Some days ago I decided to play one of my favourite countries on the game: the County of Dublin. It can seem weird, but for my part I love to build up my kingdom from A to Z. So I decided to write this walk-through because, well, I have some time to spend. I ask you to forgive me for all the grammatical errors. I'm a proud Swiss from the Valais (it's even on the map of Crusader Kings II, yeah vive le valais!^^) and so my English is far away from the level of the anglo-saxons.
So, why Dublin? Because I think that Ireland is a fascinating country and because Dublin is a very good starting position to make the Irish unification. I must warn you: I'm not an expert. I like playing short games (so hundred to two hundred games) so it could be that I say things that aren't completely correct. I apologize if this will happen.
Before writing about how I make the territorial unification, I want to write about the laws, the Pope and the marriages because I think that these three aspects are very important so that you have the conditions to quickly unify the island and more importantly reduce the danger to get invaded by the folk on the other side of the sea. I give you a clue: some of their men wear skirts and the guys more to the south love to drink tea.
Reform of the county or the foundation of a kingdom
When you start as the County of Dublin, you may think that being a single county is a curse. You are little, poor and you are one among hundred of counts in Europe. But there are some very nice advantages to gain from being a county if you are not vassal to a duke or king. Being free and without vassals to ask for permission, you can change your succession law and taxation as you want. Who will protest? You are lonely in your castle surrounded by some peasant folk. This should be one of the advantages that you use at the start of the game to put the foundations of the future kingdom of Ireland in place. First, maximize the taxation. Why? Because you will need every single coin to create the titles which are vital to expand in Ireland and at the end to allow you to crown yourself (it will cost you at least 400 ducats, probably more if you buy the indulgences to boost your piety) as the king of the most handsome country of the world: Ireland. So, don't hesitate to maximize, I usually maximize the city taxation and the church taxes. I avoid maximising the tax of the nobles because this can later have bad effects and become a real political bullet to dodge.
Another important reform that you should start is to change the succession law. Because you are a free county, you can choose the law however you want if your ruler has oppress... euh... I mean ruled his people for more than ten years. You should do it very quickly because later when your number of territories increase and you get your first vassals, things will get more complicated. So do it now. Also, not every ruler reigns for more than ten years.
The worst succession law is gavelkind, Why? Because you will always be at the risk of seeing part of your territory lost until you become king. If you are a count with two sons and two territories, when your count dies, every son will get one county and so you will lose half of your territory. This will work the same as a duke with the duke titles. So every time your ruler dies and has a lot of children you will lose territory and so be pushed away from your great aim: to create the Kingdom of Ireland.
Seniority can be nice if your strategy is to make your sons marry irish countesses but the occasions aren't frequent and it takes a lot of time. It depends on your way to expand. I will be honest with you: I only tried this law once when playing as Bohemia, so I don't know its full power.
For my part I take primogeniture over elective. Elective is one of the most powerful succession laws because you can, if you control more than the half of the elective titles, choose the person you want. Your first-born is a dumbass? Well, let's take the second or your uncle who is also the Duke of Ulster. You see, with elective you get a very great control over the succession. It also has a good effect on the vassals opinion but there is a little danger. If you lose control of the majority of elective titles, you have the risk of seeing some stupid non-dynastic aristocrat become duke or king, throwing you out of your castle. Also, if you tax your nobles, priests and merchants a lot, they will have the dangerous tendency to vote for someone who is not of your dynasty. Probably hoping the next ruler will leave them with more spending money. At the start, elective is great, but if you decide to expand your territory out of Ireland, you will sooner or later lose the majority of elective titles and find yourself in great danger of being overthrown.
This law is great if you get control on the elector titles (if you are duke, that means all count titles, when king the duke titles).
Primogeniture. It's probably the most secure choice if you want to secure your territorial integrity (gavelkind) and also avoid the danger to be overthrown later (elective). Your first-born will get everything and with this the above problems are solved. Mostly. Be careful that your ruler doesn't make a matrilineal marriage because in that case you risk losing everything. It happened to me because my ruler (king of Ireland) made a matrilineal marriage with the duchess of Aquitaine. It was a bloody affair but I managed to get out of the mess. In the case of a matrilineal mariage, you should divorce or kill your wife and also eliminate the children you get with her (better not to have married in the first place but in my case I only discovered the problem when I got my first son). It's very messy if you are in this situation so be very carreful when you make a marriage to not make it matrineal except if your ruler is a woman, in which case it's the other way round; for God's sake make a matrilineal marriage!
All of these reforms will be very helpful for the future if you make them early in the game when you are still a county. Later, you will get the fruits of these reforms without having to pay gold and titles to your vassals. Make all the great decisions at the beginning because when your kingdom grows and you get vassals, it will be far more complicated.
The old guy from Rome
Well, the Pope is like an annoying uncle. You can dislike him, but you can't afford to mess things up with him. If I have learnt one thing in this game: it is that your court chaplain should always be in Rome kissing the ring of the holy father. This is the best way to not be excommunicated. Why do you not want the be excommunicated? Because excommunication is one of the worst case scenarios when you play a little country, due to the fact that everyone will be able to attack you (by getting a free CB), and you will risk losing years, perhaps a decade or more, restoring yourself after being attacked and rebuilding the money and forces required to continue the unification of Ireland. All this can be avoided by sending your court chaplain to Rome (or another city if Rome has been taken by Tuscany in which the holy father has taken his seat). If your court chaplain is not an idiot, your relation with the pope should always be ok.
Ah, these sweet daughters
Depending on your game, your main character will have some sweet daughters. When they come of age, you will want to quickly marry them to some nice guy. It could happen that you will have the opportunity to marry them to the heir or even the King of Scotland or England. Forget it! Having one of these kingdoms on your side will be a great advantage for the unification, but some decades later the son of your lovely daughter will probably become the King of England/Scotland and have a claim on your throne. The benefits of a few years of alliance cannot counter-balance the years of threats that your county, duchy or even kingdom will be exposed to. The two kingdoms have, normally, more troops then you, a greater economy, and probably some allies to help them. If your grandson must choose between your crown or you, be assured that his choice will be quick and not in your favour.
Marriages with kings can only be profitable it you are able to repel a possible later attack coming from this kingdom. (Editors Note: And even then, repelling an invasion costs money and time; time you could be using to pursue other opportunities!) For my part, I prefer to marry my daughters and sons to dukes or counts; sometimes even allowing my heir to marry a duchess so the county can be annexed years or decades later. (but I'm note sure that this still work with the latest patch because I got some weird experiences in my latest game).
County of Dublin
Well, after all this long talk about laws, old guys and sweet daughters lets start talking about the unification of Ireland. At the start we only rule over the pretty County of Dublin. What is the situation of Ireland? Well, the island is divided by numerous counties-of-one-territory except Thomond-Ormond which has two counties. So there is no real super-predator on the island like the HRE in continental Europe. Ireland is an isolated island which should not normally be invaded by a foreign power (in my games Ulster often got taken by Scotland but it's still not as bad as in the first CK where France usually takes the south of Ireland). Even the Vikings should leave you in peace.
The potential aggressors from outside are Wales, which is also divided into counties but to be honest, this country will probably never be a threat. England is fighting against Eric Northman & Co (Vikings for those of you who don't know True Blood) and against good old William the Bastard... sorry... the Conqueror. (Editors Note: Well he is still a bastard at the game's start; doesn't usually stay that way though.) So for at least twenty years England should be occupied by both internal and external warfare. Scotland could become a threat because it is a country which is relatively stable and can become pretty powerful inside the British isles (I even managed to successfully accomplish an invasion of England with Scotland), but thanks to the new claim system in CK2, you shouldn't be threatened except if you cleverly decided that your lovely daughter would do well to marry that nice King of Scotland or his son. In this case, it could be nasty; see above under sweet daughters for why you shouldn't do this!
So, things seem to be quiet for a time. And now? Well, before you think of starting the great war for Ireland, look at your family tree. What do you see? Your beloved father is currently the count of Leinster. Which means? Yes, when your good old father decides to pass away you will have some nice heritage in the form of the County of Leinster. Without one drop of blood, you will double the size of your country. I advise you to wait the time that your father will need to die. During this time you should accumulate all the money that you can. You will need every single coin.
If you look on the upper part of the screen, you will discover that you can create a title. Well, the fact is that the Duchy of Leinster and Dublin are two-county duchies so you only need one county to form them and then you will have a casus belli to vassalize Kildare and Ossory. For my part I always wait for the count of Leinster to die before creating the title because having the title will be of no great use without the military and economy support of the County of Leinster which makes everything much easier. So wait and be patient and if your father seems to becoming a second Mathusalem... well... push him from the top of the stairs, but for my part I prefer to spare the coins for the creation of the duchy title.
So, now your father is dead (we'll pretend to cry when people are looking) and you got the County of Leinster. Congratulations, you are now a two-county county. Now you should get more money and have enough men to prepare for your first war. It will probably take time to have the money for the first ducal title, but this is the price for the unification of Ireland. Even the mighty Rome wasn't built in one day. When you have your first 200 coins, create one of the two titles. I always start with Duchy of Dublin because it seems to me more logical. When you get your first ducal title, you will get a claim on the County of Kildare. Be sure that Kildare has no serious allies, ensure that your army is ready and then start the attack. Don't forget to save before the war in case of Paradox-inspired hilarious disasters. When the war starts, raise your armies and unite them in Dublin, and then attack the army of Kildare. You should smash them and be able to annihilate them. At this point you only need to siege the County of Kildare and wait. When you win the war, he will become your vassal. Don't dismiss your troops and leave them in Kildare. Revoke the title of the count of Kildare. Yes, it will start a new war but you will always have your armies raised in his county and he will be too weak to resist. (Editors Note: As long as you weren't asleep and revoked the title immediately so the army and garrison didn't recover!) After the war you will imprison him. You then only need to banish him and get his gold and land. The opinion malus will not affect you because you have no other vassals and Kildare will bring you more being directly in your demense. You will get stronger, suffer no real repercussions or threats, and will be one vassal fewer to rebel. Repeat the same tactic with Ossory and then you have achieved some nice work.
Duchy of Leinster and Dublin – Heart of the Kingdom
Normally you should now be, with four counties, the greatest duchy of Ireland. These four territories will be the heart of the future Kingdom of Ireland, feeding your future projects. At this point gold should be raised quicker and you should have more troops. You will need to wake up your chancellor and send him to Breifne to create a claim on it. Why Breifne? Because Breifne is one of the two counties of the Duchy of Connacht. If you take it, you will also have a claim in Connacht.
There are two other duchies, Ulster and Munster, but these are two three-county duchies so you will need two successful claim-missions for three counties when you can get two counties for one mission which means (1 claim mission = 2 counties instead of the other two which means : 1 claim mission = 1.5 county). I don't mention that you will win a lot of time if you only need one successful claim mission. When you have the claim, attack Breifne and annex them. You will then need to create the title of Duke of Connacht to attack Connacht and make them vassal. At this point, it could probably be more intelligent to let Connacht be your vassal in case your maximum demense size change in the future. (Editors Note: Actually, you could concievably take Connacht for yourself if your demense size permits; you can always assign a courtier to run it for you if your next ruler hasn't the same stewardship ability. Try to make the new vassal a first-born; that way you get the land back when your inept king hops it.)
At this point, you are at the point where you may create the Irish Kingdom. The Kingdom of Ireland has thirteen counties so you need seven counties to form Ireland. I advise you to send your chancellor to one of the remaining one-county county or duchy to create a claim and so be able to annex them. Avoid attacking a two-county duchy or county because it will hit hard your relation with them and making harder for them to accept a vassalization offer from me when you will be king.
King of Ireland
Yes, now we have the seven counties and it's time to become king. It will take time because you will need to achieve four hundred coins and two hundred piety. If you don't have enough piety, go in the decision menu and buy indulgences. You can also wait but it could take a long time. Note that you can't buy them when your ruler is an innocent child. It will probably take some time but wait. Don't send your chancellor to create claims. It only costs money and the remaining counties and duchies will probably accept your vassalization offer when you are the King of Ireland. Send him to improve relations with Scotland and England and wait. When you have the money and enough piety, you will be able to create the title of King of Ireland.
Congratulations, you are now king. You have started with the rank of a little and poor count and now you enter the club of the European monarchs. But the work isn't finished. You have six remaining counties to unite with your kingdom. Most counties should accept to become your vassals and if not you can try with gold or by sending your chancellor in to create claims. If Scotland got Ulster, I advise you to wait until Ulster has rebelled against Scotland which is very probably because of the fact that they are from another culture than the Scottish king. With time, you will achieve the unity of Ireland.
Once you are king, your options will quickly increase. Now you can think of expansion. Participate in the crusades? Conquer Wales to become King of Wales and Ireland? Try to unite the British isles under your rule? At this point, your family is ready to write some of the pages of European history. You are now a royal family and it's up to you to make the name of your family known in all Europe.