I've used many. I started with MS Virtual Server 2005 because it could create shared storage, which I needed to experiment with MS Clustering. Our corp IT infrastructure is VMware ESX/vSphere/vCloud, and now I use VMware Desktop for my local stuff. But on my office machine money isn't a concern, I have the "Ultimate" MSDN license.
At home, where money does matter, I use VirtualBox. I find it very easy to use, great UI, and has all of the features one needs. It has a virtual network - but I haven't used it yet. I use virtual networking in VMware to simulate different LAN configs, mostly to play around...I'm a software Dev...not IT.
My recommendation... Start with VirtualBox and learn the concepts. It is easy to setup, has all of the features you probably need, and has reasonable documentation. It also seems to be compatible with both the outside equipment/OS, and hosts everything inside that I've ever tried (including Win8). I think you'll spend less time farting around with silly stuff and be able to have success quickly.
Then if you want to try a bare metal config, I suggest looking at VMware ESX...it is free for a single machine, and its the real deal. It is well documented, both by VMware and the fanboy clubs ;-). It is complex, so there is a lot of doc to read and get started. And as others have pointed out, it has hardware requirements.
You can be reading up while enjoying VirtualBox.
Also, I suggest learning about iSCSI. There may be times that you need shared storage. I keep a vm running Windows 2008 as my storage machine. It is simple. Remember, I'm just experimenting with different things, so quick and easy is what I'm looking for. In real life we have a NetApp.