Unfortunately, I can't make it screw up on purpose. When it happens, it happens.
In this situation, I set up the content for the widest layout (sans buttons), then I duped the layout for the two narrower breakpoints. I then created the desired number of dupes of the scene. I then went to scene one, layout one, created a button with an active design and duped it for the desired number of scenes and edited the button labels. Then I duped them at an offset, selected all, and adjusted them for the inactive button style. Then I added the navigation actions to the active buttons. I repeated this for the other layouts. (Why not symbols? Each set varies by page.) Then I grouped the buttons for each layout.
Then I went through all scenes except the first and deleted all the buttons. Returning to scene one, I copied and pasted the button groups into the corresponding layouts of the other scenes. Then I deleted the unwanted button instances for each scene and layout, then selected and aligned the buttons. Done.
I saved often and before quitting I tested the project with a browser and everything worked. I did one final save, then quit.
The next time I opened the project, I started adding the desired content for the individual scenes, making sure that they stayed behind the button groups, and saving as I went. After doing this for a couple of scenes I tested it in the browser. Only the first two buttons of each scene and layout were functioning. I went back and checked the button actions. Except for the first two buttons, all of the actions had been replaced with "none".
Every button was working before. Why did the buttons lose their actions? There were only three possibilities: voodoo, a new moon, or aliens. I then went through the "none" buttons and assigned the actions all over again; saving as I went. Then I tested it, but same as before, only the first two buttons retained their actions. In every instance where I assigned the actions again, the actions were once again replaced with "none". (Definitely a voodoo curse here.)
In the end, I duped all of the "none" buttons at an offset, deleted the originals, assigned the actions again, then aligned the buttons. This time, everything worked and stayed working.
Note that I did not have any issues with getting the visual styles of the active & inactive buttons to stick. The only thing that is not working is that when I set up the line spacing for the button text to center the text vertically, the line spacing kept reverting. This may be an issue with the x-height of the buttons. I don't know.