SOUTH SIOUX CITY | Austyn Self carefully considered strategy while surveying his cards during a tournament of Magic: The Gathering.

"There are millions of different things you can do," he'd explained.

Hunched over a table in the far corner of the Marina Inn Conference Center, Austyn, 14, and a cluster of Sioux City boys had organized a tournament of the fantasy-based card game. They were among more than 300 people who attended the Midwest Area Gaming Enthusiasts annual fall conference here.

Proceeds benefit June E. Nylen Cancer Center in Sioux City. A charity auction raised $1,700 Saturday, putting the group at its goal of $30,000 in donations through 30 conventions.

The free event continues Monday. Everyone is welcome, whether they like historical role-playing games or just want to play Monopoly, said Sioux City chapter president Jason Rosauer.

"If they want to pick a game from the board game library, or if they want to bring their own (game), there'll be plenty of open tables for them," he said.

The convention offers 120 events and games. Hundreds of board games are available for play.

Former South Sioux City teacher Mike Redelfs is a fan of history games. Some of the war games are based on actual periods of history, and winning requires a vast knowledge of vehicles, dress, conditions and other details about the fighting and those who fought.

"Once you get into a period of history, you burrow down on that like no one else," Redelfs said.

Robert Risdal, 42, of Sioux City, has been gaming since childhood. He attended the convention with his son, Noah Risdal, who played Magic: The Gathering with Austyn and the other boys.

Though they were having fun, they were also learning life skills, Robert Risdal said.

He said they're learning to research, follow the rules, play fair and lose gracefully.

"A lot of times it teaches them to evaluate themselves," Risdal said. "Why did they lose a particular game? What could they do better to win it next time?"

For Austyn, the conventions are a chance to get together with friends and try to best his opponents. Knowing which card to use in Magic: The Gathering is tricky: Everyone brings his or her own deck of cards, and each deck is different.

"Usually no one's the same with their strategies," he said.

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