So I figured it out. How to work the basic card system came to me and I realised that I had to pull the guts out of the game before I could work on the skeleton.
Gone are points and values and stats and winning with high cards.
Now, throughout the course of the session you’re trying to build a Straight, a run from Ace to Queen. In each scene/conflict/whatever, whoever can play a card to the Straight first decides the outcome of the scene. Black is negative, Red is positive. There will be variation within each colour due to the suits but let’s worry about that later. There might be some other high-card cardplay to figure out who gets narration rights but it will be ultra simple.
There are no more Attributes, only Traits. Traits are activated and used in the fiction to let you draw cards, swap cards with other players and play cards.
It removes all the complicated concerns about a system that ‘works’ and has many moving parts. It restores narrative simplicity.
In short, I’m now happy with what I have.