That's one thing that this new forum is missing: email notifications. There is an alternate function where you can subscribe to forums (as you noticed) and you're supposed to get a once per day email with all of the past day's posts or something like that, but it has yet to work. I know that the hosting service was troubleshooting it about a month ago but I have never seen anything get mailed out.
For the favorite topic: if you scroll down to the bottom of a thread and look under the "Extra Information" header, on the left you will see "Favorite Topic (toggle)". Click on it to add that thread to your favorite topic. I haven't tried it yet and I will test it with this thread right now. If it works, you're supposed to get an email when a post is added to the thread. You can deselect a topic as being favorite either by toggling it again or in your profile where you will see a list of the topics you're tracking.
"If you don't know what you're doing, do it neatly..."