I know little about live steam, but
ive read the marc horovitz book, a passion for steam, which is a start. it helped me from feeling helpless regarding live steam mechanics. tweaking, well that another skill set entirely.
$4k , without joy would be enough to break most guys spirits.
I own the lgb aster frank s, manual and its a breeze once you read the article on firing it posted at southern steam (the US aster site)-the trick is to angle the tender front up a touch to avoid liquid butane from entering the fuel line until its fired.
I own a roundhouse R/C sandy river. its foolproof and a lot of fun. easy to light, easy to run.
if you buy any roundhouse, you will be delighted. they are designed to run easily and well. no conditions.
pricey, yes, but like certain autos, you get what you pay for in long term and in operational joy.
both will run, no issues on R1, but prefer wider radii.
I suggest, respectfully, that you chose a couple of first time steamers that are ...fussy to say the least.
I will say, if you try either the frank s or any roundhouse loco, your live steam life will go from unreliable and annoying, to simple and joyful.
I don't know what to say, other than, sell the things that make you unhappy, and, try again, if you like live steam.
I have not taken the plunge on the upper end asters, due mostly to my running limitations on my rather small outside layout. I am thinking of the Japanese logging Baldwin, however, despite it being a different scale.
I like the ceremony and other aspects of live steam. Larger radii, and, zero grades are a big plus, imho.
otoh, electric is so much more convenient and spontaneous. but its apples and oranges.
best of luck