- +25% Looting speed
- –10% Shock damage received
- −1 National unrest
- +10% Morale of armies
- +1 Yearly legitimacy
- +2 Tolerance of the true faith
- +10% National manpower modifier
- +1 Diplomatic relation
- +1 Diplomatic reputation
- +15% Fort defense
Manipur is a landlocked one province minor country in India. It does not have feudalism on game start as opposed to most of its neighbours. Manipur is the only Animist country in this region and it is therefore considered one of the hardest starts of the game, as it is diplomatically isolated and smaller than everyone around.
Manipur is an Animist Tribal nation that only owns a single 4 development province, which means that except Tripura on your Southwest border, everyone is vastly stronger than you. The three other states bordering you are Kachar to the Northwest, with 2 provinces, Mong Yang to the Northeast and Ava to the Southeast. It is reasonable to take on Tripura and Kachar alone, but Mong Yang and Ava are a lot stronger. Two countries are worth mentioning because they will have a very important impact on your game, Ming and Bengal. Bengal will often warn you and be hostile as soon as you invade Tripura, and (if you're playing with Mandate of Heaven) most of your neighbours are tributaries of Ming.
The main thing you have going for you is that either Ava or Mong Yang will usually be hostile, which means you will have a +20 modifier "threatened by X" to ally with their rivals. It is also important to keep in mind that you have -10% shock received in traditions which will prove very useful for the first wars.
You can take the mission to remove Tripura from the map after you rivaled them on day 1, and instantly build up to force limit, or 1 above force limit. During this time, start improving relations with states which may be willing to form an alliance, especially the rivals of Mong Yang and Ava. Also fabricate on Kachar. If Kachar and Tripura allied before you can declare on Tripura, restarting is probably better as it makes things immensely harder.
Another thing to note is that you are tribal and you can flip to Tribal Despotism, one of the best government forms of the game.
Annexing Tripura and Kachar early on is an obvious opening. You get more provinces and you can use those provinces to extract very precious ducats you will need to fuel your early wars and to embrace feudalism. By that time, Sadiya has probably been annexed by Assam, so you usually have four neighbours. Assam to the North, Mong Yang to the East, Ava to the South and Bengal to the West. Bengal may warn you at that point, and you should become a tributary of Ming to get protection from Bengal, and because most of your next targets are their tributaries.
You need to pick one of your four neighbors as your next target, but all of them will have allies and are stronger than you. It is important to find allies whom you can promise territory and thus call to arms, and to chose your direction depending on that. You cannot wait, because you need to invade one of them to get Feudalism before they reach military tech 4 as otherwise it will become extremely hard. Manipur is a weak start so there is no go-to expansion route, you therefore need to be opportunistic and to pick up enemies when they are stuck in a bad war or when their allies will dishonor their alliances in order to acquire more territory and grow stronger. A single bad war can still mean the end until you have at least managed to reach a power level comparable to Bengal. Different Manipur campaigns will thus end up with completely different expansion paths, towards Indochina, Tibet or Bengal for instance. Good provinces to aim at acquiring regardless of circumstances are the gold mine of Mong Yang, Mong Kawng, and the numerous provinces with trade power modifiers of the Bengal trade node, owned by Bengal and Pegu. If you manage to conquer enough territory, one possible strategy would be to conquer provinces that have Shan culture (you start with Chin culture) and culture-shift to that culture, as this opens up the possibility of forming Shan, which can serve as a good stepping stone for future expansion.
Through skillful gameplay (and a bit of luck), you should eventually be able to successfully clear out all enemies in the general area and establish yourself as a regional power strong enough to be able fight major nations around you on equal footing. At this point, the campaign becomes considerably less hard. From there, India, Indochina or Indonesia lay open for conquest and you could, again, employ culture-shifting to shift over to a required Indian culture and form Bharat.
A difficulty still remains if you chose to stick with Animism, as it is statistically the worst religion of the game. Its bonuses are far below average, and it has a horrendously bad conversion strength. Early on, provinces will be hard to convert, using the state edict and/or advisor is highly recommended. If you want to stay animist, you should elect the Religious Idea Group as it gives you much more stability, improved conversion strength and allows you to gain the Animal Kingdom Achievement and Deus Vult almost the entire world, due to them not having the same religion. You can obviously choose to change to a superior religion, especially Hindu, but at that point you would be forfeiting the only thing that makes Manipur unique as there is little reason to play Manipur if not for the Animist part. Once you own the required provinces in the Bengal region, you could form Bharat by turning to Hindu or any one form of Buddhist.
An Animist nation can technically claim the Mandate of Heaven and become the Emperor of China, which could serve as an excellent ultimate final challenge after getting The Animal Kingdom achievement.
Note: In the South East Asian Region there are no powerful animist nations and they are mostly OPMs so making strong allies is difficult, but not impossible.