|County of Dublin|
|Sep 15 1066|
General Advice for Counts
First, check your council and see how good your chancellor is. The stats of your courtiers is randomized at the beginning of every game. Your early expansion depends heavily on fabricating claims, which will proceed far quicker with a good chancellor than a poor one. If you don't like waiting and twiddling your fingers, restart the game as much as necessary until you get a decent one (I recommend 16+). This goes for any game where you begin as a count.
Alternatively, you could try to invite a character with high Diplomacy to your county from overseas. If a character is dissatisfied enough with their liege, this could lead to you getting a Chancellor with a Diplomacy ranking of 21 at the very start of the game, making the fabrication of claims pitifully easy.
Jump-starting your economy
Try to invite a good steward to collect maximum taxes in your capital (or richest province).
Improving your character's stewardship attribute increases your demesne income from all provinces, and also allows you to hold a larger demesne. You should probably pick the ambition to improve stewardship or the Business focus.
You should probably increase city taxes. Church taxes are trickier because Catholic bishops will pay taxes to the Pope if they like him more than you.
Alternatively, you could revoke the city and temple holdings from vassal mayor and bishop. They will flee your realm, so don't revoke titles from excellent and irreplaceable council members. You can then:
- Keep the holdings yourself, suffering a 75% income and levy penalty (mismatch between government type and holding type). That's still an improvement if the bishop was paying taxes to the Pope rather than you.
- Grant the holdings to new rulers, who will be duly grateful (+20 granted a holding). Be sure to pick a bishop who will like you more than the Pope, and try to pick characters with high stewardship skill so they pay you more in taxes.
Expanding your dynasty
At the beginning, I recommend marrying everybody who comes of age to lustful or hedonists. The game ends when your dynasty ends – ensure its future prosperity by ensuring that you won't run out of dynasty members. Also, once you become a duke and have 3-4 counties in your demesne I recommend that you start giving counties to dynasty members. People in your court tend to have 0-2 children, while rulers don't seem to have a hard limit. Landing your dynasty ensures, again, that you will have an ample supply of dynasty members in the future.
It will be difficult at first for you to play the marriage game as Dublin. All the children and unmarried characters are male, and there are almost no noble females in Ireland. You'll have to marry them to outsiders; Gwynedd offers two princesses with weak claims that can be passed to their successor, making the conquest of Wales a little easier in the future. You can also marry several daughters of William of Normandy, allowing you to press claims for England in the future or assassinate your way to the throne in Gwynedd and England.
Forming the Kingdom of Ireland
The Count of Dublin will soon inherit his father's county of Leinster. The first thing you want to do is fabricate claims on Kildare and Ossory (known as Cill Dare and Osraige respectively in the 1066 start date if culture-based names are turned on), since each will allow you to create a duchy after you win the war (though Ossory should only be targeted after you have Leinster), and you will need at least two duchies to be allowed to form a kingdom. You also need seven counties to create the Kingdom of Ireland. You have two real possibilities: fabricate 3 county claims, or fabricate 2 counties, create a duchy, and press a de jure claim on the duchy. There's no true right or wrong way. The claim fabrications have a cheaper up-front cost, however if your chancellor is bad or you get bad luck, you may have amassed the money to create the ducal title before you get the third claim fabricated. Also, depending on your play style, you may find it useful to have all the duchies in your kingdom created – if you do want them all created, you will eventually have to incur the creation expense anyway.
This said, declaring war on Kildare after acquiring Leinster has to be done quickly, which is why you need a Chancellor with decent stats. Otherwise you'll find yourself facing a very powerful army that outnumbers your forces, as Leinster doesn't possess very much military potential. You could try to upgrade the buildings in Dublin and Leinster, but you likely won't have enough gold early in the game to compete with the AI Count of Kildare. Mercenary costs have gone up as of 2.1 as well, so you can't expect to hire 1800 Scotsmen for a measly 75 gold any more. You also won't have large enough holdings to establish a retinue until you hold at least 4 counties.
Whatever you do, I recommend that you do it in the Duchy of Ulster or Munster, which both have the three counties you need. I recommend the Duchy of Ulster, because creating a duchy could conceivably be useful, while usurping a duchy has no real benefit as it leaves the current duke in charge.
Once you create the kingdom, it will look something like in the thumbnail (I helped the Count of Ormond win independence, hence the weakened Duke of Munster in the picture. Probably a mistake).
Now, you can offer the remaining counts and dukes vassalization. Unfortunately, the Count of Ormond was of foreign culture, so I needed to declare war to vassalize him.
Note: Most of them will accept (if they have the same culture as you) because you are their de jure liege. If you choose, instead, to press your de jure claims in war, then the result of the war will be vassalization of the counts (no benefit), but declaring on the dukes will result in the destruction of their duchy and incorporation of their county into your demesne. I'm not sure of the rationale behind this mechanic, but I like maximizing my demesne and landing dynasty members over having non-relatives in power, so war against the duchies is the route I took.
If you've pissed any of them off before, by taking a county they have a claim on, or there are counties between yourself and their territory, they are less likely to accept vassalization and you'll have to fight a war for them.
Congratulations on forming and uniting Ireland.
You have many paths open now. The traditional route would be to intermarry with the Scottish crown and get claims into your dynasty (ideally, claims for your heir's heir). Pressing the claims will either lead to a union of the two nations, or else a permanent dynastic alliance. Both nations have fairly weak manpower so one or two mercenary companies will ensure your victory. Other options include picking at Wales or Brittany - either marry into claims, or fabricate claims on two counties in Wales so you can usurp one of the duchies. If the Duchy of the Isles is still independent, that is also a potential target (though Scotland will have de jure claims on it).
Brittany is a common target for France, however, Wales often maintains an independent existence from England up through the 1200s. As the smallest of the Brittanian kingdoms, Wales might be the best first choice if you want to form Britannia first. Brittany, on the other hand, gives you a foothold onto the continent but opens you up to invasion by France or the HRE.