Iron Woods represents Jotunheim during the Middle Age, when the wicked Gygjas and Vaetti ruled the Jotun woodlands.
Jotunheim is arguably the weakest race of giants, however, that doesn't make them powerless by any stretch. In general, giants have low offensive power due to their large size and small numbers, and they are easily swarmed. Jotunheim's PD is quite weak for this reason. Unlike Niefelheim, the Jotunheim giants do not have a chill aura, so you cannot rely on area effects to do the killing for you.
Jotunheim has good magic diversity, but no natural access to Air, Earth, or Fire. There are some old age issues, but access to nature and blood magic can mitigate this. The strength of this nation is in the power of its commanders rather than its national troops. Vaetti Hags make excellent cheap researchers and Jotun Jarls and Skrattis make very good thugs. In order to secure a strong early game, players need access to multiple forts and need to start their blood economy as soon as possible.
Vaetti Goblin - Good
These units are very good for the price, and can share a square with your giants increasing the offensive power of your front line. In the long run they are just chaff, but they are also stealthy so when magic starts to rule the battlefield you can use them as raiders.
Wolf Rider - Mediocre
These units are a bit too expensive to be useful at 20 gold each. They are stealthy and make good flankers, but they are too fragile to spend lots of money on.
Moose Riders - Bad
When you look at the Moose Rider, its stats are impressive. High HP, two 16 damage melee attacks, 2 short bows, and stealthy. However, their stats do not reflect their usefulness. The melee attacks have a very high miss rate, and Moose Riders cost the equivalent of 4.5 independent archers. These units are just too costly to use as standard ranged troops or as raiders. It's a great idea, but it just doesn't turn out to be all that practical.
Jotun Militia - Bad
They are big and can take a good deal of punishment, but that's about it.
Jotun Javelinist - Good
Giants make good javelineers due to their high strength, and Javelinists have similar stats to other giants but are less expensive in terms of gold and resources.
Jotun Hurler - Mediocre
These units have a niche role in a siege, but they are not very good on the battlefield due to their awful defense value.
Jotun Spearman - Mediocre
They are big and can take a good deal of punishment, but they're not that powerful offensively. They have higher protection and lower defense than Huskarls.
Jotun Axeman - Mediocre
They are big and can take a good deal of punishment, but they're not that powerful offensively. They have higher protection and lower defense than Huskarls.
Jotun Huskarl - Mediocre
You get your choice of axe or spear. The axe does quite a bit more damage but the spear is longer. These guys are not bad, they will hold the line but they aren't that powerful offensively.
Jotun Hirdman - Good
These are your best national troops, which isn't saying a whole lot. They will hold the line, but they aren't that powerful offensively.
Jotun Woodsman - Mediocre
They're very useful for early expansion due to their 9 resource cost, but the lack of a shield really hurts these units. They are not really suitable for a strong bless strategy and since they are capital only you don't want to rely on them beyond the first 10-15 turns.
Chief - Mediocre
Stealthy commander for leading goblins, wolves, and moose into enemy territory. However, Vaetti Hags are also stealthy, so you may go the whole game never recruiting one of these.
Jotun Scout - Good
Jotun Scouts come with javelins, but you'll probably rely on independent scouts since recruiting other commanders in your forts is more important.
Jotun Herse - Good
This sacred unit makes a good thug if you have someone to bless him. However, the Jarl is generally considered more useful because he can bless himself. If you do not have any bless, then the Herse is significantly cheaper to recruit in numbers.
Jotun Jarl - Great
The Jarl has all the makings of a thug right out of the barracks and is a level 1 priest so he can bless himself. Once you research the necessary spells Skratti generally make better thugs, but Jarls can still lead more troops (Leadership 80).
Jotun Gode - Good
Similar to the Jarl, but massively more expensive for an extra level of holy. Jarls are generally better unless gold is not an issue.
Vaetti Hag - Great
These units have 1 random pick of Astral, Blood, Death, or Nature. They are also stealthy, so you can lead small raiding parties with them. One of the interesting things about Vaetti Hags is that you don't need a lab to build them because technically they don't have a magic path until after they are recruited. This allows you to build a fort, recruit a Hag, and then use that Hag to build the lab. However, more important than any of that, Vaetti Hags are very efficient researchers for their cost and you want to build as many as possible for that purpose.
Astral - Site Search with Arcane Probing. Excellent combat support with Body Ethereal, Luck, Star Fires
Blood - Can forge Dousing Rods and blood hunt
Death - Site Search with Dark Knowledge. Command 30 undead, and use Animate Dead or Frighten
Nature - Can cast protection in combat, with a Thistle Mace can site search with Haruspex and make useful equipment such as Rings of Regeneration, Eye Shields, etc.
Jotun Skratti - Great
The Skratti is a very interesting and complicated unit. They are Blood 2, Water 2 and get 1 random pick of Blood, Death, Nature, Water. In general, Skrattis are good offensive mages with Cold Bolt and Frozen Heart, and make decent thugs with Breath of Winter, Quicken Self and the ability to shapeshift into a Jotun Werewolf. This shape changing ability makes them extremely versatile, but can be difficult to use correctly.
Blood Pick - The Blood 3 Skrattis are good for starting up your blood economy due to their 90% chance of finding slaves. Once you forge some dousing rods you can turn the blood hunting over to the Vaetti Hags while you summon Frost Fiends or forge equipment. A blood 3 Skratti with boosters can cast the global enchantment Illwinter without having to empower.
Death Pick - I can't think of anything particularly unique about Skrattis with death magic. Generally the least useful of the 4 possible combinations.
Nature Pick - Nature Skrattis with a water booster can make clams.
Water Pick - The Water 3 Skrattis can cast Wolven Winter to lower the temperature of provinces you intend to invade. They can also cast Falling Frost in combat.
Jotun Werewolves are the "thug" form of the Skratti. They have about 50 hit points, retain all their equipment slots, lose 1 in all their magic paths, regenerate 6 hit points per round, have forest survival, and leadership 40. Water 1 is enough to cast Breath of Winter and Quicken Self and do some decent damage on the battlefield, and the ability to boost leadership from 10 to 40 can be very helpful at times. If you change shape from a Skratti to a Werewolf in combat, you will exit combat as a Jotun Wolf and lose all your equipment except your 2 miscellaneous slots. Make sure if you plan to fight that you shapeshift ahead of time. In werewolf form you want to script Quicken Self->Breath of Winter->Attack Rear.
Jotun Wolves are the "travel" form of the Skratti. They have a mapmove of 3 with forest survival, and stealth. However they have no magic, and have about half the hit points of the werewolf form. Their leadership stays at 40, but they lose all their equipment slots except 2 miscellaneous slots. If you shapeshaft into a wolf in combat, you exit combat the next turn as a werewolf.
Example Skratti setups:
The order in which a Skratti shape shifts is Skratti->Werewolf->Wolf->Skratti, so if you are in werewolf form and you want to get back to Skratti form, you have to shift through wolf form first. This means you will lose all your non-misc equipment. It may take awhile to get used to this, so when you're first using Skratti as thugs your only "safe" slots are the 2 misc slots, so just stick with a Ring of Regeneration and a Pendant of Luck. As you learn to use Skratti, you can begin outfitting them fully. The werewolf form has particularly low protection and defense, so boosting those is a priority. To increase the survivability of your Skratti, team him up with an Astral Vaetti Hag. The Hag can buff the Skratti with Body Ethereal and Luck before he attacks, making him into a very formidable thug. Vaettis can also hold the combat gear while he shifts through wolf form to get back to a Skratti.
Gygja - Good
These units have random picks in Astral, Blood, Death, and Nature. Statistically it is possible to get level 4 magic on a Gygja but it is not likely. You will have to recruit many of them to get the paths you want, and you should forge Boots of Youth for the ones you want to keep around due to the risk of afflictions from old age. Gygjas are versatile battle mages with early spells like Mind Burn, Raise Dead, etc. or they can sit in your capital and increase unrest with spells like Rain of Toads, Baleful Star, etc. In the late game, Gygjas with an astral pick can be very dangerous due to Nether Bolt and Nether Darts. Gygjas have good prospects for boosting their paths through items due to the synergy of the magic; you can make Moonvine Bracelets and Armor of Twisted Thorns in addition to the traditional path boosters. Gygjas are capital only, so as soon as possible you want to dedicate your capital to Gygja production so that you increase your chances of getting the paths you need for the mid and late game.
Illwinter. B5W3 Requires Blood research 6, and only a mere 120 blood slaves, which as Jotunheim, you will have no trouble collecting on nothing more than a whim, even without sanguine dousing rods. Furthermore, it won't be difficult to find a Skadi with W2B3, so if you're not willing to take the blood path on your pretender for it's minimal advantages, it will still be very possible to cast this spell with a Skadi mage.
This is one of the nicer global enchantments you'll see in the game, at least for it's price. Think of it as the less effective counterpart to the Second Sun, but it does something which more than makes up for it's lack of efficiency... It causes Niefle Giants to randomly spawn across the world and attack provinces, and they're even backed up by Winter Wolves. In general, a single one of these giants can take on a province with 10 PD and come out on top, so the main bennefit of this spell (at least in the Iron Woods and Well of Urd ages) is that it will cost your enemies either a lot of gold to pump up their PD, as well as heavy tax losses from unrest, or force them to research dispell far earlier in the game than most would prefer. This has to be the easiest and cheapest Global Enchantment I've found, for the effect it gives. If you manage to come up with some cheap researches to hand off Skull Mentors (which are easily produced by Jotunheim in any age.) to, you might think about rushing to get this spell. Note though, that it is more useful against some nations than others. Caelum for instance, might be able to shrug off the cold effects, and it's mobility will allow it to capture back any provinces it loses to the random attacks without blinking an eye. On the other hand, C'tiss's lizard troops are cold blooded and will have severe difficulties fighting in cold 3 provinces, and all of the nations with a heat scale will take a severe income and supply hit in any province under the effect of the cold of this spell, and their only defense will be a strong Dominion.
As a note for defending against this spell. If you are a cold nation, the effects against you will be far less distinct, so it would probably be best to just consider it not to be your problem. Take a look at what units are in your PD. Unless you have crossbows like Ulm, all of your ranged units will be worthless against the giants, and this includes spear chucking light infantry. If you don't have a swarm of melee only units, preferably with at least CR50, you will need PD20+ to be sure your units won't all route against a single giant. It's honestly cheaper though, to just have a mobile force to just take back any stray provinces that fall, and protect the ones with useful sites only. These attacks aren't common enough to be worth it. If you're a heat loving province though... Figure out who cast this spell, and kill the immediately. It gets worse with time, and the bastard probably cast this spell so early in the game, that you never saw it coming, and were left wondering what sacrifices they made to cast it. (Check the research settings. If it's normal or above, and it was cast relatively early, they cast it with their pretender 100%, and he won't be hard to find, probably never left the capitol. If they don't use their pretender, they need two items to boost their blood path to be able to cast it, which means 50% more blood slaves, and they might need a water robe as well. If they cast it late game though, it could be absolutely any caster in their army, you have to dispell it, or deal with it.)
- Gems z
Dominion - 6+
Jotunheim needs good scales, so high dominion is necessary to spread them. It's somewhat important to spread your cold scale into enemy territory, however the alteration spell Wolven Winter can also do that for you. At least Dominion 6 is recommended.
Order - 3
Jotunheim pretty much requires order 3 because your units are expensive, and you need a lot of extra gold to build fortifications for Vaetti Hags.
Sloth - 3
You can afford to take a hit here for the points. Money is generally in shorter supply than resources even with sloth 3.
Cold - 3
Even though Jotunheim prefers cold 2, you should take cold 3 for the extra points
Growth - 1
Growth scale is a matter of personal preference, although your Gygjas and Hags are susceptible to old age and you are a blood nation so I wouldn't take death. Growth 1 is usually sufficient.
Luck - 0
Jotunheim can benefit greatly from luck. They have excellent heroes (Angerboda is 3S 3D 2N 3B), and Jotunheim has trouble with air, earth, and fire sites so the extra gem income is very helpful. Take as much as you can afford, but don't make it a priority.
Magic - 1
The +1 research from magic 1 comes in very handy for Jotunheim. Your Vaetti Hags are very efficient researchers for the price, and since you will have so many of them, the research bonus is to your advantage.
Things to consider:
Jotunheim has no access to Air, Earth, or Fire magic, so you may want to take a pretender that can fill this gap. At least Earth 2 so you can forge Earth Boots and then Dwarven Hammers.
Jotunheim has a little trouble site searching so you may want an awake rainbow pretender to get an early start. Finding water and earth sites are of particular importance.
Jotunheim's sacred troops are underwhelming, but the sacred commanders make excellent thugs. It may be useful to have multiple weak blesses such as Nature 4, Fire 4, Water 4, or Earth 4. As you learn to rely on Skrattis over Jarls, this will become less important.
Jotunheim needs good scales to be effective, and high dominion to spread them.
Considering all these points, a cheap rainbow pretender such as the Crone is a good choice for learning how to play Jotunheim the first time. Try something like:
Death 1 (Crone starts with this)
For early expansion, you should recruit the Jotun Woodsmen because their low resource cost allows you recruit about 5 per turn. Your starting army plus ~10 Jotun Woodsmen should be able to wipe out most strength 5 independents without taking any losses. You want to quickly build a 2nd army consisting of a Jotun Jarl, about 5 Jotun Woodsmen, some Vaetti Goblins, and 10-20 independent archers (based on what is available). Depending on your bless, this army should be able to take out most of the weak and moderate independent provinces without any losses. As you get farther from your capital you want to ditch the Jotun Woodsmen for Jotun Hirdmen which are available everywhere. However, your national troops are not that impressive, so supplement them with independent archers, summons, or some magical support. As a nation of giants, you have access to giant soulless and longdead. One way to leverage this is to summon a Mound King and make him your prophet. As an undead priest he can reanimate for you relatively early in the game. A Vaetti Hag can lead 30 undead and 10 normal units and makes for a very cheap expansion army.
You should be recruiting Vaetti Hags in your capital until you have at least 1 Death Hag and 1 Astral Hag for site searching. Money permitting, you should then switch to Gygjas because you'll have to recruit a lot of them before getting ones with strong magic in a single path. Get a 2nd fort up as soon as possible so that you can recruit both Gygjas and Hags. As soon as your gold income starts to stabilize, recruit a blood 3 Skratti (or you might already have a blood 3 Gygja) and start blood hunting. Once you have some slaves, forge dousing rods and let your Vaetti Hags take over.
Jotunheim has access to excellent province unrest spells such as Rain of Toads, Baleful Star, etc. They also have decent raiding capability in the form of stealthy wolf riders and goblins. A mix of economic warfare with plentiful thugs should keep you going until you get to the powerful blood summons. You should be able to transition from a gold economy to a blood economy more quickly than most other nations, and from there you have a good chance at victory.
Alteration - Body Ethereal (3), Protection (3), Luck (4), Wolven Winter (4), Frozen Heart (6)
Evocation - Cold Bolt (1), Nether Bolt (4), Falling Frost (5), Ice Strike (7), Nether Darts (7)
Enchantment - Breath of Winter (1), Animate Dead (1), Raise Dead (3)
Thaumaturgy - Frighten (1), Mind Burn (2), Paralyze (4)
Enchantment 1 and Alteration 4 is enough to get your Skratti Thugs up and running
Conjuration 2 and Evocation 2 gets your site searching started
Once your basic needs are met you need to start researching Construction to outfit your Jarls and Skrattis and make Dousing Rods. Once you get construction 6, you may want to switch to blood or evocation depending on what you want to focus on. An example research order could be:
Construction 4 or Conjuration 2
Then focus on Construction, Evocation, or Blood as needed. You can also get Mother Oak at Alteration 5 if it hasn't already been cast.