learning experience for the kids, having to think carefully about what is really important in life. It was also interesting to consider which pieces of my collection actually had sentimental value to me. Perhaps unsurprisingly, anything that linked back to my gaming past and good times with friends took precedent.

Let's take a look at my bug-out bag:

I haven't actually; I am rubbish with heights. Wifey used to work there, hence the reason she was on the roof instead of me!


I packed the new box with a couple of maps, record sheets and the cardboard cutouts. It would be more than enough to keep the game alive; you don't need miniatures to play BattleTech. I also packed my old school source books, campaigns and rules. You can get these digitally, but each one of these physical copies has a story. For example, I first saw the book on the far left at a second hand bookstore in Sydney. My mum wouldn't get it for me, even though it was only $10 and I was so upset (though I didn't let it show [much] at the time). A few weeks later we went back and I looked for it again, picking it up with my pocket money. That rulebook kickstarted Joel and I playing BattleTech at school, which, in the grand scheme of things, ended up being a very big deal.

Warhammer 40K

Too many miniatures to save if I was in a rush, I decided to again go for rules instead. Like my BattleTech collection, these all have a story to tell. They would allow me to play 2nd Edition, no problems. Insurance would hopefully buy me something completely new; I don't think I could paint the same stuff again if it was destroyed.


I have included the family favourites, including Kodama, which I played in Beppu with Joel and his Dad a few days after his wedding, and his travel copy of Cathedral, which Penny absolutely loves. Both are treasures.

Magic the Gathering 

I grabbed 5 Revised Edition decks that I have been using to teach Oscar how to play. These cards are the oldest and the crustiest, but also the ones we all used to love laying with at school on the concrete, outside the library, on hot summer mornings. They may be in new boxes, but the dirt on the card edges is 1995 vintage.

I added to this my own personal Revised Edition collection decks, with some Fallen Empires mixed in. The first I call Lonely Mountain, which includes a Shivan Dragon, Dragon Whelps, Goblins and Goblin Grenades. I constructed this deck on the excursion bus one year at school, swapping heaps of my other cards away cheaply to get the red cards I wanted. I slipped in an original rulebook, with my mate Shivan on the front.

To round out the MtG collection, I included my Minotaur deck, which I built after swapping away everything in Year 10 and starting from scratch. Instead of being a power-deck, it focused on a goofy theme, which has shaped my gaming attitude ever since. I also chucked in there my "Justice" deck. It is a green and white (mainly) Shadowmoor deck; think twisted old school fairytale with elves and cute little Kithkin things. It also includes a Hand of Justice card, which used to be one of Joel's favourites. It was stolen by some jerk at school, but I won another copy playing ante and gave it back to him. When he passed away, I took his MtG collection and split it into decks to share with many of his mates. I kept this card for myself, though.

Hand of Justice, top left.


I never thought I would own a single Pokemon card, but I play it with the kids all the time now and we have a really enjoyable collection. With custom sleeves from Kyoto, I was not going to leave these behind,

Lone Wolf

And finally, the one piece of gaming material that I can say started it all, Book 15 of the Lone Wolf saga: The Darke Crusade. The story of this book has already been told here, It was life shaping.

Since putting together the bag, the bushfire crisis has worsened considerably. We have had a few scares, but nothing has come close yet. Some good friends of ours in Braidwood were on the news during a particularly close call; their house and horses were saved by the tremendous efforts of our rural firefighters (and luck). I have a phone app which monitors fires within a certain radius, which looks a bit like this today:

The smoke in the air is also a daily reminder of the unfolding disaster, which to be honest, is of such a scale that it makes my bug-out bag feel like a self-entitled daydream. If a fire comes up the gully it will be the last thing on my mind, the last thing I tuck under my arm as I make a hasty exit (the first thing being either a child or a dog!). Most of us here also have the dark feeling that this will be the new normal. It is hard to think about nice things like gaming possessions when the fireys are out there again, tonight, risking their lives.

The view outside my lab at work.

Charred leaves from a major fire ~ 50 km away, falling in our driveway.

See you across the table,



  1. Wow, that's pretty terrifying. I hope you and everyone else there will be safe and the loss will be as minimised as possible.

    Its an interesting process to have to go through, while I'm sure everyone would wish never to have to, but to look at a lifetime of hobby and passions and pick out what really matters. Like you, I think I'd have to take items with a significant personal story behind them, and I'd probably add in a few limited or no longer available items from my miniatures collection.

    Good luck, and we'll all be hoping you stay safe

    1. Cheers mate, it did make me take stock of what would actually keep me going as a hobbyist/tabletop gamer, in a worst case scenario. For me it all comes down to friendships and reminders of the journey.

  2. Coming from an area where the most I have to worry about is my front garden getting water-logged, I can't imagine how stressful it must be living with the threat of fire constantly hanging over you. That said, if I had a grab bag, it would have my kill team stuff in, with my favorite 40k models in there too. I'd also have my Haynes manuals for ym MG's, the bairns Pokemon card and battleships, the boys favorite game right now.

    1. I grew up in an area that was quite safe, but now that I live on the fringes of the bush and the climate is changing, nowhere seems to be safe. We need some good rain... also, I have just found the time to pack my Kill Team stuff as well :-)

  3. How scary, particularly considering the season is only starting.

    My boss is from a rural area here in California, and he often talks about his various plans for what to do with his property in the event of a five minute, 30 minute, 5 hour warning.

    1. Yeah, I imagine the folks in California would definitely know what this feels like. We are similar; in a real emergency I know which bag is the most important. Otherwise, I am literally just picking up the dog and running out the door.

  4. Shit Marc, I hope you and your family remain safe (and your property!) Sending you some of these rainy storms!

    1. Cheers mate :-) We had some quick storms roll through last week that started more fires than they extinguished!

  5. It must be hard making choices like this, but it makes sense to safe those kind of things that can't be easily replaced. Stay safe mate, I hope you won't have to actually use the bag.

    1. Cheers, me too. Sometimes we feel silly having the bags ready to go, then an alert pops up on the phone and everyone is on edge again.

  6. Marc thank. You for last Friday and wish your property would survive and next I maybe going to live at Gregory hills and same for your wife you and penny and Oscar

  7. Man that is just totally incomprehensible! I hope you won't have to go there again.