One of the trickiest parts of teaching Koi Pond is the whole idea that you're trying to keep your koi in your pond and koi in your house "balanced" with each other. So I thought I'd give a simpler card game a try, using a similar "balancing" mechanic but with a more literal metaphor.
Each player has an imaginary set of scales in front of them. Each player is trying to accumulate the most cards, while keeping their scales balanced. You can play with a standard set of playing cards, plus the two jokers.
Shuffle the deck and deal a hand of five cards to each player. Each player takes turns.
On your turn
Play a card from your hand onto one of any player's scales. Each player's scale is color-coded, with red cards on their left and black cards on their right. So, you may only play red cards on the red scale or black cards on the black scale.
- Aces are ranked 1. Jokers, Jacks, Queens, Kings are ranked 0.
- When playing cards ranked A-10, there is no further effect.
- When playing a Jack, you may discard the lowest card from that scale.
- When playing a Queen, you may discard the highest card from that scale.
- When playing a King, you may move one card from that scale to another.
- When playing a Joker, you may ignore color restrictions for that scale from then on.
When the deck runs out, the game ends. Discard any remaining cards in hand.
Total the sums of ranks on each of your scales and determine the difference between the two. That difference is your penalty.
Your score is 1 point per card in your entire collection, minus your penalty.
The player with most points wins!
There are so e serious bugs in these rules as written, but there is a seed of something useful here. See the comments below for some revised, streamlined victory conditions. I'm also considering a retheme featuring Vikings on either side of a rowboat. Lowest ranked Vikings are scrawny dudes while the highest ranked Vikings are big burly men. The left and right piles represent either side of the boat.