Alright. Turns out I was entirely too shy when playing Bulgaria in 769.
Here’s my updated walkthrough list coupled with a difficulty rating.
1. Subjugation vs Rashka – easy
2. Imprison and replace Vallachian duke – easy
3. Suicide of khan – shomewhat easy
4. Subjugation vs the Avars – easy
5. Invasion of Greece – somewhat easy
1. Rashka you should be able to take 100% of the time, just because that’s the 1st thing you do and they start out weaker. The Byzantines will be busy on the eastern front so there’s no need to worry about them immediately.
2. He starts out hostile and is a member of a satanic cult. The only good thing about your starting ruler is his high intrigue. use it to your advantage.
3. Your starting ruler sucks. He has 3 fiefs. He’s used up his subjugation CB on Rashka. Replace him. I usually just make him do a self-sacrifice and then if you’re lucky he’ll catch a disease. Fairly high chance to die, although I’ve had cases where the game just screws with you. When he does die, you get Krum who has insane military skills, double your holdings and a fresh subjugation CB.
4. This is the new stuff: subjugate the Avars or make them tributary. Yes, they are tribal and crap taxpayers, but
a) they immediately bite off a chunk of Slovenia that you will want back.
b) They are still a better target for a subjugation than Croatia, which you can get in a couple of normal annexation wars.
Making them into a tributary will save you some trouble in the short run, plus they will contribute more troops to your wars (they will join, instead of contribute a measly levy), but you’ll have to deal with them again and subjugating them will allow you to leave them to the pretender(s), so you can keep your good lands intact. First split off Slovenia, though.
5. This is the jewel in the crown – The Byzantines will wage some wars with the Arabs, which they usually win. Raid them and make it painful for them and if they dip below 6k troops at any point, attack them with an invasion of Greece CB. Sure it costs 500 prestige, but you should have enough to spare by this point, and you’ll recoup it fast, plus, permanently put yourself in a better position.
At this point you’ll stall, because you can’t expand further without exceeding your vassal/demesne limits.
My plans are to usurp the Empire eventually, but in the short run I’ll have to consolidate the kingdom, because the internal situation is pretty messy. Constaninople provides somewhere around 120 ships alone, so that means I can raid wherever I want, which takes care of the money and prestige problems. I’d really like to accept orthodox Christianity and restore the pentarchy in the long run, but the fact that the ecumenical patriarch remains a byzantine vassal is going to be annoying.
This all is barely 10-15 years into the game. Absolute blitzkrieg.