I (for the most part) figured out a decent workaround for the second question through the z order panel. As for the first question:
I have a "button" family setup with my "btn1" object in it. I also have a family instance variable named "button". I clicked both instances of my object and set the first one's variable value to "play" and the second to "quit". I went into the event editor and tried setting up the following:
Mouse-On left button click on [family] "button"
[family] "button" value = play
Condition 1 Action
Go to "game" layout
[family] "button" value = quit
Condition 2 Action
As soon as I click DONE in the "Parameters for buttons: Compare instance value" dialog box I get an error that reads:
"Unknown Expression 'play' (or 'quit')
This is not a system expression or variable name in this scope"
What am I doing wrong? I can't seem to figure it out. The instances clearly have the text values of "play" and "quit".
Thanks in advance.