I figured it out - user malfunction on my part, I wasn't cloning nodebb into the correct "node" user home folder properly! Stooopid I know...
Extra to note - I also ran into failed setup when using nodejs 12 and nodeBB 1.12 (think hey lets go with the latest of everything!) and this was after correcting my user folder error, so decided to revert to a nodejs 11 and nodebb 1.11 stack.
The forum has successfully rebuilt and restarted, no errors and the plugin is doing it's thing!
@psychobunny The custom-page works with 1.4.2 now. Is it possible that you can patch the custom homepage plugin also?
Link to issue --> https://github.com/NodeBB/nodebb-plugin-custom-homepage/issues/24
Icehunter created this issue in NodeBB/nodebb-plugin-custom-homepage
Even with no sidebar content on latest nodebb; I get col-md-9