Skills is fine, as a new player you can reroll stuff and swap things round and PD will be very understanding. Try things out. Note however that in Empire, you can only inflict 1 point of damage per blow, and 1 point of damage per second per opponent. So with ambidex, you can strike two foes at once, or fight with one defensive and one offensive weapon simultaneously, but you can’t hit a single opponent twice as often.
Armour rules can be a little tricky in terms of coverage and type, final judgement is made by a referee looking at it, but feel free to run things past us here. “Does this constitute a full suit of X?” is a common question.
Now, re groups:
You can join the Facebook group for Wintermark and get recruited (pretty easy), and then spend a while seeing if they seem like nice folks. Ditto for these forums, if you announce you’re looking for one, you’ll get offers.
Empire players are (I believe) pretty laid back, so if you join a group and then find it a bad fit, they’ll send you off amicably. I have taken a good look at the groups that I’ve joined down the years, before joining any.
You can wait till your first event: There are new groups forming regularly, there are new players rocking up by the dozen, and if you turn up well before the game starts (camping opens Thursday, game starts Friday evening), you can certainly wander round, socialise, chat, discuss, and maybe join or not.
I have only played in Dawn, which has a very strong group structure. Wintermark is (I think) a litle looser, and given the chaos in Semersuaq, you could easily be a wandering hunter (heck, leader of a group of hunters given your military unit), resting with a specific Hall at Anvil, but only loosely aligned with them. Allowing for your character to be camping with a group, but not necessarily a member. Yet.
Heck, you could take a leaf from the book of the Dawnish Knight Errant, visit all the Halls and see which one is most suitable for you and your weary hunters to join… and do so entirely in up-time, which would certainly be a way for you to meet all of your nation… (Warning: Wintermark is LARGE. A social visit to every group may well take your whole event. And there’s a LOT more to see out there. )