- +20% National sailors modifier
- −20% Morale hit when losing a ship
- +20% Garrison size
- +10% Embargo efficiency
- +15% Privateer efficiency
- −1 National unrest
- −0.05 Monthly autonomy change
- +20% Chance to capture enemy ships
- +1 Yearly legitimacy
- +1 Diplomatic reputation
- −10% Sailor maintenance
Betsimisaraka begins as one of five nations in Madagascar, and has the second highest development (19) on the island after Sakalava (28). Betsimisaraka's capital province Vatomandry starts with a tier 1 Center of Trade, one of two on the island. Unfortunately, all of Betsimisaraka's starting provinces are either jungle or hills, making development inefficient. All of the nation's owned provinces produce slaves, limiting income until the Triangle trade event fires.
At game start, Betsimisaraka is likely to be rivalled by two neighboring countries ( Sakalava, Antemoro, Imerina), possibly all three. Sakalava almost always rivals Betsimisaraka as it desires its provinces, and the powerful mainland nation of Kilwa desires the northern province of Antakara.
On start, Betsimisaraka should ally with whichever Madagascan nation did not rival it, normally Mahafaly. It should then begin consolidating its control over the island by attacking whichever nations do not have powerful allies. Sakalava is a good first target (though taking its provinces will increase the likelyhood of a Kilwan invasion), and Antemoro should be allied, conquered, or vassalized quickly as this Sunni nation is a potential ally for Kilwa. Any extra ducants should be used to build light ships to protect trade in the nearby Zanzibar node.
Once Madagascar has been secured, Betsimisaraka has to confront its major weakness in the early game - institution spread. All Madagascan provinces start the game without Feudalism present, and so quickly begin to fall behind technologically; this issue becomes much worse as the Renaissance begins to spread, increasing the penalty for technology adoption. Feudalism can spread naturally through Madagascar's two centers of trade, by developing provinces (Menabe being the optimal province), or can be encouraged by allowing a more developed nation to gain a foothold on the island (though the last strategy is highly risky). After Feudalism has been embraced, it is up to player choice on whether or not to aggressively spend monarch points to develop the Renaissance (the European powers will likely be arriving in several decades, bringing their institutions with them).
Once (and often times, during) the struggle to embrace institutions has been completed, the next major obstacle for Betsimisaraka is the mainland African nation of Kilwa. Kilwa traditionally desires multiple provinces in Northern Madagascar, meaning they are almost always hostile towards Betsimisaraka. A player or AI controlled Kilawa will likely come to dominate the eastern coast of African after a few wars, making an invasion of Madagascar almost inevitable. To make matters worse, Kilwa begins the game with access to Feudalism and as such is likely to out-tech Betsimisaraka within a few decades, leaving the latter vulnerable to invasion. Thankfully, Betsimisaraka's niche starting tradition (−20% Morale hit when losing a ship) allows for a large fleet of trade ships to swarm any invasion force, leaving the island safe. Alternatively, a confidant Betsimisaraka can intentionally allow for a Kilwan stack to land on Madagscar and then stackwipe them, following up this victory with a counter-invasion of the African mainland. Allying with remaining mainland powers like Mutapa and Mombasa can greatly help in a war against Kilwa. It should be noted that technology can be a major factor in the struggle against Kilwa, as a badly under-teched Betsimisaraka is easy prey for an outside power.
Once its immediate threats have been dealt with, Betsimisaraka can follow several approaches. The nation is more than capable of adopting Exploration ideas and starting the full-scale colonization of Southern Africa, the Indian Ocean islands, and beyond. European powers (namely Castile, Portugal, and others) will begin to arrive in the early—mid 1500s, allowing Betsimisaraka to leech off their institutions or take their colonies, though it should be noted that these nations will opportunistically strike at Betsimisaraka if its force-limits fall too low. Once Betsimisaraka has easy access to institutions, it can easily become a major player in the Cape of Good Hope, Zanzibar, and Corromandel trade nodes.
Assuming Betsimisaraka survives into the 1600s and the prerequisites have been met, Libertatia can be released as a vassal via an event.