I've been playing chess for even longer than that.
There is a similarity that is unmistakable. Both games have phases, strategy, tactics and combinations.
Much like Chess the game of Warmachine (this includes Hordes too) is also comprised of phases.
1. The Opening
2. Middle Game
3. End Game
The opening while often glazed over by the majority of players is, in my opinion, one of the single most important phases of the game. I claim that the opening section of the game consists of
a. turn selection
c. first turn.
When I say turn selection I'm simply referring to the opportunity to play as player one or two. About 1/2 the time you don't get to choose, but when the moment presents itself it's incredibly important to know which choice is best.
As a Cryx player I will chose to always go first as a non shooty faction I see no reason to sit back and see what the other player is going to do before I commit. I'd much rather set the pace. With loads of infantry, generous amounts of stealth and units which regenerate I have ample reason to make the first move.
A Cygnar army with excess amounts of sissy might feel better able to dish out the pain by allowing their opponent to move first and force them to move into firing range.
Also, the first player, again in my opinion, will be playing defense for the middle game as they have more than likely reached the objective and struggle to maintain their grip on it. A glass cannon army like legion might not want to take the hit first and opt to alpha strike the position instead.
So basically I've spent several paragraphs attempting to explain the importance of turn choice and really the only definite answer is "it depends." It depends on your army structure, scenario and list build.
It is, however, important to realize that turn selection does play an important role in the game. While many a person can quote "page 5," and say that the choice to go first is always the best choice. I contend that in some situations playing second is beneficial, and vice versa.
Either way you're bound to play first or last, best to be aware of the difference in tempo and plan ahead for it.
More to come.....