I've just bought CK2 and apparently a recent patch has invalidated most if not all walkthroughs. For instance, the Ireland start does not work anymore because you need 51% instead of 50% to create a duchy.
Lacking that, the preferred way to expand apparently is war. But I've tried a few times in Ireland, and also in southern Italy. Doesn't matter: defeat is unavoidable. In Ireland I just get stuck in a stalemate without any gains. In Italy my army was wiped out by a family member rebelling, even though he held only a single county with ~1000 troops and I sent in everything (~2500 troops). Despite that, I lost all my troops and he lost 69 or so.
Plotting hasn't achieved anything either, nor marriage. In fact the only positive change in territory I've ever seen was when I started in Dublin, since that sets you up to inherit from your father.
The war tutorial is less than helpful. It has Argyll with less soldiers than a single barony in the real normal game. No wonder that works.
So, is there a intelligent solution to expand? Picking just the right initial leader with enough internal stability and sufficient armies to beat up much, much, smaller neighbours? Wait several hours more and get lucky with marriage?
(Yeah, I'm aware this does sound like I'm quite unhappy. First and last Paradox game I bought. Spent 12 hours so far just in the game, without a single feel of achievement or having learnt something. That's a first in 300 games I've played over the years)