In my current game, the year is 1304.
I am the Duke of Amalfi, Patrician of the merchant house of Polkarios - my official title fluctuates, sometimes I am the Serene Doge, sometimes the Merchant Prince, currently for some reason I am the Head of the Merchant League - it depends on what nationality the currently Duke is, and what we own in terms of land and titles. But as far as I am concerned I am the Duke of Amalfi, ruler of the Kingdom of Sicily, as those are the only titles I am really bothered about.
I have a permanent standing army of 38,000 men.
I have a personal levy of 21,000 men
If I really have to, I have around 10,000 men that I can call up from my vassals.
In peace time I make @230 gold a month.
And have a working capital of that never falls below 20,000 gold, and is generally around 25,000 - 30,000.
All of which may not sound much but to put those figures into context, my northern neighbour the King of Italy currently has a total of 12,500 troops to call on, and an income of a little over 300 gold a year. The last time I checked he had 72 gold to spend.
It makes the campaigns between us rather one sided, as I generally attack with around 80,000 men, and he can do little but stand and watch, and perhaps use what forces he has to better effect elsewhere.
In terms of trade, my family controls all of the trading zones along the North African coast from Morocco to the Nile, and from Spain to the Black Sea. We have 83 fully kitted out trading posts. There are no other trading companies, I have seen to that, and the four other families in Amalfi have a total of three trading posts between them.
Usually I am on good terms with the Pope, but on occasion I have kicked him out of Rome to solve a factional problem with my vassals. And got him to pay me 20,000 gold in order to return from his sojourn in Constantinople.
All of this in Ironman mode, which for those that don't know does not allow for any saving the game and going back. If you make a mistake then you will have to pay for it - and believe me there have been a ton of mistakes along the way, some that could be repaired and others that could not - and some that nearly brought my whole empire crashing to the ground.
But it's an interesting story - at least to me and I wanted to write a series of articles outlining a potted history of the game to date, and to offer some tips that I have picked up along the way.