I have found that games involving patterns seem to be very decompressing for me.
Mind you, when I say patterns, I mean patterns being used blatantly. You can argue that every game is about patterns, just as you can argue that every game has some level of abstraction.
I have read that games revolving around pattern recognition (which is another catch all term) are used for medical therapy. Go, in particular, I remember being used to help ease issues with dementia. Or I’m misremembering and putting Go on a pedestal. It’s easy for me to do that.
With that in mind, I’ve noticed that I’ve been reaching for Noch Mal/Encore when I need to decompress. It’s short enough to serve as a mental coffee break but has a lot of pattern recognition to keep me engaged.
And when I am using MN/E as a mental coffee break, I always fall back on the starter sheet. I go through patterns I already know. It’s half decision-making and half zoning out.
On the other hand, when I actually want to use MN/E as a game, I go with one of the other six sheets. I wish that there was more color contrast (I’ve memorized the color locations on the starter sheet) but having a variety of sheets keeps MN/E engaging. It lets it me a way to zone out or really think, depending on what sheet I pick.
(I play it electronically. Otherwise, I’d mark the sheets as a workaround for my color blindness)
I have liked MN/E since I first tried it and I can’t even remember how I first heard about or who recommended it to me. But, as time has gone on, it has become on constant rotation more and more.
I play a lot of mental coffee break games for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is they are some of the easiest to make as print and plays. But there are a lot of flash in the pans. Finding one that consistently delivers over months and years of play, though, that is good.