I think I understand you neucromaner.
After fully deleting and reinstalling the game in steam, it actually shouldn't try to patch through steam again. When installing a game through steam, it should automatically patch to the newest version when downloading.
Something is definitely getting left behind though that is keeping your game from running. I have a hunch that the NCF files are the culprit, but I still need to reproduce the problem here before we can get a definitive test.